16 MAY 1840, Page 16


MR. VIGNE appears to have spent some years in travelling through that mountainous part of Asia to the North of India which forms Tibet, Kabul, Kashmir,* and the higher division of the Punjab. In 1835-6 he visited the country which has lately formed the seats of war; resided for some time at the court of our late enemy DOST MOHAMED ; had interviews with our present ally SHAG SIGJIAli, and our departed friend RUNJIT SING ; and, taking advantage of the temporary interest respecting these persons and the Kabul war, he has published such part of his observations as relates to them, re- serving his other travels for some future opportunity. The haste with which he has probably brought out his volume, has not contributed to its value ; some parts of it being crude, and some consisting of hearsay or second-hand information, not dic- tated by the original purpose of Mr. VIGNE, but pressed into his service for temporary use. These defects are the more to be re- gretted, as when he confines his observations to his own experience, and gives himself fait' play, he is a very agreeable traveller ; lively and graphic in his sketches of scenery and character, though not very searching or deeply informed, and hence somewhat superficial. Taken, however, as it is, the Personal Narrative is a useful publi- cation, as giving a good many characteristic particulars of three Oriental potentates, whose fortunes have been mixed up with our politics, and as furnishing some particulars of Kabul, from which the nature of our acquisition and the pecuniary results of the war may be inferred.

The route of Mr. VIONE was from Lodiana, a Company's station mar the confines of the Punjab, and thence to Ghuzni and Kabul, returning by Peshawur and Attack; which may be likened to a person going from Grosvenor Square to the Bank by Oxford Street, and returning by the Strand. The greater part of his outward journey was made in the company of a caravan of the Lohanis, who boast of being the true men of business of the East, and whose commercial travels extend from Calcutta to St. Macai're on the frontiers of Russia. Ile returned under the patronage of Doss. MOHAMED; for though apparently discharging no public function, and travelling solely for pleasure, the character of an Englishman had a species of talisman in those remote regions, even before the late campaign in Kabul and the capture of Ghuzni; and MonAmEn also was very anxious to acquire our friendship. The character of Kabul from the Indus till the capital is ap- proached, so for as Mr. VIGNE had the means of observing it., is the reverse of promising, either as regards soil, climate, productions,

people, or wealth. The land is a succession of sandy plains or mountain-ridges, dreadfully hot in summer, very cold in winter, only partially cultivated, and then by means of artificial irrigation. As may be supposed, the population is scanty and scattered ; and consists of various tribes—practically independent, and all thieves till the Siri Koh mountain is crossed ; the caravans having, as in Arabia, to fight their way or pay toll. The environs of the city of Kabul itself are better, art long continued having triumphed over the sterility of nature.


The immediate environs of Kabul have pretensions to as much beauty as most places that owe their improvement entirely to the hand of man. 1 am sure that there are not tell trees in the country that have not been planted ; and I do not remember to have seen one that could be called a large tree of its species. The hills around are bare and rocky ; the plain, by nature, is almost equally barren. A few wild flowers, ends as tulips, are to be found ; but time and human industry have been combining to create a soil from the detritus of the mountains, and to produce a fertility rarely exceeded. I have nowhere seen such an abundance of fruit. Of grapes there arc four or five different kinds; but I think that the husseini, a long grope which is sent to India in cotton in flat circular boxes, is the only one that will bear competition with those of the South of Europe. The red melon is not better titan our own; the white is sweet and delicious, but inferior, as I was told, to those of Bokhara, and I thought to some I had eaten in Little Tibet. The common apple much resembles the English red-streak ; but they have a winter fruit which is far superior to it. The pear of Samarkand is excellent, very crisp and juicy, but still capable of great improvement. The European mulberry is called here the Shah tut, or king-mulberry, on account of its superiority to the insipid red and white fruit, so common all over the East. The peaches, apricots, plums, and cherries, are inferior to those of England. The pomegranates of Kandahar are the finest in the world, and their flavour is most delicious and refreshing. Currants, gooseberries, strawberries, oranges, and nectarines, are not known in the gardens of Kabul. Walnuts arc plentiful. The rawash, or wild rhubarb- root, 1 found to he too acid to be eaten without sugar: it snakes a good pre- serve, and, when well selected, forms an excellent ingredient in a curry. With a profusion of fruit on my breakfast-table every morning, I arrived at two very serious conclusions : one was, that I was sooner tired of any kind than of cherries; and the other was, that a fine mazagon mango was a finer fruit than a good peach.

