Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

dern nations; and it is still more humbling to take an account of the trifling proportion which civilized men bear to those of their species who are yet in the lowest state of ignorance and barbarism. Of the eight hundred millions of human beings by whom, as it has been computed, the earth is inhabited, not more perhaps than one-third are engaged in any pursuit fitted in the smallest degree to improve tlie mind, or to adorn the intercourse of life: while, on the other hand, the great mass of our fellowcreatures, may be described as obeying no call which does not proceed from their physical wants, and feeling no stimulus to action, but such as respect the mere animal appetites. The time, however, we contidently hope is fast approaching, when the interior parts, both of Africa and of Asia, will be thrown open to the knowledge and refinements of Europe; when the names which have hitherto carried terror or suspicion to the shores of the Tigris and the Gambia, will be gratefully associated with a new era of civilization, of liberty, and of security; and when, at least, the geographical positions, in either continent, of wellpeopled towns and magnificent rivers, will no longer be merely guessed at, as if they were situated in quite another planet. No country, indeed, has done so much as our own for promoting discoveries in Africa; no characters have been more enterprising and devoted than those who have left the British shores; still, nearly all that we have yet learned concerning that extensive continent, is that amid its vast solitudes there are fruitful vallies, crowded towns, and rivers of the first magnitude, whose sources and estuaries are alike concealed. The efforts of individuals, however, are now succeeded by the more systematic and enJarged undertakings of Government, and we fondly anticipate the inost cheering results; a way opened up in the Desart, and the Ethiopian stretching out his hands to receive the blessings of religion and science

The Journal now before us, details the incidents of a second atiempt by Mungo Park, to explore the inland regions of Africa, and, more particularly to ascertain the course and termination of the Niger. Containing only such notices and memoranda, as he could crimmit to paper aniid the numberless anxieties which attended every step of his unfortunate mission, we need hardly observe, that it is extremely meagre, and, in short, that its interest consists, not in the new facts which it brings to light, but in the strong characters which it bears of truth, and of deep feeling, clothed in their most natural expression. There are no exaggerations, and no rhetorical colouring. But its principal value, no doubt, arises from the comfortable assurance which it conveys, that an expedition into the interior of Africa, composed of proper materials, and setting out at a right season of

the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the year, will in all probability succeed in its object, and that, too, without any considerable loss either of life or goods; for noth ng can be more manifest to the readers of this Journal, than that the failure of Park's last enterprise was occasioned alo most entirely by his leaving the Gambia at that particular period, which necessarily led him to encounter, before he could reach the Niger, all the horrors of the tropical rains. In this respect, we hope, his misfortunes will prove a beacon to others; and we contidently trust, that it will be an essential point in the arrangements of all future travellers, to make provision for reaching some one of the principal towns on the great river, before the rainy season sets in.

The Journal, as is stated in the title-page, is preceded by an account of Mr. Park's life, of which we have drawn up the following abstract for the amusement of our readers.

This enterprising traveller, then, of whom we are now to detail the last labours and death, was born, 10th Sept. 1771, at Fowlshiels, a farm situated on the banks of the Yarrow, in Sel. kirkshire, which his father rented of the Duke of Buccleugh. His early education was meant to prepare him for the church; but as he afterwards shewed a decided preference for the medical profession, his parents yielded to his wishes, and he accordingly repaired to Edinburgh, in 1789, where he pursued his studies with considerable success, during three sessions of college. Having completed the statutable course of attendance and received a diploina, Park came to London ; and where he was introduced by his brother-in-law, Mr. Dickson, to Sir Joseph Banks, whose recommendation procured for him the situation of assistant-surgeon to the Worcester East Indiaman.

Having made a voyage to India, Mr. Park returned to England in 1793, and hearing upon his arrival, that the African Association were in quest of a person to supply the place of Major Houghton, who had perished in his attempt to explore the course of the Niger, he eagerly seized this opportunity of entering upon the hazardous career of a discoverer, and offered his services through his friend the President of the Royal So. ciety. There was nothing, it has been said, in Park's previous studies which had particularly led him towards geographical pursuits; but he had a general passion for travelling – was in the full vigour of youth-his constitution had been in some degree inured to hot climates-he clearly saw the opportunity which a new country would afford for gratifying his taste in natural history, and it may be mentioned, as constituting, perhaps, the principal motive, that he was by no means insensible to the distinction which was likely to result froin any great discoveries in African geography. At all events, these or similar considera

1

tions speedily determined him ; and, after some enquiry into his qualifications, his offer was readily accepted.

The adventures and success of his first journey, upon which he set out in May, 1795, are sufficiently known, and it is not our business, at present, to enter into particulars. Suffice it to say, that, aiter much suffering in body and mind, lie reached the banks of the Niger, ascertained its course as being from west to east ; but, after having descended its stream from Sego to Silla, he found himself compelled to relinquish the intention of proceeding farther, and reluctantly to turn his face towards the British settlements on the Atlantic. He returned, indeed, to the shores of ine Gambia by a different route, thus seeing all that he could possibly see of the country which he went to explore, and finally landed in England, on the 22d day of December, 1797, after an absence of two years and seven months.

