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قراءة كتاب The Life and Adventures of Bruce, the African Traveller

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‏اللغة: English
The Life and Adventures of Bruce, the African Traveller

The Life and Adventures of Bruce, the African Traveller

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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seeming contradiction. Many men possess talents—many possess application—the very few who possess both become what we justly term great men: there is, however, one other ingredient, namely, health, which, in proportion to its amount, induces men to seek occupations more or less active and sedentary; and it may be observed, that this ingredient, like the down which conveys many vegetable seeds to a distant soil, transports men to the remotest regions; thus scattering over the surface of the earth talents and application which, without a superabundance of health, would have been all confined at home, and directed to nearly the same pursuits: and hence it was that Bruce, when a sickly lad, as much surprised his friends by his grave, sedentary disposition, as he afterward astonished them by his wild, wandering propensities and daring researches.

After leaving Harrow, Bruce went, for about a year, to an academy, where, besides the classics, he studied French, arithmetic, and geometry. In compliance with his father's wishes, he cheerfully abandoned his inclination to enter the church, and agreed to prosecute his future studies with the view of becoming an advocate at the Scottish bar. He accordingly took leave of his English friends—one of whom, Mr. Hamilton, wrote to Mr. D. Bruce in the following terms: "As to my giving him advice with respect to his conduct and behaviour on his journey, I apprehend that to be entirely unnecessary, because it is with pleasure I think that God Almighty has given him an understanding superior to what is common at his age, and sufficient, I hope, to conduct him through all the various stages of life."

With this well-earned character, young Bruce returned to his native country in the month of May, 1747. He arrived in better health than his father had been led to expect, and spent the whole of the autumn in the enjoyment of the sports of the field, for which he suddenly acquired a partiality that he retained to the last hour of his life. Considerably strengthened by this manly and healthy recreation, at the end of the year he commenced his studies at the University of Edinburgh, by attending the lectures of the professors of civil law, Scotch law, and universal history; but he now found how much easier it is for a young man to promise than to perform, and how painfully the mind proceeds on the journey which it has not willingly undertaken. The intricate and tedious details of the Roman and Scottish codes were subjects for which Bruce's eager mind had no affinity: they were grave companions with whom he soon felt that he could never associate. In vain he studied distinctions which he did not remember, and puzzled himself with points of which he could not comprehend the importance. An ardent admirer of truth and simplicity, he very rashly conceived that in the studies which his father had proposed for him he could worship neither; but while, in filial obedience, he hung his bewildered head over his law-books, his youthful heart was apparently devoted to lovelier and more congenial objects; for on the leaves of "Elementa Juris Civilis Heineccii," on which stands the name of "James Bruce, 1749," we find written, in the midst of some very grave maxims, "Bella ingrata, io morirò!" with other equally loving sentiments from Metastasio and Ariosto. However, Bruce's bodily sickness soon closed the serious volume of the law: his health became impaired, and his physicians, wisely prescribing for his mind rather than for his body, ordered him to return to the country to enjoy fresh air and exercise. This simple medicine soon restored him to health; but it was now acknowledged that his prospect of succeeding at the bar was very limited, and to his great joy it was at last determined that he should abandon that learned profession for ever. He was, in fact, incompetent to perform its labours; and yet it is not unworthy of remark, that the boy who was thus lost in the labyrinths of Scottish law lived to be the man who afterward reached the long-hidden fountains of the Nile!

Bruce remained for several years without a profession. He at last fixed on India as a field, the distance, vastness, and novelty of which were best suited to the ardent disposition of his mind; but, being now considerably above the age for receiving a writership from the East India Company, he resolved to petition the Court of Directors for permission to settle under its patronage as a free trader. In July, 1753, in the twenty-second year of his age, he left Scotland with the view of prosecuting this design. On arriving in London, his English friends and former acquaintances received him with the greatest kindness; and, during the time he spent in soliciting permission from the directors, he lived among them in the interesting character of one who was soon to leave them for a very considerable period of his life.

By one of those friends whose kindness he was thus enjoying, he was introduced to Adriana Allan, whose mind accorded with the beauty of her person. She was the daughter of Mrs. Allan, the widow of an eminent wine-merchant, who had raised himself to opulence by diligence and integrity. This young person was elegant in her manners and appearance, and as remarkable for a gentle, unassuming temper, as for a warm, affectionate disposition. Bruce fell in love with this interesting young lady, and accordingly addressed himself to Mrs. Allan, who listened with approbation to the proposal of marriage which he had already made to her daughter; and she herself suggested that, having no profession, he should take a share in the wine-trade; and, although Bruce knew nothing of that business, as it was to be the link which was to connect him with the object of his affections, he eagerly assented to the proposal. The marriage took place on the 3d of February, 1754, and Bruce took an active part in the management of the concern. The dealings of the company were extensive, and he appeared now to be on a road which was to lead him to wealth and happiness; but this flattering prospect became suddenly overcast. His young wife had inherited from her family the seeds of a fatal disease, which, in a few months after her marriage, made it necessary for her to leave the foggy atmosphere of London. She resided at Bristol for a few months, for the benefit of the waters, though with little advantage: her complaint was alleviated, but not removed. Her last journey was to try the mild climate of the south of France. Exhausted, however, by travelling, she was obliged to stop at Paris, where she apparently rallied for a few days; but consumption was only insidiously gaining strength to overpower her, and a week after her arrival she again relapsed, the hectic flush vanished, and she expired!

While Bruce was attending her during her last moments, he was driven almost to distraction by the disgraceful bigotry of the French priests, who, in the garb of Christian ministers, crowded around his door to persecute the last moments of one whom they termed a dying heretic; and, even when the pale object of their unmanly persecution had ceased to exist, their intolerant fury sought to deny her Christian burial. At the hour of midnight, when the savage passions of his enemies were lulled in sleep, Bruce attended the corpse of his young wife to her untimely grave; and a month afterward, on the 12th of November, 1754, he thus addressed his father:

"My mind is so shocked, and the impression of that dreadful scene at Paris so strongly fixed, that I have it every minute before my eyes as distinctly as it was then happening. Myself a stranger in the country; my servants unacquainted with the language and country, my presence so necessary among them, and indispensably so with my dear wife; my poor girl dying before my eyes, full of that affection and tenderness which marriage produces when people feel the