From such a country, whose most productive spot can only be cultivated at great expense of time and labour, and from a people

* Mr. VIGNE'S orthography. He explains in his preface, that be has gene- rally followed the latest and most approved method of spelling the Asiatic names and words, by the substitution of Italian for English double vowels. so poor and so independent, but little revenue can be raised, DOST MOHAMED, whose adventurous life and strange variety of fortune had made hint intimately acquainted with his country and his countrymen—whose abilities far exceeded those of any other Af- ghan, and who put in practice a more vigorous yet a less oppressive system of exaction than his predecessor—could raise but little, mea. sured by our notions of revenue. There is some discrepancy in Mr. VIONE'S statements, unless WC suppose the last to apply to taxes on commodities, or what we should call Customs and Excise. However, both together will not go far towards subsidizing an Indian army ; and to draw an increased amount from such a people seems an impossibility.


In the time of Shah Shuja, a man could hardly go ten or fifteen miles frees the city without imminent risk of being robbed, and perhaps murdered. Dost Mohamed Khan had made the roads safe for a much greater distance. He seized and executed several of the most powerful leaders of the refractory tribes who inhabit the mountains of Nejrou, Taghou, and the Kohistan of Kabul: he had a good understanding with Sandia Khan, the chief of the powerful Mohmund Afghans ; and on the other hand, his name was beginning to be respected amongst the wild tribes who inhabit the mountainous frontiers beyond Ghuzni. llis revenue, since the loss of Kashmir, Peshawar, and the pro- vinces to the west of the Indus, (Attok or Sinde,) did not exceed twenty-three lake; which, in Kabul rupees, averaging about two-thirds of the value of those of Hindustan, is equivalent to about 160,0004 sterling. The poorness of his treasury kept his invention for ever on the stretch ; and I heard that many an act of injustice had been committed for the sake of procuring money. Property was sometimes seized, and lists were made out of those who were able to spare a little, but who generally preferred paying to going to prison. Ilia excuse for all this was, that without it government could not be carried on; and yet it any one else had held the reins in Kabul, matters would have been ten times worse. The chief himself' having run his career through adventure of every complexion, was well acquainted with the character of his countrymen, and was naturally suspicious of nil around him : being alike unassisted and un- impeded by laws, his motives for surveillance were doubly imperative, and the vigorous measures which he felt himself obliged to adopt were no doubt often and unjustly tinged with the imputation of tyranny. Ile took care to keep up at least the semblance of justice towards the lower classes of his subjects; and I have before remarked, that it was a common saying amongst tlwm, "Is

Bost Mohamed dead, that there is no justice'" A soldier demanded his dis- charge when the treasury was empty, because he could not get his pay. The Amer said that it should never be told that Host Mohamed Alm has refused a man payment of his just demand; andga is him his pay, but discharged him from his service. * The revenue of Dost Mohamed was certainly on the increase; he had over- turned the old system of collecting, and generally took one-third of the produce of all lands under cultivation. Yet on a sudden emergency I have known hint

exact five or ten rupees from every shop in the bazaar. But the whole of his fiscal revenue did not amount to more than three hilts, or about 20,0001. stet- ling. Nothing came into the city without payment of a few pies, or halfpence;

every sheep paid one, and one sheep in every forty was the property of the Amer; an officer acting as a broker again taxed them in the market ; another duty was paid for the mark which showed that the broker's tax had been paid. The posteen, a leathern jaelzet maker, or currier, paid half a shald—about three fitrthings—in the rupee, according to the value of the postern; so that the purchaser of the sheets in the market had to pay two or three rupees for it.

N'llether the flattering manner of his reception may have had its influence, we cannot tell, but Mr. VIGNE speaks highly of DOST MOHAMED; observing truly, that in judging of him allowance must be made for the character of his countrymen and the circumstances of his life. Treachery and intrigue are so universally practised in Eastern courts, that their exercise, however censurable according to European notions, attaches no stigma to the person who uses them successfully ; indeed lie would be thought a fool it' he did not. The same may be said of arbitrary acts or deeds of violence : if there appear a necessity for them, they are not only pardoned but applauded by those who may become the subjects of similar se- verity. Nor can it be denied that the rigid forms and the respect for individual rights, which arc the basis of English jurisprudence, would be powerless applied to the natives of Kabul by one of them- selves. In other respects, DOST MOHAMED appears to be above his age and his country. When Ile reached supreme power, he could not read ; but, though forty-five years old, he at once applied himself to remove this defect. He was also addicted to the bottle, but reformed. He maintained evenhanded justice in his dominions; and was also, though an Asiatic, indifferent to pomp and parade. Be is also a natural critic on art,—being probably the only man in that part of the world who could comprehend a drawing at all, without an explanation : and, like his opponent ReNirr, he is fond of a joke.


