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The dazzling story of a flamboyant and headlong traveller, James Bruce of Kinnaird, whose fabulous journey in the years 1768-1773 took him through Ethiopia and the Sudanese deserts to the source of the Nile. Bruce, in his Toadian conceit, his romantic nature, was no stickler for faultless fact, and the selections from his wildly scrambled journal (not reprinted in full since 1813) have been discreetly weighted in that knowledge. Happily sailing off from his native Scotland and the England of George III in the position of British Consulate-General at Algiers, Bruce studied Arabic, gathered supplies (and a mysterious Italian artist and assistant of whom, predictably, we hear very little) and diplomatically paved the way for his entrance into what was, at that time, quite unknown territory. In a day when the Abyssinian empire was withdrawing from outside pressures, a European Christian excited much suspicion and hostility. Yet Bruce, by his own accounts, maneuvered his position among the savage royalty of Ethiopia to land on the right side of power. Exactly how accurate are his accounts of conversations and events is open to question, but amid the breathtaking witnesses of violence, pageantry, orgies, flights and brinkmanship dealings in the rugged lands through which he miraculously passed unscathed, the facts remain that he was there. He returned with drawings, artifacts, scrolls, and the certain knowledge that he had drunk from the source of the Nile. London soon wearied of the novelty, or rather the numbing presentation, of the marvellous journey, and Bruce was ultimately denied the glory he sought. Perhaps this tireless, witty and engrossing reconstruction will remedy the neglect.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1968
Publisher: Norton