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It has generally happened, that the perfons who have resided among the Turks, and who, from their skill in the Eastern dialects, have been best qualified to present us with an exact account of that nation, were either confined to a low sphere of life, or engaged in views of interest, and but little addicted to polite letters or philosophy; while they, who, from their exalted stations and refined taste for literature, have had both the opportunity and inclination of penetrating into the secrets of Turkish policy, were totally ignorant of the language used at Conftantinople, and consequently were destitute of the sole means by which they might learn, with any degree of certainty, the sentiments and prejudices of so singular a people: for the Mahometans, naturally ignorant and reserved to men of our religion, will disclose their opinions to those only who have gained their confidence by a long intimacy with them, and the Greek subjects, who have a just detestation of their oppressors, can hardly be supposed to speak of them with tolera
ble candour. As to the generality of interpreters, we cannot expect from men of their condition any depth of reasoning, or acuteness of observation; if mere words are all they profess, mere words must be all they can pretend to know.
It may therefore be given as a general rule, that no writer' can exhibit a just picture of the manners of any people, who has not either conversed familiarly with all ranks of them for a considerable time, or, by a more tedious process, extracted their sentiments from the books that are written in their language; and it is equally true, that the juftest description of the Asiatic manners must necessarily be given by those, who, besides a complete acquaintance with Oriental literature, have had the advantage of a long residence in the East; for which reason, the most authentic' account of a Mahometan nation, that ever was published, is that of the Persians by the traveller Chardin, who not only had the most familiar intercourse for many years with the greatest men in
Ispahan, but was perfectly acquainted with the Persian histories and poems, from which he has given us many beautiful extracts.
We have great reason to regret, that no relation of equal authority, has been written on the manners of the Turks; for among the many narratives on that subject which have been presented to the public, there are very few that can be recommended to a fenfible reader. There are indeed some works in the languages of Europe, from which, as from so many copious sources, we may draw a variety of real knowledge on this head; and it will not be improper in this discourse to give a list of them, with a few remarks on each, before I proceed to mention the East'ern books, both printed and in manuscript, from which the materials of the following essay were taken.
This seems to me a more reasonable and less ostentatious method of producing my authorities, than to fill every page with useless quotations, and references to fections or chapters, which few readers will take the pains to consult,
One of the most ancient, and perhaps the · most agreeable of these works, comprises the four epiftles of Busbec on his embassy to Soliman the Second, and his oration on a plan for fupporting a vigorous war against the Turks; in all which pieces, his diction is extremely polished and elegant, his observations judicious, his account of public facts indisputably true, and his anecdotes tolerably authentic: but by neglecting to make himself a complete master of the Turkish language, or by his long confinement at Constantinople, he omitted an opportunity of conversing with the finest writers and ablest scholars, whom the Othman empire ever produced, and whose beautiful compositions added a lustre to the reign of Soliman.
The Turkish articles in the vast compilation of M. D'HERBELOT, are of the highest authority, since he drew them from a number of Eastern manuscripts, many of which were composed by Turks themselves, who had at least as fair a chance of knowing their own manners and opinions, as any European
whatever. It is not possible to be too lavish in the praises of that excellent work, which has the uncommon merit of being no less agreeable than learned; and though it is difposed according to the order of the alphabet, yet it is so judiciously contrived by the help of references, that with all the convenience of a dictionary, it may be read for the most part like a regular treatise.
The History of Timúr or Tamerlane, written originally in Arabic, by a native of Damascus, and translated into French by M. Vattier, deserves to be credited, as far as it relates to the conquests of that hero in the Lower Asia, and to his war with the sultan Bayazid the First, who was forced by the Tartars to raise the siege of Constantinople. The actions of Timúr are related at large in this elegant work, which displays a faichful and interesting picture of the Afatic manners in the fourteenth century; the author of it was contemporary with the Tartarian warrior, and was eye-witness of the principal facts which he records.