A Life of James Bruce, the Discoverer of the Source of the Blue Nile.
The achievements of James Bruce, one of the great explorers, are the stuff of legends. In a time when Africa was viewed as a hostile, unutterably alien continent, he travelled to Abyssinia, discovered the source of the Blue Nile, lived with the Emperor of Abyssinia at court in Gondar, commanded the Emperor's horse guard in battle and fell in love with a princess. There is even evidence to suggest that he was on the track of the Ark of the Covenant. Wherever he went he inspired fanatical loyalty, won admiration for his humanity, and left heartbroken women behind him.
Born in 1730, James Bruce was an enormous man of six foot four, with dark red hair, who could ride like an Arab and shoot plover from the saddle at a gallop. He was also a polyglot who prepared for his travels by studying many languages, including Arabic and the Ethiopian liturgical language Gaez. While at court he needed all his physical prowess and his wits to survive the ferocious battles and intrigues that surrounded the Emperor.
On his return from Abyssinia he was feted throughout Europe, and expected fame and fortune to meet him in Britain. The reality was very different. A vain, proud man, his manner was too frightening and his stories too bizarre; he was soon dismissed as a fantasist, and ridiculed and despised as a fake by Samuel Johnson and the rest of London society. Hurt, he retired to his native Scotland, where he was treated more kindly. The truth was only revealed many years after his death, when later travellers to Abyssinia were able to corroborate his story.
Miles Bredin has travelled in Bruce's footsteps, and drawn on Bruce's previously unstudied journals and notebooks, to create a stunning account of the life and adventures of an extraordinary man. 'The Pale Abyssinian' will re-establish once and for all the name of one of Britain's most exotic heroes