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We cannot but recommend this little work of Mr. Hay's as one of the most entertaining of its class. The picture of Morocco sports, and of the manners of the people, are most lively and amusing. At the same time, it is impossible, in reading these graphic and truly Oriental sketches, not to be reminded of the proverb, “ There is nothing new," &c. The story of Ali, the robber, is almost, to a word, that of the notorious Veli Khan, of Farsistan, the cutting off the finger that pulled the trigger, the sheikh's mare, the story of the ancient vase, are all familiar in similar or proximate forms throughout the East; and what is equally curious, the incident of the robber Ali, surrounded by the flaming forest, launching himself on his jet-black steed, while supporting his beloved Rahmana in his arms, against his foe, is precisely similar to the flight of Herne the Hunter with Mabel into the burning woods, related in “ Windsor Castle.” In the superstitions of the Berbers and Arabs, the few relics of Mauro-Spanish times, the traditions of the Moors, and the well-told conversations with lions, boars, and hyænas, Mr. Hay's work contains many features of novel and great interest, such as are certain to ensure a very great popularity; and to those whose curiosity in these countries will be naturally awakened by the progress of events, we cannot do a better service than to recommend Mr. Wyld's excellent map as a guide.
THE POLITICAL MISSION TO THE EAST.*
A French political mission, especially when composed of one individual, is a thing sui generis. It is not a mission of peace, nor a mission of friendly alliance, nor one for commercial and other advantages, nor even of French interests, it is a mission simply of hostility to England and the English, unflinching in its objects, and unscrupulous in its means.
Mr. Fontanier's especial mission was as a spy upon the proceedings of the Euphrates Expedition." At the period of my nomination," he says, p. 2, “public attention was actively directed to the attempts made by the English to open more speedy communications with India." “ The title of vice-consul,” he elsewhere says, “if directly conferred upon me, would not have suited my views;" and at page 414, he says, “the experiments on the navigations of the Euphrates having terminated," his presence was no longer needed, and he took his departure.
It is not our intention to follow our author in his outward journey, and in his intermeddlings with Egyptian and Indian politics, there are plenty besides ourselves who can set him right upon those topics. We shall penetrate at once to the less frequented territories neighbouring the Persian Gulf, and to the new French vice-consulate at Basrah, for against his will the author was bound to decency by such a nomination.
Arrived at this ancient commercial city, Mr. Fontanier was received by the English agent, whose house was placed at his disposal, and who took every possible steps to get the consul established in his new position, and also received by the local authorities with respect, (pp. 169, 170.) This, however, did not suit so sensitive a disposition, and in a country, where he says (p. 182) the English “pass for a race of superior beings;" he considered that his position had an aspect of dependence, and hence he resolved to live apart, and to hoist a flag ; but a difficulty occurred, that this demanded some outlay-a difficulty, however, by no means insuperable to the genius of a Frenchman, for there was at Basrah a French factory, in part of which the consul took up his abode, and the other part he pulled down, and sold the materials to meet the expenses of erecting a flag-staff, (p. 190.) This factory, it is to be remarked, had been a little previously repaired by the French Bishop of Baghdad, at an expense of 12001.
* Once installed," says the author (p. 191), “I received frequent visits from
* Narrative of a Mission to India, and the countries bordering on the Persian Gulf, &c. Undertaken by order of the French Government. By V. Fontanier, Vice-Consul at Bassora. 1 vol. 8vo. R. Bentley, London.
all those who disliked the authority of the English.” This might be thought a rather strange proceeding by the uninitiated, on the part of the representative of an allied and friendly power; but it is explained in other passages where the author's ideas as to the duties of a French consul are more explicitly stated, as being simply to keep the English consuls in check (p. 176), and to prevent the English depriving the French, “ in Asiatic affairs, of those advantages to which our geographical position and prior relations unquestionably entitle us,” (p. 295.) Observations, which every one will allow, are singularly inapplicable to the position of the two nations in China, India, the Persian Gulf, or the Red Sea—the wide fields of Mr. Fontanier's ambitious mission.