The Ex-Ameer Dust Mohamed stands about five feet ten in height, ofa spare and sinewy figure. The upper part of his thee is handsome; the fore- head high, but not prominent; the nose aquiline ; eyebrows high and arched; the eyes large, and very expressive. The worst part of his Mee is the mouth, which is large and coarse. Ills appearance altogether is very (li,,lidguj. He dresses in better taste than any man in the Durbar, and his :Mitres.: and man- ners are far superior to those of any other Harald. Ile usually sat in a small room in the Bala Hisser, which commanded a view of the city, the parade- ground, and the peaks of the Hindu Kosh. The room, as with Milers iu Kabul, is ornamented with rosettes and other figures stamped upon a eomposition-naste of talc, whielt has somewhat the elegant appearance of' chased silver, and 'alto- get her produces a very pleasing efla:t. On the first evening of my introduction, the Durbar was fully attended. There might be about fifty-live persons present : amongst them were Duranis and Kuzzelbashes. I was seated next to the Nawah Jaime Khan, with my Anglo-Persian dictionary by my side, when the Amcor entered. Every one stood up to receive him. Ile immediately turned to me, and the Novell told me to give him my land: which he took, repenting his Khosh Lundell aid!- " You are welcome !"—with great emphasis and much apparent sincerity: I presented him with a case of smali pistols, with screw-barrels. lie examined them, snapped one of them out of the window, and asked how far they mould carry. I replied, that they would carry much further than any one present would believe. The next day Mohamed Akber Khan, his second sun, who had been trying them, remarked that they were very good, and that lie was meek pleased with them. We then sat down on the carpet ; and lie commenced a conversation, asking numerous questions about the different countries I had seen, particularly about the Nyo-Duniah—" New World," or America—which be beard I had visited,—as to its riches, the number of inhabitants, the animals, and many particulars ; and said that he thought a traveller's life must be good fah We then hail a dissertation upon the comparative merits of Turkoman and Arab horses. Ile questioned me much about our own English breed, dis- playing throughout very just ideas upon every subject that he treated. * * • ' I observed at once the difference between the courts of Runjit Sing and Dost Ilohamed, and the mummeries that were acted before Shah Shuja in his retreat at Lodiana. I thought of the shawl tents of Runjit, and the jewelled magnifi- cence of the Sikhs who surrounded the person of their chief—not one of them, not even an European officer, was allowed to sit on the ground withoutper- mission; and I compared his Durbar with the one before inc. The chief ap- peared himself sitting on a carpet in one corner of the room, and every one else sat where and how lie liked ; upon entering, making his bow, accom- panied with the salaam Alaikoum, or " Peace be with you!" and then re- tiring to place himself wherever he could find an opening amongst the visitors who lined the wall of the room. The only sign of a king being present, was that exhibited by a master of the ceremonies, who made more noise than ally one else in endeavouring to preserve order and silence. I also thought again of Shah Shuja at Lodiana ; the royal recess in which he sat enthroned to re• ceive visitors; the ranks of baretboted attendants who stood around, with Their hands resting on their girdles, in the most approved Oriental fashion ; Baron Hugel and myself, with Captain Wade, the political agent to whom he must necessarily be obliged for every application to Government on his behalf, denied even the privilege of sitting on a chair in Ids presence. I believe that I myself am one of the very few echo had then ever received such an honour ; and it was granted me at my own request, when I went to take his portrait.

Mr. VIGNE appears to be a medical man ; at all events he phy- sicked the people, without apparent compunction. Ile also wielded the pencil; and thus describes the ex-monarch, in the proverbially unpleasant characters of a sitter for a portrait and a patron of a stud-painter.


