Obrázky stránek
[ocr errors]

are said to be universally disbelieved ; and thus give a check to practices which will certainly be continued as long as they are found to be effectual.

[ocr errors]

Art. IÍ. Travels in Europe, Asia Minor, and Arabia. By J.

Griffiths, M.D. Member of the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh, and of several Foreign Literary Societies. 4to. pp. 396. London, 1805.


"He extreme partiality of our countrymen for travelling, is a

subject which has often excited the surprise of foreigners. It would not be easy, perhaps, to explain the causes of this propensity ; but there can be little doubt of the fact, that it exists among the English in a greater degree than among any other people. At the close of every term, our universities send forth their raw productions to be exported in abundance to the Continent; and no sooner is the season of fashionable

gayety concluded in London, than the roads are covered with tourists and travellers, who issue from the metropolis in every direction. Some, who are contented with the humblest portion of itinerary fame, record their delights and their dangers in an excursion to the Isle of Wight, or to the mountains of Wales; others, better directed, or more courageous, explore the wilds of our beloved Scotland, and risk their safety on the shores of the Hebrides ; while others, still more ambitious, cross the tempestuous channel, trust their persons to Hibernian post-chaises, and wade for pleasure, or for glory, through the bogs of Ireland. Such are the usual expeditions of our summer travellers ; but we want not for numbers who have visited the principal countries of the European continent, and who have related whatever they saw or heard, with so much variety of style, and with so much minuteness of detail, that they have scarcely left any thing new, to be either said or sung, from Petersburgh to' Naples. Many have extended their researches to the remotest quarters of the globe ; and if the renown of travellers were to be measured out according to the number of miles which they have trodden, we could justly boast of some who would be entitled to an extraordinary portion of reputation. It is to be observed, however, that since the custom of travelling, over vast tracts of land has become more common, ingenious men have fallen upon various ingenious devices to attract the attention of the public to their own peregrinations. One gentleman has distinguished himself by having walked over a considerable portion of the habitable C2


globe ; another still boasts, that he advanced one verst farther into the deserts of Siberia than has yet been achieved by any other traveller ; a third excited some curiosity in one of the hottest countries of Europe, by the aid of a curious device on his card, which announced, that he had just arrived from the borders of the frozen ocean ; and a fourth with matchless rigidity of fibre, and heroic disregard of inconvenience, actually made the grand tour without once leaning back in his carriage during the whole journey. When travellers choose to publish, however, we cannot, in honesty, encourage them to hope that such expedients as these will avail them much. He who first points out any thing remarkable or characteristic, in the laws, manners, and opinions, even of a barbarous nation, not only adds to our stock of general information, but gives us views of human nature, in situations in which we have not been accustomed to consider it. Should he describe men in civilized life, and instruct us in the proficiency of another country in the arts and sciences, in commerce and manufactures, we ought to thank him for, at least, collecting materials for the philosopher, the historian, and the political economist. If he make important additions to our knowledge in natural history, or correct material errors in our geography, or confirm by practical proofs the conclusions of science, his claims to notice will be readily allowed. Finally, the scholar and the antiquary will not refuse their tribute of applause to him who brings fresh and accurate tidings from those regions which the classical genius of antiquity has rendered so interesting to men of taste and literature. But when a traveller excites attention in none of these ways, it will avail him little, that he has crossed the burning deserts of Syria and Arabia during the dog-days; that he points out the course of his extensive wanderings by the help of a zig-zag line which traverses half the map of the world; or that he presents to readers, who never heard of hine before, a smart portrait of himself, prefixed to a quarto volume.

Dr Griffiths, the author of the volume before us, relates in it the history of his travels from England to Italy, thence to Constantinople, thence to Smyrna, thence to Aleppo, and, finally, across the desert to Bassorah. Before we follow him in this extensive career, we must stop to take notice of some information which he gives us in his preface. In the rapidity of pursuit,' says he, I fear I have frequently overlooked those proofs which might have thrown a new and important light on subjects already treated of, with more or less accuracy, by literary pens; and from a necessitated adoption of the means and opportunities of proceeding towards the places of my destination,


[ocr errors]

I have as frequently been compelled to abandon, prematurely and unexamined, even those objects which had not escaped my notice.' This language cannot be considered as very encouraging to those who might hope for much accuracy from Dr Griffiths. * Let me be allowed to state,' he says, that I travelled through great part of the Ottomaun dominions in the humble disguise of a poor Greek; not under the protection of janissaries, the influence of ambassadors, or the authority of a Firmaun. It is obvious, however, that this very circumstance might have enabled him to acquire considerable knowledge of the Turkish character, although in a manner sufficiently disagreeable ; and it was, accordingly, chiefly in his disguise of a Greek slave, that Dr Griffiths collected the additional information concerning Turkey, which we have obtained from the perusal of his book.

The author informs us, that he embarked at Gravesend in June 1785 for the Mediterranean. He relates various circumstances which took place during this voyage, and which, considering the subsequent adventures of his life, it may be creditable to his memory that he has not forgotten, though it be not quite so much so to his judgement that he has chosen to record. Hè tells us with something of unnecessary minuteness, of the altercations which took place between the captain and the pilots; how he crossed the Bay of Biscay, 'where watery mountains precluded all hopes of tranquillity;' how, ' within the dividing shores of Europe and Africa, he amused himself with fishing for bonito;' and how, 'when successful, he feasted upon his prize; prudently pickling or salting such parts as were judged to be worth preserving. Some Teaders may not think, that this learned traveller has added much to their stock of knowledge, when he proceeds to tell them, that, in the island of Alboran, he found birds' nests with eggs in them.

