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Title: A biographical memoir of the late Dr. Walter Oudney, Captain Hugh Clapperton, both of the Royal Navy, and Major Alex. Gordon Laing, all of whom died amid their active and enterprising endeavours to explore the interior of Africa

Author: Thomas Nelson

Release date: November 23, 2023 [eBook #72209]

Language: English

Original publication: Edinburgh: Waugh and Innes, 1830

Credits: Galo Flordelis (This file was produced from images generously made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library)


Major Denham, Captn. Clapperton
Dr. Oudney,








Printed by A. Balfour & Co. Niddry Street.



This small Volume is respectfully inscribed by the Author, as a token of gratitude for his kindness to himself, as a Memorial of the friendship and patronage extended by him to the Gentlemen, the incidents of whose lives it records, and as a Testimony of the estimation in which his character is held for his assiduous cultivation of Physical Science in all its branches, and for his unwearied, enlightened, and generous efforts to inspire, not only the Students of his class, but the Public at large, with a love for the study of Nature.


The materials whence the following biographical memoirs of the two young men who were knit together in friendship, and whose adventurous enthusiasm led them into the dangerous situation in which their lives were terminated, have been drawn entirely from private and authentic sources of information. The author had the satisfaction of being personally acquainted with both the travellers, before they went to Africa, and had, in consequence, the best opportunities of learning the facts and circumstances of the previous part of their lives. But the present publication, of which they are the subject, owes its origin to an incidental conversation which he had with Dr. James Kay, R.N. the intimate friend both of Oudney and Clapperton. Dr. Kay not only had stored up in his memory many curious incidents and anecdotes of his friends, which he communicated freely, but he had in his possession a number of letters from them both, received before and[vi] after they had commenced their exploratory expedition. All these letters, with a variety of other documents relative to them and their affairs, were readily imparted to the author, to make whatever use of them his judgment and discretion might dictate. When he had resolved on publication, he mentioned his design to Professor Jameson, who, he was aware, had been instrumental in getting both our travellers appointed to the mission, in the accomplishment of which they went to Africa. The Professor not only approved of the design, but afforded the author essential service in its execution, by putting into his possession a file of letters from Dr. Oudney, written during the prosecution of his African expedition, and addressed, some of them to the Professor, and the rest of them to the traveller’s eldest sister. Professor Jameson, likewise, mentioned a number of interesting particulars relative chiefly to the arrangements of the expedition, and the views of the gentlemen by whom it was undertaken. The author is farther indebted for a part of his information to Lieutenant Sheriff, R.N. who had lived in habits of the closest intimacy with Captain Clapperton, during a series of years, and had become well acquainted with[vii] his history. Dr. Kay, moreover, applied to Mr. Anderson, formerly a resident in the West Indies, afterwards in Edinburgh, and now in the vicinity of Birmingham, also one of Captain Clapperton’s friends, to communicate what he recollected of him worthy being made public; and in reply he sent a letter, which was also given to the author, containing many valuable facts relating to an important period of Clapperton’s life; and stating the dates and particulars of a great part of his public career as an officer in the Navy, as well as mentioning a number of incidents, sentiments, and conduct, illustrative of his character as a private individual. These are the materials out of which the following narratives have been composed, and while, it is hoped, they will have the effect of preserving the memory of two interprising men who sacrificed their lives in the discharge of their duty, from being lost in oblivion, they will, at the same time, serve to assure the reader, that he may safely repose the most unlimited confidence in the accuracy of their details.

After both the memoirs had been composed, and indeed printed in a different form to that in which they now appear—a circumstance[viii] which will account for the frequent use of the editorial we—the Author had the good fortune to meet with Captain Clapperton’s sister, from whom he received some valuable information respecting the early part, especially, of her adventurous and lamented brother’s life. In consequence of this accession of materials, he has been enabled to correct several passages, and greatly to enrich his narrative. And now he begs leave to offer his cordial thanks to that lady, as well as to all the gentlemen mentioned above, to whom he has been so much indebted.

With regard to the Memoir of Major Laing, the Author of those of Oudney and Clapperton must disclaim both the merit and the responsibility. It was compiled from a variety of previously published notices of that gentleman, who like many others met an early grave in the interior of the African continent. As, however, he was the countryman of the other two travellers, and met his death while engaged in the discharge of similar duties, as well as nearly about the same time, the accompanying notice of his career seems to form a suitable companion to the narratives in which theirs are recorded.



Dr. Oudney’s birth, enters Edinburgh University, passes as Surgeon, enters the Royal Navy, 3—Put on half-pay, 4—Returns to Edinburgh, 5—Practises as Surgeon, 6—Appointed member of expedition to explore the interior of Africa, 9—Letter from London on the eve of his departure, 10—Letter from Malta, 11—Two letters from Tripoli, 12—Letter from Tripoli, 16—Letter from Gardens, near Tripoli, 18—Letter from Mourzuk, 19—Ditto, 20—Ditto, to Professor Jameson, 22—Letter from Mourzuk, 25—Letter to Professor Jameson from Mourzuk, 27—Letter from Mourzuk, 30—Letter from Gatroni, 31—letter from Kuka, kingdom of Bornou, 32—Letter from Kuka, 34—Sets forward to Soudan, 36—Falls ill at Katagum, letter from Captain Clapperton to Mr. Consul Warrington from Kano, giving an account of his illness and death, 37.


Introductory remarks, 45—His parentage, 48—Birth, education, youthful adventures, embraces the sea service, 52—Promoted to be a midshipman in his majesty’s ship Renommeé, 58—Service in the East Indies,[x] nearly drowned, storming fort Louis, 64—Service on the lakes of Canada, crosses the ice to York, Upper Canada, great sufferings, Huron Indians, 73—Second step of promotion, and conduct while an officer on half-pay, 82—Acquaintance with Dr. Oudney, and his first expedition to Africa, 91—Second expedition to Africa, 94—Account of Mungo Park’s death, arrival at Soccatoo, his baggage seized by Bello, falls ill, Lander’s account of his death, 112.


Birth and parentage, 117—Assists his father as a teacher, 118—Enters the Edinburgh volunteers as ensign, 118—Goes to Barbadoes, 119—Placed on half-pay, 120—Appointed Lieutenant and Adjutant, and goes to Sierra Leone, 120—Goes on an embassy to Kambia, 120—Description of the country, &c. 125—Penetrates into the country of the Soolimas, 126—Description of his route, 130—Inoculates the children in Falaba, 136—Returns to Sierra Leone, 138—Sent to England with despatches, 139—Promoted to be a Major, leaves London for Tripoli on his way to Timbuctoo, 139—Marries Miss Warrington, 140—Leaves Tripoli, 140—His journey, 142—His party attacked, and himself wounded, 143—Report of his death, 144.

Publications by the same Author.

1. A Sermon on the Return of Peace; preached at Holcome, Lancashire, on the 7th July 1814.

Bishop Law, then of Chester, and now of Bath and Wells, in a Letter to the Author, thus stated his opinion of the above discourse.

Rev. Sir,—I have read your sermon with great pleasure, and entire approbation. It is a composition every way respectable.”

2. A Narrative of the King’s Visit to Scotland, in August 1822.

3. A Treatise on Religion inserted in the Encyclopædia Edinensis.

The late venerable Sir Henry Moncrieff was pleased to express his unqualified approbation of the above Treatise.

4. A Catechism of the Evidences of the Christian Religion.

From the Edinburgh Saturday Evening Post.—“Into a small compass, and at a cheap price, the author has condensed the substance of many large treatises, which the interest of the subject has called forth. The style is plain, simple, and forcible; and we venture to affirm that he who makes himself master of the volume, small as it is, will never be at a loss to give an answer to any man that asketh him a reason of the hope that is in him.”

Extract of a Letter from W. Grant, Esq. Manchester.—“Your Catechism of the Evidences of Christianity is admirably calculated for the improvement of youth.”

5. A Classical Atlas, with a Memoir on Ancient Geography, dedicated to the Rector and Masters of the High School of Edinburgh. In 22 Maps, neatly coloured, and half-bound, 8vo. Price 6s.

From the Edinburgh Literary Gazette.—“This is one of the neatest, best arranged, and best executed little Manuals of Geography we have ever seen.”

From the Edinburgh Evening Post.—“We know of no addition which has been made to the number of our useful School-Books, for years past, by many degrees so valuable as this Classical Atlas. It is neat and portable, accurate, and cheap, and in all respects well fitted to accomplish its object.”


Page 23 for only, read nearly.


Although biography be the most attractive species of historical composition, as it gratifies the prying curiosity of our nature by making us acquainted with the origin and progress, and the retired habits, as well as the public pursuits, conduct, and character of distinguished individuals; yet there are few, comparatively speaking, of the human race, the actions of whose lives possess sufficient interest to engage the attention of their fellow-men, or are, on that account, worthy to be made the subject of biographical record. Had, therefore, Dr. Oudney’s name not been associated with that select band of enterprising men whose love of scientific adventure caused them to forego their native country and the endearments[2] of home, and to wander in foreign lands, till they fell the victims of their own enthusiasm; we are ready to grant that, in all probability, notwithstanding his accomplishments and his worth, he would have been allowed to rest uninquired after with those millions of mankind who, the feverish bustle of life being over, have become “to dumb forgetfulness a prey.” But as he had the ardour of mind to undertake an expedition into the interior of Africa with the view of enlarging the dominions of science, and the perseverance to prosecute the enterprise, till, like others who had preceded him in the same career, he sacrificed his life in the performance of his duty; the incidents of his history have thereby acquired an interest, which, in other circumstances, they could not have possibly possessed; and, hence, a short memoir of his life cannot fail to afford a high gratification to a numerous class of readers; and this it is the object of the following pages to supply.

Doctor Walter Oudney was born, of humble parentage, in the vicinity of Edinburgh, in the month of December, 1790. From his boyhood he discovered an uncommon disposition and aptitude for learning; so that he could scarcely be induced to take the necessary hours of repose. It does not appear, however, that at this early period he manifested that inclination for travelling or adventure which afterwards operated so powerfully on his mind, and which seems to have[3] been entirely the result of his professional occupation as a surgeon in the Royal Navy. Having found the means of attending the medical classes in the university of Edinburgh, he applied himself with indefatigable ardour to his studies, though we are not aware that he gained any other distinction beyond that of the esteem of his class-fellows, and the approbation of the respective professors under whom he studied; with some of whom he continued on terms of intimate friendship till the day of his death. Having passed the necessary examinations, and taken his surgeon’s degree, he experienced little difficulty, during the late extensive and long continued war with France, of obtaining an appointment as a surgeon in the royal navy. In this capacity he was employed, during a series of years, on various stations, and among others in the Indian ocean; and throughout the whole of that important period of his life, while he was assiduous in the prosecution of his professional studies, he was, at the same time, particularly careful to increase the quantity, and to extend the sphere of his general knowledge. For this laudable purpose, he applied himself with diligence to the reading of the Greek and Latin classics, and made great progress in the acquisition of the French, the Italian, and several other of the modern languages of Europe.

When, by means of the noble perseverance and the heroic bravery of Great Britain and her allies, the terrible and desolating war which[4] had broken out at the French revolution—a war which involved not only the whole of Europe, but the greater part of the world at large in its interests, and which, during a long series of years, was carried on with unexampled pertinacity and magnitude of effort, both by sea and land—had ended in the subversion of the usurped power of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the restoration of the exiled princes of Bourbon to the royal authority which had been so long exercised by their ancestors, and when thereby peace was once more allowed to revisit the almost exhausted nations of Europe; Mr. Oudney, with thousands of his countrymen, had an opportunity of returning to his native country, and of revisiting the city in which he had received his education, and with which, consequently, he had many endearing and tenderly-cherished associations. He was now a naval surgeon on half pay, and, we believe, in the prospect of some prize-money; and, what must have been peculiarly agreeable to his mind, which was eminently gentle, sedate, and full of sensibility, he had an opportunity of witnessing the grateful and enthusiastic exultation which was exhibited by all ranks and descriptions of men for the gallant and signally important achievements, which, for the benefit and honour of the country, had been accomplished by the service with which he had been so long connected, and by which the dignity and the independence of the British empire had been so gloriously sustained.

[5]Mr. Oudney, on his return, found his mother and his young sisters residing in Edinburgh, and with these near relations, who ever were, and continued to the last to be, the objects of his duteous affection and tender solicitude, he once more domesticated; and while he treated his mother, now advancing into the vale of years, with the respectful attention and kindness which filial regard alone can dictate, he was to his sisters at once a father and a brother. He put them in the way of receiving a good education, was careful to impress upon their minds the lessons of virtue and religion, and introduced them to society of a higher grade than, without his assistance, they could have hoped to associate. Indeed, during the whole period of Mr. Oudney’s public service, his mother and his sisters had never ceased to engage his solicitous attention; and to assure them of his affection towards them, and of his desire to minister to their comfort, he had from time to time sent them money so long as his public duties kept him at a distance from their society. This fact, so worthy of being recorded and remembered to Mr. Oudney’s honour, is a proof that his mind, which had been early impressed, continued to be steadily actuated, by a sentiment, which has long formed a distinguishing feature in the character of the Scottish peasantry; namely, the obligation so deeply felt, and so generally acted upon by them, of contributing to the support of their aged and dependent relatives.[6] To form and to cherish this generous principle in the minds of the young, constitutes a part of their religious education, and hence spring many of those pure and lofty virtues which are often seen exemplified even in the humblest walks of life, and which are nowhere depicted with more truth and feeling than in the immortal pages of Burns. This is a trait in the Scottish character which is truly ennobling, and which we fondly hope no change of manners will ever weaken or efface.

As soon as Mr. Oudney had settled in Edinburgh he resumed his professional studies, and having completed the curriculum, prescribed to those who wish to take the degree of Doctor of Medicine, he obtained that academical rank upon the first of August 1817, his inaugural dissertation being “De Dysenteria Orientali,” a subject to which his attention was doubtless directed by having had an opportunity of observing the character and treatment of that disease during the period of his naval practice. He now became a medical practitioner in Edinburgh, and was very careful to observe and record the symptoms and circumstances which, in that capacity, came under his notice. While he was thus employed, he was in the habit of imparting the result of his observations to his medical friends, and among others, to Dr. Abercrombie of this city, who, once and again, in his communications to the “Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal,” has mentioned Dr. Oudney with[7] approbation, and incorporated his young friend’s information with that of his own. We likewise observe in the same Journal (for July 1820) a paper by Dr. Oudney, entitled, “Cases of Ileus from a twist of the colon,” and we are assured on the authority of one of the most intimate of his medical friends, that he frequently sent communications to the “London Medical Journal.” At this period he was assiduous in the study of chemistry and natural history. Botany, especially, engaged much of his attention; and, we believe, he was indebted to the late Dr. Scott for much valuable information on this interesting department of physical knowledge. He and Dr. Scott commenced a botanical work on the grasses; he was employed by Dr. Duncan in arranging the plates of a botanical work belonging to the university library; and, we have been told, that at one time he entertained serious thoughts of becoming a lecturer on British botany. We know that he was enthusiastically attached to this study, and oftener than once we have accompanied him when he went on botanical excursions. He not only attended the natural history class in the university of Edinburgh, so ably taught by Professor Jameson, but he became likewise a member of the Wernerian Natural History Society, which, under the auspices of the same professor, has long held a conspicuous place among the scientific associations of the country.

It is a singular circumstance in the feelings[8] and character of Dr. Oudney, that although the sedateness of his disposition and the benevolence of his heart made him enjoy the quietness and the comfort of home, and the interchange of the kind affections with his relations and friends around the domestic hearth, with a peculiar degree of satisfaction; although his steadiness and attention, joined to his professional experience and skill, were fast procuring for him an extensive medical practice; and although he could have formed a matrimonial alliance both agreeable to his feelings and advantageous to his prosperous establishment in life: yet, such was his love of distinction as a scientific traveller, and so strong was his desire of exploring distant, and of discovering unknown regions, that he was willing, for a while, to forego every other consideration for the sake of gratifying this master-passion of his mind. The hope of having it in his power of visiting foreign countries, and of extending the boundaries of physical knowledge, stimulated him to persevere in those scientific pursuits which were especially fitted to qualify him for accomplishing this purpose on which he had so steadfastly set his heart; and caused him to make his sentiments on this subject known to such individuals as he supposed had influence sufficient to promote the object which he had in view. For this end, he would have had no objections to have resumed his public services as a naval surgeon, trusting that he might be[9] sent to some station favourable for prosecuting the inquiries which he was so anxious to make. But the interior of Africa was the field of investigation on which his own wishes were bent. The considerations, that the climate of that country had been fatal to so many former travellers, and that its inhabitants had showed themselves averse to have it traversed by strangers, were unable to exert an influence over his mind sufficiently strong to deter him from engaging in the enterprise if he should have it in his power to make the attempt. He felt that his constitution was vigorous; he had already acquired some knowledge of tropical climates; and he trusted that he possessed prudence and precaution sufficient to enable him to surmount every opposing obstacle, and to conduct any expedition on which he might be sent to a favourable and satisfactory issue. And sooner, we believe, than he expected, he had an opportunity of putting his sanguine anticipations to the test of experiment.

When it was known that government had resolved to send a new expedition to explore the central parts of Africa, and especially to trace the course, and endeavour to ascertain the termination of the Niger, Dr. Oudney, through the influence of Professor Jameson, along with Major Denham, and Captain Clapperton, was, greatly to his own satisfaction, appointed on this interesting mission. He had no fears of losing his health by travelling, was[10] very sanguine that his labours would be crowned with success, and, being amply provided with instructions, by his friend Professor Jameson, how to prosecute his inquiries, and to collect and preserve specimens of the natural productions of the countries he was about to visit, he took farewell of his friends in Scotland and went to London in the summer of the year 1821. And we are peculiarly happy, that by means of a regular series of letters to his eldest sister, and to some other of his correspondents, we are enabled not only to make him give a luminous account of the rest of his career, but also to impart much new and valuable information respecting the countries in which he travelled. The first of the Doctor’s letters from which we shall take an extract, is one which he sent to his friend Mr. James Kay, surgeon of the Royal Navy, from London, on the eve of his setting out on his expedition.

“Here I am actively engaged in business of one kind or another. But I expect to finish and arrange every thing to day; for it is probable Clapperton and I shall depart to-morrow morning, unless the mail be detained a few days, a thing which I understand often happens. I have found every thing very agreeable here. Those with whom I have had to deal have been exceedingly polite, and in most respects have forwarded my views as far as possible. Our worthy friend Clapperton[11] gets on amazingly well. I am in high spirits respecting my mission; from all that I have been able to learn, very little danger, and scarcely any impediments, are to be apprehended. We have got excellent fowling-pieces and pistols, and a most valuable assortment of philosophical instruments. The former, I hope, except for the purposes of natural history, will scarcely be required—an agreement exists between the British government and the pasha of Tripoli respecting the conveying of travellers safe to Bornou, therefore, so far as he is concerned, all is safe.”

The next letter in the series from which we shall quote is addressed to his eldest sister, and is dated “Malta, October 17, 1821.”

“This is certainly a curious island, it was originally a barren rock, but the labour of man has done wonders. Soil has been transported from different places, on which many gardens have been formed. The town is a strong fortress, celebrated in history for the noble stand which it made against the whole power of the infidels. You can have no idea of the houses from any thing you see in Edinburgh. The roofs are all flat, and well fitted for a warm climate. The entrance is capacious and gloomy, not unlike that of ancient baronial castles. The rooms are lofty, the floors of which are paved with stone; and the walls are generally decorated with large paintings. There is one very fine church, St. John’s, the floors of which are all of the finest marble,[12] with some fine specimens of mosaic work, and the walls are adorned with beautiful paintings and well executed sculpture. There are, however, many marks of decay on the exterior of the building, which, by the bye, does not present that grand appearance that one would expect.”

The two letters which follow in the series are both dated “Tripoli, October 24, 1821,” and relate principally to what occurred on the passage from England to Africa.

