« PrécédentContinuer »
ing the population of infant increafed the extent and power Rome, cai ried the reputation of of rifing Rome, carried its repu. her arms so far as to procure the tation io far as to make distant fubmission of several countries by nations submit to the the fumthe limple fummons of her he- mons of her heralds, we shall raids, no powerful nation has find, that no mighty kingdom has ever really fallen from the attack actually funk under any single atof a foreign enemy; no empire, tack, from a foreign power : no firmly established, has ever been empire, permanently established, overthrown by the fate of an un- was ever overturned by the lois fortunate baitle. Greeçe, en- of a single battle. Greece, ensaved by the Romans ; Rome, plaved by the Romans, Rome, itherself, destroyed by the Barba- felf, subjugated by Barbarians, rians, fell less a făcrifice to to. have not ceded fo inuch to the reign force, than to her own in- power of their conquerors as to ternal weakness.'
their own interior feebleness.' Nothing has more contributed to increase the mass of hu man knowledge than voyages and travels. From this source has sprung our acquaintance with the globe which we inhabita and that extensive kpowledge of our fellow-creatures which is now so generally diffused. They have given rise, it is true, to, many errors ; a number of fanciful and ill-founded theories may be placed to their account. Montesquieu, and other great men have been led astray by too unbounded a confidence in the herd of travellers : but whoever indiscrimi. nately and blindly follows the herd in any thing, will frequently be deceived, If we wish to draw truth from this spring of information, we must first of all examine the talents and opportunities of the traveller. He may relate matters, with regard to which he is not capable of judging; or, after a very inadequate residence in a country, he may present us with a long detail of its laws, customs, religion, productions, &c. &c. In either case, the judicious reader will pay little attention to the narration, and will avoid theorifing on so unstable a foundation.
It would be doing the highest injustice to Baron de Tott to rank him with travellers of this kind. With the talents he appears to poffefs, a residence of 23 years in Turkey, and among the Tastars, and a perfect acquaintance with the language of the country, must lead us to expect something very different from the lame, imperfect, and, in general, false accounts whịch have hitherto appeared. The peculiar circumstances of the times of which he writes, make us hope for something at once fingular aud interesting. Nor are our expectations deceived ; we see the yait mass of the Turkish Empire in motion ; we see it, at all times unweildy, rendered feeble and impotent by prejudice, corruption, and despotism, at a critical period, which might have decided its fate. The
rcficêting mind anticipates the event of the war with Russia ; knowing how unequal the contest must be between two powers, where the one, enslaved by ignorance and habit, is rendered incapable of exertions ; while the other has been drawing, for a length of years, knowledge and improvement from every quarter, with all the avidity of a docile pupil, and now directs its operations by that accumulated wisdom.
The meinoirs are preceded by a preliminary discourse, where the candour, good-fenfe, and found philofophy of the author are equally diiplayed. His reflections on the influence of moral and physical causes on the character of nations are judicious; and the general idea he gives of the Turkish manners and government, difpels the false and romantic notions which had been imprelied by former travellers. He has expunged the gawdy and unfaithful colouring of the picture, and exposed it in its native fombre hues. All the pleasures of the Haram are reduced to their real liftlessness and infipidity; and the fables of the gallantry, generosity, heroism, courage, and justice of the Turks, give place to a state o: things more confonant to the general chain of cause and effect; which informs us that neither virtue nor happiness can flourish under the dominion of despotism and ignorance.
As Baron de Tott, from the businets in which he was engaged, had but few opportunities of mentioning the Turkish women, he has, in the Preliminary discourse, gone into fome detail of the commerce of the fexes in Turkey. We will venture to say, that whoever reads the acccount, will have no wish to exchange fituations, in this refpe&t with the Grand Seignior himself. On this subject, as well as on other occafions, the author attacks the veracity of Lady Mary Wortley Montague. His strictures on what lie calls her“ pretended Letters,” will confirm the former fufpicions of thinking readers, viz. that her ladyship had amusement rather than information in view. The delicacy of Lady Mary is likewise called in question, because she gives the appellation of " luptuous” to the “ indecent" dances of the female slaves. “1, favs Mr. de Tott, have seen the very best exhibitions of " this kind, by those who were adepts in the art, but I can
find no terms to describe them. I certainly ihall not em“ ploy the term voluptuous for that purpose.'
