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The Wonders of Elora, or the Narrative of a Journey to the Temples
and Dwellings at Elora, in the East Indies, &c. By John B. Seeley, Captain, &c.-8vo. pp. 560. 168. Whittaker.
Cedant arma toge. This is the production of a military man, who has taken advantage of the “ piping times of peace” to unite the bay of Apollo with the laurel of Mars. It is the “ unvarnished tale,” if not of a very scientific writer, of a traveller whose enthusiasm for the . arts does him great honour, and whose unpretending and soldierly fidelity in describing what he sees, makes ample compensation for some trivial deficiencies in his literary style. "It is, in fact, much better for the reading public, that a descriptive author, provided he he faithful, should have less, rather than more, of learning than his capacity can manage.
The cavern-temples of Elora, certainly, are entitled to be considered as wonders of the world. Of these, we think with Captain Seeley: and every step taken in his company, among the gigantic colonnades, magnificent peristelus, and elaborate sculptures of the sacred excavations which have so justly won his homage, increases our admiration of the extraordinary people who raised them. It is as if we were gazing on the heaven-confounded temples and god-deserted shrines of the primitive giants : giants the builders certainly were in mind, in energy, and in ambition. But the general effect produced by these sculptured miracles has not, certainly, been commensurate with what might naturally be expected from the astounding sublimity of the cause. The circle of interest, indeed, widens daily; and Captain Seeley's spirited and enthusiastic narrative will, doubtless, expand the sphere of its operation over a wide surface of literary society: but it is a striking phenomenon in this age of mental excitement and scientific enterprize, that, while volume after volume has been written to illustrate the monumental records of Egypt, and traveller after traveller has still found, in the unquenched thirst of the public for further knowledge, the recompence of his toils, and the meed of his privations, the stupendous sculptured wonders of Britain's equally stupendous empire in the east, have been comparatively neglected. We congratulate Captain Seeley on his determination to rescue such mighty works from such unworthy neglect; and every lover of science will regard his work as a boon, conferring honour on its author, and benefit on the nation.
We are, however, not disposed to concur unqualifiedly with Captain Seeley's opinion, that “ no monuments of antiquity in the known world are comparable to them, whether we consider their unknown origin, or their stupendous size.” That they dispute the palm of admiration with the pyramids and other monuments of Egypt, we are willing to admit. But we are prompted to demur as to their alleged superiority, as we are inclined to object to another inference which our military author shares with several literary men, namely, the closeness of the analogy between the monuments of the two countries. Captain Seeley's account of the Wonders of Elora is interesting; and, if the reader partakes our feelings, he will pause occasionally for respite, (like a spectator taking breath,) at every fresh development of architectural audacity. “The mind is fatigued with the contemplation of so many excavations, elaborated by the indefatigable process of the chisel, out of a solid mountain of rock composed of the hardest granite, extending upwards of a mile and a quarter, and representing an endless succession of carvings and ornaments of mythological groupes and wondrous statues; of groves of pillars, and mysterious sekoi of a departed worship.”
With respect to the alleged analogy, or rather identity, between the monuments of India and those of Egypt, which has been carried so far as to induce not only the conclusion that the mythology of the two countries was originally the same, but also the people, the only question with such theorists being, which is the colony and which the mother country, of the cognate superstition; we entirely dissent from the opinion. Captain Seeley treats on this subject of analogy in Chapter the Thirteenth, and repeats the often-related story of the surprise testified by the Hindoos in the British army of Egypt, at recognizing there the temples of their own deities., Striking as this: fact may seem, it is far too narrow for the erection of so sweeping an inference as is sought to be built upon it. The Mexican relics lately brought from South America bear a much stronger resemblance to the Egyptian style of sculpture, though in a ruder state; yet there is little probability that there was any connection between the ancestors of the Mexicans and the Egyptians. The Hindoos also might, with equal truth, if suddenly brought into the presence of the Great Serpent adored at Mexico, have proclaimed that the Mexicans wor-, shipped the same deity; and they might, therefore, be hastily concluded to be the same people. The fact is, that the Ophite worship, and that of the Bull, extended over the whole surface of the antient world ; and all that can be fairly inferred from this proposition is, the truism, that all mankind are of one original family; or, at all events, of three families distinguished into white, red, and black, races of men. In the first place, in order to strike at the root of the presumed analogy, there is no evidence of the worship of the Ling and Yoni, in Egypt, supported by the Egyptian temples, or corroborated by the hieroglyphics. We apprehend that the Phallus was peculiar to the Bacchanalian mysteries of Greece. Many extant paintings and sculptures attest that the presiding deity of mystic rites, (no doubt equally indecent in Egypt,) was a portable image of Horus, the Pe-or of Scripture, and the original Priapus. Secondly, the features and persons of the Hindoo and Egyptian