“We are here at last, and a pretty place it is; so built, however, that three can scarcely walk a-breast in the streets: every few yards a house is in ruins, for there exists among the Moors a strange dislike to repair any thing, particularly houses. Whether that arises from indolence or superstitious notions, I cannot tell, but the fact is evident to the most superficial observer. Our passage to Malta was exceedingly agreeable—long certainly, but pleasant company prevented tedium. I visited the galleries at Gibraltar, and was highly pleased with the grandeur of the design. Your favourite fort, Malta, excited very little interest in my mind, not that the place is deficient in interest, but we were fretful from experiencing great harassment from individuals who ought to have forwarded our views, so that a disinclination to enjoy any thing was induced. On our arrival here, we found matters far beyond our expectation; far to the south of Bornou is[13] open to us, and almost entirely subject to the pasha of Tripoli. All our route is clear and free from danger. The pasha’s word is a law not to be disobeyed, and he has pledged himself to protect us fifty-seven days’ journey beyond Bornou. On our landing, that favourable intelligence made us leap for joy. The Mahometans here are a most liberal sort of men, and tolerate people of every religious persuasion—a circumstance almost unknown in any other Mahometan country. The police is admirable, so that a stranger may traverse every part of the city without the least apprehension. As to the moral condition of the people, I can say but little, as I have had very imperfect opportunities of observing them.

“I must now describe to you my introduction to the pasha. The court-yard was filled with people of very different complexions, mostly the servants, guards, and relations of the pasha. The group had a most motely appearance; many were superbly dressed, others were in rags and filthy in the extreme. The room in which his Highness was seated was decent, with nothing gaudy. He sat at the farther end of the room, and his two sons sat on chairs at the other end of it; while many of his guards and ministers stood in different positions round the chamber. He was grave, and his muscles were as motionless as those of a statue, so much so that I was several times inclined to laugh. The gravity, however, ceased after a little[14] conversation, and then a scene was displayed far from being disagreeable. He conversed with apparent pleasure on the success of his arms, and on the great distance to which he could convey the mission in perfect safety. That, you may be assured, was agreeable intelligence to us, and inspired us with hopes of almost certain success. I had to prescribe for him, for no sooner had I entered the room than my advice was requested. The two sons present were tolerably good-looking men; the elder of them was corpulent and very like his father; and the younger of them tall, slender, and, upon the whole, a good-looking young man. The pasha’s dress was clean, plain and neat. I hope we shall be able to set off early in December—a fine season for travelling—and expect to eat our new yearday’s dinner in Mourzuk. We travel in European dresses, and in this respect we shall be different from most of the former travellers in this part of Africa. The pasha approves of our resolution, and the consul is highly delighted with it. Indeed, on reflecting seriously on the matter, I think the plan is by far the most judicious. Hypocrisy almost always engenders suspicions; and the people well know that our pretensions to be of their religion are only feigned.”

With regard to the last-mentioned statement of the above letter, we know that Dr. Oudney was resolute in his determination not to travel under an assumed name and character.[15] He was too sincere and conscientious a Christian ever to venture to lay aside the avowed practice of its duties for the attainment of any purpose whatsoever. He was strongly urged by some of his scientific friends to endeavour to control his scruples on this subject, and, like his predecessors in the same scheme of exploring Africa, to travel as an Arab and a disciple of Mahomet, but without success; and he declared that he would far rather abandon the enterprise to which he had been appointed, than even in appearance to renounce his faith. It so happened that the humour of the pasha of Tripoli, and the circumstances of his dominions at the time they were traversed by the mission to which Dr. Oudney was attached, favoured his design. It is quite clear neither Dr. Oudney nor his companions could have travelled in Africa as Mahometans, from their comparative ignorance of the languages of the east, and of the rites of the religion of the Arabian prophet. None of them had the preparatory training previous to the commencement of their journey as was enjoyed by Burckhardt and others; so that they must have been quickly detected as impostors had they assumed the profession of Islamism; and it is very true, as the Doctor remarks, that an exposed hypocrite is an odious character in any country. It is quite obvious, however, that the more familiar travellers are with the language of the people among whom they travel, and the better acquainted they are with their[16] manners and customs, and their religious tenets and ceremonies, they will thereby best secure their confidence, and be the better enabled to adapt themselves to all circumstances, persons, and seasons, which they may meet with, as well as greatly increase their means of obtaining the knowledge of which they are in search. But whether Dr. Oudney’s declared resolution to travel as an Englishman and a Christian be approved of or not; or whether his conduct in this respect may or may not be imitated by others, every one must admire the honest sincerity of heart, and the unbending integrity of principle which his resolution manifested. There is another letter to his sister of the same date as the preceding, which likewise contains some facts worthy of being published.

Tripoli, October 24, 1821.

“It is with the sincerest joy I communicate to you my safe arrival here. Every thing smiles and promises complete success to our enterprise. Accounts arrived here a few days ago, that the pasha’s army had penetrated to fifty-seven days’ journey beyond Bornou—a circumstance exceedingly favourable to us, as no danger need be apprehended the greater part of the way we design to take. This town has a very indifferent appearance. I expected to see numerous domes and gilded minarets, but such is not the case; a few ill-shaped plain minarets are the only objects that relieve the eye. The houses are clumsily[17] built, with windows looking into a square court. The roofs are all flat, and on them the Moors enjoy themselves in the evenings, smoking their pipes. The streets are narrow, and, from the deficiency of windows, have a very sombre effect. The inhabitants consist of Moors, Jews, Christians, and Negroes; and although most of them are poor and filthy, and live in miserable dwellings, yet they may be regarded as happy; for there is here more toleration than in any other Mahometan country.

“I have been presented to the pasha. He was sitting, with great dignity, on his couch, in the manner of eastern princes, and with a slight nod returned our salutations: he appeared to be about the middle size—very corpulent—and apparently about forty years of age. He was grave—a necessary part of the ceremony, I suppose—for it vanished considerably when he began to converse. He promised us every protection through all his dominions, which extend far to the south, and said he should astonish Britain by the distance he could conduct us all in safety into the interior of the country. The castle he inhabits is far from being neat and clean, and many of his attendants present a very shabby appearance. The neighbouring country has nothing prepossessing; a few date and other trees line the outskirts of the town; but for many miles beyond this there is nothing but sand. In a few days we intend to make an excursion[18] with a party into the mountains, and to the remains of an ancient Roman city. In my next, I shall give you some particulars of the excursion.”

None of the letters in our possession contain any thing relative to the mountains or the antiquities in the neighbourhood of Tripoli; but we remember to have heard extracts of a letter from Dr. Oudney to one of his friends in Edinburgh, dated Tripoli, 30th of October 1821, in the Wernerian Natural History Society; and these extracts formed the result of the excursion which he tells his sister he intended to make to the mountains of Tripoli and to the ruins of a Roman city. His next letter to his sister is dated Tripoli, December 10th, 1821, in which he says—

“I am busy making preparations for my journey, which I expect to commence about a fortnight hence. Every thing goes on well, and the prospects of success are of the most promising kind. The climate here is delightful, neither too hot nor too cold, but a just medium. A considerable degree of cold, however, may be expected during the time of part of our journey; but it is easier to remedy cold than heat. My health is excellent, and I hope it will continue so.”


Gardens near Tripoli, February 18, 1822.

“I cannot take my departure without telling[19] you that I am well and happy. I should have left Tripoli yesterday had the weather been favourable; and if it be fine to-morrow I shall go. Every circumstance promises a prosperous journey, and in a short period you may expect gratifying intelligence. Our cavalcade is large, consisting of thirty camels at least, and several horses and mules. We have abundance of every thing, and consequently expect to be very happy. Clapperton is well, and sends his best compliments to you.”


Mourzuk, April 12, 1822.

“I arrived here on the seventh instant, in high spirits and the best health. Our journey to this place was exceedingly pleasant, and far surpassed my most sanguine expectations. The people have all been exceedingly kind, and have treated us in the best manner possible. Every respect has been shown us since we left Tripoli, and we have not experienced the slightest difficulty, or been exposed to the least danger. The country over which we passed was dreary in the extreme. In many places not a blade of grass, nor a single shrub, for several days together, was visible. Notwithstanding that circumstance, there is always something interesting in Nature; even in her most sterile states there are objects to observe and admire. The different Oases, in our way, were visited with pleasure, and the[20] flowing accounts which travellers have given of these spots were found to possess a considerable degree of correctness. It is only necessary for a person to be travelling for several days over nothing but gravelly and sandy plains, to have his mind brought into a fit state to admire these fertile spots. It is as yet doubtful how long I may be obliged to remain here; but you may rest assured it will be as short a time as possible. The town is much better than I expected, and the house allotted for the accommodation of the mission is a very excellent one. The principal people have treated us with every kindness, and all endeavour to make us as comfortable as possible.”


Mourzuk, May 12, 1822.

“Here I am, thank God, well and happy. The climate is hot, but I have not experienced it very disagreeable. My health, indeed, has been better since I left home than it was for a long time before. Clapperton and I have been visiting a number of different places, and intend spending our time in that way for the next two months, when I hope we shall be able to proceed to Bornou. The soil is sandy, and we have no other tree but that of the date. There is, however, abundance of this sort, and its fruit forms the principal sustenance of many thousands of the people.[21] Without this tree, the whole country, from this place to Bornou, would be a dreary waste. You perhaps know that no rain falls here; on that account corn fields and gardens are not to be expected. At the expense, however, of much labour and care, as the ground requires to be continually watered by streams from the wells, we have many of both. We have always plenty of good water, at all times, a circumstance which, in a country destitute of rain, you will be apt to think is rather singular and curious, but it is one which you cannot be expected to understand were I to enter into any explanation of it. All the places in Fezzan exhibit a sameness of aspect. The towns are formed of mud houses, generally of one flat; they have, for the most part, an old ruined castle in the centre; and all of them are surrounded by walls. On the outside of the towns, and in some places within the walls, a few abodes are constructed of the leaves of the palm. The people are really a fine race, and have uniformly treated us with the greatest kindness. Wherever I go, and every day that I remain in this town, I have numerous applications for medicines. Some of the applicants have very curious complaints, which, were I to state them to you, would make you laugh heartily. Many of them, however, are real, and for which I can in general prescribe something for their relief. We are much better here than we could have been in Tripoli. We meet every day with persons[22] from the country we are going to visit, and from those through which we have to pass. We thus make friends that may be of considerable service to us in our future investigations. We are all living comfortably, in a tolerably good house in the castle; and often in the mornings, about sunrise, take a ride round the town. It is not safe to go out much in the sun; we, therefore, in this respect, follow the example of the natives, and stop within during the heat of the day.”

The Doctor’s next letter is addressed to Professor Jameson, and is dated “Mourzuk, June 6, 1822.”—This letter is valuable, both as it is expressive of his affectionate and grateful remembrance of his friend and patron, and as it conveys the result of his own observations of the physical state of the country which he had visited, to one whom he well knew could duly appreciate the value of his remarks; and who, at any rate, as they had reference to Natural History, he was aware, would regard them as the best return he could make for the kindness he had previously received from the Professor. We likewise think that the letter is made up of matter sufficiently interesting to a large proportion of our readers, to excuse us for transcribing it entire. While it tends to illustrate Dr. Oudney’s character, it shows, at the same time, the devotion of his mind to the objects of his mission to Africa.

My Dear Sir,—I intended to have written[23] you long ago, but my time has been so occupied by such a variety of objects, that really I could not. I am much disappointed in the climate of Fezzan, agreeably so; the temperature under cover is not much greater than in other places in the same parallel of latitude. Now it is June, and the maximum of daily heat is seldom above 90 degrees, while the minimum is about 80 or 78 degrees of Fah. The air is dry, as indeed several of my instruments show too well; for the ivory on several has shrunk so as to render them useless. The tube of one of the attached thermometers is bent like a bow from being confined. In another, the pressure of the glass has broken the brass clasps. The Hygrometer of Kater, generally stands at 38 or 38.5. Instruments affected by the hygrometrical state of the air, and by sound, are useless in a climate such as this. I mention sound, for instruments which act by delicate wheels are very soon deranged, and disappoint the scientific inquirer. The Barometer varies a little: there is always a change, particularly from 11 A.M. to 8 or 9 P.M. The mercury becomes depressed, in general, about the 20th part of an inch, sometimes, however, nearly a 10th. During northerly winds, the mercury rises, and in most cases, the stronger the breeze the greater the rise; from that circumstance, I have been able to predict strong breezes from that direction. On the contrary, southerly winds cause depression, and that commonly in[24] proportion to the violence of the wind. I have not yet calculated the mean height, but it must be about 28.600 inches at the temperature of 80 Fah. Water boils at 207 Fah.; and both of these circumstances indicate a considerable elevation.

I have anxiously searched for springs, but have found none fit for an accurate result. The whole country is a spring, if I may use the expression, for water comes bubbling up on digging a few feet; its temperature then is affected by the earth, and the heat indicated is of no use in ascertaining the mean temperature of the place, and consequently its elevation. The abundance of water in a country in which rain scarcely ever falls, and in which there is no dew, is a curious and interesting circumstance to the philosophic inquirer. It is not generated in the earth, and it cannot be supplied by the sea. From whence then does it come? Is it from the tropical rains? Or is it from rivers lost in the earth? The supply is constant, and the wells yield as much at one time as another. The supposition that appears most probable to me is, that the countries to the southward are much higher than this, that during the rainy season water penetrates a considerable way into the earth, till it meets with strata resisting its farther descent, and then that it flows along these like a river to far distant countries. My explanation may be censured, but still on reflection, I regard it as the most probable that I can[25] think of. There is another interesting feature in Fezzan, namely, the constant formation of salt on the surface of the sand. In travelling along, the different stages of the process are very distinctly observable. First, a thin crust is formed like hoar frost, and this continues to increase in thickness. In some places the layer of salt is a foot deep. At present I must defer the explanation of this phenomenon till I shall have time to enter upon the description of the geological structure of Fezzan—a thing I hope I shall soon be enabled to do. In the mean time the courier is waiting, and the camels are ready to convey us to Ghaat. My worthy friend Clapperton and I are just on the point of setting out on a visit to that country, that we may render our delay here as serviceable as possible. The Tuarick country is, perhaps, interesting only on account of its inhabitants, who are a brave, independent race. Clapperton and I have been at Tucta, and we were both struck with the general uniformity of the scenery and the structure. He desires to be kindly remembered to you, and intends to write you soon. We expect to be able to set out for Bornou in two or three months.”

The next letter in the series is addressed to his sister, from “Mourzuk, August 6, 1822;” and though both it, and the one which follows to Professor Jameson, relate to the Doctor’s excursion to Ghaat, or the Tuarick country, of which an account is given in the “Narrative[26] of Travels and Discoveries,” made by the mission, published by Major D. Denham and Captain H. Clapperton, in 1826; yet, as they contain some interesting particulars which will not be found in the “Narrative,” our readers, we trust, will thank us for inserting them in this biographical memoir. In the letter to his sister, he says,—

“My worthy friend Clapperton and I have been busily engaged ever since our arrival here. Within the last two months we have been travelling much, and have examined to the extent of at least 800 miles of country. We experienced little fatigue, and in place of being weakened, our health has been greatly improved. We have been among the Tuaricks, and have been treated by that independent and curious people with the greatest kindness and hospitality. They occupy all that dreary waste which you see in the maps called the ‘Great Sahara,’ and live on the milk and flesh of their camels. The care of these animals, and occasional excursions upon the neighbouring states, are their principal occupation. They are a superstitious race; but have good sense withal. They were so much our friends, that we might have travelled, in perfect safety, over the whole of their dominions.”


Mourzuk, September 17, 1822.

“When I wrote you last, I was just on the eve of departure for the Tuarick country, and in about a fortnight from this date, I hope we shall be on our way to Bornou. We found our journey to Ghaat very pleasant, and our reception very flattering. We were among a brave and warlike race, exceedingly superstitious; yet they were sensible; and though remarkably strict Mahometans, yet liberal in their ideas. The geology and botany of the country are nearly the same as in Fezzan, which I cannot enter upon at present. We made long excursions in the Wady (valley) Ghrurbi, and Wady Shiati, which Captain Lyon incorrectly joins. In our course we examined the Trona Lake, which is situated among amazingly high sand hills, running for several hundreds of miles to the westward, and lie between the Wadies Shiati and Ghrurbi. The lake is in a small valley which runs nearly E.S.E. and W.N.W. The north and south sides are bounded by hills of sand about 400 feet high. The bottom of the lake is a fine sand, on which is found the cegoul, (apparently a species of silex) and a downy grass. Near the place where we entered the valley there is a cluster of date palm trees, and a small lake from which impure[28] Trona is obtained. On the western side is the Trona lake, surrounded by date trees, and its banks covered, on almost all sides, with the grass I have mentioned, and a tall juncus. It is almost half a mile long, and nearly 200 yards wide, of very inconsiderable depth at present (July) from the evaporation of the water, and many places are now dry which are covered in the winter and spring. The Trona is deposited in cakes at the bottom of the lake when the water is sufficiently saturated. The cakes are of various degrees of thickness, from a mere film to several inches. The thickest I could find was not more than three quarters of an inch, but at the beginning of the winter, when the water begins to increase, it is of the thickness I have mentioned, and is then said to be ripe. The surface next the bottom is not unequal from crystallization, but rough to the feel on account of numerous asperities. The upper surface is generally found studded with small beautiful cubical crystals of muriate of soda; the line of junction is always distinct, and one crystal is easily separated from another; when not covered with the muriate of soda, this upper surface is composed of a congeries of small tabular pieces, joined in every position. When the mass is broken, there is a fine display of circular crystals often radiated. The surface of the water is covered in many places with large thin sheets of carbo-muriate of soda, giving the whole the appearance of a lake partially[29] frozen over; film after film forms till the whole is a considerable thickness. The soil of the lake is a dark barren sand approaching to black, of a viscid consistence and strong smell; and on the recently uncovered surface, near the banks, a black substance like mineral tar is seen oozing out. The water begins to increase in the winter, and in the spring it is at the maximum. The Trona is best about the commencement of winter, but disappears entirely in the spring.

“The lake has diminished in size within the last few years, and if care be not taken, the diminution will soon be much greater. Plants are making considerable encroachments, and very shallow banks are observable in many places. On inquiry, we found the quantity of Trona had not sensibly diminished during the last ten years; but, perhaps, this may be owing to there being always easily found a sufficient quantity of it to supply every demand. The quantity annually exported amounts to between 400 or 500 camel-loads, each being 4 cwt.—a large quantity when the size of the lake is considered. It is removed only when there is a demand. Then a man wades into the lake, breaks off the Trona in large sheets, which he easily does, and hands it to others outside, who are ready to remove all foreign matters, and to pack it in the retecious substance found on the leaves of the date tree. The water of the valley is good, and if a well be dug in the very border of the lake the water[30] is also good, and nearly free from saline impregnation. There are a great many springs in Wady Shiati, and a number in the wadies about Ghaat. All of them, however, were so exposed, that it was impossible to make any correct observations. The maximum heat of Mourzuk is 105 Fah.—a great difference from that mentioned by Captain Lyon. The greatest diurnal change is about 15 degrees—a variation which is pretty regular. The hygrometer of Kater varies from 360 to 410—an amazing small range. My worthy friend Clapperton, sends his kind respects to you, and promises to write you from Bornou. We enjoy the best health, and accomplished our summer’s excursion without fatigue. Remember me kindly to Mr. P. Niell, and tell him the Flora of Fezzan, and of the Tuarick country is very poor; but that in a few months I expect to be on a soil more congenial to the votaries of the fascinating goddess.”


Mourzuk, November 4, 1822.

“It is now beginning to get very cold here, the mornings are nearly as chilly as with you, so that we find it necessary to have recourse to warm clothing. The people are really very obliging, but they are great beggars. They are always asking for one thing or another, and very frequently I feel it necessary to reject[31] their suit. They are lively, and the lower orders are fond of dancing and music. The dances are not like those in our country, and the musical instruments and tunes are as rude and wild as is the country to which they belong. How would you like to be locked up always in the house and never allowed to go out, as are many of the women here? The lower orders, indeed, are exempted, and they are more happy than those who can boast of their rank. This place is much more tolerant than many other Mahometan states; and we have lived here as safely as we could have done in Auld Reekie.”


Gatroni, December 5, 1822.

