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were. Only, for the pleasure of the thing, we may add, that these two fine old voyagers, from whom we are about to make some extracts, were, the one as simple, honest, truth-telling, and intelligent a soul withal as ever took monkery for a good thing; and the other, a man of as proved a credibility in his way, a noble, trading, and accomplished Venetian, though he may have leant his ear a little too much to reports. He dealt in such very large and prosperous matters, both of jewellery and government, and saw such heaps of countries, and cities, and populations, and revenues, that although he fairly overbore the incredulity of his astounded countrymen with the bushels of diamonds and precious stones which he poured forth before their eyes (in a scene which our readers will meet with), he left behind him the nickname of Marco Milione; and a worthy epitomiser of his book informs us, that the Venetians in their carnival entertainments long had a character of that name, whose “chief jest lay in describing cities with a million of bridges, husbands with a million of wives, birds with a million of wings, beasts with a million of legs,” &c.* But if Marco had come to life again, he might have retorted by personifying a buffoon populace possessed of a million of ignorances. Marco, like Bruce, has outlived misconception. Every fresh traveller has tended to confirm the relations both of him and Rubruquis; and as those relations chiefly concern one of the largest, most curious, and most unchanging countries and people on the face of the earth, they present a singular combination of modern with ancient interest. The Tartars are still nomade rovers in one part of their vast possessions, and Chinese rulers in the other. Their dresses are the same as of old, their faces the same; they still exhibit the same mixture of great and civilized, yet clumsy, undertakings; and if in their joint character of Tartar and Chinese, their philosopher, Confucius, has rendered them a far wiser and more thinking people than is supposed even by the thinking
* Vide Mr. MacFarlane, himself a traveller, and very shrewd and entertaining observer, in a publication entitled the Romance of Travel, vol. i., p. 239 (Knight's Weekly Volumes). We have read Mr. MacFarlane's first two little books with the greatest pleasure; but though not wanting in curious extract as well as abridgment, he is too summary for the purpose of the present book. Our extracts from Marco Polo and Rubruquis are taken from the revised republication of Harris ;-Navigantium atque Intinerantium Bibliotheca; or, a Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels, consisting of above six hundred of the most authentio writers, &c., two volumes folio, 1764. Harris includes Hackluyt and Purchas, and translations from the best authorities in other languages.
European (himself not so free from prejudice and foolish custom as he fancies), their jealousy of innovation is a remnant of the old Tartar pride, as well as an instinct of security. The greatest innovation in China, next to philosophy, was tea; which, however, appears to be of older date than the times of Polo and Rubruquis, though Mr. MacFarlane has observed the curious fact of their making no mention of it. There are no three ideas which we associate more strongly with the two great portions of the East, than tea with the Chinese, and coffee and smoking with the Turks and Persians; yet tea is not alluded to by the oldest Chinese writers, and the use of coffee and tobacco by mankind dates no further back than a few centuries. There is no mention of smoking in the Arabian Nights; nor was there of coffee, till Mr. Lane found it in one of his additional stories. The Mussulman's drink was sherbet; and instead of smoke, he chewed dates and tarts.
This honesty on the part of our two good old travellers is, in fact, a virtue belonging emphatically to the best travellers, ancient and modern. Herodotus, the first authentic traveller, was an honest man. Nearchus, Alexander's admiral, the first authentic voyager, was an honest man. The great Columbus was one; Drake was one; Dampier, Bernier, Cook, Bell of Antimony, Niebuhr, Pocock, Park, Ledyard, the other explorers of Africa, and the heroical men who adorn our own days, the Franklins, Richardsons, and Backs. Bruce's fault was not dishonesty, but ostentation. It is impossible indeed to conceive men of this kind unpossessed of great virtues. Nothing less could animate or support them. Hence, in reading the best books of travels, we have the double pleasure of feeling ourselves to be in the company of the brave and the good.
In selecting the following extracts from some of the most interesting of these writers, we have gone upon the principle of exemplifying the chief points of attraction in books of voyages and travels; to wit, remoteness and obscurity of place, difference of custom, marvellousness of hearsay, surprising but conceivable truth, barbaric or civilized splendour, savage or simple contentment, personal danger, courage, and suffering, and moral enthusiasm.
WILLIAM DE RUBRUQUIS.
