THEBES AND EGYPT.
MR. WILKINSON has resided in Egypt for some dozen years; and during a portion of the time made Thebes his head-quarters. The object of his sojourn was to penetrate the mystery which envelops every thing relating to the early history and social condition of the people; and, from a close examination of their existing monuments, to discover, when, by whom, and for what purpose, they were erected. With the assistance of 1)r. YOUNG and CHAMPOLLION, lie studied the hieroglyphics, and has already given to the world the results of his labours in this direction. But the doubtful; or at least the obscure characters of the most ancient cisilized people, did not alone attract his attention ; he regarded things as well as signs—the pictures as well as the handwriting on the walls. From the hieroglyphics (when there ate any) he fixes the name of the monarch whose exploits are painted ; and from the paintings themselves he deduces the nature, character, and extent of those exploits. But he does not stop here: the paintings—assisted by temples, tombs, statues, ruins, pyramids, and ancient authors—are forced to throw a light upon the habitations, gardens, sports, castes, music, entertainments, dress, and customs of the ancient Egyptians, as well as upon the animal and vegetable productions of the country, both before and after the ago of the Pharaoh that knew Joseph.
Upon these matters, however, there are little more titan general hints in the volume before us. The voice from the ancient world, 'which is to unfold the secrets of the dead, is yet to come— Mr. WILKINSON'S complete idea of Egypt as she was, is only preparing for the press. The chief object of Thebes and the General View of Egypt is to describe the most important and striking antiquities of the country, and to inform the traveller as to the best mode of visiting them. We have a pretty full account of the sights at Alexandria, and of those which are worth examining on the journey from Alexandria to Thebes, and from Thebes to Nubia. But the city of the hundred gates (which, by the by, turn out to be no gates at all) is the place that Mr. WILKINSON delights to honour. Had a plan accompanied his elaborate description of this city and its environs, the Cockney sitting by his fireside could have formed as good a notion of what is to be seen at Thebes as if he journeyed thither. Nay, he might probably see more, through Mr. WILKINSON'S eyes, than with his own. Take an example.
On the north face of the eastern pyramidal tower, or propyloo, is represented
the capture of several towns f an Asiatic enemy, whose chiefs are led in bonds by the victorious Egyptians towards the camp of their army. Several of these towns are introduced into the picture, each bearing its name in hierogly- phic characters, which state them to have been taken in the fourth year of King Remesea the Second. This important fact satisfactorily confirms what I have stated in a former work, that the early part of the reigns of their most illustrious monarchs was employed in extending their conquests abroad, which they re- turned to commemorate on the temples and palaces their captives assisted in constructing. And claiming the enjoyment of that tranquillity their arms had secured and their valour merited, they employed the remainder of their reigns in embellishing their capital and in promoting the internal prosperity of the country. Cruelty has ever been, throughout the East, the criterion of courage ; and the power of a monarch or the valour of a nation has always been esti- mated by the inexorability of their character. Nor were the Egyptians behind their Asiatic neighbours in the appreciation of these qualities, and the studied introduction of unusual barbarity proves that their sculptors intended to convey this idea to the spectator; confirming a remark of Gibbon, that " conquerors and poets of every age have felt the truth of a system which derives the sub- lime atom the principle of terror." In the scene before us, an insolent soldier pulls the beard of his helpless captive, while others wantonly beat the suppliant, or satiate their fury with the sword. Beyond these is a corps of infantry in close array, flanked by a strong body of chariots ; and a camp, indicated by a rampart of Egyptian shields, with a wicker gateway, guarded by four compa- nies of sentries, who are on duty on the inner side, forms the most interesting object in this picture. there the booty taken from the enemy is collected ; oxen, chariots, plaustra, horses, asses, sacks of gold, represent the confusion incident after a battle ; and the richness of the spoil is expressed by the weight of a bag of money, under which an ass is about to fall. One chief is receiving the salutation of a foot soldier ; another, seated amidst the spoil, strings his bow ; and a sutler suspends a water-skin on a pole he has fixed in the ground. Below this a body of infantry marches homewards ; and beyond them the king, attended by his fenbearers, holds forth his hand to receive the homage of the priests and principal persons, who approach his throne to congratulate his re- turn. His chatioteer is also in attendance, and the high-spirited horses of his car are with difficulty restrained by three grooms who hold them. Two cap- tives below this are doomed to be beaten, probably to death, by four Egyptian soldiers ; while they in vain, with outstretched hands, implore the clemency of their heedless conqueror.