“We have commenced our journey, and find travelling very pleasant. We find it very cold, particularly in the mornings and evenings—a circumstance which obliges us to wrap ourselves up the same as in your northern regions. Our company is a very large one; it consists of nearly 300 men, of whom 200 are Arabs sent for our safety. I would have been better pleased to have had none, as the road is free from danger, and the people no way to be dreaded. We have never, thank God, had had any thing to fear—our path has been smooth. With good conduct, I expect our dangers will be few, some hardships must,[32] doubtless, be encountered, but where can we be without them? The people here are mostly Teboos, a different race from the natives of Fezzan. Some of the women have very pretty countenances and a lively expression. I have just been witnessing some of their dances, which are really very chaste and pleasing. They want the spirit of your reels, and resemble the movements of a minuet. There is something smooth and sweet in the songs that always accompany these performances, but the instrumental music is grating to the ears. We leave this to-morrow; it is the joyful period we have long looked forward to. We go under most propitious auspices, and all, I trust, will be well.


Kuka, Kingdom of Bornou, April 2, 1823.

“I dare say you begin to fear, but you have no reason, for we are all as safe as you are. We arrived here a month ago, and were received in the most flattering manner. Several thousand horsemen were sent out to conduct us to town. The sheikh was very kind, and has continued so ever since. He is the chief man; the sultan is nothing. The climate is very hot, and the heat will continue till the rains set in, which will not be for three months yet. The heat at present is about the same as it is at the hottest season in Fezzan. The inhabitants are two distinct races—the black[33] and the copper-coloured. The former are Bornouese, and the latter are ———. We have found them both very obliging. Our journey here was pleasant, but it was over a dreary country. It yields no grass, and the wells are several days’ journey from each other. Few animated beings are to be seen in these deserts, and, unless for the purposes of gain, they are shunned by man. I have been rather unwell myself, but, thank God, I am now nearly well, and intend setting out on an excursion through Bornou, in three or four days. I had a slight fever and a troublesome cough which is now better. In our excursion I do not expect to see much that is interesting, as all the country we have passed over is much the same. There are often thickets of trees with grass, which is all dried up. Near the town there are many open spaces, on account of the trees having been cut down for firewood. Near a great lake called Spad, elephants, hippopotami, and antelopes are met with in great numbers; my friend Clapperton has shot a great many of the latter. He is quite an enthusiast in the chase, and has been very successful. He enjoys the best of health, and is as stout as ever. This is far from being a disagreeable country, but it is deficient in fruit and vegetables—a circumstance we did not expect so far to the southward, and which we feel as a great privation in a warm climate. We have provisions in abundance, especially fowls and sheep, the latter being very cheap,[34]—40[1] for a dollar—a vast difference from what you must pay for your mutton. Still there is not that comfort in living here that you experience; and although you must pay more for some of the articles you use, yet, perhaps, you live cheaper than we can. There are no great beauties among the females of this place, yet many of them have pleasing countenances. All of them have their hair done up in a peculiar manner, which must require great patience and labour. They have among them four or five different fashions, each however adheres to her own, and it serves to distinguish the town to which she belongs, and the race from which she is descended; and so these African fashions may have continued many generations without change. It is quite a different thing with your fashionables, who must have something new every month. The dress is very simple, being merely a piece of blue calico, which comes up nearly to the shoulders, and a similar portion that passes over the head. Beads are a common ornament; you do not see a single female without them, and the rich have broad girdles, which they take care every now and then to show.


Kuka, July 14, 1823.

“Since I wrote you last I have got very little new to communicate. But you will be glad[35] to hear that my health is now much improved. I have been travelling about during the last six weeks, for the purpose of visiting the different places of importance; and I have reason to be well pleased with the treatment I have everywhere experienced; all have been civil—kind. There is indeed very little left for me to desire, every thing having so far exceeded my expectations. The sheikh Canmi, governor of Bornou, has been like a father, granting every indulgence, and showing every kindness. At the end of the rains I hope to go into Soudan, to make discoveries there, the people are good, and the country very interesting. Our houses are not waterproof like yours. They are little round places of mud with straw roofs. There are neither stones nor lime in the whole kingdom, so that large substantial houses cannot be built for want of materials. The streets are frequently knee-deep with water from the rain of a few hours. The thunder is awful, but the lightning seldom does any damage. There are very few poisonous animals, and noxious insects are very rare. I think, if every thing turns out as I expect, I shall be home in little more than a year. I have nothing to dread, and have never had a wakeful night from fear.”

It would be an easy matter for a severe critic to point out many incorrect expressions in these letters, as it is obvious they were all written off-hand amid the hurry and anxiety[36] of the avocations connected with the mission, and certainly never meant to meet the public eye. But, we think, they cannot be perused without producing a deep impression that their author was devotedly attentive to the performance of his public duties—that he possessed a sanguine temperament and a well-informed mind—and that his heart was actuated by a sense of the obligations of friendship, and the kindly feeling of fraternal affection. With regard to this latter sentiment, indeed, it is quite clear, from that portion of the letters to his sister which—as relating entirely to private and confidential matters—has been suppressed, that his anxiety for the welfare of his relatives was never absent from his thoughts, and that the desire to afford them protection, and to minister to their comfort, was the constant and powerful stimulant to his exertions. The substance of the second of his letters to professor Jameson was printed in the volume published by Denham and Clapperton, giving an account of the result of the mission in which they, along with Dr. Oudney, had been sent. The first letter to the professor, however, contains original matter, as well as the most of those to his sister; and had he lived to return home, and reduce his memoranda to a state fit for publication, we have reason to believe that he would have greatly enlarged our knowledge of Africa. The Doctor and Clapperton set out towards Soudan about the middle of December 1823, while Major Denham[37] went on an exploratory excursion in another direction; and while engaged in its prosecution, he received a short note from Dr. Oudney. It was brought from Katagum. “It had no date, and was indeed his last effort. The acknowledgment of being weak and helpless,” says Major D., “assured me that he was really so; for, during the whole of his long sufferings, a complaint had scarcely ever escaped his lips. On the Shiekh’s saying to him, when he first expressed his wish to accompany the Kafila, ‘surely your health is not such as to risk such a journey?’ he merely replied, ‘why, if I stay here I shall die, and probably sooner, as travelling always improves my health.’ This letter, though short, expresses great satisfaction at the treatment he had met with on his journey, and also from the inhabitants of the country.”[2] Captain Clapperton’s letter to Mr. Consul Warrington, dated Kano, 2d February, 1824, contains the last scene of this mournful history.

“The melancholy task has fallen to me to report to you the lamented death of my friend Dr. Walter Oudney. We left Kuka on the 14th day of December 1823, and by easy journies arrived at Bedukarfea, the westmost town in the kingdom of Bornou; during this part of the journey, he was recovering strength very fast, but on leaving Bedukarfea and entering the Beder territory on the night of the 26th,[38] and morning of the 27th, we had such an intense cold that the water was frozen in the dishes, and the water-skins were as hard as beards. Here the poor Doctor got a severe cold, and continued to grow weaker every day. At this time he told me that when he left Kuka, he expected his disorder would allow him to perform all his country expected of him, but that now his death was near, and required me to deliver his papers to Lord Bathurst, and to say he wished Mr. Barrow might have the arrangement of them, if agreeable to his Lordship. On the 2d of January, 1824, we arrived at the city of Katagum, where we remained till the 10th, partly to see if the Doctor, by staying a few days, would gain a little strength to enable him to pursue his journey. On leaving Katagum he rode a camel as he was too weak to ride his horse. We proceeded on our road for ten miles that day, and then halted; and, on the following day five miles further, to a town called Murmur. On the morning of the 12th, he ordered the camels to be loaded at day-light, drank a cup of coffee, and I assisted him to dress. When the camels were loaded, with the assistance of his servant and I, he came out of the tent. I saw then that the hand of death was upon him, and that he had not an hour to live. I begged him to return to his tent and lay himself down, which he did, and I sat down beside him; he expired in about half an hour after.

“I sent immediately to the governor of the[39] town to acquaint him with what had happened, and to desire he would point out a spot where I might bury my friend, and also to have people to watch the body and dig the grave, which was speedily complied with. I had dead cloths made from some turbans that were intended as presents, and as we travelled as Englishmen and servants of his Majesty, I considered it my most indispensable duty to read the service of the dead over the grave, according to the rites of the Church of England, which happily was not objected to, but, on the contrary, I was paid a good deal of respect for so doing. I then bought two sheep, which were killed and given to the poor, and I had a clay wall built round the grave, to preserve it from beasts of prey.” It is added to this account (inserted in the “Narrative,” &c.) of the death and funeral, substantially the same as that given above, that “Thus died Walter Oudney, M.D., a man of unassuming deportment, pleasing manners, stedfast perseverance, and undaunted enterprise; while his mind was fraught at once with knowledge, virtue, and religion,”—a statement which accurately describes his character. In personal appearance, we may remark, that in stature he was of the middle size, slightly made, with a pale complexion, and grave and benevolent expression of countenance.

It will naturally be asked—since Dr. Oudney was of a temper of mind so active and enterprising, as well as possessed of so much[40] physical science—why he has contributed so little to the elucidation of the central parts of Africa which he visited? We are sorry we are unable to solve this problem, having found it impossible to obtain any farther information on the subject than is contained in the volume of Travels, published (1826) in the name of the three persons who formed the mission, namely, Denham, Clapperton, and Oudney. Denham, in speaking of the materials of the volume in question says, that the only papers of Oudney’s placed in his hands, were “an itinerary from Mourzuk to Bornou,” and “An excursion to the westward of Mourzuk.” The latter is printed at the end of the “Introductory Chapter;” but of the former, only a few mineralogical notes are given. There is not a doubt, however, but that a vast mass of materials illustrative of the districts visited, were collected by Dr. Oudney, although it is now impossible to say what has become of them. Mr. Barrow asserts that he was labouring under a pectoral complaint when he left England; and that the disorder was increased by this journey to Ghaat, and he would thereby insinuate that, during the greater part of the time he lived in Africa, he was rendered unfit, by bodily weakness, for keeping regular journals. Now, none of his most intimate friends had the least suspicion that he was troubled with any disease of the breast. His chest, instead of being contracted, was broad and ample; and, in ascending[41] the hills of his native land, and the equally difficult common stairs of Edinburgh, the lightness of his figure, and the activity of his habits, always enabled him to outrun the longest-winded, and the supplest-jointed of his companions; and certainly nothing mentioned in the letters which we have published would lead to the inference that he did not enjoy the most perfect health till after he had been a considerable length of time in Bornou. It is likewise quite clear that he was not of a character to neglect any duty which the situation in which he was placed imposed upon him; and so we repeat, that a great deal of valuable information must have been collected by him, although it is to be feared it is now irrecoverably lost. It is to be regretted, moreover, that his premature death rendered the term of his service too short to warrant government to make some provision for his sisters, now orphans, and one of them in a bad state of health.





The life of Captain Hugh Clapperton, who died in his second attempt to explore the interior of Africa, was short, but very eventful. Not only did he possess a frame and constitution, both of body and mind, well fitted for a career of active exertion and romantic enterprise; but from the day of his birth to that of his death, it was his lot to endure, with almost no interruption, a painful succession of hardships and privations, or to be engaged in scenes and pursuits of a nature so perilous as to put existence itself in constant and imminent jeopardy. And had any record of these things been kept, either by himself or by any one else, who might chance to know even a tithe of the manifold dangers to which he was exposed, and the bold, and sometimes rash enterprises in which he was engaged, a narrative might thence have been composed, all[46] true to the letter, and yet as full of wonderful and diversified incident, as well as of fearless and daring action, as ever flowed from the pen of the most creative genius in fictitious history—all modified by the child-like simplicity and generous nobleness of heart, combined with unbending integrity, unshrinking courage, and indomitable fortitude, in the character of him, whose fortunes in life they formed, and whose achievements in the discharge of duty they exhibited. But no such record was kept, except, while he lived, in our hero’s own retentive memory; and therefore, now that he is dead, some of the most marvellous passages of his life must remain in the deep oblivion in which they have been buried. We are assured by the friends with whom he lived in the closest intimacy, that when, like Othello, he was questioned respecting the story of his life from year to year; the battles, sieges, fortunes, that he had past; he would, with a fine flow of good humour, and an interesting detail of particulars, run it through even from his boyish days, down to the time when he was desired to tell it; and then, like the enamoured Moor, it was his hint to speak of most disastrous chances,

Of moving accidents by flood or field;
Of hair-breadth ’scapes in the imminent deadly breach;
Of being taken by the insolent foe,
And sold to slavery; of his redemption thence,
With all his travel’s history.

[47]But these narratives of his adventures were given by Clapperton for the sole end of entertaining his friends when they met for the mere purpose of social intercourse and convivial enjoyment; and, therefore, those friends can now give but a very indistinct account of what “by parcels they had something heard,” without any intention of detailing it again, unless in the same way and for the same purpose it had been told to themselves. Hence the early and professional life of our traveller can never be well known, except that part of it which he has embodied in the published journals of his expeditions to Africa. And not only are the incidents of his life during the time he was a sailor imperfectly known, but even of those parts of it respecting which we have obtained some vague information, we have different versions of the same story considerably at variance with one another; so that, amid their discrepancy, it is difficult to select the facts and circumstances relative to the life of our hero which are genuine and free from defect on the one side, and exaggeration on the other. No memoir of his life has yet appeared at all worthy of him. We have seen in one periodical an atrocious libel upon his memory, the emanation evidently of a mean and malignant spirit. Any newspaper notices of him which have been printed are meagre in the extreme; and the “Short Sketch” which is prefixed to the “Journal of his Second Expedition,” and purporting to be the[48] work of his uncle, a colonel of marines, although the best account of him which has yet appeared, contains exceedingly little that is really interesting. Such being the lack of materials, we regret much that we shall not be able to produce a “Memoir” adequate to the subject; but we can assure our readers that we have used all diligence to obtain the most accurate and ample information which can now be had, and shall therefore proceed to submit it to their candid consideration.


In one of the short notices which have been published of the traveller’s life, it is stated that the “family of Clapperton is ancient, and not without celebrity in the north of Scotland. The name,” it is added, “has been distinguished both in the church and in the field; and in proof of this we are told that a Bishop Clapperton is buried in the island called Inchcolm, in the Firth of Forth; while another individual of the same name is mentioned in the history of Sweden as having been a field-marshall in the army of that country. We cannot tell whether the prelate or the soldier is to be regarded as belonging to the family whence the African traveller was descended; but it unquestionably was highly respectable, both in point of antiquity and of its station in[49] society. His grandfather, Robert Clapperton, was a doctor of medicine, whose professional studies were pursued by him first at the University of Edinburgh, and afterwards among the hospitals in Paris. On his return to his own country he married Miss Elizabeth Campbell, a near relation of Campbell of Glenlyon, and settled at the town of Lochmaben, in Dumfries-shire, as a medical practitioner. He is said to have been a good classical scholar, and much attached to the study of antiquity; and while he excelled in the tracing of genealogies, in the collecting of coins and songs, with the view of illustrating border history, he was highly esteemed as a skilful physician. He had two sons, the younger of whom chose the army as his profession, and is now a lieutenant-colonel of marines; but George, the elder of the two, adopted that of his father; and having previously obtained an adequate professional education, he settled as a surgeon in the town of Annan, Dumfries-shire. He was long the only medical practitioner of repute in that place; and the numerous operations and cures which he performed proved the means both of increasing his practice and extending his fame. While still young, he married a daughter of Johnstone of Thornythwaite, by whom he had fourteen children, Hugh, who afterwards became the African traveller, being the tenth. The mother of this numerous family, who is described as beautiful, amiable and accomplished,[50] died in the thirty-ninth year of her age, leaving behind her seven sons and a daughter, Hugh being the youngest of these surviving sons, and consequently a mere infant. And to enhance the greatness of the bereavement which he had sustained in the loss of his mother, his father speedily afterwards married a second wife, whom his friends regarded as a woman of inferior station to that which he and his family occupied. At the time when this second marriage took place, most of the sons had left their father’s house, to engage elsewhere in the active pursuits of life, and the girl had been taken away by her mother’s relations; but the subject of this memoir and some of his younger brothers, were left at home to encounter the stern control of a stepmother—a species of government at best far from being desirable, but in the case of the young Clappertons, rendered peculiarly arbitrary and despotic, from the concurrence of a variety of incidental circumstances. In the first place, their stepmother, conscious that she was deemed by the friends of the family an unsuitable match for their father, must have been haunted incessantly by a feeling, not at all likely to soothe and sweeten her temper, or fitted to dispose her to regard the children of the former marriage with any considerable degree of complacency; by a feeling not likely to lead her to watch over such of them as were subject to her management with any very vigilant attention,[51] to make her extremely solicitous about their comfort or improvement, or to visit them with a treatment any way marked by kind and tender affection. In the second place, she soon had children of her own, and these, by degrees, increased, till they amounted to the number of seven; and it will readily be allowed, that her own offspring were naturally fitted more strongly to engage her affections and to engross her solicitude, than those children with whom she had only an adventitious relationship. And in the third place, it would appear that Dr. Clapperton himself, the father of the African traveller, was not by any means so attentive to the interests of his immense family as he ought to have been; for his brother, the colonel, says of him, “He might have made a fortune, but unfortunately he was, like his father, careless of money;” and we believe the fact cannot be denied; nor, moreover, can it be disguised that the condition into which he fell in his latter days was owing, partly at least, to a culpable neglect of his professional duties.[3] When, therefore, it is considered that as his father advanced in years, his circumstances in life so much declined, as at last to reduce him into a state of abject indigence,—while at the same time his family was constantly increasing in number, and that it was[52] the melancholy lot of our traveller to lose his mother in his infancy, and so scarcely ever to have had the happiness to experience the soothing and heart-impressive influence of maternal tenderness and maternal care, but, on the contrary, to be placed at that tender age under the care and control of a stepmother,—it will be abundantly obvious that his life commenced under the most unpropitious auspices that can well be imagined.


He was born in the year 1788, and was, as we have seen, soon after placed under the charge of a stepmother, by whom it is said he was not only neglected, but treated with harshness and cruelty; and hence throughout his life stepmothers were regarded by him with a feeling of unconquerable horror.[4] The accounts which he occasionally gave his companions of the sufferings of his youth, arising from the causes which have been specified, were appalling. In reference to them, an enemy, who, however, seems to[53] have been in possession of accurate information on the subject, says, that while a schoolboy, “the climate of Lapland and that of Timbuctoo alternated several times in the course of a day—a species of seasoning, or rather case-hardening, that must go far to render him invulnerable on the sultry banks of the Joliba.” And one of the most intimate of his friends thus speaks of them in a letter now before us: “How can the hardships and privations of his early life be touched upon without hurting the feelings of relatives? These had much better be buried in oblivion, although they tended to form the man hardy and self-denying.” When he was a boy, he was nearly drowned in the Annan; and on that occasion he used to say, that he felt as if a calm and pleasing sleep was stealing over his senses, and thought that gay and beautifully painted streamers were attached to his legs and arms, and that thereby he was buoyed out into the sea; but he always declared that he experienced no pain until efforts were making to restore him to a state of animation. At this time he was an expert swimmer, having been previously taught that useful art by his brothers; but he had exhausted his strength by continuing too long in the water. When the alarm of his danger was given by some one to his father, he hastened to the spot, plunged in, and found his son in a sitting posture in very deep water.

Among the injuries of his early life, that of[54] a neglected education was none of the least. He was taught the ordinary acquirements of reading, writing, and arithmetic, which are generally imparted to the lowest classes of the Scottish youth; but he was never initiated into a knowledge of the classic authors of Greece and Rome. Under Mr. Bryce Downie, however, a celebrated teacher of geometry in the town of Annan, he acquired a practical knowledge of mathematics, including navigation and trigonometry, and afterwards, by means of his own application, he acquired many other branches of useful and ornamental knowledge, and excelled especially in drawing.[5]

He very early discovered a strong propensity for this latter accomplishment, so that, with the aid of a few instructions from his father, who excelled in the knowledge of geography, he could sketch a map of Europe,[55] while still a child in frocks, with chalk on the floor. His love of foreign travel and romantic adventure, were likewise very soon manifested in the delight which he took in listening to his father, while he pointed out the likely situation of the “North West passage” to him and his brothers on the globe; in the enthusiasm which he displayed, when told by his father that he might be the destined discoverer of that long sought for route from Europe to Eastern Asia; and also in the avidity with which he devoured books of voyages and travels of all descriptions whenever they fell in his way.

