« ForrigeFortsett »
It is not without considerable anxiety and reluctance that this volume is submitted to the public. Having contributed
botanical notes, drawings, and meteorological registers to Captain Speke, I never dreamt of a separate publication. My Journal, however, was a very copious one, daily entries having been made during our expedition; and some personal friends seeing these notes, conceived that a selection from them, describing domestic scenes in Central Africa, might not be unacceptable. The geographical part of the expedition, and its brilliant result, had been fully treated by my lamented fellow-traveller ; but further details as to the ordinary life and pursuits, the habits and feelings of the natives, and the products of the country, appeared likely to possess a certain degree of interest, if not of value. This opinion was entertained by Captain Speke himself, who addressed
to me the following request and advice on the subject :
“79 ECCLESTON SQUARE, 1st June 1864. “MY DEAR GRANT,—I really wish you would write your experiences in Central Africa, from Kazé to Gondokoro. In doing so, try as much as possible to give, relatively, a corresponding valuation to each succeeding country, in the order in which you passed through them-I mean, as regards the products and the capabilities of the countries, the density of their populations, and the different natures of the people, as well as the causes affecting them. Personal anecdotes, especially illustrative of the superstitious inclinations of the people, will be most interesting. But nothing can be of such permanent value to the work as a well-defined account of the rainy system and its operation upon vegetable life, showing why the first three degrees of north latitude are richer than the first three in the south, and how it happens that the further one goes from the equator, the poorer the countries become from want of moisture. I maintain that all true rivers in Africa—not nullahs — which do not rise in the flanking coast ranges, can only have their fountains on the equator; but the people of this country have not learned to see it yet.-Yours ever sincerely,
“ J. H. SPEKE.”
I shall not attempt to comment upon the rain-system of the elevated land we traversed at the equator, but merely remark that in this region fruitful showers were constantly falling like dew. The influence of these showers was, that although the flora was not so tropical as in countries which are at a far lower elevation, and though this quarter of the globe, from all
accounts, receives less rain than any other portion of the equator, still the country might be termed a garden of fertility and richness.
My acquaintance with Captain Speke commenced as far back as 1847, when he was serving in India 40 with his regiment. We were both Indian officers, of the same age, and equally fond of field-sports, and our friendship continued unbroken. After his return from discovering the Victoria Nyanza, he was, as is well known, commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society to prosecute his discovery, and to ascertain, if possible, the truth of his conjecture—that the Nile had its source in that gigantic lake, the Nyanza. I volunteered to accompany him ; my offer was at once accepted; and it is now a melancholy satisfaction to think that not a shade of jealousy or distrust, or even ill-temper, ever came between us during our wanderings and intercourse.
The advice of my friend, as given in the above letter, coincided with my own views. The scenes and descriptions here recorded are from life —transcripts from my Journal made on the spo , without any reference to books, or any attempt at embellishment. Some of the details may appear trifling-all of them are very imperfectly related ; but they are at least true, and they will help, I trust, to render my countrymen more familiar with the interior life of Africa, to which Livingstone and Speke have re
cently imparted fresh interest, and to which the attention of Christian philanthropists is now turned.
The plants which I had the pleasure of gathering during our expedition consisted of above seven hundred species, fully eighty of which were quite new to science. The most useful are noticed in this volume; and the whole collection has been presented to the noble Herbarium of Kew Gardens.
The title chosen for my narrative was suggested by a circumstance which I may perhaps be pardoned for mentioning, as it forms one of many kind favours received from Sir Roderick I. Murchison, K.C.B., the able and zealous President of the Royal Geographical Society. Last season Sir Roderick did me the honour to introduce me to Her Majesty's first Minister, Viscount Palmerston, and on that occasion his Lordship good-humouredly remarked, “You have had a long walk, Captain Grant!” The saying was one well fitted to be remembered and to be told again ; and my friendly publishers and others recommended that it should form the leading title of my book.
December 1, 1864.