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FOR MAY, 1827.
Art. I. Personal Narrative of a Journey from India to England, by
Bussorah, Bagdad, the Ruins of Babylon, Curdistan, the Court of Persia, the Western Shore of the Caspian Sea, Astrakhan, Nishney Novogorod, Moscow, and St. Petersburgh, in the Year 1824. By Captain, the Hon. George Keppel. Second Edition. 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 662. London. 1827. A
ROSE by any other name would smell as sweet ;' and
if our gentlemen travellers, in imitation of Baron Humboldt, choose to designate by the title of personal narrative, the mere notes and memoranda of a travelling journal, we have no particular objection to the innovation in nomenclature, except that it is rather unmeaning. No one will dispute, that travelling is a course of locomotion which cannot be performed by proxy, but involves much personal toil and incon. venience ;-we are of course not speaking of mere mental excursions, or of such imaginary visits as M. Chateaubriand paid to the pyramids, when he begged a friend to write his name on the great Pyramid, as an apology to the ghost of Cheops for not paying his devoirs in person. A narrative of • a personal journey would be thought a pleonastic phrase ; or, if we understand personal narrative' as denoting a narrative of personal adventures, the title is quite inapplicable to a work which, instead of being a continued relation, is a broken diary, perpetually interspersed and interrupted with observations and references to matters not of a personal kind. For the title to the present volumes, however, the Author is probably not responsible: we take it for granted, that the title-page was the performance of his printer or bookseller.
In the month of January, 1824, Mr. Ker Baillie Hamilton, Mr. Lamb, Capt. Hart, and the Author, met, from different parts of India, at Bombay, and agreed to prosecute together an overland journey to England from Bussorah. . They emVol. XXVII.
barked on board H. M. ship Alligator, in company with bis Highness Futteh Ali Khan, a eunuch in the seraglio of his brother-in law Abbas Meerza, the Prince Royal of Persia, and the son of the unfortunate Lootf Ali Khan, the last monarch of the Zund dynasty, who was assassinated in 1794. His Highness having chosen to visit India, our Government, • with its usual liberality, allowed him a hundred rupees a day, • and a splendid establishment;' and when the bad state of his health rendered it necessary for him to return, gladly sent him away under a salute from the batteries. But for the • honour,' the party could willingly have dispensed with the Prince's visits, his court breeding and Persian manners being at total variance with European prejudices, and sometimes not a little disgusting.
On the 4th of Feb, the Alligator anchored in the Cove of Muscat. This is the land of the Ichthyophagi (our Author mis-spells it Ichthiophagi) or fish-eaters; and here, not only human beings, but horses also feed on fish. The country is governed by an Inaum or independent pontiff, a sincere ally of the English,' who succeeded his uncle in the following manner.'
• Being discontented with his conduct, he one day proposed a ride to him. They were scarcely outside the walls of the town, when the nephew, lurking a little behind, drew his scimitar, killed his uncle, and returning to Muscat, seated himself without opposition on the vacant throne. He is, notwithstanding, much beloved by his subjects, who speak in high terms of his justice and moderation. As to the mere act of murdering his relative, it is held in the light of a family difference, and is po bar to his standing well in public estimation as a prince of mild and peaceable demeanour!'
A filthy town, containing a squalid, blear-eyed population of 2000 souls, the women 'the offspring of Arab men and • Abyssinian negresses, and a large proportion of the inhabitants Abyssinian slaves,- is the capital of this worthy personage, and 'vast quantities of salt and sulphur are all the • remains of the boasted wealth of Ormuz.'-On the 7th of Feb. they sailed from Muscat, and on the 16th, ran aground on a bank at the mouth of the Shut ul drab (boundary of Arabia), the name given to the united streams of the Euphrates and Tigris, which here disembogues by seven channels, one only of which is navigable for large ships. On the next day, they came in sight of the far-famed land of Mesopotamia, than which,' says Capt. Keppel, nothing can be more uninteresting in appearance.'
The country is so dead a flat, that the numerous pelicans which
darken the sands at the mouth of the river, were the first indications we obtained of our approach to shore. Shortly after, when the land was on both sides of us, the classical Euphrates was to be seen lazily pursuing its course between low banks of mud and rushes. In proceeding up the river, the scene changed, offering a nearly unin. terrupted succession of date-trees till we reached Bussorah.'
On the 21st, the Alligator anchored opposite that town, of which we have the following description.
• The city of Bussorah is enclosed within a wall, eight miles in cir. cumference. Of this space, the greatest portion is laid out in gardens and plantations of date-trees. It is traversed throughout by nume. rous canals, supplied by the Euphrates, into which they empty themselves at every turn of the tide. The abundance of water, besides irrigating the gardens, which it does effectually, might also be the means of keeping the town clean, were there not in the inhabi. tants an innate love of filth. Bussorah is the dirtiest town even in the Turkish dominions. The streets, which are narrow and irregular, are almost insupportable from the stench. Some houses are built of kiln-burnt bricks, but the greater number are of mud. From these, project several long sprouts made of the body of the date-tree, which convey filth of every description into the streets, so that a passenger is in frequent danger of an Edinburgh salutation, without the friendly caution of Gardez loo. • The old bazaar is extremely mean.
Rafters are laid across the top, and covered with ragged mats, which prove but a poor protection against the heat of the sun. Throughout the bazaar we observed numerous coffee-houses ; they are spacious, unfurnished apartments, with benches of masonry built round the walls, and raised about three feet from the ground. On these are placed mats; at the bar are ranged numerous coffee-pots and pipes of different descriptions. It is customary for every smoker to bring his own tobacco. These houses were principally filled by Janizaries, who were puffing clouds from their pipes in true Turkish taciturnity.
