Page images

vated by wonder, feels at once the force of an axiom, which, however disputed, experienee confirms—that in vaşlvess, whatsoever be its nature, there dwells sublimity. Another proof of their indescribable power is, that no one ever approached them under other emotions than those of terror; which is another principal source of the sublime. In certain instances of irritable feeling, this impression of awe and fear nas been so great as to cause pain, rather than pleasure. Hence, perhaps, have originated descriptions of the pyramids which re. present them as deformed and gloomy masses, without taste or beauty. Persons who have derived no satisfaction from the contemplation of them may not have been conscious, that the uneasiness they experienced was a result of their own sensibility. Others have acknowledged ideas widely different, excited by every wonderful circumstance of character and situation-ideas of duration almost endless, of power inconceivable, of majesty supreme, of solitude most awful, of grandeur, of desolation, and repose.”

At Cairo, and in its most interesting vicinity, about three weeks were spent by our author, in the incessant activity and research by which he is always so meritoriously distinguished. By means of a canal which intersects the city, the Englishmen visited the different quarters of it, and were somewhat the less sensible, from the prevalence of water, of its being the dirtiest metropolis in the world. There was, however, great superabundance of discases and plagues, the ophthalmin, dysentery, and “boils of the Nile," with all manner of vermin that crawls or flies. ·Such a plague of flies covered all things with their swarms, that it was impossible to eat without hiring persons to stand by every table with feathers or flappers, to drive them away. Lizards were crawling about in every apart. ment equally in the houses of rich and poor, and could fasten themselves on pendant mirrors and the glass of the window.

There was at the time, encamped on the isle of Rhouda, under the command of general Baird, a strong detachment from the army in India It had come up the Red Sea, and across the desert from Cosseir, to co-operate against the French. Its appointments, appearance and stile of living, were splendid and sumptuous, presenting a violent contrast to the condition of the army from England, encamped near Alexandria. The travellers were soon at home among its military shows and its banquets. - Gen. Baird ascribed the safety of the army in navigating the Red Sea, in no small degree to the truth of Bruce's chart.

There happened to arrive at Cairo a native Abyssinian ecclesiastic, a Dean. A very curious account is given of an examination, into which, by our author's managernent, he was drawn, in a company of literary travellers, with a view to try the veracity of Bruce, a copy of whose travels was in the possession of gen. Baird. It was settled that no mention should be made of Bruce, but a series of questions put from his work; which work lying on the table, it was impossible for him to have any knowledge. His answers on a great number of points, though now and then contradicting Bruce, tended on the whole very powerfully to prove the general fidelity of his representations. And when that traveller's plates of natural history were shown him, he instantly recognised a great nunber of them, called them by exactly the same names that Bruce has given; and in many instances attributed to them the properties ascribed by him. Our adventurers were bighly gratified by such testimony in favour and in vindication of one o. the most memorable predecessors of the fraternity. The general truth of Bruce's relations concerning Abyssinia and himself, has been put beyond all doubt by successive and accumulated evidence; the same evidence, however, convicting of such deviations from fact, in some parts of his narration, as can by no stretch of candour be imputed to mere ne

gligence or lapse of memory. Thus, with a perfect certainty of the general truth of the representation, the reader nevertheless, feels a continual repression of interest, from the impossibility of a perfect reliance on any one of the particulars in the narration. While nine parts out of ten of the work may be accurately true, the reader's knowing that Bruce did not make strict truth an absolute rule in his narration, disables him to give, if we may so express it, so much as half his faith to any thing in the work, till it is verified by some other testimony. The very interest and prolongation of the question and controversy respecting him, are a reproach on his memory. Concerning a perfectly honest narrator such a controversy would very soon have ceased. There is something in the whole manner of genuine scrupulous truth, which soon puts an end to scepticism and cavil. Though a few things in the relation were to appear strange be. yond all precedent, a prevailing palpable integrity in the relater would make any thing be believed that was not contradictory or impossible;would at least make it be believed, that to the best of the traveller's knowledge and belief the fact was so.

We are happily now in a better era for the veracity of travellers. Whether the tribe is becoming better principled or not, we are certain of more attention to truth. This very example of Bruce will have been of mighty service to convince them all that honesty is the best policy. It is become evident to them, that between the internal evidence in their narratives, and the probability of other adventurers being ere long on their track, there is no chance for the success of any very gross deception. At the same time, so much the greater honour is due to those of the earlier travellers, whose integrity sufficed for the veracity of their relations, at a time when the dictates of this policy were by no means so imperious.But we are sorry to have diverted so long from the excellent traveller with whose work we are at present concerned; a work which will always rank very high for most, if not all of the qualities which should distinguish the report of such a peregrination.