At Prince Mohruned Akber Khan's own request I made a picture of himself on horseback, in complete armour. Iu this I was happy enough to please him; only lie wanted a long slip of paper stuck on the top of the picture, in order that he might see the full length of an enormous spear which he held in his baud. " Of what use would that be ?" said the Ameer ; " any one can see what it is you have in your hand." Dost Mohamed Khan is him& a good critic on animal-painting. Ile is one of the very few Orientals who can com- prehend, without a question, the meaning of a shadow, or why one side of the face should be dark and the other light; and why, in some positions, more of one eye should be seen than the otl i other. When an Oriental is presented with a picture., he usually turns it upside down, unless its subject be very obvious mdced. I drew some of the Anwer's favourite horses. lie seldom flattered, often found fault, but always in good taste. Ile liked evidently to see a horse portrayed with all its faults, where they existed ; not desiring that either the crest should be raised or the quarters enlarged according to the fancy of the painter, as is always the case in the East. The last portrait I attempted was that of the Amecr Dost Mohamed Khan himself: mm one c mid possibly sit quieter. 1 was not at first quite satisfied with my own pee formance ; and my alarms about a fitilure were not dissipated by the remarks of the tilt terers in the Thither, who usually said it was not like, and never could he. Tbe Ameer's Mullah, my black-whiskered disputant, was sly aversion ; which I was at no pains to conceal, at least as tier as grimace went ; although the Ameer, observing my distress, assured me one da3, that he was a very good man. Doing a holy person, he claimed the privilege of thumb- ing any drawings, and running his lingers over the pencil-marks ; which 1 never allowed any one else to du. The Ameer himself came and sat lmy me whilst 1 was taking his picture ; and nothing could be more gentlemanlike than his remarks, which were so uncle inn contrast with those made by others. At my request, lie pointed out the parts which he thought like and unlike, adding, that he might he wrong, as he did not sufficiently know his own features. One day a stout little rosy-checked boy toddled up to his father in full durbar ; be hail evidently been sent in by his mother, to be admired and drawn, and the Ameer asked me to take his picture. I replied, which was the truth, that 1 hod not then time. lie either did not bear, or misunderstood Inc ; exclaiming, with a loud laugh, in which his Oriental ideas of etiquette could not restrain hint from indulging, " The Sahib says he is not handsome enough ;" and was clearly chuckling at the idea of how angry the child's mother would be when be told her what I had just said.

Don Mon.tmen is now an outcast and a wanderer : but he has

been in as bad a plight as the present, and Orientals who are tho- roughly acquainted with him conceive that he has not given up all hopes of Kabul. Unless tightly restrained by the Viceroy over Men, his subjects will, however, have a bad exchange in Stout Sam. In addition to the freaks of bloody tyranny, reported as having been perpetrated by hint during the advance of the army, the mat scenes tee be trivial-minded, or at all events very different to the masculine spirit of Dosr .1Ionaaten. This is Mr. VIGNE'S account of SHAH SHWA AND MS naternsa.

Baron Bagel, with whom 1 had travelled from Kashmir, and myself, were introduced by Captain Wade to Shall Shuja and Shah Zitnan, the pensioned ex-kings of the country I was going to visit. We found Shah Shuja sitting on a chair in a recess, or rather deerwoy of leis house, with a vista, formed by two rows of attendmets, that diverged from it as from et centre. Ile appeared to be anion aged about fifty, of the middle size, good-natured, and port-wine com- plexioned; looking more like a gentleman who had lost an estate, than a mo- narch who had lost his kingdom. Ile wore a dark-coloured robe, a white turban, and white cotton gloves. Baron II iegel had been rreeived with great distinc- tion by Itanjit Sing.; I had come in for a share of it. Every application which the Shah made to the Goverinuent went through Captain Wade; and yet he allowed neither of us a choir, but kept us standing the whole time. His brother, Shale Ziman, resi.!eel in a eiltferelit part of the building : we went to see him

also. We stood; sat on the ground, pale, thin, dejected, and countill,,er his

beads, Ile asked much about Kashmir, and said that the shawls were not nowis fine as they used to be. " I remember," he said, " when the finer fabric

could he drawn through a ring." Ile was praising the beauty of Kashmir.

"Yes," remarked the tame blind .1101MIeli, Kashmir is certainly beautiful, and the air and wetter are good ; but," he continued, with it melancholy shake of the heath, amd a sigh as deep as I ever heard, " Kabul, Kabul! what is Kashmir to Kabul ! and I shall never see it again !" We were surprised to hear front Captain Wade, that in spite of their common misfortunes and fate, the two brothers it ere not on the best terms with each other. The next morn- ing, Shah Shuja sent us several trays, containing the best display of native cookery that 1 had seen in the East : it had probably been superintended in management by the ladies of the harem.

There are a good many curious particulars in the volume relating to the courtiers, court, and character of the late RUNJIT SING, and

many sketches of the persons and incidents the author encountered in his travels ; but we preferred matter of a more immediate interest. Mr. Viumse has also collected a variety of particulars relative to Khiva ; anticipating the fitilure of the Russian expedition, but speculating upon what should be the conduct of both powers if it succeeded. The event, however, having decided against Russia, we need not cuter into the subject, especially as any future hopes of success seem slender. The severity of the winter is such as to destroy the Russians; the heat of the summer scorches away natives; and in the brief spring the melting of the snows turns the hollows into torrents. The people, besides, are few in number, of nomadic habits, and thieving propensities. A move and a march of any distance are not an inconvenience to them, but a matter of common occurrence. No invader of their table-land could ever hope to make the war maintain itself: on the contrary, from the skill of the natives in desultory warfare and predatory excursions, there is every probability he would have to maintain them as well as the war.