No sooner established than “a circumstance occurred,” he says (p. 191), “ which made it incumbent on me to check the influence of England." He was, in fact, boiling over with impatience to quarrel with the British resident at Baghdad; and the occasion which thus presented itself was neither more nor less than a request made by the colonel to the pasha of Baghdad for permission to establish coal depôts for the service of the Euphrates Expedition, at different stations on the river Euphrates. These coal depôts are denominated by Mr. Fontanier, “ military posts and magazines ;" and he says, “to ask permission to construct these posts, and to establish a communication between them by means of steam-boats, was neither more nor less than to propose to take possession of the river,” (p. 193.) Imagine the taking and holding possession of a tract of country eleven hundred miles in extent, and populated by six millions of inhabitants, by, five coal depots guarded by a couple of sailors to each! But worse than this, Colonel Taylor, who, although seventeen years resident at Baghdad, had never visited the ruins of Babylon, desirous of accomplishing that object
, and at the same time of greeting with due ceremony the arrival of the Euphrates Expedition, wished on the occasion of his guard of Sepoys being relieved, to detain for a while the two detachments for this little excursion. Mr. Fontanier's sharp political eyes saw strange designs in this arrangement; it was evident that Babylon was about to be converted into a British military post; in fact, Colonel Taylor was to be the modern Alexander, and off the irate consul despatches a threatening letter, stating that if a single English soldier entered the territory, he would protest at Constantinople against such a violation of the integrity of the Osmanli empire.” This, it is to be observed, was written after the colonel's intentions were given up, and the additional Sepoys had been dismissed, and were already on their way home. But Mr. Fontanier expected others would arrive, and he takes credit to himself for having prevented an army of British soldiers having marched on Baghdad. It is needless to observe that any military force from India was neither asked for, nor expected, by any one except the visionary vice-consul.
Mr. Fontanier having thus saved Turkey from a British invasion, he becomes a great man. Speaking of English agents, he now states (p. 197), "My bare presence was a serious check to their influence ;” and immediately afterwards, “ My residence at Basrah was prejudicial to the English,” for “false greatness no longer glitters when it is exposed to the light."
This great affair concluded, the delay which took place in the transport of the material of the expedition, left a long leisure with the vice-consulate, which was converted to the extraordinary purposes of first of all getting up a quarrel with the Abbé Trioche of Baghdad, for having removed certain church property from Basrah to that city, and failing in obtaining any satisfaction from that quarter, he amuses himself by claiming the property from Colonel Taylor, who, upon the representations of the former French agent in the country, had assisted in their removal, and he warned the British resident, “ that if he did not accede to my demand, I should send a copy of the document which I then transmitted him to the Governor-general of India, with a request that the value of the articles thus irregularly removed might be made good from his
At length the approach of the expedition, which the author proclaims to be a “bold enterprise," and " an example of extraordinary daring,” is heard of at Basrah. The author details at length his knowledge of the origin and nature
of this “ daring” expedition, the objects of which were neither more nor less, than to subjugate all the territories bordering on the Euphrates and Tigris ! Pondering upon so mighty a theme, he says (p. 299), “ I have often wondered. at the singular notions entertained by foreigners who engage in the conquest of a country; attempting to subjugate a people who do not understand their object.......... The invaders live at the expense of the country, scarcely troubling themselves to conceal their contempt for the inhabitants by whom they firmly believe they are adored..........Colonel Chesney imagined that the Arabs watched his operations with wonder and admiration, and took a lively interest in his success..........He must consequently have been astonished when passing Soug el Schioug, to observe a number of Arabs advance into the river, and attempt to stop the 'Euphrates.' These poor people imagined that this operation was the easiest thing in the world. They were foiled, however, and began firing their muskets, so that the steamer was compelled to discharge a couple of shots, which put them to flight.”
Apart from the misrepresentation of facts as to any possible invasion of so vast a country by a single steamer, and of the invaders having ever lived, to the slightest ainount, at the expense of the country, and from the absurdity of love or adoration being expected from the Arabs, who were at the same time certainly not looked upon with contempt, we have the authority of a member of the expedition itself, and who was with it from its commencement to its termination, to say that not one circumstance such as are here so carefully narrated ever occurred; and that on the contrary, the reception of the expedition at Suk el Shuyukh, or “the sheikh's market-town," was most friendly and gratifying.
But it did happen that at this very Suk el Shuyukh, the friendly Arabs informed the expedition that they had been instructed by a Frank, at Basrah, to stop the progress of the steamer, by damming up the river with date trees at that point. Mr. Fontanier was written to upon the subject from Suk el Shuyukh; and it is, probably, from the failure of this ignoble plot that he founds the above strangely concocted narrative.
Mr. Fontanier's work is filled with long accounts of the heat and sickly condition of Basrah, at the time of the arrival of the expedition there, and he is not surprised that on its return from Bushire, it should have taken up its head-quarters at Mo' Ammerah, he acknowledges (p. 311) that “the air was purer, the water more limpid, and it may easily be presumed that the mortality of Bassora caused him (Colonel Chesney) to keep aloof from that town.”
