COLONEL E. NAPIER'S REMINISCENCES OF SYRIA.
COLONEL E. NAPIER is the son of "the fighting old Commodore "; and while recovering in the paternal shades of Hampshire from a severe fever contracted on duty at Gibraltar, he received this epistle
"Head-quarters of the Army of Lebuton, Djouni. September 1840. " My dear Edward—I have hoisted my broad pendant on Mount Lebanon, and mean to advance against the Egyptians, with a considerable force under my command. You may be of use here ; therefore go to Sir John Macdonald, and ask him to get leave for you to join me without delay.
" Your affectionate father, CHARLES NAPIER. "To Major E. Napier, Forty-sixth Regiment."
With a family promptitude, the then Major started for town ; spent an hour in the waiting-room at the Horse Guards, in the vain expectation of seeing the Adjutant-General, but laid hold of him by accident as he was going out ; and was informed by Sir JOHN that there were difficulties in the way of the request, which he would endeavour to remove by the morrow,—for, added he, "if you are to catch the Commodore, you have no time to lose."
Permission was procured, and our author accordingly started : but Acre was taken, and the hard work over, on his arrival. However, he visited what had been done, in the company of the " Governor " and other heroes ; was introduced to the notables British, foreign, Turkish, and native, who were then assemble upon the Syrian question ; and made a variety of excursions along the coast and into the interior. He was subsequently employed at the head of a small Turkish force, or rather rabble, to gain intelligence respecting the movements of Inamitm Paula ; which Major NAPIER interpreted into an order to press upon the retreating Egyptian army ; but his soldiers differing in opinion from their chief, " bolted " as they approached its vicinity. He afterwards joined the regu'ar " army " of the Sultan at Jerusalem, and accompanied it in its cautious tactics against the dreaded Initaxim, till the confirmation of the Commodore's convenzion with MEHEMET Ara put an end to operations in the field.
These circumstances enabled Colonel NAPIER to see more of the country than common tourists, because he was carried into places where they do not go and sometimes dare not venture : but his chief localities have no novelty. Lebanon, Tyre, Acre, Jail's, Jerusalem, and the Valley of the Jordan, are continually visited and described in print, as well as Samaria and the plains of Sharon ; though these last are a shade fresher. But the gallant soldier does not make the best of his materials, through overdoing his work. His book is a rattling offhand narrative; matter-of-fact in its character, and detailed in its particulars; not dry in parts, but from these characteristics somewhat tiring as a whole. The narrative, moreover, is not presented in the best form, being intermingled with thoughts, and historical or geographical quotations. The Colonel having on his return left his notes at Gibraltar, was for some months without his materials, and employed the interval in reading every book on Syria from JOSEPIDIS downwards ; and whenever he meets with an appropriate passage, he introduces it bodily. By this means, his work is a sort of hotchpotch,—a personal narrative, a geographical account of some parts of Asia Minor, and extracts from his commonplace-book. The proper mode of presentation would have been to have kept the narrative and the geographical disquisition distinct from each other ; for scientific originality is one thing and literary novelty another. A span who penetrates a district for the first time, brings new and valuable matter to the geographer ; but if that district resembles .others in the neighbourhood which have been already described, -the general reader cares nothing for the description. This defective arrangement is aggravated by crudeness of composition, and the -diffuseness we have already alluded to.
The more interesting parts of the volumes are those which derive
their colouring from the position or personal character of the writer. -There is in his style a family frankness and straightforwardness -which disguise nothing about friend, foe, or self, but, taking the reader into confidence, make him familiar with all the writer's feelings or opinions, exhibiting things as they are, without disguise or conventional humbug. This personal character, and some years' -experience of Asiatic manners acquired on service in India, enabled the Colonel to get on with the natives in Syria ; sketches of whom form the best part of his book. But we will begin our specimens -nearer the beginning.
aloe GENERAL AND THE COMMODORE AT BEYROUT.
The Seraglio itself had been appropriated by Sir Charles Smith for his own accommodation and that of the officers who accompanied him from Gibraltar ; -whilst the artillerymen, who formed part of the expedition, were quartered, some in an adjoining out-building, and the rest in a very good barrack near the ..harbour.
On entering his apartment, we found Sir Charles reclining on a camp-couch, still suffering from the injury be had received on his foot during the explosion at Acre, but quite unchanged in appearance or dress from what I had remembered him at Gibraltar: his marked features were still shaded by the broadbrimmed Spanish "sombrero"; whilst the braided blue shell jacket and brown contrabandista calzones " appeared to be the very identical ones he used in
former days to sport at the bull-fights of Algesiras. Nor was the Commodore behind him as to originality of appearance : the old shovel-shaped cocked-bat -stuck "athwart ship" was a full match for the " calanez "; whilst his short shrunken nether garments and threadbare coat, adorned with a couple of rusty -"swabs," could have been fairly pitted against the round jacket and " calzones.' in fact, a stranger might have gone far ere be had an opportunity of beholding -two such specimens of England's Army and Navy as were now personified in the hero of Tarifa, and him of Cape St. Vincent.
