« ÎnapoiContinuă »
on the lower deck, sixty feet six inches in breadth, and twenty-five feet five inches in depth of hold; she mounted one hundred and thirty guns, was of three thousand two hundred and fifty tons burthen, and had a complement of one thousand three hundred men!
Such changes wrought in a few years in the condition of a country which, for previous ages, was comparatively unknown among the nations of the earth, or only synonymous with torpor, decay, and misrule, cannot but prove the active energy of Mehemet Ali. At the time the Sultan Mahmoud was commissioned, the Basha had an army of thirteen thousand cavalry, one hundred and twelve thousand infantry, twenty-two thousand artillery, and seven thousand irregulars; and there were upwards of twenty thousand seamen and marines. Although he was in his own person Lord High Admiral and Commander-in-Chief, to save himself the trouble of details he appointed a Minister of War and Board of General and Superior Officers, which was vested with the power of directing all matters relative to the interior economy of the army and navy. These extraordinary exertions were accompanied with a grievous expense; the revenue of Egypt when I was there amounted to about two hundred and thirty thousand purses, but in 1839 had been forced to more than five hundred thousand, besides the so-called donatives; the purse consisting of five hundred piastres, answering, consequently, to 57. 48. or thereabouts, English money.
To descend, however, from the public career of Mehemet Ali to a smaller sphere of action, I may be permitted to record that he manifested an interest in the remains of antiquity around; and himself pressed my examining the Baths of Cleopatra, and the ancient catacombs between the harbour and Lake Mareotis he was also the means of my procuring some good specimens of the coinage of the Ptolemies, and a few choice Egyptian relics. He had, in excavating the ruins of Canopus to procure materials for his great canal, found
* On my afterwards telling him that I had explored these catacombs till I was almost exhausted, "Then,” said he, "it will require you to air yourself on the column (Pompey's pillar) after that!" Another spice of his good humour was his sending me a female mummy, with a message, that, as my wife was not on board, he had sent an Egyptian lady to preside in my cabin.
some curious articles of ancient workmanship; among others a thin plate of pure gold, with a punched inscription-opus mallei--shewing that Ptolemy Evergetes had dedicated a temple there. This he prized greatly, saying to Mr. Salt, "You are not to have it: I shall send it to my good old friend, Sir Sidney Smith." That gallant Admiral had an excellent fac-simile of it made in Paris, with gilded pasteboard; and the copy which he presented me with, I gave to the Basha.
Apropos of Canopus. I was one day passing along a narrow street in Alexandria, leading to the port, at the bottom of which a boat was waiting for me, when I perceived some men repairing a baker's oven, which, as is usual in the Levant, was open to the street. Seeing a flat slab of basalt placed against the wall, and being curious about a slice of so obdurate a stone, I made inquiry and found that it had just been brought from the ruins of Canopus, to be placed at the bottom of the oven. While talking as well as I could to these worthies, one of them turned the stone round, when, to my surprise, I saw on it a sculptured Thoth or Hermes, in early workmanship: he was naked except a singular scarf over the shoulder, and he held the mystic caduceus in his right hand, with a well-formed Chelys lyre in his left, whilst his carefully dressed hair was protected by the broadbrimmed petasus.* A trifle soon arranged matters, and, my boat's crew being at hand, the prize was quickly on board my ship, the Adventure. As the late Duke of Buckingham was interested in Egyptian antiquities, and I was moreover troubling him with some African plants to tend, I sent the Thoth home to him as a present, under the care of my good friend the late Sir Charles M. Schomberg. It was received in England with pleasure, and installed with honour; but its wanderings were not over, being among the sacrifices at the recent unhappy sale of the princely collection at Stowe.
* It cannot be doubted where the Greeks borrowed the lyre from, and even some of their music. Herodotus thought a particular song he heard in Egypt resembled a Greek one by Linus; but the perplexity he was under to account for it would have vanished, had he reversed the conditions.