We have very lively descriptions of the people and customs of Cairo, while liveliness, our author says, is the thing totally wanting in all the inhabitants but the Arabs. Their disposition is to exist without exertion of any kind; to pass whole days upon beds and cushions, smoking and counting beads.' This dulness pervades the habits and families of the residents from Europe, excepting, we presume, the long-famed Signor Rosetti. But the living inhabitants are a matter of inferior consideration in a region which seems even now to belong much more to the people who lived there innumerable ages since. Those ancient possessors have left their imperishable works upon it, as if in evidence of the perpetuity of their claim; and as if to maintain it, have left their very bodies, still existing and complete, refusing to submit to the ordinary destiny of mingling with the dust. What signify,' the enthusiast for the ancient world will exclaim, 'what signify these transitory, vulgar, living men, and their operations and their abodes, on a field occupied above with pyramids and beneath with catacombs? on a field where eternal monuments seem inhabited by the spectres of the dead?' Dr. Clarke displays habitually a high degree of this susceptibility to the venerable and awful character of funereal antiquity. There is however one little circumstance in the account of the visit to the pyramids, which struck us as oddly inharmonious with this state of feeling.

some Bedouin Arabs, who had received us upon our landing (from the Nile) were much amused by the eagerness excited in our whole party, to prove who should first set his foot upon the summit of this artificial mountain' (the great pyramid). This we think, was a vastly puer

He says,

[ocr errors]

ile sort of emotion to prevail in such a situation; and wonderfully different from those impressions of awe, amounting even to terror, which he a little while before described as inevitably incident to a person of sensibility in approaching these stupendous monuments. We should really have thought that any one of the cultivated and reflective persons of the party, or at any rate that our author, would have been perfectly willing to be left the last in the ascent, if by that means he might be the more abandoned to the power and impression of the scene. Or, are we to take it that this competition to get foremost was an effect of the very terror alluded to, —that it was from the apprehension of being quite seized and overpowered by it if left in the rear of this sort of virtuoso mob? Indeed, it seems that into this very predicament one of the party, an officer, was actually thrown, being literally so overwhelmed with the stupendous sight around him, that about midway of the ascent he became unable to proceed. Dr. C. went down from the top, to excite and assist him, and he was at length conducted to the summit. On that summit the party were, each and all, to play another little game, that of carving their names in the stone. For to us it appears a rather ill-judging kind of vanity and egotism, to attempt to turn this awful structure to the use of recording an hour's visit of beings, whose whole life on earth is such a trifle of duration, compared with that of a work which, at the end of the world, will have been so far towards co-eval with all time. Why was exactly this circumstance to be recorded on such a monument, in preference to millions of more serious ones that have taken place in the presence of this solemn pile? Without question it was well to avoid all affectation of high and tumultuous enthusiasm, of profound and absorbing reverie, while standing for a few moments in so majestic a position; and perhaps it was rational not to be actually rapt into such a state of feeling. But we cannot well comprehend how the visible magnificence, immensity, and antiquity, the visionary musing, the impression of solemnity, the crowding access of recollections and associations, inseparable, as it may be supposed, from any susceptible, highly cultivated, and classical mind, should adınit a full suspension for so trivial and at the same time protracted an employment, as that of cutting a man's name on the stone-when, too, it was the first time and to be the last, of being in so sublime a situation, and when the situation was to be held but for a few moments.

It will be alleged, and most truly, no doubt, that it not so easy to lose sight even for one quarter of an hour, of the little article self, in the most striking situations on earth; in situations where our contemplative visitant is naturally beset by a whole host of ideas bearing no direct relation to himself. And a long list of travellers' names, which might be found inscribed on the venerable remains of antiquity in the different parts of the world, would tell us that the above remarks are somewhat hypercritical. We readily quit the topic, to say how much we are gratified by the animated and interesting description of the great pyramid, of the objects in its vicinity, and of the grand panorama beheld from the summit. We were most powerfully arrested by the observations and experiments on the famous well, which is found in an obscure passage at the central interior of the pyramid.

“ In this passage we found, upon our right hand, the mysterious well. Pliny makes the depth of it equal to one hundred and twenty-nine feet; but Greares, in sounding it with a line, made the plummet rest at the depth of twenty feet. "The mouth of it is barely large enough to admit the passage of a man's body; but, as this may be effected, it is to be regretted that the French, during all their researches here, did not adopt some plan for the effectual exa.

mination of a place likely to throw eonsiderable light upon the nature of the pyramid, and the foundation on which it stands. This would require more time than travellers-usually can spare, and more apparatus than they can carry with them. In the first place, it would be necessary to fasten lighted tapers at the end of a long cord, to precede the person descending, as a precaution whereby the quality of the air below may be proved, and those fatal effects 'prevented, which often attend an improvident descent into wells, and subterraneous chama bers of every description. Many hands, too, would be required above, to ma. nage and sustain the ropes by which an adventurer, during the experiment, must remain suspended.' We threw down some stones, and observed that they rested about the depth which Greaves has mentioned; but, being at length provided with a stone nearly as large as the mouth the well, and about fifty pounds in weight, we let it fall, listening attentively for the result from the spot where the other stones rested. We were agreeably surprised by hearing, after a length of time which must have equalled some seconds, a loud and distinct re port, seeming to come from a spacious subterraneous apartment, accompanied by A splashing noise, as if the stone had been broken into pieces, and had fallen into a reservoir of water, at an amazing depth. Thus does experience always tend to confirm the accounts left us by the ancients; for this exactly answers to the description given by Pliny of this well; and, in all probability, the depth of it does not much differ from that which he mentions, of eighty.six cubits, or one hundred and twenty-nine feet, making the cubit equal to eighteen inches. Pliny says that the water of the Nile was believed to communicate with this weli. The inundation of the river was now nearly at its height. Can it be supposed that, by some hitherto unobserved and secret channels, it is thus conveyed to the bottom of this well? It seems more probable that the water is nothing more than the usual result of an excavation in a stratum of limestone, carried on ta the depth at which water naturally lies, in other wells of the same country; as, for example, in the pit called Joseph: Well, in the citadel of Grand Cairo."

