First published in 1725.
Text for this edition taken from Letters of the Right Honourable Lady M— y W— y M— e: written during her travels in Europe, Asia and Africa to persons of distinction, men of Letters, &c. in different parts of Europe, 1794.
This web edition published by eBooks@Adelaide.
Last updated Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 14:19.
To the best of our knowledge, the text of this
work is in the “Public Domain” in Australia.
HOWEVER, copyright law varies in other countries, and the work may still be under copyright in the country from which you are accessing this website. It is your responsibility to check the applicable copyright laws in your country before downloading this work.
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
I WAS going, like common editors, to advertise the reader of the beauties and excellencies of the work laid before him: To tell him, that the illustrious author had opportunities that other travellers, whatever their quality or curiosity may have been, cannot obtain; and a genius capable of making the best improvement of every opportunity. But if the reader, after perusing one letter only has not discernment to distinguish that natural elegance, that delicacy of sentiment and observation, that easy gracefulness, and lovely simplicity, (which is the perfection of writing) and in which these Letters exceed all that has appeared in this kind, or almost in any other, let him lay the book down, and leave it to those who have.
THE noble author had the goodness to lend me her MS. to satisfy my curiosity in some inquiries I had made concerning her travels; and when I had it in my hands, how was it possible to part with it? I once had the vanity to hope I might acquaint the public, that it owed this invaluable treasure to my importunities. But, alas! the most ingenious author has condemned it to obscurity during her life; and conviction, as well as deference, obliges me to yield to her reasons. However, if these Letters appear hereafter, when I am in my grave, let this attend them, in testimony to posterity, that among her contemporaries, one woman, at least, was just to her merit.
THERE is not any thing so excellent, but some will carp at it; and the rather, because of its excellency. But to such hypercritics I shall not say ************.
I CONFESS, I am malicious enough to desire, that the world should see to how much better purpose the LADIES travel than their LORDS; and that, whilst it is surfeited with Male travels, all in the same tone, and stuffed with the same trifles; a lady has the skill to strike out a new path, and to embellish a worn-out subject with variety of fresh and elegant entertainment. For, besides the vivacity and spirit which enliven every part, and that inimitable beauty which spreads through the whole; besides the purity of the style, for which it may justly, be accounted the standard of the English tongue; the reader will find a more true and accurate account of the customs and manners of the several nations with whom this lady conversed, than he can in any other author. But, as her ladyship’s penetration discovers the inmost follies of the heart, so the candour of her temper passed over them with an air of pity, rather than reproach; treating with the politeness of a court, and the gentleness of a lady, what the severity of her judgment could not but condemn.
IN short, let her own sex at least, do her justice; lay aside diabolical Envy, and its brother Malice [This fair and elegant prefacer has resolved that Malice should be of the masculine gender: I believe it is both masculine and feminine, and I heartily wish it were neuter.] with all their accursed company, sly whispering, cruel back-biting, spiteful detraction, and the rest of that hideous crew, which, I hope, are very falsely said to attend the Tea-table, being more apt to think, they frequent those public places, where virtuous women never come. Let the men malign one another, if they think fit, and strive to pull down merit, when they cannot equal it. Let us be better natured, than to give way to any unkind or disrespectful thought of so bright an ornament of our sex, merely because she has better sense; for I doubt not but our hearts will tell us, that this is the real and unpardonable offence, whatever may be pretended. Let us be better Christians, than to look upon her with an evil eye, only because the giver of all good gifts has entrusted and adorned her with the most excellent talents. Rather let us freely own the superiority, of this sublime genius, as I do, in the sincerity of my soul; pleased that a woman triumphs, and proud to follow in her train. Let us offer her the palm which is so justly her due; and if we pretend to any laurels, lay them willingly at her feet.
December 18.. 1724.
Charm’d into love of what obscures my fame,
If I had wit, I’d celebrate her name,
And all the beauties of her mind proclaim.
Till Malice, deafen’d with the mighty sound,
Its ill-concerted calumnies confound;
Let fall the mask, and with pale envy meet,
To ask and find, their pardon at her feet.
You see, Madam, how I lay every thing at your feet. As the tautology shews the poverty of my genius, it likewise shews the extent of your empire over my imagination.
May 31. 1725.
THE editor of these letters, who, during his residence at Venice, was honoured with the esteem and friendship of their ingenious and elegant author, presents them to the public, for the two following reasons:
First, Because it was the manifest intention of the late Lady M——y W——y M——e; that this SELECT COLLECTION of her letters should be communicated to the public: an intention declared, not only to the editor, but to a few more chosen friends, to whom she gave, copies of the incomparable letters.
The second, and principal reason, that has engaged the editor to let this Collection see the light, is, that the publication of these letters will be an immortal monument to the memory of Lady M——y W——y M——e; and will shew, as long as the English language endures, the sprightliness of her wit, the solidity of her judgment, the extent of her knowledge, the elegance of her taste, and the excellence of her real character.
The SELECT COLLECTION, here published, was faithfully transcribed from the original manuscript of her ladyship at Venice.
The letters from Ratisbon, Vienna, Dresden, Peterwaradin, Belgrade, Adrianople, Constantinople, Pera, Tunis, Genoa, Lyons, and Paris, are certainly, the most curious and interesting part of this publication; and, both in point of matter and form, are, to say no more of them, singularly worthy of the curiosity and attention of all men of taste, and even of all women of fashion. As to those female readers, who read for improvement, and think their beauty an insipid thing, if it is not seasoned by intellectual charms, they will find in these letters what they seek for; and will behold in their author, an ornament and model to their sex.
From Rotterdam. — Voyage to Helvoetsluys — general view of Rotterdam — remarks on the female dresses there.
To the Countess of ——.
Rotterdam, Aug. 3. O. S. 1716.
I FLATTER, myself, dear sister, that I shall give you some pleasure in letting you know that I have safely passed the sea, though we had the ill fortune of a storm. We were persuaded by the captain of the yacht to set out in a calm, and he pretended there was nothing so easy as to tide it over; but, after two days slowly moving, the wind blew so hard, that none of the sailors could keep their feet, and we were all Sunday night tossed very handsomely. I never saw a man more frighted than the captain. For my part, I have been so lucky, neither to suffer from fear nor seasickness; though, I confess, I was so impatient to see myself once more upon dry land, that I would not stay till the yacht could get to Rotterdam, but went in the long-boat to Helvoetsluys, where we had voitures to carry us to the Briel. I was charmed with the neatness of that little town; but my arrival at Rotterdam presented me a new scene of pleasure. All the streets are paved with broad stones, and before many of the meanest artificers doors are placed seats of various coloured marbles, so neatly kept, that, I assure you, I walked almost all over the town yesterday, incognito, in my slippers without receiving one spot of dirt; and you may see the Dutch maids washing the pavement of the street, with more application than ours do our bed-chambers. The town seems so full of people, with such busy faces, all in motion, that I can hardly fancy it is not some celebrated fair; but I see it is every day the same. ’Tis certain no town can be more advantageously situated for commerce. Here are seven large canals, on which the merchants ships come up to the very doors of their houses. The shops and warehouses are of a surprising neatness and magnificence, filled with an incredible quantity of fine merchandise, and so much cheaper than what we see in England, that I have much ado to persuade myself I am still so near it. Here is neither dirt nor beggary to be seen. One is not shocked with those loathsome cripples, so common in London, nor teased with the importunity of idle fellows and wenches, that chuse to be nasty and lazy. The common servants, and little shop-women, here, are more nicely clean than most of our ladies; and the great variety of neat dresses (every woman dressing her head after her own fashion) is an additional pleasure in seeing the town. You see, hitherto, I make no complaints, dear sister; and if I continue to like travelling as I do at present, I shall not repent my project. It will go a great way in making me satisfied with it, if it affords me an opportunity of entertaining you. But it is not from Holland that you may expect a disinterested offer. I can write enough in the stile of Rotterdam, to tell you plainly, in one word that I expect returns of all the London news. You see I have already learnt to make a good bargain; and that it is not for nothing I will so much as tell you, I am your affectionate sister.
From the Hague. — The pleasure of travelling in Holland — the Hague — the Voorhout there.
To Mrs. s ——.
Hague, Aug. 5. O. S. 1716.
I MAKE haste to tell you, dear Madam, that, after all the dreadful fatigues you threatened me with, I am hitherto very well pleased with my journey. We take care to make such short stages every day, that I rather fancy myself upon parties of pleasure, than upon the road; and sure nothing can be more agreeable than travelling in Holland. The whole country appears a large garden; the roads are well paved, shaded on each side with rows of trees, and bordered with large canals, full of boats, passing and repassing. Every twenty paces gives you the prospect of some villa, and every four hours that of a large town, so surprisingly neat, I am sure you would be charmed with them. The place I am now at is certainly one of the finest villages in the world. Here are several squares finely built, and (what I think a particular beauty) the whole set with thick large trees. The Vour-hout is, at the same time, the Hyde–Park and Mall of the people of quality; for they take the air in it both on foot and in coaches. There are shops for wafers, cool liquors, &c. — I have been to see several of the most celebrated gardens, but I will not teaze you with their descriptions. I dare say you think my letter already long enough. But I must not conclude without begging your pardon, for not obeying your commands, in sending the lace you ordered me. Upon my word, I can yet find none, that is not dearer than you may buy it at London. If you want any India goods, here are great variety of penny-worths; and I shall follow your orders with great pleasure and exactness; being,
Dear Madam, &c. &c.
From Nimeguen. — Nimeguen compared to Nottingham — the Belvidera — the bridge — ludicrous service at the French church.
To Mrs. S. c.
Nimeguen, Aug.13. O. S. 1716.
I AM extremely sorry, my dear S. that your fears of disobliging your relations, and their fears for your health and safety, have hindered me from enjoying the happiness of your company, and you the pleasure of a diverting journey. I receive some degree of mortification from every agreeable novelty, or pleasing prospect, by the reflection of your having so unluckily missed the delight which I know it would have given you. If you were with me in this town, you would be ready to expect to receive visits from your Nottingham friends. No two places were ever more resembling; one has but to give the Maese the name of the Trent, and there is no distinguishing the prospect. The houses, like those of Nottingham, are built one above another, and are intermixed in the same manner with trees and gardens. The tower they call Julius Caesar’s, has the same situation with Nottingham castle; and I cannot help fancying, I see from it the Trentfield, Adboulton, places so well known to us. ’Tis true, the fortifications make a considerable difference. All the learned in the art of war bestow great commendations on them; for my part, that know nothing of the matter, I shall content myself with telling you, ’tis a very pretty walk on the ramparts, on which there is a tower, very deservedly called the Belvidera; where people go to drink coffee, tea, &c. and enjoy one of the finest prospects in the world. The public walks have no great beauty but the thick shade of the trees, which is solemnly delightful. But I must not forget to take notice of the bridge, which appeared very surprising to me. It is large enough to hold hundreds of men, with horses and carriages. They give the value of an English two-pence to get upon it, and then away they go, bridge and all, to the other side of the river, with so slow a motion, one is hardly sensible of any at all. I was yesterday at the French church, and stared very much at their manner of service. The parson clapped on a broad-brimmed hat in the first place, which gave him entirely the air of what d’ye call him, in Bartholomew fair, which he kept up by extraordinary antic gestures, and preaching much such stuff as the other talked to the puppets. However, the congregation seemed to receive it with great devotion; and I was informed by some of his flock, that he is a person of particular fame amongst them. I believe, by this time, you are as much tired with my account of him, as I was with his sermon; but I am sure your brother will excuse a digression in favour of the church of England. You know speaking disrespectfully of the Calvinists, is the same thing as speaking honourably of the church. Adieu, my dear S. always remember me; and be assured I can never forget you, &c. &c.
From Cologn. — Journey from Nimeguen to Cologn — the Jesuits church — plate — relics — the sculls of the eleven thousand virgins.
To the Lady ——.
Cologn, Aug, 16. O. S. 1716.
IF my lady —— could have any notion of the fatigues that I have suffered these two last days, I am sure she would own it a great proof of regard, that I now sit down to write to her. We hired horses from Nimeguen hither, not having the conveniency of the post, and found but very indifferent accommodations at Reinberg, our first stage; but it was nothing to what I suffered yesterday. We were in hopes to reach Cologn; our horses tired at Stamel, three hours from it, where I was forced to pass the night in my clothes, in a room not at all better than a hovel; for though I have my bed with me, I had no mind to undress, where the wind came from a thousand places. We left this wretched lodging at day-break, and about six this morning came safe here, where I got immediately into bed. I slept so well for three hours, that I found myself perfectly recovered, and have had spirits enough to go and see all that is curious in the town, that is to say, the churches, for here is nothing else worth seeing. This is a very large town, but the most part of it is old built. The Jesuits church, which is the neatest, was shewed me, in a very complaisant manner, by a handsome young Jesuit; who, not knowing who I was, took a liberty in his compliments and railleries, which very much diverted me. Having never before seen any thing of that nature, I could not enough admire the magnificence of the altars, the rich images of the saints (all massy silver) and the enchassures of the relicks; though I could not help murmuring, in my heart, at the profusion of pearls, diamonds, and rubies, bestowed on the adornment of rotten teeth, and dirty rags. I own that I had wickedness enough to covet St Ursula’s pearl necklaces; though perhaps this was no wickedness at all, an image not being certainly one’s neighbour’s; but I went yet farther, and wished the wench herself converted into dressing-plate. I should also gladly see converted into silver, a great St Christopher, which I imagine would look very well in a cistern. These were my pious reflections: though I was very well satisfied to see, piled up to the honour of our nation, the skulls of the eleven thousand virgins. I have seen some hundreds of relicks here of no less, consequence; but I will not imitate the common stile of travellers so far, as to give you a list of them; being persuaded, that you have no manner of curiosity for the titles given to jaw-bones and bits of worm-eaten wood. — Adieu, I am just going to supper, where I shall drink your health in an admirable sort of Lorrain wine, which I am sure is the same you call Burgundy in London, &c. &c.
From Nuremberg. — Difference between the free towns, and those under absolute princes — the good effects of sumptuary laws — humorous remarks on relics, and the absurd representations in the churches at Nuremberg.
To the Countess of B——.
Nuremberg, Aug. 22. O. S. 1716.
AFTER five days travelling post, I could not sit down to write on any other occasion, than to tell my dear lady, that I have not forgot her obliging command, of sending her some account of my travels. I have already passed a large part of Germany, have seen all that is remarkable in Cologn, Frankfort, Wurtsburg, and this place. ’Tis impossible not to observe the difference between the free towns and those under the government of absolute princes, as all the little sovereigns of Germany are. In the first, there appears an air of commerce and plenty. The streets are well-built, and full of people, neatly and plainly dressed. The shops are loaded with merchandise, and the commonalty are clean and cheerful. In the other you see a sort of shabby finery, a number of dirty people of quality tawdered out; narrow nasty streets out of repair, wretchedly thin of inhabitants, and above half of the common sort asking alms. I cannot help fancying one under the figure of a clean Dutch citizen’s wife, and the other like a poor town lady of pleasure, painted and ribboned out in her head-dress, with tarnished silver-laced shoes, a ragged under-petticoat, a miserable mixture of vice and poverty. — They have sumptuary laws in this town, which distinguish their rank by their dress, prevent the excess which ruins so many other cities, and has a more agreeable effect to the eye of a stranger, than our fashions. I need not be ashamed to own, that I wish these laws were in force in other parts of the world. When one considers impartially, the merit of a rich suit of clothes in most places, the respect and the smiles of favour it procures, not to speak of the envy and the sighs it occasions (which is very often the principal charm to the wearer), one is forced to confess, that there is need of an uncommon understanding to resift the temptation of pleasing friends and mortifying rivals; and that it is natural to young people to fall into a folly, which betrays them to that want of money which is the source of a thousand basenesses. What numbers of men have begun the world with generous inclinations, that have afterwards been the instruments of bringing misery on a whole people, being led by vain expence into debts that they could clear no other way but by the forfeit of their honour, and which they never could have contracted, if the respect the multitude pays to habits, was fixed by law, only to a particular colour or cut of plain cloth! These reflections draw after them others that are too melancholy. I will make haste to put them out of your head by the farce of relicks, with which I have been entertained in all Romish churches.
THE Lutherans are not quite free from these follies. I have seen here, in the principal church, a large piece of the cross set in jewels, and the point of the spear, which they told me very gravely, was the same that pierced the side of our Saviour. But I was particularly diverted in a little Roman Catholic church which is permitted here, where the professors of that religion are not very rich, and consequently cannot adorn their images in so rich a manner as their neighbour. For, not to be quite destitute of all finery, they have dressed up an image of our Saviour over the altar, in a fair full-bottomed wig very well powdered. I imagine I see your lady ship stare at this article, of which you very much doubt the veracity; but, upon my word, I have not yet made use of the privilege of a traveller; and my whole account is written with the same plain sincerity of heart, with which I assure you that I am, dear Madam,
yours, &c. &c.
From Ratisbon. — Ridiculous disputes concerning punctilios among the envoys at the Diet — the churches and relics — silver image of the Trinity.
To Mrs P——.
Ratisbon, Aug. 30 O. S. 1716.
