A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome

With Notices of the So-called "Amazons," the Grand Customs, the Yearly Customs, the Human Sacrifices, the Present State of the Slave Trade, and the Negro's Place in Nature.

by Richard Francis Burton.

Second edition of 1864 in two volumes.
Tinsley Brothers: London.

 

Volume 1 PDF Page images.
Volume 2 PDF Page images.

 

 

From the PREFACE:

IN the Preface affixed by an anonymous hand to "The History of Dahomy," published nearly three- fourths of a century ago, we are told that the "short interval from Whydah beach to Abomey is perhaps the most beaten track, by Europeans, of any in Africa." The Author thereupon proceeds to show a difference of 104 miles between the maximum and minimum estimates of the distance, which is nearly doubled by the most correct.

In this Year of Grace, 1864, there is at least an equal amount of uncertainty concerning the "Land of the Amazons ;" but it shows rather in things metaphy- sical than physical. So well informed a journal as the " Saturday Review" (July 4th, 1863), gravely informs its readers that " The King of Dahome has lately been indulging in a sacrifice of 2000 human beings, simply in deference to a national prejudice (!), and to keep up the good old customs of the country " (!!). This complete miscomprehension of the subject, coming from such a quarter, induces me to attempt without fear so well worn a theme, and to bring up to the present time a subject worthily handled by Snel- grave, Smith, Norris, Dalzel, M'Leod, and Forbes. And if, in depicting the manners and ceremonies of this once celebrated military Empire, and in recounting this black Epopreia, there has been a something of excessive detail, and there shall appear much that is trifling and superfluous, the kindly reader will perhaps find for it a reason.

My principal object, it may be frankly owned, has been to show, in its true lights, the African kingdom best known by name to Europe. But in detailing its mixture of horrors and meanness, in this pitiless picture of its mingled puerility and brutality, of ferocity and politeness, I trust that none can rightfully charge me with exaggeration, and I can acquit myself of all malice. " A nadie si elof/ia con mentira, ni se critica sin verdad."

So far back as 1861 I had volunteered, as the Blue Book shows, to visit Agbome. The measure not being then deemed advisable, I awaited till May—June, 1863, when an opportunity presented itself. In the meantime (December, 18G2—January, 1863), Commodore Wilmot, R.N., Senior Officer of the Bights Division, accompanied by Captain Luce, R.N., and by Dr. Haran, of H. M. S. Brisk, devanced me, and that officer proved the feasibility of a visit to Dahome. Returning to Fernando Po, I soon received the gratifying intelligence that Her Majesty's Government had been pleased to choose me as the bearer of a friendly message to King Gelele.

...

BUENA VISTA, FERNANDO PO,
April 20, 1864.