The circumstance of his entering upon a seafaring life is variously reported. By one account we are assured that his situation at home being so unpleasant, he became so thoroughly disgusted with his father’s house, that he left it clandestinely, and went on board the first vessel in the harbour of Annan that was willing to receive him. By his anonymous and unfriendly biographer, it is said that he was promoted to the rank of an apprentice to a coasting sloop of Maryport, commanded by Captain John Smith, and that soon afterwards he was again promoted to the rank of cook’s mate on board his majesty’s tender in the harbour of Liverpool. His uncle’s account, in the sketch of his life prefixed to the Journal of his Second African Expedition, is, that on leaving Mr. Downie, at the age of thirteen, he was, by his own desire, bound an[56] apprentice to the owner of a vessel of considerable burden trading between Liverpool and North America: that after making several voyages in that vessel, he either left her or was impressed into his Majesty’s service, and put on board the tender lying at Liverpool. It is clear, from all these accounts, that Captain Clapperton commenced his naval career as a common sailor boy—a situation which implies hard duty and rough usage; yet, as is testified by the following well authenticated anecdote, this, with all he had previously endured, was unable to break his spirit, or to subdue the dignified feelings of a noble nature. As soon as he had joined the trading vessel in which he first sailed, he was told that one piece of duty which he had to perform on board was to brush his captain’s boots and shoes. This he positively refused to do, adding, that he was most willing to take his full share of the hardest work which belonged to the loading, the unloading, or the working of the ship; but to the menial drudgery of cleaning boots and shoes he certainly would not submit. After he had for a short time served on board several trading vessels, he was impressed into his Majesty’s service at Liverpool; and in 1806 he was sent to Gibraltar in a navy transport.[6] The idea, however,[57] of having been placed on board a man-of-war by force, and retained there as a prisoner, was so galling to his nature—to a spirit panting and struggling to be free—that he formed the resolution (one most difficult to be put in practice) of deserting whenever the opportunity of doing so should occur: and such was the reckless daring of his disposition, that, watching the time when he was least observed by his messmates before the mast, he actually threw himself headlong overboard, and swam towards a Gibraltar privateer—a vessel of that class which, during the late war, were usually called rock scorpions by our sailors. He was taken on board the privateer, and so for a short time he was the associate of an abandoned and a lawless set of robbers. But he was soon disgusted with their regardless,[58] savage and brutal manners, and so embraced the first opportunity of leaving them, and of going again into the merchant service. While, however, he was on board the Rock Scorpion, she had sustained an engagement, in which our hero was severely wounded by a grape-shot—an accident by which his body was seamed and scarred in a frightful manner, and which, had it happened to his face or his limbs, must have rendered him deformed or lame for life.


After he had left the privateer he was soon discovered, and brought back to the Renommée frigate as a deserter. It is mentioned in the “Sketch,” which says nothing of the rock scorpion adventure, that when Clapperton first joined the Renommée frigate, which was commanded by Sir Thomas Livingstone, having heard that his uncle, a captain of marines on board his Majesty’s ship Saturn, which had arrived at Gibraltar for the purpose of watering and refitting, he sent him a letter describing his situation on board the Renommée; that his uncle having previously been a messmate of her captain, Sir Thomas Livingstone, interfered with him in behalf of[59] his nephew, and through his interest got him promoted to the rank of a midshipman.[7] All we can say to this statement is, that Clapperton himself, whose heart was most grateful, never spoke of a letter he had written to his uncle, nor that he was in any way indebted to that gentleman for his promotion in the navy. He seems never to have seen his uncle till he met him in London after he had engaged to go with Dr. Oudney to Africa. In a letter to a friend, dated London, 1st September 1821, he says, “my uncle has been to see me several times, and was truly kind. He is a perfect gentleman, without any nonsense.” Now, the correspondent to whom he thus writes,[60] declares that Clapperton never mentioned to him that he had ever written to his uncle, soliciting his interest in his favour, or that he was in any respect indebted to him, in the first instance, for his promotion in the navy. But while he said nothing to his friend of his uncle in connexion with this matter, he frequently gave him a most circumstantial and graphic description of the manner in which this promotion took place. And as it is in keeping with the rest of the romantic and eventful life of our hero, and, above all, as it is his own account, we hasten to lay it before our readers.

When he was apprehended as a deserter, and brought back to his old birth on board the Renommée, his captain, Sir Thomas Livingstone, having previously observed that he possessed a strength of body, a robustness of constitution, and a fearless daringness of spirit, which might be turned to good account in the naval service, which, at that time required to be sustained and strengthened by attaching to it men of such mental and bodily qualities as these, asked the deserter, if he should pardon his delinquency, and raise him to the rank of a midshipman, would he give him his solemn pledge, that he would no more desert, but do his duty faithfully? Clapperton, with the bold and dauntless air and bearing of the captive British prince, who “had been the admiration, the terror of the Romans,” when led in triumph through the streets of the mighty capital, still “walked the[61] warrior, majestic in his chains,” replied that he was not yet prepared to give a final and decisive answer to such a question, and therefore asked time to consider on what he should determine. “Are you not aware, Sir,” rejoined the captain, “that I can order you to be flogged as a deserter?” “That I know you can do, and I expect no less,” was our hero’s reply, “but still I am unprepared at present to decide on your proposal.” The result, however, of this extraordinary conversation was, that the captain ordered him into solitary confinement, with an admonition to lose no time in coming to a speedy determination as to the course which he should adopt. In this situation his reflections took a wise and a prudent turn, and led him quickly to resolve to give his generous captain the assurance of fidelity which he required of him; and, on doing so, he was promoted to the rank of a midshipman on board the Renommée frigate, where he had first served as an impressed sailor boy, and on the deck of which he had stood in the capacity of an apprehended deserter. Afterwards, on his own request, he was allowed to go on shore during a specified period of time, on his parole of honour. It is very true the account of his promotion through his uncle’s interference in his behalf accords better with the ordinary course of things in such proceedings than that stated above. But we think, that if Clapperton had been aware that he was[62] indebted to his uncle on this occasion he would not have concealed the fact from his friends; and likewise we think, that the disparity of his condition as a common sailor, and that of his uncle as a captain of marines, would have been sufficient to deter him from making himself known to his uncle, or asking any thing from him. For though his feelings of honour sometimes rested on mistaken principles, they were always very sensitive; and so we are decidedly of opinion, that in the circumstances of this case he would have felt equally unwilling to expose his own servile condition to his uncle, and to compromise his uncle’s dignity by making the captain of marines appear the near kinsman of the common sailor. We happen to know a case in point which illustrates this view of the matter. During the late war, one of the sons of a gentleman in Argyleshire, absconded from his father’s house, and for a while it was unknown where he had gone, till he was discovered by one of his brothers, a captain in the army, as a common sailor on board a man-of-war. The captain instigated by fraternal affection, was anxious to procure an interview with his brother, and so sent him a note, informing him where he was, and expressing his earnest desire that he would endeavour to meet him on shore. The answer to this kind and brotherly invitation was an expression of wounded pride. “If,” said the sailor, “Captain M. has any business to transact with Donald M. let him come on[63] board H. M. S——— and transact it there.” And we think Clapperton would have been apt to feel and act nearly in the same manner in the circumstances in which he and his uncle were relatively situated on board the Renommée frigate, and the ship Saturn; though at the same time, it is not unlikely that Sir Thomas Livingstone having discovered his deserter’s connexion with his old messmate, was disposed not only to remit his punishment, but likewise to give him the chance of retrieving his honour and of benefiting his country. Neither do we think it is the least unlikely that Sir Thomas and Captain Clapperton may have had mutual communications respecting our hero, but we can see no reason for believing that he was in any way made privy to them, but many to make us believe the contrary. Now raised to the rank of a midshipman, he performed some hard service on the coast of Spain, in which he was wounded on the head—a wound which, though it seemed apparently slight, afterwards gave him much annoyance. He remained on board the Renommée, and under the command of Sir Thomas Livingstone, to whom he was so deeply indebted, till the year 1808, when the frigate was brought to England and paid off.[8]


When Clapperton left the Renommée frigate, and his generous captain, Sir Thomas Livingstone, to whom he was indebted for his first step of promotion in the Royal Navy, he is said to have joined his Majesty’s ship Venerable, (or, as others say, the San Domingo,) which then lay in the Downs under the command of Captain King. But as this was a situation too monotonous and inactive for his enterprising spirit, he volunteered to go with Captain Briggs, to the East Indies, in the Clorinde frigate. Though, however, his services were accepted, he could not obtain his discharge in time to make his voyage to India in the Clorinde; and so he was deprived of the pleasure of getting acquainted, in the course of it, with those with whom he was ultimately[65] to be associated as his messmates. But as tranships and convoys were frequently sailing from England to the east, he was ordered by the Admiral to have a passage on board one of them, and to join Captain Briggs on his arrival in India.

In the course of this outward voyage, he was ordered, during the raging of a tremendous storm, to go, in an open barge, to the relief of a vessel in distress. The barge was accordingly manned, but the mighty rolling of the billows chaffed and vexed with the furious raging of the tempest, was such, that Clapperton and many others on board the ship in which he sailed, were of opinion, that it was next to impossible an open boat could live during the blowing of so heavy a gale. In this emergency, Clapperton said, that it was not for him to dispute the orders of his superior officer, but that he was thoroughly convinced that in doing his duty he must sacrifice his life. Then, in serious mood and sailor-like fashion, he made his will, bequeathing any little property he had among his messmates—his kit to one, his quadrant to another, and his glass and watch to a third—adding, that in all probability they should never meet again, and requesting them to keep these articles, trifling as they were, in token of his affection for them. Then he jumped into the barge, which, in spite of all that the most skillful seamanship could accomplish, had scarcely left the side of the ship, when she was upset, and[66] the greater part of her crew engulfed in the awfully agitated waters. Clapperton, however, and a few other individuals, still clung to the sides of the floating wreck; and though their perilous situation was distinctly seen from the ship, no assistance could be afforded to them, so long as the tempest continued to rage with so much violence. In the mean time, Clapperton, while he was careful to preserve his own life, did his utmost, and more than perhaps any other man would have ventured to do in like circumstances, to save the lives of his companions in distress. As they, one by one, lost their hold of the barge, and dropped off into the sea, he swam after them, picked them up, and replaced them in their former situation. He was especially anxious to save the life of a warrant officer, the boatswain of the ship, we believe. This man he several times rescued when he was on the point of sinking, and restored him to the barge. By these efforts, Clapperton’s strength, great as it was, soon became nearly exhausted, and while with difficulty he was bringing the boatswain back to take a fresh hold of the boat, and while at the same time he was crying, “Oh, what will become of my wife and children,” Clapperton coolly observed, that he had better pay some attention to his own safety at present, otherwise he must, however reluctantly, leave him to his fate. This man was drowned, as well as every one else who had left the ship in the barge, except Clapperton and the bowman,[67] whom our hero cheered by saying, “Thank heaven neither you nor I is the Jonah,” intimating, by this marine proverb, that it was not for the punishment of their bad conduct that the tempest had been sent; and at the same time advised him to bob, that is, to lay himself flat, when he saw a wave approaching, so that he might not be washed off the barge.

Long prior to this signal occurrence, in which our hero showed so much of the boldness of determined courage, united with the gentle feelings of compassion, he had become a general favourite both with the officers and men. His stately form, his noble bearing, his kind, frank, and manly demeanour, had endeared him to all on board the ship in which he served. But a man is often the last to know the sentiments entertained of him by others to whom he is known; and indeed, seldom knows them at all, unless when they happen to be revealed to him by accidental circumstances. And hence, as Clapperton was hoisted on board the ship, in an exhausted state, after being rescued from the perilous situation in which he had so long struggled for his life, he had his feelings strongly excited, on hearing the wives of the Scottish soldiers on board exclaiming, “Thank heaven, it is na our ain kintryman, the bonny muckle midshipman that’s drownded after a’!”

It may reasonably be supposed, that the gallantry and humanity which Clapperton had[68] so conspicuously displayed on this trying occasion, would tend to deepen the esteem in which he was held by all on board, and especially that it would be the means of securing for him the admiration, the affection, and the friendship of many kindred spirits connected with the navy—a service so long and so eminently distinguished for firmness of purpose and nobleness of disposition. Accordingly, when Clapperton arrived in India, and when his gallantry was made known, he received the greatest attention from Captain Briggs,[9] during the whole of the time he continued under his command; and among other friendships which he formed with officers of his own standing, was one of peculiar intimacy and tenderness, with Mr. Mackenzie, the youngest son of the late Lord Seaforth. It happened that this amiable and noble youth became, in that distant region, the victim of a dangerous disease; and during the whole of his illness, Clapperton, his newly acquired friend, unless when the avocations of professional duty called him hence, never left him; but continued to amuse and nurse him with the affectionate assiduity of a loving brother, till he was so far recovered as to be able to resume his public duty. After Mackenzie was in some degree restored to health, he continued[69] to be depressed in spirits, and in that state became careless of his person and of every thing else, thinking, like most hypochondriacs, that death was fast approaching to deliver him from all his sufferings. When under the influence of these feelings—afflicted indeed both in mind and body—he was by no means a desirable companion, and in truth was shunned by most of the young officers on board the Clorinde. But Clapperton, whose benevolent heart would not permit him to witness a fellow-creature, and still less a countryman and a friend an object of unfeeling neglect, redoubled his attentions to the forlorn youth. He read with him daily such books of instruction and amusement as either of them had in their possession, or could procure the perusal of from the other officers. He endeavoured to inspire him with the sentiments befitting his rank as the lineal descendant of a noble family, and with a sense of the duties incumbent upon him as an officer of the British navy. He talked to him of Scotland, and relations, and home. He entertained him with amusing anecdotes, of which he possessed an inexhaustible fund, and by relating to him the numerous vicissitudes and strange adventures of his own early life. And such was the happy effect produced upon the health and spirits of his young friend, that he was able to resume his duty on board the Clorinde, and to enjoy and return the cordial[70] friendship which he experienced from Clapperton.

Though we believe, that the officers of the British navy are, perhaps, more distinguished for simplicity of feeling and openness of heart, than the men belonging to any other profession whatsoever; yet, it would appear, that some of the officers of the Clorinde had given entertainment in their breasts to the green-eyed monster, Envy. And hence, when they observed the close intimacy which subsisted between Clapperton and Mackenzie, and the kind attention which, during his illness, the latter experienced from the former, they said among themselves, but loud enough to be heard by Clapperton, “The canny Scotsman knows what he is about, by attaching himself so closely to a sprig of nobility; he courts his favour that he may use him as his instrument for obtaining promotion.” The effect of these injurious whisperings upon the mind of our hero was, in the first instance, to cause him to make a great sacrifice of feeling to the injury both of himself and his friend. He withdrew all attention from Mackenzie, and ceased, not only to keep company with him, but even to speak to him when they met. Mackenzie, in utter ignorance as to the cause of the change which had so suddenly taken place in the conduct of Clapperton towards him, after having puzzled and perplexed his mind in conjecturing in what way he had given such deadly offence[71] to his friend, as to make him behave in the manner he was doing, at last mustered courage, fairly to ask him, why he had of late treated him with so much coldness and distance? On this, Clapperton, with his feelings strongly excited, stated to his friend what had been said among their shipmates, of the interested motives which had been attributed to him, as the cause of what they had represented as pretended friendship on his part. “But,” he added, “my dear Mackenzie, I have been wrong to punish both myself and you, in listening to these most false and injurious speeches. And henceforth let the best of them beware how they use them in future; for the first man whom I detect doing so, must do it at the risk of his life.” As this hint was pretty publicly intimated on the part of Clapperton, his friendship for Mackenzie suffered no interruption afterwards, so long as they served together in the same ship. But the disease which he had caught returned upon him again, and after causing him to linger for some time as an invalid, he was sent to his friends, with little hope of his recovery; nor indeed had he been long at home, till he died. While, however, he lay upon his death-bed, he spoke with all the enthusiasm of sincere and warm friendship, of the kind attentions he had received from Clapperton when ill and far from home; and entreated his relations, and especially his mother, to discharge the debt of gratitude which he owed him, by[72] treating him as a son, in requital of his having, so long as he had it in his power, treated him as his brother.

We have not been able to obtain any satisfactory information respecting the nature of the naval service in which Clapperton was employed in India, nor of the exploits of seamanship and prowess which he performed while he was on that station, except in one instance, which is well worthy of being recorded to his honour. When we stormed Port Louis, in the Isle of France, he was the first man who advanced into the breach; and it was he who pulled down the colours of France, and planted those of Britain in their place. And we know that his conduct was in all respects worthy of the rank which he had obtained in a manner so unique, and such as entitled him to expect his turn of promotion in due course. He continued in India from the early part of 1810 till the latter end of 1813, when he returned to England. He had not been long at home, when he was draughted, along with a select number of midshipmen, for the purpose of being sent to Portsmouth, to be instructed by Angelo, the famous fencing-master, in the cutlass exercise, with the view of introducing that mode of defence and attack into the navy. These young men, when perfected in the art, were distributed through the fleet, as teachers of the young officers and men. Clapperton, being an apt pupil, soon excelled in this exercise, and when his companions were distributed[73] through the fleet as drill-masters, he was sent to the Asia, the flag ship of Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, then lying at Spithead.


While he taught Angelo’s sword-exercise on board the Asia, he volunteered his services for the lakes of Canada, in the expedition which was sent to that novel scene of naval enterprise towards the beginning of the year 1814. In the voyage from England to Bermuda[10] he continued[74] to act as a drill-master on board the Asia; and though, as yet, he had obtained no higher rank than that of midshipman, such was the respect in which he was held, and the deference paid to him, that in most respects he was treated as if he had been a lieutenant. He was now a tall and handsome young man, with great breadth of chest and expansion of shoulders, and possessing withal a mild temper and the kindest dispositions. Along with his other duties he drilled the young officers and men on deck, whenever the weather permitted, and when amusement was the order of the day, he was the life and soul of the crew; he was an excellent table companion, he could tell humourous tales, and his conversation[75] was extremely amusing; he painted scenes for the ship’s theatricals, sketched views, drew caricatures, and so he was much beloved and respected by all, to whose amusement he so largely contributed.

The following incident affords a striking proof of the almost invincible hardiness of his constitution, for which he was indebted partly to the bounty of nature, and partly to the privations and habits of his early life. Having bidden adieu to the flag ship, on which he had acted so conspicuous a part, and taken his passage to Halifax, with the view of thence proceeding to the lakes, he was sent along with others to perform some service on the horrid coast of Labrador, and being there cast away while in a long boat, all the individuals who were along with him at the time were so severely frost bitten that some of them died, and the rest were lame for life, while he escaped with only losing the power of the first joint of his left hand thumb, which ever after continued crooked, and on that account used to be called “Hooky,” both by himself and his friends.

He was sent, along with a party of five hundred men, from Halifax to join Sir James Yeo, who, at that time, had the command upon the Lakes. As this journey was performed in winter, when the river St. Lawrence is frozen over, and of course when the water communication is suspended, it was both tedious and toilsome. The men marched on foot, first[76] to Quebec, and then to the lakes, while the baggage was dragged after them in sleighs. Soon after his arrival on the lakes, he and a small party of men were appointed to defend a blockhouse on the coast of Lake Ontario; but he had not been long in this situation when the blockhouse, which had only one small gun for its defence, was attacked by a superior American force, by which it was speedily demolished; and when Clapperton and his men were left no other alternative but to become prisoners of war, or to cross the ice to York, the capital of Upper Canada, a distance of sixty or seventy miles. Frightful as the attempt was, in their destitute and forlorn circumstances, the journey was instantly resolved upon. But the party had not advanced more than ten or twelve miles, when a boy, one of the number, lay down on the ice unable to proceed farther, on account of the cold, and his previous fatigue. The sailors declared, each in his turn, that they were so benumbed with cold, and so exhausted by wading through the newly fallen snow, that it was with difficulty they could support themselves, and so could afford no assistance to the poor unfortunate boy. On this trying occasion the strong benevolence of Clapperton’s character was strikingly manifested. His nature was too generous to suffer him for a moment to endure the idea of leaving a fellow-creature inevitably to perish under such appalling circumstances; for as it was snowing[77] at the time, it was quite evident that the boy would, if left, have been quickly overwhelmed by the drift. Clapperton, therefore, took the boy upon his own back, and carried him about eight or nine miles, when he found that he had relaxed his hold, and on examining the cause, he was perceived to be in a dying state, and very soon after expired. The party then proceeded on their journey, and endured very great sufferings before they could reach York. Their shoes and stockings were completely worn off their feet; and the want of nourishment had dreadfully emaciated their bodies, as they had no provisions during the journey except a bag of meal. According to his uncle’s account, it was, while he was making generous efforts to save the boy, who fell a victim to the cold, that Clapperton lost the first joint of his thumb. His uncle says, “he took the boy upon his back, holding him with his left hand, and supported himself from slipping with a staff in his right;” and adds, “that from the long inaction of his left hand in carrying the boy upon his back, he lost, from the effects of the cold, his thumb joint.”—This is certainly a very probable account of the matter, and assigns a cause sufficiently adequate for effecting a greater bodily injury than the loss of part of a thumb. But, as we have great confidence in the information which we have received on the subject, we are inclined to adhere to the account which we have given above, namely, that[78] Clapperton lost the joint of his thumb on the coast of Labrador, when his companions in distress lost their limbs and their lives. It is evident, moreover, that his uncle’s information on many points was neither very extensive nor very accurate. A glaring instance of inaccuracy is abundantly apparent in his account of this very journey over the ice, from the demolished blockhouse to York, the capital of Upper Canada. He asserts that this journey was performed from the coast of Lake Huron, across Lake Michigan, to the town of York—an exploit which any one, by slightly inspecting a map of North America, will instantly see is impossible to be accomplished.

