Page images
PDF
EPUB

Jonged for during the Peloponnesian war, visited Thebes, and then crossed Mount Pentelicus into Attica. The ruins of Athens were then far less imperfect than they are at present, and he examined them with the eye of a learned antiquary; but ex. tensive as was his learning, he does not seem to have possessed that sort of reading which would have enabled him thoroughly to enjoy a tour through Greece. It is for those who have entered deeply into the private history, literature, and philosophy of the Greeks that Attica has real charms. He should be able to determine or imagine the exact spot where Socrates sat under the plane-tree with Phædrus in order to discuss the merits of Lysias's style; he should be interested in discovering where the house of Callias stood, to which the impatient Hippocrates would have led Socrates before day, that he might lose no time in being introduced to Protagoras; he should walk up and down the banks of the Ilyssus, that he might be sure of having visited the spot where Sophocles nestled all night among the reeds to enjoy the song of the nightingale: this is the sort of traveller who should visit Greece. Otherwise, with Strabo, Pausanias, and Vitruvius in hand, he may determine the sites of cities and measure the height of columns to a hair; our feelings go not along with him, and his researches become tiresome in proportion as they are circumstantial and exact.

From Athens Pococke proceeded westward, crossed the ancient territories of Megara, visited Corinth, and continuing his journey along the southern shores of the Gulf of Lepanto, arrived at Patras, where he embarked for Sicily. He then crossed over into Italy, and hurried on through Germany, Switzerland, and France, to England, and arrived in London on the 30th of August, 1741, exactly eight years from the day of his first departure for the Continent.

Being now happily arrived in port, with a prodigious quantity of materials, Pococke, anxious to enjoy the reputation to which he aspired, immediately commenced the compilation of his travels, the first volume of which appeared in 1743, under the title of “ A Description of the East,” &c. Two years afterward the second volume, divided into two parts, was published; and shortly afterward he added to his travels a large collection of Greek and Latin inscriptions, which are said by M. St. Martin to be so exceedingly incorrect as to be almost unintelligible. As Pococke can very well dispense with the credit arising from “ this kind of researches," I have not thought it necessary to examine whether the reproach of the Frenchman be well founded or not; but I cannot help congratulating that writer upon the felicitous manner in which he commences his account of our traveller, “the obscure and insig. nificant particulars of whose life,” he tells us, are scarcely worth relating;” which is certainly a peculiarly ingenious application of those rules of rheioric that teach us how to vivify and adorn a barren subject. The readers of the “ Biographie Universelle” may perhaps suspect, however, that M. St. Martin was deterred from seeking for the “ obscure and insignificant particulars” of Pococke's life, by the vast bulk of his volumes, through which they lie scattered at wide intervals; but few who have pe. rused those volumes, replete with interest and information, will allow that their author deserved no more than one little page in an unwieldy collection, where so many obscure scribblers, whose very names are forgotten by the public, are commemorated at such disproportionate length.

Pococke, whose reputation was quickly diffused throughout Europe, having taken orders, was promoted, in 1756, to the archdeaconry of Ossory, in Ireland ; and in 1765 was made bishop of Elphin. This honour he was not destined long to enjoy, however, for in the month of September, of the same year, he died of apoplexy, in the 61st year of his age. Besides his travels, he was the author of several memoirs in the Philosophical Transactions, and in the Archæologia; and there still remain a number of his smaller pieces in manuscript at the British Museum. No popular or well-conceived edition of his works has hitherto been published, though few travellers are deserving of more credit, or were more competent to describe the countries through which they journeyed.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

JOHN BELL.

Born 1690.-Died about 1780.

Bell seems to have been born about the year 1690, at Antermony, in Scotland. He was possessed, even from his earliest years, by a strong passion for travel; but his passion, together with a large portion of shrewdness and sagacity, constituting the better part of his inheritance, he judiciously applied himself to the study of medicine and surgery, a knowledge of which, in all semi-barbarous countries, is frequently of more avail to the traveller even than wealth. It does not appear whether Bell was directed in the choice of his scene by preference or by chance. However, as all Europe was at that period filled with admiration of the projects of Peter the First, whose reputation for munificence drew crowds of adventurers by a species of magnetic attraction towards the north, it is probable that a desire of personal aggrandizement united with a thirst of knowledge in urging our traveller in the direction of Petersburg. "But be this as it may, having obtained from several respectable persons recommendatory letters to Dr. Areskine, chief physician and privy counsellor to the czar Peter the First, he embarked at London in July, 1714, for St. Petersburg. On his arrival he was received in a very friendly manner by Dr. Areskine, to whom he communicated his intentions of availing himself of the first opportunity which should offer of visiting some portions of Asia. The desired occasion soon presented itself. The czar, preparing at this period to send an embassy into Persia, appointed Aremy Petrovich Valensky, a captain of the guards, to conduct the mission; and this gentleman applying to Dr. Areskine to recommend him a medical attendant, Bell was immediately brought forward by his countryman, and received, on his favourable testimony, into the ambassador's suite. Through the same interest, he was likewise at once formally introduced into the service of the czar.

Bell set out from Petersburg on the 15th of July, 1715, accompanied by a part of the ambassador's suite, and for some time directing his course along the western bank of the Neva, encamped in the evening on a small stream which falls into that river, and passed the night in a wagon. Next day they embarked on the Volchovu, the banks of which were covered with villages and fruitful cornfields, interspersed with woods, and continued their journey by water until they approached Novogorod, where they quitted their “ moving road," as Pascal terms a river, and proceeded on horseback. At Iver, Bell beheld the mighty stream of the Volga, the navigation of which from this town to the Caspian Sea is interrupted by no cataract, and whose waters abound with an extraordinary variety of the finest fish in the world.

From this place they proceeded towards the ancient capital of the empire, through a plain but agreeable country, covered with rich harvests, which infallibly produce a pleasing effect upon the mind, and dotted with small tufted groves, the verdure of

1

which contrasted admirably with the yellow grain waving at their feet. On reaching the village from which the first view of Moscow was obtained, Bell observes, that “at this distance few cities in the world make a finer appearance, for it stands on a rising ground, and contains many stately churches and monasteries, whose steeples and cupolas are generally covered either with copper gilt or tin plates, which shine like gold and silver in the sun.”

The Kremlin, to which Bishop Heber was fond of comparing some of the old Mohammedan edifices of Hindostan, appears to have excited no very particular admiration in Bell, who merely observes that it was compounded of a number of buildings added to one another at different times, and that some of the apartments were remarkably spacious. Here they embarked on the Moskwa, and dropping slowly down the stream, entered the Volga a little below Nishna. The river at this place is of very great breadth, and, the wind blowing from the north, they were driven along with prodigious velocity. Signs of the approach of winter now began to appear, for it was the latter end of October; the Volga was suddenly filled with floating ice, which, united with its powerful current, and the force of the wind, rendered their position exceedingly dangerous. They, however, continued their voyage, and arrived on the 3d of November at Zabackzar, a considerable town on the right bank of the river, a little above Kazen.

In this part of Russia, according to Bell, the best and largest falcons in the world are caught, which being highly valued for their strength and beauty, particularly by the Turks and Persians, are sold to those nations at extravagant prices. They are not, as might have been expected, taken from the nest; but after they are full grown, when their natural instincts have been developed by exercise, and their physical powers have acquired, by struggling with storms and tempests, their utmost maturity and

« PreviousContinue »