Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Significant Scots
John Bell

BELL, JOHN, of Antermony, a traveller of the eighteenth century, was the son of Patrick Bell, the representative of that old and respectable family, and of Anabel Stirling, daughter of Mungo Stirling of Craigbarnet. He was born in 1691, and, after receiving a classical education, turned his attention to the study of medicine. On passing as physician, he determined to visit foreign countries, but we shall insert this part of his history in Mr Bell’s own words. "In my youth," says he, " I had a strong desire of seeing foreign parts; to satisfy which inclination, after having obtained, from some persons of worth, recommendatory letters to Dr Areskine, chief physician and privy counsellor to the Czar Peter the First, I embarked at London, in the month of July, 1714, on board the Prosperity of Ramsgate, Captain Emerson, for St Petersburg. On my arrival there, I was received by Dr Areskine in a very friendly manner, to whom I communicated my intentions of seeking an opportunity of visiting some parts of Asia, at least those parts which border on Russia. Such an opportunity soon presented itself, on occasion of an embassy then preparing, from his Czarish Majesty to the Sophy of Persia." - Preface to his Travels. The ambassador fortunately applied to Dr Areskine to recommend some one skilled in physic and surgery to go in his suite, and Mr Bell was soon afterwards engaged in the service of the Russian Emperor. He accordingly left St Petersburg on the 15th of July, 1715, and proceeded to Moscow, from thence to Cazan, and down the Volga to Astracan. The embassy then sailed down the Caspian Sea to Derbend, and journeyed by Mougan, Tauris, and Saba, to Ispahan, where they arrived on the 14th of March, 1717. They left that city on the 1st of September and returned to St Petersburgh on the 30th of December 1718 after having travelled across the country from Saratoff. On his arrival in the capital, Mr Bell found that his friend and patron Dr Areskine had died about six weeks before but he had now secured the friendship of the ambassador and upon hearing that an embassy to China was preparing he easily obtained an appointment in it through his influence The account of his journey to Cazan and through Siberia to China is by far the most complete and interesting part of his travels. His description of the manners, customs and superstitions of the inhabitants, and of the Delay-lama and Chinese wall deserve particularly to be noticed. They arrived at Pekin "after a tedious journey of exactly sixteen months." Mr Bell has left a very full account of occurrences during his residence in the capital of China. The embassy left that city on the 2nd of March, 1721, and arrived at Moscow on the 5th of January 1722.

The war between Russia and Sweden was now concluded, and the Czar had determined to undertake an expedition into Persia at the request of the Sophy to assist that prince against the Affghans, his subjects, who had seized upon Kandahar and possessed themselves of several provinces on the frontiers towards India. Mr Bell’s former journey to Persia gave him peculiar advantages, and he was accordingly engaged to accompany the army to Derbent, from which he returned in December, 1722. Soon afterwards he revisited his native country, and returned to St Petersburgh in 1734. In 1737, he was sent to Constantinople by the Russian Chancellor, and Mr Rondeau the British minister at the Russian court. [M’Ure’s History of Glasgow, new edition, p. 115.] He seems now to have abandoned the public service, and to have settled at Constantinople as a merchant. About 1746, he married Mary Peters, a Russian lady, and determined to return to Scotland. He spent the latter part of his life on his estate, and in the enjoyment of the society of his friends. At length, after a long life spent in active beneficence, and exertions for the good of mankind, he died at Antermony on the 1st of July, 1780, at the advanced age of 89.

The only work written by Mr Bell is his "Travels from St Petersburgh in Russia to various parts of Asia," to which reference has already been made. It was printed in 2 volumes quarto by Robert and Andrew Foulis, in 1763, and published by subscription. "The history of this book," says the Quarterly Review, "is somewhat curious, and not generally known. For many years after Mr Bell returned from his travels, he used to amuse his friends with accounts of what he had seen, refreshing his recollection from a simple diary of occurrences and observations. The Earl Granville, then president of the council, on hearing some of his adventures, prevailed on him to throw his notes together into the form of a narrative, which, when done, pleased him so much that he sent the manuscript to Dr Robertson, with a particular request that he would revise and put it into a fit state for the press. The literary avocations of the Scottish historian at that time not allowing him to undertake the task, he recommended Mr Barron, a professor in the University of Aberdeen, and on this gentleman consulting Dr Robertson as to the style and the book of travels which he would recommend him to adopt for his guide, the historian replied, "Take Gulliver’s Travels for your model, and you cannot go wrong.’ He did so, and ‘Bell’s Travels’ have all the simplicity of Gulliver, with the advantage which truth always carries over fiction." [Quarterly Review on M’Leod’s Voyage in the Alceste, 1817, pp. 464-5.]

Here is an account of his travels...

Bell seems to have been born about the year 1690, at Antermony, in Scotland. He was possessed, even from his earliest years, by a strong passion for travel; but his passion, together with a large portion of shrewdness and sagacity, constituting the better part of his inheritance, he judiciously applied himself to the study of medicine and surgery, a knowledge of which, in all semi-barbarous countries, is frequently of more avail to the traveller even than wealth. It does not appear whether Bell was directed in the choice of his scene by preference or by chance. However, as all Europe was at that period filled with admiration of the projects of Peter the First, whose reputation for munificence drew crowds of adventurers by a species of magnetic attraction towards the north, it is probable that a desire of personal aggrandizement united with a thirst of knowledge in urging our traveller in the direction of Petersburg. Put be this as it may, having obtained from several respectable persons recommendatory letters to Dr. Areskine, chief physician and privy counsellor to the czar Peter the First, he embarked at London in July, 1714, for St. Petersburg. On his arrival he was received in a very friendly manner by Dr. Areskine, to whom he communicated his intentions of availing himself of the first opportunity which should offer of visiting some portions of Asia. The desired occasion soon presented itself. The czar, preparing at this period to send an embassy into Persia, appointed Aremy Petrovich Valensky, a captain of the guards, to conduct the mission; and this gentleman applying to Dr. Areskine to recommend him a medical attendant, Bell was immediately brought forward by his countryman, and received, on his favourable testimony, into the ambassador's suite. Through the same interest, he was likewise at once formally introduced into the service of the czar.

Bell set out from Petersburg on the 15th of July, 1715, accompanied by a part of the ambassador's suite, and for some time directing his course along the western bank of the Neva, encamped in the evening on a small stream which falls into that river, and passed the night in a wagon. Next day they embarked on the Volchovu, the banks of which were covered with villages and fruitful cornfields, interspersed with woods, and continued their journey by water until they approached Novogorod, where they quitted their "moving road," as Pascal terms a river, and proceeded on horseback. At Iver, Bell beheld the mighty stream of the Volga, the navigation of which from this town to the Caspian Sea is interrupted by no cataract, and whose waters abound with an extraordinary variety of the
finest fish in the world.

From this place they proceeded towards the ancient capital of the empire, through a plain but agreeable country, covered with rich harvests, which infallibly produce a pleasing effect upon the mind, and dotted with small tufted groves, the verdure of which contrasted admirably with the yellow grain waving at their feet. On reaching the village from which the first view of Moscow was obtained. Bell observes, that "at this distance few cities in the world make a finer appearance, for it stands on a rising ground, and contains many stately churches and monasteries, whose steeples and cupolas are generally covered either with copper gilt or tin plates, which shine like gold and silver in the sun."

