Page images
PDF
EPUB

account of the honey-bird, into whose body the soul of a common informer appears to have migrated. It makes a loud and shrill noise to attract the notice of anybody whom it may perceive ; and thus inducing him to follow the course it points out, leads him to the tree where the bees have concealed their treasure; after the apiary has been robbed, this feathered scoundrel gleans his reward from the hive. The list of Ceylonese snakes is hideous; and we become reconciled to the crude and cloudy land in which we live, from reflecting that the indiscriminate activity of the sun generates what is loathsome as well as what is lovely ; that the asp reposes under the rose ; and the scorpion crawls under the fragrant flower and the luscious fruit.

The usual stories are repeated here of the immense size and voracious appetite of a certain species of serpent. The best history of this kind we ever remember to have read, was of a serpent killed near one of our settlements in the East Indies, in whose body they found the chaplain of the garrison, all in black, the Rev. Mr. (somebody or other, whose name we have forgotten), and who, after having been missing for above a week, was discovered in this very inconvenient situation. The dominions of the King of Candia are partly defended by leeches, which abound in the woods, and from which our soldiers suffered in the most dreadful manner. The Ceylonese, in compensation for their animated plagues, are endowed with two vegetable blessings, the cocoa-nut-tree and the talipot-tree. The latter affords a prodigious leaf, impenetrable to sun or rain, and large enough to shelter ten men. It is a natural umbrella, and is of as eminent service in that country as a great-coat-tree would be in this. A leaf of the talipot-tree is a tent to the soldier, a parasol to the traveller, and a book to the scholar.* The cocoa-tree affords bread, milk, oil, wine, spirits, vinegar, yeast, sugar, cloth, paper, huts, and ships.

We could with great pleasure proceed to give a further abstract of this very agreeable and interesting publication, which we very strongly recommend to the public. It is written with great modesty, entirely without pretensions, and abounds with curious and important information. Mr. Percival will accept our best thanks for the amusement he has afforded us. When we can praise with such justice, we are always happy to do it; and regret that the rigid and independent honesty which we have made the very basis of our literary undertaking should so frequently compel us to speak of the authors who come before us, in a style so different from that in which we have vindicated the merits of Mr. Percival,

a

* All books are written upon it in Ceylon.

WITTMAN'S TRAVELS.

Travels in Turkey, Asia Minor, and Syria, &C., and into Egypt. Ву WILLIAM WITTMAN, M.D. 1803. London : Phillips.

; towards the spring of 1799, and remained attached to it during its residence in the neighbourhood of Constantinople, its march through the Desert, and its short operations in Egypt. The military mission, consisting of General Koehler, and some officers and privates of the artillery and engineers, amounting on the whole to seventy, were assembled at Constantinople, June, 1799, which they left in the same month of the following year, joined the Grand Vizier at Jaffa in July, and entered Egypt with the Turks in April, 1801. After the military operations were concluded there, Dr. Wittman returned home bý Constantinople, Vienna, etc.

The travels are written in the shape of a journal, which begins and concludes with the events which we have mentioned. It is obvious that the route described by Dr. Wittman is not new ; he could make no cursory and superficial observations upon the people whom he saw, or the countries through which he passed, with which the public are not already familiar. If his travels were to possess any merit at all, they were to derive that merit from accurate physical researches, from copious information on the state of medicine, surgery, and disease in Turkey; and above all, perhaps, from gratifying the rational curiosity which all inquiring minds must feel upon the nature of the plague, and the indications of cure. Dr. Wittman, too, was passing over the same ground trodden by Bonaparte in his Syrian expedition, and had an ample opportunity of inquiring its probable object, and the probable success which (but for the heroic defence of Acre) might have attended it ; he was on the theatre of Bonaparte's imputed crimes, as well as his notorious defeat; and might have brought us back, not anile conjecture, but sound evidence of events which must determine his character, who may determine our fate. We should have been happy also to have found in the Travels of Dr. Wittman a full account of the tactics and maneuvres of the Turkish army; and this it would not have been difficult to have obtained through the medium of his inilitary companions. Such appear to us to be the subjects from an able discussion of which Dr. Wittman might have derived considerable reputation, by gratifying the ardour of temporary curiosity, and adding to the stock of permanent knowledge.

