Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/311

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MUNGO PARK. 105


tioned, too, a strong intimacy sprung up between our traveller and Sir Walter Scott, then but little known in the literary world, and who resided with his family at Ashiestiel, on the banks of the Tweed. This friendship commenced in 1804, after Mr Park had removed from Peebles to Fowl- shiels, and was preparing for his second expedition to Africa, of which he had then got intimation. It is pleasing to know the cordiality and affectionate familiarity which subsisted between these celebrated men, and also that it arose from a marked congeniality in their tastes and habits. 1 Park was an enthusiastic lover of poetry, especially the minstrelsy with which his native district was rife ; and although he made no pretensions to the laurel crown himself, he occasionally gave expression to his feelings and thoughts in verse, even from his earliest years. It was little wonder, then, that he should own a particular predilection for the society of one whose heart and memory were so richly stored with the ancient ballad lore of his country, although his reserve towards strangers in general, which was carried even to a repulsive degree, was notorious. In particular, Sir Walter Scott has noticed the strong aversion of his friend to being questioned in a promiscuous company on the subject of his adventures, of which grievance, as may be imagined, he had frequent cause to complain.

The new mission to Africa, which was now sanctioned and promoted by government, had been projected so far back as 1801 ; but owing to changes in the ministry, and other causes of delay, the preparations for it were not completed till 1805. Mr Park parted from his family, and proceeded to London with his brother-in-law, Mr James Anderson, who, as well as Mr Scott, an artist, had resolved to accompany him in his expedition. On this occasion, Mr Park received the brevet commission of captain in Africa, and a similar commission of lieutenant to his relative Mr Anderson. Mr Scott also was employed by government to accompany the expedition as draughts- man. Mr Park was, at the same time, empowered to enlist soldiers from the garrison of the island of Goree, to the number of forty-five, to accompany him in his journey ; and the sum of 5000 was placed at his disposal, together witli directions as to his route, &c. The expedition sailed from Portsmouth on the 30th January, 1806, and arrived at Pisania on the 28th of April, where pre- parations were immediately made for the inland journey. The party consisted of forty men, two lieutenants, a draughtsman (Mr Scott), and Park himself; they had horses for themselves, and asses for carrying the provisions and mer- chandise. Mr Park wrote to several friends at home, previously to setting out, in the highest spirits, and seemingly perfectly confident of success. In his letter to Mr Dickson, he says, " this day six weeks, I expect to drink all your healths in the Niger ;" and again, " I have little doubt but that I shall be able, with presents and fair words, to pass through the country to the Niger ; and if once we are fairly afloat, the day is won." Alas ! how sadly these sanguine expres- sions contrast with the melancholy issue of the expedition. Park's chance of reaching the Niger in safety depended mainly upon his doing so previously to the commencement of the rainy season, which is always most fatal to Europeans ; but scarcely had they got half way when the rain set in, and the effect on the health of the men was as speedy as disastrous. They were seized with vomit- ing, sickness, dysentery, and delirium ; some died on the road, others were drowned in the rivers, and several were left in the precarious charge of the natives in the villages. Some, still more unfortunate, were lost in the woods, where they would inevitably be devoured by wild beasts ; while the native ban- ditti, who imagined the caravan to contain immense wealth, hung upon their l It chanced that they were born within a month of each other.