Such a profound pit, opening in a place itself so dark and awful, is the superlative aggravation of gloom and mystery. The descent into the depth of this gulf of central night, if indeed it shall not be forbidden by a mephitic state of the air, is one of the most signal exploits yet awaiting an intelligent and daring curiosity. The adventurer for whom it is reserved (it must not be the officer who was so completely unmanned on the outside of the pyramid, in cheerful day-light,) will have had some sensations with which he will in vain seek for persons adequately to sympathize.

So inexhaustible is the power of these Egyptian monuments over the imagination, that notwithstanding every former description we have read of the interior of the great pyramid, we feel an undiminished interest in accompanying the new explorer, through the leading passages, in the lateral ducts and recesses, and into the final grand apartment, where remains the soros, or tomb, which once contained, but not since the earliest periods of profane history, the lifeless personage for whom the whole enormous pile was raised as an eternal sanctuary and meinorial. And really setting aside the purely superstitious part of the proud projector's anticipations, that is to say, the direct and personal advantage believed to be conferred on the condition after death, by an indestructible sepulchre, and regarding only the intention of commanding the veneration of the successive living generations, we must acknowledge the wisdom of his calculation;-provided only that he could have been certain his body should be for ever secure against profane intrusion, and that there should be an unfailing record or tradition transmitted downward, of its actually being in the unknown chambers of the inviolable structure. For a certain solemn and venerating sentiment would have been entertained, involuntarily, by al subsequent generations, for the dead personage so known to have his

dwelling in the impenetrable sanctuary within such a structure. Sucí would have been the feeling at this very day, beyond all escape or cure; and so much the stronger the more cultivated might be the beholder's mind. Only imagine the effect of stupendous vastness, and of the continually deepening solemnity of antiquity, combined with that reverence which it is a principle of our nature to feel for the remains of the dead; and all this rendered still more emphatic by the secrecy and mystery of the unexplored abode! If, with respect to the second of the great pyramids there were any record to make us quite certain that it thus contains and conceals an ancient inhabitant, much of this state of feeling would be experienced by reflective men in approaching it; at least if the beholder approached it in solitude and under the other circumstances favourable to solemn thought; though certainly the effect would be much less powerful from his seeing the mightiest of these abodes of death violated and vacant.

It is with a proper caution that we have said “reflective men;' for Dr. Clarke has given a most gross and offensive instance of the total want of any thing belonging to this order of feelings, in a portion of our English invaders of Egypt. The opprobrious fact is, the beautiful soros in the grand chamber of the pyramid, an object that had remained uninjured during nearly a hundred generations, having been held sacred by all sorts of barbarians, amid all manner of hostilities and ravages, is now no longer entire since Englishmen have had the free range of the country.

“ The soldiers and sailors of our army and navy having had frequent access to the interior of the pyramid, carried with them sledge-bainmers, to break off pieces, to be conveyed to England; and began, alas! the havoc of its demolition. Had it not been for the classical taste and laudable interference of colonel, now general Stuart, then commanding officer in that district, who threatened to make an example of any individual, whether officer or private, who should disgrace his country, by thus waging hostility against history and the arts, not a particle of the soros would have remained. Yet, as a proof of the difficulty which attended this worse than Scythian ravage, the persons who thus left behind them a sad memorial of the British name, had only succeeded in accom plishing a fracture near one of the angles. It was thus disfigured when we ar. rived; and every traveller of taste will join in reprobating any future attempt to increase the injury it has so lamentably sustained.”

Thus in a place more majestically monumental than any other on earth, in the peculiar religion of perpetuity, our people have secured a permanent monument to their disgrace. By means also of dilapidation, the French have left a lasting memorial, but which will not be among the recorded dishonours of their Egyptian expedition. They made a vigorous and persevering attempt to force an entrance into the interior of the third pyramid; and had there been time for prosecuting the operation, they would perhaps have disclosed another magnificent sanctuary of death, and found a tomb not deserted by its ancient inhabitant.

In the above observations we have assumed that the intention and use of the pyramids were such as history has represented; that the Egyptian monarchs constructed them for their tombs. But Dr. Clarke has started a different speculation respecting the great pyramid. He seems half willing to make it believed, that it was built by the Israelites for a temporary receptacle in which to deposit the body of Joseph, till the time should arrive at which they were to carry it away with them out of Egypt. And he reasons the maiter with a very ingenious plausibility. But he will probably convince but very few readers, and indeed we think his own faith is of an extremely vlight consistence. Not to remark that there seems something rather

« PreviousContinue »