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Odd People Being a Popular Description of Singular Races of Man   By: (1818-1883)

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Odd People Being a Popular Description of Singular Races of Man By Captain Mayne Reid Published by Ticknor and Fields, Boston. This edition dated 1861.

Odd People, by Captain Mayne Reid.




Perhaps no race of people has more piqued the curiosity of the civilised world than those little yellow savages of South Africa, known as the Bushmen . From the first hour in which European nations became acquainted with their existence, a keen interest was excited by the stories told of their peculiar character and habits; and although they have been visited by many travellers, and many descriptions have been given of them, it is but truth to say, that the interest in them has not yet abated, and the Bushmen of Africa are almost as great a curiosity at this hour as they were when Di Gama first doubled the Cape. Indeed, there is no reason why this should not be, for the habits and personal appearance of these savages are just now as they were then, and our familiarity with them is not much greater. Whatever has been added to our knowledge of their character, has tended rather to increase than diminish our curiosity.

At first the tales related of them were supposed to be filled with wilful exaggerations, and the early travellers were accused of dealing too much in the marvellous. This is a very common accusation brought against the early travellers; and in some instances it is a just one. But in regard to the accounts given of the Bushmen and their habits there has been far less exaggeration than might be supposed; and the more insight we obtain into their peculiar customs and modes of subsistence, the more do we become satisfied that almost everything alleged of them is true. In fact, it would be difficult for the most inventive genius to contrive a fanciful account, that would be much more curious or interesting than the real and bona fide truth that can be told about this most peculiar people.

Where do the Bushmen dwell? what is their country? These are questions not so easily answered, as in reality they are not supposed to possess any country at all, any more than the wild animals amidst which they roam, and upon whom they prey. There is no Bushman's country upon the map, though several spots in Southern Africa have at times received this designation. It is not possible, therefore, to delineate the boundaries of their country, since it has no boundaries, any more than that of the wandering Gypsies of Europe.

If the Bushmen, however, have no country in the proper sense of the word, they have a "range," and one of the most extensive character since it covers the whole southern portion of the African continent, from the Cape of Good Hope to the twentieth degree of south latitude, extending east and west from the country of the Cafires to the Atlantic Ocean. Until lately it was believed that the Bushman range did not extend far to the north of the Orange river; but this has proved an erroneous idea. They have recently "turned up" in the land of the Dammaras, and also in the great Kalahari desert, hundreds of miles north from the Orange river and it is not certain that they do not range still nearer to the equatorial line though it may be remarked that the country in that direction does not favour the supposition, not being of the peculiar nature of a Bushman's country. The Bushman requires a desert for his dwelling place. It is an absolute necessity of his nature, as it is to the ostrich and many species of animals; and north of the twentieth degree of latitude, South Africa does not appear to be of this character. The heroic Livingstone has dispelled the long cherished illusion of the Geography about the " Great sanded level " of these interior regions; and, instead, disclosed to the world a fertile land, well watered, and covered with a profuse and luxuriant vegetation... Continue reading book >>

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