The Commodore and Sir Charles had been acquaintrd many years, but their
feelings on the present occasion did not appear to he of a very cordial nature. The former might perhaps feel annoyed at having his uplifted arm arrested in be act, as be no doubt supposed, of striking a decisive blow ; whilst the latter, may be, was piqued at having had, although unavoidably, so much work taken out of his own hands. Be that as it may, there appeared to exist on both sides a considerable degree of restraint, and I easily fo-esaw that I should not be benefited by this feeling. The Commodore. after briefly stating the circumstances of my arrival in Syria, and producing my leave of absence to that effect -from the Horse Guards, handed me over to Sir Charles; who, however, did not appear duly to appreciate so valuable a gift.
This coldness eventually turned to the Colonel's advantage. Not being invited to the Seraglio either to board or bed, he was Ariven on the Commodore's departure, to a wretched tenement "dignified by the name of the Maltese Hotel."
"Alone, in a strange place, almost ignorant of the language, without books -or society, it may well be imagined that I sat down to my first solitary meal in none of the most enviable of moods: but fate bad evidently befriended me, nor was I doomed to remain long in communion with my own thoughts, or to be much longer an inmate of the crazy tenement of the ' Locanda.' "I bad, on board the Powerful, a few days before, formed the acquaintance of a young Syrian, of the name of Assaade el Khyst ; who, brought up at one -of our Universities, was at heart a true Englishman, spoke fluently our own and several other European and Eastern languages, and whom I found, on the whole, a sensible, well-informed young man, and a most agreeable companion. As I was sitting alone, musing in a brown study over a bottle of red Cyprus wine, after the above-mentioned unsociable dinner, my new acquaintance was ushered into the apartment : I made no secret to him of my extremely uncomfortable position ; when he with great kindness and liberality, overcoming the usual prejudices of his country, offered me an asylum in his own family ; which offer I most gladly accepted, and was accordingly next morning comfortably
installed in my new quarters."
This hospitable reception introduced our author to Mr. HUNTER, another traveller, to a dragoman who accompanied hint in his subsequent travels, and, what was more agreeable, to the ladies of a
• Greek Christian family ; which gave him domestic society, and an insight into the customs of Syrian life. This is his picture of the day's routine.
COLONEL NAPIER'S SYRIAN STUD/ES.
Giorgio was the only member of the family who spoke an European language: it therefore became, on every account, desirable to obtain as soon as possible a smattering of Arabic; and to this I diligently applied. Before breakfast, my time was taken up in conning over the now, to me, interesting leaves of a Syrian grammar, or learning by heart the words and dialogues I had written down the previous day, and adding to my stock of numerous Arabic compliments, wherewith to greet the ladies on their first appearance in the morning; which event never took place till after our usually late breakfast. a a • An hour or two was next devoted with Giorgio to the perusal of an Arabic Testament ; at the end of which time, be, on getting tired, usually went to Shimel Howah," or to take the air ; and I adjourned, with my books and narghili, to the ladies' apartment, where, on Persian carpets and piles of
cushions, they were by this time settled for the day, busily engaged with their .needles : and I EOM found the lessons they imparted of much more avail than either the instruction of Giorgio or the Arabic grammar and dictionary. In -this female academy I was often joined by my companion Hunter ; vibe, however, eschewed the more abstruse part of the studies: but our progress was so Timid, that before a month had elapsed, not only could we understand every thing that was said in common conversation, tut even managed, a' noire foron, to make suitable replies; a hilst our fair instructresses showed great aptitude in retaining whatever English sentences we took the trouble to teach them. At the first commencement of my residence among them, when any visiters acre announced, my fair friends toed invariably to effect a hasty retreat ; and the very name of a Mahomedan, Or " Tonrco," would make them vanish like smoke. To my European acquaintances they, however, got gradually awncustonied, and would often join the party when either Captain Laue, or my friends Ramsay and Davenport, of the Commissariat, were present. Ramsay was a particular favourite, not only with Giorgio's family, but, from leis agreeable and conciliating manners, with the natives in general, and indeed with every one who had the advantage of his acquaintance : and occasionally, in the evening, he would bring up his conjuring-apparatus and amuse a large circle of astonished Syrians by his tricks and sleight-of-hand. The day was
generally concluded by a reunion of the friends of the family; who, seated cross-legged on Persian rugs or low divan, would, over a cup of coffee and the ever-bubbling narghili, gravely talk over and discuss the events of the day. Occasionally, Assaade and his wife, with one or two of the female friends of " Madame " Giummal prof her daughters, would join our evening circle; when sherbet and coffee, served up in small filagree cased cups, conversation and smoke, were generally the order of the night. ,
Whilst knocking about alone, far from all medical aid, in a country where virulent fevers and dysentery are far from uncommon, I always carried with me a stock of medicine contained in one holster, whilst the other was counterbalanced by a capital double-barrelled pistol; thus ever ready either to kill or cure.