Upon opening Dr. Wittman's book, we turned, with a considerable degree of interest, to the subject of Jaffa ; and, to do justice to the Doctor, we shall quote all that he has said on the subject of Bonaparte's conduct at this place.

a

“ After a breach had been effected, the French troops stormed and carried the place. It was probably owing to the obstinate defence made by the Turks, that the French Commander-in-Chief was induced to give orders for the horrid massacre which succeeded. Four thousand of the wretched inhabitants who had surrendered, and who had in vain implored the mercy of their conquerors, were, together with a part of the late Turkish garrison of El-Arish (amounting, it has been said, to five or six hundred), dragged out in cold blood, four days after the French had obtained possession of Jaffa, to the sand hills, about a league distant, in the way to Gaza, and there most inhumanly put to death. I have seen the skeletons of these unfortunate victims, which lie scattered over the hills-a modern Golgotha, which remains a lasting disgrace to a nation calling itself civilized. It would give pleasure to the author of this work, as well as to every liberal mind, to hear these facts contradicted on substantial evidence. Indeed, I am sorry to add that the charge of cruelty against the French generally does not rest here. It having been reported, that, previously to the retreat of the French army from Syria, their Commander-inChief had ordered all the French sick at Jaffa to be poisoned, I was led to make the enquiry to which every one who should have visited the spot would naturally have been directed, respecting an act of such singular, and, it should seem, wanton inhumanity. It concerns me to have to state, not only that such a circumstance was positively asserted to have happened, but that, while in Egypt, an individual was pointed out to us as having been the executioner of these diabolical com. mands."-(p. 128.)

Now, in this passage,Dr.Wittman offers no other evidence whatever of the massacre, than that he had seen the skeletons scattered over the hills, and that the fact was universally believed. But how does Dr. Wittman know what skeletons those were which he saw ? An oriental camp, affected with the plague, leaves as many skeletons behind it as a massacre. And though the Turks bury their dead, the Doctor complains of the very little depth at which they are interred; so that jackals, high winds, and a sandy soil might, with great facility, undo the work of Turkish sextons. Let any one read Dr. Wittman's account of the camp near Jaffa, where the Turks remained so long in company with the military mission, and he will immediately perceive that, a year after their departure, it might have been mistaken, with great ease, for the scene of a massacre. The spot which Dr. Wittman saw might have been the spot where a battle had been fought. In the turbulent state of Syria, and amidst the variety of its barbarous inhabitants, can it be imagined that every bloody battle, with its precise limits and circumscription, is accurately committed to tradition and faithfully reported to inquirers ? Besides, why scattered among hills? If 5,000 men were marched out to a convenient spot and massacred, their remains would be heaped up in a small space, a mountain of the murdered, a vast ridge of bones and rottenness. As the Doctor has described the bones' scenery, it has much more the

[ocr errors]

appearance of a battle and pursuit than of a massacre. After all, this gentleman lay eight months under the walls of Jaffa : whence comes it he has given us no better evidence? Were 5,000 men murdered in cold blood by a division of the French army, a year before, and did no man remain in Jaffa, who said, I saw it done—I was present when they were marched out- I went the next day, and saw the scarcely dead bodies of the victims? If Dr. Wittman received any such evidence, why did he not bring it forward ? If he never inquired for such evidence, how is he qualified to write upon the subject? If he inquired for it and could not find it, how is the fact credible ?

This author cannot make the same excuses as Sir Robert Wilson, for the suppression of his evidence; as there can be no probability that Bonaparte would wreak his vengeance upon Solimon Aga, Mustapha Cawn, Sidi Mahomet, or any given Turks upon whose positive evidence Dr. Wittman might have rested his accusation. Two such wicked acts as the poisoning and the massacre have not been committed within the memory of man ;-within the same memory, no such extraordinary person has appeared, as he who is said to have committed them ; and yet, though their commission must have been public, no one has yet said, Vidi ego. The accusation still rests upon hearsay.

