Page images

lishman, under guard to the private Inquisition at Moscow, but that he did not know the name of the person, and that Captain Billings was with a private party at the Governor General's. Now, as Ledyard and I were the only Englishmen here, I could not help smiling at the news, when two hussars came into the room and told me that the commandant wished to speak to me immediately. The consternation into which the visitors were thrown is not to be described. I assured them that it must be a mistake, and went with the guards to the commandant. There I found Mr. Ledyard under arrest. He told me that he had sent to Captain Billings, but he would not come to him. He then began to explain his situation, and said he was taken up as a French spy, whereas Captain Billings could prove the contrary, but he supposed that he knew nothing of the matter, and requested that I would inform him. I did so, but the captain assured me that it was an absolute order from the Empress, and that he could not help him. He, however, sent him a few roubles, and gave him a pelisse; and I procured him his linen quite wet from the wash-tub. Ledyard took a friendly leave of me, desired his remembrance to his friends, and with astonishing composure leaped into the kibitka, and drove off, with two guards, one on each side. I wished to travel with him a little way, but was not permitted. I therefore returned to my company, and explained the matter to them; but though this eased their minds with regard to my fate, it did not restore their harmony." p. 100.

It appears by some of Ledyard's letters to his friends, and a few irregular notes in his journal, that he was hurried along “with amazing rapidity to Moscow, and from thence to the confines of Poland, where he was set at liberty--that he travelled about four thousand miles in six weeks-that he suffered severely from the severity of the season, bad food and uncomfortable travelling, by which his health was materially affectedthat all this was endured "without cause or accusation, except what appeared in the mysterious wisdom depicted in the face of his sergeant-and, that he was released under an injunction of never returning to the Empress's dominions again on peril of being hanged. The avowed motive of the Empress, as appears by a note from Count Segur to the Marquis La Fayette, in July, 1823, for the seizure of Ledyard was humanity!—" she would not render herself guilty of the death of this courageous American, by furthering a journey so fraught with danger, as that he proposed to undertake alone." Such a pretext could deceive no one. It is impossible to doubt that the harsh treatment that ill-fated traveller experienced, originated in political or commercial jealousy-either in the unwillingness of Catherine to have her new possessions on the American coast seen by a citizen of the United States, as Count Segur suggests, or in the wish of the Russian American Company to guard against rivale

in that fur trade which they found so profitable, as Mr. Sparks thinks more probable on very cogent reasons.

Ledyard found his way to Konigsburg, where, by the sale of a draft on Sir Joseph Banks, for five guineas, he was enabled to get back to London, after an absence of nearly a year and a half. As soon as he reached the British metropolis, he called on his benefactor Sir Joseph Banks, who, hearing his story, expressed a lively sympathy in his misfortunes, and recommended him to the African Association as a fit person for their purpose of exploring the interior of Africa. The account which the secretary of the Association gives of his first interview with Ledyard, is too descriptive of his person as well as characteristical of his decision to be omitted. Before I had learnt from the note the name and business of my visitor, I was struck with the manliness of his person, the breadth of his chest, the openness of his countenance, and the inquietude of his eye. I spread the map of Africa before him, and tracing a line from Cairo to Sennaar, and from thence westwardly in the latitude and supposed direction of the Niger, I told him that was the route, by which I was anxious that Africa might, if possible, be explored. He said he should think himself singularly fortunate to be trusted with the adventure. I asked him when he would set out. "To-morrow morning,' was his answer."

As the Association had been "for some time fruitlessly inquiring for some person to travel through the continent of Africa," arrangements were soon made between him and the committee of the society. They appropriated a sum of money to defray his expenses. His instructions were "few, simple, and direct." He was to repair to Egypt, by way of Paris and Marseilles, and from Cairo was to travel across the African continent, making such observations as he could, and reporting the results to his employers. "At no period of his life, says his biographer, had he reflected with so much satisfaction on his condition or his prospects. His letters, written at this time, show that he was elated with the liveliest hopes. On the morning of his departure from London, June 30th, 1788, he said to the secretary of the Association "my distresses have been greater than I have ever owned, or ever will own to any man. Such evils are terrible to bear, but they never yet had power to turn me from my purpose. If I live, I will faithfully perform, in its utmost extent, my engagements to the Society; and if I perish in the attempt, my honor will be safe, for death cancels all bonds."


He proceeded from London to Paris, and after spending a few days with Mr. Jefferson, La Fayette, and his other friends, he went to Marseilles, where he embarked for Alexandria. He

[ocr errors]

stayed here ten days, and then pursued his journey up the Nile to Cairo, which he reached on the 19th of August. After remaining at Cairo about three months, waiting the departure of a caravan into the interior; he was attacked by a bilious fever, of which, or of an overdose of vitriolic acid, taken as a remedy, he died towards the end of November, 1788, in the thirty-eighth year of his age. His portrait is thus drawn by Mr. Beaufoy, the Secretary of the African Association:

"To those who have never seen Mr. Ledyard, it may not, perhaps, be uninteresting to know, that his person, though scarcely exceeding the middle size, was remarkably expressive of activity and strength; and that his manners, though unpolished, were neither uncivil nor unpleasing. Little attentive to difference of rank, he seemed to consider all men as his equals, and as such he respected them. His genius, though uncultivated and irregular, was original and comprehensive. Ardent in his wishes, yet calm in his deliberations; daring in his purposes, but guarded in his measures; impatient of control, yet capable of strong endurance; adventurous beyond the conception of ordinary men; yet, wary and considerate, and attentive to all precautions, he appeared to be formed by nature for achievements of hardihood and peril." p. 324.

