[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

philanthropy; as it does, we may here | of the schemes is to make a reservoir
again translate Sir Benjamin Baker's a little above Philæ, thus saving at least
curious English into its proper equiva-
lent: "No convenient means exist for
making more legitimate taxes out of
the people," or of satisfying their un-
limited demands.

that precious island. He will not contemplate the feasibility of making several small reservoirs, thus obviating the risk of oue great dam, where an accident might entail a devastation of all the country. He will not tell us definitely the objections to the Wady Rayan scheme, but puts us off with vague generalities.

Why, then, is he so positive that one scheme, and one only is practically possible? Simply because he is convinced that it will cost less, and so much less that any other plan must be

If he complains that he will not take his words in their natural acceptation, we reply that in the present case we deny that any want exists in Egypt, and in any case we are only applying the lesson he himself teaches us concerning his use of the English language. Commenting upon the statement that the majority of the commissioners are absolutely convinced that it is prac- considered extravagant, and a mere tically impossible to place the dam elsewhere than at Philæe, and upon the very just criticism of the French commissioner, that the word impossible was absurd, he says: that the British Commissioner [i.e., he himself] thought it was often a very useful word in relation to practical problems, and he had indeed used it with good effect when reporting some years ago to a group of financiers on the Panama Ship Canal. One hardly knows whether to thank him for the honesty of this statement, or for the reverse; at all events, we now know that whenever he uses the word impossible, it may be merely because it is useful, especially in making a report to a people whom he cannot easily persuade by argument.

expensive luxury to be paid for by any sentimental objectors on the ground of archæology. Now, in the first place, we cannot be sure that he has correctly estimated the cost of the dam at Phila. He has said nothing about the indemnity required for the homeless Nubians; he has said nothing about the yearly loss to Upper Egypt and Nubia from the disappearance of tourists. Mr. Cook could doubtless tell us how many thousands sterling are involved in this latter item. Probably the loss would not be less than one million when capitalized. Although, therefore, Mr. Willcocks's scheme is called the cheapest, it may possibly be the dearest, even in actual outlay of cash. But even on Sir Benjamin Baker's statement, even if the dam below Phile be the cheapest plan, let us count the cost of its cheapness. If the gain to Lower Egypt is indeed, according to his figures, to be nearly 10,000,000l. per annum, would it not be quite reasonable for the country to pay a single half-year of this profit to save its temples, and to avoid disturbing the Nubian population ? If these poor people are as fond of their homes as other nations, the hardship of having these homes put under water to make people five hundred miles off richer is surely a grave objection. If 5,000,0007. would avoid this cruelty and save the sentimental primacy of Egypt, is it reasonable to say that Egypt must not

In the present case, Sir Benjamin Baker's impossibility corresponds very well to his necessity. The scheme he advocates is necessary because he is convinced of its soundness; the scheme he opposes is impossible because he is opposed to it. But however useful he may have found this use of terms when dealing with a group of financiers, he will find it the reverse when dealing with people who understand ordinary logic and ordinary English. It makes us slow to accept his facts, and very suspicious of his arguments. It leads us never to take on trust his necessities and impossibilities, but to sift every one of his statements. Perhaps even more significant than these are his silences. He never tells us that one pay it, and we must subscribe to sup

[ocr errors]