How little we know of Turkish manners is apparent from numerous instances in this work. As one example among many, we fhall mention the word Seraglio. In all the languages of Europe this word is made to signify the apartments of the women. Let us bear our author's account of it.
• Harain only fignifies the apartinent of the women, the inclosure which particularly concerns them. We must not therefore confound
it with the Seraglio, which means no more than the prace. All the Turks have a Haram ; the Vilir hiniclf has no Seraglio. The Ambatiadors of crowned heads have a Seraglio but no Haram. The Grand Seignor has both the one and the other.'
We come now to the memoirs; which begin by informing us that the author was fent to Conftantinople with Mr. de Vergennes, with orders to learn the language, and inform himtelf concerning the Turkish manners and government. He applies himself with assiduity to acquire the language, and is sbon able to converfe without an interpreter. It is wortly remarking here, that the Turks, who appear fond of difficiles nulga, have added to the difficulties of their language by making use of five different alphabets ; so that were they not condemned to ignorance from other causes, the length of time that must be wasted in the acquirement of grammatical knowledge, is an eternal bar to their advancement in science.
The author's attention to convey an idea of the manners of the Turks is every where apparent. An entertainment given by Mr. de Vergennes, affords him an opportunity of painting the astonishment and other emotions excited in the minds of some Musselmen who were of the party. The gaiety, freedom, conviviality, and social intercourse of the fexes which they beheld, almoft petrified them with wonder, when compared with the folitary gloom of their enjoyments.
The visit of Madame de Tott, to Afma Sultana, daugh ter of the Emperor Achmet, will enable us to judge of the manners, amufements, and occupations of the women. We think we hear the harsh creaking of the three iron gates, and fee the horrid countenances of the black eunuchs ; we are disgusted with the dull formality of eastern manners, and tired with insipid pomp, the unnatural, feeble, Turkish subItitute for happiness.
The cruelties produced by thie jealousy of power in the Ottoman family are well known, but the notorious extent to which they are carried, may be beit learned from the following passage.
The daughters and futers of the Grand Seignor, married to the Visirs and great men of the empire, dwell each in her separate palace; and all the male children which are born to thein, are inítantly smothered by the person who delivers the mother. This is the most public of all their laws, and that which is the le'ist inl-, fringed. No attempt is made to conceal these horrible atrulinations; a despicable fear is the cause of them, more than the interest of the throne. What recompense can these unfortunate princelies find? But the pride of birth, more monstrous than the atrocious crime it causes; not content with its vi&tiin, itiries in thein the very feelings of nature!
Mr. de Tott, after making us acquainted with Murad Mollach, a Turkish humourist and voluptuary, after having gi-
ven an account of a famine, and the causes which generally produce it at Constantinople, after having informed us that the plague which followed, “ carried off in that vear one “ hundred and fifty thousand persons in the city of Conftan
tinople only,” and after various matters, descriptive of the climate and situation of this immense capital, and of the manners of the inhabitants, relates a visit he paid to the Dragoman (interpreter) of the Porte. Part of this, as a good account of modern Greek manners, we shall lay before the public.