I HAD the pleasure of receiving yours, but the day before I left London. I give you a thousand thanks for your good wishes, and have such an opinion of their efficacy that, I am persuaded, I owe in part, to them, the good luck of having proceeded so far on my long journey without any ill accident. For I don’t reckon it any, to have been stopped a few days in this town by a cold, since it has not only given me an opportunity of seeing all that is curious in it, but of making some acquaintance with the ladies, who have all been to see me with great civility, particularly Madame —— the wife of our king’s envoy from Hanover. She has carried me to all the assemblies, and I have been magnificently entertained at her house, which is one of the finest here. You know, that all the nobility of this place are envoys from different states. Here are a great number of them, and they might pass their time agreeably enough, if they were less delicate on the point of ceremony. But instead of joining in the design of making the town as pleasant to one another as they can, and improving their little societies, they amuse themselves no other way than with perpetual quarrels, which they take care to eternize, by leaving them to their successors; and an envoy to Ratisbon receives, regularly, half a dozen quarrels, among the perquisites of his employment. You may be sure the ladies are not wanting, on their side, in cherishing and improving these important picques, which divide the town almost into as many parties, as there are families. They chuse rather to suffer the mortification of sitting almost alone on their assembly nights, than to recede one jot from their pretensions. I have not been here above a week, and yet I have heard from almost every one of them the whole history of their wrongs, and dreadful complaint of the injustice of their neighbours, in hopes to draw me to their party. But I think it very prudent to remain neuter, though, if I was to stay amongst them, there would be no possibility of continuing so, their quarrels running so high, that they will not be civil to those that visit their adversaries. The foundation of these everlasting disputes, turns entirely upon rank, place, and the title of Excellency, which they all pretend to; and, what is very hard, will give it to no body. For my part, I could not forbear advising them, (for the public good) to give the title of Excellency to every body; which would include the receiving it from every body; but the very mention of such a dishonourable peace, was received with as much indignation, as Mrs Blackaire did the motion of a reference. And indeed, I began to think myself ill-natured, to offer to take from them, in a town where there are so few diversions, so entertaining an amusement. I know that my peaceable disposition already gives me a very ill figure, and that ’tis publicly whispered as a piece of impertinent pride in me, that I have hitherto been saucily civil to every body, as if I thought nobody good enough to quarrel with. I should be obliged to change my behaviour, if I did not intend to pursue my journey in a few days. I have been to see the churches here, and had the permission of touching the relicks, which was never suffered in places where I was not known. I had, by this privilege, the opportunity of making an observation, which I doubt not might have been made in all the other churches, that the emeralds and rubies which they show round their relicks and images are most of them false; though they tell you that many of the Crosses and Madonas, set round with these stones, have been the gifts of emperors and other great princes. I don’t doubt, indeed, but they were at first jewels of value; but the good fathers have found it convenient to apply them to other uses, and the people are just as well satisfied with bits of glass amongst these relicks. They shewed me a prodigious claw set in gold, which they called the claw of a griffin; and I could not forbear asking the reverend priest that shewed it, Whether the griffin was a saint? The question almost put him beside his gravity; but he answered, They only kept it as a curiosity. I was very much scandalised at a large silver image of the Trinity, where the Father is represented under the figure of a decrepit old man, with a beard down to his knees, and triple crown on his head, holding in his arms the Son, fixed on the cross, and the Holy Ghost, in the shape of a dove, hovering over him. Madam —— is come this minute to call me to the assembly, and forces me to tell you, very abruptly, that I am ever your, &c. &c.
From Vienna. — Voyage from Ratisbon down the Danube — general description of Vienna — the houses — furniture — entertainments — the Fauxbourg — Count Schoonbourn’s villa.
To the Countess of ——.
Vienna, Sept. 8. O. S. 1716.
I AM now, my dear sister, safely arrived at Vienna; and, I thank God, have not at all suffered in my health, nor (what is dearer to me) in that of my child, by all our fatigues. We travelled by water from Ratisbon, a journey perfectly agreeable, down the Danube, in one of those little vessels, that they, very properly, call wooden houses, having in them all the conveniences of a palace, stoves in the chambers, kitchens, &c. They are rowed by twelve men each, and move with such incredible swiftness, that in the same day you have the pleasure of a vast variety of prospects; and, within the space of a few hours, you have the pleasure of seeing a populous city adorned with magnificent palaces, and the most romantic solitudes, which appear distant from the commerce of mankind, the banks of the Danube being charmingly diversified with woods, rocks, mountains covered with vines, fields of corn, large cities, and ruins of ancient castles. I saw the great towns of Passau and Lintz, famous for the retreat of the imperial court, when Vienna was besieged. This town, which has the honour of being the emperor’s residence, did not at all answer my expectation, nor ideas of it, being much less than I expected to find it; the streets are very close, and so narrow, one cannot observe the fine fronts of the palaces, though many of them very well deserve observation, being truly magnificent. They are built of fine white stone, and are excessive high. For as the town is too little for the number of the people that desire to live in it, the builders seem to have projected to repair that misfortune, by clapping one town on the top of another, most of the houses being of five, and some of them six stories. You may easily imagine, that the streets being so narrow, the rooms are extremely dark; and, what is an inconveniency much more intolerable, in my opinion, there is no house has so few as five or six families in it. The apartments of the greatest ladies, and even of the ministers of state, are divided, but by a partition, from that of a taylor or shoemaker; and I know no body that has above two floors in any house, one for their own use, and one higher for their servants. Those that have houses of their own, let Out the rest of them to whoever will take them; and thus the great stairs, (which are all of stone) are as common and as dirty as the street. ’Tis true, when you have once travelled through them, nothing can be more surprisingly magnificent than the apartments. They are commonly a suite of eight or ten large rooms, all inlaid, the doors and windows richly carved and gilt, and the furniture, such as is seldom seen in the palaces of sovereign princes in other countries. Their apartments are adorned with hangings of the finest tapestry of Brussels, prodigious large looking glasses in silver frames, fine japan tables, beds, chairs, canopies, and window curtains of the richest Genoa damask or velvet, almost covered with gold lace or embroidery. All this is made gay by pictures, and vast jars of japan china, and large lustres of rock crystal. I have already had the honour of being invited to dinner by several of the first people of quality; and I must do them the justice to say, the good taste and magnificence of their tables, very well answered to that of their furniture. I have been more than once entertained with fifty dishes of meat all served in silver, and well dressed; the desert proportionable, served in the finest china. But the variety and richness of their wines, is what appears the most surprising. The constant way is, to lay a list of their names upon the plates of the guests, along with the napkins; and I have counted several times to the number of eighteen different sorts, all exquisite in their kinds. I was yesterday at Count Schoonbourn, the vice-chancellor’s garden, where I was invited to dinner. I must own, I never saw a place so perfectly delightful as the Fauxburg of Vienna. It is very large, and almost wholly composed of delicious palaces. If the emperor found it proper to permit the gates of the town to be laid open, that the Fauxburg might be joined to it, he would have one of the largest and best built cities in Europe. Count Schoonbourn’s villa is one of the most magnificent; the furniture all rich brocades, so well fancied and fitted up, nothing can look more gay and splendid; not to speak of a gallery, full of rarities of coral, mother of pearl, and, throughout the whole house, a profusion of gilding, carving, fine paintings, the most beautiful porcelain, statues of alabaster and ivory, and vast orange and lemon trees in gilt pots. The dinner was perfectly fine and well ordered, and made still more agreeable by the good humour of the Count. I have not yet been at court, being forced to stay for my gown, without which there is no waiting on the empress; though I am not without great impatience to see a beauty that has been the admiration of so many different nations. When I have had that honour, I will not fail to let you know my real thoughts, always taking a particular pleasure in communicating them to my dear sister.
Vienna. — Opera in the garden of the Favorita — playhouse and representation of the story of Amphitrion.
To Mr. P——.
Vienna, Sept.14. O. S.
PERHAPS you’ll laugh at me for thanking you very gravely for all the obliging concern you express for me. ’Tis certain that I may, if I please, take the fine things you say to me for wit and raillery; and, it may be, it would be taking them right. But I never, in my life, was half so well disposed to take you in earnest as I am at present; and that distance which makes the continuation of your friendship improbable, has very much increased my faith in it. I find that I have, (as well as the rest of my sex) whatever face I set on’t, a strong disposition to believe in miracles. Don’t fancy, however, that I am infected by the air of these popish countries; I have, indeed, so far wandered from the discipline of the church of England, as to have been last Sunday at the opera, which was performed in the garden of the Favorita; and I was so much pleased with it, I have not yet repented my seeing it. Nothing of that kind ever was more magnificent; and I can easily believe what I am told, that the decorations and habits cost the emperor thirty thousand pounds Sterling. The stage was built over a very large canal, and, at the beginning of the second act, divided into two parts, discovering the water, on which there immediately came, from different parts, two fleets of little gilded vessels, that gave the representation of a naval fight. It is not easy to imagine the beauty of this scene, which I took particular notice of. But all the rest were perfectly fine in their kind. The story of the opera is the enchantment of Alcina, which gives opportunities for great variety of machines, and changes of the scenes, which are performed with a surprising swiftness. The theatre is so large, that it is hard to carry the eye to the end of it, and the habits in the utmost magnificence, to the number of one hundred and eight. No house could hold such large decorations: but the ladies all sitting in the open air, exposes them to great inconveniences; for there is but one canopy for the imperial family; and the first night it was represented, a shower of rain happening, the opera was broke off, and the company crowded away in such confusion, that I was almost squeezed to death. — But if their operas are thus delightful, their comedies are in as high a degree ridiculous. They have but one play-house, where I had the curiosity to go to a German comedy, and was very glad it happened to be the story of Amphitrion. As that subject has been already handled by a Latin, French, and English poet, I was curious to see what an Austrian author would make of it. I understand enough of that language to comprehend the greatest part of it; and besides, I took with me a lady, that had the goodness to explain to me every word. The way is, to take a box, which holds four, for yourself and company. The fixed price is a gold ducat. I thought the house very low and dark; but I confess, the comedy admirably recompensed that defect. I never laughed so much in my life. It began with Jupiter’s falling in love out of a peep-hole in the clouds, and ended with the birth of Hercules. But what was most pleasant, was the use Jupiter made of his metamorphosis; for you no sooner saw him under the figure of Amphitrion, but, instead of flying to Alcmena, with the raptures Mr Dryden puts into his mouth, he sends for Amphitrion’s taylor, and cheats him of a laced coat, and his banker of a bag of money, a Jew of a diamond ring, and bespeaks a great supper in his name; and the greatest part of the comedy turns upon poor Amphitrion’s being tormented by these people for their debts. Mercury uses Sofia in the same manner. But I could not easily pardon the liberty the poet has taken of larding his play with, not only indecent expressions, but such gross words, as I don’t think Our mob would suffer from a mountebank. Besides, the two Sofias very fairly let down their breeches in the direct view of the boxes, which were full of people of the first rank, that seemed very well pleased with their entertainment, and assured me, this was a celebrated piece. I shall conclude my letter with this remarkable relation, very well worthy the serious consideration of Mr Collier. I won’t trouble you with farewel compliments, which I think generally as impertinent, as courtesies at leaving the room, when the visit had been too long already.
Vienna. — Dress of the ladies — Lady M’s reception at court — person of the empress — customs of the drawing-room — the emperor — empress Amelia — how seated at table — maids of honour, their office and qualifications — dressers — audience of the empress-mother — her extraordinary piety — mourning dress of the ladies at Vienna — audience of the empress Amelia — shooting-match by ladies.
To the Countess of ——.
Vienna, Sept. 14. O. S.
THOUGH I have so lately troubled you, my dear sister, with a long letter, yet I will keep my promise in giving you an account of my first going to court. In order to that ceremony, I was squeezed up in a gown, and adorned with a gorget and the other implements thereunto belonging; a dress very inconvenient, but which certainly shows the neck and shape to great advantage. I cannot forbear giving you some description of the fashions here, which are more monstrous, and contrary to all common sense and reason, than ’tis possible for you to imagine. They build certain fabrics of gauze on their heads, about a yard high, consisting of three or four stories, fortified with numberless yards of heavy ribbon. The foundation of this structure is a thing they call a Bourle, which is exactly of the same shape and kind, but about four times as big as those rolls our prudent milk-maids make use of to fix their pails upon. This machine they cover With their own hair, which they mix with a great deal of false, it being a particular beauty to have their heads too large to go into a moderate tub. Their hair is prodigiously powdered to conceal the mixture, and set out with three or four rows of bodkins (wonderfully large, that stick out two or three inches from their hair) made of diamonds, pearls, red, green, and yellow stones, that it certainly requires as much art and experience to carry the load upright, as to dance upon May-day with the garland. Their whale-bone petticoats outdo ours by several yards, circumference, and cover some acres of ground. You may easily suppose how this extraordinary dress sets off and improves the natural ugliness, with which God Almighty has been pleased to endow them, generally speaking. Even the lovely empress herself is obliged to comply, in some degree, with these absurd fashions, which they would not quit for all the world. I had a private audience (according to ceremony) of half an hour, and then all the other ladies were permitted to come and make their court. I was perfectly charmed with the empress; I cannot however tell you that her features are regular; her eyes are not large, but have a lively look full of sweetness; her complexion the finest I ever saw; her nose and forehead well made, but her mouth has ten thousand charms, that touch the soul. When she smiles, ’tis with a beauty and sweetness that forces adoration. She has a vast quantity of fine fair hair; but then her person! — one must speak of it poetically to do it rigid justice; all that the poets have said of the mien of Juno, the air of Venus, come not up to the truth. The Graces move with her; the famous statue of Medicis was not formed with more delicate proportions; nothing can be added to the beauty of her neck and hands. Till I saw them, I did not believe there were any in nature so perfect, and I was almost sorry that my rank here did not permit me to kiss them; but they are kissed sufficiently; for every body that waits on her pays that homage at their entrance, and when they take leave. When the ladies were come in, she sat down to Quinze. I could not play at a game I had never seen before, and she ordered me a seat at her right hand, and had the goodness to talk to me very much, with that grace so natural to her. I expected every moment, when the men were to come in to pay their court; but this drawing-room is very different from that of England; no man enters it but the grand-master, who comes in to advertise the empress of the approach of the emperor. His imperial majesty did me the honour of speaking to me in a very obliging manner; but he never speaks to any of the other ladies; and the whole passes with a gravity and air of ceremony that has something very formal in it. The empress Amelia, dowager of the late emperor Joseph, came this evening to wait on the reigning empress, followed by the two arch-duchesses her daughters, who are very agreeable young princesses. Their imperial majesties rose and went to meet her at the door of the room, after which she was seated in an armed chair, next the empress, and in the same manner at supper, and there the men had the permission of paying their court. The arch-duchesses sat on chairs with backs without arms. The table was entirely served, and all the dishes set on by the empress’s maids of honour, which are twelve young ladies of the first quality. They have no salary, but their chamber at court, where they live in a sort of confinement, not being suffered to go to the assemblies or public places in town, except in compliment to the wedding of a sister maid, whom the empress always presents with her picture set in diamonds. The three first of them are called Ladies of the Key, and wear gold keys by their sides; but what I find most pleasant, is the custom, which obliges them, as long as they live, after they have left the empress’s service, to make her some present every year on the day of her feast. Her majesty is served by no married women but the grande maitresse, who is generally a widow of the first quality, always very old, and is at the same time groom of the stole, and mother of the maids. The dressers are not, at all, in the figure they pretend to in England, being looked upon no otherwise than as downright chambermaids. I had an audience next day Of the empress mother, a princess of great virtue and goodness, but who picques herself too much on a violent devotion. She is perpetually performing extraordinary acts of penance, without having ever done any thing to deserve them. She has the same number of maids of honour, whom she suffers to go in colours; but she herself never quits her mourning; and sure nothing can be more dismal than the mourning here, even for a brother. There is not the least bit of linen to be seen; all black crape instead of it. The neck, ears and side of the face are covered with a plaited piece of the same stuff, and the face that peeps out in the midst of it, looks as if it were pilloried. The widows wear over and above, a crape forehead cloth; and, in this solemn weed, go to all the public places of diversion without scruple. The next day I was to wait on the empress Amelia, who is now at her palace of retirement, half a mile from the town. I had there the pleasure of seeing a diversion wholly new to me, but which is the common amusement of this court. The empress herself was seated on a little throne at the end of the fine alley in the garden, and on each side of her were ranged two parties of her ladies of quality, headed by two Young archduchesses, all dressed in their hair, full of jewels, with fine light guns in their hands; and at proper distances were placed three oval pictures, which were the marks to be shot at. The first was that of a CUPID, filling a bumper of Burgundy, and the motto, ’Tis easy to be valiant here. The second a FORTUNE, holding a garland in her hand, the motto, For her whom Fortune favours. The third was a SWORD, with a laurel wreath on the point, the motto, Here is no shame to be vanquished. — Near the empress was a gilded trophy wreathed with flowers, and made of little crooks, on which were hung rich Turkish handkerchiefs, tippets, ribbons, laces, &c. for the small prizes. The empress gave the first with her own hand, which was a fine ruby ring set round with diamonds, in a gold snuff-box. There was for the second, a little Cupid set with brilliants, and besides these a set of fine china for the tea-table, enchased in gold, japan trunks, fans, and many gallantries of the same nature. All the men of quality at Vienna were spectators; but the ladies only had permission to shoot, and the arch-duchess Amelia carried off the first prize. I was very well pleased with having seen this entertainment, and I do not know but it might make as good a figure as the prize-shooting in the Eneid, if I could write as well as Virgil. This is the favourite pleasure of the emperor, and there is rarely a week without some feast of this kind, which makes the young ladies skilful enough to defend a fort. They laughed very much to see me afraid to handle a gun. My dear sister, you will easily pardon an abrupt conclusion. I believe, by this time, you are ready to think I shall never conclude at all.
Vienna. — Vienna a paradise for old women — different acceptation of the word reputation at London and at Vienna — neither coquettes nor prudes at Vienna — every lady possessed both of a nominal and real husband — gallant overture to lady M. to comply with this custom.
To the Lady R——.
Vienna, Sept. 20. O. S. 1716.
I AM extremely rejoiced, but not at all surprised, at the long, delightful letter, you have had the goodness to send me. I know that you can think of an absent friend even in the midst of a court, and you love to oblige, where you can have no view of a return; and I expect from you that you should love me, and think of me, when you don’t see me. I have compassion for the mortifications that you tell me befel our little old friend, and I pity her much more, since I know, that they are only owing to the barbarous customs of our country. Upon my word, if she were here, she would have no other fault but that of being something too young for the fashion, and she has nothing to do but to transplant herself hither about seven years hence, to be again a young and blooming beauty. I can assure you, that wrinkles, or a small stoop in the shoulders, nay, even gray-hairs, are no objection to the making new conquests. I know you cannot easily figure to yourself, a young fellow of five and twenty, ogling my lady S-ff — k with passion, or pressing to hand the countess of O——d from an opera. But such are the sights I see every day, and I don’t perceive any body surprized at them but myself. A woman, till five and thirty, is only looked upon as a raw girl, and can possibly make no noise in the world, till about forty. I don’t know what your ladyship may think of this matter; but ’tis a considerable comfort to me, to know there is upon earth such a paradise for old women; and I am content to be insignificant at present, in the design of returning when I am fit to appear no where else. I cannot help, lamenting, on this occasion, the pitiful case of too many English ladies, long since retired to prudery and ratafia, who, if their stars had luckily conducted hither, would shine in the first rank of beauties. Besides, that perplexing word reputation, has quite another meaning here than what you give it at London; and getting a lover is so far from losing, that ’tis properly getting reputation; ladies being much more respected in regard to the rank of their lovers, than that of their husbands.
