Page images
PDF
EPUB

nibals. I do not know whether the fact was sufficiently authenticated; but it is certain that the woman herself declared it, adding some revolting accounts of her own feasts on human flesh.'

Adams asserts that there is no public religion in Tombuctoo;' but the Editor thinks he must be mistaken in including the Mahomedan part of the inhabitants under that assertion.

The criminal law, if the will of the monarch, acting according to a settled usage, may be so denominated, is more lenient perhaps than that of any other nation.

Adams never saw any individual put to death at Tombuctoo, the punishment for heavy offences being, as has been stated, slavery; for slighter misdemeanours the offenders are punished with beating with a stick; but in no case is this punishment very severe, seldom exceeding two dozen blows, with a stick of the thickness of a small walking cane.'

It is very true, as the Editor remarks, that some deduction from the attribute of mercy in this legal institution, may justly be made on account of commercial interest, it being more profitable to the government to sell a criminal than to put him to death: this consideration of gain and loss has a restraining force even upon the ferocious malignity and fanaticism of the Moors and Arabs, insomuch that in several instances it saved Adams's own life. Still, it will be acknowledged, that the observation does not altogether neutralize the ascription of leniency to the criminal law of Tombuctoo, when it is stated, that only twelve criminals were condemned to slavery during the six months of Adams's residence there. Their offences were 'poisoning, theft, and refusing to join a party sent out to 'procure slaves in foreign countries.' A government which should be intent on nothing so much as extorting money, might' easily contrive that there should be a greater number of lu

crative convictions.

Some of the expressions we have transcribed, sufficiently intimate, that the capture and barter of slaves, form a prominent feature in the political economy of this mildest of the African nations. By Adams's account, it seems to be the most active and systematic part of their business.

'About once a month, a party of a hundred or more armed men marched out to procure slaves. These armed parties were all on foot except the officers; they were usually absent from one week to a month, and at times brought in considerable numbers. The slaves were generally a different race of people from those of Tombuctoo, and differently clothed, their dress being for the most part of coarse white linen or cotton. He once saw among them a woman who had her teeth filed round, he supposes by way of ornament; and as they were very long they resembled crow-quills. The greatest number of

slaves that he recollects to have been brought in at one time were about twenty, and these he was informed were from the place called Bambarra, lying to the southward and westward of Tombuctoo; which he understood to be the country whither the aforesaid parties generally went out in quest of them The slaves thus brought in were chiefly women and children, who, after being detained a day or two at the King's house, were sent away to other parts for sale. The returns for them consisted of blue nankeens, blankets, barley, tobacco, and sometimes gunpowder. This latter article appeared to be more valuable than gold, of which double the weight was given in barter for gunpowder. Their manner of preserving it was in skins. It was however never used at Tombuctoo, except as an article of trade.'

There are a few entertaining particulars of the amusements, manners, and domestic economy; there are also a few notices of the animals of the country, including the famous dromedary called the Heirie of the desert, and a beast named Courcoo, distinguished by remarkable peculiarities, but with which Adams had confessedly no sufficient ocular acquaintance to give authority to his description.

C

At length a party of Moors arrived, to ransom those of their fellow-believers who had been taken as prisoners to Tombuctoo with the sailor. It was accomplished, though with difficulty; and he also, and the Portuguese youth, were ransomed, that is to say, bought as slaves, destined to pass through several 'transfers, and endure a tedious and cruel captivitity. A prodigious length of march, for some days to the north-east, afterwards to the north-west, over the sandy desert, in which they all suffered the severest toil and deprivation, brought them (or rather some of them, for several of the Moors, who had been weakened by their imprisonment, actually perished by the way) to a village named Woled D'leim, inhabited entirely by Moors, who from their dress, manners, and general appearance, seemed to be of the same tribe as those of the encampment to which Adams had been conveyed from El Gazie.' Here the two Europeans were employed in tending the goats and sheep, suffering much from exposure to the intense heat, and hard usage. The master, named Hamet Laubed, had at first held out the hope that his slave should be taken to Mogadore, to be ransomed; but after nearly a year had been consumed, he frankly answered, to Adams's remonstrances, that he had now no such intention. Upon this, Adams, with the resolution of despair, refused, and in spite of merciless castigations persisted to refuse, to take care of the flocks any longer; and after a time took a camel and attempted his escape-toward the coast. He was overtaken just as he had reached El Kabla, another station inhabited by Moors, who were on no friendly terms with his master's

tribe. Hamet demanded him, but was compelled to accept a very trifling equivalent for him, and resign him. With Mahomet, his new proprietor, he had a somewhat easier service, till his detection in a commerce with one of his master's wives, compelled him to throw himself into the hands of a new owner, who had given him assurances of being taken to Wed Noon, a station near the coast. Here he found three of his former ship-mates, now slaves to the governor's sons; and here he was sold to one Bel-Cossim-Abdallah, for seventy dollars in trade, payable in blankets, gunpowder, and dates.'

