The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

VII. The Literature of Travel, 1700–1900

§ 5. James Bruce

On the other hand, James Bruce, laird of Kinnaird, was a born traveller, endowed particularly with qualifications for eastern travel—an imposing stature and presence, great physical strength and athletic skill, strong self-confidence, a stubborn imperious determination, and a peculiar gift for mastering languages. Sir Richard Burton, a kindred spirit, repeatedly mentions “the Lord of Geesh” with admiration. After long travel in Barbary and Syria, Bruce left Egypt in 1769 for Abyssinia, where he spent two years. He takes an engaging and open delight in his own prowess and reputation, in his feats of horsemanship and of shooting, in his appointment as one of the royal chamberlains and as governor of Geesh, in the king’s gift “a chain of 184 links, each link weighing 3 1/12 dwt. of fine gold,” in his friendship with the princess Ozoro Esther, the most beautiful woman in Abyssinia, who once addressed him thus: “Sit down there, Yagoube; God has exalted you above all in this country, when he has put it in your power, though but a stranger, to confer charity upon the king of it.” His vivid account of the hazardous overland journey from Abyssinia to Egypt is equal to the rest of the record. Of his departure, he writes:

  • Neither shall I take up the reader’s time with a long narrative of leave-taking or what took place between me and those illustrious personages with whom I had lived so long in the most perfect and cordial friendship. Men of little and curious minds would perhaps think I was composing a panegyric upon myself, from which therefore I most willingly refrain.
  • The boast is not an empty one, for a British diplomatist, Henry Salt, visiting Abyssinia forty years later, speaks of Bruce’s enduring renown in that country and of the extraordinary impression made upon the people by his noble personality.