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TO THE READER. The GENERAL INDEX, announced in our former Number, is deferred till the Pube lication of the NINETEENTH VOLUME,—and it will forn. Nos. XXXIX. and XL.
London : Priated by C. Roworth, Bell-yard, Temple-bar.
Art. I.-Historical Account of Discoveries and Travels in
Africa. By the late John Leyden, M. D.; enlarged and completed to the present time, with Illustrations of its Geography and Natural History, as well as of the Moral and Social Condition of its Inhabitants. By Hugh Murray, Esq. F. R. S. E.
2 vols. 8vo. Edinburgh. 1817. FROM the remotest period of European history, down to the pre
sent moment, discoveries in Africa have been eagerly prosecuted as an object of peculiar interest. The Phænicians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabians, the Portugueze, the French, and the English, have all fitted out their expeditions to this quarter, some from a liberal spirit of inquiry, and with the view of extending human knowledge, some from a religious zeal to propagate the faith which they professed, and others from the all-powerful impulse of the
auri sacra fames. In the early ages we have imperfect traces of voyages
undertaken to ascertain the extent of the unknown coast of this great continent beyond the pillars of Hercules, on the side of the Mediterranean, and beyond Cape Guadafui, on that of the Red Sea; and after those, as Mr. Murray observes, many endeavours 'to penetrate into the depth of that mysterious world in the interior, which, guarded by the most awful barriers of nature, inclosed, as with a wall, the fine and fertile shores of northern Africa.'
No want of zeal is discoverable in those who embarked on any of the expeditions on record, whether ancient or modern, whatever the primary object of them might have been; and yet, to the reproach of the state of geographical science in the nineteenth century, as compared with the march of other branches of knowledge, if we cast our eyes on the chart of Africa, we shall see its grandest features distorted, or vaguely traced, or left incomplete:-so imperfect, indeed, is our knowledge of this vast continent, that in what are deemed the best charts, full two-thirds of it appear a blank; or, what is still worse, chains of mountains and trackless deserts, rivers, lakes and seas, are laid down ad libitum; their course and direction being determined by no other scale or dimensions than the mere whim of the map-maker, and many of them having, in all probability, no existence but on paper,
In the two volumes of Mr. Murray no pretensions are set up to new discoveries, no novel theories are broached, no favourite hypotheses advanced, nor is any condemnation passed on those which VOL. XVII. NO. XXXIV.
have been formed by others. They contain a plain, sensible, well-arranged, and, as far as our reading and recollection serve us, a faithful abstract, and connected view of the progress of discovery in Africa from the earliest ages. The author tells us that Doctor Leyden's · Historical and Philosophical Sketch of the Discoveries and Settlements in Northern and Western Africa, &c.' forms the basis of his publication ; that his original wish was to preserve the portion of the narrative composed by Dr. Leyden, distinct from the additions here made to it; that such a plan, however, would necessarily have broken down the unity and connection of the work; and that there appeared a necessity therefore for taking down, as it were, the parts of Doctor Leyden's performance, and arranging them anew in the more comprehensive plan which is now adopted.' In our opinion Mr. Murray has judged wisely, in so doing, as otherwise, instead of supplying the world with a distinctly arranged view' of progressive discovery, he could only have furnished, at best, an ill-arranged piece of patchwork. That no injustice, however, may be done to the memory of Doctor Leyden, a list is given of the parts of these volumes for which the compiler is indebted to the labours of that gentleman, and which form, indeed, but a very small portion of the present work:—a work which we can safely recommend to those who take an interest in African discoveries, as containing, in a condensed form, an abstract of almost all the information hitherto collected of the geography of this immense continent, with brief notices of the manners and condition of its inhabitants.
As our review can embrace only a small part of the vast mass of information comprehended in the two volumes, it may be sufficient to give a brief summary of their contents; and then to abstract such parts of the narrative of " discoveries and travels' as appear to be most interesting and important, and which we conceive to be those persevering enterprizes undertaken, tirst by the Portugueze, and afterwards by the English; adding at the same time, from our own sources of information, brief sketches of the history and character of those unfortunate adventurers, who have fallen a sacrifice to their zeal for discovery, and the enlargement of human knowledge.
The two introductory chapters are employed in tracing the progress of discovery from the earliest ages to the commencement of maritime enterprize in modern Europe—the various attempts of the ancients to circumnavigate Africa—the subsequent endeavours to penetrate into the interior—the history of the first entrance of the Arabians into Africa—their establishment on the Niger, and the foundation of Tombuctoo. The remainder of the volume, which is occupied by the first book, gives the progress of modern disco
very in the interior, commencing with the early voyages of the Portugueze along the western coast, from their first establishment at Arguin, to their settlement on the coasts of Congo, Loanga, and Benguela ; and the various attempts of the missionaries to convert the natives to Christianity: this is followed by the early discoveries of the French, chiefly up the Gambia and Senegal; by those of the English on the same rivers, particularly the Gambia; by the travels of Saugnier and Brisson on the Sahara or Great Desert; and lastly by an account of the formation and proceedings of the African Association, and the discoveries made by its several travellers from Ledyard to Park, concluding with the narratives of Adams and Riley.
The second book, which takes up the greater part of the second volume, exhibits the discoveries in the maritime countries, beginning with Abyssinia, the chief native power, and making the circuit of Africa by Egypt, Barbary, the western coast, round the great southern promontory, up the eastern coast to the point whence the writer set out. The third book occupies the remainder of the volume, and consists of, 1. An historical view of geographical systems relating to Africa. 2. Historical view of theories respecting the course and termination of the Niger. 3. A general view of the natural history of Africa, and 4. A general view of its moral and political state. Under the first two heads'it is attempted,' says the author, 'to exhibit, as a branch of the bistory of science, a view of the progress of inquiry and speculation relative to this continent, from the earliest ages, rather than to indulge in present conjectures which a few years, it is to be hoped, would render superfluous. Finally, to these are added several maps, and an appendix containing translations of some scarce and curious passages of the early geographers relating to central Africa, rarely accessible to the general reader. From this cursory analysis, it will not be difficult to form some notion of the nature and importance of the mass of matter included within these volumes. Indeed we are acquainted with few works of this kind that comprehend so much valuable information in so condensed a form, or in so small a compass: at the same time, however, it should not be concealed that it betrays evident marks of haste; and, were we disposed to find fault, we should also say that there is too little of the early Portugueze discoveries, and too much of those of modern date; more use, for instance, might have been made of the work of Tellez, which is a very scarce book; of Chronica de Companhia de Jézu em Portugal,' which is equally so; and even of De Barros :-while a shorter abstract of Park and others, whose works are in every body's hands, would have been thought sufficient. A compilation, at once concise and comprehensive, requires more attention and judgment X 2