After Sir Edward Owen was appointed to the command of the British naval force upon the Canadian lakes, he gave Clapperton an acting order as a lieutenant, and appointed him to the command of the Confiance schooner. This was a situation, which, as it implied more responsibility than any he had hitherto held, likewise allowed him a greater degree of liberty than he could have enjoyed, had he been assigned a birth on board of a vessel commanded by a superior officer. When, therefore, he had the command of the Confiance, he was in the habit of making excursions into the forests on the coast, both of lake Huron and lake Erie, for the purpose of shooting game. While engaged in these excursions, he cultivated an acquaintance with[79] several of the Indian tribes. The romantic turn of his mind led him not only to delight to associate with those aboriginal inhabitants of America, but also to adopt their manners and customs, and even to acquire their language. He became a great favourite among them; for he sometimes treated them with feasts, and on these occasions they used to fire a feu de joie in honour of him as their benefactor. At one time, indeed, he entertained serious intentions of uniting himself to the Indians, marrying a princess, and thereby becoming a chief among them; and actually assumed the distinctive badge of the Huron nation. This romantic and foolish design was, however, soon relinquished; but the feasts which he had given to the chiefs led to deficiency in his accounts to the victualling department; and this deficiency was afterwards deducted from his half pay, and was the means of involving him in pecuniary difficulties, from which he was not altogether relieved till after his return from his first expedition from Africa.

But notwithstanding this fact, he was a most active, diligent, and efficient officer, while he served upon the lakes; so that it was the wish of Sir Edward Owen that the acting order which he had given him should be confirmed by the Board of Admiralty; and for this end Clapperton sent it to his uncle in London; but as the Board of Admiralty had just promoted a great number of naval officers, they refused[80] to confirm his commission at that time. It was the feeling of disappointment arising from this refusal which made him form the design of permanently connecting himself with the Indians. When he went on shore to visit his friends among these tribes, he did not always order a boat to be in attendance upon him to bring him on board; but when he regarded it as time to return, he used to plunge into the water with his clothes on, swim along side of the schooner, and hail the people on board to take him up. This rash mode of proceeding, however, nearly cost him his life; for on one occasion he encountered a strong current which bore him away from his own schooner, the Confiance; and it was with difficulty he could make himself be heard, as in distress, and unable to bear up against the stream, by the men on board the schooner commanded by Lieutenant Adam Gordon, who sent a boat to fetch him on board. This adventure put an end to the exploits of swimming to and from the vessel, when he had occasion to be on shore. While he served on the lakes, he was distinguished by another singular practice. In the midst of winter he was in the habit of causing the ice to be broken daily for the purpose of making an opening in which he might bathe. He used to say, he felt a shock when he first plunged into the cold water, but that this was followed by a pleasant glow. The place which was broken in the ice, for the indulgence of this luxury, was with great propriety designated[81] “Clapperton’s bath,” as no one else chose to participate with him in this species of pleasure. Yet amidst all these singularities he never neglected his duty as an officer; he loved to keep the sailors upon the alert; and when he rowed guard, he delighted to surprise the sentinels.

Like most other Scotsmen, when at a distance from their native land, he displayed a strong feeling of amor patriæ, and was particularly attentive to any of his countrymen he happened to meet with abroad, a fact which perhaps laid the foundation of his attachment to Mackenzie. At any rate, when he was on the lakes, there happened to be some species of merry-making among the officers, when he met, for the first time, a gentleman from Edinburgh, belonging to the medical department. As he had a very youthful appearance, Clapperton supposed that he must be inexperienced, and from a sincere desire to be serviceable to him, he took him aside and advised him always to maintain his rights, gave him some sage advice about his dress, and decorated his right thigh with a brilliant, scarlet-coloured watch ribbon. This gentleman took all in good part, assumed the aspect of the greenhorn which Clapperton supposed him to be, and allowed him both to direct and decorate him as he pleased. But when he understood that he was of considerable standing in the service, he came to him and apologized for his mistake—a thing which was of course accepted, and the curious incident proved the commencement[82] of a sincere and firm friendship on both sides.


When Sir Edward Owen returned to England towards the end of 1816, he got Clapperton’s commission confirmed. Previous to this he had been examined as to his knowledge of naval tactics, and the information which he had displayed both as a theoretical and practical seaman was highly satisfactory to his examinators. The manner especially in which he had kept his log-book, was the cause of procuring for him the greatest encomiums. It is the practice of the officers of his majesty’s ships to note down at noon, in their log-books, what sails the ships to which they respectively belong, then carry. And as Clapperton had a natural talent for drawing, which he had cultivated with care, instead of doing this in the ordinary way, he represented the state of his ship’s canvass, at the hour required, by a spirited sketch. He likewise shewed, by the ingenious efforts of his pencil, the different headlands and the peculiar appearance of the coasts, together with their harbours, noting at the same time their soundings, and the mode of approaching them. This log-book was so highly approved by his examinators, that they[83] asked him to allow them to transmit it to the Admiralty—a request which being readily granted, it was sent there, where it still remains. As Great Britain was now at peace with the whole world, Lieutenant Clapperton like many others was put on half pay, and soon afterwards returned to Edinburgh in 1817.

He had not been long in Edinburgh after his return from the Lakes, till he was surprised to hear himself inquired after by the attendants of an elegant equipage, which had stopped at his lodgings. This equipage proved to be that of Lady Seaforth, the mother of his respected friend Mackenzie, whom he had met in India. This lady, prompted by the feelings of gratitude with which she had been inspired by the account which her beloved son had given her with his dying breath, of the unremitting kindness and attention which he had experienced from Clapperton during his illness in India, had been very anxious to have a personal interview with him, that she might have an opportunity of expressing to him the obligations which his friendship for her son had laid upon her. For this end she had made many inquiries respecting him even at the Admiralty, and at length she discovered where he was to be found through means of her relative, Lieutenant Proby, and had come to call upon him. The name of Lady Seaforth speedily brought to his recollection the imputation of the interested motives to which his friendship for her son had been attributed, and at first he refused to[84] see her. He however, at that time lived with a gentleman—the same he had been so anxious should cut a respectable appearance among the officers on the Lakes—who represented to him the ill breeding and absurdity of refusing to see her ladyship, when she had done him the honour of waiting upon him. He then went into her ladyship’s presence, who being overpowered by her feelings, almost overwhelmed him with her kindness. After the occurrence of this scene, Clapperton was persuaded by the same gentleman, to accept of Lady Seaforth’s invitations to visit her at her own house. And from that period, during all the time he was in Edinburgh, he was a frequent guest and inmate there, and was uniformly treated with the greatest kindness, but he steadily and even resolutely refused to be in any way indebted to her ladyship beyond the common forms of hospitality. It was needless for the grateful lady to offer to exert her influence in his behalf in reference to promotion in his profession. Clapperton would not hear of such a thing. It was in vain that both she and her daughters urged him to accept of a gold watch, chain, and seals, to be worn by him as a token of the sense they entertained of his kindness towards the son and the brother of whom they had been bereaved. Our hero positively declined their generous offer, declaring that he had already a most capital watch, and had no occasion for another. Sometime afterwards her ladyship sent him a large package of[85] books, chiefly on religious subjects; these likewise he was determined to return, till it was represented to him that he must not only retain the books, but thank Lady Seaforth for sending them, with a promise to peruse them diligently, otherwise he would be regarded by her and her family as a downright heathen. The only other thing which he would accept from Lady Seaforth, was a lock of her son’s hair, which he received as a token of affection, and ever after wore in a locket about his person. He always declared that he had a sincere regard for Lady Seaforth, and was very much affected with her kindness, but such was the morbid sensitiveness of his nature on this point, cherished by the rankling recollection of what his messmates had unjustly said of him, that he was of opinion he could accept of nothing either from herself, or procured through her interest, without compromising his principles of honour and independence. How different is all this from the common ways of the world!

During the greater part of the year 1818, and part of 1819, Clapperton lived with an aunt in Lochmaben, Dumfries-shire. While domesticated with his aunt, who was a sister of his mother’s, and of whom, in his letters to his friends, he speaks with much affection, he applied himself to the study of the French language; his open and frank manners likewise procured him many friendships, and many curious anecdotes are told of his sailor-like conduct,[86] in paying little regard to the ordinary etiquette of social intercourse. Like other sailors on shore, he seemed to be of opinion that nothing should obstruct the gratification of his whims and oddities. Hence he was sometimes disposed to pay unseasonable visits to his friends, and not to be particularly ceremonious as to the mode in which he entered the houses of those with whom he lived in terms of intimacy; but he was much beloved while he resided in Dumfries-shire, by all to whom he was known.

Clapperton, however, soon tired of the dullness of a country life; and so returned to Edinburgh, and went to live with the gentleman with whom he had resided when he was so much embarrassed by the kindness of Lady Seaforth. Here, being an entirely idle man, fond of adventures withal, and in a place where they might easily be found, he soon had a hand in some curious scenes. Having little idea of economy, and not being well acquainted with the value of money, and indeed caring nothing for it whatever, provided he got enough to serve his purposes at the time when it was wanted, the quarterly items of his half pay did not last him long. Indeed, he entertained some singular notions on the subject of borrowing money, and when he had recourse to his friends for a supply, he gave them to understand that he was doing them a favour by becoming their debtor. As an instance of the careless way in which he parted with his[87] money when in Edinburgh, we may mention the following incident. At this time a young man, the son of a staunch anti-patronist, was figuring away in this town as a popular preacher, in which capacity he became so notorious, that week after week he was puffed in the newspapers, and was attended by vast crowds on Sunday, when he held forth in a well known chapel of ease. This person happened to meet Clapperton one day just after he had drawn his quarter’s pay; and he immediately laid a plan, and forthwith commenced the putting of it in practice, for the purpose of getting possession of a considerable share of it. He said to Clapperton that he had that day met with a great disappointment, in not getting from his friends a remittance of money which he had expected; that now he would not get it before Monday; nor would he have cared for the delay of a day or two, had he not promised to pay his tailor’s account, and regretted exceedingly that he should not be able to do it, as he was a lover of punctuality, and was anxious above every thing to keep his word. At the end of this fair speech, Clapperton asked his reverend friend how much money would serve his purpose, and was told that ten pounds would do all he wanted, till he heard from his friends on Monday. Clapperton, believing the man to be honest, gave him the sum specified, when the reverend gentleman asked him to go to Barclay’s hotel and he would treat him to his dinner. Away they[88] went. An excellent dinner was set upon the table and discussed. Madeira, champaign, and other expensive wines were called for, and the two got cheerful, joyous, happy, glorious. At length the swindler, as he proved to be, made some pretence for going out for a little. He went, but never returned, and Clapperton, in addition to the ten pounds which he had given him, never to see again, had a bill of between two and three pounds more to pay before he could leave the house.

Barclay’s was the place where Clapperton and his friends generally met for enjeuement; and though, with the exception of a single individual, none of them were addicted to intemperance, sometimes very curious scenes occurred, of which a specimen or two may serve both to amuse our readers and to develope our hero’s character. He was told of a swaggering fellow, who generally sat at the bar, and boasted of his extraordinary strength, and his profound knowledge of the fancy science; Clapperton walked up to him one night, and said in a loud determined tone, “Sir, I am told you are a bully; I should like to try a round or two with you.” The poor man was so much terrified that he walked off, and never returned to the house again. One night, as he was going home, with another of his friends, and the individual, who was apt to take a cup too much, and whom, perhaps from the circumstance that he was too frequently in a state of imbecility, they[89] were accustomed, by the rule of contraries, to call Able; the difficulty they found in keeping Able steady threw the other gentleman into a fit of laughter which he could not restrain. Clapperton, thinking it was cruel to laugh at poor Able’s infirmity, placed him against the railing, in front of the College, and fairly knocked the laugher down, and then apologized to him for what he had done. On the same occasion, when he had Able in tow, the latter fell down on the curb stone of the pavement, and Clapperton found that he could not raise him up again, and so, though it was eleven o’clock at night, he said, “My dear fellow, I cannot set you on your feet again, but I shall do all that man can do, I shall sit down beside you,” and so fairly sat down beside him till more assistance was procured. But the most amusing of his frolics, of which we have heard any account, was the method he took to get into his lodgings one night when he happened to be rather late out. He had rung the door bell several times without being answered; so he went and brought a long heavy ladder, belonging to a house painter, and reared it in front of the house in which he lodged. Then he mounted it, opened the window of his own room, went in, and then hurled the ladder down, the rubbing of which on the wall made a loud and uncommon noise which disturbed the neighbourhood. This latter part of our hero’s proceeding was observed by the watchman, who called some of his companions, and[90] came to reconnoitre. On seeing the ladder lying on the pavement, they naturally imagined that it was the instrument by which thieves had broken into some of the upper flats. Immediately a tremendous ringing commenced at the door of the house into which Clapperton a few minutes before had entered by the window. The door was opened, and in came the policemen, who insisted that they had seen some person enter the house through a window, with the aid of a ladder, which was still lying below. By this time Clapperton was in bed, and had found means to request the people in the house not to betray him. But the policemen were not to be satisfied with the assurance that there was no person in the house but such as belonged to it. They searched every hole and corner, and at length they found wet clothes; and as the night was rainy, they naturally conjectured that they must belong to the man who had come in by the window. On this Clapperton, laughing heartily, raised himself up in his bed, and told the vigilant policemen how the matter stood, and on giving them his name, and his promise to pay any expenses which might be incurred by this frolic, they departed. The ladder was carried to the police office, and was with difficulty conveyed thither by three stout men. At the police office, the whole was viewed as a piece of sailor-like humour, and Clapperton got off on paying a trifling sum, and the house painter was ordered[91] to chain his ladder to his premises in future.


By this time our hero had become acquainted with Dr. Oudney, at whose house we have had the pleasure of occasionally meeting him; and when the Doctor was appointed to his exploratory expedition to Africa, he expressed, through the medium of the common friend of both, and to whose information we have been much indebted in drawing up our memoir of their lives, his desire to be attached to the mission. Clapperton could not boast the possession of much either of the literary or the scientific knowledge requisite to constitute the intelligent traveller; but he was distinguished for other qualities fitted to render him a valuable acquisition to any mission similar to that to the accomplishment of which Dr. Oudney had been appointed. The portrait prefixed to the “Journal of his second Expedition,” shows that his figure was tall, strong, and manly. He had a fine bust, and his whole frame combined length of arm, great strength, weight, and agility—circumstances which the portrait does not sufficiently represent, and is also deficient in expressing his fine lion-like forehead and eye. We have seen that he was endowed with a constitution[92] of almost invincible strength, that he possessed a most enterprising disposition of mind, great conscientiousness in the discharge of duty, and a heart alive to the kindly impressions of compassion, and capable of strong and steady friendship. Such a travelling companion was likely to be a treasure to a man like Dr. Oudney; and he had the pleasure to be informed that his application to have Clapperton attached to the mission was granted.

Accordingly, in the autumn of 1821, the travellers left Scotland for London, with the view of then commencing their expedition to the interior of Africa. In a letter to a friend dated London, September 1, 1821, Clapperton says, he had been supplied with arms, and had got instruments of his own choosing, and mentions the sextant as the most complete he had ever seen; he states to his friend that he had had several agreeable interviews with his uncle; and adds, that he was just on the eve of setting off for Falmouth. His next letter to the same gentleman was written at Mourzuk, May 20, 1822, in which he tells his friend that his health had continued vigorous, although the heat was 106 degrees of Fahrenheit, in the shade; and says, that Oudney was much admired by the ladies for the blackness of his beard, and himself for the strength of his mustachoes. Oudney in a postscript on the same sheet, says, “Clapperton is just the old[93] man. He is a strange-looking figure with his long sandy coloured beard and mustachoes. You would smile were you to see him smoking his pipe, and calling to his servant, Waddy ama simpri, or fill my pipe.” In a subsequent letter from the same place, to the same correspondent, Clapperton speaks in praise of the Tuaricks, whom by this time, (Sept. 1822) he had visited. He says they are a fine warlike race, who fear nothing but the devil and his agents, that they offered to convey both him and Oudney to Timbuctoo; and adds, “They wished me much to take a wife amongst them, but I said she would have to go to Bournou and England with me, which got me out of the scrape with a good grace, as their women never leave their country, and those who marry them must stay with them.” And the fact is that our hero very soon found himself as much at home among the wild Tauricks, who traverse the sandy deserts of Sahaara, as he had formerly done among the Indians who dwell in the midst of the forests of Canada.

It would seem that Clapperton did not regard it as any part of his duty to keep a separate journal while Oudney lived; nor was it necessary, as they were generally together in all the excursions which they made in Fezzan, and their joint observations were combined by the Doctor into the same narrative, to which he put his own name. But the case was greatly altered after the arrival of the travellers in Bournou, where Oudney was[94] seized with the illness which terminated in death, upon the 12th of January, 1824. After this mournful event, Clapperton, sick and sorrowful as he was, proceeded onward to Kano, with the view of visiting Sackatoo, as was originally intended. He reached this city, (as may be seen in his printed journal) upon the 16th of March, and had many interviews and long conversations with the sultan, Bello. He remained at Sackatoo till the 4th of May, when he began to retrace his steps,—again reached Kuka upon the 8th of July, and arrived in London in the summer of 1825. Clapperton and Denham came from Tripoli to Leghorn, sent the animals and baggage home by sea, under the charge of Hillman, their only surviving companion, while they themselves crossed the Alps, and on the 1st of June, 1825, they reported their arrival in England to Earl Bathurst, under whose auspices the mission had been sent to Africa.


The result of the expedition was upon the whole favourable, and afforded encouragement to make farther researches in the interior of Africa; and especially a letter from Bello, the sultan of the Fellatahs, addressed to our King, George IV. and brought to England by Clapperton, was the occasion of his second expedition.[95] In that letter Sultan Bello proposed “The establishment of a friendly intercourse between the two nations, by means of a consul who was to reside at the seaport of Raka;—the delivery of certain presents described, at the port of Funda, (supposed to be somewhere near Whidah);—and the prohibition of the exportation of slaves by any of the Houssa merchants, to Atagher, Dahomy, or Ashantee.” These proposals of the Fallatah sultan led to the resolution forthwith to send out a second expedition to Africa, and our hero, now Captain Clapperton, immediately volunteered his services on the occasion, with whom were associated in the same hazardous enterprise, Captain Pearce, Dr. Morrison, and Dr. Dickson, with their respective attendants.