port our fads? To say that the na- can have possessed Sir Benjamin Baker tives do not care about such things to call all the schemes but his own imand therefore would not pay for them, possible? is only to put them on a level with For instance, the Kalabsheh scheme, the engineers who can see no value in which Mr. Willcocks reports as estiantiquities except as vast masses of mated at 1,600,000l., is declared "absostone to be hoisted into the air as a lutely impossible on financial grounds display of modern science. Among alone as against the scheme which intelligent and civilized people, the the same authority estimates at 1,400,answer could hardly be doubtful. As 000l. Surely here his fancies have Sir Benjamin Baker uses an illustra- completely overridden his facts. Doubttion from imaginary English circum- less, an engineer has sentiment, though stances, so shall I. Supposing the of a very peculiar sort. There must water supply of London, though suffi- be engineering beauties or difficulties cient, was such that people were ready in one scheme, as compared with auto pay for twice as much water, and so other of nearly the same cost, which the engineers declared (in the interests make him declare the one perfect and of their profession or of a company) the other abominable. Sir Benjamin that a great new reservoir was "abso- Baker and his commission must have lutely necessary," and one plan was to fancies like these, which they cannot dam up the Thames, so as to submerge justify by their own figures. Naturam all its valley as far up as Oxford, in- expellas furca, tamen usque recurret. cluding Magdalen College, which lies But is the technical sentimentality of close to the river - supposing an alter- the engineer to override the archæonative were proposed, which could be logical and artistic sentiments of the carried out at the increased cost of six mass of cultivated men ? months' income of the expected profit, and which would save all the valley with its villages, its churches, and Magdalen College, would any one in the nation, except an engineer who loved a dam more than a medieval college, hesitate ? We argue, then, that the Kalabsheh dam, or the Wady Rayan scheme, even if costing five millions more than the other alternative, would be the best, and in the highest sense the cheapest, for the country. But Sir Benjamin Baker leads us to believe, by his use of the word impossible, that the difference in cost is out of all proportion. Now, will the reader consider the following figures, copied for me by a friend from Mr. Willcocks's report. They are the estimated cost of all the alternatives.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Still worse is the greed of the financier, or his longing to show an increased surplus in the Egyptian revenue, which overrides all other views of the wellbeing and civilization of the country. Is it certain that the people would be happy if the shadoof and sakya were abolished, and water sold to them at their doors by a native official? Is it certain that the water of the Nile, cleared of its deposit by standing in huge reservoirs, will not lose a large part of its fertilizing qualities? Are not great experts, like Colonel Ross, opposed to the scheme?

If a clear and unbiassed discussion were indeed desired, such points should be fully and carefully argued. But our author, whose abilities certainly do not appear in the field of controversy, "lets the cat out of the bag" for us on this point also.

1,400,000l. Lord Cromer (he tells us), Sir Edwin
1,750,000l. Palmer, and others, etc., can and will do
the work, in spite of all opposition, but will
1,600,000l. look for, and doubtless obtain, the encour-
agement and support of the home govern-
ment and of every well-wisher of Egypt in
this country.

The difference of cost is therefore not worth mentioning. What then,

This can only be described as the language of a set of bullies who have determined upon an act of tyranny, yet are afraid of public criticism. They know perfectly well that almost every well-wisher of Egypt in this country is against them. The home government will probably regard the question simply from its political side, and will be otherwise indifferent. Only the sordid interests of speculators, of greedy financiers, the hopes of contractors, and the curiosity of constructors may be with them; they will never gain over enlightened public opinion. They may dam up the Nile, but they will not dam up public indignation; they may submerge the most beautiful and historic island in the world, but they will not choke the love of the beautiful in the hearts of civilized men — a treasure which no dams can satisfy. They may pretend that they will hoist into the air acres of temples, a scheme perhaps as visionary as many other more reason able engineering schemes; they will succeed in hoisting themselves into a pillory of public and lasting obloquy.

tried representatives in Egypt," he asks us to do what the recent history of Egypt commands us to refuse. Lord Cromer and his colleagues have proved over and over again that, in questions concerning the antiquities of Egypt, they are the very last people to be trusted. They have either openly expressed their contempt for this department of Egyptian wealth, or they have used it as a sop to humor the sensibilities of the French, whom they desired to oust from other departments. They have surrendered the whole charge of the antiquities to the French exclusively, so much so that an Englishman, desiring to excavate at his own cost, has to seek permission from a Frenchman in Egypt. They have long neglected to extend police control to the care of tombs and temples, which are being ravaged by natives and dealers without let or hindrance. They have hitherto omitted to find a safe housing for the vast treasures now in danger of destruction at Gizeh. On every question concerning antiquities they have shown themselves either utterly careless or utterly weak. And yet these are the men in whose hands we may safely leave the present problem!