There is a little anecdote preserved by his biographer connected with his appearance in London, which seems worthy of being mentioned. Immediately upon bis landing at Falmouth, Mr. Park bastened to the metropolis without writing to any of his friends, being anxious in the greatest degree respecting bis jamily, of whom he had heard nothing for nearly two years. He arrived in London before day-light on the morning of Christnas, and, it being too early to go to the house of his brother-in-law, lie wondered about in the streets in that part of the town where Mr. Dichson lived. Finding one of the entrances into the garden of the British Museum accidentally open, he went in and walked about there for some time; where, by a strange coincidence, Mr. Dickson, who had the care of those gardens, and happened that inorning to have some trifling business in ihein, likewise repaired thither before the dawn of day. What must have been his emotion on beholding, at that extraordinary time and place, the vision, as it must at first have appeared to him, of his lony lost friend, the object of so many anxious thoughts and painful reflections, and whom he had long numbered with the dead!

Soon after the publication of his travels, Mr. Park entered into a matrimonial engagement with a young lady in Selkirk, the daughter of a surgeon in that place, to whom he had served his apprenticeship. Still undecided, however, as to bis plan of life, he appears, in 1799, to have entered into a correspondence with government relative to some public situation in New South Wales: at another time he seems resolved to become farmer ; and finally, with much undisguised reluctance, he came to the determination of practising as a medical man in the adjoining county of Peebles. But, in the midst of all his projects and avocations, liis secret thoughts were still fixed upon Africa; and

[ocr errors][merged small]

no

no long time had elapsed when an occasion presented itself, which called back his impatient spirit to that scene of novelty and hazard. Upon the cessation of hostilities with France in 1801, Park received a letter from Sir Joseph Banks, acquainting him, that,

“ In consequence of the peace, the Association would certainly revive their project of sending a mission to Africa, in order to peRetrate to, and navigate the Niger; and he added, that in case government should enter into the plan, he would certainly be recommended as the proper person to be employed for carrying it iato execution.”

The prospect thus presented was too much in unison with the leading feelings of Park's ambition to permit his mind to follow up any longer the laborious routine of a country surgeon. Indeed, as the author of his life observes, the situation of a country practitioner in Scotland, attended with great anxiety and bodily fatigue, and leading to no distinction or much personal advantage, was little calculated to gratify a man, whose mind was full of ambitious views, and of adventurous and romantic nndertakings. His journies to visit distant patients, his long and solitary rides over cold and lonely heaths, and gloomy hills assailed by the wintry tempest, seem to have produced in him feelings of disgust and impatience, which he had perhaps rarely experienced in the deserts of Africa. His strong sense of the irksomeness of this way of life broke out from him upon many occasions; especially, when previously to his undertaking his second African mission, one of his nearest relations expostulated with hiin on the imprudence of again exposing himself to dangers which he had so narrowly escaped, and perhaps even to new and still greater ones ; he calmly replied that a few inglorious winters of country practice at Peebles was a risk as great, and would tend as effectually to shorten life as the journey which he yras about to undertake.

T'he communication from Sir Joseph was not, however, followed by any specific proposal from Government, till the autumn of 1803, when Mr. Park received a letter from the Secretary of State for the Colouial Department, requesting his speedy attendance in London. He lost no time in obeying this sum. mons, and upon his arrival in town, Lord Hobart having acquainted him with the nature of the expedition which was projected, made him an offer of the principal place in it; while the traveller with an appearance of irresolution which he certainly did not feel, and which can only be accounted for by supposing that he had bound himself by a promise to his family not to be precipitate in his determination, declined giving an im

mediate mediate answer; begging a short time to deliberate and to consult with his friends. He had scarcely returned to Scotland, however, when he made known to the Secretary his acceptance of the situation; and, in December, 1803, he once more left his native land, in the confident expectation of almost instantly embarking for the coast of Africa.

Desirous at all events of sailing before the close of 1803, he repaired to London with all due speed; but here, unfortunately, delay succeeded delay, till the year expired, and the time of departnre was thoughtlessly put off till the end of the following February. When, however, this period arrived, the anticipation of important changes in the government which eventually took place by the resignation of Lord Sidmouth a short time afterwards, caused some embarrassment in the proceedings of administration; and thus, when every thing was ready for enbarkation at Portsmouth, and part of the troops destined for the service were actually on board, the whole expedition was suddenly countermanded. It now, in fact, becanie a question whether the undertaking should not be entirely given up; and, in the meantime, Park was informed at the Colonial Office, now filled by Lord Camden, that the mission could not possibly leave England before September. One cannot help regretting that a change of ministry should have so completely deranged a measure which could not possibly have any connection with the great points upon which statesmen differ in opinion; and more particularly as this undertaking, above all others, depended for its success upon proper attention to time and season. Perhaps we should not proceed too far were we to assert that the ultimale failure of the attempt, and the melancholy fate of the persons engaged in it, may be justly ascribed to the repeated delays which prevented their timely departure from Europe.

The months which intervened between February and September were not indeed altogether lost to Mr. Park; for retiring into the country he took with him a native of Mogadore, named Sidi Omback Boubi, and devoted his utmost attention to the study of the Arabic language, and to the acquirement of a ready use of astronomical apparatus. A letter from the Colonial Office, in the beginning of September, carried him once more to London; on which occasion he was requested to lay before Lord Camden a written statement of his opinions, both as to the plan of the expedition, and the particular objects towards which he conceived that his attention should be chiefly directed, during the journey. The memoir drawn up by Park for this purpose, and which is given at length in the work now under our review, af. fords the most ample proof that it was not the mere love of rambling which carried him frona home, but, on the contrary,

tbat

« AnteriorContinuar »