Soon after Clapperton’s return to London from his first expedition to Africa, he wrote to the friend with whom he had lived during his residence in Edinburgh, expressing the pleasure which he felt in being again in Britain, and informing him, that since his arrival in London, he had been so busily employed in making out reports to government, that he had not a moment’s leisure to attend either to pleasure or friendship. In a subsequent letter, he told him, that along with his other duties and avocations, he had to prepare his part of the “journal of the expedition,” that it might be ready for publication before his departure on the second mission. “I have got,” says he, “no sinecure in this new appointment.[96] I have to see the whole of the presents sent off without any one to assist me. My Journal will scarce be complete before I go, and the necessary attendance at the public offices is truly harassing.” In a letter of a later date, he says “You cannot have any idea of the infinite trouble and anxiety I have had since I have been in London. If I receive honour and praise, they are assuredly earned with labour and pain. The whole of the arrangements for the new mission have fallen upon me. To give you an outline of what I am to do, or where I am to go, is at present impossible, but when I get to sea I shall write to you more fully.” From Portsmouth, 27th August, 1825, he tells the same correspondent, “We leave England this morning; and as far as I am concerned, I have experienced nothing but misery and trouble since my arrival, and look forward to our voyage for peace and rest.” In this letter, he mentions that Mr. Brown of the Linnæan Society had called one of the plants in Dr. Oudney’s collection by the name of that lamented gentleman, and after sending compliments and remembrances to several of his intimate acquaintances, he bids an affecting, and, as it proved, a final farewell to his “dear friend.”

On the 27th of August 1825, Captain Clapperton and his associates of this second expedition, with their servants, embarked in his Majesty’s ship Brazen, at Portsmouth, and[97] arrived off Whidah on the 26th of November thereafter. Here Dr. Dickson landed for the purpose of proceeding into the interior, along with a Portuguese named De Seusa. The design of their journey is not unfolded in any of the journals which have been published by the travellers; but the agreement between Dr. Dickson and Captain Clapperton was, that after the former had traversed the kingdom of Dahomy and the adjacent countries, he should rejoin his friend, the Captain, at Jennah. Lander, in his recently published “Records of Captain Clapperton,” says the parting between the friends was tender and affecting, and seemed to intimate that they should meet again no more. “Study the natives well,” said the Captain to the Doctor, “respect their institutions, and be kind to them on all occasions; for it is on paying proper respect to these rules, and these only, that you must ground your hope of being successful in your progress through the country; and the conduct of the people to you will be guided by your behaviour towards them. Set a guard upon your temper, my dear Dickson, and never, let it lead you into error.” “We meet at Jennah, then,” said the Doctor, with an inquiring eye, and anxious half doubting look. “We meet at Jennah,” answered Captain Clapperton, solemnly. “Once more adieu, my dear Dickson, and may God bless and protect you.” Lander adds, that it was reported that Dr. Dickson was slain in a quarrel with the[98] natives, about two days’ journey from Shar; and so was the first of the mission who fell a victim to African research.

The Brazen proceeded with the other members of the mission to the river Benin or Formosa; and on the advice of Mr. Houtson, an English merchant whom they met there, they relinquished the plan of ascending that river, and went into the interior from Badagry. They could hear no tidings at Whidah either of Sultan Bello or of his messengers, and as for Funda and Raka, such towns were wholly unknown at that place.

Besides the gentlemen of the mission, whose names have been already mentioned, there were in the capacity of servants, Columbus, a West Indian mulatto, who had accompanied Major Denham in the previous journey; Pasko, a black native of Houssa, who had served on board an English man-of-war, and though a great scoundrel, was useful as an interpreter; George Dawson, an English sailor, engaged at Badagry, as servant to Dr. Morrison; and Richard Lander, Captain Clapperton’s own confidential servant. This man had been a wanderer from his youth. When only eleven years of age, he accompanied a mercantile gentleman to the West Indies. He was absent three years; and on his return went to France and other places on the continent, as a gentleman’s servant, and continued abroad in that capacity till his nineteenth year. On his return home, he did not[99] stay long in his native country, but went to South Africa with Major Colebrook, and traversed, along with that gentleman, the whole of the Cape colony, from one extremity to the other. The reason why he left Major Colebrook has not been made public, but, on his return to England in 1824, he heard of Captain Clapperton’s second expedition to the interior of Africa, and regarding the adventure as something peculiarly suited to his roving disposition, he went to the Captain and tendered his services, which were accepted. His own account of the matter is as follows:—“The Captain listened to me with attention, and after I had answered a few interrogations, willingly engaged me to be his confidential servant. In this interview the keen penetrating eye of the African traveller did not escape my observation, and by its fire, energy, and quickness, depicted, in my own opinion at least, the very soul of enterprise and adventure.” This man continued faithful and attached to Clapperton to the last; and to him we are indebted for the preservation of his beloved master’s journal, from which, in connexion with his own recently published “Records” of the Expedition, we derive all that can now be known of the last stage of Captain Clapperton’s short but eventful career.[11]

Clapperton and his associates commenced[100] their journey from Badagry upon the 7th of December 1825; and, regardless of what they could not but know either from the information of others, or—as was the case with some of them at least—from their own personal experience, that an African climate was most unfriendly to European constitutions, they were guilty of the great imprudence of sleeping the first night of their journey upon the low and swampy banks of the river, or rather creek, named Bawie, under the open canopy of heaven. Lander says they had previously been drinking; and adds, that next morning they found themselves wet to the skin with the heavy dew which had fallen during the night. And, as he remarks, after the Quarterly Review, “in all probability were thus sown the seeds of those disorders which subsequently broke out with such fatal virulence, and produced suffering, disease, and death to almost the whole of the little party.” The second night after that was likewise spent in the open air, and, in the morning, the clothes of the party were saturated with dew. This exceedingly imprudent conduct was speedily followed by its natural consequences. On the 10th Clapperton was seized with ague, from which it would appear he never perfectly recovered. Dr. Morrison and Captain Pearce soon after became very unwell, and died before they had proceeded far on their journey. About the same time one of the servants died, and Lander was so ill that no hopes were entertained[101] of his recovery. The loss of Captain Pearce is thus bewailed by his friend and companion in danger, Captain Clapperton: “The death of Captain Pearce has caused me much concern; for, independently of his amiable qualities as a friend and companion, he was eminently fitted, by his talents, his perseverance, and his fortitude, to be of singular service to the mission, and on these accounts I deplore his loss as the greatest I could have sustained, both as regards my private feelings and the public service.” One day about this time, when our traveller was sick and sorrowful, as he reposed under the shade of trees which skirted the way, unable to proceed, a native, on horseback, moved by the kindness of a generous nature, quickly dismounted, and offered the invalid the use of his horse—a proffer which was gratefully accepted. Both Clapperton and Lander speak with rapture respecting the beauty and fertility of the country through which they passed, from the western coast to the City of Sackatoo, where their journey and the life of the former were unhappily terminated. The country is represented by them as extremely populous, and the inhabitants, unless when selfish feelings intervened, as possessing very kind, and even generous dispositions. Our traveller did all in his power to recover the books, papers, and other property, which might have been left by the unfortunate and lamented Mungo Park, as well as to ascertain[102] an accurate account of the manner of his death, but with little success. The chiefs in the neighbourhood of Boussa, where the event occurred, were anxious to avoid all communication on the subject; and some of them were greatly embarrassed when they were questioned respecting it. He received the following account of the death of that unfortunate traveller from an eye-witness:—“He said, that when the boat came down the river, it happened unfortunately just at the time that the Fellatahs first rose in arms, and were ravaging Goobur and Zamfra; that the Sultan of Boussa, on hearing that the persons in the boat were white men, and that the boat was different from any that had ever been seen before, as she had a house at one end, called his people together from the neighbouring towns, attacked and killed them, not doubting that they were the advance guard of the Fellatah army then ravaging Soudan, under the command of Malem Danfodio, the father of the present Bello; that one of the white men was a tall man, with long hair; that they fought for three days before they were killed; that the people in the neighbourhood were very much alarmed, and great numbers fled to Niffé and other countries, thinking that the Fellatahs were certainly among them. The number of persons in the boat was only four, two white men and two blacks; that they found great treasure in the boat; but that the people had all died who eat of the meat that[103] was found in her.” “This account,” Clapperton adds, “I believe to be the most correct of all that I have yet got; and was told to me without my putting any questions, or showing any eagerness for him to go on with his story.”

At Wawa, or according to Lander’s orthography of the town, Waw Waw, Clapperton had a singular adventure with a rich widow of Arabian extraction. This lady was between 30 and 40 years of age, and being fairer than the natives of the city of her residence, was anxious to be regarded as a white woman. She was the richest person in Wawa, having the best house in town, and a thousand slaves; and was withal a “perfect Turkish beauty—just like a walking water-butt.” Her great riches, and her intriguing disposition, had prompted her oftener than once to rise in rebellion against her rightful sovereign, who always had the gallantry generously to pardon her on her submission. Though it might have been supposed that the age of the tender passions was over with the widow, yet she fell violently in love with Lander, and tried all the female arts and winning ways her ingenuity could suggest to induce him to visit her at her own house, but without success. She, however, visited him; and on these occasions Clapperton humoured the joke, and fanned the love-sick widow’s flame by sounding the praises of his servant. He sat with as much non challance as if he[104] had been at home in a Scottish cottage, with his arms folded, rolling out great volumes of smoke from his pipe, enjoying this singular scene of African courtship, and saying at intervals, to induce the widow to persevere in her suit, “See what beautiful eyes he has,—if you were to search from Badagry to Wawa, and from Wawa to Badagry, you would not find such eyes.” While all the time poor Lander was embarrassed with the amorous attentions of the widow, and was afraid lest he should be squeezed to death by the closeness of her tender embraces. At length he mustered courage fairly to tell her that he could not return her passion; and though she afterwards ceased to persecute him farther, she was not, as many of her sex in similar circumstances would have been, actuated by the least feeling of revenge. On the contrary, she continued to regard him with kindness to the last, but forthwith transferred her love to Clapperton.

To ingratiate herself with him, she sent him rich and abundant store of provisions ready cooked, and endeavoured to gain his black rascal of a servant, Pasko, to her interests, by bribing him with a handsome female slave for a wife. She invited the captain to pay her a visit, which he accepted, and has given us, in his journal, the following graphic account of his entertainment:—

“Not being much afraid of myself, and wishing to see the interior arrangement of[105] her house, I went and visited her. I found her house large, and full of male and female slaves; the males lying about the outer huts, the females more in the interior. In the centre of the huts was a square one of large dimensions, surrounded by verandahs, with screens of matting all around, except in one place, where there was hung a tanned bullock’s hide; to this spot I was led up, and, on its being drawn to one side, I saw the lady sitting cross-legged on a small Turkey carpet, like one of our hearth-rugs, a large leather cushion under her left knee; her goora-pot, which was a large old-fashioned pewter mug, by her side, and a calebash of water to wash her mouth out, as she alternately kept eating goora, and chewing tobacco snuff, the custom with all ranks, male or female, who can procure them; on her right side lay a whip. At a little distance, squatted on the ground, sat a dwarfish hump-backed female slave, with a wide mouth, but good eyes; she had on no clothing, if I except a profusion of strings of beads and coral round her neck and waist. This personage served the purposes of a bell in our country, and what, I suppose, would in old times have been called a page. The lady herself was dressed in a white clean muslin turban; her neck profusely decorated with necklaces of coral and gold chains, amongst which was one of rubies and gold beads; her eyebrows and eyelashes black, her hair dyed with indigo, and her hands and feet with henna;[106] around her body she had a fine striped silk and cotton country cloth, which came as high as her tremendous breasts, and reached as low as her ankles; in her right hand she held a fan made of stained grass, of a square form. She desired me to sit down on the carpet beside her, which I did, and she began fanning me, and sent hump-back to bring out her finery for me to look at; which consisted of four gold bracelets, two large paper dressing-cases, with looking-glasses, and several strings of coral, silver rings, and bracelets, with a number of other trifling articles. After a number of compliments, and giving me an account of all her wealth, I was led through one apartment into another, cool, clean, and ornamented with pewter dishes and bright brass pans. She now told me her husband had been dead these ten years, that she had only one son and he was darker than herself; that she loved white men, and would go to Boussa with me. I thought this was carrying the joke a little too far, and began to look very serious, on which she sent for the looking-glass, and looking at herself, then offering it to me, said, to be sure she was rather older than I was, but very little, and what of that? This was too much, and I made my retreat as soon as I could, determined never to come to such close quarters with her again.”

A short time after this interview with the beautiful and amorous widow Zuma, Clapperton went to Boussa, leaving Lander and[107] his baggage in Wawa; and though the widow did not actually accompany him in his journey thither, as she had intimated her intention of doing; yet she followed very speedily after him. On this occasion, Lander informs us, she was dressed in a mantle of scarlet silk and gold, and loose trowsers of scarlet silk, with red morocco boots, and an ample white turban on her head; she rode astride on a noble horse decorated with brass plates and bells, with a profusion of charms or amulets in green, red, and yellow leather. Her saddle-cloth was of scarlet, and both widow and horse were singularly imposing. In her train were many spearmen and bowmen on horseback, with a band of musicians furnished with drums, fiddles, guitars, and flutes.

The romantic intention of Zuma was to accompany Clapperton wherever he went. The Sultan, however, was anxious, for the sake of his revenue and the security of his throne, to counteract the widow’s designs; and his first step for that end was to put an embargo on Lander and Clapperton’s baggage, and his next was to despatch a strong party in pursuit of the fugitive widow, with strict injunctions to bring her back. This was accomplished, and, on her submission, she was pardoned. The travellers saw the widow no more, and the serious consequences by which this singular adventure was likely to be followed, made them resolve to be more cautious in future in giving encouragement to the advances[108] of the African ladies. But Zuma was not the only belle of distinction who wished to attach herself to Clapperton. He was, while at Wawa, haunted even to annoyance by another lady of high rank. “I was pestered,” he says, “for three or four days by the governor’s daughter, who used to come several times in the day, painted and bedizened in the highest style of Wawa fashion, but always half tipsy; I could only get rid of her by telling her that I prayed and looked at the stars all night, never drank any thing stronger than roa in zafir, which they call my tea—literally hot water: She always departed in a flood of tears.”

As Clapperton and Lander proceeded on their journey towards Sackatoo, the latter was seized with dysentery, and while he continued ill and weak, he experienced the kindness of his generous master in a very marked manner. Though his own strength was fast declining, Lander says of him, “whenever we came to a stream which was too deep to ford, and unfurnished with a ferry-boat, being too weak myself to swim, my generous master used to take me on his shoulders, and often times at the imminent risk of his own life, carry me in safety to the opposite bank.”

On their arrival at Kano, Lander was left in that town while Clapperton proceeded to Sackatoo, the capital of Bello, Sultan of the Felathas, on whose account chiefly this second mission had been undertaken. Bello at this[109] time happened to be at war, and with his army encamped before Coonia, the capital of Goobur. Clapperton went there to join him, was most kindly received by him, and had an opportunity of witnessing the African mode of fighting in a furious assault which was made upon the city of Coonia the day after his arrival in the camp. Soon after this event he reached Soccatoo, where for about six months he inhabited the same house which he had occupied during his first visit to that city. The Sultan sent to Kano and brought Lander and the baggage to his capital, and on their arrival the baggage was seized, under pretence that Clapperton was conveying guns and warlike stores to the Sheik of Bornou, with whom Bello was then at war. He was next ordered to deliver up Lord Bathurst’s letter to the Shiek, and indeed every thing which was supposed to form a part of the intended present to him was seized upon. Clapperton remonstrated against these nefarious proceedings with the utmost earnestness, but without effect. He was stript of every thing, and detained himself as a prisoner. The effect of this treatment upon his spirits was so great, that Lander declares he never saw him smile afterwards.

He was strongly impressed with the idea that the Arabs had stirred up the Africans against him and his companions. By their insinuations against them in the hearing of Bello, they succeeded in undermining their reputation[110] with that monarch. Clapperton had not been perfectly well from the day of his arrival in Africa, and the entire failure of his mission, and the ungenerous treatment he had experienced at Soccatoo, were the means of bringing on his last illness and hastening his death.

As long as he was able, while at Soccatoo, he was in the habit of spending whole days in shooting, dressed in the costume of the country; his beard was long and flowing, and he lived in a clay hut like an enormous bee hive. At night he and Lander used frequently to smoke cigars for an hour or two together; but in every other respect they lived like the Africans. Sometimes they sung, and Clapperton was delighted to listen while Lander sung, “My Native Highland Home.”

Then gang wi’ me to Scotland, dear,
We ne’er again will roam,
And with thy smile sae bonny, cheer
My native Highland home.
For blithsome is the breath of day,
And sweet’s the bonny broom,
And pure the dimpling rills that play
Around my Highland home.

Such, during several months, was their almost unvaried mode of life. On the 12th of March 1826, Clapperton was seized with dysentery; and the intense heat of the weather[111] as well as the feverish state of the patient rendered it necessary that he should be almost constantly fanned; a female slave was employed to perform this office, but she found it too irksome, and soon abandoned her post and ran away. He grew daily worse, while Lander was oppressed with anxiety on account of the calamities which had befallen him, and exhausted with the exertion required in the performance of the various duties which devolved upon him. As he had a great regard for his master, we see no reason to doubt the accuracy of his account, that he was unremitting in his attentions to him during his last illness, which Clapperton himself attributed to the following instance of imprudence. “Early in February,” said he one day to Lander, “after walking a whole day exposed to the scorching rays of the sun, I was fatigued, and lay down under the branch of a tree. The soil on that occasion was soft and wet, and from that hour to the present I have not been free from cold. This has brought on my present disorder, from which I believe I shall never recover.” A couch was made for him on the outside of his hut, and during the space of twenty days he gradually declined, till at last all hope of recovery was extinguished. In these dismal moments, says his faithful attendant, he derived consolation and support from the exercises of religion. Lander read the scriptures to him daily. No stranger visited him during his illness, except[112] an Arab of Fezzan, who intruded himself one day into the hut, and wished to be allowed to read some of the Mahometan prayers, but he was ordered to quit his presence. Pasko who had left his service, and had married and settled in the city, was taken back, and relieved Lander of a portion of his heavy tasks. During his illness Clapperton talked much of his country and his friends. By the advice of Maddie, a native of Bornou, he swallowed a decoction of green bark from the butter tree, and speedily afterwards became worse, so that he could get no repose. On the next day he said to Lander, “I feel myself dying. Take care of my journal and papers after my decease; and when you arrive in London, go immediately to my agents and send for my uncle who will accompany you to the colonial office, and see you deposit them with the secretary. Borrow money, and go home by Fezzan in the train of the Arab merchants. From Mourzuk send to Mr. Warrington, our consul at Tripoli, for money, and wait till it comes. Do not lumber yourself with my books. Leave also the barometer and every cumbersome article. You may give them to Mallem Mudey. Remark what towns and villages you pass through, and put on paper whatever remarkable thing the chiefs of the different places may say to you.”

On the 11th of April, he was shaved, and rallied a little, but soon became worse, and died on the 13th. By order of Bello he was[113] buried in an open place about five miles from the city of Soccatoo, and Lander read over him the service of the church of England for the “burial of the dead,” as Clapperton had himself formerly done for Dr. Oudney and some other of his companions. Next day Lander returned to the spot, and with the assistance of some of the natives a shed was erected over the grave.




Major Alexander Gordon Laing, another of those adventurous spirits who met with their common fate, in the attempt to explore the interior of Africa, was born at Edinburgh on the 27th December 1794, and was the eldest son of Mr. William Laing, A.M., one of the most popular classical teachers of his day. In his academy, in the New Town of Edinburgh, young Laing received nearly the whole of his education, at least all that was necessary to prepare him for the university. Possessing a quick intuitive perception, and an ardent thirst for classical knowledge, his progress[118] was in proportion; and at the early age of thirteen, he entered the university of Edinburgh. Here his attainments became still more marked, and Professor Christison, who then occupied the humanity chair, observing his literary taste, used to point him out in the public class as worthy the imitation of his fellow-students, though few might hope to surpass him.

When about fifteen, Laing went to Newcastle, where for six months he filled the situation of assistant to Mr. Bruce, a teacher in that city; he then returned to Edinburgh, and entered upon a similar duty under his father, a situation for which he was singularly qualified.