• The principal trade is with our Indian possessions, which, with the exception of a few English ships, is contined to Arabian vessels. The return for the articles with which we furnish them, are pearls, horses, copper, dates and raw silk. The population is estimated at sixty ousand, principally Arabs, Turks, and Armenians; but I have no doubt, that on a close enquiry, there would be found natives of every country in Asia. Dates are the principal production here; there are, besides, quantities of rice, wheat, barley, and abundance of fruits and vegetables.'
A new pasha made his public entry into the city, the day after our Author's arrival, and from the windows of a Persian's house, they witnessed the whole procession.
• They came in the following order. At nine o'clock, a body of armed men, forming an advance guard, announced their approach
by a continual discharge of musquetry, and passed us at a jog trot; then another party, who occasionally halted, and danced in a circle ; marking time by striking their swords against each others' shields. These were followed by large parties of Desert Arabs, of the Zobeir tribe, preceded by their immediate petty chiefs, on horseback. Each of them had carried before him, a large flag, red, green, and red. The Zobeir Arabs are mercenary troops, and acknowledge a kind of subjection to the Governor ; they are small, mean-looking men, with an Indian cast of features. They carried either fire-arms, or swords and shields. Some had their robes bound at the waist with a girdle ; others wore only a loose shirt. Several had on the bandkerchief turban, peculiar to the Arabs ; and a few were bareheaded, having their hair twisted into several long plaits. This appears to have been the ancient custom of the people of the Persian Gulf. Diodorus Siculus describes the inhabitants of Gidrosia, as keeping their hair thick and matted, το τριχωμα πεπιλωμένον εωσι.
• After these came the toofungees, personal troops of the Governor, distinguishable by fur caps, nearly a yard in diameter; then the Pasha's led horses richly caparisoned. Behind them, a troop of mounted Tchousses, (messengers,) beating small drums placed at the saddle-bow. These were followed by the native officers of the English factory, mounted on horses “trimly decked." Then the Capican Pasha, (the Admiral,) who, with a watch in his hand, was timing the auspicious moment, as laid down by the astrologers, for the Pasha's entrance into his palace. This was decided to be twenty minutes past three, Turkish time; or twenty minutes past pine, according to European computation. Next came the Cadi and Mufti, whose offices are so often mentioned in the Arabian Nights ; and then the Pasha, with his hand on his breast, returning the salutations of the populace. At the moment of his appearing, a groupe of women, covered from head to foot, set up a loud and shriil cry. A troup of mounted Janizaries brought up the rear, having with them a band, the music of whose instruments resembled that of som many penny trumpets.
• During this procession, muskets were incessantly fired off; the report of which, combined with the squeaking of the music, the noise of the tamtams, the squalling of the women, and the rude singing of the soldiery, formed a din of discord more easily conceived than described.
• Salutes from his Majesty's ship Alligator, and all the ships at anchor, announced the reading of the firman, or order, appointing the Pasha Mooselim, Governor; and the first act of his government was to publish an edict, graciously informing the loyal citizens of Bussorah, that any one of them found in the bazaar after nine in the evening, would certainly be hanged.'
As our Author quotes Greek,* he must know that there
Not always very correctly. At page 161 (vol. i.), we find fur. sukh, by the Greeks spelt paparayos parasangus. At the sight of were several nations known under the name of ichthyophagi, and that Bussorah does not stand within the limits of the ancient Gedrosia; otherwise Alexander would not have found it requisite to send his couriers with such despatch into Parthia, to stop the caravans, and bring provisions for his starving army. The Pasha paid Captain Taylor, the British political agent, a visit, which Captain T. and our travelling party politely returned. But here a curious point of etiquette was to be got over. Let the greatest blockhead walk first,' said Frederick II. of Prussia to the president's lady who consulted him on a point of precedence. But there was no such master of the ceremonies to appeal to at Bussorah ; and, as neither party could consent to acknowledge himself the inferior by rising to receive the other, both were taken up by their respective attendants, and carried, like Abou Hassan in the Arabian Nights, into the hall of audience at the same time. The visiters sat with their hats on,‘in conformity to the Eastern custom • of always keeping the head covered ; and, agreeably to an * exclusive privilege granted to Englishmen,' did not take off their shoes. This latter privilege, Captain Keppel seems to consider as not less insulting to Asiatic feelings, than' if a
foreigner were to claim the right of coming from the streets • in his dirty boots, and dancing up and down our dinner • table. We take leave to differ from him. If the Orientals choose to eat off the ground, that does not make it unpolite for the Hesperians to walk upon it; and a dirty foot is quite as unclean as a dirty shoe. We must refer our readers to the Captain's Narrative, for an account of a horse-race in the desert, and of an Armenian betrothment, at which • a Turk and
a Jew danced together to celebrate the betrothment of a • Christian !'; as well as for a description of Zobeir, with the mosque (djami) of Ali the Barmecide, the uncle of the farfamed vizier Giaffir of the Arabian Nights. On the 8th of March, the party, having embarked their baggage and a fortnight's stock of provisions in a bughalow, proceeded to ascend the river towards Bagdad. The next morning, they arrived off Koorna, the ancient Apamea, situated at the extremity of a
this strange word, we rubbed our eyes ;-we had assuredly never met with it before, and we consulted every lexicon on our shelf in vain : all disowned the stranger,--John Meursius's Græco-barbarum, and all. We looked again at the spelling, and first, we substituted a y for an y; next, we altered o into a; and finally, changing the o for a 7, (o Q!) contrived to make out a fair Greek word, Tapasarnyas. Capt. K.'s corrector of the press has not done his duty: he has passed several other blunders nearly as bad as this.