The Kremlin, to which Bishop Heber was fond of comparing some of the old Mohammedan edifices of Hindostan, appears to have excited no very particular admiration in Bell, who merely observes that it was compounded of a number of buildings added to one another at different times, and that some of the apartments were remarkably spacious. Here they embarked on the Moskwa, and dropping slowly down the stream, entered the Volga a little below Nishna. The river at this place is of very great breadth, and, the wind blowing from the north, they were driven along with prodigious velocity. Signs of the approach of winter now began to appear, for it was the latter end of October; the Volga was suddenly filled with floating ice, which, united with its powerful current, and the force of the wind, rendered their position exceedingly dangerous. They, however, continued their voyage, and arrived on the 3d of November at Zabackzar, a considerable town on the right bank of the river, a little above Kazen.

In this part of Russia, according to Bell, the best and largest falcons in the world are caught, which being highly valued for their strength and beauty, particularly by the Turks and Persians, are sold to those nations at extravagant prices. They are not, as might have been expected, taken from the nest; but after they are full grown, when their natural instincts have been developed by exercise, and their physical powers have acquired, by struggling with storms and tempests, their utmost maturity and vigour. They are then taught to fly at swans, geese, herons, hares, and even antelopes; and our traveller saw one of them take a wild duck out of the water when nothing but her bill, which she had put up for air, could be perceived.

Many of these falcons are as white as doves. Bell afterward saw in Kudistan the beautiful species of hawk called ckerJck, which the Persians and Arabs train for antelope hunting. This is done by stuffing the skin of one of these animals, and placing the food of the hawk between its horns, which afterward, when the bird comes to be employed in the chase, induces it to pounce upon the head of the antelope, and either strike it to the ground, or retard its movements until the greyhounds come up. Sir John Malcolm, who witnessed this singular sport at Abusheher, observes that "the huntsmen proceed to a large plain, or rather desert, near the seaside; they have hawks and greyhounds, the former carried in the usual manner on the hand of the huntsman, the latter led in a leash by a horseman, generally the same who carries the hawk. When the antelope is seen they endeavour to get as near as possible; but the animal, the moment it observes them, goes off at a rate that seems swifter than the wind; the horses are instantly at full speed, having slipped the dogs. If it is a single deer they at the same time fly the hawks; but if a herd, they wait till the dogs have fixed upon a particular antelope. The hawks, skimming along near the ground, soon reach the deer, at whose head they pounce in succession, and sometimes with a violence that knocks it over."

The Persian style of hare hunting, which few travellers have noticed, is scarcely less interesting, and is thus described by Sir John Malcolm. "When at Shirez the elchee (ambassador) had received a present of a very fine shah-baz, or royal falcon. Before going out I had been amused at seeing Nuttee Beg, our head falconer, a man of great experience in his department, put upon this bird a pair of leathers, which he fitted to its thighs with as much care as if he had been the tailor of a fashionable horseman. I inquired the reason of so unusual a proceeding.

*You will learn that," said the consequential master of the hawks, "when you see our sport;' and I was convinced, at the period he predicted, of the old fellow's knowledge of his business. The first hare seized by the falcon was very strong, and the ground rough. While the bird kept the claws of one foot fastened in the back of its prey, the other was dragged along the ground, till it had an opportunity to lay hold of a tuft of grass, by which it was enabled to stop the course of the hare, whose efforts to escape, I do think, would have torn the hawk asunder, if it had not been provided with the leathern defences which have been mentioned. The next time the falcon was flown gave us proof of that extraordinary courage which its whole appearance, and particularly its eye, denoted. It had stopped and quite disabled the second hare by the first pounce, when two greyhounds, which had been slipped by mistake, came up, and endeavoured to seize it. They were, however, repulsed by the falcon, whose boldness and celerity in attacking the dogs, and securing its prey, excited our admiration and astonishment." Bell was informed of a circumstance, while travelling in Kurdistan, which raises still higher our admiration of the falcon's courage; for it is trained by the Tartars to fly at foxes and even wolves. But to return to the Volga: On arriving on the 5th of November at Kazan, they found that the winter had set in, that the Volga was filled with floating ice, and that, therefore, since the nations inhabiting both banks of the river were hostile to Russia, or extremely barbarous in their manners, it would be necessary to defer the prosecution of their journey until the following spring. This afforded Bell ample leisure for the conducting of his researches into the manners, character, and religion of the neighbouring tribes. Here he found two Swedish generals, Hamilton and Rosen, taken prisoners at the battle of Pultowa, and exiled by the barbarous policy of the czar to these remote regions; but, excepting that they were exiles, they had no great reason to complain of their treatment, for they were allowed to share in whatever amusements and pleasures the place afforded, and were by no means subjected to a rigorous confinement.

It was not until the beginning of June that they were enabled to continue their voyage. They then began once more to descend the stream, which they did with great velocity; and making a short stay at Samara and Astrakhan, proceeded on their voyage, entered the Caspian, and on the 30th of August arrived at Niezabad, where, there being neither harbour nor creek, they hauled up their flat-bottomed vessels on the beach. Here an accident occurred to one of Bell's companions, which strikingly illustrates the facility with which the imagination, when strongly excited, overthrows the other faculties of the mind. The ship in which the secretary of the embassy was embarked did not arrive until several hours after the others had been drawn on shore, by which time the wind had begun to blow with great violence, while the sea broke tremendously upon the beach. Not being able under such circumstances, to reach the land, they at first cast anchor in the open road; but the gale increasing, even this position was considered dangerous, so that they quickly shipped their cable and put out to sea. The secretary and the other gentlemen on board, however, not greatly admiring their situation, and willing, from their extreme impatience to be once more on terra firma, to run even a considerable risk in endeavouring to effect their purpose, ordered the master of the ship, a Dutchman in the service of the czar, to run her ashore at all hazards, engaging themselves to be accountable for the consequences. But when the ship had approached within a certain distance of the land, the sea ran so high that no boat could be hoisted out. The secretary's fear of the sea increasing with the obstacles to his landing, he at length prevailed upon a sailor, at the peril of his life, to carry him ashore on his back, which, in spite of all difficulties, the man actually performed; "but his clothes being drenched with salt-water, and the road lying through deep sands, he was soon fatigued, and therefore retired nearer to the woods, in hopes of finding a more smooth and easy path. He discovered what he sought; but instead of leading him to the ships, it carried him away from the shore, and the right course, into thick encumbered wood; and in these circumstances night overtook him, utterly ignorant of the dismal and dangerous wild into which he had wandered. Thus destitute of all assistance, he climbed a tree to save himself from the wild beasts with which these woods abound; and in this situation continued all the night, and till noon the next day; for the people in his own ship never doubted of his having safely reached our tents; while we, on the contrary, had not the least suspicion of his having come on shore. At last, however, about noon, his servant came, inquiring for his master, who, he told us, left the ship the night before. This account filled us all with anxiety and apprehension; as we certainly concluded he would be torn to pieces by the wild beasts, or murdered by the savages who inhabit this coast. Immediate order was given for all our people to repair to the woods in search of him. He was at last found wandering from path to path, without knowing one direction from another. When he came to the tents he looked ghastly and wild, and related many strange stories of what he had heard in the night. All possible care was taken to alleviate his distress. During his sleep, which was very discomposed, he often started, groaned, and spoke; and even after he awaked, he persisted in affirming that there were numbers of people round the tree in the night, talking different languages. The imagination, no doubt, will naturally have a strong effect on any man in such uncommon circumstances; for, though the secretary was a man of penetration and sound judgment, in vain did we endeavour to undeceive him, by representing that it was nothing but the jackals which made the noise he had "heard." In fact, he never recovered his former sagacity and soundness of mind: and the accident may even be supposed to have hastened his death, which took place not long afterward.

