MRS. BURTON'S TRAVELS IN ARABIA, EGYPT, AND INDIA.* MRS. BURTON
has given us another pleasant book. It would,. by the way, be pleasanter still, if in two volumes,—a hint we
• Arabia, Egypt, India. By Isabel Barton. London and Belfast: William Mullen and Bon. ISM
would throw out for the next edition. The promise of the in- troduction is fulfilled, and the writer, who had very excep- tional means at her command for ascertaining the truth about things, has set down a good deal not generally known. We cannot pretend to give even a brief resume of Mrs. Burton's narrative, we shall confine our attention to a few points only,
and then recommend our readers to pursue the research further for themselves, premising that to very few will the whole book ba acceptable ; some will take pleasure in the very lively and amusing personal narrative, some in a clever woman's view of the political situation; while others, again, may follow her in her devotion to St. Francis Xavier, or be edified by very minute geographical details. For our own part, we, on the whole, prefer the narrative, which, our readers need hardly be told, is that of a high-spirited, fearless, kindly woman, looking with clear eyes, and the sympathy which means insight, on many scenes that, witnessed from her point of view, seem to gather to themselves a new charm. Even poor old Boulogne has its halo of tender memories, as the writer records one or two brief records of her youth, and introduces us to Caroline, Queen of the Poissardes, a friend of her childhood, to whom Mrs. Burton had promised, if she ever went to Jerusalem, to bring a rosary, and she redeemed her word. A little incident, but the clue to a good deal. Mrs. Burton's journey through Western India was purely a pleasure-trip. Her husband in 1875
found himself with still six months' more leave, and his wife proposed they should spend it in visiting his old quarters in India, which she had never seen. Of course, they ran through Italy on their way, and equally, of course, Mrs. Burton, who is intensely Conservative, gives. utterance to political opinions which,—well, which the present writer, at all events, is not pre-
pared to endorse, as, for instance, when she writes,—" Milan is bravely raising a monument to Napoleon III., whilst the popular
feeling of Young Italy runs strong against the French. The main reasons appear to be the abstraction of Nice and the domi- neering tone assumed by the late Empire. Moreover, the peoples (Kossuth still lives at Turin) do not readily pardon their benefactors,"—(the italics are our own). And here we may ob- serve once for all that we differ radically from Mrs. Burton as
to the way in which "the peoples" anywhere and everywhere should be regarded, —how radically, we need give but one quotation to prove. Speaking of Shere Ali, Mrs. Burton observes :—
" We have nothing to fear from the Afghan chief, most of whose -subjects would right willingly exchange his barbarous sway for our civilised rule. We have nothing to hope from him ; be would take, Afghan-like, our money with one hand, and stab us with the other. Here, if anywhere, is the time and place to assume the tone and position of a dominant race.' We have talked too long and too loudly about our fellow-subjects in India' and our 'Afghan allies ;' let us now change the terms for conquered races' here, and for paid partizans' there."
In Venice, Mrs. Burton sought out and found some Shake- .spearean memories, which will be dear to the heart of the New Shakspeare Society. From the information she obtained, we learn that Othello's family is not yet extinct, and that the original Desdemona had blonde hair, brown eyes, delicate mouth, —we refer the still carious reader to page 27 for further details; and passing over her chapter on Trieste, to which we may have
occasion to refer later on, we follow the travellers at once to Port Said, which Mrs. Burton describes as a sort of Egyptian Wapping. She had with her during her trip a German maid, who was well acquainted with her mistress's horror of cruelty to animals ; the girl was in an Eastern place for the first time, and "came upon a man filling a goat-skin with water; she saw a pipe, and the skin distending with a sound. She had," says Mrs. Burton, "often heard me say how cruel the Easterns are to animals, and knowing my weakness on that point, she ran after
me in a state of great excitement, and pulled my arm, saying, aOh ! Euer gnaden ! the black man is filling the poor sow with
• gas,—do come and stop him !' " The navigation of the Suez Canal is not yet among the .common-places of history. The gigantic undertaking is still a legitimate subject for wonder and admiration, and Mrs. Burton has described their passage, with her delight at once more "smelling the desert air," most graphically. The voyage from Jeddah to Aden was made in a vessel carrying pilgrims. They had 800 on board,—Hindis, Arabs from Bokhara, Kokand, Kashgaris, Turcomans, Bengalis, Persians, and every sect of Mohammedans. The scene beggars description ; 800 human beings packed like _sardines, and dying not of disease ; but,—nay, why torture the imagination with misery such as this, unless, like the one who describes it, it were possible to relieve it as she did ? "From
light to dark," Mrs. Burton writes, "she was staggering about the rolling ship with food, and medicine, and sherbet for the poor, miserable creatures, who feared to take the offered help." The innate cruelty of the "mild Bengali" comes out terribly.
"Once they bid fair to die, their dearest leave them lying in the fierce blaze of the sun, or in the night wind and damp, and give them neither to eat nor to drink." "Kalas," they say, "it is finished ;" it is not worth while, it is wasted.
