'LABORDE'S JOURNEY THROUGH ARABIA PETR.EA.
ts is a remarkable volume ; but its most distinguishing characte- ,ristic removes it in a great measure from our critical cognizance. be leading feature of the book is of a purely religious kind. Its 'object is to furnish further evidence in favour of the inspired
-volumes, by identifying the now deserted city and district of Petra
with the Edom of the propliecies—the kingdom of Esau—the residence of Job, and showing that its present condition exactly 'corresponds with the terrible fate predicted by the Jewish poets. To echo M. DE LABORDE and his editor, crying " Wonderful !
wonderful 1" to every found or fancied coincidence, would be as -easy and -vulgar as it would be irrevereut. Patiently to examine the whole question as to the rationale of prophecy in general, and its immediate application in the case of Edom or Idumea—how much of the present condition of the country has been brought about by means which, as political and natural, may be considered purely human, and how much may lay claim to a supernatural in- tervention—would lead us over a course alike unadapted to our columns and wearisome to the patience of our readers.
Passing over, then, the most striking feature of the Journey, let us-consider it purely as a book of travels. The author started from Cairo, with recommendations from the Pacha of Egypt, and a long train of attendants and beasts of burden, to make his way, if possible, through the tribes of savage hostile Arabs, to the long- deserted city of Petra, reports of whose existence had been rife in the East, and of which BURCKHARDT obtained a glance, and where our countrymen Messrs. hue and MANGLES spent some days. After leaving Egypt, M. Du LABORDE proceeded into Stony Arabia, across the Isthmus of Suez : he traversed the range of mountains in which Sinai is situated; and reaching Akaba, at the head of the Elanitic Gulf, despatched messengers to bring to hint the Arab chiefs, without whose guidance and protection the attempt was sure to fail. On their arrival, the terms were ar- ranged; the travellers departed ; and, after some days journey through the Desert, experiencing the hardships inseparable from desert travelling, but nothing more, they reached the city of which they were in search. Abstractedly speaking, it is not extraordi- nary ; for its buildings are not distinguished for magnitude or peculiar uses, and its style of art seems of a lower age. The wonder of the-city consists in its site and its mode of construction. It is situated in a kind of basin in a chain of mountains easily accessi- ble only on one side, and that through a long ravine nearly closing at the top and shutting out the light of day. The temples, thea- tres, &c. are neither built nor dug, but carved out of the solid rock ; and, stranger still, the greater part of the existing chambers are tombs,—as if the inhabitants, conscious of the coming desolation, were chiefly anxious about the ultirna domus. Having remained long enough to sketch and measure the most striking structures of the city, our traveller made excursions in other directions; fre- quently finding remains of cities, but all of less importance than those of Petra; and having exhausted the district and the patience of his Arabs, he returned to Akaba in safety ; and thence pro- ceeded to Cairo, in a similar direction to that in which be set out, though not retracing his steps.
As ajourney of discovery, it will be seen that our traveller was perfectly successful. As a describer of his travels, he is less happy. The dreary sameness of the Desert, and the monotonous character of the wild, stony, and chaotic mountains of Arabia, are soca indeed exhausted in description ; but there are at least the
impressfons Which they leave upon the mind; there are also the incidents of the encampment and the match/ as well as the cha- racter and customs of the Arab guides. As materials for gra- phic description, some of the points, it is true, are attempted; but they are done with too obvious a determination to do, and are somewhat too French in their character besides. In short, apart from its religious and architectural interest, LABORDE'S Journey is a dry book, constantly promising something which never comes.
It is but right to say, that all this may not be attributable to the original author. The volume before us is a sort of reproduction ; the English editor having translated the original, omitting such parts of the journey as bad no bearing upon the grand object of the undertaking, giving a general coup (Iced of the former condi- tion of Edam, and of the various attempts made to reach it, and adding illustrative notes from other travellers, confirming M. DE LABORDE'S descriptions; all which is very ably done, but it is just possible that in the process something of the original spirit may have escaped.