From Niezabad they proceeded to Shamakia, where the inhabitants, to whom the Muscovites were novelties at that time, crowded the tops of their houses to behold them. The time of their stay was spent in the way usual with ambassadors; that is, in attempts of politeness, affecting state, and in disputes with the Khan of Shamakia. At length, however, all these were ended, and they departed. The suite of the ambassador was numerous; for in the East a man's dignity is estimated by the camel-loads of people at his heels: one hundred and sixty camels, nearly two hundred horses and mules, which, if common sense were constituted judge of the matter, would be thought amply sufficient to bear the czar's compliments and a letter to the shah.

On entering Kurdistan, Bell, from whose mind the "rugged Russian bears," jackals, and other nuisances, had not chased away all classical reminiscences, seems to have experienced some pleasure at the idea of traversing, though in a contrary direction, the same track which was pursued by Xenophon and the Ten Thousand in their retreat from Babylonia. The Kurds, the ancient Karduchi, were still, he says, reckoned a brave people; and, in fact, would be extremely disposed, if any thing were to be gained by it, to harass any body of men, whether small or great, who passed through their country. On the day before they arrived at Tabriz they crossed a ridge of mountains, from which, as he was infonned by an Armenian, the snowy peaks of Ararat, or Agri Dag, might be seen in clear weather.

From Tabriz they set out in the heart of winter, the country being covered with deep snow, and the roads, in consequence, almost impassable. The bright reflection of the sunbeams from the snow produced an extraordinary effect upon the Russians. Their faces swelled, and many of them were afflicted with ophthalmia. But the Persians themselves are liable to the latter inconvenience, and, in order to guard against it, wear a network fillet of black horse, a contrivance, I imagine, might be made use of with equal success in traversing the sands of Egypt or Arabia.

As they proceeded southward they quickly escaped from the regions of snow, and on reaching Sarva, a small town a little to the north of Room, found the pomegranate-trees already in blossom on the 22d of February. The Persians, at least that part of them who make any claim to civilization, are a pleasant people to travel among. For if, in classic lands.

Not a mountain reared its head unsung, no mountain, no, nor valley neither, rears or lowers its head without having some particular legend attached to it. Near Room you are shown a hill from which no one who has been mad enough to reach the top ever descended; and are told a lamentable story of a young page sent up with a lighted torch in his hand by Shah Abbas, who, of course, never returned, but may yet perhaps come down with his torch unconsumed, upon the re-advent of the Twelfth Imam. At Rashan your imagination is excited by being placed in apartments, the floors of which are almost paved with scorpions, the sting of every one of which is more deadly than the sword of Rustam, or the lance of Afrasiab. But these reptiles, like the spear of Achilles, undo, as it were, with one hand what they perform with the other; for when they have darted their poison into the frame, they yield, on being caught and fried, though not alive, I hope, an oil which the Persians reckon an infalable antidote to their venom. The only advantage which seems to be derived from this energetic little reptile is, that it enriches the Persian language with a new variety of that rhetorical figure of speech called commination, or cursing; for when any person is desirous of concentrating his wrath in a single imprecation, instead of having recourse to that convenient but vulgar demon who takes our enemies oft* our hands in Europe, he arms his wishes with the sting of a Rashan scorpion, and flings that at the head of his adversaries.

The embassy arrived at Ispahan on the I4th of March; and the shah's court immediately put itself in training for a grand theatrical exhibition, in order to impress the barbarians with a favourable idea of the greatness of the Asylum of the Universe. While the stage decorations were preparing, our traveller, who entertained a reasonable respect for royal pomp and magnificence, employed himself in observing the city and its environs; and when the important day came, accompanied the ambassador into the presence of the shah. Every thing passed oft in the usual style. Exhibitions of elephants caparir over the eyes; which Bell found, upon trial, to be an effectual preventive. This isoned with gold and silver stuffs; lions led in massive chains of gold; twenty horses superbly caparisoned, having all their saddles and bridles ornamented with gold and silver, and set with sapphires, emeralds, and other precious stones, while the stakes by which they were fastened, and the mallets with which those stakes were driven into the earth, were of sohd gold: such were the sights beheld within the precincts of the palace.

On the outside, however, poverty, ignorance, and starvation exhibited their gaunt, phantom visages among the crowd, scaring the eyeballs of those who were not too much dazzled by the gorgeous apparatus of tyranny, to discover the real nature of the materials out of which they were forgedv When the ambassador was presented to the shah, he made a speech to him in Russian; the "Asylum of the Universe" replied in Persian; and since neither of them understood one word of what was sai^d to him by the other, their speeches must have been exceedingly interesting. However, a third person, "doctus utriusque lingure," clothed the shah's ideas in Russian for the benefit of the ambassador, while he presented the thoughts of the latter, or at least something like them, to the shah, in the mellifluous language of Persia. All this while music, which the traveller did not find inharmonious, was played in the audience-chamber, and the mufti was reading aloud various portions of the Koran. Whether this was intended to show how indifferent, respecting all secular concerns, the holy men of Persia were, or to throw an air of religion over the transaction, or, finally, to exorcise all such devils as might be supposed to accompany such a rabble of Franks, Bell did not inquire; which, I think, was a great oversight. An entertainment, which all parties thought more agreeable than the speeches, followed next. The shah himself, according to ancient usage, was served before his guests; but the ambassador had the honor of being next attended to. Every article of the feast was served up in large gold or china dishes, but, according to the custom of the East, fingers were substituted for knives and forks, and these, as among the ancient Greeks, were wiped with large thin cakes of bread, instead of napkins.

The dinner to which they were shortly after invited by the keeper of the great seal, was more magnificent than that given them by the shah. "Soon after we entered," says Bell, "there were served up a great variety of sweetmeats, and all kinds of fruit that the climate afforded. Coffee and sherbet were carried about by turns. We were placed cross-legged upon the carpets, except the ambassador, who had a seat. During this part of the feast we were entertained with vocal and instrumental music, dancing boys, tumblers, puppets, and jugglers. All the performers executed their parts with great dexterity. Two of them counterfeited a quarrel, one beat off the other's turban with his foot, out of which dropped about fifteen or twenty large serpents, which ran or crawled about the room. One of them came towards me with great speed, which soon obliged me to quit my place. On seeing us alarmed, they told us the creatures were altogether inoffensive, as their teeth had been all drawn out. The fellow went about the room and gathered them again into his turban, like so many eels. The victuals were now served in a neat and elegant manner. Every thing was well dressed in the Persian fashion. Our host was very cheerful, and contributed every thing in his power to please his guests. He excused himself handsomely enough for not having wine, as it was not then used at court. Two days after this the ambassador received intimation, that the business of the embassy being concluded, he might depart when he pleased; but the Russ, who seems to have relished the pilaus of Ispahan, would have been better pleased to remain where he was the whole year. However, it being clear that the disciples of Ali by no means participated in his feelings, he unwillingly prepared to encounter once more his native fogs and snows. They left Ispahan on the 1st of September, and proceeded through Kasbin and Ghilan towards Shamakia. At Kasbin many of the ambassador's suit, and Bell among the number, were attacked by a pestilential fever, which appears to have been the plague; but they all, excepting one person, recovered. They, however, lost twenty-two of their number before they finally quitted the Persian dominions. It being the depth of winter when the ambassador arrived at Shamakia, he resolved to remain there until the following summer; time, in his opinion, being of little value. Accordingly, it was not until the 26th of June that they embarked on the Caspian.

