Page images

gave of his Historical Account of Discoveries in Africa.' The principle of arrangement, (which is the same in both,) appears to us, however, to be capable of improvement; for admitting it, as we willingly do, to be more amusing to the generality of readers to peruse a comprehensive analysis of each distinct work, than to pore over a chronological history of progressive discovery, yet, to those who read for instruction only, we deem the latter preferable. It is, however, after all, a choice of inconveniences. By adopting the former mode, the narrative is constantly interrupted and impeded by the frequent repetition of the same objects as viewed by differ ent travellers, and the mind perplexed by conflicting statements:and the latter, not only disjoints and breaks into scraps the narrative of each individual traveller, but brings together notices of countries widely removed by distance, and unconnected by language and


Mr. Murray's plan partakes somewhat of both; and, as each traveller's work is separately analyzed, it happens unavoidably that, in the same chapter, and at the same period, we have the most distant parts of Asia brought together, while notices of the same parts are dispersed through the three volumes. In other respects the analysis of the several works, as far as we have been able to compare them, is executed with judgment and fidelity. Our own feelings, perhaps, would have led us to wish for more ample extracts from the early voyages and travels, and less from those of recent date. There is a simplicity in the old writers which delights us more than the studied compositions of modern travellers; to say nothing of the interest which the first glimpses of a new-discovered country never fail to impart. We might add, that modern voyages and travels are generally within the reach of most readers; whereas many of the earlier ones are either shut up in large collections, or become so rare as to be met with only in the blackletter library of the bibliomaniac. We shall, on this occasion, therefore, confine our observations to a few of the more ancient narratives of Asiatic travellers, recommending the perusal of the whole to those who may be desirous of tracing more fully our progressive knowledge of the various nations composing the great continent of which

he treats.

The reader must not expect to glean much information from the early visits of pilgrims to Jerusalem: to examine the state of the coun try and its inhabitants was no part of their object. The few of this description noticed by Mr. Murray are ARCULFUS, who travelled into the Holy Land about the year 705, WILLIBALD in 786, and BERNARD in 878. He might have extended the number from Hakluyt, both before and after these periods, though it would still have been little better than a catalogue of names.

The celebrated


era of the crusades produced something, though not a great deal more valuable; yet, if the art of printing had then been known, the itineraries of the Holy Land would probably have been as familiar to Europeans, at that period, as those of the continent of Europe are at the present day.

The first traveller to this part of Asia on Mr. Murray's list, after the three above mentioned, is WILLIAM DE BOULDESELL, who wrote an account of his peregrinations in 1331. He visited the monastery of St. Catharine, at the foot of Mount Sinai, and was presented with a little blood which the monks beat out of the bones of that saint; and which, our traveller observes with great simplicity, he thought appeared more of an oily substance than like blood: he scruples not, however, to declare it to be the greatest wonder that was ever seen in the world.' At Damascus he was delighted with the splendid gardens surrounding that city, which, he says, amounted to 40,000; and freighted with these and a few other extravagant stories he returned to Europe.



[ocr errors]

BERTRANDON DE LA BROCQUIRE undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, in 1432. He visited Jerusalem and Mount Sinai ; he saw also the city of Damascus, the population of which he states at 100,000 souls. During his stay here a caravan arrived from Mecca consisting of 3000 camels, whose entry employed two days and two nights. The Koran was carried in front of the procession, wrapt in silk, and borne on the back of a camel covered with the richest trappings. The governor and the whole city came out to meet it, and to do homage to the sacred eusign, by accompanying it with music into the city. On his return Brocquire passed Balbec, but appears to have been quite unconscious of the magnificent ruins of that place.

As we descend nearer to our own times, the visitors become more enlightened and their narratives more descriptive: thus the travels of BAUMGARTEN, in 1507, contain many curious particulars of the manners of the people, and some account of the cities and countries through which he passed, chiefly of Damascus, Bethlem, Jerusalem and Egypt. Baumgarten even condescended, when at Cairo, to cast a glance at the Pyramids, which he considers as prodigious works of human labour, especially in a sandy country; but they seem not to have attracted half so much of his attention as the marks of Pharaoh's chariot wheels, which he declares were still distinctly visible on the shores of the bay, where the children of Israel passed the Red Sea.