Mo' Ammerah, it is to be observed, is the port of that part of Susiana, of which Dorak is the capital, and which is held by the Cha'b
Arabs, who have never from the times of Nearchus to those of Niebuhr, the Dutch settlements in Kharaj, or the navigation of the Euphrates, acknowledged but temporarily the Persian or the Turkish yoke. From the rapacity of the custom-house officers of Basrah, Mo' Ammerah had become a much more frequented port than the former, which hence entertained towards it feelings of profound envy and hostility, and which it now became (from having been unfortunately made a brief spot of repair by the expedition during the survey of the river Kuran) a leading object of the French consul's to foment, and to enable him ultimately to take credit for its invasion and overthrow.
" It was an insult,” he says (p. 311), " for Colonel Chesney to establish himself in a hostile town, without even notifying such an intention” (to the governor of Basrah), and he then charges the colonel with making conventions with the Arab, whom he designates as the rebel sheikh of Mo' Ammerah. No such conventions were ever made ; our authority, previously quoted, formed one of the mission, which was sent by land to the capital of the Cha'b country, and no such subject was broached, nor did it happen that on this excursion, as is related by Mr. Fontanier (p. 347), that the party were seized, and not allowed to continue their journey. They were most hospitably received, and kindly entertained.
As far as Colonel Chesney's feelings were personally concerned, they were always exceedingly friendly to the Turks, but that not so much so as, like our author, to urge them to an act of injustice in the destruction of this rising
port. In proof of these feelings, Mr. Fontanier himself relates (p. 237), that
when Colonel Chesney arrived in his steamer (at Basrah), his vanity was piqued, and he caused a little paint and a few ropes to be given to the ships of war;" and at page 298, he expresses regretful doubts if the governor of the town, with all his Arabs, could have taken the steamer.
On the steainer's voyage upwards, to Baghdad, Mr. Fontanier—thanks to Colonel Chesney's politeness-became a passenger; and he relates that, during the navigation of the Tigris, the Arabs would not cut wood, and that when the crew were employed on that service, it was necessary to keep a sharp look out lest they should be attacked, (p. 318.) How untrue this is, is shewn by the fact that while the crew were cutting wood, other members of the expedition (with whom Mr. Fontanier took very good care not to venture) were shooting in the jungle, and the Arabs laid up stores of wood for the steamer's return.
At Baghdad, Mr. Fontanier conveniently forgets his quarrels with the Abbé Trioche, and his attacks upon Colonel Taylor, and rushes into the arms of one, and accepts the hospitality of the other. He then reviews the fallen condition of the city of the Caliphs, and laments (p. 194) that it would have been easier for the “Euphrates” steamer to take Baghdad, than for the pasha at the head of his troops to have taken that vessel !
On the return, Mr. Fontanier was shipped at Korna, on board the “ Hugh Lyndsay” steamer, then waiting with despatches for the Euphrates, and by its means, he regained Basrah, where he learns from a Jew, that Tajib, the sheikh of the Arab town of Zobier, which generally keeps the Turks of Basrah in check, is to be assassinated (p. 355). This unfortunate sheikh, according to Mr. Fontanier, had previously prevented the Arabs from executing a plot which they had formed for burning the “Hugh Lyndsay." How did Mr. Fontanier obtain knowledge of this fact? And with regard to his own connexions with the sheikh, he says, “I had time to put him on his guard, but I did not : it was in my power to save him, but my duty forbade me. obliged to forget that this man had never rendered me other than kind services, and to leave him to his fate, (p. 355.) Tajib was accordingly murdered, with the knowledge, and therefore the tacit consent, of the French consul !
The expedition having come to an end, Mr. Fontanier immediately set about prompting the Pasha of Baghdad to invade Mo' Ammerah ; and as an inducement to this, he picked a quarrel with the Governor of Basrah (p. 365), and demanded satisfaction. “ The pasha was afraid of me,” he says ;
not at all on account of my official character, or of any steps which the ambassador could take, but because I was acquainted, to a dollar, with the amount of his robberies, and I had it in my power to denounce him to the Porte. For this reason, he sent me word that he would come in person, and, with the help of God, would see that I had satisfaction,” p. 365.