Their journey homewards was long and tedious; but they at length reached Petersburg on the 30th of December, 1718; having consumed nearly three years and a half in going to and returning from Ispahan. Bell observes that Peter, who was in the capital when they arrived, was said to be well satisfied with the conduct of his ambassador, whose principal business was to cultivate and cement amity and a good understanding between the two crowns of Russia and Persia. The city, notwithstanding the Swedish war, which had lasted nearly twenty years, had been greatly improved and adorned during his short absence; and its appearance had been so greatly changed, that he could scarcely imagine himself, he says, in the same place. Other changes had likewise taken place in that short interval. His friend Dr. Areskine was, he found, no more, having died about six weeks previous to his arrival. However, he was kindly received by his other friends, as well Russian as English; and he mentions it as a circumstance worthy of remark, that he met among the former with many persons of much worth and honour.

Captain Valensky, the Persian ambassador, having contracted a friendship for him during their journey, continued to regard him with the same feelings after their return; and when, on hearing that the czar was about to despatch an embassy to China, Bell expressed an ardent desire to accompany it, recommended him in such a manner to the ambassador. Captain IsmailofF, as not only procured his reception into the suite of the mission, but the friendship of that worthy man for the remainder of his life.

Our traveller set out from Petersburg on his way to China on the 14th of July, 1719, and proceeded through Moscow to Kazan, where he awaited the setting in of winter, the journey through Siberia being to be performed in sledges. The poor Swedish generals who had been taken prisoners at Pultowa were still here, regretting, naturally enough, but unavailingly, their long detention from their native land. On the 24th of November, the snow having fallen sufficiently to smooth the roads, Bell and a portion of the ambassador's suit departed from Kazan. Their road lay through a fertile country, producing abundance of cattle, corn, and honey, and covered, in many places, by vast woods of tall oaks, fir, and birch. The beehives used here were of a remarkable form. The inhabitants, says Bell, take the trunk of a lime-tree, aspen, or any soft wood, of about five or six feet long; having scooped it hollow, they make a large aperture in one side, about a foot in length and four inches broad; they then fix cross rods within the trunk for the bees to build upon, and having done this, close up the place carefully with a board, leaving small notches for the bees to go in and out. These hives are planted in proper places at the side of a wood, and tied to a tree with strong withes, to prevent their being destroyed by the bears, who are great devourers of honey. Bell learned, moreover, that the peasantry in these parts had a method of extracting the honey without destroying the bees; but the persons who gave him the information, described the process so indistinctly that he could not understand it.

Their road now lay for many days through dark woods, interspersed at wide intervals with villages and cornfields. The cold daily became more and more intense; thick fogs hung upon the ground; the frost penetrated everywhere. The fingers and toes of those most exposed were frozen, and could only be restored to animation by being rubbed with snow. At length, on the 9th of December, they arrived at Solehampsky, famous for its great salt-works, which, if necessary, could not only have furnished all Russia, but several other countries also, with salt. Vast strata of salt-rocks seem here to extend on all sides at a certain distance from the surface. Pits are sunk to these rocks, and are quickly filled with water, which, being drawn off and boiled in large caldrons, the salt is deposited at the bottom. The vein of salt-rock sometimes runs under the river Kama, in which case it is reached by sinking wooden t.owers in the stream, as ihey do when building the piers of a bridge, and piercing through these to the necessary depth. The salt water then springs up, fills the wooden tower, and is pumped off as before. Prodigious strata of this kind of rock traversing the bed of the ocean, may, perhaps, be the cause of the saltness of its waters.

There are extensive mines of excellent iron-ore in the same neighbourhood; where is likewise found the asbestos fossil, from which the incombustible linen is manufactured. The value of this laniferous stone is said to have been discovered by a sportsman, who, happening one day to be in want of wadding in the woods, and observing the threadlike fibres of this fossil, plucked some of them off for that use; and finding that the gunpowder had no effect upon them, communicated the fact to others, which led to those inquiries and experiments by which its extraordinary properties were discovered.

From Solekampsky they proceeded to theOural Mountains, which divide Russia from Siberia. These are covered in all directions by vast forests, excepting in a fewva'Ieys where they have been felled by man, where our traveller found the landscape beautiful even in the depth of winter. On descending their eastern slope into the plains, a milder prospect, woods, villages, cornfields, and meadows, met the eye: but winter still reigned over all, binding up the streams, whirling his snow-drifts oyerthe plain, or clothing the forests with frost and icicles. The fogs, however, had disappeared; and as far as the eye could reach, all was snow below and sunshine above. On the 16th of December the gilded crosses and cupolas of Tobolsk were discovered, rising in the distance above the snowy plain; and in the evening of the same day they found themselves agreeably lodged within its walls.

Here, as well as in most ofthe towns through which they had passed, they found a nunnber of Swedish officers of distinction; among the rest Dittmar, secretary to Charles XII.; and Bell observes that they were permitted to enjoy a considerable share of liberty. They could walk about where they pleased, hunt in the woods, and even make long journeys to visit their countrymen at distant places. He, in fact, so indulgent to tyranny had his residence in Russia rendered him, thought "his majesty" was showing them an especial favour by cantoning them in those parts where they could live well at a small expense, and enjoy all the liberty which persons in their circumstances could expect.

Whatever may be our opinion of the conduct of Peter, whom the childish folly of some writers has denominated the Great, it must be confessed, that as far as his own interests were concerned, the exiling of these officers into Siberia was a judicious step, as it tended powerfully to civilize, that is, to render more taxable, the wild and ignorant inhabitants of that vast country. Several of the Swedish exiles were persons who had received a superior education. Not being able quickly to conform to the gross tastes of those who surrounded them, they therefore laboured by every means in their power to diffuse a relish for their own more liberal preferences; and as they very fortunately reckoned painting and music,—arts which, addressing themselves partly to the senses, possess a certain charm even for savages,—among their accomplishments, they succeeded by their pictures and concerts in subduing the ferocity of their masters. Still further to extend their influence, they sometimes amused themselves with teaching a select portion of the youth of both sexes the French and German languages; and as ingenuous youth has all the world over, a reverence for those who introduce it into the paths of knowledge, the purpose of the Swedes was amply accomplished, and they enjoyed the affection of powerful and honorable friends.

To a sportsman the neighbourhood of Tobolsk affords endless amusement. Here are found every species of game compatible with the nature of the climate: the urban, the heathcock, the partridge, which in winter turns white as a dove, woodcocks, snipes, and a prodigious variety of water-fowl. Vast flights of snowbirds which are about the size of a lark, come to Siberia in autumn, and disappear in spring. In colour many of these birds are as white as snow, while others are speckled or brown. Bears, wolves, lynxes, several kinds of foxes, squirrels, ermines, sables, and martins, abound in the woods. The ermines generally burrow in the open field, where they are caught in traps baited with a morsel of flesh. These animals are caught only in winter, when their fur is white and most valuable. They turn brown in summer. The hares, likewise, and the foxes of these northern regions, imitate the changes of mother earth; and in winter are clad in furs resembling in colour the snows over which they run.

During his stay at Tobolsk, Bell made numerous inquiries respecting the religion and manners of the Tartars inhabiting the region lying between the Caspian and Mongolia; and learned, among other particulars, that in an ancient palace, the construction of which some attributed to Timour, others to Genghis Khan, there were preserved numerous scrolls of glazed paper, fairly written in many instances in gilt characters. Some of these scrolls were said to be black, though the far greater number were white. They were written in the Kalmuck language. While our traveller was busy in these inquiries, a soldier suddenly presented himself before him in the street with a bundle of these scrolls in his hand; which, as the man offered them for a small sum, he purchased, and brought to England. They were here distributed among our traveller's learned friends; and as Sir Hans Sloane was reckoned among the number, they will eventually find their way to the British Museum. But whether or not any of them have as yet been translated, I have not been able to discover. Two similar scrolls sent by Peter I. to Paris, were immediately turned into French by the savans of that capital, to whom no language comes amiss, from that of the ancient Egyptians and Parsees to that of modern sparrows, and were said to be merely a commission to a lama, or priest, and a form of prayer. Whether this interpretation may be depended on, says Bell, I shall not determine.

