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Cambridge University Press
The Narrative of Robert Adams, A Barbary Captive: A Critical Edition

The Narrative of Robert Adams, A Barbary Captive: A Critical Edition

by Robert Adams, Charles AdamsRobert Adams
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First published in 1816, Robert Adams's story is here examined in its historical context.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521842846
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 08/31/2005
Pages: 252
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

Charles Hansford Adams is Associate Professor of English at the University of Arkansas where he acts as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and International Programs. He is the author of The Guardian of the Law: Authority and Identity in James Fenimore Cooper(1991). His essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review, Southern Quarterly, American Studies, Western American Literature, and numerous collections.

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The Narrative of Robert Adamspan Barbary Captive
Cambridge University Press
0521842840 - The Narrative of Robert Adams, - A Barbary Captive - Edited by Charles Hansford Adams



Introductory Details Respecting Adams

Discovered in London. - examined by the African Committee respecting his travels in Africa. - his answers satisfactory. - Notes of his story laid before the African Committee, - their belief in its truth. - Mode of interrogating Adams, - his method of reckoning bearings, distances, and rate of travelling, through the Desert. - Examined by several Members of the Government, - receives a Gratuity from the Lords of the Treasury. - Sir Willoughby Gordon's opinion of his statements, - Reasons for publishing the following Narrative. - Departure of Adams for America. -  Arrival in England of Mr. Dupuis, British Vice-Consul at Mogadore, - his confirmation of the whole of Adams's story in a Letter to the  Editor, with other interesting particulars relating to him on his arrival and  during his stay at Mogadore.

Page 8

Advertisement to the Map

Explanations respecting the data on which the Map is constructed. - Information on the route, and nature of the country, between Haoussa and Lagos on the Coast of the Bight of Benin, - probability of Europeans being able to penetrate from Lagos in the direction of the Niger.

Page 22


Chapter 1

Departure from New York on board the "Charles." - Names of the Crew. - Arrival at Gibraltar. - Voyage to the Isle of Mayo - ignorance of the Captain - the Ship is wrecked on the Western coast of Africa - the Crew saved, but are enslaved by the Moors. - El Gazie. - Description of the Moors, and their proceedings. - French Renegade. - Sufferings of the Crew. - Death of Captain Horton. - Separation of the Crew, and departure of the Moors from El Gazie. - Adams is conveyed eastward into the Desert - mode of travelling - arrival at the encampment of the Moors. - Employment there. - Expedition to steal Negro slaves at Soudenny. - Sufferings in traversing the Desert. - Arrival near Soudenny. - The Moors seize a Woman and two Children - are themselves surprised by the Negroes; taken prisoners; and confined in the town. - Soudenny, and its inhabitants. - The prisoners are conveyed by a party of armed Negroes to Tombuctoo. - Journey thither; during which fourteen of the Moors are put to death. - Arrival at Tombuctoo.

Page 26

Chapter 2

Imprisonment of the Moors at Tombuctoo - Adams an object of curiosity, and kindly treated. - King and Queen; Woollo and Fatima. - Their Dress, Ceremonies, Residence, and Attendants. - Muskets. - Curiosity of the natives to see Adams. - Tombuctoo - La Mar Zarah - Canoes - Fish - Fruits - Vegetables - Grain. - Food prepared from the Guinea-corn - Animals. - Heirie - Elephant-hunt. - Birds: Ostriches. - Sulphur - Poisonous preparation of the Negroes for their Arrows. - Persons and Habits of the Negroes - Incisions in their Faces - Dress - Ornaments - and Customs - Musical Instruments - Dancing - Military Excursions against Bambarra - Slaves - Criminal Punishments - Articles of Trade - Jealous precautions of the Negroes against the Moors; their kindness to Adams. - Rain. - Names of Countries - Words in the Language of Tombuctoo.