It will be seen from this passage, that Mr. WILKINSON'S hook is more fitted to be examined with some especial end in view, than read for its popular interest or amusement. Part of this arises from the nature of the subject; which is too remote, and as .et
too misty and obscure, for the ordinary reader. Part of it is chargeable on the author ; who has not always aimed at giving unity to his view and animation to his facts. His descriptions, though clear and fluent, partake sometimes of the proverbial dry- ness of the Egyptian clime. When, however, a sympathetic chord is touched, the defect we are speaking of is not felt; so that the fault, perhaps, is more in the reader titan the writer. The chapters distinguished by most comprehension and whole- ness, are those on the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyp- tians and on the Chronology of the Ancient Kings of Egypt, which Mr. WILKINSON commences with the year 2201 before Christ. These, however, are points on which the sceptical reader does not feel inclined implicitly to follow our enthusiast ; though they are curiously and learnedly handled, especially the first-named sub- ject. We will take an extract which let us into the modes of visiting on the banks of the Nile three or four thousand years ago. The reader will mark how easily an authority is disposed of when it stands in the way. Poor IlsaonoTus! "Good society" in Egypt evidently looked as shy upon the Father of History as our Exclusives do upon a gentleman of the press. Entrrlainntents.—At all their entertainments music and the dance were in- dispensable, and sometimes buffoons were hired to add to the festivity of the patty, and to divert them with drollery and gesticulation. The grandees were either borne in a palanquin, or drove vp in their chariot, drawn as usual by two horses, preceded by running footmen, and followed by ethers, who carried a stool to enable them to alight, an inkstand, and whatever they might want either on the road or while at the house of their friend. On entering the festive chamber, a servant took their sandals, which he held on his arm, while others brought water and anointed the guests in token of welcome. The men were seated on low stools or chairs, apart from the women, who were attended by female slaves or servants ; and after the ceremony of anoint- ing, a lotus-blossom (and frequently a necklace of the same) was presented to each of them ; and they were Joinctimes crowned with a chaplet of flowers. The triclinium was unknown ; and the enervating custom of reclining on dire/ins was not introduced among this people. Their furniture rather re- sembled that of our European drawing-room ; and stools, chairs, fauteuils, ottomans, and simple couches, the three last precisely similar to many that we now use, were the only seats met with in the mansions of the most opulent of the Egyptians.
Wine and other refreshments were then brought ; and they indulged so freely in the former, that the ladies now and then gave those proofs of its potent effects which they could no longer conceal.
In the mean time, dinner was prepared ; and joints of beef, geese, fish, and game, with a profusion of vegetables and fruit, were laid at mill-day upon several tables ; two or more of the guests being seated at each. Knives and forks were of course unknown, and the mode of carving and eating with the fingers was similar to that adopted at present in Egypt and throughout the East ; water or wine being brought in earthen bardalls, or in gold, silver, or porcelain cups. For though Het odotus affirms that these last were all of brass, the authority of the Scriptures and the sculptures prove that the higher orders had them of porcelain and of precious metals. * They sometimes amused themselves within doors with a game similar to chess, or rather draughts ; and the tedium of their leisure hours was often dis- pelled by the wit of a buffoon, or the company of the dwarfs and deformed per- sons, who constituted part of their suite. Bull-lights were among the spot ts of the lower orders; but it does not ap- pear that they either had the barbarity to bait them with dogs, or the imbe- cility to aspire to a vain display of courage, in matching themselves in single combat against wild beasts. But the peasants did riot fail to pursue the hyena, as often as it was in their power; and it was either caught by a trap or chased with the bow. They also amused themselves with several games unit well known to European children ; among which may be noticed the ball, odd and even, mora, and feats of agility and strength.
Besides the matters already mentioned, there are some remarks on the ptesent condition of the natives under IVIalsomor ALt, and a variety of useful information for travellers; the results of which may be briefly told—Carry all you want with you ; trust no native; dress well, and bully.
• Joseph had one of silver. Gen. xliv. 2. Gold, silver, and porcelain vases are re- present'sl in the tombs of Thebes. I doubt a Greek being rohnittei into very good so- ciety in Egypt. Glass was also used by them, as well forceps as beads and other ornamental objects,and for the imitation of precious stones.