It appears strange that a young man, quietly, and, at the same time, eagerly, pursuing the laborious profession of a schoolmaster, should have afterwards adopted another line of life forming a perfect contrast to that in which he had been previously employed. The change of his tastes is wholly to be attributed to his connexion with the volunteers. At a time when volunteering was very general, Alexander Laing entered one of the corps then forming; and in 1810 was made an ensign in the Prince of Wales’s Edinburgh Volunteers, then being in his seventeenth year. Captivated with the specimen he there had of a military life, he desired earnestly to be a soldier. He could no longer submit to the restraints and routine of school discipline; and at the end of[119] the second year, he finally gave up the now to him irksome duties of teaching, to the disappointment of his parents and relatives, who were very desirous that he should not change his profession. Being, however, bent upon the military service, he, in the year 1811, went out to Barbadoes, where his maternal uncle, Colonel, afterwards General Gabriel Gordon, then was, with whom he remained a short time till he obtained an ensigncy in the York Light Infantry, which regiment he immediately joined at Antigua, and in two years thereafter he was promoted to a lieutenancy in the same corps—a situation which he held till the regiment was reduced, when he was then placed upon half pay.

But anxious for occupation, he exchanged, as speedily as the affair could be negotiated, into the second West India regiment, which he joined at Jamaica. While there, he had to discharge the duties of deputy quartermaster-general, the exertions of which department brought on a liver complaint, for which his medical advisers recommended a sea voyage. He accordingly sailed to Honduras, by which his complaint was considerably relieved, and the governor, Colonel Arthur, finding him an active, useful, and intelligent officer, appointed him to the office of fort-major, and would not suffer him to return to Jamaica, but had him attached to another division of his regiment then in Honduras, where he remained till a return of his complaint forced[120] him to come home, his frame being so much debilitated, that he was unable to walk, so that it became necessary to carry him on shipboard.

His constitution was very seriously injured by this illness, and in consequence he remained nearly eighteen months with his friends in Scotland. During this time, however, that half of the second West India regiment to which he was attached was reduced, and he was again placed upon half-pay. In the autumn of 1819, he returned to London, and having been sent for by the late Sir Henry Torrens, then Colonel of his regiment, was familiarly complimented by him on his former services, immediately appointed lieutenant and adjutant, and proceeded to Sierra Leone.

Early in January 1822, Lieutenant Laing was sent by the late governor, Sir Charles M‘Carthy, on an embassy to Kambia and the Mandingo country, to ascertain the political state of those districts, the disposition of the inhabitants to trade, and their sentiments in regard to the abolition of the slave trade. Sir Charles was perfectly satisfied with the manner in which his instructions were executed, and with the information he received on the different heads.

Having fulfilled the purposes of the mission at Kambia, he crossed the river Scarcies, and proceeded on foot to Malacouri, a strongly fortified Mandingo town, situated on the banks of the river Malageea, about twenty miles N.[121] by W. from Kambia, where he learned that Amara had applied to the king of the Soolimas, who had sent a numerous army to his assistance, by whose means he had taken Malageea, the principal town belonging to Sannassee, and had made that chief a prisoner. Here he was also informed, that Amara meant to put Sannassee to death after the performance of several ceremonies. The Soolima force was stated to exceed ten thousand in number, and commanded by Yaradee, a brother of the king, who had acquired some renown as a warrior. Of the Soolimas, little more than the name was known at Sierra Leone: they were reported, however, to be a very powerful nation, residing in the interior, at a distance of three or four hundred miles to the eastward of Sierra Leone.

Sannassee having always been upon the most friendly terms with our government, and the unforgiving disposition of Amara being well known, great alarm was excited for the unfortunate chieftain whom he had in his power; Laing therefore, though suffering under a severe attack of fever and ague, proceeded to the Soolima camp to mediate between Amara and the captive Sannassee. His account of this expedition is as follows:

“About two miles beyond the river Malageea, which I crossed near its source, I fell in with an outlying picket of the Soolimas, consisting of about fifty men, with sentries regularly posted, to whom I was obliged to[122] explain my purpose before the chief of the guard would permit me to pass: another mile west brought me to a stronger guard of about one hundred and fifty men; and a mile and a-half farther to a large savannah or plain where the whole army was encamped. It was now nearly nine o’clock, and being very faint and feverish, I was glad to take refuge from the rays of the morning sun, which, in this part of Africa is the most oppressive time of the day, under a few bundles of dried grass thrown loosely upon three sticks fixed apart in the ground at equal distances, the tops being drawn together and fastened after the manner of military triangles. These temporary dwellings, when well constructed, form no bad imitation of, or substitute for, bell-tents, possessing this advantage, that they can be erected with little trouble, and no expense, in a short time, whenever an army takes up a position. From this covering I had a view of the whole encampment, which exhibited the appearance and bustle of a well attended fair, rather than the regularity and discipline of military quarters. Tents constructed as above described, were to be seen covering the savannah as far as the trees, windings, and other obstacles, would permit the eye to reach; and the distinguishing flags of the various and numerous tribes were everywhere to be observed waving over the habitations of their respective chiefs. Music, a horrid din of a variety of barbarous instruments[123] broke on the ear from every direction; while parties of men, grotesquely habited in war dresses, were here and there descried, brandishing their cutlasses, and capering with the most extravagant gestures, to the time of the various sounds produced. The novelty of the scene attracted my attention for a while,—but fatigue, arising from the ague of the preceding night, at length overcame my curiosity. About noon I was awoke by one of my followers, who acquainted me that Amara was ready to hold a palaver with me, and desired my immediate attendance. In my way to his tent I visited Satin Lai, a designing Mandingo chief, possessing much power; he had been mainly instrumental in putting Amara on the throne, and was at this time the only staunch adherent to the king, who, by following too implicitly his advice, had lowered himself considerably in the opinion of his head men, who form the principal strength of an African king. I found Satin Lai, a good-looking man, apparently between sixty and seventy years of age, about five feet ten inches in height, affable in his deportment, with a mild and amiable countenance which is said to be rather at variance with his actions. He was performing the office of a commissary, surrounded by several hundred baskets of white rice, which he was distributing to the different tribes in quantities proportionate to their strength. In one corner of the tent some of his slaves were[124] employed in cooking, in another his horse was feeding, encircled with Moorish trapping, spears, muskets, bows and quivers. On appearing before the tent of Amara, I was directed to seat myself under the shade of a large booth covered with cocoa-nut branches and plantain leaves, capable of containing and sheltering from the rays of the sun upwards of two thousand people; here the king soon joined me, and the war drum being beat, the booth was shortly filled with a motley assemblage of armed men. Booths of corresponding size, erected at right angles, and parallel to the one in which I sat, so as to form a large square, were also soon crowded with hordes of Soolimas, Bennas, Tambaccas, and Sangaras, in all, amounting to about ten thousand men, while the inclosed space was free to such as were desirous of exhibiting in feats of warlike exercises, in dancing, and in music. As the exibitions on this occasion were of the same kind with those which I afterwards saw in the Soolima country on similar occasions, and which will be described hereafter, I shall merely observe that Yaradee, the general of the Soolima army, was particularly conspicuous in exhibiting on horseback the various evolutions of African attack and defence. When their performances were concluded, I had an interview with Yaradee, and obtaining from him an assurance that Sannassee’s life should be preserved, I took my leave, receiving many protestations of friendship. A[125] subsequent conversation with Amara, in which I explained his Excellency’s wishes, terminated my visit to the camp, which I quitted at sunset, and proceeded direct on my return to Sierra Leone, where I did not arrive till the sixth day, having suffered much inconvenience on the journey, from the effects of increasing illness.”

We have given this account entire, that the reader may understand the kind of natives that he had to deal with in his after intercourse with them. His interference seemed here to have terminated happily for Sannassee, but he was scarcely recovered from his illness, when it was reported that all his efforts had been of no avail; and the governor, still anxious to save the life of his ally, asked Laing again to undertake another embassy for the same object; he complied, again visited the Soolima camp, where he found that Amara had set Sannassee at liberty, after first burning his town, and then plundering his property. Lieutenant Laing did not waste time in a longer palaver than was just sufficient to mark the displeasure of the governor regarding their conduct to Sannassee. He was accompanied on this mission by Mr. Mackie, assistant surgeon, who, together with Lieutenant Laing, were the objects of undisguised astonishment to Yarradee, who scrutinized every article of their dress with great minuteness; and on observing Laing pull off his gloves, “he stared with surprise, covered[126] his widely opened mouth with his hands, and at length he exclaimed, ‘Alla ackbar,’ he has pulled the skin off his hands.” Lieutenant Laing and Mr. Mackie reached Sierra Leone after an absence of six days and a-half during the whole of which time they had not been under shelter for a single hour. While upon this second mission he had observed that many men who accompanied the Soolima army possessed considerable quantities of gold, and having learned that ivory abounded in Soolima, he suggested to the governor the advantage to the colony of opening up an intercourse with these people.

The governor was pleased with the suggestion, and submitted it without delay to a meeting of the council, when it was resolved, that Lieutenant Laing should be permitted to penetrate to the country of the Soolimas, choosing his own road, and the one by which he could most easily communicate his discoveries. He was now in the character of a volunteer traveller, a character which he admirably supported.

This party consisted of Musah Kanta, a native of Foutah Jallon; two soldiers of the second West India regiment, eleven carriers, natives of the Jolof country, and a boy, Mahomed, a native of Sego.

They quitted Sierra Leone in boats on the 16th of April, 1822, and ascending the Rokelle, slept the first night at Mr. M‘Cormick’s factory, who, from his name, seems to have[127] been a countryman of our traveller’s. They took the route through the Timannee country, calling upon the various chieftains and governors who were in their way, from whom they received passes, but often with difficulty, and only on the payment of money, and the presentation of articles, sometimes of considerable value.

While they were upon the point of leaving Rokon, which is in the Timannee country, the king of the place made his appearance in a violent rage, and the cause of his grievance, was a Jolofman, who attended Lieutenant Laing, having had the audacity to dress himself in a new red slop shirt, which the king considering a more splendid habiliment than his own, insisted upon having; this the Jolof obstinately refused; while the king declared it to be the law in his country, (a law made by himself at the moment) “That any man dressed better than himself, especially in red, should forfeit his clothes.” Lieutenant Laing settled this difference by desiring the Jolof to change his shirt, and giving the king a bar of tobacco and a dram of rum. After leaving Rokon, the country for a short time was beautiful and cultivated, and on reaching Nunkaba, they found the female inhabitants busy with their cotton, preparing it for spinning.

On their arrival at Toma, though only sixty miles from Sierra Leone, Lieutenant Laing learned, to his surprise, that “no white man had ever before been seen there.” He says,[128] in his journal, “the first appearance of surprise, that came under my observation was in a woman, who stood fixed like a statue, gazing at the party as they entered the town, and did not stir a muscle till the whole had passed, when she gave a loud halloo of astonishment, and covered her mouth with both her hands.”

This astonishment at their appearance, was sometimes productive of annoyance during the progress of their journey. At Balanduco they found the women busily employed in separating the juicy saffron-coloured fruit from the palm nut; in squeezing it into wooden mortars, and in beating it into one common mash, in order that the oil might be extracted more easily and more commodiously in boiling. Lieutenant Laing estimated that during the season of the fruit, they manufactured, on an average, from thirty to forty gallons a-day.

They now began to feel the fatigues of a long continued journey; they reached Rokanka on the 25th of April, much fatigued, and deprived of water, the inhabitants of the village either being unable or unwilling to supply them with any; and being afraid to enter the woods in search of it, from the whistle of the Purrah being heard in the neighbourhood. The Purrah are a sort of “Robin Hood gang,” who infest the woods, occasionally making an inroad upon some peaceful village, which they invariably plunder; the inhabitants keeping hidden, and never attempting any resistance. They are tatooed[129] in a manner peculiar to themselves, and have gradations of rank in their community. At stated times they hold assemblies, on which occasions, the country is in the greatest alarm, for notices are dispersed abroad concerning them, and the people are obliged to attend; they settle all differences, and inflict capital punishments, according to their pleasure, so that in fact, they are the governors of the country, and Lieutenant Laing says, “that from the nature of their power, and the purposes to which it is applied, they will probably be found a most serious obstacle to its civilization.”

On leaving Rokanka the next day, they came in sight of a stream, after walking about an hour and a quarter, and having suffered so much from thirst, for thirty hours preceding, they were so eager to enjoy it, and indulged so freely in it, that on reaching a town four miles farther, the whole party were attacked with the most violent spasms, Lieutenant Laing suffering particularly, it being six days before he was at all restored to his usual health.

He found some difficulty in procuring permission to depart from Ma-Bung, which was the name of his present residence, being obliged to hold a palaver, as they termed it, with the head men of the place; and it was only after a very long palaver with his interpreter and them, that he was suffered to depart, upon making presents of tobacco, powder, white baft, and rum.

[130]This custom of presenting gifts at every place, was a serious evil, but it was one without which it was impossible to proceed, and occasionally, his attendants and the inhabitants engaged in a scuffle, sometimes difficult to suppress. It is unnecessary to follow his motions minutely; the reader may find them interestingly and particularly recorded in his travels published in 1825, and edited by his friend Captain Sabine.

It is sufficient to mention that on the 7th of May he reached the last town of the Timmannee country; called Ma-Boom, part of which was inhabited by Koorankos, in which part he took up his residence, as through that country it was now his intention to proceed.

He found very great difficulty in getting away from Ma-Boom, owing to the greediness and treachery of Smeilla, the head man of the place, who laid a plan of assault and robbery upon him and his party, but from which he was preserved by the sagacity of his servant, Musah, and his own decision. With the other inhabitants of Ma-Boom he seemed pleased, particularly the Mandingo families, and the country around, he says, is thickly wooded, and abounds with rich pasturages, well stocked with cattle, sheep, and goats.

The next station was Kooloofa, where they received a kind but noisy welcome, being prevented from sleeping during the night by barbarous music in honour of their visit. “They, one and all,” says Lieutenant Laing, “thanked[131] God for my appearance among them: they said they could not live without trade, and on that account, if for no other, they were glad to see a white man come into the country to open a good road.” He easily received permission to depart from Kooloofa, and left it with the best wishes of a numerous crowd, assembled to witness his departure. After passing through several places, they reached Seemera, where he was as kindly received as at Kooloofa, the king “thanking God that he had seen a white man, and would do any thing to help him, as he was sure he could have no other object in coming to this country than to do good.” While there the place was visited by a tremendous tornado. The house where Laing slept being badly thatched, the lightning kept it in almost perpetual illumination, and, as he himself expresses it, the holes in the roof gave him the full benefit of a shower bath. He was detained here a short time, partly by the rain, during which time the king sent a company of dancers to dance before him for his diversion. His route, after leaving Seemera, was difficult and dangerous, he and his party having to endure several heavy tornadoes, rough roads, and plots laid to rob him of his baggage. His remarks upon what he observed during this journey must be extremely interesting to a geologist, and, indeed, to any man of science, for which, however, we again refer to his travels.

While at Worrowyah, he was entertained[132] by some female singers, the tenor of whose song, he said, did not please him. They sung “of the white man who had come to their town; the houseful of money which he had; such cloth, such beads, such fine things had never been seen in Kooranko before; if their husbands were men, and wished to see their wives well dressed, they ought to take some of the money from the white man.” He was saved from the effects of this advice by one of his suite called Tamba, who answered them by a counter song. He sung of “Sierra Leone, of houses a mile in length filled with money; that the white man who was here had nothing compared to those in Sierra Leone; if, therefore, they wished to see some of the rich men from that country come into Kooranko, they must not trouble this one; whoever wanted to see a snake’s tail must not strike it on the head.” This song was applauded, and Lieutenant Laing was allowed to keep his money.

While at Kamato, which he reached on the 29th of May, Laing had a severe attack of fever, which lasted for several days. As he was recovering from the attack, a messenger arrived from the king of the Soolimas, with a party, and two horses, to convey him to their country, his majesty being very desirous to see him within his territories. Laing was very glad to accept of the invitation, so on the morning of the 5th of June, he mounted one of the horses, and left the Kooranko[133] country for a time. It was not till the 11th that he reached the royal city, having in his way thither received much kindness and hospitality from the native head men of the villages through which they passed; one head man, says our traveller, “took off his cap, and lifting his aged eyes to heaven, fervently thanked his Creator for having blessed him with the sight of a white man before he died.”

When Lieutenant Laing reached Falaba, which was the residence of the king of the Soolimas, he was saluted with a heavy and irregular discharge of musketry, which he ordered to be returned with three rounds from his party, and then alighting, shook hands with the king, who presented him with two massive gold rings, and made him sit down beside him. The king and the Lieutenant were scarcely seated, when his old friend Yaradee, better dressed than when he last met him, mounted on a fiery charger, crossed the parade at full gallop, followed by about thirty warriors on horseback, and two thousand on foot,—the equestrians returning and performing many evolutions, to the amazement and admiration of the spectators. After which many other spectacles were exhibited for the diversion of his guest by the king of the Soolimas. Yaradee was particularly kind to Lieutenant Laing, saying, “he was a proud man that day, the first day in which a white man had ever been in the Soolima country.”

The different chieftains paid homage to our[134] traveller, when they saw how highly he was thought of by their sovereign, and he was teazed with speeches and remarks addressed to him by a crowd for the pleasure of hearing him speak, and whenever he did so, they would shout, “He speaks, the white man speaks.” He said these marks of attention would have delighted him any other time, but his horse having fallen with him, he had been precipitated into the water of a marsh he was crossing at the time of the accident, which brought on an attack of fever, from which, however, he recovered in about three days. Those who wish to see an account of the fetes and the excursions, designed principally in honour of Lieutenant Laing, must read his travels, in which they will find an interesting account.

Feeling again the intimations of approaching illness, he shortened his interviews, and came to the great business of the mission, free intercourse and trade, and the desire of Sir Charles M‘Carthy to cultivate a good understanding with them; and then producing his presents, which were considerable, every thing was adjusted in the most amicable manner: but he had scarcely returned to his hut, when the fever was renewed with redoubled violence, and, stretching himself on his mat, he resigned himself to the disease which for nine or ten days prevented him from rising; three days of which he was in a state of delirium. On his consciousness returning he found he had been cupped by one of the country doctors, which[135] had been of great service to him. During this illness his meteorological observations ceased, and it was, as he expresses it, “with a grief bordering on distraction that he thought upon his chronometer, which, as nobody could wind up but himself, had unavoidably gone down.”

It was on the 1st of July that he found himself able to write a few lines to acquaint his friends at Sierra Leone with his arrival at Falaba, and that he hoped soon to be able to go even farther eastward; two natives of Soolima volunteering to be the bearers of his despatches. On the 11th, he was so well as to mount on horseback and take a survey of the adjacent country, but from the delay occasioned by the unwillingness of the king to allow him to depart, it was not till the 17th of September that he finally quitted Falaba in order to return to Sierra Leone; having resided in the Soolima country more than three months. He was on the 9th of September gratified by the return of the messengers he had sent to Sierra Leone; he received the packet they conveyed to him with exquisite delight; but besides the kind letters of his friends, they sent “tobacco, sugar, a little brandy, which soon disappeared among the Soolimas, and, though last not least, two pairs of good shoes, a luxury to which his feet had for some time been unaccustomed. He was also furnished, through the kindness of Dr. Barry, staff-surgeon at Sierra Leone, with a[136] lancet and two glass plates of preserved vaccine virus, with which, on the 13th, he was permitted to inoculate a number of children, commencing with those of the king himself,” who had so much confidence in him, that Laing says “he believed he would have permitted him to have attempted the most extravagant experiment upon any of his own family.” If he had possessed sufficient virus, he continues, “I might have inoculated all the children in Falaba: the yard was absolutely crowded with old men and women, holding young children in their arms, and forming a group worthy of the pencil of a West or a Rubens.” He very naturally remarks upon it as an interesting fact, “that a nation so far in the interior of Africa, should have so readily submitted, at the instigation of a white man, who was almost a stranger to them, to an operation against which so much prejudice existed for so many years in the most enlightened and civilized countries in Europe. When the general prevalence of superstitious fear from greegrees and fetishes is duly considered, this fact presents a strong proof of the confidence which the natives of Western Africa repose in the measures of white people to benefit them; and affords a no less strong presumption, that their other superstitious notions might soon be found to give way, in like manner, to the labours of the missionary: and their present barbarous habits of obtaining slaves for trade by force of arms, to the more rational proceeding[137] of cultivating the soil for articles of commercial exchange.”

