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Still, it is not agreeable to be interrupted in a plain and easy course, by the intrusion of opinions essentially unsound, and, as usual, cherished with an affection strong in proportion to their unsoundness. Mr. Hoskins, in short, has a hobby which, as hobby-riders invariably do, he spurs through thick and thin; and this monture is an affair of no less magnitude than the Ethiopian origin of Egyptian and European science and art.
Ethiopia, above the second cataract, including the metropolis of the ancient kingdom of Meroe, had been explained by very few Europeans, and only two Englishmen; yet it abounds with monuments rivalling those of Egypt in grandeur and beauty, and possessing, in some respects, a superior interest. According to Heeren, Champollion, Rosellini, and other eminent inquirers, whose judgement was confirmed by my own observations, this was the land whence the arts and learning of Egypt, and ultimately of Greece and Rome, derived their origin. In this remarkable country we behold the earliest efforts of human science and ingenuity.'
We have small disposition to examine the works of the savans here referred to, for the purpose of ascertaining in what terms they may have expressed the opinion assigned to them, since not even their authority could reconcile us to an hypothesis so pletely destitute either of intrinsic plausibility, or of positive evidence. Nor does Mr. Hoskins adequately supply their absence, by a clear and extensive induction of ancient testimonies. suspect, indeed, from the extremely defective and awkward way in which this branch of the inquiry is handled, as well as from sundry perilous stumbles in his Latinity, that he is not much skilled in these matters. He seems, in fact, himself somewhat aware of this, for he rests his decisions mainly on a subtler kind of knowledge, a faculty of discrimination which, how satisfactory soever it may be to his own feelings, will not, we fear, commend itself to the confidence of others. But more of this hereafter. Our further comments will find a fitter place when we reach the localities to which his criticisms refer.
Originally intending to pay a brief visit to the Valley of the Nile, Mr. Hoskins was tempted by the marvels of Thebes, to a much longer sojourn; and he ultimately determined, with an imagination kindled by the anticipated glories of Meroe, to encounter the privations and perils of a desert journey, that he might study, at the fountain-head, the first outbreaking of European civilization and refinement. One great inducement to this step offered itself in the actual presence of an Italian artist, much praised by Mr. H. for professional skill, and further recommended, not only by his own assurances of great personal valour, but by the contribution of a double-barrelled blunderbuss to the general system of defence. The Signor's resolution does not,
however, seem to have been full proof: he exhibited frequent symptoms of retrogradation, and gave way to despair when the casualties of the road denied him his habitual soup. With this efficient ally, and with the further aid of a camera lucida, Mr. Hoskins was prepared to fill his portfolio with correct drawings of the antiquities of Upper Nubia and ancient Meroe. He was the more anxious to effect this purpose, in consequence of a well grounded suspicion that much of what had been given to the world as genuine illustrations of Ethiopian antiquity had very little pretension to accuracy: the drawings of Caillaud, in particular, appear to fail lamentably in this respect.
It was early in February, 1833, when Mr. Hoskins commenced his journey; and reaching Assuan on the 5th, he succeeded, after much delay, in procuring camels for his journey to Makkarif, the capital of Berber, including a harrassing and somewhat perilous reach of the great Nubian desert. Mr. H. was a good deal annoyed by the apprehensions of his attendants and the trepidations of the valorous Signor Bandoni, previously to starting: they had listened to the orientalisms of the Arab merchants until they had come to hold each strange tale devoutly true,' and to indulge a very natural dread of a territory where, to use the expressive language of the Rais of the Cataract,' it rains fire. The earlier part of the road lay along the banks of the Nile.
The best way of seeing to advantage the scenery on the Nile, is, certainly, to ride on its banks; in a boat the effect is lost. The finest view we have had this morning, was in descending from the mountains opposite Tafey. The basalt and red, but exteriorly dark-coloured granite, contrasted with the light red sand of the desert, similar rocks and sands in the distance, in the midst the serpentine river, with its verdant banks, adorned with groves of palm trees and the interesting remains of temples, all illumined with the clearest blue sky and the most gorgeous sunset, formed often a scene to which few painters could do justice. Though not romantic nor strikingly picturesque, according to the original import of those terms, yet the extraordinary contrast and magical effect produced by this wonderful combination of brilliant colours, are magnificent, and present almost insuperable difficulties to the artist who attempts faithfully to delineate such a landscape.'
