Friday, November 19, 2010

Off the Coast of Tunis

November 19.—Wind favourable during night, dies away in the morning, and blows in flurries rather contrary. The steamboat packet, which left Portsmouth at the same time with us, passes us about seven o'clock, and will reach a day or two before us. We are now off the coast of Tunis: not so high and rocky as that of Algiers, and apparently much more richly cultivated. A space of considerable length along shore, between a conical hill called Mount Baluty and Cape Bon, which we passed last night, is occupied by the French as a coral fishery. They drop heavy shot by lines on the coral rocks and break off fragments which they fish up with nets. The Algerines, seizing about 200 Neapolitans thus employed gave rise to the bombardment of their town by Lord Exmouth. All this coast is picturesquely covered with enclosures and buildings and is now clothed with squally weather. One hill has a smoky umbrella displayed over its peak, which is very like a volcano—many islets and rocks bearing the Italian names of sisters, brothers, dogs, and suchlike epithets. The view is very striking, with varying rays of light and of shade mingling and changing as the wind rises and falls. About one o'clock we pass the situation of ancient Carthage, but saw no ruins, though such are said to exist. A good deal of talk about two ancient lakes called——; I knew the name, but little more. We passed in the evening two rocky islands, or skerries, rising straight out of the water, called Gli Fratelli or The Brothers.

On November 19, 1831, Scott is touring off the coast of Tunis.  In his "Tales of a Grandfather; being stories taken from France", Scott describes the attempt of Louis IX of France to conquer Tunis for Christianity.

'With all that was so excellent in the character and conduct of Saint Louis, he was subject, as we have already hinted, to a strain of superstition, the great vice of the age, which impelled him into measures that finally brought ruin upon himself, and severe losses upon the state. At the bottom of his thoughts, he still retained the insane hope of being more successful in a new crusade than in that in which he had encountered defeat and captivity ; and after sixteen years had been devoted to the improvement and good government of his own dominions, he again prepared a fleet and an army to invade the territories of a Mahometan prince. Neither Palestine nor Egypt was the object of this new attack. The city of Tunis, upon the coast of Africa, was the destined object of the expedition. Credulous in all concerning the holy war, Louis conceived that the Mahometan king of Tunis was willing to turn Christian, and become his ally, or vassal ; and, by possessing a powerful influence, through the occupation of this fertile country, he hoped he should make the conversion of this prince the means of pushing his conquests, and extending Christianity over Egypt and Palestine also...'

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