BUT what you’ll think very odd, the two sects that divide our whole nation of petticoats, are utterly unknown in this place. Here are neither coquettes nor prudes. No woman dares appear coquette enough to encourage two lovers at a time. And I have not seen any such prudes as to pretend fidelity to their husbands, who are certainly the best natured set of people in the world, and look upon their wives’ gallants as favourably as men do upon their deputies, that take the troublesome part of their business off their hands. They have not however the less to do on that account; for they are generally deputies in another place themselves; in one word, ’tis the established custom for every lady to have two husbands, one that bears the name, and another that performs the duties. And the engagements are so well known, that it would be a downright affront, and publicly resented, if you invited a woman of quality to dinner, without, at the same time, inviting her two attendants of lover and husband, between whom she sits in state with great gravity. The sub-marriages generally last twenty years together, and the lady often commands the poor lover’s estate, even to the utter ruin of his family. These connections, indeed, are as seldom begun by any real passion as other matches; for a man makes but an ill figure that is not in some commerce of this nature; and a woman looks out for a lover as soon as she’s married, as part of her equipage, without which she could not be genteel; and the first article of the treaty is establishing the pension, which remains to the lady, in case the gallant should prove inconstant. This chargeable point of honour, I look upon as the real foundation of so many wonderful influences of constancy. I really know some women of the first quality, whose pensions are as well known as their annual rents, and yet nobody esteems them the less; on the contrary, their discretion would be called in question, if they should be suspected to be mistresses for nothing. A great part of their emulation consists in trying who shall get most; and having no intrigue at all, is so far a disgrace, that, I’ll assure you, a lady, who is very much my friend here, told me but yesterday, how much I was obliged to her for justifying my conduct in a conversation relating to me, where it was publicly asserted, that I could not possibly have common sense, since I had been in town above a fortnight, and had made no steps towards commencing an amour. My friend pleaded for me, that my stay was uncertain, and she believed that was the cause of my seeming stupidity; and this was all she could find to say in my justification. But one of the pleasantest adventures I ever met with in my life was last night, and it will give you a just idea in what a delicate manner the belles passions are managed in this country. I was at the assembly of the countess of ——— and the young count of ——— leading me down stairs, asked me how long I was to stay at Vienna? I made answer, that my stay depended on the emperor, and it was not in my power to determine it. Well, madam, (said he) whether your time here is to be longer or shorter, I think you ought to pass it agreeably, and to that end you must engage in a little affair of the heart. — My heart, (answered I gravely enough) does not engage very easily, and I have no design of parting with it. I see, madam, (said he sighing) by the ill nature of that answer, I am not to hope for it, which is a great mortification to me that am charmed with you. But, however, I am still devoted to your service; and since I am not worthy of entertaining you myself, do me the honour of letting me know whom you like best amongst us, and I’ll engage to manage the affair entirely to your satisfaction. You may judge in what manner I should have received this compliment in my own country; but I was well enough acquainted with the way of this, to know that he really intended me an obligation, and I thanked him with a very grave courtesy for his zeal to serve me, and only assured him, I had no occasion to make use of it. Thus you see, my dear, that gallantry and good-breeding are as different, in different climates, as morality and religion. Who have the rightest notions of both, we shall never know till the day of judgment; for which great day of eclaircissement, I own there is very little impatience in
your, &c. &c.
Vienna — Phlegmatic disposition of the Austrians — humorous anecdote of a contest upon a point of ceremony — widows not allowed any rank at Vienna — pride of ancestry — marriage portions limited — different treatment of ambassadors and envoys at Court.
To Mrs J——.
Vienna, Sept. 26. O. S. 1716.
I WAS never more agreeably surprised than by your obliging letter. ’Tis a peculiar mark of my esteem that I tell you so; and I can assure you, that if I loved you one grain less than I do, I should be very sorry to see it so diverting as it is. The mortal aversion I have to writing, makes me tremble at the thoughts of a new correspondent; and I believe I have disobliged no less than a dozen of my London acquaintance by refusing to hear from them, though I did verily think they intended to send me very entertaining letters. But I had rather lose the pleasure of reading several witty things, than be forced to write many stuped ones. Yet, in spite of these considerations, I am charmed with the proof of your friendship, and beg a continuation of the same goodness, though I fear the dulness of this will make you immediately repent of it. It is not from Austria that one can write with vivacity, and I am already infected with the phlegm of the country. Even their amours and their quarrels are carried on with a surprising temper, and they are never lively but upon points of ceremony. There, I own, they shew all their passions; and ’tis not long since two coaches, meeting in a narrow street at night, the ladies in them not being able to adjust the ceremonial of which should go back, sat there, with equal gallantry till two in the morning, and were both so fully determined to die upon the spot rather than yield, in a point of that importance, that the street would never have been cleared till their deaths, if the emperor had not sent his guards to part them; and even then they refused to stir, till the expedient could be found out of taking them both out in chairs, exactly in the same moment. After the ladies were agreed, it was with some difficulty that the pass was decided between the two coachmen, no less tenacious of their rank than the ladies. This passion is so omnipotent in the breasts of the women, that even their husbands never die but they are ready to break their hearts, because that fatal hour puts an end to their rank, no widows having any place at Vienna. The men are not much less touched with this point of honour, and they do not only scorn to marry, but even to make love to any woman of a family not as illustrious as their own; and the pedigree is much more considered by them, than either the complexion of features of their mistresses. Happy are the she’s that can number amongst their ancestors, counts of the empire; they have neither occasion for beauty, money, nor good conduct to get them husbands. ’Tis true, as to money, ’tis seldom any advantage to the man they marry; the laws of Austria confine the woman’s portion to two thousand florins (about two hundred pounds English), and whatever they have beside, remains in their own possession and disposal. Thus, here are many ladies much richer than their husbands, who are however obliged to allow them pin-money agreeable to their quality; and I attribute to this considerable branch of prerogative, the liberty that they take upon other occasions. I am sure, you, that know my laziness, and extreme indifference on this subject, will pity me, entangled amongst all these ceremonies, which are a wonderful burden to me, though I am the envy of the whole town, having, by their own customs, the pass before them all. They indeed, so revenge, upon the poor envoys, this great respect shewn to ambassadors, that (with all my indifference) I should be very uneasy to suffer it. Upon days of ceremony they have no entrance at court, and on other days must content themselves with walking after every soul, and being the very last taken notice of. But I must write a volume to let you know all the ceremonies, and I have already said too much on so dull a subject, which however employs the whole care of the people here. I need not, after this, tell you how agreeably time slides away with me; you know as well as I do the taste of, Your’s, &c. &c.
Vienna. — Dress and assemblies of the Austrian ladies — gala days — convent of St Lawrence — wooden head of our Saviour — dress of the Nuns — their amusements — particulars concerning a beautiful Nun — reflections on the monastic state, &c.
To the Lady x ——.
Vienna, Oct. 1. O. S. 1716.
YOU desire me, madam, to send you some accounts of the customs here, and at the same time a description of Vienna. I am always willing to obey your commands; but you must, upon this occasion, take the will for the deed. If I should undertake to tell you all the particulars, in which the manners here differ from ours, I must write a whole quire of the dullest stuff that ever was read, or printed without being read. Their dress agrees with the French or English in no one article, but wearing petticoats. They have many fashions peculiar to themselves; they think it indecent for a widow ever to wear green or rose colour, but all the other gayest colours at her own discretion. The assemblies here are the only regular diversion, the operas being always at court, and commonly on some particular occasion. Madam Rabutin has the assembly constantly every night at her house; and the other ladies, whenever they have a mind to display the magnificence of their apartments, or oblige a friend by complimenting them on the day of their saint, they declare, that on such a day the assembly shall be at their house in honour of the feast of the count or countess —such a one. These days are called days of Gala, and all the friends or relations of the lady, whose saint it is, are obliged to appear in their best clothes, and all their jewels. The mistress of the house takes no particular notice of any body, nor returns any body’s visit; and, whoever pleases, may go, without the formality of being presented. The company are entertained with ice in several forms, winter and summer; afterwards they divide into several parties of ombre, piquet, or conversation, all games of hazard being forbid.
I SAW t’other day the Gala for Count Altheim, the emperor’s favourite, and never in my life saw so many fine clothes ill-fancied. They embroider the richest gold stuffs; and provided they can make their clothes expensive enough, that is all the taste they shew in them. On other days, the general dress is a scarf, and what you please under it.
BUT now I am speaking of Vienna, I am sure you expect I should say something of the convents; they are of all sorts and sizes, but I am best pleased with that of St Lawrence, where the ease and neatness they seem to live with, appears to be much more edifying than those stricter orders, where perpetual penance and nastiness must breed discontent and wretchedness. The Nuns are all of quality. I think there are to the number of fifty. They have each of them a little cell perfectly clean, the walls of which are covered with pictures more or less fine, according to their quality. A long white stone gallery runs by all of them, furnished With the pictures of exemplary sisters; the chapel is extremely neat and richly adorned. But I could not forbear laughing at their shewing me a wooden head of our Saviour, which, they assured me, spoke during the siege of Vienna; and, as a proof of it, bid me mark his mouth, which had been open ever since. Nothing can be more becoming than the dress of these Nuns. It is a white robe, the sleeves of which are turned up with fine white callico, and their head-dress the same, excepting a small veil of black crape that falls behind. They have a lower sort of serving Nuns, that wait on them as their chambermaids. They receive all visits of women, and play at ombre in their chambers, with permission of their abbess, which is very easy to be obtained. I never saw an old woman so good-natured; she is near fourscore, and yet shews very little sign of decay, being still lively and cheerful. She caressed me as if I had been her daughter, giving me some pretty things of her own work, and sweetmeats in abundance. The grate is not of the most rigid; it is not very hard to put a head through, and I don’t doubt but a man, a little more slender than ordinary, might squeeze in his whole person. The young count of Salamis came to the grate, while I was there, and the abbess gave him her hand to kiss. But I was surprised to find here, the only beautiful young woman I have seen at Vienna, and not only beautiful but genteel, witty, and agreeable, of a great family, and who had been the admiration of the town. I could not forbear shewing my surprise at seeing a Nun like her. She made me a thousand obliging compliments, and desired me to come often. It will be an infinite pleasure to me, (said she, sighing) but I avoid, with the greatest care, seeing any of my former acquaintance, and whenever they come to our convent, I lock myself in my cell. I observed tears come into her eyes, which touched me extremely, and I began to talk to her in that strain of tender pity she inspired me with; but she would not own to me, that she is not perfectly happy. I have since endeavoured to learn the real cause of her retirement, without being able to get any other account, but that every body was surprised at it, and no body guessed the reason. I have been several times to see her; but it gives me too much melancholy to see so agreeable a young creature buried alive. I am not surprised that Nuns have so often inspired violent passions; the pity one naturally feels for them, when they seem worthy of another destiny, making an easy way for yet more tender sentiments. I never in my life had so little charity for the Roman Catholick religion, as since I see the misery it occasions; so many poor unhappy women! and then the gross superstition of the common people, who are some or other of them, day and night, offering bits of candle to the wooden figures that are set up almost in every street. The processions I see very often, are a pageantry, as offensive, and apparently contradictory to common sense, as the pagods of China. God knows whether it be the womanly spirit of contradiction that works in me; but there never before was such zeal against popery in the heart of,
Dear madam, &c. &c.
Vienna. — Description of the emperor’s repository.
To Mr ——.
Vienna, Oct. O. S. 1716.
I DESERVE not all the reproaches you make me. If I have some time without answering your letter, it is not, that I don’t know how many thanks are due to you for it; or that I am stupid enough to prefer any amusements to the pleasure of hearing from you; but after the professions of esteem you have so obligingly made me, I cannot help delaying, as long as I can, shewing you that you are mistaken. If you are sincere, when you say you expect to be extremely entertained by my letters, I ought to be mortified at the disappointment that I am sure you will receive when you hear from me; though I have done my best endeavours to find out something worth writing to you. I have seen every thing that was to be seen with a very, diligent curiosity. Here are some fine villas, particularly the late prince of Litchtenstein’s; but the statues are all modern, and the pictures not of the first hands. ’Tis true, the emperor has some of great value. I was yesterday to see the repository, which they call his Treasure, where they seem to have been more diligent in amassing a great quantity of things, than in the choice of them. I spent above five hours there, and yet there were very few things that stopped me long to consider them. But the number is prodigious, being a very long gallery filled on both sides, and five large rooms. There is a vast quantity of paintings, amongst which are many fine miniatures; but the most valuable pictures, are a few of Corregio, those of Titian being at the Favorita.
THE cabinet of jewels did not appear to me so rich as I expected to see it. They shewed me here a cup, about the size of a tea dish, of one entire emerald, which they had so particular a respect for, that only the emperor has the liberty of touching it. There is a large cabinet full of curiosities of clock-work, only one of which I thought worth observing, that was a craw-fish, with all the motions so natural, that it was hard to distinguish it from the life.
THE next cabinet was a large collection of agates, some of them extremely beautiful, and of an uncommon size, and several vases of Lapis Lazuli. I was surprised to see the cabinet of medals so poorly furnished; I did not remark one of any value, and they are kept in a most ridiculous disorder. As to the antiques, very few of them deserve that name. Upon my saying they were modern, I could not forbear laughing at the answer of the profound antiquary that shewed them, that they were ancient enough; for, to his knowledge, they had been there these forty years. But the next cabinet diverted me yet better, being nothing else but a parcel of wax babies, and toys in ivory, very well worthy to be presented children of five years old. Two of the rooms were wholly filled with these trifles of all kinds, set in jewels, amongst which I was desired to observe a crucifix, that they assured me had spoke very wisely to the emperor Leopold. I won’t trouble you with a catalogue of the rest of the lumber; but I must not forget to mention a small piece of loadstone that held up an anchor of steel too heavy for me to lift. This is what I thought most curious in the whole treasure. There are some few heads of ancient statues; but several of them are defaced by modern additions. I foresee that you will be very little satisfied with this letter, and I dare hardly ask you to be good-natured enough to charge the dulness of it on the barrenness of the subject, and to overlook the stupidity of,
Your, &c. &c.
From Prague. — General state of Bohemia — Prague described with reference to Vienna.
To the Countess of ——.
Prague, Nov. 17. O. S. 1716.
I HOPE my dear sister wants no new proofs of my sincere affection for her: but I am sure, if you do, I could not give you a stronger than writing at this time, after three days, or, more properly speaking, three nights and days, hard post-travelling. — The kingdom of Bohemia is the most desert of any I have seen in Germany. The villages are so poor, and the post-houses so miserable, that clean straw and fair water are blessings not always to be met with, and better accommodation not to be hoped for. Though I carried my own bed with me, I could not sometimes find a place to set it up in; and I rather chose to travel all night, as cold as it is, wrapped up in my furs, than go into the common stoves, which are filled with a mixture of all sorts of ill scents.
THIS town was once the royal seat of the Bohemian king, and is still the capital of the kingdom. There are yet some remains of its former splendour, being one of the largest towns in Germany, but, for the most part, old built, and thinly inhabited, which makes the houses very cheap. Those people of quality, who cannot easily bear the expence of Vienna, chuse to reside here, where they have assemblies, music, and all other diversions, (those of a court excepted) at very moderate rates, all things being here in great abundance, especially the best wild-fowl I ever tasted. I have already been visited by some of the most considerable ladies, whose relations I know at Vienna. They are dressed after the fashions there, after the manner that the people at Exeter imitate those of London; that is, their imitation is more excessive than the original. ’Tis not easy to describe what extraordinary figures they make. The person is so much lost between head-dress and petticoat, that they have as much occasion to write upon their backs, “This is a Woman,” for the information of travellers, as ever sign-post painter had to write, “This is a Bear.” I will not forget to write to you again from Dresden and Leipzig, being much more solicitous to content your curiosity, than to indulge my own repose. I am, &c.
From Leipzig. — Dangerous journey from Prague to Leipzig — character of Dresden — the Saxon and Austrian ladies compared — anecdotes of the countess of Cozelle — Leipzig and its fair described.
To the Countess of ——.
Leipzig, Nov. 21. O. S. 1716.
I BELIEVE, dear sister, you will easily forgive my not writing to you from Dresden, as I promised, when I tell you, that I never went out of my chaise from Prague to this place. You may imagine how heartily I was tired with twenty-four hours post-travelling, without sleep or refreshment (for I can never sleep in a coach, however fatigued.) We passed, by moon-shine, the frightful precipices that divide Bohemia from Saxony, at the bottom, of which runs the river Elbe; but I cannot say, that I had reason to fear drowning in it, being perfectly convinced, that in case of a tumble, it was utterly impossible to come alive to the bottom. In many places, the road is so narrow, that I could not discern an inch of space between the wheels and the precipice. Yet I was so good a wife, as not to wake Mr W——y, who was fast asleep by my side, to make him share in my fears, since the danger was unavoidable, till I perceived, by the bright light of the moon, our postilions nodding on horse-back, while the horses were on a full gallop. Then indeed I thought it very convenient to call out to desire them to look where they were going. My calling waked Mr W——y, and he was much more surprised than myself at the situation we were in, and assured me, that he passed the Alps five times in different places, without ever having gone a road so dangerous. I have been told since, that ’tis common to find the bodies of travellers in the Elbe; but, thank God, that was not our destiny; and we came safe to Dresden, so much tired with fear and fatigue, it was not possible for me to compose myself to write. After passing these dreadful rocks, Dresden appeared to me a wonderfully agreeable situation, in a fine large plain on the banks of the Elbe. I was very glad to stay there a day to rest myself. The town is the neatest I have seen in Germany; most of the houses are new built; the elector’s palace is very handsome, and his repository full of curiosities of different kinds, with a collection of medals very much esteemed. Sir —— our king’s envoy, came to see me here, and Madame de L—— whom I knew in London, when her husband was minister to the king of Poland there. She offered me all things in her power to entertain me, and brought some ladies with her, whom she presented to me. The Saxon ladies resemble the Austrian no more than the Chinese do those of London; they are very genteelly dressed, after the English and French modes, and have generally pretty faces, but they are the most determined minaudieres in the whole world. They would think it a mortal sin against good-breeding, if they either spoke or moved in a natural manner. They all affect a little soft lisp, and a pretty pitty-pat step; which female frailties ought, however, to be forgiven them, in favour of their civility and good nature to strangers, which I have a great deal of reason to praise.