At Korosko, the travellers left the Nile, and entered on the desert. They had met, on their way, various parties who had just crossed the arid tract on which they were about to enter; and from all they had received the same friendly advice-look to your water skins. Yet were they put to much inconvenience by negligence in this important matter; and, strange to say, the fault lay with the Signor, to whose superintendence this department of the commissariat was entrusted. The skins provided were old, and their leakage became alarming at a very early period.
The circumstances of their road were not such as to afford the party much consolation in this trouble, since they were traversing the Bahr Bela Ma, the 'Sea without water,' and they not unfrequently passed the dead bodies of men and camels, victims to the privations and exhaustion of these dreary regions. Mr. Hoskins seems rather inclined to question the perfect accuracy of Bruce's glowing descriptions of the sand-storm, with its moving meteoric columns, and gives a more simple, yet sufficiently impressive representation of the real scene.
The wandering Arabs tell the women, children, and peasants of the Nile, fearful stories of the whirlpool of the desert, and the terrible simoom; but such tales, embellished by an oriental imagination, will rarely bear investigation. From what I have been able to ascertain, there are certain gusts of wind which occasionally sweep over these deserts, with clouds of sand, which prevent your distinguishing any object at all distant; but these are not very dangerous to caravans, - except in those tracts where there are immense hills, or accumulations of light sand, such as I have seen near the Oasis Magna, in the Libyan desert. The custom of caravans, when they have the misfortune to meet with such blasts, is to pitch their tents and shelter themselves within them. Whatever may be the quantity of sand, they are always safe if they can reach the summit, or place themselves under covert of a hill. I will mention here an instance of this kind, which in returning from my first voyage up the Nile to the Second Cataract, along with Mr. Ponsonby, he and I witnessed, on the 14th of April, 1832. We were on the point of going that evening to the Isle of Elephantina, when a violent storm, which, considering the season, though rather too early, I might almost call Khampseen, came on. The whole day had been unusally hazy, the air thick and exceedingly oppressive. The extreme heat of the thermometer was 86° in the shade......the day following, the thermometer did not rise above 79°. About five o'clock an immense cloud of sand came sweeping along with a wind so violent, that a boat which was crossing the river to the island was driven back, and the air became so turbid and impregnated with sand, that it was impossible to distinguish any object ten yards from the bank of the river. We heard the peasants in the fields, seemingly wild with confusion and alarm, calling aloud to each other and for their children; and when the sand enveloped them from our sight, we still heard their cries. A scene so strange and impressive I shall never forget. The gale blew almost directly from the west, and seemed to be a specimen of those which have successively swept before them the hills of light loose sand, which, as the Egyptian traveller will recollect, have completely smothered the cultivated land on the western bank of the river opposite Assuan. We endeavoured to shelter ourselves from it as well as the old windows of our cangia would permit; but the sand penetrated every where, into my bed, arms, instruments, and linen; and even my watch was affected.'
At Makkarif, the provincial governor, Abbas Bey, gave them a most hospitable reception ;-treating them with a liberality not
very common in a Turk, and the more remarkable, because he was given expressly to understand that Mr. Hoskins was not prepared to make the usual returns. His Excellency was, however, somewhat given to mischievous jokes, and he exhibited a specimen of his humour very little to the taste of his visitors, by deceiving a lad of eighteen, who was detained as a hostage, into the belief that they were executioners sent from Cairo for the express purpose of striking off his head. The youth sat quietly during three quarters of an hour, while Bandoni was finishing his portrait, expecting every minute to be his last, and received with a look of bewildered delight,' the intimation that he might get up,' and the gratuity which Mr. Hoskins put into his hand.