After an agreeable passage of three weeks, pur traveller landed at Nice.

As he had warned us, in his preface, that he meant to confine his remarks on Italy to a few pages, we must not complain of his brevity on that subject. He rejoined his vessel at Leghorn, and set sail for Smyrna. The magnificent objects which presented themselves to his view, as he passed on to the Faro of Messina, naturally made a strong impression on the mind of our traveller and we can scarcely wonder, that, in describing so delightful a prospect, he should have permitted his prose to run a little wild. 'The bluff shore of Italy,' says he,' against which we seemed to proceed, uniting, as it were, to the bluffer promontory at the 'entrance of the Faro, obliterated all trace of its opening, until a near approach gradually exposed to our inquiring eyes the lovely passage so often mentioned by the classic poets. C 3


[ocr errors]

We do not find much novelty in the account which Dr Griffiths has given of Smyrna. From that city he took his departure in a Turkish boat for Constantinople. A gale of wind coming on compelled him to land near Temnos, where he had the opportunity of witnessing the funeral of a Mussulmaun. One part of the ceremony was singular enough. As soon as the grave was filled up, each friend planted a sprig of cypress on the right, and another on the left hand of the deceased. It was understood, it seems, that should the sprigs on the right hand grow, the deceased would enjoy the happiness promised by Mahomet to all true believers; but should those on the opposite side flourish, he would for ever be excluded from tasting bliss in the arms of the Houris. If both succeeded, he would be greatly favoured in the next world; and if both failed, he would be tormented by black angels, until he should be rescued from them by the mediation of the Prophet. “These opinions of a rustic,' says Dr Griffiths,' are not mentioned as those which generally prevail amongst Mussulmauns, but merely to shew that vulgar and local prejudices are not confined to the ignorant and superstitious of any particular country. Similar effects have been produced in all, by the fears, apprehenşions, and confused notions which have been entertained of a fu. ture life.'

To say any thing new in a description of Constantinople, would not now be easy; and after so many


have been employed on the subject, it might even be difficult to say any thing well. Dr Griffiths, however, has not been deterred, by these considerations, from indulging his desire of retracing the various objects which presented themselves to his enchanted sight.' We give him credit for the general accuracy of his account, and agree with him in suspecting the truth of the descriptions which have been sometimes given with so much confidence of the interior of the seraglio. Speaking of the frequent fires which take place at Conştantinople, he remarks, that the Sultaun is expected to attend, and that he is then exposed to hear various truths which could not easily come to his knowledge without such opportunities. Our traveller further observes, that fires have frequently their origin in the political disputes of parties, or the hopes of redress in cases of peculiar grievance.' It gives us no very clevated notion of Turk, ish wisdom to learn, that when any body at Constantinople is dis contented with the government, he seeks redress by burning down his house about his ears.

Amongst the officers of artillery, Dr Griffiths was introduced to the Ghumbaragee Bashee, whose assumed name was Mustaphah, but who, we are delighted to find, was originally a Scotch gentleman of the name of Campbell. He had been obliged, from some unfortunate circumstances, to quit his native country, had entered into the Turkish service, and had abjured the faith of his fathers. Let me not, however,' says Dr Griffiths, attract the attention of my readers to his errors ; let me rather dwell upon the amiableness of his difpofition, the urbanity of his manners, and the various accomplishments of his well-informed mind." It was in the society of this gentleman, that our author was preTent, when feveral officers of state were convened to examine a beautiful manuscript copy of the Koran, which General Morrison had brought from India to present to the Sultauri. After the most enthusiastic encomiums had been bestowed upon the manuscript, an old Emeer clasped his hands in a sort of agony, and exclaimed, * Alas ! Alas! how unfortunate! This magnificent copy of the never-to-be-sufficiently admired law of our facred Prophet is not . orthodox-it is the work of a Secretary of Ali!' This distressing circumstance, as might be supposed, filled the whole assembly with regret and consternation.


We shall not enumerate the various topics which have been discussed by our author with respect to the customs and manners of the inhabitants of Constantinople. They are very nearly the fame as they were, when they were described by Sandys two hundred years ago. There may be something less of pride, and something more of civilization ; but a Turk is still a Turk.

Mr Griffiths professes to treat, in the ninth chapter of his work, of the commerce of the Turks, and of the political situ? tion of the Greeks. These subjects required separate chapters; and would have had them, we suppose, if the materials of the author had not been quite so scanty. He observes, that a duty of three per cent. is exacted from foreigners at Smyrna, whilst the natives, a few articles only excepted, pay ten per cent. He justly remarks, that this custom is in direct opposition to that established in enlightened nations. He might have added, that, as it had its origin in a total ignorance of the nature and value of commerce, so it has been continued, entirely through the imbecility of the Turkish government. That government, we believe, has made some efforts to alter the tariff's at the different scales, and has even remonstrated with some other courts on the subject. We have been informed, however, that the new regulations are as little favourable to the natives as the ancient one's. The author's observations on the political situation of the Greeks are sufficiently meagre, and are contained in a couple of pages ; yet this is a vast field for inquiry and speculation. France,' says Mr Griffiths, ' evidently means to extend her influence to the Morea, and, from the accomplishment of fo grånd an object, will raise up an enemy to our commercial connexions ni inė

'Levant ;


« PředchozíPokračovat »