deities are very dissimilar; the latter, being the aboriginal inhabitants of Egypt, appear to have been red men; the more so too, from the peculiarities of their eye, nose, and lip, which mark the varieties of the Nubian family. Thirdly, the cavern temples of India, though sculptured out of granite, as some of the Nubian temples are, bear much more obvious resemblance to the rock-hewn tombs or temples of Persia, in the plain of the Magi; as the order of the columns at Elora and at Elephanta resemble those of Persepolis. The Arabesque ornaments seen in the Hindoo temples, and in a rude form among the still extant Mexican buildings, is not observable in the Egyptian. Fourthly, the Egyptian deities are never many-headed, and many-armed, like the Hindoo; a striking and marked feature of distinction. Fifthly, the Egyptian deities are often sigralised by animal heads, which, in fact, are obviously masks, or crests, worn by the various orders of priests. This is observable again among the incipient attempts at sculpture by the Mexicans; but not in the consummated art of the Hindoos, who rarely exhibit a deity with an animal head, though often with many heads; and in the excepted case of Ganesa, the deity is distinguished by the head of an elephant, an animal which, though it must have been familiar to the Egyptians, is never employed by them in that symbolic manner. On the other hand, the dog, the emblem of the wisdom of deity among the Egyptians, was evidently as great an abomination with the Hindoos of Elora, as the animal is generally considered at this day to be in the East. Lastly, the mythology of India is not only the most complicated, but the most confused and multifarious; while that of Egypt, as appears from such written records as remain, as well as from the extant monumental records which corroborate their truths, was plain, simple, and intelligible, having all the marks of being primitive, being all reducible to the fable, in which Osiris, his queen Isis, his son Horus, and his brother Typhon, were alone concerned. But the fables of the Hindoo Pantheon are as infinite and complex as they are monstrous. The human deities of India are extremely numerous; while those of Egypt, as appears from their assembly in the Pantheon of Psammis's tomb, and as Diodorus Siculus states, are reducible to eight individuals.
With regard to the originating country of the arts, our own opinion decidedly is, that the great stream of civilization derived its source from Ethiopia and Western Africa. As far as Egypt, the mother colonizer of Athens, is concerned, this is obvious. The decreasing ornaments of the constructed temples, and the increasing frequency of the sacred excavations as we ascend the Nile towards its source, demonstrate that Egyptian worship proceeded from Ethiopia. Homer bears testimony to this fact, when he designates Ethiopia as the birthplace of the twelve primary gods. It is not improbable, therefore, that the tide of civilization may have rolled eastward from the western point of the great African continent, and, perhaps, passing through the long-sought Timbuctoo, accompanied the Nile from its source to its mouth.
Travels in Egypt and the Holy Land; with a Journey through Turkey,
Greece, the Ionian Islands, Sicily, Spain, &c. By William Rae
Wilson, Esq. F.A.S.--8vo. pp. 452. 18s. Longman and Co. If this publication is not the production of a very wise man, it, at least, has for its author a truly pious and worthy man. The former part of the volume has already gone through one edition; and its reception has induced Mr. Wilson to add the account of his entire journey. He left England for the commendable purpose of exciting religious sentiments, and performing his devotions, in the places celebrated in sacred history.
In the course of his journey, he endeavours to illustrate the Scriptures by explanations and illustrations from eastern customs.
On returning to my native isle,” says Mr. W. “I was strongly urged by many friends to commit my travels to writing, under an idea that they might remove, in some degree, the opinions entertained by sceptics, as to any correspondence between the actual situation of the Holy Land, and the narrative of it imparted by the Scripture. Further, in an age like the present, it might contribute to counteract the poison and blasphemy disseminated in publications, not only with the view of undermining the great and established bulwark of the Christian faith and hope, but to bring the person
my, gracious sovereign, his family, and also the government of this country, into contempt.
Good intentions cannot be too much commended. The author informs us
“he is rude in speech, but not in knowledge,” to which we cannot assent; but would rather reverse the assertion. That he entertains very warm feelings of devotion, will appear from what he states of his sensations on his coming in sight of Jerusalem :
“Any language,” says he, “ that I could use, would fall infinitely short of conveying to the mind of the reader the emotions with which I was seized on beholding the Holy City with its towers, minarets, mosques, monasteries, and, in particular, the dome over the church of the Holy Sepulchre sparkling under the setting of a glorious sun. On this spot, the voice of the Eternal himself sounded; the great Redeemer proclaimed his divinity, and shed his precious blood on the cross, as a voluntary sacrifice, to satisfy the offended justice of Heaven for that violation of the law which had been committed by man, thus making reconciliation between the Creator and the creature, and establishing that happiness which is everlasting. At this never-to-be-forgotten moment, I was thrown into a transport of holy awe and joy, which elevated my heart. As by an immediate impulse, I leaped from my mule, threw off my shoes, and falling down in humility, saluted the ground, exclaiming, Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth, and goodwill towards men.''