THE countess of Cozelle is kept prisoner in a melancholy castle, some leagues from hence; and I cannot forbear telling you what I have heard of her, because it seems to me very extraordinary, though I foresee I shall swell my letter to the size of a pacquet. — She was mistress to the king of Poland, (elector of Saxony) with so absolute a dominion over him, that never any lady had so much power in that court. They tell a pleasant story of his majesty’s first declaration of love, which he made in a visit to her, bringing in one hand a bag of a hundred thousand crowns, and in the other a horse-shoe, which he snapped asunder before her face, leaving her to draw the consequences of such remarkable proofs of strength and liberality. I know not which charmed her most; but she consented to leave her husband, and to give herself up to him entirely, being divorced publicly, in such a manner, as, by their laws, permits either party to marry again. God knows whether it was at this time, or in some other fond fit, but ’tis certain, the king had the weakness to make her a formal contract of marriage; which, though it could signify nothing during the life of the queen, pleased her so well, that she could not be contented, without telling it to all the people she saw, and giving herself the airs of a queen. Men endure every thing while they are in love; but when the excess of passion was cooled by long possession, his majesty began to reflect on the ill consequences of leaving such a paper in her hands, and desired to have it restored to him. But she rather chose to endure all the most violent effects of his anger, than give it up; and though she is one of the richest and most avaricious ladies of her country, she has refused the offer of the continuation of a large pension, and the security of a vast sum of money she has amassed; and has, at last, provoked the king to confine her person to a castle, where she endures all the terrors of a strait imprisonment, and remains still inflexible, either to threats or promises. Her violent passions have brought her indeed into fits, which ’tis supposed, will soon put an end to her life. I cannot forbear having some compassion for a woman that suffers for a point of honour, however mistaken, especially in a country where points of honour are not over scrupulously observed among ladies.
I COULD have wished Mr W——y’s business had permitted him a longer stay at Dresden.
PERHAPS I am partial to a town where they profess the protestant religion; but every thing seemed to me with quite another air of politeness than I have found in other places. Leipzig, where I am at present, is a town very considerable for its trade, and I take this opportunity of buying pages liveries, gold stuffs for myself, &c. all things of that kind being at least double the price at Vienna; partly because of the excessive customs, and partly through want of genius and industry in the people, who make no one sort of thing there; so that the ladies are obliged to send, even for their shoes, out of Saxony. The fair here is one of the most considerable in Germany, and the resort of all the people of quality, as well as of the merchants. This is also a fortified town, but I avoid ever mentioning fortifications, being sensible that I know not how to speak of them. I am the more easy Under my ignorance, when I reflect that I am sure you’ll willingly forgive the omission; for if I made you the most exact description of all the ravelins and bastions I see in my travels, I dare swear you would ask me, What is a ravelin? and, What is a bastion?
Adieu, my dear sister.
From Brunswick. — Brunswick, for what considerable.
To the Countess of ——.
Brunswick, Nov. 23. O. S. 1716.
I AM just come to Brunswick, a very old town, but which has the advantage of being the capital of the duke of Wolsenbuttle’s dominions, a family (not to speak of its ancient honours) illustrious, by having its younger branch on the throne of England, and having given two empresses to Germany. I have not forgot to drink your health here in mum, which I think very well deserves its reputation of being the best in the world. This letter is the third I have writ to you during my journey; and I declare to you, that if you don’t send me immediately a full and true account of all the changes and chances among our London acquaintance, I will not write you any description of Hanover (where I hope to be to-night) though I know you have more curiosity to hear of that place than any other.
From Hanover. — Bad regululations of the post in Germany — character of the young prince (afterwards king George II.)— short account of Hanover — view of the country in travelling through Germany, compared with England.
To the Countess of B——.
Hanover, Nov. 25. O. S. 1716.
I RECEIVED your ladyship’s letter, but the day before I left Vienna, though, by the date, I ought to have had it much sooner; but nothing was ever worse regulated than the post in most parts of Germany. I can assure you, the pacquet at Prague was behind my chaise, and in that manner conveyed to Dresden, so that the secrets of half the country were at my mercy, if I had had any curiosity for them. I would not longer delay my thanks for yours, though the number of my acquaintances here, and my duty of attending at court, leave me hardly any time to dispose of. I am extremely pleased that I can tell you, without flattery or partiality, that our young prince [The father of his present Majesty.] has all the accomplishments that ’tis possible to have at his age, with an air of sprightliness and understanding, and something so very engaging and easy in his behaviour, that he needs not the advantage of his rank to appear charming. I had the honour of a long conversation with him last night, before the king came in. His governor retired on purpose (as he told me afterwards) that I might make some judgment of his genius, by hearing him speak without constraint; and I was surprised at the quickness and politeness that appeared in every thing he said; joined to a person perfectly agreeable, and the fine fair hair of the princess.
THIS town is neither large nor handsome; but the palace is capable of holding a much greater court than that of St James’s. The king has had the goodness to appoint us a lodging in one part of it, without which we should have been very ill accommodated; for the vast number of English, crowds the town so much, ’tis very good luck to get one sorry room in a miserable tavern. I dined today with the Portuguese ambassador, who thinks himself very happy to have two wretched parlours in an inn. I have now made the tour of Germany, and cannot help observing a considerable difference between travelling here and in England. One sees none of those fine seats of noblemen, so common amongst us, nor any thing like a country gentleman’s house, though they have many situations perfectly fine. But the whole people are divided into absolute sovereignties, where all the riches and magnificence are at Court, or into communities of merchants, such as Nurenburg and Frankfort, where they live always in town for the convenience of trade. The king’s company of French comedians play here every night. They are very well dressed, and some of them not ill actors. His majesty dines and sups constantly in public. The court is very numerous, and his affability and goodness make it one of the most agreeable places in the world.
Dear madam, your, &c. &c.
Hanover. — Description of the women at Hanover — the traineaus or snow-sledges described — particulars of the empress of Germany.
To the Lady R——.
Hanover, Oct. 1. O. S. 1716.
I AM very glad, my dear lady R—— that you have been so well pleased, as you tell me, at the report of my returning to England; though, like other pleasures, I can assure you it has no real foundation. I hope you know me enough to take my word against any report concerning me. ’Tis true, as to distance of place, I am much nearer to London than I was some weeks ago; but, as to the thoughts of a return, I never was farther off in my life. I own, I could with great joy indulge the pleasing hopes of seeing you, and the very few others that share my esteem; but while Mr W—— is determined to proceed in his design, I am determined to follow him. I am running on upon my own affairs, that is to say, I am going to write very dully, as most people do when they write of themselves. I will make haste to change the disagreeable subject, by telling you, that I am now got into the region of beauty. All the women have (literally) rosy cheeks, snowy foreheads and bosoms, jet eye-brows, and scarlet lips, to which they generally add coal-black hair. Those perfections never leave them, till the hour of their deaths, and have a very fine effect by candle light; but I could wish they were handsome with a little more variety. They resemble one another as much as Mrs Salmon’s court of Great Britain, and are in as much danger of melting away, by too near approaching the fire, which they for that reason carefully avoid, though ’tis now such excessive cold weather, that I believe they suffer extremely by that piece of self-denial. The snow is already very deep, and the people begin to slide about in their traineaus. This is a favourite diversion all over Germany. They are little machines fixed upon a sledge, that hold a lady and gentleman, and are drawn by one horse. The gentleman has the honour of driving, and they move with a prodigious swiftness. The lady, the horse, and the traineau, are all as fine as they can be made; and when there are many of them together, ’tis a very agreeable show. At Vienna, where all pieces of magnificence are carried to excess, there are sometimes machines of this kind, that cost five or six hundred pounds English. The duke of Wolfenbuttle is now at this court; you know he is nearly related to our king, and uncle to the reigning empress, who is, I believe, the most beautiful princess upon earth. She is now with child, which is all the consolation of the imperial court, for the loss of the archduke. I took my leave of her the day before I left Vienna, and she began to speak to me with so much grief and tenderness, of the death of that young prince, I had much ado to withhold my tears. You know that I am not at all partial to people for their titles; but I own, that I love that charming princess, (if I may use so familiar an expression) and if I had not, I should have been very much moved at the tragical end of an only son, born, after being so long desired, and at length killed by want of good management, weaning him in the beginning of the winter. Adieu, dear lady R——; continue to write to me, and believe none of your goodness is lost upon
Blankenburg. — Motive of Lady M’s journey to Blankenburg — her reception by the duchess of Blankenburg — the description of Hanover continued — perfection to which fruit is brought by means of stoves at Herenhausen — recommendation of chamber-stoves.
To the Countess of ——.
Blankenburg, OCT. 17. O. S. 1716.
I RECEIVED your’s, dear sister, the very day I left Hanover. You may easily imagine I was then in too great a hurry to answer it; but you see I take the first opportunity of doing myself that pleasure. I came here the 15th, very late at night, after a terrible journey, in the worst roads and weather that ever poor traveller suffered. I have taken this little fatigue merely to oblige the reigning empress, and carry a message from her imperial majesty to the duchess of Blankenburg, her mother, who is a princess of great address and good-breeding, and may be still called a fine woman. It was so late when I came to this town, I did not think it proper to disturb the duke and duchess with the news of my arrival; so I took up my quarters in a miserable inn: but as soon as I had sent my compliments to their highnesses, they immediately sent me their own coach and six horses, which had however enough to do to draw us up the very high hill on which the castle is situated. The duchess is extremely obliging to me, and this little court is not without its diversions. The duke taillys at basset every night; and the duchess tells me, she is so well pleased with my company, that it makes her play less than she used to do. I should find it very difficult to steal time to write, if she was not now at church, where I cannot wait on her, not understanding the language enough to pay my devotions in it. You will not forgive me, if I do not say something of Hanover; I cannot tell you that the town is either large or magnificent. The opera house, which was built by the late elector, is much finer than that of Vienna. I was very sorry that the ill weather did not permit me to see Hernhausen in all its beauty; but in spite of the snow, I thought the gardens very fine. I was particularly surprised at the vast number of orange trees, much larger than any I have ever seen in England, though this climate is certainly colder. But I had more reason to wonder that night at the king’s table, to see a present from a gentleman of this country, of two large baskets full of ripe oranges and lemons of different sorts, many of which were quite new to me; and what I thought worth all the rest, two ripe ananasses, which, to my taste, are a fruit perfectly delicious. You know they are naturally the growth of Brazil, and I could not imagine how they came here, but by enchantment. Upon inquiry, I learnt that they have brought their stoves to such perfection, they lengthen their summer as long as they please, giving to every plant the degree of heat it would receive from the sun in its native soil. The effect is very near the same; I am surprised we do not practise in England so useful an invention. This reflection leads me to consider our obstinacy in shaking with cold, five months in the year rather than make use of stoves, which are certainly one of the greatest conveniencies of life. Besides, they are so far from spoiling the form of a room, that they add very much to the magnificence of it, when they are painted and gilt, as they are at Vienna, or at Dresden, where they are often in the shapes of china jars, statues, or fine cabinets, so naturally represented, that they are not to be distinguished. If ever I return, in defiance to the fashion, you shall certainly see one in the chamber of,
Dear sister, your, &c.
I WILL write often, since you desire it: but I must beg you to be a little more particular in your’s; you fancy me at forty miles distance, and forget, that, after so long an absence, I can’t understand hints.
From Vienna. — Diversions of the carnival — remarks on the music and balls — the Italian comedy — the air and weather at Vienna — the markets and provisions.
To the Lady ——.
Vienna, Jan. 1. O. S. 1717
I HAVE just received here at Vienna, your ladyship’s compliments on my return to England, sent me from Hanover. You see, madam, all things that are asserted with confidence are not absolutely true; and that you have no sort of reason to complain of me for making my designed return a mystery to you, when you say, all the world are informed of it. You may tell all the world in my name, that they are never so well informed of my affairs as I am myself; that I am very positive I am at this time at Vienna, where the carnival is begun, and all sorts of diversions are carried to the greatest height, except that of masquing, which is never permitted during a war with the Turks. The balls are in public places, where the men pay a gold ducat at entrance, but the ladies nothing. I am told, that these houses get sometimes a thousand ducats in a night. They are very magnificently furnished, and the music good, if they had not that detestible custom of mixing hunting horns with it, that almost deafen the company. But that noise is so agreeable here, they never make a concert without them. The ball always concludes with English country dances, to the number of thirty or forty couple, and so ill danced, that there is very little pleasure in them. They know but half a dozen, and they have danced them over and over these fifty years: I would fain have taught them some new ones, but I found it would be some months labour to make them comprehend them. Last night there was an Italian comedy acted at court. The scenes were pretty, but the comedy itself such intolerable low farce, without either wit or humour, that I was surprised how all the court could sit there attentively for four hours together. No women are suffered to act on the stage, and the men dressed like them, were such awkward figures, they very much added to the ridicule of the spectacle. What completed the diversion, was the excessive cold, which was so great, I thought I should have died there. It is now the very extremity of the winter here; the Danube is entirely frozen, and the weather not to be supported without stoves and furs; but, however, the air so clear, almost every body is well, and colds not half so common as in England. I am persuaded there cannot be a purer air, nor more wholesome, than that of Vienna. The plenty and excellence of all sorts of provisions are greater here than in any place I ever was before, and ’tis not very expensive to keep a splendid table. ’Tis really a pleasure to pass through the markets, and see the abundance of what we should think rarities, of fowls and venison, that are daily brought in from Hungary and Bohemia. They want nothing but shell-fish, and are so fond of oysters, that they have them sent from Venice, and eat them very greedily, stink or not stink. Thus I obey your commands, madam, in giving you an account of Vienna, though I know you will not be satisfied with it. You chide me for my laziness, in not telling you a thousand agreeable and surprising things, that you say you are sure I have seen and heard. Upon my Word, madam, ’tis my regard to truth, and not laziness, that I do not entertain you with as many prodigies as other travellers use to divert their readers with. I might easily pick up wonders in every town I pass through, or tell you a long series of popish miracles; but I cannot fancy, that there is any thing new in letting you know that priests will lie, and the mob believe, all the world over. Then as for news, that you are so inquisitive about, how can it be entertaining to you (that don’t know the people) that the prince of —— has forsaken the countess of ——? or that the prince such a one, has an intrigue with the countess such a one? Would you have me write novels like the countess of D’——? and is it not better to tell you a plain truth,
That I am, &c.
Vienna. — Lady M’s audience of leave — absurd taste for dwarfs at the German courts — reflections on this taste — remarks on the inhabitants of Vienna — a word or two concerning prince Eugene, and the young prince of Portugal.
To The Countess of ——.
Vienna, Jan. 16. O. S. 1717.
I AM now, dear sister, to take leave of you for a long time, and of Vienna for ever; designing tomorrow, to begin my journey through Hungary, in spite of the excessive cold, and deep snows, which are enough to damp a greater courage than I am mistress of. But my principles of passive obedience, carries me through every thing. I have had my audience of leave of the empress. His imperial majesty was pleased to be present, when I waited on the reigning empress; and, after a very obliging conversation, both their imperial majesties invited me to take Vienna in my road back; but I have no thoughts of enduring, over again, so great a fatigue. I delivered a letter from the duchess of Blankenburg. I stayed but a few days at that court, though her highness pressed me very much to stay; and when I left her, engaged me to write to her. I wrote you a long letter from thence, which I hope you have received, though you don’t mention it; but I believe I forgot to tell you one curiosity in all the German courts, which I cannot forbear taking notice of: All the princes keep favourite dwarfs. The emperor and empress have two of these little monsters, as ugly as devils, especially the female; but they are all bedaubed with diamonds, and stand at her majesty’s elbow, in all public places. The duke of Wolfenbuttle has one, and the duchess of Blankenburg is not without hers, but indeed the most proportionable I ever saw. I am told the king of Denmark has so far improved upon this fashion, that his dwarf is his chief minister. I can assign no reason for their fondness for these pieces of deformity, but the opinion all the absolute princes have, that it is below them to converse with the rest of mankind; and not to be quite alone, they are forced to seek their companions among the refuse of human nature, these creatures being the only part of their court privileged to talk freely to them. I am at present confined to my chamber by a sore throat; and am really glad of the excuse, to avoid seeing people, that I love well enough, to be very much mortified when I think I am going to part with them for ever. ’Tis true, the Austrians are not commonly the most polite people in the world, nor the most agreeable. But Vienna is inhabited by all nations, and I had formed to myself a little society of such as were perfectly to my own taste. And though the number was not very great, I could never pick up, in any other place, such a number of reasonable, agreeable people. We were almost always together, and you know I have ever been of opinion, that a chosen conversation, composed of a few that one esteems, is the greatest happiness of life. Here are some Spaniards of both sexes, that have all the vivacity and generosity of sentiments anciently ascribed to their nation; and could I believe that the whole kingdom were like them, I would with nothing more than to end my days there. The ladies of my acquaintance have so much goodness for me, they cry whenever they see me, since I have determined to undertake this journey. And, indeed, I am not very easy when I reflect on what I am going to suffer. Almost every body I see frights me with some new difficulty. Prince Eugene has been so good as to say all the things he could, to persuade me to stay till the Danube is thawed, that I may have the conveniency of going by water; assuring me, that the houses in Hungary are such, as are no defence against the weather; and that I shall be obliged to travel three or four days between Buda and Essek, without finding any house at all, through desert plains covered with snow; where the cold is so violent, many have been killed by it. I own these terrors have made a very deep impression on my mind, because I believe he tells me things truly as they are, and no body can be better informed of them.
NOW I have named that great man, I am sure you expect I should say Something particular of him, having the advantage of seeing him very often; but I am as unwilling to speak of him at Vienna, as I should be to talk of Hercules in the court of Omphale, if I had seen him there. I don’t know what comfort other people find in considering the weakness of great men, (because, perhaps, it brings them nearer to their level) but ’tis always a mortification to me, to observe that there is no perfection in humanity. The young prince of Portugal is the admiration of the whole court; he is handsome and polite, with a great vivacity. All the officers tell wonders of his gallantry the last campaign. He is lodged at court with all the honours due to his rank. — Adieu, dear sister: this is the last account you will have from me of Vienna. If I survive my journey, you shall hear from me again. I can say, with great truth, in the words of Moneses, I have long learnt to hold myself as nothing; but when I think of the fatigue my poor infant must suffer, I have all a mother’s fondness in my eyes, and all her tender passions in my heart.