On the 9lh of January, 1720, they set out from Tobosk. Their road now led them through numerous Tartar villages, where the houses were constructed of wood and moss, with thin pieces of ice fixed in holes in the walls instead of windows. The whole country, as far as the eye could reach, consisted of level marshy grounds, sprinkled with lakes, and overgrown with tall woods of aspen, alder, willows, and other aquatic trees, among which our traveller remarked a species of large birch, with a bark as smooth and white as paper. Pursuing their journey with the utmost rapidity, they arrived on the 4th of February at Tomsk, where Bell, as usual, immediately set on foot the most active inquiries respecting the neighbouring regions and their inhabitants. From the citadel of Tomsk, which is situated on an eminence, a chain of hills is discovered towards the south, beyond which, our traveller was informed, in a vast plain, many tombs and burying places were found. His information throws much interesting light on a passage of Herodotus. This great historian relates, in his fourth book, that when the ancient Scythians interred their king, they were accustomed to strangle upon his body his favourite concubines, his cupbearer, his cook, and other favourite personages; and we learn from other authors, that together with the bones of these, cups, vases, and other vessels of gold were deposited with the royal corpse in the tomb. The tombs discovered in the great plains south of Tomsk in all probability were those of ancient Scythian chiefs and kings; but if so, the spot must have been regarded as the common cemetery of the race, to which the bodies of all persons above a certain rank were to be borne, for the number of barrows found there was immense. Numerous individuals annually resorted hither from Tomsk and other places to search for treasure among these ancient graves, and they constantly found among the ashes of the dead large quantities of gold, silver, brass, and occasionally precious stones; hilts of swords, armour, saddle-ornaments, bits, and horse-trappings, together with the bones of horses and elephants, were sometimes met with. From which Bell infers, that when any general or person of distmction was interred, it was customary to bury all his arms, his favourite horse, and servant with him in the same grave; and this practice prevails to this day, he adds, among the Kalmucks and other Tartars. He was shown several pieces of armour and other curiosities which were dug out of these tombs, particularly a small equestrian statue of brass or bronze of no mean design or workmanship; together with figures of deer cast in pure gold, which were divided in the middle, and pierced by small holes, as if intended to be used as ornaments to a quiver, or to the furniture of a horse.

In the woods of this part of Siberia there is a species of wild ass, strikingly resembling the African zebra, having their hair waved white and brown, like that of a tiger. Bell saw several of their skins. Numerous wild horses of a fine chestnut colour were likewise found, but could not, he says be tamed, even if taken when foals. The Kalmucks, however, continued to make some use of them; for, not being able to ride, they killed and ate them, and used their skins as couches to sleep upon.

Proceeding eastward from Tomsk they arrived in about a fortnight on the banks of the river Tongusta, where the country on both sides being covered with impenetrable woods, it was necessary to make their way along the frozen stream, while the biting winds continued to whirl and drift about the snow in their path. Occasionally single houses or small villages were found upon the banks. One day, during their progress along this river, they met a prodigious flock of hares, all as white as the snow on which they walked, slowly descending the stream; and Bell was informed that these animals are frequently seen travelling south in much greater numbers.

They were now in the country of the Tonguses, a people who have no fixed dwellings, but roam at pleasure through the woods, erecting where they make any stay a few spars, inclining to each other above, and covering them with pieces of birchen bark sewed together, with a small hole at the top. The men, however, are brave, and the women virtuous. They practise tattooing. Their religion consists in the worship of the sun and moon. Their dress is of fur. Their arms, the bow and arrow, the lance, and a species of hatchet. In winter they travel over the frozen snow with shoes, the soles of which are of wood, and about five feet in length, and five or six inches broad, inclining to a point before and square behind. The feet are slipped into a thong fastened in the middle; and with these they can move over the deepest snow without sinking. But as these are suited only to the plains, they have a different kind for ascending the hills, with the skins of seals glued to the boards, having the hair inclining backwards, which prevents the sliding of the shoes. With these they climb hills with the greatest facility, and having reached the summit, dart down the opposite slope with astonishing rapidity.

Such are the great sable hunters of Siberia, who feed indifferently on the bear, the fox, and the wolf. The sables, says Bell, are not caught in the same manner as other animals. The fur is so tender, that the least mark of an arrow, or ruffling of the hair, spoils the sale of the skin. In hunting them they only use a little dog and a net. When a hunter discovers the track of a sable upon the snow, he follows it sometimes for several days unintermittingly, until the poor animal, quite tired, takes refuge in some tall tree, for it can climb like a cat. The hunter then spreads his net round the tree, and kindles a fire, when the sable, unable to endure the smoke, immediately descends, and is caught in the net. These hunters, when hard pressed by hunger, have recourse to a practice analogous to that of many South Sea islanders under similar circumstances: taking two thin pieces of board, they place one on the pit of the stomach, the other on the back, and gradually drawing together the extremities, allay in some degree the cravings of appetite. The winters here are long, and the cold so intense, that the earth never thaws, even in summer, beyond two feet and a half below the surface. When they dig to the depth of three feet for the purpose of burying their dead, they find the earth frozen; and in these graves the bodies remain unconsumed, and will do so, says the traveller, to the day of judgment.

On the 17th of March, the weather, as they began to approach the Baikal lake, changed so suddenly from winter to spring that they almost imagined themselves dropped imperceptibly into another climate. They therefore abandoned their sledges, which, as the snow was gone, were now become useless, and proceeded on horseback. Next day they arrived at Irkutsk on the river Angara. Here they remained until the 15th of May, waiting for the melting of the ice on the lake; and amusing themselves in the meanwhile with hunting, and observing the country and its inhabitants.

When the season was thought to be sufficiently far advanced, they proceeded up the banks of the river, until they discovered the lake burstinor out between two high rocks, and tumbling down over enormous stones, which lie quite across the channel of the river, which is here a mile in breadth. The sublimity of the scene, which is magnificent beyond description, is heightened exceedingly by the dashing and roaring of the waters, which impress the beholder with ideas of the irresistible power and grandeur of nature, the privilege to contemplate which elevates and enobles him in his own estimation. And this, in reality, is the principal source of the pleasure we derive from the view of stupendous mountains, the tempestuous ocean, cataracts, volcanoes, or conflagrations.

They now embarked on the Baikal, which, as Gibbon facetiously observes, disdains the modest appellation of a lake, and on receding from the land enjoyed a full prospect of its western shores, rising abruptly into rocky pinnacles capped with snow, and towering far above every thing around them. These stretched away immeasurably towards the north, until they were lost in the distance. On the south the view was bounded by hills of gentler elevation, whose tops, for the most part, were covered with wood. Their passage was tedious, for on approaching the mouth of the Sehnga they found the whole shore skirted by long reefs of floating icebergs, between which they forced their way with considerable difficulty. However, they at length entered the Selinga, and ascending partly in their boats and partly on horseback along its banks, arrived safely at Selinguisky on the 29th of May.

