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Memoir of John Murray
Alexander Burnes to John Murray, 30 March 1835

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
Chapter XIII.
Chapter XIV.
Chapter XV.
Chapter XVI.
Chapter XVII.
Chapter XVIII.
Chapter XIX.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chap. XX.
Chap. XXI.
Chap. XXII.
Chap. XXIII.
Chap. XXIV.
Chap. XXV.
Chap. XXVI.
Chap. XXVII.
Chap. XXIX.
Chap. XXX.
Chap. XXXI.
Chap. XXXII.
Chap. XXXIV.
Chap. XXXV.
Chap. XXXVI.
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On the Nile, March 30th, 1835.
My Dear Murray,

It is only four weeks this very day since I took leave of you in Albemarle Street, and here I am within a couple of hours’ sail of Grand Cairo, and in sight of those stupendous monuments of folly, the Pyramids of Egypt, which, as my favourite author Gibbon has it, “still stand erect and unshaken above the floods of the Nile, after an hundred generations and the leaves of autumn have dropped into the grave.” I cannot believe myself so far distant from the saloons of London, but the moment I reached Alexandria the line of demarcation was too apparent, the transition from civilization to barbarism was instantaneous, and we received before quitting the steamer the astounding intelligence that 15,000 human beings had died of plague within the last three months, and that 129 had perished on the preceding day in the isolated town of Alexandria. My fellow-passengers and myself tumbled
our boxes into a boat and set off for Cairo without holding communication with a human being, and hitherto our journey has been most prosperous. A couple of days more will transport us across the Isthmus, and we shall in all probability reach India within fifty days of quitting the Land’s End. What locomotion! before I have done with it I shall begin to doubt my existence; as it is, I do take these towering masses, which they all tell me are the Pyramids, for those beautiful lithographs which I was looking at with
Mrs. Murray on your table a month since, but then I have since spanned a goodly portion of the world, and, as you expressed some interest in my wanderings, I have resolved to fill this sheet by telling you what you and your friends may expect who are resolved on profiting by this new steam communication with India and what you may do in three months. . . .

Having thus landed in Egypt in twenty-two days, a month, or rather six weeks, may be spent in visiting Cairo, Jerusalem, Damascus, and by availing myself of the packet after the next it would be quite possible to be in London in three months!! One author—I forget his name—gives his book the name of ‘Dates and Distances, showing what may be done,’ &c. in a certain time. He does not outdo this, which ought to tempt some of the thousand and one tourists who wish to write a “book for next season,” and sigh for immortality as authors.

The Quarterly is lying before me, and, strange enough, I have been reperusing the very article which treats of Mahommed Ali in that able essay regarding the encroachment of Russia.* The Journal from which the quotations are made regarding the state and government of Egypt prove the writer to have been an accurate and an acute observer, but I do think that he has been too severe on the Pasha. To be sure he is a wholesale merchant and a wholesale oppressor, but compare him with his predecessors in this land of bondsmen, and then judge. From the very spot where I first beheld the Pyramids, Mahommed Ali has begun to dig an enormous aqueduct into which he is to turn the Nile after having bridged a new channel! the bridge is to be so constructed that he may inundate any part above the delta, and the river itself will be passed out

* ‘England, France, Russia, and Turkey,’ by Sir John MacNeill.

of its channel by an embankment which is to be formed by boats filled with stones and sunk across it!! Is this the work of a barbarian? Can a work so useful, though he may force the peasants to perform it, be called anything but a national undertaking, and whence are the supplies to be derived by Mahommed Ali but from his “faithful Commons?” But I must be done: Cairo is in sight, the boatmen are singing a song of delight, in the music not such, however, as attended Cleopatra in her galley, nor enough to make me charmed into a forgetfulness of all your many attentions to me. With the best regards to
Mrs. Murray and your family, and particular remembrances to your son—Ever believe me,

Yours very sincerely,
Alex. Burnes.

P.S.—I go to the Pyramids to-morrow morning, and start in the evening for the Red Sea: quick work,—but not too quick—for 190 people died here (Cairo) yesterday of the plague.

A. B.