* It was now become necessary, to think of performing the promise which Madame de Tott had made to the Lady of the Dragoman to pafs fome days with her, and we made her a visit at her
countryhouse. The family consisted of fix persons. The old Dragoman's official knowledge made some amends for an understanding naturally dull; he was in reality very ignorant, and his acquaintance with foreign languages was confined to the speaking of bad Italian. His wife was of a less advanced age, and had an air of dignity which fupplied the place of her departed beauty; she superintended her domestic affairs, and did the honours of her house with a kind of civility, which but imperfectly concealed the pride she felt in imagining herself, by the situation of her husband, the firit Lady of her nation. The eldest of her fons, who (as will be hereafter seen) succeeded his father in the principality of Moldavia, and came to an unfortunate end, was of a difpofition naturally mild, but weak and vain: the youngest, much prouder, already maniteited figns of that spirit of intrigue and ambition which cost his brother his life. Their eldest daughter was a widow at nineteen, more fresh than the morning rose : she was genteelly shaped, and, to a beauty the most alluring, united an air of modesty, sweetness, and languor; the charins of which were irrelistible. The youngest
, less handfome, but lively and entertaining, was engaged to a young, Greek who resided near then. This intended spouse was, as may be supposed, desirous of forming an acquaintance with us; and we were scarcely arrived, before he was announced by two or three flaves, who entering precipitately into the apartment in which the family was atrembled, threw themselves on the young Lady his proposed bride, and covering her with their robes, hurried her away, crying out with much hatte and agitation, Hide yourself, be is coming! Presently this young man entered, who though respected and caressed by all the family, could not obtain a fight of the object of his vows but by surprise: in which manner indeed he had often attempted it, but always without success. He staid with us to Tupper, but the lady was not suffered to appear till his departure.
• The time for taking our repose was now come, and we were con. ducted into another large room, in the middle of which was a kind of bed without bedstead or curtains ; though the coverlet and pl. lows exceeded in magnificence the richness of the sopha, which likewise ornamented the apartment. I foresaw that I could expect but little rest on this bed, and had the curiosity to examine its make in a more particular, manner. Fifteen mattresses of quilted
cotton, about three inches thick, placed one upon another, formed the ground-work, and were covered by a sheet of Indian linen, fewed on the last mattress. A coverlet of green fatin, adorned with gold embroidery in embossed work, was in like manner fastened to the sheet, the ends of which turned in, were fewed down alternately. Two large pillows of criinfon satin, covered with the like embroidery, in which there was no want of gold or spangles, rested on two cushions of the fofa brought near to serve for a back, and intended to support our heads. A small octagonal tower, inlaid with ebony and mother-of-pearl, stood by the side of the bed, and served for a table; upon it was placed a filver candlestick, which held a yel. low wax candle two inches thick, and three feet high, whose wick, nearly as big as ones finger, produced a very disagreeable simoke. Three china salvers, filled with conferve of roses, flowers of orange, and lemon-pulp, with a little golden spatula, the handle of tortoiteThell, to terve for a spoon, and a cryital vessel full of water, furrounded this obscure luminary, which was intended to burn all night; a precaution not to be neglected, where there is so much reason to fear, and provide against, the dreadful ravages of fire. Such were our accomodations at the Dragomans, and I could not but expect to pass a very indifferent night.
The next evening they made a party on the water.
'I had gone by choice, into the same boat with the intended hus. band of the younger daughter, who had engaged my regard by his person, and the gaiety of his manners. He presently perceived my partiality, and spoke to me without reserve, of his concern, at never. being permitted to see the fair one who was to be his wife. I was convinced of the justice of his complaint, and appointed a partieular time, on the next day, when I promised him to procure him a fight of her : he was as punctual to his engagement, as I had been in contriving the means of affording hiin this gratification ; but a spiteful little Nave, who watched him, endeavoured to disconcert all my projects by giving the aların. The damtel, at the same instant, perceiving her lover, Hled to a gallery on the side of us; but I ran and topped her at the entrance, calling to the young Greek, who came up to us in a moment.
• A reinforcement however, of two harpies, presently arrived from the bottom of the gallery, cackling like the geese of the capitol ; but they were not time enough to prevent a kiss being snatched by the intended husband : and I was greatly pleased to initiate my young friends into the freedom of the French manners, after which we re figned our prey into the hands of the eneniy; who were in haste to carry her off. Nevertheless, this little trick met the approbation of the father and mother, and the young couple were from that time permitted to see each other without restraint,
'The Diako, a kind of ecclefiaftical preceptor, who had the caro of the education of this young lady (for such is the custom among all the Grecian families) was the only one who blamed my conduct : he even spoke of it with so much heat, that he made me suspect he regretted his not being able to finish the education of his pupil.'