Mr. Murray has contented himself with two only of the later English travellers into the Holy Land, LAURENCE ALDERSEY, who left London in 1581, and GEORGE SANDYS, who journeyed thither in 1610. The narrative of the former contains very little




information of any kind; but that of Sandys, who was evidently an intelligent and a learned traveller, is both interesting and instruc tive. There is, however, another Englishman from whose pages Mr. Murray might have extracted some very curious matterwe allude to Mr. JOHN LOK, who undertook what he calls a Voyage to Jerusalem, in the year 1553; and who appears to have been by far the most observant traveller of his day. There is also a little book, under the title of a true and strange Dis course of the Travailes of two English Pilgrims, &c.' written by one of them, named HENRY TIMBERLAKE, which, in point of information concerning the Holy Land, is inferior to few of the works which existed at the time of its appearance (1611). Mr. Murray might also have culled some whimsical, and not unimpor tant observations from the very rare little volume of EDWARD WEBRE, an Englishman borne.*


Webbe was undoubtedly a great traveller, having first gone into Russia with Jenkinson, and afterwards with Burroughs-he was carried as a slave to Kaffa by the Tartars, and to Persia by the Turks; and he visited Jerusalem, Constantinople and Grand Cairo. Near the latter city he saw seven large mountains, pointed like a diamond, and built in Pharaoh's time to keep his corn; and it was out of these that Joseph's brethren loaded their asses: this, we believe, is an appropriation of the Pyramids peculiar to Webbe. He also, like Baumgarten, saw the place of the Red Sea where the children of Israel passed over: but the strangest of all the strange sights which he beheld was in Ethiopia. I have seene,' he says, 'in a place like a parke adjoyning unto Prester John's court, threescore and seaventeene unicornes, and oliphants, all alive at one time, and they were so tame that I have played with them as one would playe with young lambes.' The wood-cut of the 'oliphant' is remarkably well done; that of the unicorn represents a fierce horse-like animal, with cloven hoofs, and a straight horn in the forehead. Purchas, who has no doubts of the existence of the unicorn, seems to be staggered only by the number; and calls Webbe, rather unceremoniously, a mere fabler,' which he was not. For several centuries previously to the crusades, the Arabs had

It is entitled The rare and most wonderful things which Edward Webbe, un Englishman borne, hath seene and passed in his troublesome travailes, in the cities of Jerusalem, Damasks, Bethlem and Galely; and in the lands of Jewric, Egypt, Grecia, Russia and Prester John. Wherein is set forth his extreame slaverie sustained many years together in the gallies and warres of the great Turk, against the lands of Persia, Tartaria, Spain and Portugale, with the manner of his releasement and coming into England in May last." The Epistle to the Reader' is dated from my lodging at Blackwall, this nineteenth of May 1590, Your loving countrey-man Edward Webbe. There is also an epistle dedicatory to Queen Elizabeth. Fronting the title-page wood-cut representing the traveller, armed with a match-lock, rapier and staff.


is a


[ocr errors]

pushed their commerce, their language, and their religion, into the northern and eastern nations of Asia and the Asiatic islands. We find this enterprising people penetrating the wintry regions of Siberia, and extending their religion and their commerce over that immense tract of country which stretches from the shores of the sea or lake Aral easterly as far as the mountains of Pamer and the Beloor Tag: it consists of fertile and delightful plains, well watered by the Sihon, the Jaxartes, the Oxus, and their numerous tributary streams, and was known at an early period to the Arabians by the uncouth name of Mawarelnahar.

