페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

safer line by the way of · Zulphah,' the Zelfy or Zelfeh of other writers. Had they taken the route by Shakra, Mr. Palgrave might perhaps have discovered that the great battle between the armies of Ibrahim Pacha and Abd-Allah, the Wahaby ruler, which he describes as having been fought not far from Shakra, and as having lasted two days, is altogether fabulous. Mr. Palgrave must have been the dupe of some Arab wag, who amused himself with hoaxing the Damascene doctor, for no such battle was fought by those commanders during the war. In fact the Wahaby army never encountered the army of Ibrahim in the field. But our author's account of the military operations, and the proceedings of the Egyptian army and its commander, is throughout ludicrously inaccurate in what it states, and unaccountably defective in what it omits. It would be intolerably tedious to go through it in detail and point out all its errors and omissions. Hardly one operation or transaction is correctly stated, and some of the most important are not alluded to.

Zulphah is a considerable town, and the emporium of a considerable trade between the countries lying eastward, or rather north-eastward, towards the Euphrates and Bagdad, and the countries lying westward towards the Hejaz, but here, as elsewhere, Mr. Palgrave does not occupy himself with such material and sublunary things. The proper study of mankind is man,' and Mr. Palgrave, accepting this dictum, narrows it to man as he is, and thinks it is no part of that study to inquire what are the circumstances and conditions in and on which he exists as he is. In this particular instance, however, he is not to blame, for the inhospitable governor refused to take any hint, and the travellers, ‘Naib' and all, had to encamp or bivouac in the open air near the gate.

Here they found themselves in the vicinity of an encampment of a peculiar race of nomades, who wander over the deserts on the borders of Syria and Arabia. They are known as the Solibah or Selibah, a name supposed to be derived from the word Seleeb, signifying a cross. Hence some have supposed that they were Christians of a degenerated type, and Mr. Palgrave inclines to that opinion; but it is well known that they are a remnant of the ancient Sabæans.

From Zulphah the traveller proceeded from town to town: first to Ghāt, rather a village than a town; then to Mejmaa, with a population of ten or twelve thousand; the third day to Toweym, with twelve or fifteen thousand inhabitants, having passed during the day by Djelajil, a considerable town. It was during his halt at Toweym that Mr. Palgrave, who rarely touches upon anything relating to natural history, while com

menting on the general exemption from insect plagues in Central Arabia, with one offensive exception, proceeds as follows :

Snakes in Nejed are no less rare than in Ireland or Malta. In an elegant romance published by M. Lamartine under the title of the Journal of Fath-Allah Sey'yir, companion of the ill-fated Lascaris, a work already alluded to, these reptiles are spoken of as very common in Central Arabia; nay, appalling to think of, M. Lamartine's hero discovers a whole thicket full of their sloughs, of all colours and sizes,

—a sort of serpent's cloak-room, I suppose. Happy the travellers who possess so rich and so inventive an imagination! a few boa-constrictors make no bad variety, at least in a narrative. But I was not favoured with any such visions, “ Nol vedi, ne credo che sia.” – Vol. i. p. 355.

Mr. Palgrave seems to be acquainted with the writings of Burns, and reading this sneer at Lamartine’s ‘rich and inventive imagination,' we were reminded of those lines :

() wad some power the giftie gie us
To see ourselves as others see us,
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,

And foolish notion.' In the narrative of Colonel Pelly's journey from Koweit to Riad, we find it stated that “Snakes, lizards, and insects abounded.' Mr. Palgrave therefore may be quite as much in error as he supposes M. Lamartine to be. At all events, ' Men who live in glass houses ought not to be the first to throw stones.'