On seeing it in the Catalogue of Antique Sculpture, No. 104, I was thinking of competing for its re-possession, but that I understood the officials of the British Museum were determined to secure it. Now as that noble institution could not but prove a stable resting-place for the precious relic, there was no opposition offered, and it fell to the trustees for only eleven guineas. Since it has been in their possession, the classic artist Bonomi has made a drawing and measurement of it, from which this representation is engraven :
Mehemet Ali was highly amused on my telling him that old Ali Basha, Vizier of Epirus, the noted ferocious "Albanian Leopard," had given me
permission to examine the ruins of Nicopolis, with the proviso that he must see the produce of my excavations. "Ah," said his Highness, playing with his feet as he squatted on the ottoman, "Ali would have proved troppo furbo for you." On my relating-at his own asking, by-the-way-our operations among the ruins of Leptis Magna, of my method of embarking the weighty columns obtained there for the King of England, and of the present which I brought out from our Government to the Basha of Tripoli in consequence, he said that he also had several places which he would like me to examine, when the Greeks were quieted.
Among other matters, he wished me to undertake the embarcation of the fine obelisk at Alexandria, popularly known under the designation of Cleopatra's Needle; at the same time offering every assistance which it was in his power to afford. This, however, we had neither time nor authority to compass, though I talked the matter over with him and his officers, in case of receiving specific orders from home. Two methods struck me: one was by building a pier from the immediate vicinity of the obelisk, into the little harbour, to the end of which a ship of the north-country cat-build could be brought, with her stern-frame cut out; the obelisk then to be so moved on rollers, that half of it should be in the vessel before the weight was felt. The other scheme was to excavate the ground on which it is lying, so as to form a dry dock beneath it, building a lump or lighter in the cavity into which the monolith could be lowered, and then cutting through the narrow neck of land into the harbour; so that on the admission of water it might be floated out. In either of these cases, of course the vessel would be properly dunnaged with bales of cotton, and well-made fascines, so that the needle in mid-ships would lie easy, and press upon every timber alike. All this was detailed to the
* Such is the absurd name of a monolith which was cut at the granite quarries of Syene, seven hundred and fifty miles from its present site, three thousand five hundred and seventy years ago, and consequently upwards of one thousand six hundred years before Cleopatra's great-grandmother was born. It is sixty-eight feet five inches long, seven feet three inches wide at the base, and five feet in width under the apex: and it must weigh about two hundred and thirty tons.
Admiralty; and on arriving in England, I had a special conference on the subject with the Right Hon. J. C. Herries, at the Treasury.
From what then transpired, I was in hopes that everything was settled, especially as I recommended an officer, Lieutenant Symonds, R.N.-the present Sir William Symonds, late Surveyor of the Navy-for the mission, who being then the harbour-master of Malta, was comparatively on the spot. However, a few mornings afterwards, a scion of interest called on me, saying that he was appointed to bring the needle from Egypt, and that he was directed to consult me about it: "You have given in the name of a lieutenant at Malta," added he, "and I shall have no objection to take him with me,-but are you sure that he is not a mere pen-and-ink man?" I merely repelled this by observing, that before proposing the officer to Government I was satisfied as to his ability, he being an experienced seaman and a man of general resources; but that I greatly doubted whether he would go second to any one of whose talent for the task he was unacquainted. The appointee, I found, had never witnessed any great mechanical effort, and his mind seemed a tabula rasa in engineering; yet I offered every service in my power, wishing that, whoever went, the service should be creditably executed. * the needle is in Egypt still!
Meantime the Basha had presented a similar obelisk to the French nation; and, though it was upwards of five hundred miles above Alexandria, that energetic Government lost no time in getting it over, and erecting it in Paris. Remonstrating on this point with a minister of state in the then administration, and mentioning my chagrin that Cleopatra's Needle had not already been erected in Waterloo Place, he captiously demanded whether an Egyptian obelisk in London would not be an anomaly? To this I answered, that the Needle well placed, with Nelson and the Nile, Abercrombie and Alexandria, inscribed on its base, would at least be as appropriate a reminder for London *
* Sonnini de Manoncourt, in his Voyage dans la Haute et Basse Egypte, predicted that Pompey's Pillar would only be recognized in after ages by the name of the Monument of the French; and for this reason, that the names