My medical readers will no doubt smile at my practice in the beating art ; but as I always found it efficacious, I will give it pro bona public° in spite of tbe sneers of the professional sons of Galen. In the first place, I generally had my medicine-chest furnished with a flask of the best brandy, a tourniquet, lancet, a few calomel pills, doses of Epsom salts, and a small vial of laudanum. In case of fever, I always tried starvation ; and if this did not succeed, the calomel was put into requisition. For diarrhcea, a glass of stiff hot grog with a few drops of laudanum, if taken over night, and followed by a copious draught of boiled milk next morning, drunk as hot as possible, and abstinence from all nourishment save thick rice .water, generally acted as an effectual stopper, it the disease were taken in time ; and if not, and if any signs of inflammation showed themselves, calomel and bleeding became the order of the day. By folic:ming these simple remedies, my patients always recovered, and without WI apothecary's bill.
GLORIES OF ACRE.
"War, bloody war," may look very pretty on paper, and "glory "sounds very fine; but, to appreciate the effects of the former, I would recommend Monsieur Thiers or my Lord Palmerston to moralize for an hour amidst the fragments of Acre, amusing themselves in the meanwhile by raking out the half-putrid remains of mortality from under the still reeking and smouldering ruins, and then see with what gusto they could either sit down to dinner or pen a despatch on the subject.
We landed on the south side of the fortifications, which had been exposed to the fire of the Turkish ships and the smaller craft of the English fleet; where the ramparts presented spectacks which astonished us. On entering the sallyport, immense heaps of muskets, guarded by a party of our marines, were the first trophies that met our view. These were the arms which had been given up by the Egyptians. Then the ramparts themselves, crumbling to ruin, pierced everywhere with shot ; the guns dismounted, fractured, and split— merlons upset—embrasures filled with clecombrea—piles of shot, including chain and bar—with others still sticking in those parts of the ramparts which had been taken in reverse—with ever and anon a wide splash of dark-coloured hardened gore against some part of the rampart, or a dismantled gun-carriage spattered with brains and blood, told the fearful tale of death and destruction. As we advanced, breastworks of sand-bags, straw-baskets, containing earth, and traverses of timber whose interstices were filled with rubbish, showed that the science of defence bad not been totally neglected, and led to the conclusion that probably the French " Genie " had not here been idle. However, this, of course, is mere conjecture.
As we advanced towards the Western defences, we overtopped the casemated barracks and square, protected by the line-wall, and now only tenanted by a few poor Egyptian women—who, huddled up in a corner, and shrouded in their veils, appeared to be mourning over their desolate condition—numerous carcases of donkeys, and a few Turkish soldiers, who were already quietly smoking the pipe of repose; whilst parties of English sailors were busily collecting all the shot they could pick up to take on board their respective ships.
Descending into the town, and passing numerous magazines and depots of all manner of ordnance, we entered the area of the chief mosque : but even the house of Allah had not been respected, as was evinced by its crumbling miners and tottering walls. We next proceeded to the hospital : here a melancholy sight presented itself: the wards were filled with sick and wounded, though in a much cleaner state and better order than I could have expected ; but in the verandah we beheld the ghastly sight of ten or twelve bodies, some badly lacerated, others dreadfully emaciated, and undergoing the process of being sewed up in canvass preparatory to burial; while one sturdy fellow' with tucked-up sleeves, was busily employed in cleaning the corpses, and a barber was as assiduously engsged in shaving the crowns of the convalescents; which last circumstance, in the midst of this scene of death, presented to us, to say the least, rather a novel spectacle.
From hence we proceeded to view the locality of the grand explosion, which was probably the principal cause of the garrison evacuating the place : and it certainly exceeded anything I could have conceived possible. For Repine of about 200 yards in diameter, where once stood the magazine, all now is bare; the very fragments of stone and masonry appear as if ground to dust by the terrific shock. The only object which seems to have escaped destruction is the stem of a solitary date-tree; whose " leaf-crowned head" still gracefully waves amidst the surrounding desolation, so forcibly manifested in the very .air we breathe charged as it is with the effluvia arising from the mouldering remains Of poor humanity, now trodden under our feet.
Colonel NAPIER promises another book on his experiences in Egypt ; whither he was sent on business connected with the evacuation of Syria. If not too late, we should strongly advise him to eschew all quotations from books readily accessible,—
which quotations suffer by being separated from their context ; . . r as well as to cultivate a less long-drawn-out style, by omitting tne minuter particulars of his descriptions.