On the fourth day they passed the large and prosperous villages of Hafr, and Thomeyr, and Hootah, which we are told is ' a large and busy locality. ... The inhabitants are not only active traders, but diligent agriculturists, and the country around is planted and tilled to a notable distance.' Then, during the same day's journey: 'We left behind us many other villages and hamlets of less note, near and far. At sunset they arrived at Horey melah, with an estimated population of 10,000, stated to have been the birthplace of Mohammed Ibn-abd-ulWahab, who founded and transmitted his name to the Wahaby sect. Whether born there or not, and the question is a disputed one, we think there is no doubt that he settled there on his return from Damascus, and there matured and first began to teach the doctrines which are identified with his name. He sought the protection of Saoud, chief of Derayeh, about 1746, not about 1760, as Mr. Palgrave supposes, and died in 1787, at the advanced age of ninety-five, having outlived his patron and disciple Saoud twenty-two years, seen his son and successor, Abd-ul-Azeez, in the full career of his conquests, seen his son and successor, the second Saoud, already a distinguished military leader; and having seen the Wahaby doctrines and the Wahaby kingdom dominant in the peninsula of Arabia.

Passing from thence through the ruins of Eyānah and by those of Derayeh, the travellers at length arrived at the goal of their journey, at Riad, the capital of Feysul, sovereign of the Wahabys.

Mr. Palgrave, who tells us that he went to Central Arabia supposing it to be inhabited almost exclusively by nomades, must have been greatly surprised to find himself lodged every night in or near a considerable town or village, and to pass so many more in the course of his journey from Bereydah to Riad; but of those towns which he names there is not one the existence of which has not been well known for more than forty years. Most of them were mentioned nearly a century ago by Niebuhr, and in the early part of this century by Burckhardt, as well as by M. Corancez, many years French Consul at Aleppo and at Bagdad, in his Histoire des Wahâbys, a work in which he was assisted by M. Silvestre de Sacy, and which is much esteemed in France. They have been noticed more recently and more fully, and their position determined with a closer approximation to accuracy, by M. Mengin? and MM. Langlés and Jomard, who lent him their assistance, and who received valuable aid, which they freely acknowledge, from Sheikh Abd-ur-Rahman, a grandson of Ibn-Abd-ul-Wahab, the founder of the Wahaby sect.

1 In order to illustrate the proximate accuracy of the maps prepared in 1823 for M. Mengin's work by the French geographers, it may be stated that, without the aid of any astronomical observations in the interior of Arabia, and relying solely on a variety of routes and other available information, they deduced the result that the latitude of Derayeh must be about 25° 15', and the longitude about 44° 10' E. of Paris, -equal to 46° 30' 15" E. of Greenwich. Colonel Pelly has now ascertained that the latitude of Riad is 24° 38' 34", and the longitude 46° 41' 48". But we know that Derayeh is about twenty-one miles north of Riad, which, added to the latitude of Riad, would give for that of Derayeh 24° 59' 34", or within 15' 26" of the latitude assigned to it by the French geographers. Derayeh is believed to be a little to the west of north from Riad; but supposing them to be on the same meridian, then the longitude, as given by the French geographers, would be Il' 35" less than Colonel Pelly's observations would make it. When we remember that greater errors than these have often been detected in maps of countries that are well known and much frequented, we can form some estimate of the extent and accuracy of the information from which a result so nearly approximating the true position of a place several hundreds of miles from any ascertained point could have been deduced, and also of the admirable care and skill with which that information was used. Derayeh, from its central position geographically, and from its being the capital, to which many converging routes led, was the most important point to be determined, and was, as it were, the key to all the rest; the close approximation to accuracy in determining that central point, goes a considerable way, therefore, to assure us of the general accuracy of the whole.

He resided in Egypt, probably as a prisoner at large, or a hostage, and is described as a remarkably intelligent man, who was thoroughly acquainted with all parts of his native country, and who was learned in the learning of the Arabs. Yet this is the country which Mr. Palgrave imagines he has been the first to reveal to us; and which the readers of his clever and amusing book are led to suppose was unknown till he visited it. Far from filling up a blank in the map of Asia,' he has hardly added a name to those which were previously known, unless perhaps, those of a few villages which may have grown up during the last forty years, and which are of no great importance. He has not discovered, so far as we can find out, any one town, or considerable place, the existence and proximate position of which was not as well known before he went to Arabia as it is now. But since the evacuation of the country by the Egyptians, we had not received, from any European, an account of its condition, and we did not know what changes might have occurred in the interval. That deficiency Mr. Palgrave has in some measure supplied, bringing down our information to a recent date; and we marvel to find how little change there has been.