The principal tribes of Arabs in this region are the Bishareen, and the Ababdes. The former are the most numerous, and unmanageable; but they are kept under control by an unrelenting exercise of treachery and the strong hand. Such, indeed, is the terror which Mahommed Ali has, at an immense cost of life, impressed upon the natives, that a small frontier force of 400 cavalry suffices to keep in subjection a population of 30,000, and to hold in check the powerful and independent tribes of the neighbouring desert. March 2d. Mr. Hoskins, refreshed by his sojourn at Makkarif, embarked on the Nile, and passing village after village with a flowing sheet, moored at evening opposite the embouchure of the Mugrum, the ancient Astaboras, which joins, at Unmatur, the River of Egypt, and appears to flow through a more verdant and picturesque country than the more noble stream. On the 4th, early in the morning, he reached the site of the ancient capital of Ethiopia,' marked by the striking appearance of groups of pyramids, the remains of an extensive burial-ground-a 'city of the dead.'
'Never', writes Mr. Hoskins, were my feelings more ardently excited, than in approaching, after so tedious a journey, to this magnificent Necropolis. The appearance of the pyramids, in the distance, announced their importance; but I was gratified beyond my most sanguine expectations, when I found myself in the midst of them. The pyramids of Geezah are magnificent, wonderful from their stupendous magnitude; but for picturesque effect, and elegance of architectural design, I infinitely prefer those of Merve. I expected to find few such remains here, and certainly nothing so imposing, so interesting as these sepulchres, doubtless of the kings and queens of Ethiopia. I stood for some time lost in admiration. From every point of view I saw magnificent groups, pyramid rising behind pyramid, while the dilapidated state of many did not render them less interesting, though less beautiful as works of art. I easily restored them in my imagination; and these effects of the ravages of time carried back my thoughts to more distant ages.'
Yes, Mr. Hoskins's 'imagination' is apt at restoration, and
plays him the same sort of trick that presents to the poet's 'excited' vision, Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt.' We say nothing against their picturesqueness; we can quite understand that they must have been interesting' in the extreme; and we may admit that, if so heterogeneous a member as an upright portico, must, in clear contradiction of the primitive idea, and in direct interference with its characteristic lines, be stuck in the pyramid, then these outworks may serve, as well as any other, to inflict mortal injury on the sublime simplicity of its form and bearing. But when Mr. H. goes on to claim, not merely on slight grounds, but absolutely without the shadow of evidence, for these every way questionable remains, and for a space of about 2000 feet in length covered with fragments of now undistinguishable structures, the importance due to the remains of 'the ancient capital of Ethiopia', the original seat and source of Egyptian and Grecian art,—we must be allowed to express our entire dissent from his opinions. We mean no disrespect to this gentleman, but we are bound to caution our readers against unauthenticated theories; and, while we allow him ample credit for talent and enterprise, we cannot dissemble our conviction, that he has cherished a favourite notion till he has become blind to its fallacy. He may think the slenderer forms of these pyramids finer than the more massive proportions of the Egyptian edifices; this is a mere affair of taste, in which, though we differ from him, we have no disposition to contest the point; but when he affirms that in their porticoes 'we can clearly trace the origin 'of the Egyptian propylons,' we must be permitted to say that we can trace no such origination. The combination of pyramid and porch appears to have been an after-thought,—the fancy of some inferior architect who, seeing that the two things were excellent apart, took it for granted that they must be superexcellent together. But that we may not incur the least hazard of misrepresenting Mr. Hoskins, he shall have the advantage of his own summary.
A question which has long engaged the attention of literary men is, whether the Ethiopians derived their knowledge of the arts from the Egyptians, or the latter from the former. One of these hypotheses must be admitted, as the similarity of the style evidently denotes a common origin. These pyramids belong, without doubt, to the remotest age. No edifice, perhaps, is better calculated to resist the ravages of time or the destructive efforts of man, than the pyramid; particularly when constructed as these are, without any chambers in the interior. In a country where earthquakes are unknown, little rain falls, and the wind is seldom violent, ages must elapse before these vast masses of stone would be much dilapidated, unless buried by the desert, or carried away by man as materials for other buildings. The porticoes even of the pyramids that are standing, although adapted to