Burckhardt in Cambridge; study and dialogue

Burckhardt in Cambridge; study and dialogue
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  Burckhardt in Cambridge; study and dialogue Catherine Ansorge, Cambridge University Library The University Library in Cambridge is home to an intriguing archive of Burckhardt’s personal notebooks, sheaves of notes and some of his letters 1 . The Library also holds the considerable collection of Arabic manuscripts he acquired during his exploits abroad. For an explorer born in Switzerland and later renowned for his travels in the Middle East, this is perhaps an unlikely destination for such a personal bequest. These were deposited in the Library at Cambridge because Burckhardt spent time studying at the University prior to his time as an explorer. The contents of the archive indicate that he profited greatly from his experiences there, and perhaps the knowledge gained and the life-long friends he made, contributed significantly to his travels and to the success of his achievements. As a gesture of gratitude, Burckhardt bequeathed most of his belongings to the Library which arrived in Cambridge in 1819, two years after his death in Cairo 2 . A closer investigation of the contents of Burckhardt’s notebooks, throw a new perspective on his travel preparations and demonstrate the attempts he made to fulfil the requirements demanded by his sponsors, the African Association, in preparation for his expeditions. In the Library’s Burckhardt archive, there are sixteen small notebooks around 18 x 12 cm in size 3 . They are made of folded sheets of paper; the covers are made of marbled, slightly thicker, paper, though several of the notebooks have lost their covers altogether. They are a little worn and dog-eared, otherwise they have survived in good condition. The notebooks are shown in fig.1. The contents are written in Burckhardt’s small, neat handwriting,  most are written in ink, predominantly in English but some contain notes or comments in German, Latin or French. Few of them have any dates to indicate precisely when they were written, but as they seem to be preparatory studies on language and travel, they were very probably written in Cambridge, and are the result of Burckhardt’s studies there . The African Association In addition to Burckhardt ’s own papers and manuscripts , the Library also possesses, in three volumes, the srcinal papers of the African Association 4 . These formerly belonged to William Martin Leake (1777-1860) who served for a time on its Committee and came to the Library in 1946, transferred from the Faculty of Classics. Through these minutes and reports, it is possible to trace Burckhar dt’s connection  with the Association from his first contact, through to his death, and the printing of his travel notes as published works from 1819 to 1830. In particular from the Minutes of 1808, it is possible to trace the background to his time in Cambridge. 1   Browne 1900, 342-4. 2   Browne 1896, xxviii.   3  MS Add.282.1-16 Burckhardt papers 4  MS Add.7085-7.  At the beginning of the nineteenth century , the Association’s founder, Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), was in search of suitable candidates to carry out expeditions to explore the African interior. The aim was to discover the source of the river Niger and to reach as far as Timbuktu. The larger intention was to discover the unknown regions of the African interior and to investigate the potential for opening these regions up for trading purposes. As such ventures were fraught with difficulties, Banks preferred candidates with previous experience in exploration. Burckhardt had arrived in London in 1806, after completing his studies at the Universities of Leipzig and Göttingen, looking to further his career in a suitable government position. Having failed to have any success in this regard, he approached Banks with the letter of recommendation he carried from Professor Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), his former teacher at Göttingen. Blumenbach and his anthropological studies had made a deep impression on Burckhardt. Banks and Blumenbach were colleagues and the latter had on previous occasions suggested other candidates for the Association’s exploration projects. A description of Bur ckhardt’s first contact with the Association  in the Minutes of 21 st  March 1808 records ‘A letter from Mr. Burckhardt, a native of Basle in Switzerlan d', offering his services to the Association. Banks initially appears unconvinced of Burckhardt’s suitabili ty for such a role, due to his youth and inexperience. Banks requests Burckhardt to attend a meeting to explain his credentials more fully and it seems that Burckhardt, having set his heart on such a project, succeeded in convincing Banks that he was the right man for this project 5 . The Cambridge connection The African Association had previously experienced a rather poor success rate with its explorers. The Scotsman Mungo Park was the only one to successfully returned from his first mission to the Niger while all the others had, for one reason or another, failed to carry out their plans or met with fatal mishaps. As a result, the Association had become keenly aware of the need for thorough background knowledge and a grasp of survival skills if any success was to be achieved. It was for this reason that the Association directed Burckhardt to study