P. S. I have written a letter to my lady —— that I believe she won’t like; and, upon cooler reflection, I think I had done better to have let it alone; but I was downright peevish at all her questions, and her ridiculous imagination, that I have certainly seen abundance of wonders which I keep to myself out of mere malice. She is very angry that I won’t lie like other travellers. I verily believe she expects I should tell her of the Anthropophagi, men whose heads grow below their shoulders; however, pray say Something to pacify her.
Vienna. — Reflections on her intended journey to Constantinople.
To Mr Pope.
Vienna, Jan. 16. O. S. 1717.
I HAVE not time to answer your letter, being in the hurry of preparing for my journey; but, I think, I ought to bid adieu to my friends with the same solemnity as if I was going to mount a breach, at least, if I am to believe the information of the people here, who denounce all sorts of terrors to me; and, indeed, the weather is at present such, as very few ever set out in. I am threatened at the same time, with being frozen to death, buried in the snow, and taken by the Tartars, who ravage that part of Hungary I am to pass. ’Tis true, we shall have a considerable escorte, so that possibly I may be diverted with a new scene, by finding myself in the midst of a battle. How my adventures will conclude, I leave entirely to Providence; if comically, you shall hear of them. — Pray be so good as to tell Mr —— I have received his letter. Make him my adieus; if I live, I will answer it. The same compliment to my lady R——.
From Peterwaradin. — Journey from Vienna hither — reception at Raab — visit from the bishop of Temeswar, with his character — description of Raab — its revolutions — remarks on the state of Hungary, with the Emperor Leopold’s persecution of his protestant Hungarian subjects — description of Buda — its revolutions — the inhabitants of Hungary — Essec described — the Hungarian ladies and their dress.
To the Countess of ——.
Peterwaradin, Jan. 30. O. S. 1717.
AT length, dear sister I am safely arrived, with all my family, in good health, at Peterwaradin; having suffered so little from the rigour of the season, (against which we were well provided by furs) and found such tolerable accommodation every where, by the care of sending before, that I can hardly forbear laughing, when I recollect all the frightful ideas that were given me of this journey. These, I see, were wholly owing to the tenderness of my Vienna friends, and their desire of keeping me with them for this winter. Perhaps it will not be disagreeable to you, to give a short journal of my journey, being through a country entirely unknown to you, and very little passed, even by the Hungarians themselves, who generally chuse to take the conveniency of going down the Danube. We have had the blessing of being favoured with finer weather than is common at this time of the year; though the snow was so deep, we were obliged to have our own coaches fixed upon traineaus, which move so swift and so easily, ’tis by far the most agreeable manner of travelling post. We came to Raab (the second day from Vienna) on the seventeenth instant, where Mr W—— sending word of our arrival to the governor, the best house in the town was provided for us, the garrison put under arms, a guard ordered at our door, and all other honours paid to us. The governor, and all other officers immediately waited on Mr W—— to know if there was any thing to be done for his service. The bishop of Temeswar came to visit us, with great civility, earnestly pressing us to dine with him next day; which we refusing, as being resolved to pursue our journey, he sent us several baskets of winter fruit, and a great variety of Hungarian wines, with a young hind just killed. This is a prelate of great power in this country, of the ancient family of Nadasti, so considerable for many ages, in this kingdom. He is a very polite, agreeable, cheerful old man, wearing the Hungarian habit, with a venerable white beard down to his girdle. — Raab is a strong town, well garrisoned and fortified, and was a long time the frontier town between the Turkish and German empires. It has its name from the River Rab, on which it is situated, just on its meeting with the Danube, in an open champaign country. It was first taken by the Turks, under the command of bassa Sinan, in the reign of sultan Amurath III. in the year fifteen hundred and ninety-four. The governor, being supposed to have betrayed it, was afterwards beheaded by the emperor’s command. The counts of Swartzenburg; and Palsi retook it by surprise, 1598; since which time it has remained in the hands of the Germans, though the Turks once more attempted to gain it by stratagem in 1642. The cathedral is large and well built, which is all I saw remarkable in the town. Leaving Comora on the other side the river, we went the eighteenth to Nosmuhl, a small village, where however, we made shift to find tolerable accommodation. We continued two days travelling between this place and Buda, through the finest plains in the world, as even as if they were paved, and extremely fruitful; but for the most part desert and uncultivated, laid waste by the long wars between the Turk and the Emperor; and the more cruel civil war, occasioned by the barbarous persecution of the protestant religion by the emperor Leopold. That prince has left behind him the character of an extraordinary piety, and was naturally of a mild merciful temper; but, putting his conscience into the hands of a Jesuit, he was more cruel and treacherous to his poor Hungarian subjects, than ever the Turk has been to the Christians; breaking, without scruple his coronation oath, and his faith, solemnly given in many public treaties. Indeed, nothing can be more melancholy than in travelling through Hungary, to reflect on the former flourishing state of that kingdom, and to see such a noble spot of earth almost uninhabited. Such are also the present circumstances of Buda (where we arrived very early the twenty-second) once the royal seat of the Hungarian kings, whose palace was reckoned one of the most beautiful buildings of the age, now wholly destroyed, no part of the town having been repaired since the last siege, but the fortifications and the castle, which is the present residence of the governor general Ragule, an officer of great merit. He came immediately to see us, and carried us in his coach to his house, where I was received by his lady with all possible civility, and magnificently entertained. This city is situated upon a little hill on the south side of the Danube. The castle is much higher than the town, and from it the prospect is very noble. Without the walls ly a vast number of little houses, or rather huts, that they call the Rascian town, being altogether inhabited by that people. The governor assured me, it would furnish twelve thousand fighting men. These towns look very odd; their houses stand in rows, many thousands of them so close together, that they appear, at a little distance, like old-fashioned thatched tents. They consist, every one of them, of one hovel above, and another under ground; these are their summer and winter apartments. Buda was first taken by Solyman the Magnificent, in 1526, and lost the following year to Ferdinand I, king of Bohemia. Solyman regained it by the treachery of the garrison, and voluntarily gave it into the hands of king John of Hungary; after whose death, his son being an infant, Ferdinand laid siege to it, and the queen mother was forced to call Solyman to her aid. He indeed raised the siege, but left a Turkish garrison in the town, and commanded her to remove her court from thence, which she was forced to submit to, in 1541. It resisted afterwards the sieges laid to it by the marquis of Brandenburg, in the year 1542; count Schwartzenburg, in 1598; General Rosworm, in 1602; and the duke of Lorrain, commander of the emperor’s forces, in 1684, to whom it yielded, in 1686, after an obstinate defence, Apti Bassa, the governor, being killed, fighting in the breach with a Roman bravery. The loss of this town was so important, and so much resented by the Turks, that it occasioned the deposing of their emperor Mahomet IV. the year following.
WE did not proceed on our journey till the twenty-third, when we passed through Adam and Todowar, both considerable towns, when in the hands of the Turks, but now quite ruined. The remains, however, of some Turkish towns, shew something of what they have been. This part of the country is very much overgrown with wood, and little frequented. ’Tis incredible what vast numbers of wild-fowl we saw, which often live here to a good old age — and undisturb’d by guns, in quiet sleep. — We came the five and twentieth, to Mohatch, and were shewed the field near it, where Lewis, the young king of Hungary lost his army and his life, being drowned in a ditch, trying to fly from Balybeus, general of Solyman the Magnificent. This battle opened the first passage for the Turks into the heart of Hungary. — I don’t name to you the little villages, of which I can say nothing remarkable; but I’ll assure you, I have always found a warm stove, and great plenty, particularly of wild boar, venison, and all kinds of gibier. The few people that inhabit Hungary, live easily enough; they have no money, but the woods and plains afford them provision in great abundance; they were ordered to give us all things necessary, even what horses we pleased to demand, gratis; but Mr W——y would not oppress the poor country people, by making use of this order, and always paid them to the full worth of what we had. They were so surprised at this unexpected generosity, which they are very little used to, that they always pressed upon us, at parting, a dozen of fat pheasants, or something of that sort, for a present. Their dress is very primitive, being only a plain sheep’s skin, and a cap and boots of the same stuff. You may easily imagine this lasts them many winters; and thus they have very little occasion for money. The twenty-sixth, we passed over the frozen Danube, with all our equipage and carriages. We met on the other side general Veterani, who invited us, with great civility, to pass the night at a little castle of his, a few miles off, assuring us we should have a very hard day’s journey to reach Essek. This we found but too true, the woods being very dangerous, and scarce passable, from the vast quantity of wolves that hoard in them. We came, however, safe, though late to Essek, where we stayed a day, to dispatch a courier with letters to the bassa of Belgrade; and I took that opportunity of seeing the town, which is not very large, but fair built, and well fortified. This was a town of great trade, very rich and populous, when in the hands of the Turks. It is situated on the Drave, which runs into the Danube. The bridge was esteemed one of the most extraordinary in the world, being eight thousand paces long, and all built of oak. It was burnt, and the city laid in ashes by count Lesly, 1685, but was again repaired and fortified by the Turks, who, however, abandoned it in 1687. General Dunnewalt then took possession of it for the emperor, in whose hands it has remained ever since, and is esteemed one of the bulwarks of Hungary. The twenty-eighth, we went to Bocorwar, a very large Rascian town, all built after the manner I have described to you. We were met there by colonel —— who would not suffer us to go any where but to his quarters, where I found his wife, a very agreeable Hungarian lady, and his niece and daughter, two pretty young women, crowded into three or four Rascian houses, cast into one, and made as neat and convenient as those places are capable of being made. The Hungarian ladies are much handsomer than those of Austria. All the Vienna beauties are of that country; they are generally very fair and well-shaped, and their dress, I think, is extremely becoming. This lady was in a gown of scarlet velvet, lined and faced with sables, made exact to her shape, and the skirt falling to her feet. The sleeves are strait to their arms, and the stays buttoned before, with two rows of little buttons of gold, pearl, or diamonds. On their heads they wear a tassel of gold, that hangs low on one side, lined with sable, or some other fine fur. —— They gave us a handsome dinner, and I thought the conversation very polite and agreeable. They would accompany us part of our way. The twenty-ninth, we arrived here, where we were met by the commanding officer, at the head of all the officers of the garrison. We are lodged in the best apartment of the governor’s house, and entertained in a very splendid manner by the emperor’s order. We wait here till all points are adjusted, concerning our reception on the Turkish frontiers. Mr W——‘s courier, which he sent from Essek, returned this morning, with the bassa’s answer in a purse of scarlet satin, which the interpreter here has translated. ’Tis to promise him to be honourably received. I desired him to appoint where he would be met by the Turkish convoy. — He has dispatched the courier back, naming Betsko, a village in the midway between Peterwaradin and Belgrade. We shall stay here till we receive his answer. — Thus, dear sister, I have given you a very particular, and (I am afraid you’ll think) a tedious account of this part of my travels. It was not an affectation of shewing my reading that has made me tell you some little scraps of the history of the towns I have passed through; I have always avoided any thing of that kind, when I spoke Of places that I believe you knew the story of as well as myself. But Hungary being a part of the world, which I believe quite new to you, I thought you might read with some pleasure an account of it, which I have been very solicitous to get from the best hands. However, if you don’t like it, ’tis in your power to forbear reading it.
I am, dear sister, &c.
I AM promised to have this letter carefully sent to Vienna.
From Belgrade. — Character of the Rascian soldiers — their priests — appearance of the field of Carlowitz, after the late battle between prince Eugene and the Turks — reception at, and account of Belgrade — the murder of the late Bassa — character of Achmet Beg.
To Mr Pope.
Belgrade, Feb. 12. O. S. 1717.
I DID verily intend to write you a long letter from Peterwaradin, where I expected to stay three or four days; but the bassa here was in such haste to see us, that he dispatched the courier back (which Mr W—— had sent to know the time he would send the convoy to meet us) without suffering him to pull off his boots. My letters were not thought important enough to stop our journey; and we left Peterwaradin the next day, being waited on by the chief officers of the garrison, and a considerable convoy of Germans and Rascians. The emperor has several regiments of these people; but, to say the truth, they are rather plunderers than soldiers; having no pay, and being obliged to furnish their own arms and horses; they rather look like vagabond gypsies, or stout beggars, than regular troops. I cannot forbear speaking a word of this race of creatures, who are very numerous all over Hungary. They have a patriarch of their own at Grand Cairo, and are really of the Greek church; but their extreme ignorance gives their priests occasion to impose several new notions upon them. These fellows, letting their hair and beard grow inviolate, make exactly the figure of the Indian bramins. They are heirs-general to all the money of the laity; for which, in return, they give them formal passports signed and sealed for heaven; and the wives and children only inherit the house and cattle. In most other points they follow the Greek church. — This little digression has interrupted my telling you we passed over the fields of Carlowitz, where the last great victory was obtained by prince Eugene over the Turks. The marks of that glorious bloody day are yet recent, the field being yet strewed with the skulls and carcasses of unburied men, horses, and camels. I could not look, without horror, on such numbers of mangled human bodies, nor without reflecting on the injustice of war, that makes murder not only necessary but meritorious. Nothing seems to be a plainer proof of the irrationality of mankind (whatever fine claims we pretend to reason) than the rage with which they contest for a small spot of ground, when such vast parts of fruitful earth lie quite uninhabited. ’Tis true, custom has now made it unavoidable; but can there be a greater demonstration of want of reason, than a custom being firmly established, so plainly contrary to the interest of man in general? I am a good deal inclined to believe Mr Hobbs, that the state of nature is a state of war; but thence I conclude human nature, not rational, if the word reason means common sense, as I suppose it does. I have a great many admirable arguments to support this refection; I won’t however trouble you with them, but return, in a plain style, to the history of my travels.
WE were met at Betsko (a village in the midway between Belgrade and Peterwaradin) by an aga of the janizaries, with a body of Turks, exceeding the Germans by one hundred men, though the bassa had engaged to send exactly the same number. You may judge by this of their fears. I am really persuaded, that they hardly thought the odds of one hundred men set them even with the Germans; however, I was very uneasy till they were parted, fearing some quarrel might arise, notwithstanding the parole given. We came late to Belgrade, the deep snows making the ascent to it very difficult. It seems a strong city, fortified on the east side by the Danube; and on the south by the river Save, and was formerly the barrier of Hungary. It was first taken by Solyman the Magnificent, and since by the emperor’s forces, led by the elector of Bavaria. The emperor held it only two Years, it being retaken by the grand vizier. It is now fortified with the utmost care and skill the Turks are capable of, and strengthened by a very numerous garrison of their bravest janizaries, commanded by a bassa seraskier (i.e. general) though this last expression is not very just; for, to say truth, the seraskier is commanded by the janizaries. These troops have an absolute authority here, and their conduct carries much more the aspect of rebellion, than the appearance of subordination. You may judge of this by the following story, which, at the same time, will give you an idea of the admirable intelligence of the governor of Peterwaradin, though so few hours distant. We were told by him at Peterwaradin, that the garrison and inhabitants of Belgrade were so weary of the war, they had killed their bassa about two months ago, in a mutiny, because he had suffered himself to be prevailed upon, by a bribe of five purses (five hundred pounds sterling) to give permission to the Tartars to ravage the German frontiers. We were very well pleased to hear of such favourable dispositions in the people; but when we came hither, we found the governor had been ill-informed, and the real truth of the story to be this. The late bassa fell under the displeasure of his soldiers; for no other reason, but restraining their incursions on the Germans. They took it into their heads, from that mildness, that he had intelligence with the enemy, and sent such information to the grand signior at Adrianople; but, redress not coming quick enough from thence, they assembled themselves in a tumultuous manner, and by force dragged their bassa before the cadi and mufti, and there demanded justice in a mutinous way; one crying out, Why he protected the infidels? Another, Why he squeezed them of their money? The bassa easily guessing their purpose, calmly replied to them, that they asked him too many questions, and that he had but one life, which must answer for all. They then immediately fell upon him with their scimitars (without waiting the sentence of their heads of the law) and in a few moments cut him in pieces. The present bassa has not dared to punish the murder; on the contrary, he affected to applaud the actors of it, as brave fellows, that knew to do themselves justice. He takes all pretences of throwing money among the garrison, and suffers them to make little excursions into Hungary, where they burn some poor Rascian houses.
You may imagine, I cannot be very easy in a town which is really under the government of an insolent soldiery. — We expected to be immediately dismissed, after a night’s lodging here, but the bassa detains us till he receives orders from Adrianople, which may, possibly be a month a-coming. In the mean time, we are lodged in one of the best houses, belonging to a very considerable man amongst them, and have a whole chamber of janizaries to guard us. My only diversion is the conversation of our host, Achmet Beg, a title something like that of count in Germany. His father was a great bassa, and he has been educated in the most polite eastern learning, being perfectly skilled in the Arabic and Persian languages, and an extraordinary scribe, which they call effendi. This accomplishment makes way to the greatest preferments; but he has had the good sense to prefer an easy, quiet, secure life, to all the dangerous honours of the Porte. He sups with us every night, and drinks wine very freely. You cannot imagine how much he is delighted with the liberty of conversing with me. He has explained to me many pieces of Arabian poetry, which, I observe, are in numbers not unlike ours, generally of an alternate verse, and of a very musical sound. Their expressions of love are very passionate and lively. I am so much pleased with them, I really believe I should learn to read Arabic, if I was to stay here a few months. He has a very good library of their books of all kinds; and, as he tells me, spends the greatest part of his life there. I pass for a great scholar with him, by relating to him some of the Persian tales, which I find are genuine. At first he believed I understood Persian. I have frequent disputes with him concerning the difference of our customs, particularly the confinement of women. He assures me, there is nothing at all in it; only, says he, we have the advantage, that when our wives cheat us, nobody knows it. He has wit, and is more polite than many Christian men of quality. I am very much entertained with him. — He has had the curiosity to make one of our servants set him an alphabet of our letters, and can already write a good Roman hand. But these amusements do not hinder my wishing heartily to be out of this place; though the weather is colder than I believe it ever was, any where, but in Greenland. — We have a very large stove constantly kept hot, and yet the windows of the room are frozen on the inside. — God knows when I may have an opportunity of sending this letter: but I have written it, for the discharge of my own conscience and you cannot now reproach me, that one of yours makes ten of mine. Adieu.