The claims of the valley of the Nile upon the sympathies of the civilized world, and its importance as compared Sir B. Baker, at all events, has not with the valley of the Indus, or any supplied us with a single shred of good other river, are of historic importance. argument in favor of the proposed The love of history, the care of histor- scheme. Perhaps there are other and ical monuments, is one of the main better reasons for the proposal. If so, evidences of civilization as contrasted let them be produced and subjected to with barbarism, which only compre- an unbiassed discussion before the hends the present and its material in- commission of what now appears to be terests. It is in the nature of money a great crime. speculations to lead back even intelligent and well-bred men from the spiritual civilization which their fathers have acquired into the spiritual barbarism from which their ancestors have escaped. The vice of exclusive devotion to finance has infected the whole administration of Egypt, since the departure of the one financier who adds to his special genius for dealing with money an enlightened interest in higher things. Therefore, when Sir Benjamin Baker tells us in conclusion "that the whole question may safely be left in the hands of our able and



SOME years ago an opportunity was afforded me, in the pages of this review, of calling attention to the destruction that menaced the Arab monuments of Egypt. It would be out of place at the present moment to re-open that discussion except in so far as it bears upon the question of the preservation of the monuments of ancient Egypt.

Less fragile than the graceful struc

a difficult and intricate question, but Sir Benjamin Baker, whose opinion on the engineering features of the case I should be the last to challenge, leaves the opponents of the scheme no alteruative but to reply. It is hardly necessary to say that any question involving the welfare of the Egyptian people is deserving of our most anxious consideration. The point where we are at issue is the manner in which that desirable end is to be attained.

tures that adorn the modern cities of | of the dam at Assouan. M. Boulé, the the East, these monuments afford, with third member of the Commission, retheir inscriptions, a lasting record of a jects the Assouan scheme, on account bygone civilization such as no other of its interference with Phile and its country in the world has yielded. At temples. the period referred to it was generally It would be impossible within reabelieved that the temples of ancient sonable limits to enter at length into a Egypt were safe in the custody of discussion upon the different phases of the eminent men entrusted with their safety and preservation. It is only lately that the decay inseparable from the work of human hauds has attracted the attention of the guardians appointed to protect these precious relics. A society has been formed, at the suggestion of Mr. E. J. Poyuter, R.A., now director of the National Gallery, for the special purpose indicated by its name The Society for the Protection of the Monuments of Ancient Egypt. In his capacity of honorary secretary, Mr. Sir Benjamin Baker rests his arguPoynter has worked with unremitting ments a good deal upon the belief that zeal in conjunction with his colleagues, the people of Egypt are profoundly among whom may be reckoned several indifferent to the preservation of moneminent engineers, with the view of uments belonging to an age too remote securing the objects of the society. to appeal directly to their understandTheir exertions have, in several in- ing; but surely this is an argument stances, been crowned with success. that cuts both ways. It is usually reThe steps that are being taken for the garded as a function of a protecting preservation of the great temple at government to foster every civilizing Karnac will, it is hoped, arrest the dis- agent that would promote the welfare integration that threatens the columns of the people. It is true that he offers of the Great Hall, and at Abou-Simbel as a solatium the prospect of more the Egyptian government has, at the abundant crops, but under a wise and instigation of the society, adopted honest system of government, the remeasures which will protect the tem- verse of that under which the native ple from a serious danger to which it inhabitants have so long groaned, they was exposed. It will readily be be- would still have enough to render them lieved that the society received with the envy of many nations less favored consternation the news that the beauti-by nature so far as the resources of ful island of Phile with its group of their country are concerned. temples that gem of the Nile which, for a century at least, has won the admiration of every traveller-is menaced with destruction.

