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Art. VI.-Aperçu Général sur l'Egypte, par A. B. Clot-Bey.
2 tom. Paris, 1840. The author of these volumes is director-general of the medical establishments, civil and military, of Egypt; and has been for some time high in the estimation and confidence of the Pasha. He was originally, we believe, an apothecary's boy in the south of France, where he had the run of the hospitals, and picked up medical knowledge as he could, for he had no regular professional education. Being, however, a young man of great penetration, activity and talent, he became in a comparatively short period an expert operator, and a respectable practitioner. At the beginning of the year 1825, through the influence of an agent of the viceroy, being chosen physician and surgeon in chief of the Egyptian armies, he accepted the honour, and repaired immediately to his post. On his arrival, he found the medical department of the service in a very disorganised state, and instantly set about correcting its abuses ; and, in order to avoid them for the future, established regulations, which should fix the duties and determine the authority of the entire staff. Unwilling, however, to take upon himself the wliole responsibility of this measure, before assuming the direction of his office, he proposed to the minister of war the adoption of the French system of rules, and the creation of a council of health, The minister approved of the proposition, and in a short time a council was formed, composed of five members being physicians, surgeons or apothecaries, of which council Clot-Bey is the president. Having thus accomplished several reforms in the internal organization of the Egyptian army with respect to the grades and employments of the medical staff, as well as their treatment, clothing, and general administration, he was encouraged to project the institution of a medical school in Egypt, and communicated his views to the government. Mehemet Ali at once perceived the advantages that would result from the instruction of a number of Arabs in the healing art, and of their aggregation with the army in the capacity of a sanatory official body. But as soon as the project was known, it had to encounter the most violent opposition from other quarters. Its adversaries endeavoured, by every argument that could be devised, to persuade the viceroy of the impracticability of its realization. It needed only an ordinary degree of sagacity, however, to discover the true motives of these objections : the Pasha saw through them, and a school was founded in 1827. It was first situated at Abouzabel, but afterwards removed to Cairo, where our author resides, and superintends the whole establishment.
Here he practises also on his own account; and has operated successfully, he informs us, in more than 160 cases of calculus alone. He has acquired by his professional success and official employment a great reputation, and, with reputation, rank and fortune. In 1831, he received the title of Bey; and among many other tokens of the Pasha's great regard and marked attention, the present of the house in which he resides at Cairo, In 1898, he travelled in company with Doctor Bowring over a great portion of Syria. After landing in that province, the travellers visited Antioch, Aleppo and Damascus. Clot-Bey then proceeded to join Ibrahim Pasha in the Haouran, where he collected many valuable religious books of the Druses. “Wherever we went in Syria," says his companion, “ he was regarded as a public benefactor, and followed by crowds to be healed. I never saw such marks of popular confidence and affection.”
In May of 1839, on obtaining leave to quit Egypt for Europe (whither his reputation had preceded him), in order to recruit his health, that had occasioned him some serious apprehensions of late, he thought it right to address to the ministers of the interior and of public instruction, a detailed report of the condition of the medical service of Egypt, in which he indicated the ameliorations of which it was susceptible. This he considered an obligagation imposed upon him, from the peculiarity of the situation in which he then found himself with regard to it. After landing in Europe, he remained some time in Italy, and on arriving at Marseilles, bis native city, married a lady of some property. He visited Paris last year (1840), where he published the present work, and then returned with his wife to Egypt, to resuine his of. ficial duties.
A more fitting season for the publication of his book the author could scarcely have chosen. At the precise moment when the present and future existence of Egypt as an Eastern de facto independent power, was being discussed with the deepest interest by the press, the diplomacy, and the entire political world of Europe, the appearance of these volumes, presenting a fresh weight of testiniony before the tribunal of publie opinion, could not fail, from the admitted respectability of the author, to exercise its due share of infuence. Had any evidence been wanting to throw light on the nature of the connection which has so long subsisted between France and the viceroy, or to recommend the strict maintenance of that amicable relation in the then existing crisis, there could not, perhaps, have been found a sincerer or more earnest, and, in many respects, a better qualified agent for the work than the present witness. The book is dedicated to Mehemet Ali, but without his express authorization; in this the writer has evidently acted à dessein, lest it should be said, that under the circumstances it was written by the Pasha's orders, or under the influence of his government. The whole responsibility, then, rests upon the author ; but could be bave done otherwise, he asks, with characteristic self-gratulation, than dedicate it to him to whom he owes the position he has gained in society, and the part assigned him in the work of the regeneration of Egypt? Of course, it is evidently one of his chief concerns to set forth the character, the acts and the government of Mehemet in a flattering point of view, though he professes to yield to no personal solicitation or convenience, but to maintain full liberty of thought and expression. Moreover, he appears to us to exhibit a too marked partiality for his own country and countrymen throughout these volumes, which sometimes becomes offensive; indeed, the chief fault of the work is its exclusive nationality.