Among the multitude of noble cities once scattered over this vast region, whose names have survived their ruins, are Bokhara,' the abode of the learned,' Samarcand, 'the seat of commerce,' Cashgar, and Khoten, and Yarcan, to the eastward of the chain of mountains above mentioned. In the twelfth century, Samarcand was visited by Benjamin Tudela, a Spanish Jew, who states that he found in it no less than fifty thousand of the children of Israel but Benjamin's travels are rather obscure and somewhat apocryphal; and though he mentions places and customs which are known to exist in India and China, they are still such as might easily have been collected in any part of the coasts of the Persian Gulph; and thus far he undoubtedly travelled.

Beyond these countries to the northward, all the various tribes of Tartars, and even the Russians, appear to have been comprehended by the Arabs under the general classification of Turks, of whom, however, they entertained but vague and indistinct notions. Farther on still to the northward, was the sea of darkness,' on the borders of which dwelt a race of men who subsisted by hunting and fishing, and who had one long summer's day and a winter's night of equal duration. These crude notions, however, are sufficient to show that some little light had been obtained of the Arctic regions of Asia. It was in this undefined country that they placed the Gog and Magog of Ezekiel, whom Arabian fancy had transformed into two enormous giants, entrenched in a stupendous castle whose iron walls have perished by the rust of time. One of the Caliphs, if we may believe Edrisi, sent a party to explore the site of this wonderful edifice, who discovered it, as they reported on their return, on the other side of a vast desert two months journey to the eastward of the Caspian. These veracious emissaries, to give consistency to their story, also added that its walls were built of great blocks of iron, cemented with brass; that they rose to the top of a mountain of such enormous height that it appeared to touch the skies; and, lastly, that the gates, each fifty cubits high, were of iron, secured by bolts and bars of unusual magnitude and strength.

x 2


The Arabs are a people of fertile imagination; but it would be unjust to charge all the early Arabian travellers with the fictions and absurdities detailed in the literary compilations of this nation. The two Mahomedan travellers who visited India and China in the ninth century, have given a sober and accurate relation of their voyage, and of the manners and character of the several nations with whom they had any intercourse, and chiefly of the Chinese. They notice, for instance, the universal custom of drinking tea, (which they properly call teha), of the general use of silk, of the manufacture of porcelain, of the strictness of the police, of the punishment of the bamboo, of the want of cleanliness in the people, and their disposition for gaming, with several other particulars which leave not the slightest doubt of the genuineness as well as accuracy of their short narrative. All the intermediate islands, the coasts and promontories, mentioned by those early voyagers, have been ascertained by the critical acumen of the late Doctor Vincent.* We consider this work as containing a very valuable stock of sound information at that early period; and we can scarcely doubt that the greatest traveller in the world,' who was also an Arab, will be found to give a faithful account of the state of the various Asiatic nations whom he visited four centuries afterwards.†


The wild hordes of the Tartar tribes of Upper Asia, which, under the successors of Gengis-Khan, overran Russia, Poland, Hungary, and Silesia, struck all Europe with inexpressible terror; their immense numbers and the rapidity of their movements, rendered it alike vain to fly or to resist; and the countries swept by this living tempest, were converted at once from the fair abodes of man into smoking deserts. Other bodies of Tartars advanced through Persia to attack the Christian possessions in Syria and the Holy Land. An huge nation,' says Mathew Paris, and a barbarous and inhuman people, whose law is lawlesse, whose wrath is furious, even the rod of God's anger, overrunneth and utterly wasteth infinite countreyes, cruelly abolishing all things where they come, with fire and sword.' He then goes on to describe this huge nation' from the mouth of an Englishman, who had lived among them and was dragged along with them on their expedition against Hungary. They be hardie and strong on the breast, leane and pale-faced, rough and huf-shouldered, having flatte and short noses, long and sharpe chinnes, their upper jawes are low and declining, their teeth long and thinne, their eye-browes extending from their


We may here remark that the Zipangu of Marco Polo, is not Ceylon, as Mr. Murray supposes, but Japan-Gee-puen-quo, the country of the rising sun.' +Ibn Batuta, an abstract of whose travels is given by Burckhardt, and whose work is now translating by the Arabic Professor at Cambridge.


« PreviousContinue »