Page images

of partiality or disaffection; the order of time is accurately preserved, and the description of remarkable places frequently inserted; the author gives his judgment, openly, on the counsels of kings and generals; he relates the circumstances of every memorable act; and Thews both the causes and consequences of every important event: with regard to the persons, he describes the lives and characters not only of the sultans, but of all the eminent men who bore a considerable share in the great transactions of the nation : and he dresses the whole piece in an easy, natural, and flowing style, without affecting any merit, but that of clearness; except where, for the sake of variety, he drops a few flowery expressions in the Oriental manner. To which

may be added, (a qualification that Cicero feems to have omitted in the passage just referred to,) that he has made his work extremely agreeable, and has infused into it that exquisite charm*, so necessary in all finished compositions, which makes the

Dispov xai luyyo, as the Greeks called it.

reader leave it unwillingly, and return to it with eagerness. It is almost needless to say, after this just encomium, that CANTEMIR's history renders the compilations of Knolles, and Rycaut entirely useless; though both of those works are well written, and the former even elegantly for the age in which the author lived: yet I must do them the justice to, acknowledge, that I have borrowed several hints from them, though I could not make any positive assertion upon their authority, as they were both ignorant of the Turkish language; and since a very sensible writer * observes even of Plutarch, that though he was supposed to have resided in Rome near forty years at different times, yet he seems never to have acquired a sufficient skill in the Roman language to qualify himself for the compiler of a Roman history, the same obs jection may certainly be made to the two hiftorians above mentioned, one of whom spent most of his time in a college, and the other, though he resided many years in

* Middleton, in the preface to his Life of Cicero.

Turkey, was forced to converse with the Turks by the help of an interpreter.

The letters of a lady, famed for her wit and fine taste, are in every body's hands; and are highly estimable, not only for the purity of the style, and the liveliness of the sentiments, but for the curious picture they give of the Turkish manners in the present age, and particularly of the women of rank at Constantinople, whose apartments could not be accessible to acommon traveller.

The author of Observations on the Government and Manners of the Turks had, from his residence in their metropolis, and the distinguished part that he bore in it, an opportunity of inspecting their customs, and forming a just idea of their character. It is a singular pleasure to me to find


sentiments confirmed by the authority of so judicious a writer; nor do I despair, if this essay should fall into his hands, of giving him a more favourable opinion of the Turkish language, which he supposes to be formed of the very dregs of the Persian and Arabian tongues; and

of my

a higher notion of the Persian poetry, which, he observes, it is almost impoflible, as far as he can find, for the best translator to convert even into common sense*.

But the latest, and, perhaps, the most curious publication on the subject of the Turks, was, A Treatise on Taštics, written in Turkish, in the year 1731, and translated two years ago by a foreign nobleman, who added to it a very sensible preface, and learned notes. It was the object of this little work to recommend to the Othman court the military difcipline of the Christians, and to display the advantage of that artful disposition of their troops, by which the timorous and suspected men are put under a necessity of fighting, even against their will; a disposition, which Hannibal, and other great masters in the art of war, have followed with success, and which, if we believe Homer, was even as ancient as the siege of Troy:

The horse and chariots to the front assign'd;
The foot, the strength of war, he rang'd behind;

*Second Edit. p. 38.

The middle space, suspected troops supply,
Enclos'd by both, nor left the power to fly.

Pope's Iliad, iv. 342. The whole treatise is entertaining and instructive; and though it is very imperfect, and often erroneous where the Christians are mentioned, yet it supplied me with many important lights, in my enquiry concerning the causes of the greatness and decline of the Turkish empire.

These are the principal works in the languages of Europe, that have fallen into my hands, on the same subject with the following Esay; and, though I have borrowed very freely from them all, yet by making this general acknowledgment of my obligations to them, I obviate, I think, any objection that can be made on that head, and cannot justly be reputed a plagiary, if to the passages taken from others, I add a series of reinarks peculiar to myself. I very soon defifted from my search after the other books on the Turkish affairs, in the French and Italian languages; for, after having run over a great number of them, I found them to contain little more than the same facts, which are related more ele

« PreviousContinue »