From Adrianople. — Description of the deserts and inhabitants of Servia — Nissa the capital — cruel treatment of the baggage-carriers by the janizaries — some account of Sophia — Philippopolis — fine country about Adrianople.
To Her R. H. The Princess of Wales [The late Queen Caroline.]
Adrianople, April 1. O. S. 1717.
I HAVE now, madam, finished a journey that has not been undertaken by any Christian since the time of the Greek emperors: and I shall not regret all the fatigues I have suffered in it, if it gives me an opportunity of amusing your R. H. by an account of places utterly unknown amongst us; the emperor’s ambassadors, and those few English that have come hither, always going on the Danube to Nicopolis. But the river was now frozen, and Mr W—— was so zealous for the service of his Majesty, that he would not defer his journey to wait for the conveniency of that passage. We crossed the deserts of Servia, almost quite over-grown with wood, through a country naturally fertile. The inhabitants are industrious; but the oppression of the peasants is so great, they are forced to abandon their houses, and neglect their tillage, all they have being a prey to the janizaries, whenever they please to seize upon it. We had a guard of five hundred of them, and I was almost in tears every day, to see their insolencies in the poor villages through which we passed. — After seven days travelling through thick woods, we came to Nissa, once the capital of Servia, situated in a fine plain on the river Nissava, in a very good air, and so fruitful a soil, that the great plenty is hardly credible. I was certainly assured, that the quantity of wine last vintage was so prodigious, that they were forced to dig holes in the earth to put it in, not having vessels enough in the town to hold it. The happiness of this plenty is scarce perceived by the oppressed people. I saw here a new occasion for my compassion. The wretches that had provided twenty waggons for our baggage from Belgrade hither for a certain hire, being all sent back without payment, some of their horses lamed, and others killed, without any satisfaction made for them. The poor fellows came round the house weeping and tearing their hair and beards in a most pitiful manner, without getting any thing but drubs from the insolent soldiers. I cannot express to your R. H. how much I was moved at this scene. I would have paid them the money out of my own pocket, with all my heart; but it Would only have been giving so much to the aga, who would have taken it from them without any remorse. After four days journey from this place over the mountains, we came to Sophia, situated in a large beautiful plain on the river Isca, and surrounded with distant mountains. ’Tis hardly possible to see a more agreeable landscape. The city itself is very large, and extremely populous. Here are hot baths, very famous for their medicinal virtues. — Four days journey from hence we arrived at Philippopolis, after having passed the ridges between the mountains of Haemus and Rhodope, which are always covered with snow. This town is situated on a rising ground near the river Hebrus, and is almost wholly inhabited by Greeks; here are still some ancient Christian churches. They have a bishop; and several Of the richest Greeks live here; but they are forced to conceal their wealth with great care, the appearance of poverty [which includes part of its inconveniencies ] being all their security against feeling it in earnest. The country from hence to Adrianople, is the finest in the world. Vines grow wild on all the hills; and the perpetual spring they enjoy makes every thing gay and flourishing. But this climate, happy as it seems, can never be preferred to England, with all its frosts and snows, while we are blessed with an easy government, under a king, who makes his own happiness consist in the liberty of his people, and chuses rather to be looked upon as their father than their master. — This theme would carry me very far, and I am sensible, I have already tired out your R. H.‘s patience. But my letter is in your hands, and you may make it as short as you please, by throwing it into the fire, when weary of reading it. I am, madam,
With the greatest respect, &c.
Adrianople. — Entertaining account of the baths at Sophia, and Lady M’s reception at them.
To the Lady ——.
Adrianople, April 1. O. S. 1717.
I AM now got into a new world, where every thing I see appears to me a change of scene; and I write to your ladyship with some content of mind, hoping, at least, that you will find the charms of novelty in my letters, and no longer reproach me, that I tell you nothing extraordinary. I won’t trouble you with a relation of our tedious journey; but must not omit what I saw remarkable at Sophia, one of the most beautiful towns in the Turkish empire, and famous for its hot baths, that are resorted to both for diversion and health. I stopped here one day, on purpose to see them; and, designing to go incognito, I hired a Turkish coach. These voitures are not at all like ours, but much more convenient for the country, the heat being so great, that glasses would be very troublesome. They are made a good deal in the manner of the Dutch stage-coaches, having wooden lattices painted and gilded; the inside being also painted with baskets and nosegays of flowers, intermixed commonly with little poetical mottos. They are covered all over with scarlet cloth, lined with silk, and very often richly embroidered and fringed. This covering entirely hides the persons in them, but may be thrown back at pleasure, and thus permits the ladies to peep through the lattices. They hold four people very conveniently, seated on cushions, but not raised.
IN one of these covered waggons, I went to the bagnio about ten o’clock. It was already full of women. It is built of stone, in the shape of a dome, with no windows but in the roof, which gives light enough. There were five of these domes joined together, the outmost being less than the rest, and serving only as a hall, where the portress stood at the door. Ladies of quality generally give this woman a crown or ten shillings; and I did not forget that ceremony. The next room is a very large one paved with marble, and all round it are two raised sofas of marble, one above another. There were four fountains of cold water in this room, falling first into marble basons, and then running on the floor in little channels made for that purpose, which carried the streams into the next room, something less than this, with the same sort of marble sofas, but so hot with steams of sulphur proceeding from the baths joining to it, ’twas impossible to stay there with one’s cloaths on. The two other domes were the hot baths, one of which had cocks of cold water turning into it, to temper it to what degree of warmth the bathers pleased to have.
I WAS in my travelling habit, which is a riding dress, and certainly appeared very extraordinary to them. Yet there was not one of them that shewed the least surprise or impertinent curiosity, but received me with all the obliging civility possible. I know no European court, where the ladies would have behaved themselves in so polite a manner to such a stranger. I believe, upon the whole, there were two hundred women, and yet none of those disdainful smiles, and satirical whispers, that never fail in our assemblies, when any body appears that is not dressed exactly in the fashion. They repeated over and over to me; “UZELLE, PEK UZELLE,” which is nothing but, Charming, very Charming. — The first sofas were covered with cushions and rich carpets, on which sat the ladies; and on the second, their slaves behind them, but without any distinction of rank by their dress, all being in the state of nature, that is, in plain English, stark naked, without any beauty or defect concealed. Yet there was not the least wanton smile or immodest gesture amongst them. They walked and moved with the same majestic grace, which Milton describes our general mother with. There were many amongst them, as exactly proportioned as ever any goddess was drawn by the pencil of a Guido or Titian — and most of their skins shiningly white, only adorned by their beautiful hair divided into many tresses, hanging on their shoulders, braided either with pearl or ribbon, perfectly representing the figures of the Graces.
I WAS here convinced of the truth of a reflection I have often made, That if it were the fashion to go naked, the face would be hardly observed. I perceived, that the ladies of the most delicate skins and finest shapes had the greatest share of my admiration, though their faces were sometimes less beautiful than those of their companions. To tell you the truth, I had wickedness enough, to wish secretly, that Mr Gervais could have been there invisible. I fancy it would have very much improved his art, to see so many fine women naked, in different postures, some in conversation, some working, others drinking coffee or sherbet, and many negligently lying on their cushions, while their slaves (generally pretty girls of seventeen or eighteen) were employed in braiding their hair in several pretty fancies. In short, ’tis the women’s coffee-house, where all the news of the town is told, scandal invented, &c. — They generally take this diversion once a-week, and stay there at least four or five hours, without getting cold by immediate coming out of the hot bath into the cold room, which was very surprising to me. The lady, that seemed the most considerable among them, entreated me to sit by her, and would fain have undressed me for the bath. I excused myself with some difficulty. They being however all so earnest in persuading me, I was at last forced to open my shirt, and shew them my stays; which satisfied them very well; for, I saw, they believed I was locked up in that machine, and that it was not in my own power to open it, which contrivance they attributed to my husband — I was charmed with their civility and beauty, and should have been very glad to pass more time with them; but Mr W—— resolving to pursue his journey next morning early, I was in haste to see the ruins of Justinian’s church, which did not afford me so agreeable a prospect as I had left, being little more than a heap Of stones.
ADIEU, madam, I am sure I have now entertained you with an account of such a sight as you never saw in your life, and what no book of travels could inform you of, as ’tis no less than death for a man to be found in one of these places.
Adrianople. — Why our account of the Turks are so imperfect — oppressed condition of the Servians — teeth money, what — character of the Turkish effendis — farther particulars of Achmet Beg — Mahometism like Christianity, divided into many sectaries — remarks on some of their notions — religion of the Arnounts — conjectures relating to Trajan’s gate — present view of the country.
To the Abbot ——.
Adrianople, April 1. O. S. 1717.
You see I am very exact in keeping the promise you engaged me to make. I know not, however, whether your curiosity will be satisfied with the accounts I shall give you, though I can assure you, the desire I have to oblige you to the utmost of my power, has made me very diligent in my enquiries and observations. ’Tis certain we have but very imperfect accounts of the manners and religion of these people; this part of the world being seldom visited, but by merchants, who mind little but their own affairs; or travellers, who make too short a stay, to be able to report any thing exactly of their own knowledge. The Turks are too proud to converse familiarly with merchants, who can only pick up some confused informations, which are generally false; and can give no better account of the ways here, than a French refugee, lodging in a garret in Greek-street, could write of the court of England. The journey we have made from Belgrade hither, cannot possibly be passed by any out of a public character. The desert woods of Servia, are the common refuge of thieves, who rob fifty in a company, so that we had need of all our guards to secure us; and the villages are so poor, that only force could extort from them necessary provisions. Indeed the janizaries had no mercy on their poverty, killing all the poultry and sheep they could find, without asking to whom they belonged; while the wretched owners durst not put in their claim, for fear of being beaten. Lambs just fallen, geese and turkies big with egg, all massacred without distinction! I fancied I heard the complaints of Melibeus for the hope of his flock. When the bassas travel, ’tis yet worse. These oppressors are not content with eating all that is to be eaten belonging to the peasants; after they have crammed themselves and their numerous retinue, they have the impudence to exact what they call teeth-money, a contribution for the use of their teeth, worn with doing them the honour of devouring their meat. This is literally and exactly true, however extravagant it may seem; and such is the natural corruption of a military government, their religion not allowing of this barbarity, any more than ours does.
I HAD the advantage of lodging three weeks at Belgrade, with a principal effendi, that is to say a scholar. This set of men are equally capable of preferments in the law or the church, these two sciences being cast into one, and a lawyer and a priest being the same word in the Turkish language. They are the only men really considerable in the empire; all the profitable employments and church revenues are in their hands. The grand signior, though general heir to his people, never presumes to touch their lands or money, which go, in an uninterrupted succession, to their children. ’Tis true, they lose this privilege, by accepting a place at court, or the title of Bassa; but there are few examples of such fools among them. You may easily judge of the power of these men, who have engrossed all the learning, and almost all the wealth of the empire. ’Tis they that are the real authors, though the soldiers are the actors of revolutions. They deposed the late sultan Mustapha; and their power is so well known, that ’tis the emperor’s interest to flatter them.
THIS is a long digression. I was going to tell you, that an intimate daily conversation with the effendi Achmet-beg, gave me an opportunity of knowing their religion and morals in a more particular manner than perhaps any Christian ever did. I explained to him the difference between the religion of England and Rome; and he Was pleased to hear there were Christians that did not worship images, or adore the Virgin Mary. The ridicule of transubstantiation appeared very strong to him. — Upon comparing our creeds together, I am convinced that if our friend Dr —— had free liberty of preaching here, it would be very easy to persuade the generality to Christianity, whose notions are very little different from his. Mr Whiston would make a very good apostle here. I don’t doubt but his zeal will be much fired, if you communicate this account to him; but tell him, he must first have the gift of tongues, before he can possibly be of any use. — Mahometism is divided into as many sects as Christianity; and the first institution as much neglected and obscured by interpretations. I cannot here forbear reflecting on the natural inclination of mankind, to make mysteries and novelties. — The Zeidi, Kudi, Jabari, &c. put me in mind of the Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists, and are equally zealous against one another. But the most prevailing opinion, if you search into the secret of the effendis, is, plain deism. This is indeed kept from the people, who are amused with a thousand different notions, according to the different interest of their preachers. — There are very few amongst them (Achmet-beg denied there were any) so absurd, as to set up for wit, by declaring they believe no God at all. And Sir Paul Rycaut is mistaken (as he commonly is) in calling the sect muterin, (i. e. the secret with us) atheists, they being deists, whose impiety consists in making a jest of their prophet. Achmet-beg did not own to me that he was of this opinion; but made no scruple of deviating from some part of Mahomet’s law, by drinking wine with the same freedom we did. When I asked him how he came to allow himself that liberty? He made answer, that all the creatures of God are good, and designed for the use of man; however, that the prohibition of wine was a very wise maxim, and meant for the common people, being the source of all disorders amongst them; but, that the prophet never designed to confine those that knew how to use it with moderation; nevertheless, he said, that scandal ought to be avoided, and that he never drank it in public. This is the general way of thinking amongst them, and very few forbear drinking wine that are able to afford it. He assured me, that if I understood Arabic, I should be very well pleased with reading the alcoran, which is so far from the nonsense we charge it with, that it is the purest morality, delivered in the very best language. I have since heard impartial Christians speak of it in the same manner; and I don’t doubt but that all our translations are from copies got from the Greek priests, who would not fail to falsify it with the extremity of malice. No body of men ever were more ignorant, or more corrupt; yet they differ so little from the Romish church, that, I confess, nothing gives me a greater abhorrence of the cruelty of your clergy, than the barbarous persecution of them, whenever they have been their masters, for no other reason than their not acknowledging the pope. The dissenting in that one article, has got them the titles of heretics and schismatics; and, what is worse, the same treatment. I found at Philippopolis, a sect of Christians that call themselves Paulines. They shew an old church, where, they say, St Paul preached; and he is their favourite saint, after the same manner that St Peter is at Rome; neither do they forget to give him the same preference over the rest of the apostles.
BUT of all the religions I have seen, that of the Arnounts seems to me the most particular; they are natives of Arnountlich, the ancient Macedonia, and still retain the courage and hardiness, though they have lost the name of Macedonians, being the best militia in the Turkish empire, and the only check upon the janizaries. They are foot soldiers; we had a guard of them, relieved in every considerable town we passed; they are all cloathed and armed at their own expence, dressed in clean white coarse cloth, carrying guns of a prodigious length, which they run with upon their shoulders, as if they did not feel the weight of them, the leader singing a sort of rude tune, not unpleasant, and the rest making up the chorus. These people living between Christians and Mahometans, and not being skilled in controversy, declare, that they are utterly unable to judge which religion is best; but, to be certain of not entirely rejecting the truth, they very prudently follow both. They go to the mosques on Fridays, and to the church on Sunday, saying, for their excuse, that at the day of judgment they are sure of protection from the true prophet; but which that is, they are not able to determine in this world. I believe there is no other race of mankind, who have so modest an opinion of their own capacity.
THESE are the remarks I have made, on the diversity of religions I have seen. I don’t ask your pardon for the liberty I have taken in speaking of the Roman. I know you equally condemn the quakery of all churches, as much as you revere the sacred truths, in which we both agree.
YOU will expect I should say something to you of the antiquities of this country; but there are few remains of ancient Greece. We passed near the piece of an arch, which is commonly called Trajan’s Gate, from a supposition, that he made it to shut up the passage over the mountains, between Sophia and Philippopolis. But I rather believe it the remains of some triumphal arch, (tho’ I could not see any inscription;) for if that passage had been shut up, there are many others that would serve for the march of an army; and, notwithstanding the story of Baldwin earl of Flanders being overthrown in these straits, after he won Constantinople, I don’t fancy the Germans would find themselves stopped by them at this day. ’Tis true, the road is now made (with great industry) as commodious as possible, for the march of the Turkish army; there is not one ditch or puddle between this place and Belgrade, that has not a large strong bridge of planks built over it; but the precipices are not so terrible as I had heard them represented. At these mountains we lay at the little village Kiskoi, wholly inhabited by Christians, as all the peasants of Bulgaria are. Their houses are nothing but little huts, raised of dirt baked in the sun; and they leave them and fly into the mountains, some months before the march of the Turkish army, who would else entirely ruin them, by driving away their whole flocks. This precaution Secures them in a sort of plenty; for such vast tracts of land lying in common, they have the liberty of sowing what they please, and are generally very industrious husbandmen. I drank here several sorts of delicious wine. The women dress themselves in a great variety of coloured glass beads, and are not ugly, but of a tawny complexion. I have now told you all that is worth telling you, and perhaps more, relating to my journey. When I am at Constantinople, I’ll try to pick up some curiosities, and then you shall hear again from
From Adrianople. — Marriage of the grand signior’s eldest daughter — the nature of the Turkish government — grand signior’s procession to mosque — his person described — particulars relating to the French ambassador’s lady — character and behaviour of the janizaries — the janizaries formidable to the seraglio.
To The Countess or B——.
Adrianople, April 1. O. S. 1717.
AS I never can forget the smallest of your ladyship’s commands, my first business here has been to enquire after the stuffs you ordered me to look for, without being able to find what you would like. The difference of the dress here and at London is so great, the same sort of things are not proper for caftans and manteaus. However, I will not give over my search, but renew it again at Constantinople, though I have reason to believe there is nothing finer than what is to be found here, as this place is at present the residence of the court. The grand signior’s eldest daughter was married some few days before I came hither; and, upon that occasion, the Turkish ladies display all their magnificence. The bride was conducted to her husband’s house in very great splendor. She is widow of the late vizier, who was killed at Peterwaradin, though that ought rather to be called a contract than a marriage, since she never has lived with him; however, the greatest part of his wealth is hers. He had the permission of visiting her in the seraglio; and, being one of the handsomest men in the empire, had very much engaged her affections. — When she saw this second husband, who is at least fifty, she could not forbear bursting into tears. He is indeed a man of merit, and the declared favourite of the sultan, (which they call mosayp) but that is not enough to make him pleasing in the eyes of a girl of thirteen.
THE government here is entirely in the hands of the army, the grand signior, with all his absolute power, is as much a slave as any of his subjects, and trembles at a janizary’s frown. Here is, indeed, a much greater appearance of subjection than amongst us; a minister of state is not spoke to, but upon the knee: should a reflection on his conduct be dropt in a coffee-house (for they have spies every where) the house would be raz’d to the ground, and perhaps the whole company put to the torture. No huzzaing mobs, senseless pamphlets, and tavern disputes about politics;
A consequential ill that freedom draws;
A bad effect — but from a noble cause.
