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Yates's Letter to the Duke of Kent, 211
ERRATA in Vol. LXXXIII.
Page 104. 1. 10. for 6s. Boards,' read 2s. 6d. bound.
165. 1. 19. for
Cure,' read Case.
176. After this page, the numeration of pages is wrong throughout sheet N., beginning with 173 instead of 177: but it is rectified in sheet O., p. 193.
241. 1. 3. for mamel,' read enamel.
257. lines 8. and 2. from bottom, for Tremotite,' read Tremolite. 384. 1. 10. from bottom, for Austice,' read Anstice.
ART. I. An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul, and its Dependencies in Persia, Tartary, and India; comprising a View of the Afghaun Nation, and a History of the Dooraunee Monarchy. By the Hon. Mountstuart Elphinstone, of the Honourable East-India Company's Service; Resident at the Court of Poona; and late Envoy to the King of Caubul. 4to. pp. 675. with a large Map, and 14 coloured Plates. 31. 13s. 6d. Boards. Longman and Co.
appears that an opinion was entertained by the British government at Calcutta in 1808, which principally resulted from the embassy of the French General Gardanne to Persia, that Bonaparte had views of penetrating by land to Hindostan, and of thus attempting the conquest of that wealthy and important portion of our oriental dominions. It was therefore deemed necessary to sound the dispositions, and to conciliate the co-operation, of those ruling princes of the East, through whose territories the troops of the modern Alexander were to march. Among these independent sovereignties, the court of Caubul held a high rank; and, as its known character was haughty, and it was suspected of rather undervaluing the European nations, our government determined that a mission to it should be fitted out in a style of importance and splendor. At Delly were made the principal preparations for its equipment; and thence began the escorted procession, more resembling a triumphal solemnity than a journey of negotiation or discovery. Mr. Elphinstone was placed at the head of it, in the character of envoy to the King of Caubul; and in this very handsome volume he furnishes an interesting narrative of his progress and observations.
The embassy left Delly on the 13th of October 1808; passed through Canound, which is a hundred miles westward; and quitted the British dominions on the 21st, in the Shekahwuttee district, where the desert begins. At Chooroo, the women who had accompanied the mission were sent back, with a guard. Six hundred camels were laden with leathern VOL. LXXXIII.
bags of water, and the travellers with their thirteen elephants entered the dry country bat copper-vessels, two of which formed a load for a camel, were found to answer better than the mushks or bags of sheep-skin or ox-hides, which cracked and spilled much water. Such was the dread of the desert entertained by the people of the country, that servants of all descriptions absconded by twenties and thirties, until the march was so far advanced that the return became as difficult as the progress.
Bikaneer was the first striking object. This town, which is surrounded by a fine wall, strengthened with round towers, and crowned with jagged battlements, stands in the midst of a plain of more than ordinary nakedness. Some high houses, some temples, (one of which had a lofty spire,) and at one corner an eminent and showy fort, give to this city an imposing exterior; but its beauty is merely external, and mudwalls, painted red or white, constituted the mass of building. Five armies had at this time invaded the country; many persons were come to the metropolis for refuge, which in consequence was unusually populous; and the Rajah had ordered all the wells within ten miles to be covered over with sand, or filled up, trusting for his defence to the desolation which surrounded him. In these circumstances, it was not easy to supply the wants of our envoy: but, after a halt of eleven days, he contrived to proceed on the 16th of November.
At Pooggul, where rain-water could be purchased, the party arrived on the nineteenth instant, at dark; and, on the twenty-first of the same month, they reached the confines or frontier of the King of Caubul's dominions. Here they were met by one hundred and fifty soldiers on camels, belonging to Bahawul Khaun, the governor of this eastern province: escorting a present of four hundred skins of water laden on a hundred camels, with four brazen jars of water from the Hyphasis, sealed with the King's signet, and intended for the private drinking of the ambassador and his particular friends. At each successive stage on the road to Moujghur, fresh presents of water brought from that city announced the attention and hospitality of the sovereign. The embassy arrived at the city itself on the night of the twenty-second. A conspicuous mosque stands over the gate-way; and a tomb, of which the cupola is ornamented with painted tiles, also attracts distant notice. The Persian language and manners here prevail above those of the Hindoos. After a stay of two days, the caravan of embassy proceeded, and in the desert, on the twentyfifth, witnessed the singular phænomenon of a most magnificent mirage, which looked like an extensive lake, or a very wide
river. The water seemed clear and beautiful, and the figures of two gentlemen, who rode along it, were reflected as distinctly as in real water.' It is common in our own country for ground-mists to assume the appearance of water, to make a meadow seem inundated, and to change a valley into a lake: but these mists never reflect the surrounding trees and hills. Hence the mirage, or, as the Persians call it, the water of the desert, the suhrab, (from suhr desert and ab water,) must consist of a peculiar gas, of which the particles are combined by a stronger attraction of cohesion than the vapours of real water; the liquor silicum of the alchemists is described as exhibiting in some circumstances this apparently glassy surface, yet as being equally evanescent. The Afghauns personify the vapor in question by the name Ghoollee Beeabaun. On the 26th of November, the caravan reached the banks of the Gharra, which includes the Hyphasis, or Begah, and the Hysudrus, or Sutledge; and the Europeans gazed with interest on a stream which had borne the fleet of Alexander.
At Bahawulpoor, the governor, Bahawul Khaun, preceded by noble presents, came to pay his respects to the mission, to whose convenient progress he gave every facility of infermation and active service. Polite, frank, intelligent, independent, and generous, a gentleman of nature's making, this officer would have done honour to the best European society, and affords a proof that native virtues spring up every where. Bahawulpoor is four miles in circumference, but includes gardens of mangoe-trees; the houses are of unburnt brick, with terraces of mud; and the city-wall is also of mud, and thin. The soil of the surrounding district is a slime deposited by the river, and very fertile.
December 11. the mission reached Moultaun, which stands about four miles from the left bank of the Chenaub, or Acesines. It occupies nearly five miles in circumference, and is encompassed by a fine wall above forty feet high, with towers at regular distances, and a citadel on a rising ground. These oriental towns have generally that character of fortification which preceded in Europe the use of artillery in sieges. Two magnificent tombs, with very high cupolas covered with glazed and painted tiles, form conspicuous ornaments of the city, viewed from whatever direction. The country around is fertile, well cultivated, and amply watered from wells.
The embassy lingered during many days in the neighbourhood of Moultaun, amused with shooting, hunting, and hawking, but not negligent of statistical observations; indeed, it was necessary to wait thus long for the arrival of a Mehman