By reason of the very early progress which the inhabitants of Egypt had made in the arts of civilized life, it is natural to sups pose, that everything relating to that country would always be considered as an object of curiosity and interest. It had vegetated, however, in comparative oblivion, for a considerable period, when the French expedition, at the close of the last century, reattracted towards it the attention of the world. Its present importance doubtless dates from that event. Since then, resuscitated, it has become an active party in a question, towards the solution of which all the political interests of the old continent are brought to bear. It has acquired, both by itself and by its relative position, no mean share of consideration ; and it is therefore well deserving of being thoroughly known. Consequently, in the course of the last forty years, much additional information has been gained, and several works have been written respecting this interesting country. First and foremost were the labours of the French Institute at Cairo, which gave to the world a work of unexampled splendour and magnificence, the “ Déscription de l'Egypte.” Previous to the publication of this work, there were, indeed, extant the accounts of some continental travellers, such as Savary, Sonnini, Volney, and a few English; but none that treated the subject of the monuments of Egypt in anything like so elaborate, scientific, and comprehensive a manner as the work abovementioned. Next appeared Hamilton's." Egyptiaca" at London, in 1809. Since then a variety of publications both on the ancient and modern state of the country bave issued from the press. Among the French, the most profound of these labours is undoubtedly the work of Champollion, as regards the ancient department of the subject, to whom the author of the book we are noticing acknowledges himself often indebted. Of more recent
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and popular works in France, the “ Travels” of the Duke of Ragusa contain some of the most interesting details, and practical and solid opinions respecting Egypt; also “ Lettres sur l'Orient," by MM, Michaud and Poujoulat, are worthy of notice; as are the “ Travels” of MM. de Cadalvène and de Breuvery; but the most valuable of recent publications on the actual condition of the country, inasmuch as it is a history of the life and reign of Mehemet Ali, is the accurate work of M. Mengin. In England we can boast of two very respectable additions to our knowledge of ancient and modern Egypt, in the late volumes of Sir Gardner Wilkinson, and those of Mr. W. Lane. Of English labourers in the like field of research, many other creditable names might be mentioned; still, with the accumulations of both countries, this treatise of Clot-Bey was a desideratum, inasmuch as it is a concise, methodical, and popular résumé of the physical, social, and political states of the actual dominions of the viceroy, brought up to the present period : in other words, a general view of Egypt, presented under all its most striking aspects, and in a portable forın, did not previously exist.
It is hardly to be supposed that the author should individually possess the requisite knowledge on all the multifarious topics treated in these volumes. Accordingly, for the geographical portion of his work, he acknowledges himself indebted to the learned M. Jomard, the veteran of the Egyptian Institute, the active guardian of the traditions which attach France to Egypt, and the devoted interinediary through whom principally the lights of civilization have been introduced into the latter country. To M. Figari, Professor of Botany in the school of Cairo, is owing a great part of the materials relating to that science; as is the zoology to M. Regis, a distinguished naturalist of the medical school. “M. Bonfort, land-steward to Ibrahim Pasha, has conmuvicated much information as regards the plants recently introduced into Egypt, as well as upon agriculture. For a great portion of the historical and statistical matter the author is indebted to M. Mengin. M. Linan, an engineer, who is thoroughly versed in the hydrography and the cadastre of Egypt, and who has been entrusted with the great work of canalization, has furnished considerable assistance; and so has Cerisy-Bey, in respect to marine affairs. Lastly, something is due to M. Rosellini, for communications on Egyptian antiquities; and to M. Costé for the same on Arab monuments and architecture.
The work is prefaced by a historical introduction, bringing down the narrative of the principal events nearly to the present period, after which, the first chapter is devoted to an Aperçu Physique, in which are treated the situation, form, geographical
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divisions of the country, a sketch of the geological qualities of the soil, the climate and meteorological phenomena, the river Nile, and the lakes. Some errors into which popular belief has fallen are here corrected : for instance, it is generally supposed that it never, or very seldom, rains in Egypt.* Though there may be long periods of complete dryness, our author assures us that it rains a good deal in Lower Egypt — (il pleut beaucoup dans la basse Egypt): the rainy season usually begins in October, continues through November and December, and ends in March. During this period, there are but few weeks without rain, and it has often been known to continue for several days together. In the Delta, it rains annually from twenty-five to thirty times, but at Cairo less frequently and in less quantity. In 1824, it rained in that city for a week together so violently that it occasioned the fall of several houses, and much damage besides. In the second chapter is treated the natural history of the country; namely, the minerals, plants, animals, birds, and the different human races that inhabit Egypt. The various ancient and mediæval writers on this country were evidently very imperfectly acquainted with its botany. Delile, who accompanied the French expedition, was the first to form a flora ; his labours in this respect leave little to be desired. But since then, order having been established by Mehemet Ali's government in all the districts from the embouchure of the Nile to Upper Nubia, naturalists have been enabled, without fear or molestation, to explore those parts, and to complete the work of Delile.
Before quitting this part of the author's labours, it may be proper to observe that, like most of its predecessors, this work is greatly deficient in what is really a desideratum, namely, some further information than we as yet possess of the geological structure of Egypt. Hitherto nearly all writers and travellers have, from some cause or another, abstained from throwing any light on the geology of this country. Even authors who have extensively written on this science, such as Lyell and others, have given but very meagre and unsatisfactory accounts, either of the valley of the Nile or the Delta. Though in the present work, as elsewhere, we are reminded of the usual mineralogical distinctions of primitive, secondary, and alluvial formations, we are yet presented with nothing as to the direction and inclinations of the strata in
* In one of our ablest encyclopædias, now issuing, we find the following remarks : “ The cause of the fertility of Egypt is the Nile, without which, as it almost never rains in that part of the world, the whole country would soon become an uninhabitable desert."' “ Egypt is, in a great measure, exempted from the phenomena of rain, hail, snow, thunder, and lightning. In the Delta, it never rains in summer, and very seldom at any other season."