geology, mineralogy, medicine, astronomy, orienteering and perhaps most significantly of all, Arabic. This is specifically recorded in the Minutes for January 20th 1809, in a document entitled ‘ Mr Burckhardt’s instructions’  , it states that ‘ it is absolutely necessary in order to qualify yourself for that undertaking that you should be intimately acquainted with the language and the manners of the  Arabs’    6 . It was for this instruction that Burckhardt came to Cambridge, though the srcin of this particular decision is unclear. A plan to visit Cambridge is not specifically mentioned in the Minutes, but evidence from letters suggest that Burckhardt did spend some weeks or months at the University in 180   8 7 . It is possible that Burckhardt made a number of shorter 5  MS Add.7085, f. 116 6  MS Add.7085, f. 123-4. Burckhardt 1819, v 7  Burckhardt-Sarasin, 109   Commented [CA1]: Spelling changed to match ms text Commented [CA2]: Sentence changed, reference added  trips between London and Cambridge before being based there for a longer time. Travel between London and Cambridge at this time was relatively easy; there was at least one coach per day between the cities and a daily postal service. Burckhardt is reported to have lived quietly in Cambridge, he was not and official student in the University or affiliated to any of the Colleges. However, Cambridge University was an institutional member of the African Association and other contacts are traceable between the Association and the Cambridge academic community. In Cambridge there were academics with skills in Arabic, some who had valuable travelling experience, others had connections to the University at Leipzig, where Burckhardt had previously studied. Any of these factors could have been critical in Burckhardt’s  decision to come to Cambridge to study. Learning Arabic Once accepted by the African Association, it became crucial for Burckhardt to learn Arabic in order to travel with greater ease and with safety. Explorers sponsored by the African Association were expected to travel in disguise and Burckhardt, subsequent to his time in Malta, travelled as a ‘Moorish merchant’ with connections to the East India Company under the pseudonym of ‘Sheikh Ibrahim’. Resident in Cambridge and a member of Sidney Sussex College, was George Cecil Renouard (1780-1867). He had learned Arabic during his service as Chaplain to the Levant Company in Constantinople from 1804-06, then in Smyrna from 1810-14. He was a member of the African Association, which is very probably where he first met Burckhardt. Later in life Renouard became Professor of Arabic at Cambridge, but in 1808, during the time of Burckhardt's stay, he was Chaplain of Great St Mary’s, the Cambridge University Church. It seems highly likely that he was Burckhardt’s first A rabic teacher and that the latter came to Cambridge with the intention of being his pupil. Two of the notebooks, those numbered 2, and 5, contain examples of his language notes. On one opening page Burckhardt writes out the alphabet showing the different forms of the Arabic consonants, several other pages show grammar notes (as shown in fig. 2) and others are lists of vocabulary. These demonstrate the very start of his Arabic studies under the Renouard's tutelage. He reached much higher standards, including in spoken Arabic, during his time in Aleppo. A new mentor Although it Renouard seems to have played a crucial role in Burckhardt’s training, he was not Burckhardt’s most significant contact in Cambridge. Burckhardt took advantage of the great variety of subjects taught at the University and also attended lectures in scientific subjects. Some were given by Edward Daniel Clarke (1769  – 1822) the distinguished naturalist, mineralogist, antiquary and traveler. He was a member of Jesus College and older than Burckhardt by fifteen years. He had left University without any clear idea of a career but he eventually ended up as a tutor for the sons of wealthy aristocrats providing him with the opportunity to travel abroad in the ‘grand tour’ style.  But Clarke took much more than a superficial attitude to the places he visited and he was actively interested in the natural world, native cultures and antiquities. He visited Scotland, and in later expeditions travelled  across Scandinavia, Russia, Turkey, the Holy Land, Egypt and Greece. He was in Athens when Lord Elgin removed the Parthenon marbles which he describes in his travelogue. 8  He amassed vast collections of antiquities, manuscripts, geological and botanical specimens and later published his travel accounts to great acclaim. As a result of his exploits and his successful publications, he became quite wealthy and famous. Clarke also had connections with the African Association and knew Anthony Hamilton (1739-1812) , the Association’s  secretary, and later, from 1804-11, the treasurer. On his return from his travels in 1802, Clarke settled in Cambridge, became a fellow of Jesus College and focussed his efforts on his scientific interests. In 1805 he was ordained into the Church of England and was awarded the church living of Harlton, about 7 miles from Cambridge. Clarke was already a well-known and established figure in Cambridge at the time he met Burckhardt in 1807 or 1808. In a biography of Clarke, we find the following mention of Burckhardt: ‘Mr Burckhardt …resided for a considerable time in Cambridge, both before and after his engagement with the African Society in 1808; chiefly with the view of profiting by such opportunities as the place afforded for improving himself in natural history and oriental literature’  . 