Narrative of a Mission to Central Africa Performed in the Years 1850-51, Volume 1 - Under the Orders and at the Expense of Her Majesty's GovernmentThe task of the Editor...


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Narrative of a Mission to Central Africa Performed in the Years 1850-51, Volume 1 - Under the Orders and at the Expense of Her Majesty's Government

The task of the Editor of these volumes has been principally one of arrangement and compression. The late lamented Mr. James Richardson left behind him a copious journal, comprised in eight small but closely-written volumes, besides a vast heap of despatches and scattered memoranda; and, at first sight, it seemed to me that it would be necessary to melt the whole down into a narrative in the third person. On attentively studying the materials before me, however, I perceived that Mr. Richardson had written in most places with a view to publication; and that, had he lived, he would soon have brought what, on a cursory examination, appeared a mere chaotic mass, into a shape that would have accorded with his own idea of a book of travels. Such being the case, I thought it bestin order to leave the stamp of[vi] authenticity on this singular record of enterpriseto do little more than the author would himself have done. In the form of a diary, thereforewritten sometimes with Oriental navetthe reader will here find what may be called the domestic history of one of the most successful expeditions undertaken for the exploration of Central Africa. I believe it would have been possible to get up a work of more temporary interest from the same materials; but this could only have been done by sacrificing truthfulness of detail. In the present form, Mr. Richardson's journal will always remain as an authority on the geography and present condition of a large portion of the Saharan desert, hitherto unvisited, at any rate undescribed. As will be seen, the Mission was accompanied by two German gentlemen, Drs. Barth and Overwegthe former, of whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Egypt, after his enterprising ride along the coast of Libya. They are still in Central Africa, pushing their excursions on all sides, from Bornou into unknown tracts; and the accounts they may publish on their return will be anxiously looked for. The great traverse of the Saharan desert, however, with all its vicissitudes[vii] and dangers, the physical aspect of that wonderful region, and the manners of the various tribes that inhabit it, will, in the present volume, be found to be fully describednot, it is true, with much attempt at literary ornament, but in the vivid though simple language in which a man sets down impressions which he has just received. I have endeavoured to remove all the faults which may be supposed to have arisen from haste or carelessness, and have necessarily re-written several passages, and passed a correcting pen over the whole manuscript. But I think I may say with confidence, that there is no observation or statement in the following pages which cannot be justified by a reference to the original journals and scattered memoranda. To me this simple record of daily occurrences seems highly interesting. It divides itself, naturally, into a succession of parts of unequal importance. First comes an account of the journey to Mourzuk, the capital of Fezzan, containing the traverse of the frightful Hamadah or plateau which separates that province from the regency of Tripoli. Then we have a residence at Mourzuk itself, Mr. Richardson being obliged to wait the arrival from Ght of an[viii] escort of Tuarick chieftains, with whom he had partly made acquaintance during a former trip in the desert. This escort appeared after some delay; and the Mission proceeded across the Fezzan plains to the independent state of Ght, through a very wild and picturesque country. At this point began, if not the most arduous, at any rate the most dangerous, and at the same time the most novel, part of the journey. Mr. Richardson had undertaken, on his way to Soudan Proper (his first destination), to pass by the hitherto unexplored kingdom of Aheer or Asben, situated towards the southern limits of the Sahara. The march of the Mission across the deserts that lie between Ght and that territory was rendered exciting by continual reports of danger from pursuing freebooters of the Haghar and Azgher tribes; but the enemy were outstripped, and no actual attack took place until the first inhabited districts of Aheer were reached. Here some lawless tribes levied black-mail, on the caravan, which was then permitted to proceed, though in doubt and alarm, until it arrived under the long-expected protection of Sheikh En-Noor, one of the great chiefs of the Kailouee tribes, at his town, or rather encampment,[ix] of Tintalous. Mr. Richardson's residence at this place was long and tedious. He suffered, besides, from the extortionate disposition of the Sheikh or Sultan, who, however, after considerable exactions, became his friend. This Saharan character is brought out by a succession of amusing touches. But our traveller was impatient to proceed, and seems to have hailed with delight the announcement that the great Salt-Caravan, which annually transports the necessary condiment from Bilma vi Aheer to the south, was about to start, and that the Sheikh and the Christians were to accompany it. Some further disappointments occurred, but at length the Mission proceeded to Damerghou, whence Drs. Barth and Overweg went, one to Maradee and the other to Kanou, whilst Mr. Richardson proceeded alone to Zinder, situated in the province of Damagram. Here he was well received by the Sarkee, or Governor, and he dilates with well-founded exultation on his escape from the insolent and rapacious Tuaricks. Sad sights, however, connected with the slave-trade, checked his delight. During his stay the Sarkee went out in person to hunt down the subjects of his own sovereign,[x] that he might pay his debts by selling them into captivity. After another considerable delay Mr. Richardson was enabled to start once more, and being obliged to change his original plan proceeded to Kuka, the capital of Bornou, by way of Minyo. Shortly after leaving Gurai, the chief town of that province, the unfortunate traveller found his strength to be gradually giving way. He had already previously complained of the heat and fatigue, but did not seem to have felt any great alarm. Now, however, the climate seems to have told upon him with sudden and fatal violence. His last moments are described in a letter from his fellow-traveller, Dr. Barth, who hastened to the spot with laudable energy as soon as he heard of the melancholy catastrophe that had taken place. Mr. Richardson died at Ungurutua, about six days' journey from Kuka, the capital of Bornou, on the 4th of March, 1851, eleven months after his departure from Tripoli. ......Buy Now (To Read More)

Product details

Ebook Number: 17164
Author: Richardson, James
Release Date: Nov 27, 2005
Format: eBook
Language: English

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