The pasha accordingly starts ; a friend of Mr. Fontanier's, a Captain Sharp, who happens to be anchored off Mo' Ammerah, is, through his instrumentality, ordered away—the town is invaded, pillaged, and sacked. It was, indeed, taken without resistance; and a tailor, who was ignorant, in all probability, of the important event, was at work in his shop. One of the victors espied him, rushed upon him, and dragged him before the pasha, who ordered him to undergo a severe bastinado, as a punishment for his assurance; his tormentors exclaiming, “What, you scoundrel ! while the vizier gives himself the trouble and the fatigue of coming all the way from Baghdad to besiege and take the town, you sit sewing away as if nothing had happened !”
During this valorous war against the ninth part of a man, the sole occupant of Mo' Ammerah, the French consul employs his janissary, apparently with considerable success, in fleecing the pasħa in return for the moral and political aid which he had lent to the expedition, and a Persian ambassador, who arrives to complain of the invasion, receives the bastinado. With this great political triumph over the English, this remarkable mission terminates ; and, it is almost needless to remark, that the Cha'b Arabs, who had retired at the approach of the pasha and the consul's janissary, returned at their departure, and reinstated themselves in their just and lawful possessions, unless, as the question has now been made one of diplomacy, the commissioners, who sit upon it at Erzrum, and who, probably, know as much as to the right of Turks and Persians to the Cha'b country as Mr. Fontanier obtained from D'Herbelot for the use of the pasha, and as much concerning the history of Suleimaniyah as is contained in Rich's narrative, decide that an independent country must be rendered tributary to the one power or the other; if so, the question still remains if the Khurds of Suleimaniyah, or the Arabs of Cha'b will submit to the decision thus arrived at.
THE HAMYARITIC INSCRIPTIONS.
It was on the 6th of May, 1834, now more than ten years ago, and, to use the words of Wellsted, (who, poor fellow, has not lived to witness the rich fruits of his researches !) “ at a moment memorable in the history of discovery,” that the officers of the Palinurus found the castle and inscriptions of Hisn Ghorab. This first discovery of one of the most ancient alphabets of mankind was followed by the finding of another inscription, in April
, 1835, by Lt. Wellsted, at the ruins of Nakabu-l-Hagar, “ the excavation in the rock,” a city of the same district of Hadramaut, the land of the Homerites. In the month of August, 1836, Messrs. Hutton and Cruttenden recovered similar inscriptions at Sana, in Yemen, which had been brought from Mareb, the renowned capital of the Queen of Sheba ; and on September 26th, 1842, a tablet with a further inscription was dug up at Aden itself.
Gesenius, Roediger, and other learned scholars, devoted their whole energies to deciphering this most ancient character, but, as it now appears, without the slightest success; and we feel pride, that as the discovery was made by British officers, so it remained for an Englishman, the Rev. Mr. Forster, by the acci. dental comparison of a poem- borrowed by Schultens from the historical compilation of the celebrated Al-Kazwînî, called the Kitab atsar al Belad, &c., with the Hisn Ghorab inscription—to arrive at the solution of a problem, to which, we owe the Arabian Voyage of Niebuhr and his colleagues, and to solve the key of a language, long lost and fruitlessly sought after by the first names in Oriental learning, from the days of Pocock to those of the accomplished Sir William Jones.
The inscription at Hisn Ghorab is of the most remarkable character. It refers, in language which, for poetic beauty, can only be compared with the loftiest flights of Job, to the lost tribe of Ad, spoken of in the Koran as giants, and descended from Aws or Uz, the son of Aram, the son of Shem :
“ Aws assailed the Beni Ac, and hunted [them], and covered their
Faces with blackness." Opening with a pastoral simplicity which belongs most unequivocally to purely patriarchal times, the imagery is literally the same with that which opens the Book of Job. It speaks of sheep, oxen, and camels, of the locality occupied by the subjects of the poem, of the fountain streams and operations of husbandry, of field-sports and gorgeous clothing, of Hasirs-kings who lived secluded in their palaces,-a fact noticed by Agatharcides, Diodorus, and Strabo, but scoffed at by Gibbon ; of the justice of their kings, of the prophet Hud, (the Heber of Genesis,) shewing that name not to be, as has been constantly alleged by Christian controversialists, a corruption made by the prophet of the Islamites. One of these lines, as not written by a Pagan or idolatrous people, is too remarkable not to be quoted :
“ And we believed in miracles, in the resurrection, in the return
Into the nostrils of the breath of life.” A second poem, possibly yet to be recovered at Mesenaat, describes this happy period as succeeded by seven years' famine :
* “ The Historical Geography of Arabia,” &c., by the Rev. Mr. Forster, 2 vols.