Page images
PDF
EPUB

PREFACE.

No

BOOKS are more generally or more eagerly

read than voyages and travels. They are recommended by every circumstance that can excite curiosity, or engage attention. They unite, in a singu. lar manner, the opposite beauties of unity and variety. We attend the traveller over feas, islands, and continents; from the scene of events illustrious in the annals of antiquity, he conducts us to visit places diftinguished by some great transactions of modern times ; from wars and battles, he turns to agriculture, manufactures, and commerce; with the detail of his adventures, he interweaves the history of science, laws, arts, and manners; with facts in general history, he communicates anecdotes, and exhibits portraits of private characters : Yet the hero of the tale is still the same; the author and the hero are one ; his design is not fully accomplished till the termination of his travels.

Even in this age, while a spirit of discovery is so generally prevalent, when so many voyages have been made to explore the remotest parts of the globe, and so many enterprising travellers have penetrated into regions before unknown,-scarce have any travels been so impatiently expected by the public, or any adventures so eagerly inquired after, as those of Mr. BRUCE.

Concerning

А

.

Concerning Abyssinia the ancients had communicated only a few dark imperfect hints, which served to excite curiosity, but afforded nothing to gratify it. In that vast country, they imagined the sources of the Nile to be concealed; the laws of nature were there suspected to vary in their operation ; it was thought to be inhabited by monstrous animals, and savage tribes of men, singularly distinguished from the rest of the world by aspect, dispositions, and manners.

Inquiry or accident had, indeed, made the mode erns somewhat better acquainted with that part of Africa. Christianity was accidentally introduced there, and the circumstances of its introduction drew upon Abyssinia the attention of the rest of the Christian world ; as its establishment occasioned a regular intercourse between the Christians of Abyssinia and those of Egypt. The Portuguese had afterwards · found their way thither, associated with the natives, and taken a part in their civil diffenfions. They had carried not only foldiers, but Jesuits into that country; and had the Jefuits been men of more enlightened minds, and less infuriated by blind zeal, they might possibly have contributed to civilize the rude feroci. ty of the Abyssinians; and, at the same time, might have explored the topography of their country, observed their customs and manners, and traced their history. But the object of the Jesuits was to extend the influence of the See of Rome, not to illustrate the history of the regions into which they penetrated. The facts which they communicate are almost always suspicious ; for we know them to have been fometimes careless in their inquiries, and often difpofed to disguise or conceal the truth.

Το

To discover, therefore, many particulars, concerning which no information had been received, to detect falsehood, to explore fables, and to ascertain truths,to add, in short, another part to the history of society, and to enlarge, as it were, the limits of the known world—was a task which remained to be performed by some traveller into Abyssinia.

When the public were informed, upon Mr. Bruce's return into Europe, that he had accomplished this talk; having undertaken it out of curiosity, benevolence, and a love of enterprise, and having, in the prosecution of his undertaking, braved dangers, and surmounted difficulties, which, to a man of barely ordinary prudence and intrepidity, must have proved absolutely insuperable ; the account was heard with a mixture of wonder and incredulity, which produced a very impatient and anxious expectation of a particular narrative of his travels. Although the publication of such a narrative was long delayed, yet the suspicious hints which were, from time to time, invidiously thrown out by his enemies*, the candid remonstran

ces

* The following remark of Baron de Tott, seems to have been wantonly thrown out to prepare the world for receiving Mr. Bruce's narrative with suspicion, and has not entirely failed of its effet :

A traveller of the name of Bruce, pretends, I am told, to have discovered them. I saw at Cairo the servant he took with him; the guide who conducted him ; the companion of his journey. I thoroughly ascertained the fact, that he had no knowledge whatever of this discovery ; in answer to which, it can only be said, that so learned a man as Mr. Bruce was not obliged to give an account of his obfervations to his valet. The pride of celebrity is loft in a defart ; the

distinction

ces and defences urged by his friends*, and the novelty and importance of the information which he had to communicate, still kept up the expectation of the public, and prepared them to receive and examine

his

distinction of master and servant disappear before the wants which surround them, mutually anxious, and compelled as they must be, to communicate together, and to afford each other mutual succours, the strongest alone must have the superiority over his companions; and the valet I am speaking of, born in the country, had incontestably the best right of warranting, even to Mr. Bruce himself, a discovery merely topographical

* The following accurate paper, faid to have been written either by the Hon. Daines Barrington, or by Mr. Mason, affords a refutation of the aspersions of de Tott:

The many voyages for the better knowledge of the globe we inhabit, have been one of the most distinguished glories of the present reign.

Most of these, however, have rather been undertaken to explore very distant seas and coasts, than to procure information with regard to the interior parts of the four great continents.

In Europe even, we are not so well acquainted with dirtricts which belong to the Turkilh empire as we should be ; and we are still more ignorant in the Asiatic quarter, of that immense tract which lies between Thibet and the north-east extremity.

As for South America, we must be chiefly contented with such opportunities of access as the jealousy of the Spaniards will sometimes indulge to the curiosity of the French, though such researches are always denied to Englishmen.

The more interior parts of Africa, however, are equally open to every European nation, provided it contains travellers of enterprise and abilities ; and in this division of the

globe

his narrative with general eagerness, whenever he fhould bring it forward.

To the entire fatisfaction of his friends, and the confusion of those who invidiously traduced his char

acter,

globe the admission to Abyssinia hath generally been supposed to be the most difficult. It is therefore much to be regretted, that when an Englishman (so eminently qualified as Mr. Bruce) hath made so long a retidence in this unfrequented empire, that the public should not have yet received the very interesting information from him which he is certainly enabled to give them. It is much to be feared, indeed, that the profpect of this communication is a distant one, and perhaps only to be expected after Mr. Bruce's death, which both his make and health seem to renove the danger of for several years.

A late traveller, however, the Baron de Tott, hath infinuaied that Mr. Bruce was never at the sources of the Nile, because Mr. Bruce's servant (who was with him in Abyssinia) said at Cairo, that he never accompanied his master to any fuch spot.

If therefore this insinuation continues uncontradicted, as well as many other reports to the prejudice of our very distinguished traveller, the publication (whenever it may take place) will not receive the entire credit, which I am persuaded it will most amply deserve.

Having therefore lately procured the means of difproving. this, most ill-founded insinuation of the Baron de Tott, as well as some other objections which have been circulated against the credit of Mr. Bruce's much to be expected narrative, I think that it is right such information should be early laid before the public. I must at the same time premise, that: though I have the honour to be known to Mr. Bruce, yet our acquaintance is not of the most intimate kind, nor have I seen him for several years.

He will not moreover receive the most distant intimation of what I am now publishing, others A 2

wise

« PreviousContinue »