At this town, which, hke the ancient Chalcedony on the Bosphorus, may be termed the "City of the Bhnd," being built upon an inconvenient spot in the neighbourhood of an excellent one, they were to remain until the court of Pekin, which had been informed of their approach, should send an officer to conduct them over the frontiers. In the mean time every person amused himself according to his taste. Our honest and intelligent traveller, as he is very properly denominated by Gibbon, whose chief pleasure consisted in observing the manners of mankind, had here an ample field before him, in a variety of characters affording the most striking moral contrasts, from the Hindoo Yoghee, who bought live fishes on the banks of a stream in order to enjoy the pleasure of setting them swimming again, to the fierce, tough-nerved Mongol, who could view death, whether inflicted on man or beast, without exhibiting the least horror or emotion. With one of the chiefs of this warlike nation, who, by temperance and exercise, had contrived to reach his eightieth year with much of the vigour and energy of youth about him, they had a splendid hunting match, which, as conducted by the Tartars, may justly, as our great historian remarks, be considered as the image and the school of war.

The Chinese, who are as dilatory in their movements as the ancient Spartans, allowed them ample time to amuse themselves, for it was not until the 24th of August that their conductor arrived. On the 8th of September they departed, and arriving in a few days on the banks of the Saratzyn, the small rivulet which divides the Russian empire from Chinese Mongolia,

But these between a silver streamlet glides,
And scarce a name distinguisheth the brook,
Though rival kingdoms press its verdant sides,

they crossed over, and found themselves in the "Celestial Empire!" Previously, however, a little incident occurred perfectly characteristic of the Chinese. Their conductor, observing some women walking in the fields, and fearing, apparently, that their petticoats would set all Pekin on fire, inquired with alarm to whom they belonged, and whither they were travelhng. "To China," replied the ambassador. At this the worshipper of Fo's terrors were increased: he rephed that they had women enough in Pekin already, and that, as there never had been a European woman in China, he would not, without a special order from the emperor, be answerable for introducing the first; but that, if his excellency desired it, he would despatch a courier to learn the emperor's pleasure. As this would have retarded their movements another six weeks, the ambassador, who had not the wit to disguise the ladies in men's apparel, sent them back to Selinguisky, and continued his journey without them.

They now entered upon that vast table-land which was found by the Jesuits to be three thousand geometrical paces above the level of the sea, from which the mountains forming its southern boundary serve but as steps by wliich the traveller may descend to the low plains of China. The small undulations or eminences which break the uniformity of these vast steppes are covered with the rhubarb plant, which grows there spontaneously, and is propagated more rapidly by the aid of the marmot, which, burrowing in prodigious numbers at its roots, loosens the mould, and prepares it for the reception of the seeds. The roots are dug up for exportation by the Mongols, who carelessly bore holes through them, and hang them about their tents or on the horns of their sheep to dry. Afcer passing the Tula, no river again occurred north of the Great Wall. The mode of travelhng here resembles, in some degree, that which prevails in thetleserts ofArabia and Afiica, except that the walls are more frequent, and the danger from marauders little or none. Their food, after the first few days, consisted of mutton only; but as this was of an excellent quality, the circumstance was not considered as a great hardship. In the course of their journey they traversed a large plain, thickly strewed with transparent red and yellow pebbles, which glittered beautifully in the sun, and were said to be cornelians and yellow sapphires, being hard, and taking a fine polish. The few Mongols whom they found wandering with their flocks and herds over the waste, appeared more contented and happy than the possessors of the most fertile soil; and this being the primitive, the freest, and perhaps the most natural condition of man, the cir/3umstance ought not to excite our astonishment. The mere art of locomotion is pleasant to man, and in pastoral tribes, accustomed to wandering from their infancy, it becomes a passion, the gratification of which is happiness.

"On the 2d of November, about noon," says Bell, "we could perceive the famous wall, running along the tops of the mountains, towards the north-east. One of our people cried out 'land!' as if we had been all this while at sea. It was now, as nearly as I can compute, about forty English miles from us, and appeared white at this distance." The nearer they approached the mountains, the more were they astonished at the grandeur of this wall, which, as Voltaire very justly observes, makes no inconsiderable figure even upon the map of the world. "The appearance of it," says our traveller, "running from one high rock to another, with square towers at certain intervals, even at this distance, is most magnificent." In two days they arrived at the foot of this mighty barrier, and entered through a great gate into China. Here a thousand men were perpetually on guard, by the officers commanding whom they were received with much pohteness, and invited to tea.

"The long, or endless wall, as it is commonly called," says our traveller, who has given the best account I have yet met with of this prodigious undertaking, "encompasses all the north and west parts of China. It was built about six hundred years ago by one of the emperors, to prevent the frequent incursions of the Mongols, and other western Tartars, who made a practice of assembling numerous troops of horse, and invading the country in different places. The Chinese frontiers were too extensive to be guarded against such bold and numerous enemies, who, after plundering and destroying a wealthy country, returned to their own loaded with spoils.

"The Chinese, finding all precautions ineffectual to put a stop to the inroads of such barbarians, at last resolved to build this famous wall. It begins in the province of Leotong, at the bottom of the bay of Nankin, and proceeds across rivers and over the tops of the highest mountains without interruption, keeping nearly along the circular ridge of barren rocks that surround the country to the north and west; and after running southward about twelve hundred Enghsh miles, ends in impassable mountains and sandy deserts.

"The foundation consists of large blocks of square stones laid in mortar; but the rest of the wall is built of brick. The whole is so strong and well built as to need almost no repair, and in such a dry climate may remain in this condition for many ages. Its height and breadth are not equal in every place; nor, indeed, is it necessary they should. When carried over steep rocks, where no horse can pass, it is about fifteen or twenty feet high, and broad in proportion; but when running through a valley, or crossing a river, there you see a strong wall, about thirty feet high, with square towers at the distance of a bowshot from one another, and embrasures at equal distances. The top of the wall is flat, and paved with broad freestones; and where it rises over a rock, or any eminence, you ascend by a fine easy stone stair. The bridges over rivers and torrents are exceedingly neat, being both well contrived and executed. They have two stories of arches, one above another, to afford sufficient passage for the waters on sudden rains and floods."

Bell was, moreover, informed by the Chinese that this wall was completed within the space of five years, every sixth man in the empire having been compelled to work at it or find a substitute. But if the date of its erection is altogether uncertain, we may very well be permitted to indulge our skepticism respecting such circumstances as tend to increase the marvellousness of the undertaking. It is far more probable that it is the work of ages, and that numerous and long interruption occurred in the prosecution of the design. With respect to its utility, I likewise dissent altogether from the opinion of our traveller, who, in comparing it with the pyramids, styles the latter "a work of vanity." Had Bell believed, as I do, that the pyramids were temples, he would, however, have been the last man in the world to have thus characterized them; but with respect to the long wall, it may be proved to have been not only useless, but pernicious, since the imaginary security it afforded encouraged tliose unwarlike habits to which the Chinese are naturally addicted; and thus, when the Tartars overleaped this contemptible obstacle to valour, and challenged them to defend their empire by arms, they discovered that soldiers are the only wall which a wise people should oppose to its enemies, all other defences being found upon trial to be utterly vain. No country, no, not even Hindostan itself, has been more frequently conquered than China; nor has any region of the earth been more frequently desolated and drenched with blood by civil wars and rebellions; and if ever circumstances should render it necessary for England to extend her conquests in Asia beyond the Burrampooter on the north-east, it would be seen with what ease the Hindoo Sipahees, who subdued Tippoo Sultan, the Rohillas, Rajpoots, Patans, and Burmese, would rout and subdue the feeble and inefficient troops of China.