None of our harmless calling names! but when a minister here displeases the people, in three hours time he is dragged even from his master’s arms. They cut off hands, head, and feet, and throw them before the palace gate, with all the respect in the world; while the sultan (to whom they all profess an unlimited adoration) sits trembling in his apartment, and dare neither defend nor revenge his favourite. This is the blessed condition of the most absolute monarch upon earth, who owns no law but his will.
I CANNOT help wishing, in the loyality of my heart, that the parliament would send hither a ship-load of young passive obedient men, that they might see arbitrary government in its clearest, and strongest light, where ’tis hard to judge, whether the prince, people, or ministers, are most miserable. I could make many reflections on this subject; but I know, madam, your own good sense has already furnished you with better than I am capable of.
I WENT yesterday along with the French ambassadress to see the grand signior in his passage to the mosque. He was preceded by a numerous guard of janizaries, with vast white feathers on their heads, as also by the spahis and bostangees, (these are foot and horse guards) and the royal gardeners, which are a very considerable body of men, dressed in different habits of fine lively colours, so that at a distance, they appeared like a parterre of tulips. After them the aga of the janizaries, in a robe of purple velvet, lined with silver tissue, his horse led by two slaves richly dressed. Next him the kyzlier-aga (your ladyship knows, this is the chief guardian of the seraglio ladies) in a deep yellow cloth (which suited very well to his black face) lined with sables. Last came his sublimity himself, arrayed in green, lined with the fur of a black Moscovite fox, which is supposed worth a thousand pounds sterling, and mounted on a fine horse, with furniture embroidered with jewels. Six more horses richly caparisoned were led after him; and two of his principal courtiers bore, one his gold, and the other his silver coffee-pot, on a staff; another carried a silver stool on his head for him to sit on. —— It would be too tedious to tell your ladyship the various dresses and turbants by which their rank is distinguished; but they were all extremely rich and gay, to the number of some thousands; so that perhaps there cannot be seen a more beautiful procession. The sultan appeared to us a handsome man of about forty, with something, however, severe in his countenance, and his eyes very full and black. He happened to stop under the window where he stood, and (I suppose being told who we were) looked upon us very attentively, so that we had full leisure to consider him. The French ambassadress agreed with me as to his good mien; I see that lady very often; she is young, and her conversation would be a great relief to me, if I could persuade her to live without those forms and ceremonies that make life so formal and tiresome. But she is so delighted with her guards, her four and twenty footmen, gentlemen, ushers, &c. that she would rather die than make me a visit without them; not to reckon a coachful of attending damsels ycleap’d maids of honour. What vexes me is, that as long as she will visit me with a troublesome equipage, I am obliged to do the same: however, our mutual interest makes us much together. I went with her the other day all round the town, in an open gilt chariot, with our joint train of attendants, preceded by our guards, who might have summoned the people to see what they had never seen, nor ever perhaps would see again, two young Christian ambassadresses at the same time. Your ladyship may easily imagine, we drew a vast crowd of spectators, but all silent as death. If any of them had taken the liberties of our mobs upon any strange sight, our janizaries had made no scruple of falling on them with their scimitars, without danger for so doing, being above law. These people however (I mean the janizaries) have some good qualities; they are very zealous and faithful where they serve, and look upon it as their business to fight for you on all occasions. Of this I had a very pleasant instance in a village on this side Philippopolis, where we were met by our domestic guards. I happened to bespeak pigeons for supper, upon which one of my janizaries went immediately to the cadi (the chief civil officer of the town) and ordered him to send in some dozens. The poor man answered, that he had already sent about, but could get none. My janizary, in the height of his zeal for my service, immediately locked him up prisoner in his room, telling him he deserved death for his impudence, in offering to excuse his not obeying my command; but, out of respect to me, he would not punish him but by my order. Accordingly he came very gravely to me, to ask what should be done to him; adding, by way of compliment, that if I pleased he would bring me his head. — This may give you some idea of the unlimited power of these fellows, who are all sworn brothers, and bound to revenge the injuries done to one another, whether at Cairo, Aleppo, or any part of the world. This inviolable league makes them so powerful, that the greatest man at court never speaks to them but in a flattering tone; and in Asia, any man that is rich is forced to enrol himself a janizary, to secure his estate. — But I have already said enough; and I dare swear, dear madam, that, by this time, ’tis a very comfortable reflection to you, that there is no possibility of your receiving such a tedious letter but once in six months; ’tis that consideration has given me the assurance of entertaining you so long, and will, I hope, plead the excuse of, dear madam, Your’s, &c.
Adrianople. — Lady M. describes her Turkish dress — the persons and manners of the Turklsh ladies — their dress when they go abroad — their address at intriguing — possessed of more liberty than is generally imagined — the plurality of wives allowed by the Koran seldom indulged.
To the Countess of ——.
Adrianople, April. 1. O. S. 1717.
I WISH to God, dear sister, that you were as regular in letting me know what passes on your side of the globe, as I am careful in endeavouring to amuse you by the account of all I see here, that I think worth your notice. You content yourself with telling me over and over, that the town is very dull: it may, possibly, be dull to you, when every day does not present you with something new; but for me that am in arrears, at least two months news, all that seems very stale with you, would be very fresh and sweet here. Pray let me into more particulars, and I will try to awaken your gratitude, by giving you a full and true relation of the novelties of this place, none of which would surprise you more than a sight of my person, as I am now in my Turkish habit, though I believe you would be of my opinion, that ’tis admirably becoming. — I intend to send you my picture; in the mean time accept of it here.
THE first part of my dress is a pair of drawers, very full that reach to my shoes, and conceal the legs more modestly than your petticoats. They are of a thin rose-coloured damask, brocaded with silver flowers. My shoes are of white kid leather, embroidered with gold. Over this hangs my smock, of a fine white silk gauze, edged with embroidery. This smock has wide sleeves hanging half way down the arm, and is closed at the neck with a diamond button; but the shape and colour of the bosom is very well to be distinguished through it. — The antery is a waistcoat, made close to the shape, of white and gold damask, with very long sleeves falling back, and fringed with deep gold fringe, and should have diamond or pearl buttons. My caftan, of the same stuff with my drawers, is a robe exactly fitted to my shape, and reaching to my feet, with very long strait falling sleeves. Over this is my girdle, of about four fingers broad, which, all that can afford it, have entirely of diamonds or other precious stones; those who will not be at that expence, have it of exquisite embroidery on sattin; but it must be fastened before with a clasp of diamonds. — The curdee is a loose robe they throw off, or put on, according to the weather, being of a rich brocade (mine is green and gold) either lined with ermine or sables; the sleeves reach very little below the shoulders. The head dress is composed of a cap, called talpock, which is, in winter, of fine velvet embroidered with pearls or diamonds, and in summer, of a light shining silver stuff. This is fixed on one side of the head, hanging a little way down with a gold tassel, and bound on, either with a circle of diamonds (as I have seen several) or a rich embroidered handkerchief. On the other side of the head, the hair is laid flat; and here the ladies are at liberty to shew their fancies; some putting flowers, others a plume of heron’s feathers, and, in short, what they please; but the most general fashion is a large bouquet of jewels, made like natural flowers; that is, the buds, of pearl; the roses, of different coloured rubies: the jessamines, of diamonds; the jonquils, of topazes, &c. so well set and enamelled, ’tis hard to imagine any thing of that kind so beautiful. The hair hangs at its full length behind, divided into tresses braided with pearl or ribbon, which is always in great quantity. I never saw in my life so many fine heads of hair. In one lady’s, I have counted a hundred and ten of the tresses, all natural; but it must be owned, that every kind of beauty is more common here than with us. ’Tis surprising to see a young woman that is not very handsome. They have naturally the most beautiful complexion in the world, and generally large black eyes. I can assure you with great truth, that the court of England (though I believe it the fairest in Christendom) does not contain so many beauties as are under our protection here. They generally shape their eye-brows, and both Greeks and Turks have the custom of putting round their eyes a black tincture, that, at a distance, or by candle-light, adds very much to the blackness of them. I fancy many of our ladies would be overjoyed to know this secret, but ’tis too visible by day. They dye their nails a rose colour; but, I own, I cannot enough accustom myself to this fashion, to find any beauty in it.
AS to their morality or good conduct, I can say, like Harlequin, that ’tis just as ’tis with you; and the Turkish ladies don’t commit one sin the less for not being Christians. Now, that I am a little acquainted with their ways, I cannot forbear admiring, either the exemplary discretion, or extreme stupidity of all the writers that have given accounts of them. ’Tis very easy to see, they have in reality more liberty than we have. No woman, of what rank soever, is permitted to go into the streets without two murlins, one that covers her face all but her eyes, and another, that hides the whole dress of her head, and hangs half way down her back. Their shapes are also wholely concealed, by a thing they call a serigee, which no woman of any sort appears without; this has strait sleeves, that reach to their fingers-ends, and it laps all round them, not unlike a riding-hood. In winter, ’tis of cloth; and in summer, of plain stuff or silk. You may guess then, how effectually this disguises them, so that there is no distinguishing the great lady from her slave. ’Tis impossible for the most jealous husband to know his wife, when he meets her; and no man dare touch or follow a woman in the street.
THIS perpetual masquerade gives them entire liberty of following their inclinations, without danger of discovery. The most usual method of intrigue, is, to send an appointment to the lover to meet the lady at a Jew’s shop, which are as notoriously convenient as our Indian-houses; and yet, even those who don’t make use of them, do not scruple to go to buy pennyworths, and tumble over rich goods, which are chiefly to be found amongst that sort of people. The great ladies seldom let their gallants know who they are; and ’tis so difficult to find it out, that they can very seldom guess at her name, whom they have corresponded with for above half a year together. You may easily imagine the number of faithful wives very small in a country where they have nothing to fear from a lover’s indiscretion, since we see so many have the courage to expose themselves to that in this world, and all the threatened punishment of the next, which is never preached to the Turkish damsels. Neither have they much to apprehend from the resentment of their husbands; those ladies that are rich, having all their money in their own hands. Upon the whole, I look upon the Turkish women, as the only free people in the empire; the very divan pays respect to them; and the grand signior himself, when a bassa is executed, never violates the privileges of the haram, (or womens apartment) which remains unsearched and entire to the widow. They are queens of their slaves, whom the husband has no permission so much as to look upon, except it be an old woman or two that his lady chuses. ’Tis true, their law permits them four wives; but there is no instance of a man of quality that makes use of this liberty, or of a woman of rank that would suffer it. When a husband happens to be inconstant, (as those things will happen) he keeps his mistress in a house apart, and visits her as privately as he can, just as it is with you. Amongst all the great men here, I only know the testerdar, (i.e. a treasurer) that keeps a number of she slaves, for his own use, (that is, on his own side of the house; for a slave once given to serve a lady, is entirely at her disposal) and he is spoke of as a libertine, or what we should call a rake, and his wife won’t see him, though she continues to live in his house. Thus you see, dear sister, the manners of mankind do not differ so Widely, as our voyage-writers would make us believe. Perhaps, it would be more entertaining to add a few surprising customs of my own invention; but nothing seems to me so agreeable as truth, and I believe nothing so acceptable to you. I conclude therefore with repeating the great truth of my being,
Dear sister, &c.
Adrianople. — Manner in which the Turks pass their time — the present pastoral manners of the Easterns, a confirmation of the descriptions in the Grecian poets — give great light into many scripture passages — specimen of Turkish poetry — a version given by Lady M. in the English style.
To Mr Pope.
Adrianople, April 1. O. S. 1717.
I DARE say you expect, at least, something very new in this letter, after I have gone a journey, not undertaken by any Christian for some hundred years. The most remarkable accident that happened to me, was my being very near overturned into the Hebrus; and, if I had much regard for the glories that one’s name enjoys after death, I should certainly be sorry for having missed the romantic conclusion of swimming down the same river in which the musical head of Orpheus repeated verses so many ages since:
“Caput a cervice revulsum,
“Gurgite cum medio, portans Oeagrius Hebrus,
“Volveret, Eurydicen vox ipsa, et frigida lingua,
“Ah! miseram Eurydicen! anima fugiente vocabat,
“Eurydicen toto referebant flumine ripae”
Who knows but some of your bright wits might have found it a subject affording many poetical turns, and have told the world, in an heroic elegy, that,
As equal were our souls, so equal were our fates?
I despair of ever hearing so many fine things said of me, as so extraordinary a death would have given occasion for.
I AM at this present moment writing in a house situated on the banks of the Hebrus, which runs under my chamber window. My garden is full of all cypress trees, upon the branches of which several couple of true turtles are saying soft things to one another from morning till night. How naturally do boughs and vows come into my mind, at this minute? and must not you confess, to my praise, that ’tis more than an ordinary discretion that can resist the wicked suggestions of poetry, in a place where truth, for once, furnishes all the ideas of pastoral. The summer is already far advanced in this part of the world; and, for some miles round Adrianople, the whole ground is laid out in gardens, and the banks of the rivers are set with rows of fruit-trees, under which all the most considerable Turks divert themselves every evening, not with walking, that is not one of their pleasures; but a set party of them chuse out a green spot, where the shade is very thick, and, there they spread a carpet, on which they sit drinking their coffee, and are generally attended by some slave with a fine voice, or that plays on some instrument. Every twenty paces you may see one of these little companies listening to the dashing of the river; and this taste is so universal, that the very gardeners are not without it. I have often seen them and their children sitting on the banks of the river, and playing on a rural instrument, perfectly answering the description of the ancient fistula, being composed of unequal reeds, with a simple, but agreeable softness in the sound.
MR ADDISON might here make the experiment he speaks of in his travels; there not being one instrument Of music among the Greek or Roman statues, that is not to be found in the hands of the people of this country. The young lads generally divert themselves with making garlands for their favourite lambs, which I have often seen painted and adorned with flowers, lying at their feet, while they sung or played. It is not that they ever read romances, but these are the ancient amusements here, and as natural to them as cudgel-playing and foot-ball to our British swains; the softness and warmth of the climate forbidding all rough exercises, which were never so much as heard of amongst them, and naturally inspiring a laziness and aversion to labour, which the great plenty indulges. These gardeners are the only happy race of country people in Turkey. They furnish all the city with fruits and herbs, and seem to live very easily. They are most of them Greeks, and have little houses in the midst of their gardens, where their wives and daughters take a liberty, not permitted in the town, I mean, to go unveiled. These wenches are very neat and handsome, and pass their time at their looms, under the shade of the trees.
I No longer look upon Theocritus as a romantic writer; he has only given a plain image of the way of life amongst the peasants of his country; who, before oppression had reduced them to want, were, I suppose, all employed as the better sort of them are now. I don’t doubt, had he been born a Briton, but his Idyliums had been filled with descriptions of threshing and churning, both which are unknown here, the corn being all trode out by oxen; and butter (I speak it with sorrow) unheard of.
I READ over your Homer here, with an infinite pleasure, and find several little passages explained, that I did not before entirely comprehend the beauty of; many of the customs, and much Of the dress then in fashion, being yet retained. I don’t wonder to find more remains here, of an age so distant, than is to be found in any other country, the Turks not taking that pains to introduce their own manners, as has been generally practised by other nations, that imagine themselves more polite. It would be too tedious to you, to point out all the passages that relate to present customs. But, I can assure you, that the princesses and great ladies pass their time at their looms, embroidering veils and robes, surrounded by their maids, which are always very numerous, in the same manner as we find Andromache and Helen described. The description of the belt of Menelaus, exactly resembles those that are now worn by the great men, fastened before with broad golden clasps, and embroidered round with rich work. The snowy veil that Helen throws over her face, is still fashionable; and I never see half a dozen of old bashaws (as I do very often) with their reverend beards, sitting basking in the sun, but I recollect good king Priam and his counsellors. Their manner of dancing is certainly the same that Diana is sung to have danced on the banks of Eurotas. The great lady still leads the dance, and is followed by a troop of young girls, who imitate her steps, and, if she sings, make up the chorus. The tunes are extremely gay and lively, yet with something in them wonderfully soft. The steps are varied according to the pleasure of her that leads the dance, but always in exact time, and infinitely more agreeable than any of our dances, at least in my opinion. I sometimes make one in the train, but am not skilful enough to lead; these are the Grecian dances, the Turkish being very different.
I SHOULD have told you, in the first place, that the Eastern manners give a great light into many scripture-passages, that appear odd to us, their phrases being commonly what we should call scripture-language. The vulgar Turk is very different from what is spoke at court, or amongst the people of figure; who always mix so much Arabic and Persian in their discourse, that it may very well be called another language. And ’tis as ridiculous to make use of the expressions commonly used, in speaking to a great man or lady, as it would be to speak broad Yorkshire, or Somersetshire, in the drawing room. Besides this distinction, they have what they call the sublime, that is, a style proper for poetry, and which is the exact scripture style. I believe you will be pleased to see a genuine example of this; and I am very glad I have it in my power to satisfy your curiosity, by sending you a faithful copy of the verses that Ibrahim Bassa, the reigning favourite, has made for the young princess, his contracted wife, whom he is not yet permitted to visit without witnesses, though she is gone home to his house. He is a man of wit and learning; and whether or no he is capable of writing good verse, you may be sure, that, on such an occasion, he would not want the assistance of the best poets in the empire. Thus the verses may be looked upon as a sample of their finest poetry; and I don’t doubt you’ll be of my mind, that it is most wonderfully resembling The song of Solomon, which was also addressed to a royal bride.
TURKISH VERSES addressed to the Sultana, eldest daughter of SULTAN ACHMET III.
1. THE nightingale now wanders in the vines:
Her passion is to seek roses.
2. I went down to admire the beauty of the vines:
The sweetness of your charms has ravished my soul.
3. Your eyes are black and lovely,
But wild and disdainful as those of a stag.
1. The wished possession is delayed from day to day;
The cruel Sultan ACHMET will not permit me
To see those cheeks, more vermilion than roses.
2. I dare not snatch one of your kisses;
The sweetness of your charms has ravished my soul.
3. Your eyes are black and lovely,
But wild and disdainful as those of a stag.
1. The wretched IBRAHIM sighs in these verses:
One dart from your eyes has pierc’d thro’ my heart.
2. Ah! when will the hour of possession arrive?
Must I yet wait a long time?
