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Bruce
Bruce
102

original chronicles;' and disquisitions on the history and religion of Egypt, Indian trade, the invention of the alphabet, and other subjects, evincing that the great traveller was not a great scholar or a judicious critic. With all their faults, few books of equal compass are equally entertaining; and few such monuments exist of the energy and enterprise of a single traveller. Yet all their merits and all the popularity they speedily obtained among general readers did not effect the reversal of the verdict already passed upon Bruce by literary coteries. With sorrow and scorn he left the vindication of his name to posterity. He shot, entertained visitors, played with his children, and, 'having grown exceedingly heavy and lusty, rode slowly over his estate to his collieries, mounted on a charger of great power and size.' Occasionally he would assume Abyssinian costume, and sit meditating upon the past and the departed, especially, it is surmised, his beautiful protectress, Ozoro Esther. At last, on 27 April 1794, hastening to the head of his staircase to hand a lady to her carriage, he missed his footing, pitched on his head, and never spoke again.

Bruce's character is depicted with incomparable liveliness by himself. It is that of a brave, magnanimous, and merciful man, endowed with excellent abilities, though not with first-rate intellectual powers, but swayed to an undue degree by self-esteem and the thirst for fame. The exaggeration of these qualities, without which even his enterprise would have shrunk from his perils, made him uncandid to those whom he regarded as rivals, and brought imputations, not wholly undeserved, upon his veracity. As regards the bulk and general tenor of his narrative, his truthfulness has been sufficiently established; but vanity and the passion for the picturesque led him to embellish minor particulars, and perhaps in some few instances to invent them. The circumstances under which his work was produced were highly unfavourable to strict accuracy. Instead of addressing himself to his task immediately upon his return, with the incidents of his travels fresh in his mind and his journals open before him, Bruce delayed for twelve years, and then dictated to an amanuensis, indolently omitting to refer to the original journals, and hence frequently making a lamentable confusion of facts and dates, which only came to light upon the examination of his original manuscripts. 'In the latter part of his days,' says his biographer, Murray, 'he seems to have viewed the numerous adventures of his active life as in a dream, not in their natural state as to time and place, but under the pleasing and arbitrary change of memory melting into imagination.' These inaccuracies of detail, however, relating exclusively to things personal to Bruce himself, in no way impair the truth and value of his splendid picture of Abyssinia; nor do they mar the effect of his own great figure as the representative of British frankness and manliness amid the weltering chaos of African cruelty, treachery, and superstition. His method of composition, moreover, if unfavourable to the strictly historical, was advantageous to the other literary qualities of his work. Fresh from the author's lips, the tale comes with more vividness than if it had been compiled from journals; and scenes, characters, and situations are represented with more warmth and distinctness. Bruce's character portraits are masterly; and although the long conversations he records are evidently highly idealised, the essential truth is probably conveyed with as much precision as could have been attained by a verbatim report. Not the least of his gifts is an eminently robust and racy humour. He will always remain the poet, and his work the epic, of African travel.

[The principal authority for Bruce's life is his own Travels, which have appeared in three editions, in 1790, 1805, and 1813. He left an unfinished autobiography, part of which is printed in the later editions of the Travels. They are also accompanied by a biography by the editor, Alexander Murray; an exceedingly well-written and in the main a very satisfactory book. Some slight coldness towards Bruce's memory may be explained by the uneasy relations between Murray and Bruce's son, who quarrelled with him during the progress of the work. Sir Francis Head's delightful volume in the Family Library goes into the other extreme. It is a mere compilation from the Travels, but executed con amore by a kindred spirit, and highly original in manner if not in matter. Crichton's memoir in Jardine's Naturalists' Library is an audacious plagiarism from Head. Bruce's Travels in Barbary have been most fully illustrated by Colonel Playfair (Travels in the Footsteps of Bruce, 1877). See also the Travels of Lord Valentia and Salt, Bruce's principal detractors; Asiatic Researches, vol. i.; Madame d'Arblay's Memoir of Dr. Burney, i. 298-329; Beloe's Sexagenarian, ii. 45-9; and the chapter on Alexander Murray in Archibald Constable and his Literary Correspondents, vol. i. The excellent article in the Penny Cyclopaedia is by André Vieusseux.]

R. G.


BRUCE, JAMES (1765?–1806), essayist, was born in the county of Forfar in or about 1765. After an honourable career at the university of St. Andrews, he went thence to Emmanuel College Cambridge. He graduated B.A. in 1789, and took orders