The Egyptian conquest of Nejd, the overthrow of the Saoud dynasty, and with it of Wahaby domination, the subsequent efforts to expel the invaders, the revolutions, contests, and assassinations that followed their expulsion, resulted in restoring the dynasty deposed by foreign military force, and in reestablishing the Wahaby dominion. The inhabitants had returned to their towns and villages, their shops and warehouses, their fields and gardens, and, if we may judge by such indications as Mr. Palgrave favours us with, the population is about as numerous and as prosperous as it was before the country had been desolated and its inhabitants decimated by an enemy as merciless as the Wahabys themselves, and more brutal. Without the hearty concurrence of the great bulk of the population, and of the leading men amongst them, those results could hardly have been so rapidly obtained. The complete re-establishment of the native Arab government in its former authority, over almost every part of the extensive and dissimilar possessions from which it had been driven, and the increase of its power during the reign of the present ruler, Feysul, all appear to indicate that the existing government, whatever may be its defects, is on the whole that which the great majority of the governed have chosen. Mr. Palgrave predicts the overthrow of the Wahaby power at no remote date; but although this is a pretty safe prediction in Arabia, where nothing has for ages been permanent but anarchy, we suspect

Vahabiher indiest generaty, thankareign" ord on

malconition of hisostility to Palgra

that the wish was father to that thought. A reaction may no doubt be produced by intolerable misgovernment; or a disputed succession, which our author seems to count upon with confidence, may shake the Wahaby power. Much will depend on the wisdom and arrangements of the reigning sovereign; but as we think more favourably of his capacity than Mr. Palgrave, we see in what our author says of general hostility to Feysul's government rather a further indication of his having consorted chiefly with non-Wahaby malcontents, and of his undisguised hatred of the Wahabys and of Feysul, than a prospect of a probably successful revolt against the government of Riad.

Mr. Palgrave's description of Feysul is not attractive. He says:

Meanwhile age advanced, and Feysul became stone blind, while increasing corpulence, a rare phenomenon in Arab physiology, rendered him more and more incapable of active exertion. . . . In short, it may be feared that what good was in him has almost if not totally vanished, while heart and head, intellect and will, are alike sinking into a dotage well befitting a tyrant of seventy.'-Vol. ii. p. 73.

What the particular form of dotage may be that is especially befitting a tyrant of seventy, we cannot presume to determine; but Colonel Pelly, who visited Riad in 1865, gives an account of the sovereign, with whom he had several interviews, which does not much resemble the picture drawn by Mr. Palgrave.

Colonel Pelly states? —

He had not the opportunity of seeing much of the manners and customs of the natives generally, but he had the honour of three interviews with the chief, and found him one of the most remarkable chiefs he had ever met with in Asia; a man of exceeding dignity, self-confidence and repose. He always spoke of himself in the plural number, and treated his visitor with the respect which was due to him. At the first interview he confined himself to mere questions of etiquette, and said to Colonel Pelly that it was a curious place for an English officer to come to; that they were much cut off from external communication by the physical features of their country; that they were enough for themselves, had no foreign relations, and wished for none, especially with the English. In continuation, he said it might be considered extraordinary that a man of his calibre should be content to live in Riadh, and lead the dull life he did, but he said he felt himself every inch a king, and did not wish for anything more than he possessed. He then explained that he belonged to the strictest sect of the Mohammedans, and that it was his sect which had retrieved the Mohammedan religion from falling away from its original purity. He said they had their political and religious differences, and added, that although in

1 See Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, issued 26th August 1865 (p. 295).

« 이전계속 »