6

6

This last stage of his slavery, which continued more than a year, was by far the worst. A complication of toils and cruelties reduced him near despair and death. Two of his companions renounced their religion, and so ceased to be slaves; he repelled all the overtures to this effect. He gave a perilous demonstration, first of his audacity, and next of invincible constancy. He refused to go to work, at the order of his master's son, on the Mahomedan sabbath, on which the slaves are exempt. receiving for this a blow on the forehead with a cutlass, he knocked down the miscreant Moor with his fist. The other Moors instantly fell upon him with sticks with murderous violence; and the young man's father and mother insisted he should humbly kiss their son's hands and feet, on pain of being put in irons. He firmly refused, and suffered all the consequences, for many weeks, in spite both of the most savage threatenings, renewed at intervals, and the persuasions and even entreaties which were resorted to when the owner began to apprehend that rather than submit, his slave would die, and so he should lose the money which he was worth. Adams declares he would rather have died. When there was evident and near danger of this consequence, he was released from irous; and not long afterwards was ransomed by Mr. Dupuis, towards whom he always expresses the warmest gratitude. Here we close our

abstract.

The excessive price of this thin volume will not be complained of, when it is recollected that Adams is to have the benefit of its sale. It will not be long before its circulation will be facilitated by an octavo edition.

Art. V. Essays in Rhyme on Morals and Manners. By Jane Taylor, Author of "Display," a Tale, &c. foolscap 8vo. pp. 174. Price 6s. Taylor and Hessey, 1816.

MISS Taylor, in adopting the modest designation of Essays in Rhyme, means to disclaim, we apprehend, all pretensions to the lofty character of the poet. But is there not satire concealed in the very title she has chosen? Does it not insinuate that many a foolscap volume which ranks under the class of poetry, deserves no better appellation than Essays in Rhyme? If, however, Moliere's professor of philosophy be right,—that,

Tout ce qui n'est point vers est prose, & tout ce qui n'est point prose est vers,'-these Essays must be considered as coming under the denomination of poetry. They indeed belong to that anomalous class of compositions, in which the form of poetry is assumed for the severer purposes of prose, and the weapons of Imagination are turned against herself. We will not term them satires, for they exhibit neither the arrogance, nor the exaggeration, nor the splenetic temper of the satirist; yet, if Lord Mansfield's axiom be admitted, the more true, the more a libel,' truths honestly urged by the moralist, must needs sound like satire, and if so, Cowper, the amiable Cowper, was the severest of satirists. These "Essays" will deservedly rank with "Table Talk", and the " Progress of Error".

<

Cowper, it is probable, took Churchill in some degree for his model. In the "Table Talk" he passes a high encomium on his genius, attributing the roughness and coarseness of his style to the proud negligence of conscious strength, which made him 'disdain the rules he understood'; and he subsequently remarks, in reference probably to the same poet,

[ocr errors]

"Satire has long since done his best; and curst
And loathsome ribaldry has done his worst.'

Cowper's satire was, however, an attempt of a bolder nature than had been made by any preceding moralist, unless we admit Young, in his "Night Thoughts", to be an exception. It was an attempt to apply the caustic of severe ridicule, not to the excrescent follies, the superficial vices of society, but to the radical corruptions of the heart. His approach to the reader is made with caution and artifice; the topics he at first introduces, are of a general nature, and the appeal is made to the understanding rather than to the conscience. By degrees he advances to higher ground, and at length takes his stand on the plain declarations of Scripture, an eminence which never heathen moralist attained,—from which he is enabled to bring motives and sanctions to bear upon the conscience, with the power of which Horace and Juvenal, and we might add, Pope and Boileau, were wholly unacquainted. Throughout

Cowper's severest declamations, there prevails a tone of benevolence which forms a no less distinguishing characteristic of the Christian moralist, obviating all doubt as to his purity of intention, and evincing that his quarrel is not, like that of the ancient cynic, with mankind, but only with their vices.

If a poet is really anxious to produce moral impressions that shall act with the force of a bias on the minds of his readers, he must make it evident that no unworthy feeling prompts him to assume the office of censor, and that it is for a sufficient purpose he employs his talents in depicting scenes and characters in themselves vile and unpleasing. That minute specification of the details of crime, and the secret workings of iniquity, in which some poets have delighted to excel, betrays either a strange want of natural sensibility, or a very morbid taste. Like the drawings of the anatomist, such representations may possess great merit, and have their peculiar use, as graphically illustrating the effects of disease; but a person must have become familiarized with such subjects, before he can surmount the disgust which, considered simply as pictures, they are calculated to awaken. Crabbe is continually chargeable with the fault we allude to. Some of his pictures are absolute dissections, traced and coloured with scientific minuteness and horrible fidelity. But the purpose of the moralist appears in poems of this kind, to be quite lost sight of.

These "Essays" will occasionally remind the reader both of Cowper and of Crabbe, but they are written in a style essentially differing from that of either; a style singularly subdued and chaste, yet rising at times to a high degree of poetical force of expression; displaying far more of vigour than of art, and characterized by a sort of feminine boldness which well becomes the nature of the theme.

An

The volume is remarkably free from all appearance of pretension or artifice: there is no display; nothing is sacrificed to effect; and in the fidelity with which the prejudices and defects of all parties are exposed, there is no reserve, intimate acquaintance with the recesses of the heart is discovered in these Essays, which can have been derived from self-knowledge only ;-that self-knowledge, which the most extensive opportunities of observation and converse with the world will not supply or supersede; it is the slow growth of dreary seasons and solitary years. Possessed of this, a person will be enabled to dive at once to principles and springs of action, and although conscious of his personal implication in the infirmity and folly he labours to expose, he will not consent to spread the thin disguise of false candour over human character. His judgement of others will be tempered indeed,

« PreviousContinue »