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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
الصفحة رقم: 4

happiness, but not the cares of it; many of the Roman Catholic clergy hovering about the doors, myself unable to find any expedient to keep them from disturbing her in her last moments.... But I will write no more. I cannot, however, omit telling you an instance of Lord Albemarle's very great humanity. The morning before my wife died he sent his chaplain down to offer his services in our distress. After hearing the service for the sick read, and receiving the sacrament together, he told me, in case I received any trouble from the priests, my lord desired I would tell them I belonged to the English ambassador. When my wife died, the chaplain came again to me, desired me to go home with him, and assured me that my lord had given him orders to see my wife buried in the ambassador's burying-ground, which was accordingly done; and, had it not been for this piece of humanity, she must have been buried in the common yard where the wood is piled that serves the town for firing. Having ordered the mournful solemnity, with as much decency as is allowed in that country to heretics, at midnight, between the 10th and 11th ult., accompanied only by the chaplain, a brother of my Lord Foley's, and our own servants, we carried her body to the burying-ground at the Porte St. Martin, where I saw all my comfort and happiness laid with her in the grave. From thence, almost frantic, against the advice of everybody, I got on horseback, having ordered the servant to have post-horses ready, and set out, in the most tempestuous night I ever saw, for Boulogne, where I arrived next day without stopping. There the riding in the night-time, in the rain, want of food, which for a long time I had not tasted, want of rest, fatigue, and excessive concern, threw me into a fever; but, after repeated bleedings, and the great care taken of me by Mr. Hay, I recovered well enough to set out for London on the Wednesday. I arrived at home on the Thursday, when my fever again returned, and a violent pain in my breast. Thus ended my unfortunate journey, and with it my present prospects of happiness in this life."

After this melancholy event Bruce returned to his business in London; but he soon found that the tie which had connected him with the wine-trade was completely broken. He therefore at once gave up the chief burden of its management to his brother; and, resolving to embrace the first opportunity to resign his share altogether, he applied himself to studies calculated to divert his mind from painful thoughts and recollections. For about two years he occupied himself with the Spanish and Portuguese languages, which he learned to pronounce with great accuracy. He also laboured hard in practising several different styles of drawing. Fortunately for his views, the trade in which he was engaged required a regular and constant intercourse with France, Portugal, and Spain. The plan which he had secretly formed of visiting the Continent happily coincided, therefore, with his business; and he looked forward to the time when he should travel over the south of Europe with the taste and judgment of a scholar.

After having made a short visit to the islands of Guernsey and Alderney, he sailed in the month of July for the Continent, and spent the remainder of the year in Portugal and Spain. His professed object was to be present at the vintage of that season, while his real intention was to view the state of society and of science in those kingdoms. He landed at Corunna, in Gallicia, on the 5th of July, and proceeded to Ferrol, where he remained a few days. From Ferrol he travelled to Oporto, and thence to Lisbon. In Portugal he was much diverted with the novelty of manners and customs so different from those of his own country; and his journals during this period are filled with satirical observations on the apparent pride and stiffness of the nobility, and the ignorance of the clergy. The following may be given as a specimen of one of his first impressions as a young traveller:

"There are many particular customs in Portugal, all of which may be known by this rule—that, whatever is done in the rest of the world in one way, is in Portugal done by the contrary, even to the rocking of the cradle, which, I believe, in all the rest of the world is from side to side, but in Portugal is from head to foot; I fancy it is from this early contrariety that their brains work in so different a manner all their lives after. A Portuguese boatman always rows standing, not with his face, but his back to the stern of the boat, and pushes his oar from him. When he lands you, he turns the stern of the boat to the shore, and not the head; if a man and woman ride on the same mule, the woman sits before the man, with her face the contrary way to what they do in England; when you take leave of any person to whom you have been paying a visit, the master of the house always goes out of the room, down stairs, and out of the house before you," &c.

After travelling about Portugal for nearly four months, Bruce entered Spain; but, instead of going at once to Madrid, he turned to the right, passed through Toledo, and made an excursion over the mountains into the province of New Castile. Having advanced beyond the Sierra Morena, he traversed the districts of Cordova and Seville, on the river Guadalquivir, and about the middle of November reached Madrid. In this rapid journey he seems to have considerably improved his knowledge of the Spanish language, and to have made several attentive and judicious observations. His character, which had hitherto been concealed by various untoward circumstances, now began to appear in its real colours. The traces of Oriental manners visible in the south of Spain, the ruined palaces of the Caliphs, and the tales of romantic chivalry interwoven with the Moorish wars, suggested to him the idea that an inquiry into the history of Spain during the eight centuries in which it was possessed by the Arabs would elucidate many of the obscure causes which had obstructed the prosperity of that country.[2] Two large and unexplored collections of Arabic manuscripts belonging to the Spanish crown were lying buried in the monastery of St. Lawrence and in the Library of the Escurial; and, though Bruce was as yet but little acquainted with the Arabic language, he felt a strong ambition to trace, through this tedious labyrinth, the Moorish history of the country. On reaching Madrid, he procured an introduction to Don Ricardo Wall, minister to his Catholic majesty, a gentleman of British extraction, and of superior abilities; and from him he earnestly solicited assistance in the researches which he desired to make in Arabic literature. Mr. Wall frankly told Bruce, that the jealousy with which the Spaniards concealed their historical records from every intelligent foreigner obstructed all access to the Library of the Escurial; but the minister, pleased with the adventurous spirit and the intelligence which he evinced, used every endeavour to persuade him to enter his master's service. Bruce, however, had already many roaming projects in his head: he was therefore unwilling to settle; and, like the swallow, about to take its departure it knows not where, he kept constantly on the wing, flying apparently everywhere rather than be at rest. After having made many observations on the several places which he visited in Spain, on Christmas day, 1757, he arrived at Pampeluna, the capital of Navarre, on his way to France.

Crossing the Pyrenees, he went to Bordeaux, where, delighted with the cheerful vivacity of French society, he remained several months among friends and some relations who were residing there. From Bordeaux he travelled through France to