But Bombay was reached at last. Little did the Portu- guese imagine, when they threw the coveted "sickly salt marsh" into the dowry of Catharine of Braganza, what
English industry and English law were to accomplish. In 1667, writes Mrs. Burton, the place was occupied by a poverty- stricken, barbarous population ; there was no corn, no cattle; the water was horrible; it was filled with malignant ver- min and reptiles ; the air was :foul and corrupt; wounds never healed, and cholera was the worst of some twentyprevalent diseases. Charles II. sold it to the East India Company for an annual
rent of £10 in gold; but John Company knew quite well the value of the purchase. A fort and castle were soon well garri- soned, "the inhabitants exempted from five years' taxes, religious liberty and freedom of foreign trade were established, national industry fostered, a harbour with docks built, waste land given to the settlers, all kinds of manufactures, native and other- wise, encouraged." We all know the result,—how, as Mrs. Burton tersely puts it, "when the world saw that the English knew what to do with Bombay, everybody wanted it ;" and the series of vicissitudes the old town went through, till the hour when the genius of Clive "converted an association of traders into the rulers of a large and magnificent empire." Amongst modern schemes for the improvement of the town, Mrs. Burton mentions the millions that are thrown away in "reclaiming sea ;" but the sentence which follows shows us clearly that, however much the money may have been wasted as regards the original object for which it was expended, it has been followed by a
result which has more than justified the outlay. Heaps of land may be still "lying waste," and forty acres reclaimed from the sea be granted for dock purposes alone ; but "one good result
is that the exhalations from the mud have ceased, and cholera, which was seldom absent from the sailors, is now rare." Further on, we have a brilliant description of the Bhendi Bazaar, the quarter of Bombay in which, for the first time, Mrs. Burton realised that she was in India, saw the motley crowd—Hindu, Parsee, Portuguese, Chinese, every race, caste, and family between Cathay and Peru, Morocco and Pekin, Moscow and the Malay peninsula—and tries vainly to conjure up before the ordinary English imagination the blending of Eastern colours and Eastern architecture and Eastern customs, and breaks off abruptly to tell a capital story, which we cannot resist quoting :—
" It would be a capital question (in an arrogant voice) from an ignorant examiner to a timid boy going up for competitive examina- tion: 'Describe the architecture of the Bhendi Bazar in Bombay.'
Timid boy : don't know, sir.' (Plucked.) Sharp boy's hand up : 'Please, sir, I don't know, and you don't know, and nobody knows.' (Passes, first class.) A thing quite as ridiculous did happen. An arrogant and ignorant examiner asked a timid, humble boy, who was very anxious to pass for his mother's sake, to obtain some appoint- ment, 'How far is it from the city of San Paulo in Brazil to the tropical line of Capricorn ?' The boy, radiant, answered, 'Between four and five miles, sir.' 'Go down, sir ; you're plucked ; it's twenty miles.' The boy grew red and white, and turned despairingly to go. Suddenly he remembered his mother, turned round, and said nervously, Please, sir, of course you ought to know better than I; but,—I lived there five years, sir, and I had to walk it twice a week to go home from school to mother's house from Saturday to Monday P' Chorus of laughter at the examiner, and the poor boy passed."
We wish we had space to comment on the impression made upon the mind of Count d'Alviella, when, instead of the parody of London or of Liverpool, which he had expected, he found himself amidst the very splendours of the Arabian Nights; but we must curtail our subject. Those who will, can follow our traveller's wanderings for themselves, may visit with her the caves of Elephanta or the wild forest of palm-trees, or lingering among the native population may see the shady as well as the sunny side of life, and understand something of that universal mendicancy so wearying to English ears, concerning which Mrs. Burton quotes lines which may be new to some of our readers :— " What is the black man saying,
Brother, the whole day long ? Methinks I hear him praying Ever the self-same song : Sa'b uteri bakohish do!' Brother, they are not praying, They are not doing so; The only thing they are saying
Is, Sa'b men bakshish do !' (Gi'e me a 'alfpenny, do P)"
But Bombay and its life formed but one item in the trip ; Hyderabad and Golconda had to be visited, the latter only to be seen from the outside, since past its walls no Christian has ever been allowed ; but here Mrs. Burton found herself at the birth-place of the Kohinoor, concerning which she has already a written a good deal, and in whose malignant influence she is a devout believer. It is in the East, she says, "an accursed stone," and deliberately reaffirming in 1879 all that she wrote concerning it in 1875, she clearly still believes in its being a messenger of doom. The East India Company broke up shortly after "the accursed thing" entered their hands ! The Duke of Wellington died (surely hardly prema- turely) three months after he had given the first turn to its cut- ting,—in fact, Prince Albert's death, and we know not what other host of misfortunes, are associated with it ; wherefore Mrs. Burton suggests it should be sold for less than its worth to Russia! our ill-luck be passed over to our bugbear, and "the money used to send our future King out to India as an Emperor should go." Three times we read the half-dozen pages in which the terrors of the stone are described, before we could be sure Mrs. Burton was not writing ironically, but since clearly she is not, we simply refrain from comment, and are more concerned with the paper in which attention is urged to the fact that diamond-digging in India has been prematurely abandoned. Hyderabad, says Mrs. Burton, is not a rich country, and the
• trade is well-nigh 974/ ; but it has coal, that wants only a market, and if to the "black diamond" it can add the white diamond, its future prospects are not to be despised. That it
can do this, Captain Burton clearly considers there is sufficient evidence to prove; but his attention is probably just now entirely concentrated upon the prospects of the gold cities of Midian, the region he has found rich in gold and silver, turquoise, agate, lead, and pearls. He found that the ancients had only worked these mines of wealth about forty feet down, whereas, with our appliances, remarks Mrs. Burton, we may go down twelve hundred feet.
It would be impossible to close any notice of this book with- out some allusion to the efforts the writer has made in every place where she has been stationed in the cause of humanity.
Resolved, as she tells us in one place, never to pass by unaided a cry of distress from man or brute, she has achieved marvels in Trieste, in Syria, in India, in inducing greater kindliness and consideration for the animal creation. If some things about which she dogmatises, seem to us to savour of superstition, rather than faith or duty, she has at least been faithful to the prayer of her youth, learnt in those early convent days to which, in the beginning of her narrative, she has alluded with such amusing naivete,—" 0 inon Dieu! que je sois utile it quelqu'un aujourd'hui !"