At the same time, widely disseminated as this accusation has been over Europe, it is extraordinary that it has not been contradicted in print ; and, though Sir Robert Wilson's book must have been read in France, that no officer of the division of Bon has come forward in vindication of a criminal who could repay incredulity so well. General Andreossi, who was with the First Consul in Syria, treats the accusations as contemptible falsehoods. But though we are convinced he is a man of character, his evidence has certainly less weight, as he may have been speaking in the mask of diplomacy. As to the general circulation of the report, he must think much higher of the sagacity of multitudes than we do, who would convert this into a reason of belief. Whoever thinks it so easy to get a truth in the midst of passion, should read the various histories of the recent rebellion in Ireland; or he may, if he chooses, believe, with thousands of worthy Frenchmen, that the infernale was planned by Mr. Pitt and Lord Melville. As for us, we will state what appears to us to be the truth, should it even chance to justify a man in whose lifetime Europe can know neither happiness nor peace.

The story of the poisoning is given by Dr. Wittman precisely in the same desultory manner as that of the massacre. An individual was pointed out to us as the executioner of these diabolical commands." By how many persons was he pointed out as the executioner ? by persons of what authority? and of what credibility ? Was it asserted from personal knowledge, or merely from rumour ? Whence comes it that such an agent, after the flight of his employer, was not driven away by the general indignation of the army? If Dr. Wittman had combined this species of information with his stories, his conduct would have been more just, and his accusations would have carried

66

greater weight. At present, when he, who had the opportunity of telling us so much, has told us so little, we are rather less inclined to believe than we were before. We do not say these accusations are not true, but that Dr. Wittman has not proved them to be true.

Dr. Wittman did not see more than two cases of plague ; he has given them both at full length. The symptoins were thirst, headache, vertigo, pains in the limbs, bilious vomitings, and painful tumours in the groins. The means of cure adopted were, to evacuate the primæ viæ : to give diluting and refreshing drinks; to expel the redundant bile by emetics ; and to assuage the pain in the groin by fomentations and anodynes; both cases proved fatal. In one of the cases, the friction with warm oil was tried in vain ; but it was thought useful in the prevention of plague : the immediate effect produced was, to throw the person rubbed into a very copious perspiration. A patient in typhus, who was given over, recovered after this discipline was administered.

The boldness and enterprise of medical men is quite as striking as the courage displayed in battle, and evinces how much the power of encountering danger depends upon habit. Many a military veteran would tremble to feed upon pus; to sleep in sheets running with water ; or to draw up the breath of feverish patients. Dr. White might not, perhaps, have marched up to a battery with great alacrity; but Dr. White, in the year 1801, inoculated himself in the arms with recent matter taken from the bubo of a pestiferous patient, and rubbed the same matter upon different parts of his body. With somewhat less of courage, and more of injustice, he wrapt his Arab servant in the bed of a person just dead of the plague. The Doctor died ; and the Doctor's man (perhaps to prove his master's theory, that the plague was not contagious) ran away. The bravery of our naval officers never produced anything superior to this therapeutic heroism of the Doctor's.

Dr. Wittman has a chapter which he calls An Historical Journal of the Plague; but the information which it contains amounts to nothing at all. He confesses that he has had no experience in the complaint; that he has no remedy to offer for its cure, and no theory for its cause.* The treatment of the minor plague of Egypt, Ophthalmia, was precisely the method common in this country ; and was generally attended with success, where the remedies were applied in time.

Nothing can be conceived more dreadful than was the situation of the military mission in the Turkish camp ; exposed to a mutinous Turkish soldiery, to infection, famine, and a scene of the most abominable filth and putrefaction; and this they endured for a year and a half, with the patience apostles of peace, rather than war. Their occupation was to teach diseased barbarians who despised them, and

* One fact mentioned by Dr. Wittman appears to be curious ;-that Constantinople was nearly free from plague during the interruption of its communication with Egypt.

« PreviousContinue »