And first for a taste of William de Rubruquis. It is to be borne in mind, that he was sent into the East by the French king and crusader Louis IX., in the middle of the thirteenth century. The crusades had opened up a new Christian interest all over that quarter of the world. Enterprising monks, and remnants of Christian churches in Turkey and Armenia, had occasioned exaggerated notions of the state of the faith in various parts of it; and Louis had heard of the famous Prester John, or imaginary Christian presbyter and king, reigning somewhere over Christian subjects, who is supposed to have meant the king of Abyssinia. Louis had sent some monks to look out for this royal brother in vain; and now he sent three more, to find him in the person of a Tartar king of the name of Sartach. One of these was our good monk William, who seems to have been a Brabanter, and who had Latinized his name, after the fashion of those times, from Ruysbrock or Rysbruck into De Rubruquis. The servant of the church militant went rejoicing on his perilous mission, armed with a Bible and prayer-book, with a few lowly presents of wine, dried fruit, and biscuits, which the Tartars plundered and laughed at, and with a heap of bad arguments in divinity, which Sartach appears to have laughed at still more. As to Prester John, William could hear not a word about him, except from a few Nestorian Christians, who had nothing to show for the existence of such a personage.
Prestér John was eternally sitting on his throne somewhere; but it was always in some other place.
Of Sartach the reader will find little in our extracts, the glory of the sight of him having been prejudiced by that of his brother chief and vagabond, Zagatai, whom Rubruquis saw first, and of whose state and presence he gives a more particular account. All the statements of Rubruquis are full of the life of truth. The appearance of Zagatai's carts with their houses on them, moving towards the traveller as if “a great city came to him," is particularly striking; and Zagatai's consort, with her lovely noseless face, has a virtue of repulsion in her, beyond all the foreign beauties we ever read of.
WANDERING TARTARS AND THEIR CHIEF ZAGATAI, IN THE THIR
FROM THE TRAVELS OF WILLIAM DE RUBRUQUIS.
HE third day after we were departed out of these pre
cincts of Soldaia, we found the Tartars, amongst whom being entered, methought I was come into a new world, whose life and manners I will describe unto your highness as well as I can.
They have no settled habitation, neither know they today where they shall lodge to-morrow.
They have all Scythia to themselves, which stretcheth from the River Danube to the utmost extent of the East. Each of their captains, according to the number of his people, knows the bounds of his pastures, and where he ought to feed his cattle winter and summer, spring and autumn; for in the winter they remove into warm regions southward, and in the summer they go up into the cold regions northward. In winter, when snow lies upon the ground, they feed their cattle in pastures where there is no water, because then they use snow instead of water. Their houses in which they sleep they raise upon a round foundation of wickers artificially wrought and compacted together, the roof consisting of wickers also meeting above in one little roundell, out of which there rises upwards a neck like a chimney, which they cover with white felt; and often they lay mortar or white earth upon the felt with the powder of bones, that it may shine and look white: sometimes also they cover their houses with black felt. This cupola of their house they adorn with variety of pictures.
Before the door they hang a felt curiously painted over, for they spend all their coloured felt in painting vines, trees, birds, and beasts thereupon. These houses they make so
large that they contain thirty feet in breadth ; for measuring once the breadth between the wheel-ruts of one of their carts or wains, I found it to be twenty feet over, and when the house was upon the cart it stretched over the wheels on each side five feet at least. I told two-and-twenty oxen in one draught, drawing an house upon a cart, eleven in one row according to the breadth of the cart, and eleven more on the other side. The axle-tree of the cart was of an huge bigness like the mast of a ship, and a fellow stood in the door of the bouse upon the forestall of the cart, driving the oxen. They likewise make certain four-square baskets of slender twigs, as big as great chests; and afterwards from one side to another they frame an hollow lid or cover of such-like twigs, and make a door in it before. Then they cover the said chest or house with black felt, rubbed over with tallow or sheep's milk, to keep the rain from soaking through, which they likewise adorn with painting or white feathers. Into these chests they put their whole household stuff, or treasure, and bind them upon other carts which are drawn by camels, that they may pass through rivers ; neither do they ever take down these chests from their carts.
When they take down their dwelling-houses, they turn the doors always to the south, and next they place the carts laden with chests here and there within a stone's cast of the house, insomuch that the house standeth between two ranks of carts, as it were between two walls.
The women make themselves (adorn ?) beautiful carts, which I am not able to describe to your majesty but by pictures only. I would willingly have painted all things for you, had my skill being great enough in that art. A rich Tartar hath a hundred or two such carts with chests. Baatu hath sixteen wives, every one of which hath one great house besides other little houses, which they place behind