The day that he quitted Falaba, which, as has been already stated, was on the 17th of September, the natives in great numbers accompanied him for a considerable distance, the females making most extravagant demonstrations of grief; the king accompanied him a little farther, when a parting took place, which we shall insert in Captain Laing’s own words, (for while at Falaba, he had received intelligence of his promotion to the rank of captain). “At length the old man stopped and said, he was now to see me for the last time. The tears were in his eyes, and the power of utterance seemed to have forsaken him for a while. Holding my hand still fast, he said ‘white man, think of Falaba, for Falaba will always think of you: the men laughed when you came among us, the women and children feared and hid themselves: they all sit now with their heads in their hands, and with tears in their eyes because you leave us. I shall remember all you have said to me; you have told me what is good, and I know that it will make my country great; I shall make no more slaves.’ Then squeezing me affectionately by the hand, and turning away his head, he gently loosened his grasp, and saying, ‘Go, and return to see us,’ he covered his face with his hands. I felt as if I had parted from a father. Such remembrances impress themselves too deeply in the heart to be effaced by time or distance, and establish a permanent[138] interest in the welfare of a country, which may have a material influence on the after life of the individual who entertains them.”

The route of Captain Laing and his party back to Sierra Leone was much the same with that which they had gone when they set out; most of the head men expressing surprise at seeing him again, they in general supposing that he had been killed in the interior, and on the 28th of October, he had the pleasure of being welcomed by his friends at Sierra Leone, “so many of whom, so much esteemed, and so highly valued, are now, alas, no more!”

On Captain Laing’s arrival at Sierra Leone, he received an order to join his regiment on the Gold Coast, without delay, in consequence of the hostilities which had commenced between the British government and the king of the Ashantees.

On his arrival on the Gold Coast, he was employed in the organization and command of a very considerable native force, designed to be auxiliary to a small British detachment, which was then expected from England. During the greater part of the year 1823, this native force was stationed on the frontier of the Fantee and Ashantee countries, and was frequently engaged, and always successfully, with detachments of the Ashantee army.

On the fall of Sir Charles M‘Carthy, which took place early in 1824, Captain Sabine, who edits the Travels, and writes the preface from which we quote, says, “that Lieutenant-Colonel[139] Chisholm, on whom the command of the Gold Coast devolved, deemed it expedient to send Captain Laing to England, for the purpose of acquainting government, more fully than could be done by despatch, with the existing circumstances of the command. Soon after his arrival in England, which took place in August, he obtained a short leave of absence to visit Scotland for the recovery of his health, which had been seriously affected by so many months of such constant and extreme exposure in Africa, as it is probable few constitutions would have supported.”

He returned to London in October of the same year, where an opportunity now presented itself which he had long anxiously desired, of proceeding under the auspices of government, on an expedition to discover the course and termination of the Niger. He was now promoted to the rank of major, and departed from London on that enterprise early in February 1825, with the intention of leaving Tripoli, for Timbuctoo, in the course of the summer of that year. He touched at Malta on his way to Tripoli, where he was shown every attention by the late Marquis of Hastings, at whose table he repeatedly dined.

While at Tripoli, he became acquainted with the British Consul, Mr. Warrington, his business with him producing an intimacy of the closest nature, which was farther cemented by Major Laing’s marrying his daughter,[140] Emma Maria Warrington, an event which took place on the 14th of July 1825. But he had no time to spend in domestic life: two days after marriage he set out for those vallies of death where every preceding traveller had found a grave.

It was on the 17th of July that Major Laing left Tripoli in company of the Sheik Babani, a highly respectable man who had resided in Timbuctoo twenty-two years, and whose wife and children were there still. This Sheik engaged to conduct our traveller thither in two months and a half; and there, or at his neighbouring residence, to deliver him over to the great Marabout Mooktar, by whose influence he would be able to proceed farther in any direction that might be required, according to information received as to the course of the river. This Babani is stated by the Consul of Tripoli, to be “one of the finest fellows, with the best tempered and most prepossessing countenance that he ever beheld; Laing, in all his letters, speaks of him in the highest terms of respect and approbation. As the Gharan mountains were rendered impassable by the defection of a rebellious chief of the Bashaw, who had taken possession of all the passes, the small koffila of Babani took the route of Beneoleed. On the 21st of August they reached Shaté, and, on the 13th of September, arrived safely at Ghadamis, after a “tedious and circuitous journey of nearly a thousand miles.” In the course of this journey,[141] Laing reports the destruction of all his instruments from the heat of the weather, and the jolting of the camels; his barometers broken; his hygrometers rendered useless from the evaporation of the ether; the tubes of most of his thermometers snapt by the warping of the ivory; the glass of the artificial horizon so dimmed by the friction of sand which insinuated itself everywhere, as to render an observation difficult and troublesome; his chronometer stopt, owing, he says, to the extremes of heat and cold, but more probably to the jolting, or the insinuation of sandy particles; and to wind up the catalogue of his misfortunes, the stock of his rifle broken by the great gouty foot of a camel treading upon it. The range of the thermometer in the desert, was from 120° about the middle of the day, to 75°-68°, and once or twice to 62° an hour or two before sunrise, at which time was observable a great incrustation of nitre on the ground, which is the common appearance on the surface of all the known deserts of Africa, from Tripoli to the Cape of Good Hope.

When Major Laing reached Ghadamis, he discovered that his companion, the Sheik Babani, was governor of the town. He considered him a person of sterling worth, with a quiet, inoffensive, unobtrusive character, though at the same time not deficient in decision, but never once suspected him to be a person of so much importance and influence as he all at once discovered him to be. The[142] Sheik immediately lodged him in one of his own houses, with a large garden, and yard for his camels, which were fed at the expense of the governor. Ghadamis is a place of considerable trade; all the koffilas to and from Soudan passing through it. The citizens pay tribute to the Tuaric who inhabit the great Sahara or desert on the western side of Africa for permission to their koffilas to pass without being subjected to plunder. The town contains six or seven thousand inhabitants.

Major Laing left Ghadamis on the 27th of October, and arrived at Ensala on the 3d of December. Ensala is the most eastern town in the province of Tuat, and belongs to the Tuaric: it is considered to be thirty-five days journey distant from Timbuctoo. As he approached this city, some thousands of people, of all ages, came out to meet this Christian traveller. Nothing could exceed the kindness and hospitality with which they received him, and Major Laing returned it, by patiently listening to their complaints, and administering medicine to their diseases to the best of his ability.

The koffila left Ensala on the 10th of January 1826, and on the 26th of the same month entered upon the desert of Tenezarof, about twenty journies from Timbuctoo, a mere desert of sand, perfectly flat, and quite destitute of all verdure. Major Laing, at this time was still an enthusiast in his expedition, and, possessed of good health and[143] spirits, experiencing everywhere, from every person, nothing but good will, kindness, and hospitality. He particularly mentions the services of Hatteta, the Tuaric who had accompanied him thither; he also speaks of the sheik Babani, who, he says, continued “to watch over him with the solicitude of a father.” Shortly after the arrival of a letter with these accounts from Tenezarof, reports reached Tripoli, that the koffila had been attacked by robbers; that the Major’s servant, as well as some others, had been killed, and he himself wounded; at the same time adding, that he had effected his escape to the Marabout Mooktar, who usually resided at a spot only five days journey distant from Timbuctoo. These reports, though they created some uneasiness, were not believed, till a letter was received at Tripoli by Mrs. Laing, indirectly tending to confirm them. She received it on the 20th of September 1826: it was written from the desert of Tenezarof. The following extract is what appears to refer to the circumstances which raised the reports.

“I take the advantage of a Tuaric going to Tuat, to acquaint you, that I am safe and in perfect health, and completely recovered from the trifling indisposition which annoyed me on leaving that place. If it pleases God I shall be in Timbuctoo in less than twenty days, and in two months afterwards I hope to find my way to some part of the coast. I[144] have met with much annoyance from the Tuaric; few, very few of whom are like Hatteta, and are not, as the consul anticipated, our friends. You shall know all particulars from me on my arrival at Timbuctoo, from whence I shall lose no time in addressing you. I have stopped in the sun to write; pray excuse it, for I am in great haste, and I write with only a thumb and a finger, having a very severe cut on my fore finger.”

This cut probably refers to the wounds he had received, but which he did not wish to mention in a more serious manner.

About the middle of October, new reports reached Tripoli, of Major Laing’s safe residence with Mooktar, a short distance from Timbuctoo, but adding, that a Jew servant, and a black servant, who had accompanied him, had both been killed in an attack of the Tuaric. The consul wished to believe these reports false, and flattered himself that they were so, but, unfortunately, they were too true. Major Laing’s Arab servant, Hamet, arrived at Tripoli, bringing letters from his master with him, dated Azoad, the 1st and 10th of July, at which place he had been detained for some time after his escape from the attack of the robbers, in consequence of a dreadful fever there raging among the inhabitants. In his letter of the 1st he thus mentions it.

“I was detained,” he says, “to afford assistance to the sufferers with my medicines;[145] nearly half the population have been swept away by its ravages; and among others, Sidi Mooktar himself, the marabout and sheik of the place; his loss I must regret, for he had taken a considerable interest in my situation, and had promised to conduct me to Nooshi; which, I regret to say, his son neither possesses the disposition, nor the power to do. While attending Sidi Mooktar, I was seized with the malady myself, and for nine days, lay in a very helpless and dangerous state, without any attendance, for poor Jack was taken ill at the same time, and the surviving sailor never was of much service to himself nor to any body else. My fever yielded at length to the effects of blistering and calomel, but poor Jack’s proved fatal, and he breathed his last on the 21st ult. On the 25th the sailor was taken ill, and died on the 28th, so that I am now the only surviving member of the mission.”

He mentions having received permission to proceed to Timbuctoo, adding, but that “with Timbuctoo, my research must, for the present, cease, as I have no camels to carry me farther.” No mention, nor even allusion is made in this letter, concerning the attack of the Tuaric, but in the one dated the 10th, he says, “I am recovering rapidly, but am subject to dreadful pains in my head, arising from the severity of my wounds;” and he speaks of his being unable to write much “from the mangled state of his arms.” The statement, however,[146] of the Arab servant, gave a clear account of all the circumstances, and is as follows:—“That they left Tuat, and travelled about eight hours (or thirty-six miles) each day, making forced marches when in want of water; that on the 11th day, the koffila was joined by twenty Tuaric mounted on maherries; that on the sixteenth day from Tuat, at a place called Wady Ahennet, the Tuaric, armed with guns, spears, swords, and pistols, fell at once on the rest of the koffila, consisting of forty-five persons; that they surrounded Laing’s tent, cutting the canvass cords, fired at him while in bed, and that before he could arm himself, he was cut down by a wound in the thigh; that himself (the Arab) received a sabre wound, which brought him to the ground; that Babani and his people rendered no assistance, nor were they attacked by the robbers, but he remonstrated with them, and fetched a marabout in the neighbourhood, who abused the Tuaric for their conduct, and made them swear not to molest the koffila farther.”

Laing seems to have thought Babani acted oddly on this occasion, though he says little on the subject; the Arab saying, “that Babani one day before the attack, took the belts and gunpowder from me, and the other black man, and gave them to the Tuaric, but Laing did not tell me to mention that part, but he objected at the time to Babani’s giving powder and the belts to the Tuaric.”

[147]The letters already mentioned, of the 1st and 10th, as having been received from Major Laing, were the last that were so, and of course, the Arab’s narrative becomes more important and interesting. He states, “that Major Laing’s wounds were so severe, as to prevent him keeping up with the koffila of Babani for some days; and that he (the Arab) the Major’s servant, Jack, a black boy to whom Laing had given freedom, and one of Babani’s men, attended him, following slowly behind; that they all re-assembled, however, at a watering-place, where they remained two days.” He then mentions their travelling for nineteen days over a desert; their arrival at Mooktar, where they were kindly treated, and of the recovery of Major Laing of his wounds, but his being seized by the fever already alluded to in his own letters, with the accounts of the deaths occasioned by it, of Mooktar, the boy Jack, and Harry the sailor; and that “young Mooktar had promised to take Laing to Timbuctoo, and bring him back safely to Tuat for one thousand dollars, which was agreed to, Major Laing saying that he had no money, but would pay him in other things which he still had. He was to set off in sixteen days when I left him.”

The Arab had received such a fright, first from the attack of the robbers, and then from the death of his fellow-servants, that he determined to leave his master, and return to Tripoli by the first koffila. “On the very day[148] it left (says Major Laing) when I was in a very weak state, having barely succeeded in overcoming the severe fever by which I had been assailed, while as yet the corpses of my poor Jack, and the sailor were hardly cold, the bearer (of his letter), unmindful of all laws of humanity, came to me, and said he wished to go to Tuat along with the koffila; I told him he might go; I blame no man for taking care of his carcass, so, in God’s name, let him go. I have given him a maherrie, provisions, so that he departs like a Sultan.”

This Arab likewise brought a letter from Mooktar to the Bashaw of Tripoli, mentioning all the occurrences which have been already detailed, viz. the attack of the robbers, in which Laing’s Jew servant, and a black man were killed, and the Major himself very severely wounded; so this affair is placed beyond a doubt, by which Laing was deprived of almost all his property.

Major Laing promised to write from Timbuctoo, but no letters having reached Tripoli, the consul became alarmed, and urged the Bashaw of Tripoli to send out couriers in all directions, to cause inquiries to be made concerning him. On the 20th of February 1827, the courier returned from Ghadamis bringing letters for the Bashaw and the consul, stating that a Tuaric had seen one of Mooktar’s sons at Tuat, who told him that Major Laing was in Timbuctoo in good health and spirits; stating however that inquiries were carefully[149] going on fully to ascertain the truth of it. On the 31st of March the consul was made acquainted with the answers to these inquiries concerning his son-in-law: “they stated that the Christian who arrived at Timbuctoo with Mooktar’s son had been murdered; that the Fellatas took Timbuctoo and demanded that the Christian should be sent away, or they would plunder the town; that the people of Timbuctoo assisted him to escape, and gave him a man to conduct him to Bambarra; that the Fellata, apprised of this, followed him on the road, overtook him, and put him to death.” Reports of a contradictory nature, however, reached the consul, mentioning that though the Fellatas had entered Timbuctoo, that Laing had escaped unhurt, and that it was understood he had arrived at Sansanding, on the banks of the Niger. The same story being repeated by one Abdullah Benhahi, who, in August 1827, had been in Timbuctoo three months before, and who saw Laing in that place.

But since that time, however, the reports of his death have been confirmed in a manner that leaves no doubt in the minds of his relatives of the melancholy fact, and these authenticated accounts record, that he fell by the hands of the barbarians, under the fiat of the king of the Foulahs, long the inveterate enemies of the Soolimas, by whom, the reader will recollect, Major Laing was so kindly received, and with whose king he contracted so interesting[150] an acquaintance, or rather friendship, residing, it will be remembered, for three months in their capital of Falaba. The accounts of his death state, that it took place soon after the 21st of September 1826. We shall conclude this slight sketch of Major Laing, by extracting some remarks from an able article in the Quarterly Review, to which we have been indebted for some of our information regarding his last journey.

“We trust, (says the Reviewer) that there will be an end to the sacrifice of valuable lives, in prosecuting discoveries on this wretched continent, of which we know enough to be satisfied that it contains little at all worthy of being known; a continent that has been the grave of Europeans, the seat of slavery, and the theatre of such crimes and miseries as human nature shudders to think of; where eternal war rages among the numberless petty chiefs for no other motive than to seize the innocent families of the original natives, and sell them into perpetual slavery. The products for commercial purposes are few, and mostly confined to the sea-coasts; two-thirds of the interior being a naked and unhospitable desert, over which are scattered bands of ruthless robbers.”



[1]There is surely some error here.

[2]Narrative, &c. p. 225.

[3]He is said to have been especially negligent in collecting his fees.

[4]His stepmother had not as an excuse that she was burdened with the care of the children of the former marriage. Most of them were from home, and one of them gave up an annuity for her benefit, and this she and her family still enjoy.

[5]In a notice of Captain Clapperton’s life, published lately by John M‘Diarmid, Esq. Editor of the Dumfries Courier, it is stated, that while under the tuition of Mr. Downie, he catered successfully for newspapers, both for the benefit of his master and that of himself; and one gentleman he was in the habit of applying to, once said to him, though merely in joke, “What makes you come always to me; do you suppose you have a right to borrow all my papers?” At first the boy was rather abashed; but rallying in a moment, he presently replied, “I am sure I neither dirty nor keep them long, and your maids, I can tell you, hang all your washings to dry on Mr. Downie’s hedge.”—Sketches from Nature, p. 324.

[6]M‘Diarmid’s account of this matter is to the following effect, namely, that at the age of seventeen Clapperton became cabin-boy to Captain Smith of the Postlethwaite of Maryport having been recommended to him by the late Mr. Jonathan Nelson of Port Annan; that after he had made several voyages across the Atlantic in that ship, he was detected at Liverpool in the act of smuggling a few pounds of rock salt, to please the landlady of a house which he frequented; that after he had pled his ignorance of the revenue laws in mitigation of the terrors of trial and imprisonment with which he was threatened, he consented to go on board the Tender. Sketches from Nature, page 325. The whole of this account shows that the circumstances both of his entrance upon a sea-faring life, and into the royal navy, are now altogether unknown; or at least involved in great uncertainty.

[7]M‘Diarmid’s version of this important passage of Clapperton’s life is, that after he had by compulsion become a sailor on board a man-of-war, he wrote to Mr. Scott, banker in Annan, describing his situation and soliciting his interest; that Mr. Scott applied to General Dirom, and that the General applied to Sir Home Popham, while his lady applied to her cousin Captain Briggs of the Clorinde, and by the aid of these combined and powerful applications in his behalf, Clapperton was raised to the rank of a midshipman. This is the first time we ever heard that the youth was an object of interest to so many honourable individuals; but when they claim the merit of having been the means of promoting him to the rank of midshipman in the navy, they claim more than their due; because it can be proved by the date of documents still in the possession of a near relation of the traveller, that he was a midshipman long before he was known to Captain Briggs of the Clorinde.

[8]Since the above account of this transaction was printed, we have been informed on unquestionable authority that Clapperton, though without his own knowledge, was in reality indebted to his uncle for the first step of his promotion in the navy. The matter had been agreed upon between Colonel Clapperton and Sir Thomas Livingstone. The situation in which he had discovered his nephew, not only in the condition of a common sailor, but under the disguise of an assumed name, was not fitted to lead to great familiarity between them when they first met. But after the nephew had become a midshipman, and had resumed his own name, the uncle took him to the shop of a Scotsman in Gibraltar, and fitted him out with every thing requisite for his new situation, and recommended him to the patronage of his friend Sir Thomas Livingstone.

[9]To this the letters of his cousin, Mrs. General Dirom, in Clapperton’s favour, might in some degree contribute.

[10]The following anecdote is transcribed from M‘Diarmid:—

“At this period, and before the Asia had weighed anchor, an incident occurred which illustrates very strikingly his characteristic coolness and intrepidity. One evening, the alarm was given that the ship was on fire; the drums immediately beat to quarters, and the firemen were piped away to the gun-room, where an immense quantity of luggage had been temporarily deposited, and from whence were issuing huge and increasing volumes of smoke. The after-magazine, containing some hundred barrels of gun-powder, was immediately beneath, and the appearance of the combustion had become so alarming, that every man awaited his fate in silence, under an impression that the ship would speedily be blown to atoms. At this awful moment, which will recal to every mind Campbell’s striking description,

“As they drifted o’er their path,
There was silence deep as death;
And the boldest held his breath
For a time”—

my informant, Mr. Archibald Blacklock, one of the assistant surgeons of the Asia, left the deck, and on passing through the cock-pit, observed a midshipman in the larboard birth, sitting at a table, and very quietly smoking a cigar. The sight surprised him, and on discovering that the smoker was his friend Clapperton, he could not help marvelling at his seeming apathy. The other, however, was quite cool, and stated, ‘that he was only a supernumerary; that no particular station had been assigned to him; and that if the ship blew up, as seemed very likely, it was of little consequence where he was.’ But the seat of the fire was fortunately discovered, and the flames subdued with admirable order and presence of mind, which are never more apparent than in ships of war during moments of danger; and on the first of February, the Asia and Superb weighed their anchors and stood out to sea.”—Sketches from Nature, p. 330.

[11]Lander, along with his brother, has lately gone on an exploratory expedition to the interior of Africa.

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