But to proceed with our traveller. All the way to Pekin they observed terrible marks of the destructive power of earthquakes in these countries; many of the towns having been half-destroyed by one which had happened the preceding year, when great numbers of people were buried beneath the ruins. The country appeared to be well cultivated, and the towns and villages numerous, but not in any remarkable degree. They reached Pekin on the 18th of November.

Bell had now reached the goal of his wishes, and upon the whole was not disappointed. Long accustomed to the sight of savages immersed in ignorance and barbarism, he found the Chinese, by comparison, highly civilized. They drank tea, cultivated fine fruits, manufactured excellent silks, paper, and porcelain, and accumulated considerable wealth; but, before they were taught by the Jesuits, scarcely understood sufficient astronomy to enable them to calculate an echpse, were ignorant of the art of founding cannon, of building chimneys, of making clocks and watches; and, what was infinitely worse than all this, they were under so little moral restraint that men incapable of maintaining a family married several wives with the execrable design of exposing or murdering their offspring. The existence of foundling hospitals in civilized countries proves that there everywhere exist individuals to whom the offshoots of their own being are objects of no solicitude; ancient nations, too, sometimes exposed weak or deformed children ; but no people, as far as I have been able to discover, ever arrived at that pitch of depravity which distinguishes the Chinese, "among whom," says Sir George Staunton, "habit seems to have familiarized a notion that life only becomes truly precious, and inattention to it criminal, after it has continued long enough to be endowed with a mind and sentiment; but that mere dawning existence may be suffered to be lost without scruple, though it cunnot without reluctance."

In the fine arts the Chinese have made but little progress, having no knowledge of sculpture, and very little of painting. Their literature, it is very clear, contains none of those splendid creations of genius which we might expect to find among a people partly civilized during so many ages, and which actually exist in the languages of Persia and Hindostan. Their popular religion is the grossest and most corrupt form of Buddhism; and even this, as well as their philosophy and arts, such as they are, they originally borrowed from Hindostan, which seems in antiquity to have been the great workshop where all the fantastic systems, religious and philosophical, which were current among the heathen were fabricated. Captain Ismailoff seems, like Lord Amherst, to have felt a peculiar antipathy to the practice of bowing nine times before the Chinese emperor; but at length, after many struggles with their prejudices, consented to conform to ancient usage. The first audience was granted him at one of the emperor's country palaces, where, when he arrived, though the morning was cold and frosty, he found all the ministers of state and officers belonging to the court seated cross-legged upon their fur cushions in the open air,—an exhibition probably intended to serve as a reproof to the insolent barbarian who could object to bow nine times before a prince at whose door the greatest men in the Celestial Empire were contented to sit cross-legged in the frost! Nothing of that magnificence which Marco Polo found at the court of Kublai Khan was discoverable in that of Kamhi, where, on the contrary, the only circumstances truly remarkable wore the extreme plainness of every thing and the affability and calm good sense of the aged monarch, who, in insisting on the observance of ancient forms and ceremonies, was actuated, it was clear, by no motives of paltry vanity.

Though Gibbon, with all his disposition to skepticism, allowed to Pekin a population of two millions, it would appear from Bell's account, who says he rode round it at an easy trot in four hours, to be inferior to London in size; and no one who is acquainted with the form of Chinese houses, which are never more than one story high, and who reflects upon the extent of the imperial gardens, together with all the other gardens included within the walls, will doubt for a moment that it is vastly less populous. Upon the accounts of the Chinese themselves no reliance whatever can be placed. They are greater proficients in lying than the ancient Cretans; and on the subject of population have deluded European travellers with falles so monstrous, that there is nothing in Gulliver more repugnant to common sense. To maintain the one-half of the population to which their empire makes pretensions would demand a progress in civilization and the arts of life of which hitherto they have not even dreamed ; but a paper population costs nothing. Three hundred and thirty-three millions are as easily written as one hundred and nineteen millions. But if we reflect for a moment on the vast deserts, the barren mountains, the impenetrable woods which the Jesuits, when scattered and terrified into their senses by persecution, found in almost every part of this richly-cultivated country, and were enabled to conceal themselves in for months, we shall perhaps be disposed to conclude, that in proportion to its extent China is less populous than Hindostan, which yet does not, in all probability, contain one-fourth of the population it might be made to support if properly cultivated.

The object of the mission, which indeed seems to have been of little importance, having been accomplished, the ambassador prepared to depart. The aged emperor, however, who appears to have possessed a thoroughly benevolent and polished mind, was desirous of presenting them before they took their leave with the splendid spectacle of a Mongol hunt, of such a one at least as could be represented in a park of two or three days' journey in extent. On the 21st of February, therefore, the day appointed for the hunt, horses were brought them at one o'clock in the morning, the Chinese resolving that no time should be lost. They reached the royal park about daybreak, where, in a summer-house erected in the forest, they found the emperor, who had risen long before their arrival. Here they breakfasted. Before the south front of the summer-house there was a large canal, with several fish-ponds filled with clear water, which greatly beautified the scene; and all around, at convenient distances, stood a thousand tents in which the courtiers had slept.

"The signal was then given," says Bell, "that the emperor was coming; upon which all the great men drew up in lines, from the bottom of the stairs to the road leading to the forest, all on foot, dressed in their hunting-habits, the same with those used by the officers and cavalry of the army when in the field, and armed with bows and arrows. We had a proper place assigned us, and made our bows to his majesty, who returned a gracious smile, with signs to follow him. He was seated cross-legged in an open machine carried by four men with long poles rested on their shoulders. Before him lay a fowling-piece, a bow, and a sheaf of arrows. This has been his hunting equipage for some years, since he left off riding.

As soon as the emperor had passed, the company mounted and followed him at some distance till we came into the open forest, where all formed into a semicircle, in the centre of which was the emperor, having on his left-hand, (the place of honour in China) about eight or ten of his sons and grandsons, and the ambassador on his right, about fifty paces distant. Close by him were the master of the chase with some greyhounds and the grand falconer with his hawks. I could not but admire the beauty of these fine birds. Many of them were as white as doves, having one or two black feathers in their wings or tails. They are brought from Siberia, or places to the north of the river Amoor.

"Our wings being extended, there were many hares started, which the company endeavoured to drive towards the emperor, who killed many of them with arrows as they passed; those he missed he made a sign to some of the princes to pursue, who also killed several of them with arrows; but no other person was permitted to draw a bow or stir from the line. "From the open field we continued our route westward to a place among thickets and tall reeds, where we sprung a number of pheasants, partridges, and quails. His majesty then laid aside his bow and arrows, and carried a hawk on his hand, which he flew as occasion offered. The hawks generally raked in the pheasants while flying ; but if they took to the reeds or bushes they soon caught them.

"After proceeding about two or three miles farther into the forest we came to a tall wood, where we found several sorts of deer. The young men went in and beat the woods, while the rest of the company remained without. We saw much game pass us, but nobody drew a bow until the emperor had killed a stag, which he did very dexterously with a broad-headed arrow; after which the princes had leave to kill several bucks, among which was one of that species that bears the musk, called kaherda in Siberia.

"We had now been six hours on horseback, and I reckon had travelled about fifteen English miles, but no end of the forest yet appeared. We turned short from this wood southward, till coming to some marshes overgrown with tall reeds we roused a great many wild boars; but as it was not the season for killing them they all escaped. The hunting of these fierce animals is reckoned the most dangerous of all kinds of sport except the chase of lions and tigers. Every one endeavoured to avoid them, and several of them ran furiously through the thickest troops of horse. The emperor was so cautious as to have a company of men armed with lances to guard his machine.