Page 35

Chapter 3

Ransom of the imprisoned Moors and of Adams. - Departure from Tombuctoo. - Journey eastward along the River; then northward to Taudeny - Traders in salt. - Taudeny - mixed Population of Moors and Negroes - Beds of Rock Salt - Preparations and Departure to cross the Sandy Desert. - Sufferings in the Desert. - Arrival at Woled D'leim - employment, and long detention there. - Refusal of Adams to attend to his tasks - He is punished for it; but perseveres - seizes an opportunity of escaping - is pursued; but reaches El Kabla - He is purchased by the Chief - Employed to tend the flocks of his Master's Wives - Negotiates with Aisha, the younger wife, on the subject of Wages - their bargain, and its consequences - Adams flies and conceals himself - is purchased by a Trader; and conveyed to Woled Aboussebàh - Woled Adrialla - Aiata Mouessa Ali. - He attempts to escape - is retaken; and conveyed to Wed-Noon.

Page 49

Chapter 4

Description of Wed-Noon - where Adams finds three of the crew of the "Charles" - He is purchased by Bel-Cossim-Abdallah. - French Renegade. - Wreck of the Montezuma. - Gunpowder Manufacture. - Curious Relation of a Negro Slave from Kanno. - Severe labours and cruel treatment of the Christian Slaves at Wed-Noon. - Adams is required to plough on the Sabbath day; refuses; is cruelly beaten, and put in irons - his firmness; - Inhuman treatment and death of Dolbie. - Williams and Davison, worn out by their sufferings, renounce their  Religion - Adams perseveres. - Letter from the British Vice-Consul at Mogadore, addressed to the Christian Slaves. - Ransom of Adams - Departure from Wed-Noon - Akkadia - Bled Cidi Heshem - Market of Cidi Hamet a Moussa - Agadeer, or Santa Cruz - Mogadore. - Adams is sent to the Moorish Emperor. - Fez - Mequinez - Tangier - Cadiz - Gibraltar - London.

Page 59

Notes and Illustrations

El Gazie. - Shipwrecks. - French Renegade. - Agadeer Doma. - Soudenny. - Woollo and Fatima. - Dress of the inhabitants of  Tombuctoo, Houses, &c. - La Mar Zarah. - Canoes. - Fruits. - Quadrupeds. - Heiries. - Elephant hunting. - Alligators. - Courcoo. - Wild Beasts. - Birds. - Poisons. - Polygamy. - Religion. - Physicians. - Sorcery. - Dancing. - Bambarra. - Slaves. - Punishments. - Shops and Trade at Tombuctoo. - Cowries. - Moors. - Negroes. - Crossing the Desert. - Joliba river. - Negro Language. - Taudenny. - Woled D'leim. - El Kabla. - Aisha. - Woled Aboussebàh. - Kanno. - Christian Slaves. - Reckonings of Time and Distance.

Page 68

Concluding Remarks

Page 106

Appendix No. I

Information obtained in the year 1764, respecting Tombuctoo, and the course and navigation of the Niger. - Park. - Major Rennell. - Sources of the Senegal and Gambia, - Remarks on the rivers passed by Park. - Kong mountains. - Expediency of exploring the furthest western navigation of the Niger.

Page 125

Appendix No. II

Sketch of the Population of Western Barbary. - Berrebbers - Arabs - Moors. - Distinguishing occupations.

Page 136


In the month of October, 1815, the Editor of the following pages was informed by a friend, that a Gentleman of his acquaintance, recently arrived from Cadiz, had accidentally recognised an American seaman, in the streets of London, whom he had seen, only a few months before, in the service of an English merchant in Cadiz, where his extraordinary history had excited considerable interest; the man having been a long time in slavery in the interior of Africa, and having resided several months at Tombuctoo.

Such a report was too curious not to have attracted the peculiar attention of the Editor at all times; but the interest of the story was much heightened at that particular moment, by the circumstance of the recent embarkation of Major Peddie and his companions,1 to explore those very parts of Africa which this person was said to have visited: and the Editor entreated his friend to assist him by all the means in his power, to find the seaman in question, in order to ascertain whether he really had been where it was reported, and in the hope that, either by his information or his personal services, the man might be rendered useful to the views of Government in the exploratory expedition then on its way to Africa.