9  Clarke di d everything he could to make Burckhardt’s  stay at the University interesting and profitable. It was likely to have been Clarke who after befriending Burckhardt, introduced him to members of the wider academic community. Burckhardt became a great friend of the Clarke family and spent time with them at their home, with Clarke, his wife Angelica and their little son Edward, known as Hotspots. The Clarkes lived in a house in St Andrew’s Street and perhaps Burckhardt stayed with the Clarkes when studying in Cambridge. It was Clarke’s wife, Angelica, a talented artist , who drew the well-known portrait of Burckhardt as a young man shown in fig. 3. During the summer of 1808, Cambridge experienced a few days of very hot weather during which Burckhardt practised long distance walking in the hot conditions in preparation for his travels. 10   Notes on history and geography We can assume that Clarke and Burckhardt spent many enjoyable times together, conversing about the adventures and practicalities of travelling. Quite apart from that, it is also evident from the notebooks that Burckhardt was avidly collecting information about history, geography and travel relating to the Middle East from a wide range of other sources. Four of the notebooks display Burckhardt’s collection of travel notes and geographical information. He is copying passages or making notes from the texts of authors who had previously written on the Middle East. In notebook 1, there are eight pages of notes concerning travel in Africa, including details of the travelling times between various cities, methods of transport along the Nile valley, also something of the native animals, local peoples and their clothing. There are four pages from a Latin translation of ʾAbū ʾal - Fidā’s  Prolegomena . Notebook 6 contains Latin notes from St rabo’s Geographica , chapter 17 on 8  Clarke 1818, 223-5. 9  Otter 1824, 584. 10  Sim 1969, 62.  North Africa and 30 pages of notes in Latin from Pliny’s Naturalis Historia . Notebook 7 lists Arabic place names in Africa. Notes from Arab authors, as well as classical authors can be found, and notebook 12 contains notes from al-   Idrīsī,   in English translation. Burckhardt also studied works from later centuries; there are copious notes from the Latin translation of Leo Africanus, the Spanish-African convert and geographer of the 16 th  century, who, tradition says, reached Timbuktu as a young man. These notebooks reveal that Burckhardt was consulting writers from the classics through later history and with a geographical spread which included north and west Africa, Arabia, Persia and reached as far East as India. He was also very up-to-date in his researches; in notebook 3, there are notes on to Sylvain the Golbery’s recently published ‘ Travels in  Africa ’. Notes of scientific subjects In the notebooks there is evidence that Burckhardt was also studying a wider range of subjects. Here we see quite possibly, the further influence of Clarke who, in 1808, as a result of his success in his scientific studies, had become the first professor of Mineralogy in Cambridge. His lectures were apparently liked among the students and very well attended. In the collection of Burckhardt’s notebooks,  four of them, Notebooks 8-11, contain notes and diagrams on mineralogy in English and German, shown in fig.4. Did Burckhardt perhaps attend Cl arke’s lectures? Quite possibly  he did, and certainly during his travels, he collected geological specimens which he sent back to England. Notes on practical skills Other notebooks in this little collection, contain information in other scientific disciplines, especially those which relate to practical information useful when travel, such as medicine and astronomy. Notebook 3 contains notes on symptoms of illnesses and medical treatments, including lists of diuretics, emetics expectorants and herbal cures. Notebook 4 relates to methods of orienteering (as shown in fig. 5), calculating distances, and it also contains a careful listing of the positions of all the planets for the years 1809-12. Burckhardt’s training also involved practising his skills in sketching, which was a very important recording method for travellers. Two of the notebooks include some of his drawings. In notebook 15, among other drawings, there are two sketches of Stonehenge drawn during his time travelling in the South of England in 1806-7 before his time in Cambridge. In notebook 16, the small leather-bound notebook, which appears to be Burckhardt’s daily pocket book and which is full of notes and jottings,  there are further sketches. Notebook 14 lists goods sold by the East India Company which may well have been information he collected to authenticate his disguise as a merchant. On reflection, the notebooks divide quite neatly into three different categories. Eleven of the sixteen contain notes of a more academic nature, possibly all of these relate to his studies in Cambridge, three others focus on more practical skills and information. Numbers 15 and 16, which contain jottings and drawings, may well have been in Burckhardt’s possession the whole time he was in England. It is unknown whether these notebooks form
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