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The Tales of the forty Vihrs, translated by M. de la Croix, are also undoubtedly authentic; and though they are very inelegant, and in some parts trifling, yet upon the whole they are ingenious; and shew-in fome degree the turn of mind of the people for whom they were invented; but the most useful translation of a Turkish book that has yèt appeared, is that in Italian, of an admirable history by the Mufti SAADEDDIN, which reaches indeed no lower than the reign of Selim the First; but for the beauty of its composition, and the richness of its matter, may be compared with the finest hiftorical pieces in the languages of Europe.
It will seem ridiculous to place a Turkish diktionary among these authorities; but it is certainly true, that the great repository of Eastern learning, compiled by MENINSKI, contains not only the clearest explanation of common words, and proper names, but exhibits the most exact specimens of the colloquial expressions and forms of speech used by the Turks; and a judicious writer will not fail to observe the
minutest phrases, or even the commonest proverbs of a nation whom he intends to describe, since they sometimes comprise an allusion to local customs, and often include some maxim or received opinion, which may serve to set the character of the people in a striking light. It is a remark of Mr. Pope, in answer to a line of Lord Hervey, that a dictionary, which gives us any thing but words, must be not only an expenhve, but a very extravagant one; yet, methinks if a dictionary can be found, which is not very expensive, nor very extravagant, it cannot reasonably be censured for giving us a little real knowledge as well as words.
The History of the Turks by the prince *
* It will give me pleasure to pay a small tribute in this place to the memory of that excellent man, by vindicating his character from the very unjust and groundless charges of M. de Voltaire, who allows indeed, that he possessed the united talents of the ancient Greeks, a taste for polite letters, and a skill in the art of war. He adds, this Cantemir was supposed to be a descendant of Timúr, known by the name of Tamerlane, because Timur and Temir sound nearly alike, and because the title of Kan, which Tamerlane bore, is found in the name of Cantemir. Now the truth is, that the syllable
CANTEMIR, far surpasses, in authority and method, every work on the same subject in
Cán is not us khún, a title of honour, but 6 bán,
blood; and the words Timúr, or Temir, are used indifferently in the Turkish language for Demir, that is iron, which was the precise meaning of Tamerlane's true name : so that Cantemir literally signifies the blood of Timur ; and the propriety of this name was confirmed by a Tartarian chief, who assured Demetrius, that a prince of his nation, lineally descended from Tamerlane, had married a Christian woman, from whom the family of the Cantemirs had their origin. But, continues the French historian, whatever might be the lineage of Cantemir, he owed all his fortune to the Turkish court; and was no sooner invested in his principality of Moldavia, than he betrayed the sultan, his benefactor, to the Russian emperor, from whom he had hopes of greater gain: the Czar, he adds, relying on his promises, advanced in the month of June to the banks of the river Hierasus, or the Pruth, where, by depending on Cantemir, he met the same hardships, that his rival Charles had suffered at Pultava by having trusted to Mazeppa. It must have cost this ingenious writer some pains to have crouded so many errors into so few words. Cantemir inherited an ample fortune from his father, and lived at Constantinople in a splendid retreat, where he amused himself with building palaces near the Bosphorus, and adorning them with the finest remains of old Grecian sculpture, that could be procured: while he was engaged in these, and other agreeable pursuits, Brancovan, prince of Valachia, was accused of holding a secret correspondence with the Czar; and Cantemir, who accepted, much against his inclination,
any European dialect. He was educated at Constantinople, and acquainted from his ear
the title of Prince of Moldavia, was sent by the Turkish court with orders to seize the person of the rebel. As his revenues were not sufficient to support his new dignity without some indulgence from the court, the sultan promised to dispense with his paying the usual fine * upon his investiture, and to defray the additional expences that he might incur on account of the war; buť the prince had no sooner reached the capital of Moldavia, than he received orders from the ministers to remit without delay the fines due to the sultan and the vizir; to collect provisions for an army of sixty thousand Turks; to complete the bridge over the Danube; and to march in person towards Bender before the festival of St. George. The prince, on receiving these commands, with which it was not in his power to comply, resolved to join the Czar, and was of signal service to him, as it appeared by the great regard, which that monarch professed for him till the hour of his death. The distress of Peter was owing to his dependence on the promises of Brancovan, who had engaged to supply the Russians with provisions, yet remained an idle spectator of their calamity, till their camp was threatened with a famine. Thus, one of the finest writers of our age accuses a generous and amiable prince of ingratitude, avarice, and perfidy, merely for the sake of comparing him with Mazeppa, and of drawing a parallel between the conduct of Charles XII. and Peter I.; and he deserves still more to be censured, for deviating knowingly from the truth, since it appears from some parts of his General
* Called by the Turks ülemise pishkesh.
liest youth with the genius and manners of the Turks; and as he was eminently skilled in the Arabic, Perhan, and Turkish languages, he was enabled to draw his knowledge of their affairs from the fountain-head: for which reason, if his narrative were not rather too succinct, and if he had dwelt somewhat longer on the subject of the Eastern government and literature, or had unfolded all the causes of the greatness and decline of the Othman empire, his work would have been complete, and my present attempt entirely superfluous. As to his piece, confidered as a literary performance, it contains all the qualities which Tully lays down as necessary to constitute a perfect history *: nothing is asserted in it that has the
appear-. ance of falsehood; nor any essential thing omitted that has the least colour of truth; there is no reason to suspect the writer either
History, that he had read the works of Cantemir, and admired his character. See the Life of Charles XII. book v.; and the History of the Russian Empire, vol. ii.
* Cicero de Oratore, ii. 15. Life-V. II.