Through the intervention of the Gentleman who had originally recognized the seaman, he was again found, and immediately brought to the office of the African Committee. The poor man, whose name was Robert Adams, was in very ill plight both from hunger and nakedness. Scarcely recovered from a fit of sickness, he had, in that condition, begged his way from Holyhead to London, for the purpose of obtaining through the American Consul, a passage to his native country; and he had already passed several nights in the open streets amongst many other distressed seamen, with whom the metropolis was at that period unfortunately crowded.

No time was lost in questioning him respecting the length of his residence in Africa, the circumstances which led him thither, the places he had visited, and the means by which he had escaped. His answers disclosed so extraordinary a series of adventures and sufferings, as at first to excite a suspicion that his story was an invention; and the gentlemen by whom he was accompanied to the office, and who were present at his first examination, were decidedly of that opinion, when they considered how widely his account of Tombuctoo differed from the notions generally entertained of the magnificence of that city, and of the civilization of its inhabitants. The Editor, however, received from this short examination, and from the plain and unpretending answers which the man returned to every question, a strong impression in favour of his veracity. He accordingly took notes of the leading facts of his statement, particularly of the places he had visited, the distances according to his computations, and the direction in which his several journeys lay; and having relieved his immediate necessities, and furnished him with a trifle for his future subsistence, he desired the man to attend him again in the course of a few days.

It was nearly a week before Adams again made his appearance: but upon his return, being immediately interrogated upon all the leading points of his story, the Editor had the gratification to find, upon comparing his answers with the account which he had given on his first examination, that they were in substance the same, and repeated almost in the same terms. Thus strengthened in his previous opinion that the man's veracity was to be depended upon, the Editor resolved to take down in writing (the man himself being unable either to write or read) a full account of his travels and adventures, from the period of his departure from America in the ship "Charles" in which he was wrecked on the coast of Africa, until that of his return to Cadiz, from whence he had just arrived.

With this intention, the Editor took measures to render Adams's situation more comfortable, by equipping him with decent clothes, of which he stood peculiarly in need. He was also supplied with a trifle in money, as an earnest of the future recompense which was promised to him, provided he would attend regularly every day until the whole of his story should be taken down. It was not, however, without considerable difficulty that the man could be persuaded to remain during the period thus required. He was anxious to return to his friends after so long and perilous an absence, and had been recommended by the Consul of the United States to join a transport of American seamen which was then on the point of sailing. His desire to be gone was increased by some rumours then in circulation, of a probable renewal of hostilities between Great Britain and the United States.2 But his objections were at length overcome on receiving an engagement, that even if war should break out, and he, by any accident, be impressed, his discharge, either by purchase or substitute, should be immediately effected. Upon this understanding, he consented to remain as long as his presence should be required.

The Editor has been induced to enter into this detail for the satisfaction of those who might be disposed to believe that Adams had obtruded his story upon his hearers, for the purpose either of exciting their compassion, or of profiting by their credulity. To obviate such a suspicion, it is sufficient to shew with what difficulty he was induced to remain in the country to tell his story; and to state, that he was never known to solicit relief from any of the numerous gentlemen by whom he was seen and examined.

Previous, however, to Adams's agreement to stay, a Committee of the African Company having met, the Editor laid before them the notes he had taken of the heads of his story, expressing at the same time his firm belief that the man had really been at Tombuctoo; and he had the satisfaction to find that the Members of the Committee concurred in his opinion of the credibility of the man's statements; in which belief they were afterwards confirmed by their personal examination of him. They strongly encouraged the Editor to proceed in the course which he had begun; and recommended him to omit no practicable means of securing the residence of Adams in this country, until all the information he could possibly give, had been obtained from him, - whether for the purpose of increasing our general knowledge of the interior of Africa, or of obtaining information on particular points which might be useful to the expedition actually on foot.

© Cambridge University Press

Table of Contents

1. Preface; 2. Bibliography; 3. Acknowledgments; 4. The Narrative of Robert Adams; 5. Interior of Africa (North American Review, May 1817); 6. Article IX. The Narrative of Robert Adams: a review essay by Jared Sparks (North American Review, July 1817).

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