The acts of Ledyard's life, as his biographer well observes, "demand notice, less on account of their results, than of the spirit with which they were performed, and the uncommon traits of character which prompted to their execution." But amidst our admiration for his enterprise, decision, and untiring steadiness of purpose, we cannot but feel a lively pity, not only for his premature fate, but for that succession of disappointments which attended him through life. It was his hard destiny to be frustrated in all his schemes, however well-planned or practicable subsequent events have since proved them. That trade on the north-west coast, which it was not permitted him to undertake, has since proved very lucrative to all who have engaged in it, and has made one of the largest fortunes that our country can boast. By his project of crossing this continent, Lewis and Clarke, long afterwards, acquired fame and public distinction. The expedition into the interior of Africa, which he had actually commenced, has since been successfully achieved by Parke, Denham and Clapperton, though two of them, like him, finally found an early grave in that deleterious climate. In these instances, his failure was owing to circumstances beyond his control, and in each, his manly energy still rose superior to all difficulties, as long as life lasted.

The style of Mr. Sparks is neat and perspicuous; his reflections made with caution and judgment; and his book is written

with that air of sobriety, and freedom from false pretension, which gives the reader assurance that it possesses the first recommendation of a biographical work-fidelity to truth and


ART. IV.-1. The Book of Nature. By JOHN MASON GOOD. London. New-York, re-reprinted. 1 Vol. 8vo. 1827.

2. Nouveau Dictionnaire D'Histoire Naturelle. 36 Vols. 8vo. A. Paris. Chez. Deterville. 1816-1819.

WE have placed at the head of this article two works on natural history, of which the first embraces a wide circle within the field of its inquiries, and the second, however deficient it may be in many of its details, and on many of the topics of which it professedly treats, yet deserves to be distinguished for the talent with which all of its general views of nature, and its elementary articles on each branch of Natural History, have been writThose of Virey, in particular, though sometimes diffuse, are distinguished for their profound views and their eloquence; and we shall embody in our subsequent remarks many observations that are scattered through his writings.


The scheme and fabric of Nature, form the most comprehensive and interesting object of human inquiry-one which addresses itself equally to our feelings, our necessities, and our understandings,-one whose importance must increase with the increasing wants of social life, and whose magnitude can never be felt until we attempt to circumscribe it.

To unfold in its real amplitude the Science of Nature, is a task beyond the powers of the most gifted of the human race. Portions of this great system may be explored, fragments may be examined, connexions between its branches may be traced, affinities between its members may be discovered. We may be amused by the beauty of its decorations, instructed by the wisdom of its arrangements, astonished by the variety of its resources, but we shall constantly feel that the materials of this science are exhaustless, and its extent interminable.

What is there that will not be included in the History of Nature? The earth on which we tread, the air we breathe, the waters around the earth, the material forms that inhabit its surface, the mind of man, with all its magical illusions and all its inherent energy, the planets that move around our system, the firmament of heaven-the smallest of the invisible atoms which float around our globe, and the most majestic of the orbs that roll through the immeasurable fields of space-all are parts of one system, productions of one power, creations of one intellect, the offspring of Him, by whom all that is inert and inorganic in creation was formed, and from whom all that have life derive their being.

Of this immense system, all that we can examine, this little globe that we inherit is full of animation and crowded with forms organized, glowing with life and generally sentient. No space is unoccupied the exposed surface of the rock is encrusted with living substances; plants occupy the bark and decaying limbs of other plants; animals live on the surface and in the bodies of other animals; inhabitants are fashioned and adapted to equatorial heats and polar ice-air, earth and ocean teem with life-and if to other worlds the same proportion of life and of enjoyment has been distributed which has been allotted to ours; if creative benevolence has equally filled every other planet of every other system, nay, even the suns themselves, with beings organized, animated and intelligent; how countless must be the generations of the living! what voices which we cannot hear, what languages that we cannot understand, what multitudes that we cannot see, may, as they roll along the stream of time be employed hourly, daily and forever, in choral songs of praise, hymning their great Creator.

And when in this almost prodigal waste of life, we perceive, that every being, from the puny insect which flutters in the evening ray, from the lichen which the eye can scarcely distinguish on the mouldering rock; from the fungus that springs up and re-animates the mass of dead and decomposing substances, that every living form possesses a structure as perfect in its sphere, an organization sometimes as complex, always as truly and completely adapted to its purposes and modes of existence as that of the most perfect animal; when we discover them all to be governed by laws as definite, as immutable as those which regulate the planetary movements, great must be our admiration of the wisdom which has arranged, and the power which has perfected this stupendous fabric.

Nor does creation here cease. There are beyond the limits of our system, beyond the visible forms of matter, other princê

VOL. II.-No. 4.


« PreviousContinue »