1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Ritchie

William Clarke and Robert Shelton Mackenzie, in The Georgian Era: Memoirs of the most eminent Persons who have flourished in Great Britain (1832-34) 3:472-73.



JOSEPH RITCHIE was born at Otley, in Yorkshire, about 1790, and afterwards became secretary to the British consulate at Paris. Being informed of the views of the African Association, he made an offer of his services to that society, by whom he was accordingly sent out, with instructions to explore the interior of Africa, and, if possible, to proceed to Timbuctoo. On his arrival at Malta, he was joined by Captain Lyon, with whom he proceeded to Tripoli, where, in compliance with the advice of the bashaw, they both assumed the Moorish costume, and also learnt the rites and prayers of Islamism. Having provided himself with an assortment of merchandize, and a number of camels, Ritchie set out, in March, 1819, under the protection of Mukni, the Bey of Fezzan, who conducted himself and his companions, in safety, to Mourzuk, the capital of his dominions. Until their arrival at this town, every thing had augured favourably for their expedition, but the perfidious conduct of the bey here put an end to their hopes. Influenced, probably, by the hope of becoming possessed of the travellers' property, in the event of their death, the avaricious Mukni threw every obstacle in the way of Ritchie's selling his merchandize; and, having no other resource, he became thus exposed to great privations. Harassed and disappointed, his distress of mind was quickly succeeded by an attack of the fever peculiar to the climate, beneath the fatal effects of which he soon sank, and died, on the 20th of November, 1819. He was buried by Captain Lyon, who, after having privately read over his body the burial service, according to the church of England, publicly recited passages from the Koran, suited to the occasion, lest the natives should suspect the real character of himself and the deceased. The remains of Ritchie had scarcely been consigned to the grave, when a courier brought bills of exchange for 1,000, granted to him by the British government, with the appointment of vice-consul at Mourzouk. Captain Lyon, feeling that the treachery of the bey would not allow him to continue his travels, returned to Europe, and published, in London, in 1821, the account of this expedition, which has served, at least, to give a more accurate knowledge of Fezzan. An abridgment of the work appeared at Paris, in the same year.