His rapturous devotion holds out after his arrival, and he expresses his feelings when on the Mount of Olives in these words :
“Now, was I to describe, only in part, the peculiar sensations I experienced at the moment when standing on the very ground which had been trodden by the sacred feet of the Redeemer of the world, all that language could express would fall infinitely short. The warmest glow of inexpressible delight arose in my heart, of that solemn Dature of which a reader can form no just conception: it beat with emotions that it had at no former period enjoyed; a gratification, indeed, more pure than can possibly be derived from the corporeal senses, In fact, I was extricated, as it were, from the mortal vestment of the body, and absorbed more into the raptures of a more holy life. I must not, however, trust to an ineffectual pen to describe the delighted feelings I enjoyed on this occasion.”
regard of extacy and zeal, nothing could be desired beyond this; but, to ensure the purposes intended by the publication, there ought also to have been knowledge and discretion; otherwise it could make but few converts. We cannot compliment the author on his enlargement of mind, after his having travelled through so many countries, and seen such a diversity of manners and customs. Of the catholic portion of the religious people in France, he speaks with great disrespect; and their attendance at public worship, as well as that of the protestants, he denominates “an impious lie,” p. 5. This he does, simply because there the mode of observing the Christian sabbath is less strict than in England; but Mr. Wilson would not have found the sabbath observed in the manner he wishes, in any of the catholic or protestant countries in Europe, except in our own island : and to charge the greater part of the Christian world with hypocritical and impious falsehood in their worship, appears to be a wide departure from candour and charity. No where in the world is there less religious hypocrisy Crit. Gaz. Vol. 1. No. 1,
than in France; and for this manifest reason that there is no benefit to be obtained by it: instead of gaining reputation or favour by religious observances, the very opposite is the result. They, therefore, who in France attend on public worship, must, of course, do so purely from a sense of duty and the pleasure they take in religion; and can no way deserve the charge of impiety or falsehood, if they are less rigid in the observance of the rest of the day, than the people of our own country.
Our author arrives in Egypt, and is much gratified with the improvements of the present enlightened Pacha, and of the safety and facility of travelling through the country, produced by his provident government. He is, however, dreadfully annoyed, particularly at night-time, by vermin; that country being, as it always has been, infested with those plagues, the unusual severity of which was by the prophet Moses made the punishment of Pharaoh and his people. He meets with most miserable accommodation at the inn at Grand Cairo : the best apartment he could obtain was an empty garret, worse than any cobbler's den in London, and so infested with pigeons, that he finds it impossible to convey an idea of their annoyance, added as it is to that of the flies and mosquitoes. The people of the country, it seems, are so inured to such matters, as not to be sensible of their inconvenience.
Mr. W.'s feelings of humanity induced him to visit the slave-market, which, he tells us, excited in his mind the most painful sensations he ever experienced. In conclusion, however, he states,
“It affords some consolation, to reflect, that such is the humanity with which many of the Turks treat their slaves, that it may be said, the whip rarely, if ever, lacerates the back of the female, as it does in our English colonies; and the institutes of the Turkish government being altogether of a military character, the males never feel their slavery farther than as a species of military subordination.
“Even at this moment,” says our author, “it is not an unusual custom with the Turks, to unite in marriage their slaves with their daughters. Hassan, who, in his time, was commander of 5000 men in Cairo, had been the slave of his predecessor. Kamel, a renowned warrior, gave his daughter in marriage to him, and at his death left a great portion of his wealth to his adopted son.'
Many of his reflections on eastern customs are superficial, and arise from sudden feelings, rather than from a broad and philosophical view of men and things, not only as they appear to us, but as they are regarded by other countries; by those of our fellow-creatures, who, coming into our own country, might, perhaps, as reasonably object to many things which we ourselves consider as proper and desirable. We doubt not but his own pertinacious refusal to allow his servant to partake of a meal in his presence, at the earnest request of the Archbishop of Tyre, appeared very harsh to that high dignitary and his household; yet Mr. Wilson's reasons may be sufficiently satisfactory. He seems to forget that different countries have different customs, which govern all their reasoning and practices.
One of the most interesting parts of this book is the account given of the Pacha of Egypt, and of the improvements he has made in the country. A bar of sand having impeded the entrance of vessels into the Nile, at Rosetta, and the evil being incurable, the Pacha, in 1818, determined to open a grand canal from the Nile to Alexandria; and it was finished in the same year. Its length is forty-eight miles, its breadth ninety feet, and, in depth, it is about twenty: these are mag