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progress of discovery in Africa has long been an object of peculiar interest; nor can it be difficult to trace the sources from which that interest has arisen. This immense Continent contains in its bosom a number of extensive, populous, and even civilized kingdoms, all of them imperfectly known, and of some of which even the names have not yet reached Europeans. Equally remarkable is the obscurity which involves the grandest features of its physical geography. Africa, therefore, is still humbling to that pride of knowledge, which Europe very justly indulges with regard to the other quarters of the globe. An extraordinary zeal, however, to remove this reproach, has
been for some time manifested in this country ; and seconded and aided as that zeal now is by government, a series of splendid discoveries may be expected to be the result; so that it is more than probable, that, in the course of fifteen or twenty years, Africa will lose its place in the list of unknown regions.
In order, however, that these discoveries may be understood and appreciated by the general reader, some preliminary knowledge seems requisite. It is impossible duly to estimate what one traveller has done without knowing what had been effected by his predecessors in the same tract ; the perusal of the one naturally excites curiosity with regard to the other. But the narratives of former travellers are dispersed through a multitude of books, often of difficult access, and loaded with tedious and uninteresting details. A work seemed wanted, which inight collect from these various sources whatever was most curious and interesting, and might thence form a connected view of the progress of discovery from the ear
The writer who first attempted to supply this important desideratum, was Dr Leyden, in the work which forms the basis of the present publication.* To those who have any knowledge of our recent literary history, it cannot be necessary to point out the circumstances which peculiarly qualified Dr Leyden for this task ; his depth of research, his force of imagination, and, to use the emphatic expressions of Lord Minto, “ his
incomparable genius, urging and sustain
ing his invincible powers of mental la6 bour.”+ He entered upon it with all that
* A Historical and Philosophical Sketch of the Discoveries and Settlements of Europeans in Northern and Western Africa, at the close of the eighteenth century. 12mo, 442 pages. Edinburgh, 1799.
† “ It is impossible,” says Lord Minto, in his Address to the College of Fort William, “ to exclude from our 6 minds the painful recollection of a loss 'sustained by “ this College, by the votaries of eastern learning, and, “ I will not refrain from adding, by the lovers of genius " and worth, yet more estimable than all other endow“ments, in the premature and lamented death of Dr “ Leyden. It is not required, it would not be fitting, “ in this place, to repress entirely the sentiments with s which this event has filled every bosom, capable of ap
ardour and enthusiasm which formed prominent features in his character. Africa,” says a biographer who intimately knew him, “ had peculiar charms for Leyden. “ He delighted to read of hosts, whose “ arrows intercepted the sunbeams; of kings, “ who judged of the number of their sol
diers, by marching them over the trunk “ of a cedar ; of the royal halls of Dahomy, 66 built of skulls and cross bones; all, in short, “ that presented strange, wild, and romantic “ views of what have been quaintly entitled es the ultimities and summities of human
nature, and which furnished new and un“ heard of facts in the history of man, had
great fascination for his ardent imagina“ tion.”* So completely were his views
preciating, and when appreciated, of honouring alive, " and deploring in the grave, an example of excellence
intellectual and moral, so rare and eminent. I must « restrain, however, even the justifiable effusion of public “ regret, heightened, as it is, by private sorrow on this “ mournful theme; not for the poverty of the subject, “ or the coldness of affection, but for their abundance « and excess."
* Edinburgh Annual Register, 1811.
directed to African discovery, that he actually made overtures to the Association for being employed as one of their missionaries. All the energies of his mind were, therefore, put forth upon this subject ; and having taken Raynal for his model, he hoped, with the pride of conscious genius, not to fall much short of his standard. The work, when published, was found to correspond to the efforts of genius and industry with which it had been composed. It soon obtained a wide circulation, not only in this country, but over the Continent. It was translated into German,* and is enumerated by Eichhorn among the most valuable materials for the African part of his learned work, entitled,
History of the Three last Centuries.” M. de la Richarderie also repeatedly notices it with praise in his valuable work, the “ Bibliotheque des Voyages.”
This work having now become scarce, a new edition has for some time been con
* Historische und philosophische Skizze der Entdeckungen et Niederlassungen der Europaer in Nord und West Africa, um ende der achtzehnten Jahrhunderts. Aus dem Engl. von S. St. Bremen, 8vo, 1802.