The surpassing beauty of the spot and its surroundings have perhaps thrown into the shade other aspects of the question of even greater imporThe Technical Commission on the tance than the threatened submersion question of reservoirs have expressed of Philæ. A letter addressed to the their unanimous opinion that a reser-Society of Antiquaries by Mr. Somers voir should be constructed in the Nile Clarke calls attention to the disastrous Valley, rejecting the Wady Rayan project as being too costly; but, after examining the various projects, they disagree as to the one most suitable for adoption. Sir Benjamin Baker and Signor Torricelli are decidedly in favor

consequences that would ensue if ever this gigantic scheme were carried into effect. The summary inserted in the Times of the 13th of April would be too long for insertion here, but a brief extract may help to prove that it is not

only from a sentimental point of view | earn for us the just reprobation of the that the question should be regarded. whole civilized world. Mr. Somers Clarke writes:

As an instance of the petitio principii which it would be hard to match, The irrigation engineers have recommended a vast reservoir, the base of which Sir Benjamin Baker dogmatically aswould be formed by a dam placed at a short serts that, no other site being available, distance below the island of Phile. The the thing must be done. When raildam will create a reservoir of enormous ways were first introduced into Russia extent, not only drowning the island of it was represented to the Czar NichoPhilæ but extending southwards into Nubia las that a certain projected line should for nearly a hundred miles. When full the be made to deviate from its intended waters of the reservoir will rise several feet course in order to avoid injury to some above the highest level of the pylon of the valuable property, upon which H. I. M. Temple of Isis at Philæ. The rocks sur called for a rule and drew a straight rounding the island are full of hiero-line from point to point, saying, “That glyphic inscriptions; these will spend many is the direction the line must take. months under water, and there is yet much This is the autocratic tone adopted by the English commissioner with regard to the island of Philæ. Frenchmen may exclaim, rien n'est sacré pour le sapeur.

to be discovered in the immediate neigh


It may be mentioned in passing that the Temple of Isis is adorned with painted columns, the preservation of which is a marvel, considering the age of their construction. Rich harmonies in green and blue, relieved in places by bands of red colors which the lapse of ages has left almost untouched-will be left to moulder in the waste of waters by which they will be submerged.

Mr. Somers Clarke mentions other

Mr. Heathcote Statham, the editor of the Builder, alluding to the proposal to meet the case by removing these temples to a neighboring island, writes :

have been made only shows how totally
The mere fact that such a proposal should
impossible it is for engineers to understand

the architectural aspect of the subject.
In the same connection Mr. Cecil Torr

structures which would be destroyed, including a Ptolemaic temple at Debôt, retaining its original girdle wall, and The temples at Phila were designed for Gertassel, a small hypæethral temple of the island. They follow the curves of the great beauty and in fair preservation, shore and the undulations of the ground in and the most magnificent temple to be consummate harmony with every feature found in Lower Nubia, at Kalabsheh of the landscape. Put them on another -all to be submerged, and the inhab-site and all this beauty is destroyed. itants transported he knows not whither.

It has been the custom with a certain class of archaeologists to underrate the The concluding passage refers to a Ptolemaic temples of Egypt on the matter that seems hitherto not to have ground that, being comparatively modbeen fully considered. How are the ern, they must necessarily represent a unfortunate inhabitants to be compen-debased period of art, an opinion that sated for the discomfort and privations I must distinctly traverse. Greek inwhich no pecuniary reward can ade- fluence has imposed a certain grace of quately allay ? line into their contour that more than

The promoters of "the biggest thing compensates for the absence of the in the world" and their underlings will massiveness which characterizes the doubtless reap a rich harvest. Undis-earlier periods of Egyptiau architecturbed by the adverse criticism of ture. The fact, moreover, that they mere sentimentalists," which they form a link in the chain that marks can afford to despise, they will embark their evolution and transition confers with a light heart in a scheme that will upon them a peculiar interest and ren

« ElőzőTovább »