« PoprzedniaDalej »
Among the various attractions of “ Autobiography,” that of singular and extraordinary personal adventure, when faithfully related by the person to whom it has occurred, is by no means the least alluring. The shipwreck of Robert Drury, at the age of sixteen, in the Degrave East Indiaman, on the southern coast of the island of Madagascar, in the year 1702, supplied a remarkable opportunity for one of those accurate delineations of an isolated and barbarous people, which are at once so amusing for their novelty, and instructive for the additional lights which they throw upon the innumerable varieties of human situation and character. The following volume affords a plain and unsophisticated account of a fifteen years' captivity or detention of the author (the only one spared, in consequence of his youth, out of many murdered shipmates) in an island, the interior of which, at that time, was little known;
but which, happily, at present seems likely to enter slowly into the career of civilization. Obliged to conform to the usages of the natives, and rendered to all intents and purposes a member of their community, he necessarily became intimately acquainted with their manners, customs, and proceedings; which, together with his own adventures among them, he narrates in that plain and unpretending manner, which in a writer of his class advances the strongest claims to confidence. The veracity of Drury is, indeed, corroborated by the journal, as far as it went, of Mr. Bembo, son of the celehrated admiral of that name, who was first mate of the Degrave, and who, by inducing a part of the crew to refuse putting that trust in the islanders, which was unfortunately placed in them by the murdered compauions of Drury, escaped their fate, and was enabled to
get back to England. Our brief sequel will also show that Drury was a steady man, and that he maintained a very respectable character after his return. To conclude : his book has been deemed so curious and interesting, not only for the mention of the facts, but the manner of detailing them, that the present will form the fourth edition; the first appearing in 1729, and the second and third in 1743 and 1808. Thus much as to its merits; as to the rest, works of this nature falling directly within the plan of the proposed series, no apology is necessary for having an early recourse to one of them, in aid of the contrast and variety which is desirable in the way of support and relief of so comprehensive an undertaking.
The Edition of Seventeen Hundred and Forty-three.
As nothing is of a more ainiable nature, so nothing makes a stronger and more lasting impression on the mind, than truth ; and whatever regard some may pay to a wittily-contrived and ingenious tale, the best that can be said of it is, that it is a gay delusion, and an idle amusement exposed to view in the fairest and most advantageous light.
The following historical narrative needs no such disguise or ornament to recommend it; for Captain W. Mackett, (who, by his certificate, has assured the public that he believed the account our author has given of his surprising adventures to be just and true,) was not only a gentleman of an unblemished character in regard to his honour and veracity, but well known to be a man of too great a fortune and good sense to countenance and give a public sanction to a trivial fable, or imposition. Without doubt this gentleman, as well as the captains of other ships, informed himself of a case so singular and surprising, for at Yong-old, where he took the author on board, William Purser, a native of Feraingher, was their linguist for some months; he spoke English well, and knew Mr. Drury there, and was an eye-witness to many of the most doubtful adventures here related for several years together.
The captain after this went to Munnongaro, or Massaleege ; there he saw Nicholas Dove, who was onc of the boys shipwrecked in the Degrave, and saved in the massacre in Anterndroea ; besides the opportunity he had of conversing with Mr. Drury in their voyage to the West Indies, and after to England. To this we may add, the second voyage Mr. Drury made was also in Captain Mackett's service, though not in the ship under his command, he being a principal proprietor in Captain White's ship and cargo, as well as of his own and others. These circumstances were confirmed by the captain, who added, that he had seen others in his last voyage there, as well natives who spoke English, and knew Drury, as some who were saved by fight with Captain Drummond and others; with this particular account, that this very Captain Drummond was the man Mr. Drury supposes him to be, and that he was killed at Tullea, seven leagues to the northward of Augustine-bay, by one Lewes, a Jamaica negro. Besides all this, and the captain's continued friendship to him to the last, even our author himself, though in a lower station of life, was well known to many persons of probity and worth now in London, who frequently conversed with him while living, and who always esteemed him an innocent, inoffensive man, free from all artifice and design. As this was the character he had amongst his friends and acquaintance, we think it would be needless, if not impertinent, to doubt of his veracity in the relation of any one of his adventures, more especially after such substantial proofs for the truth hereof.
It is probable that the account here given of the religion of the natives of Madagascar, may by some be thought a mere fiction, and inserted with no other view than to advance some latitudinarian principles; but so widely distant is this from the real case, that the most to be suspected part of the conversation between deaan Murnanzack and Mr. Drury, on divine topics, is real fact as here related; and the deaan's ludicrous reflections on Adam's rib, God's converse with mankind, and his creation of the world in six days, and his resting the seventh, &c., his taking these things for