BLTC Press Titles


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Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)


Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Vanity Fair

William Thackery


Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle


An account of travels into the interior of southern Africa, in the years 1797 and 1798

by Sir John Barrow

Excerpt:

for for many parts of the country, particularly after a feries of dry weather, produce not. a fingle blade of grafs. The bitter, four, and faline plants, than which the arid foil of an African defert produces nothing better, conftitute oft times their only food for weeks together; and to the ufe of thefe may probably be owing the offenfive breath that the ox of the colony is generally obferved to have. In Europe, the fweetnefs of the breath of horned cattle is almoft proverbial. In Africa it is remarked to be altogether as naufeous. The bad quality of the water, which in the defert plains is never met with pure, but impregnated with faline or earthy matter, may alfo contribute in producing this effed. The fpeed of an ox in the waggon, where the country is tolerably level, and the furface hard, is full three miles an hour, at which rate he will continue for ten or twelve hours without halting.

The firft day of July was fixed upon for our departure from the Cape ; and the preceding month was employed in making the neceflary preparations, fitting up three waggons, and in procuring draught oxen, which at this feafon of the year, after the long drought, were fcarce and extremely lean. Baftaards for drivers, and Hottentots to lead the foremoft pair in the team, and to take care of the relays, were very difficult to be procured, but indifpenfibly neceflary. Every thing, however, was in readinefs on the day fixed, though it was night before the waggons left the town ; and the oxen were fo miferably bad, that before they had proceeded three miles, two of them dropped in the yokes, and were obliged to be left behind. In feven hours they had only advanced about fifteen miles, to a

place place called Stickland, where Sir James Craig had caufed ftabling for feveral troops of dragoons, and ftone-buildings for the officers and men, to be erected, as a place of great importance in cafe of an attack from a powerful enemy. This ftation is at the fouth point of a range of hills called the Tigerberg or Tiger Mountain, that terminates, on this fide, the fandy ifthmus. At the feet of the hills, and in the vallies formed by them, are feveral pleafant farms, with gardens well ftored with vegetables for the table, fruiteries, vineyards, and extenfive corn lands. As none of the latter are inclofed there is a general appearance of nakednefs in the country, which, if planted with forefttrees, as the oak and the larch, and divided by fences, would become fufficiently beautiful, as nature in drawing the outline has performed her part. The fandy flat, of which the Tigerberg forms the boundary, is applied to no ufe but that of furnifhing a part of the fupply of fuel for the town, and for the country people and butchers occafionally to turn their cattle upon. It is a prevailing opinion at the Cape, that this ifthmus, which now feparates the two principal bays, was once covered with the fea, making, at that time, the Cape promontory a complete ifland. The flatnefs and little elevation of the furface, the quantity of fand upon it, and the number of fhells buried in the fand, have been urged as the grounds for fuch a conjecture. If, however, fuch has been the cafe, and the retreat of the fea progreffive, it is an incalculable period of time fince the two bays have been united. The furface is from 20 to 30 feet above the level of high-water mark; the fand upon it, except where it is drifted into ridges, is feldom three feet deep, and generally refts on fand-ftone or hard gravel, bound together,

i and and coloured yellow or brown with iron. The vegetable remains, wafhed by the rains into the hollows, form in places bogs or peat-mofs, and the water in them is of a deep claretcolour, and fometimes black. I never met with any fhells on any part of the ifthmus ; but the prefence of thefe is no argument of their having been brought there by the fea. Many thoufand waggon-loads of fhells may be met with in various places along the eaftern coaft, in fituations that are feveral hundred feet above the level of the fea. They are generally found in the greateft quantities in fheltered caverns, a circumftance that might lead to the fuppofition of the original inhabitants of the country being a fort of Troglodytes, as indeed the favage Hottentots of the interior in fome degree ftill are. The fact is, they are carried from the coaft into thefe elevated fituations by the myriads of fea-fowl that frequent the African mores. At Mufcle-bay is a remarkable cavern containing an immenfe quantity of different kinds of fhells peculiar to the coaft; above the level of which it is not lefs than three hundred feet; and behind the Lion's Head, at the fame height, are beds of fhells, buried under vegetable earth and clay. The human mind can form no idea as to the meafure of time required for the fea to have progreffively retreated from fuch elevations.

The plain that ftretches to the eaftward from Tigerberg is lefs fandy, and better covered with fhrubs and plants, than the ifthmus, and has a few farms fcattered thinly over it near rills of water, that have broken the furface into deep glens in their paffage to the northward. On the more arid and naked parts, confifting of yellow clay and fand, are thrown up many thou

fands

fands of thofe cellular mafles of earth by a fmall infect of the ant tribe, to which naturalifts have given the name of termes, different, however, from, and much lefs deftructive than, that fpecies, of which a curious defcription has been given by Mr. Smeathman in the Philofophical Tranfactions. The ant-hills in this part of Africa feldom exceed the height of three feet.


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