"We continued the sport till about four o'clock, when we came to a high artificial mount of a square figure, raised in the middle of a plain, on the top of which were pitched about ten or twelve tents for the imperial family. This mount had several winding paths leading to the top, planted on each side with rows of trees in imitation of nature. To the south was a large basin of water with a boat upon it, from whence, I suppose, the earth has been taken that formed this mount. At some distance from the mount tents were erected for the people of distinction and ofl^icers of the court. About two hundred yards from it we were lodged in some clean huts covered with reedsy—[No mark that Kamhi held the czar's ambassador in very high estimation.]—"The emperor, from his situation, had a view of all the tents and a great way farther into the forest. The whole scene made a very pretty appearance,"

When they had dined and been interrogated respecting the degree of admiration with which they had beheld the figats of the emperor and his sons, which was of course superlative, the ambassador was informed that he was to be entertained with a tiger-hunt, or rather "baiting," as our traveller terms it; three animals of that species having been kept for some time in a cage for that purpose. "The hill where the emperor's tent stood was surrounded with several ranks of guards armed with long spears. A guard also was placed before the ambassador's and the rest of the tents, to secure the whole encampment from the fury of these fierce animals. The first was let out by a person mounted on a fleet horse, who opened the door of the coop by means of a rope tied to it. The tiger immediately left his cage, and seemed much pleased to find himself at liberty. The horseman rode off* at full speed, while the tiger (poor fellow!) was rolling himself upon the grass. At last he rose, growled, and walked about. The emperor fired twice at him with bullets, but the distance being considerable missed him, though the pieces were well pointed. Upon which his majesty sent to the ambassador to try his piece upon him; which being charged with a single ball, he walked towards the animal, accompanied by ten men armed with spears, in case of accidents, till, being at a convenient distance, he took his aim and killed him on the spot."

The second and third tigers were despatched in a short time; and the sportsmen, pluming themselves upon their magnificent achievements, sat down in great good-humour to supper, as men always do when they have performed any glorious action. The skin of the tiger slain by the ambassador was sent him by the emperor, who observed, that by the laws of hunting he had a right to it. The sport of the next day differed very little from the preceding. They continued, however, advancing through the forest without discovering any end to it, and passed the night in a temple near another imperial summer-house. The extent of this immense park, which was all enclosed by a high wall, may enable us to form some idea of the quantity of useless land in China; for besides the number of similar enclosures belonging to the imperial family, we may be sure that, as far as possible, all the rich and great imitate the example of the sovereign.

The ambassador now received his audience of leave, and, after making several visits of ceremony, and receiving the curious but not valuable presents intended for the czar, departed from Pekin. Their route from the capital to the Great Wall, and thence across the deserts of Mongolia to Selinguisky, though not precisely the same as that by which they had come, afforded but few new objects, and was rendered interesting by no striking incidents. The Baikal Lake being still frozen when they reached it, they traversed it on light sledges upon the ice. ThGy then embarked upon the Angara, and descended by water to Yeniseisk. Proceeding thence by land, they soon arrived upon the banks of the river Ket, where they again took to their boats; and sailing down this melancholy stream, bordered on both sides by the most gloomy forests, immerged into the mighty stream of the Obe. They now sailed down this river to its confluence with the Irtish, another noble stream, against the current of which they made their way with much difficulty to Tobolsk. Here they quitted their boats, and continued their journey on sledges. Winter was rapidly invading the country. Snow, cold winds, frost, and short days conspired to render their movements irksome; but they still pushed on rapidly, and on the 5th of January, 1722, arrived at Moscow, where they found the czar and all his court, who had recently removed thither from Petersburg.

Peter, surrounded by his courtiers, the general officers, and the nobility and gentry from all parts of the empire, was making great preparations for the celebration of the festivals appointed to be solemnized in commemoration of the peace concluded at Aland in 1721, between Russia and Sweden, after a war of more than twenty years, when our traveller arrived; and as he appears greatly to have admired the policy of Peter on most occasions, he was particularly gratified at the present exhibition. He observes that Peter, even in his amusements and times of diversion, made use of all possible means of inspiring his people with a love of what was useful; and as the Russians had a peculiar aversion to shipping, his principal aim in the shows exhibited at Moscow was to dispel that prejudice, by impressing upon their minds that it was owing to his naval power that the peace had been obtained.

"The triumphant entry," says Bell, "was made from a village about seven miles from Moscow, called Seswedsky. The first of the cavalcade was a galley finely carved and gilt, in which the rowers plied their oars as on the water. The galley was commanded by the high-admiral of Russia. Then came a frigate of sixteen small brass guns, with three masts, completely rigged, manned with twelve or fourteen youths habited like Dutch skippers, in black velvet, who trimmed the sails, and performed all the manoeuvres of a ship at sea. Then came most richly-decorated barges, wherein sat the empress and the ladies of the court. There were also pilot-boats heaving the lead, and above thirty other vessels, pinnaces, wherries, &c., each filled with masqueraders in the dresses of different nations. It was in the month of February, at which time all the ground was covered with snow, and all the rivers frozen. All these machines were placed on sledges, and were drawn by horses through all the principal streets of Moscow. The ship required above forty horses to draw it. In order to its passing under the gates the topmasts were struck, and, when passed, set up again ; besides which, the gateway was dug as low as was necessary for admitting it to pass."

As soon as these festivals were concluded, Peter, who had been invited into Persia with an army by the shah, who required his aid against the rebellious Afghans, prepared to march southward; and Bell, who was thought to understand something of Persian manners, having spent some time in the country, was engaged by the czar's chief physician to accompany the expedition. Accordingly, the troops having been embarked on the Moskwa, they descended by water to the Caspian Sea, and made for the shores of Daghestan, where they landed and encamped. They then proceeded along the sea-shore to Derbend, where the fleet containing the provisions, stores, &c. for the army was wrecked upon the beach. This gave Peter a plausible excuse for returning home without affording the shah the desired aid. Indeed, the whole expedition appears to have been a mere piece of treachery got up for the purpose of obtaining possession of Derbend; for, "the emperor determined," says Bell, "to leave things in the state they were in, and to return again to Astrakhan by the same way we came, leaving a garrison at Derbend sufficient to secure the advantage he had gained.

"We now lose sight of our traveller for fifteen years, the whole of which, however, he spent in Russia. In 1737 the war with Turkey, which had begun in 1734, began to grow disagreeable to the Russian court, the Ottomites, in spite of their barbarism, being more obstinate in the field than their polished enemies of the north had anticipated. Under these circumstances, it was thought advisable to negotiate a peace; but as the Turks made no proposals, and as in time of war no subject of Russia, or Germany, the ally of Russia, was admitted into the dominions of the sultan, Bell, who appears to have been greatly respected both for his character and abilities, was prevailed upon, "at the earnest desires of Count Osterman, the chancellor of Russia, and of Mr. Rondeau, his Britanic majesty's minister at the court of Russia," to undertake the journey.

He departed from Petersburg on the 6th of December, 1737, and arrived at Constantinople on the 29th of the next month. With respect to his commission, he merely observes that he punctually conformed to the terms of his instructions. His negotiations did not detain him long. He left Constantinople on the 8th of April, and on the 17th of May arrived at Petersburg. Here he concludes his account of himself and his travels. In the decline of his life he returned to Scotland, where he resided at Antermony, his native place; and it was there that, surrounded apparently by affluence, and enjoying the most ample leisure, he wrote his excellent and interesting account of his travels, the first edition of which appeared in 1762. His death took place in 1780.

Return to our Significant Scots Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus