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Of hospitality, and reception mild
From BOOK VII.
THERE is no people in Europe, which has raised the terror, and excited the curiosity of the Christian world more than the Turks; nor any, I believe, of whose true genius and manners we have so imperfect a notion ; for though a great number of travellers, and among them several excellent men, have from time to time published their observations on various parts of the Turkish empire, yet few of them, as it evidently appears, understood the languages that are spoken in it, without which their knowledge could not fail of being very superficial and precarious.
It has generally happened, that the persons 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 en
gaged in views of interest, and but little addicted to polite letters or philosophy; while they, who, from their exalted stations and jefined 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 Constantinople, 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 tolerable 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, ho 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 justest 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 sensible 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 Eastern 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 sections 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 epistles of Busbec on 'is embassy to Soliman the Second, and his oration on a plan for supporting 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 man..