The sweetness of your charms has ravished my soul.
3. Ah! SULTANA! stag-ey’d — an angel amongst angels!
I desire — and, my desire remains unsatisfied. — Can
you take delight to prey upon my heart?
1. My cries pierce the heavens!
My eyes are without sleep!
Turn to me, SULTANA—let me gaze on thy beauty.
2. Adieu — I go down to the grave.
If you call me — I return.
My heart is — hot as sulphur; — sigh, and it will flame.
3. Crown of my life! fair light of my eyes!
My SULTANA! my princess!
I rub my face against the earth; I am drown’d in scalding tears —
Have you no compassion? Will you not turn to look upon me?
I have taken abundance of pains to get these verses in a literal translation; and if you were acquainted with my interpreters, I might spare myself the trouble of assuring you, that they have received no poetical touches from their hands. In my opinion (allowing for the inevitable faults of a prose translation into a language so very different) there is a good deal of beauty in them. The epithet of stag-ey’d (though the sound is not very agreeable in English) pleases me extremely; and I think it a very lively image of the fire and indifference in his mistress’s eyes. — Monsieur Boileau has very justly observed, that we are never to judge of the elevation of an expression in an ancient author, by the sound it carries with us; since it may be extremely fine with them, when, at the same time, it appears low or uncouth to us. You are so well acquainted with Homer, you cannot but have observed the same thing, and you must have the same indulgence for all Oriental poetry. The repetitions at the end of the two first stanzas are meant for a sort of chorus, and are agreeable to the ancient manner of writing. The music of the verses apparently changes in the third stanza, where the burden is altered; and I think he very artfully, seems more passionate at the conclusion, as ’tis natural for people to warm themselves by their own discourse, especially on a subject in which one is deeply concerned; ’tis certainly far more touching than our modern custom of concluding a song of passion with a turn which is inconsistent with it. The first verse is a description of the season of the year; all the country now being full of nightingales, whole amours with roses, is an Arabian fable, as well known here as any part of Ovid amongst us, and is much the same as if an English poem should begin, by saying — “Now Philomela sings.” Or what if I turned the whole into the style of English poetry, to see how it would look?
“NOW Philomel renews her tender strain,
“Indulging all the night her pleasing pain;
“I sought in groves to hear the wanton sing,
“There saw a face more beauteous than the spring.
“Your large stag-eyes, where thousand glories play,
“As bright, as lively, but as wild as they.
“In vain I’m promis’d such a heav’nly prize,
“Ah! cruel SULTAN! who delay’st my joys!
“While piercing charms transfix my am’rous heart,
“I dare not snatch one kiss to ease the smart.
“Those eyes! like, &c.
“Your wretched lover in these lines complains;
“From those dear beauties rise his killing pains.
“When will the hour of wish’d-for bliss arrive?
“Must I wait longer? — Can I wait and live?
“Ah! bright Sultana! maid divinely fair!
“Can you, unpitying, see the pains I bear?
“The heavens relenting, hear my piercing cries,
“I loathe the light, and sleep forsakes my eyes;
“Turn thee, Sultana, ere thy lover dies:
“Sinking to earth, I fight the last adieu,
“Call me, my goddess, and my life renew.
“My queen! my angel! my fond heart’s desire!
“I rave — my bosom burns with heav’nly fire!
“Pity that passion, which thy charms inspire.”
I have taken the liberty, in the second verse, of following what I suppose the true sense of the author, though not literally expressed. By his saying, He went down to admire the beauty of the vines, and her charms ravished his soul, I understand a poetical fiction, of having first seen her in a garden, where he was admiring the beauty of the spring. But I could not forbear retaining the comparison of her eyes with those of a stag, though perhaps the novelty of it may give it a burlesque sound in our language. I cannot determine upon the whole, how well I have succeeded in the translation, neither do I think our English proper to express such violence of passion, which is very seldom felt amongst us. We want also those compound words which are very frequent and strong in the Turkish language.
YOU see I am pretty far gone in Oriental learning; and, to say truth, I study very hard. I wish my studies may give me an occasion of entertaining your curiosity, which will be the utmost advantage hoped for from them, by,
Adrianople. — The plague not so terrible as represented — account of the Turkish method of inoculating the small-pox.
To Mrs S. c.
Adrianople, April 1. O. S.
IN my opinion, dear S. I ought rather to quarrel with you, for not answering my Nimeguen letter of August, till December, than to excuse my not writing again till now. I am sure there is on my side a very good excuse for silence, having gone such tiresome land-journies, though I don’t find the conclusion of them so bad as you seem to imagine. I am very easy here, and not in the solitude you fancy me. The great number of Greeks, French, English, and Italians that are under our protection, make their court to me from morning till night; and, I’ll assure you, are, many of them, very fine ladies; for there is no possibility for a Christian to live easily under this government, but by the protection of an ambassador — and the richer they are, the greater is their danger.
THOSE dreadful stories you have heard of the plague, have very little foundation in truth. I own, I have much ado to reconcile myself to the sound of a word, which has always given me such terrible ideas; though I am convinced there is little more in it, than in a fever. As a proof of this, let me tell you that we passed through two or three towns most violently infected. In the very next house where we lay, (in one of those places) two persons died of it. Luckily for me I was so well deceived, that I knew nothing of the matter; and I was made believe, that our second cook had only a great cold. However, we left our doctor to take care of him, and yesterday they both arrived here in good health; and I am now let into the secret, that he has had the plague. There are many that escape it, neither is the air ever infected. I am persuaded, that it would be as easy a matter to root it out here, as out of Italy and France; but it does so little mischief, they are not very solicitous about it, and are content to suffer this distemper, instead of our variety, which they are utterly unacquainted with.
A propos of distempers, I am going to tell you a thing that will make you wish yourself here. The small-pox, so fatal, and so general amongst us, is here entirely harmless, by the invention of ingrafting, which is the term they give it. There is a set of old women, who make it their business to perform the operation, every autumn, in the month of September, when the great heat is abated. People send to one another to know if any of their family has a mind to have the small-pox: they make parties for this purpose, and when they are met (commonly fifteen or sixteen together) the old woman comes with a nutshell full of the matter of the best sort of small-pox, and asks what vein you please to have opened. She immediately rips open that you offer to her, with a large needle, (which gives you no more pain than a common scratch) and puts into the vein as much matter as can ly upon the head of her needle, and after that, binds up the little wound with a hollow bit of shell; and in this manner opens four or five veins. The Grecians have commonly the superstition of opening one in the middle of the forehead, one in each arm, and one on the breast, to mark the sign of the cross; but this has a very ill effect, all these wounds leaving little scars, and is not done by those that are not superstitious, who chuse to have them in the legs, or that part of the arm that is concealed. The children or young patients play together all the rest of the day, and are in perfect health to the eighth. Then the fever begins to seize them, and they keep their beds two days, very seldom three. They have very rarely above twenty or thirty in their faces, which never mark; and in eight days time they are as well as before their illness. Where they are wounded, there remain running sores during the distemper, which I don’t doubt is a great relief to it. Every year thousands undergo this operation; and the French ambassador says pleasantly, that they take the small-pox here by way of diversion, as they take the waters in other countries. There is no example of any one that has died in it; and you may believe I am well satisfied of the safety of this experiment, since I intend to try it on my dear little son. I am patriot enough to take pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England; and I should not fail to write to some of our doctors very particularly about it, if I knew any one of them that I thought had virtue enough to destroy such a considerable branch of their revenue, for the good of mankind. But that distemper is too beneficial to them, not to expose to all their resentment the hardy wight that should undertake to put an end to it. Perhaps, if I live to return, I may, however, have courage to war with them. Upon this occasion, admire the heroism in the heart of
Your friend, &c. &c.
Adrianople. — Description of the camel — their use, and method of managing them — the buffalo — the Turkish horses — their veneration for storks — the Turkish houses — why Europeans so ignorant Of the insides of the Turkish houses — their gardens — their mosques and hanns.
To Mrs T——.
Adrianople, April 1. O. S. 1718.
I CAN now tell dear Mrs T—— that I am safely arrived at the end of my very long journey. I will not tire you with the account of the many fatigues I have suffered. You would rather be informed of the strange things that are to be seen here; and a letter out of Turkey, that has nothing extraordinary in it, would be as great a disappointment, as my visitors will receive at London, if I return thither without any rarities to shew them. — What shall I tell you of? — You never saw camels in your life; and perhaps the description of them will appear new to you; I can assure you the first sight of them was so to me; and though I have seen hundreds of pictures of those animals, I never saw any that was resembling enough, to give a true idea of them. I am going to make a bold observation, and possibly a false one, because nobody has ever made it before me; but I do take them to be of the stag kind; their legs, bodies, and necks, are exactly shaped like them, and their colour very near the same. ’Tis true they are much larger, being a great deal higher than a horse; and so swift, that, after the defeat of Peterwaradin, they far outran the swiftest horses, and brought the first news of the loss of the battle to Belgrade. They are never thoroughly tamed; the drivers take care to tie them one to another, with strong ropes, fifty in a string, led by an ass, on which the driver rides. I have seen three hundred in one caravan. They carry the third part more than any horse; but ’tis a particular art to load them, because of the bunch on their backs. They seem to be very ugly creatures, their heads being ill-formed and disproportioned to their bodies. They carry all the burdens; and the beasts destined to the plough, are buffaloes, an animal you are also unacquainted with. They are larger and more clumsy than an ox; they have short thick black horns close to their heads, Which grow turning backwards. They say this horn looks very beautiful when ’tis well polished. They are all black, with very short hair on their hides, and have extremely little white eyes, that make them look like devils. The country people dye their tails, and the hair of their forehead, red, by way of ornament. Horses are not put here to any laborious work, nor are they at all fit for it. They are beautiful and full of spirit, but generally little, and not strong, as the breed of colder countries; very gentle, however, with all their vivacity, and also swift and surefooted. I have a little white favourite, that I would not part with on any terms; he prances under me with so much fire, you would think that I had a great deal of courage to dare to mount him; yet I’ll assure you, I never rid a horse so much at my command in my life. My side-saddle is the first that was ever seen in this part of the world, and is gazed at with as much wonder as the ship of Columbus in the first discovery of America. Here are some little birds, held in a sort of religious reverence, and, for that reason, multiply prodigiously: turtles, on the account of their innocence; and storks, because they are supposed to make every winter the pilgrimage to Mecca. To say truth, they are the happiest subjects under the Turkish government, and are so sensible of their privileges, that they walk the streets without fear, and generally build in the low parts of houses. Happy are those whose houses are so distinguished, as the vulgar Turks are perfectly persuaded that they will not be, that year, attacked either by fire or pestilence. I have the happiness of one of their sacred nests under my chamber-window.
NOW I am talking of my chamber, I remember the description of the houses here will be as new to you, as any of the birds or beasts. I suppose you have read, in most of our accounts of Turkey, that their houses are the most miserable pieces of building in the world. I can speak very learnedly on that subject, having been in so many of them; and, I assure you, ’tis no such thing. We are now lodged in a palace belonging to the grand signior. I really think the manner of building here very agreeable, and proper for the country. ’Tis true, they are not at all solicitous to beautify the outsides of their houses, and they are generally built of wood; which, I own, is the cause of many inconveniencies; but this is not to be charged on the ill taste of the people, but on the oppression of the government. Every house, at the death of its master, is at the grand signior’s disposal; and therefore, no man cares to make a great expence, which he is not sure his family will be the better for. All their design is to build a house commodious, and that will last their lives; and they are very indifferent if it falls down the year after. Every house, great and small, is divided into two distinct parts, which only join together by a narrow passage. The first house has a large court before it, and open galleries all round it, which is to me a thing very agreeable. This gallery leads to all the chambers, which are commonly large, and with two rows of windows, the first being of painted glass; they seldom build above two stories, each of which has galleries. The stairs are broad, and not often above thirty steps. This is the house belonging to the lord, and the adjoining one is called the haram, that is, the ladies apartment, (for the name of seraglio is peculiar to the grand signior;) it has also a gallery running round it towards the garden, to which all the windows are turned, and the same number of chambers as the other, but more gay and splendid, both in painting and furniture. The second row of windows is very low, with grates like those of convents; the rooms are all spread with Persian carpets, and raised at one end of them (my chambers are raised at both ends) about two feet. This is the sofa, which is laid with a richer sort of carpet, and all round it a sort of couch, raised half a foot, covered with rich silk, according to the fancy or magnificence of the owner. Mine is of scarlet cloth, with a gold fringe; round about this are placed, standing against the wall, two rows of cushions, the first very large, and the next, little ones; and here the Turks display their greatest magnificence. They are generally brocade, or embroidery of gold wire upon white sattin. — Nothing can look more gay and splendid. These seats are also so convenient and easy, that I believe I shall never endure chairs as long as I live. — The rooms are low, which I think no fault, and the ceiling is always of wood, generally inlaid or painted with flowers. They open in many places, with folding doors, and serve for cabinets, I think, more conveniently than ours. Between the windows are little arches to set pots of perfume, or baskets of flowers. But what pleases me best, is the fashion of having marble fountains in the lower part of the room, which throw up several spouts of water, giving, at the same time, an agreeable coolness, and a pleasant dashing sound, falling from one basin to another. Some of these are very magnificent. Each house has a bagnio, which consists generally in two or three little rooms, leaded on the top, paved with marble, with basins, cocks of water, and all conveniencies for either hot or cold baths.
YOU will perhaps be surprised at an account so different from what you have been entertained with by the common voyage-writers, who are very fond of speaking of what they don’t know. It must be under a very particular character, or on some extraordinary occasion, that a Christian is admitted into the house of a man of quality; and their harams are always forbidden ground. Thus they can only speak of the outside, which makes no great appearance; and the womens apartments are always built backward, removed from sight, and have no other prospect than the gardens, which are inclosed with very high walls. There are none of our parterres in them; but they are planted with high trees, which give an agreeable shade, and, to my fancy, a pleasing view. In the midst of the garden is the chiosk, that is, a large room, commonly beautified with a fine fountain in the midst of it. It is raised nine or ten steps, and inclosed with gilded lattices, round which, vines, jessamines, and honey-suckles, make a sort of green wall. Large trees are planted round this place, which is the scene of their greatest pleasures, and where the ladies spend most of their hours, employed by their music or embroidery. — In the public gardens, there are public chiosks where people go, that are not so well accommodated at home, and drink their coffee, sherbet, &c. — Neither are they ignorant of a more durable manner of building: their mosques are all of free-stone, and the public hanns, or inns, extremely magnificent, many of them taking up a large square, built round with shops under stone arches, where poor artificers are lodged gratis. They have always a mosque joining to them, and the body of the hann is a most noble hall, capable of holding three or four hundred persons, the court extremely spacious, and cloisters round it, that give it the air of our colleges. I own, I think it a more reasonable piece of charity than the founding of convents. — I think I have now told you a great deal for once. If you don’t like my choice of subjects, tell me what you would have me write Upon; there is nobody more desirous to entertain you, than, dear Mrs T— —
Your’s, &c. &c.
Adrianople. — Lady M’s visit to the grand vizier’s lady — her person described, and manner of entertaining her guest — the victuals, &c. — visit to the kahya’s lady, the fair Fatima — her person, dress, and engaging behaviour — her waiting-women — the Turkish music.
To the Countess of ——.
Adrianopolis, April 18. O. S.
I WROTE to you, dear sister, and to all my other English correspondents, by the last ship, and only Heaven can tell, when I shall have another opportunity of sending to you; but I cannot forbear to write again, though perhaps my letter may ly upon my hands this two months. To confess the truth, my head is so full of my entertainment yesterday, that ’tis absolutely necessary, for my own repose, to give it some vent. Without farther preface, I will then begin my story.
I WAS invited to dine with the grand vizier’s lady, and it was with a great deal of pleasure I prepared myself for an entertainment, which was never before given to any Christian. I thought I should very little satisfy her curiosity, (which I did not doubt was a considerable motive to the invitation) by going in a dress she was used to see, and therefore dressed myself in the court habit of Vienna, which is much more magnificent than ours. However, I chose to go incognito, to avoid any disputes about ceremony, and went in a Turkish coach, only attended by my woman, that held up my train, and the Greek lady, who was my interpretess. I was met at the court door by her black eunuch, who helped me out of the coach with great respect, and conducted me through several rooms, where her she-slaves, finely dressed, were ranged on each side. In the innermost, I found the lady sitting on her sofa, in a sable vest. She advanced to meet me, and presented me half a dozen of her friends, with great civility. She seemed a very good woman, near fifty years old. I was surprised to observe so little magnificence in her house, the furniture being all very moderate; and, except the habits and number of her slaves, nothing about her appeared expensive. She guessed at my thoughts, and told me she was no longer of an age to spend either her time or money in superfluities; that her whole expence was in charity, and her whole employment praying to God. There was no affectation in this speech; both she and her husband are entirely given up to devotion. He never looks upon any other woman; and, what is much more extraordinary, touches no bribes, notwithstanding the example of all his predecessors. He is so scrupulous on this point, he would not accept Mr W——‘s present, till he had been assured over and over, that it was a settled perquisite Of his place, at the entrance of every ambassador. She entertained me with all kind of civility, till dinner came in, which was served, one dish at a time, to a vast number, all finely dressed after their manner, which I don’t think so bad as you have perhaps heard it represented. I am a very good judge of their eating, having lived three weeks in the house of an effendi at Belgrade, who gave us very magnificent dinners, dressed by his own cooks. The first week they pleased me extremely; but, I own, I then began to grow weary of their table, and desired our own cook might add a dish or two after our manner. But I attribute this to custom, and am very much inclined to believe, that an Indian, who had never tasted of either, would prefer their cookery to ours. Their sauces are very high, all the roast very much done. They use a great deal of very rich spice. The soup is served for the last dish; and they have, at least, as great a variety of ragouts as we have. I was very sorry I could not eat of as many as the good lady would have had me, who was very earnest in serving me of every thing. The treat concluded with coffee and perfumes, which is a high mark of respect; two slaves kneeling censed my hair, clothes, and handkerchief. After this ceremony, she commanded her slaves to play and dance, which they did with their guitars in their hands, and she excused to me their want of skill, saying she took no care to accomplish them in that art.
I RETURNED her thanks, and, soon after, took my leave. I was conducted back in the same manner I entered, and would have gone straight to my own house; but the Greek lady with me, earnestly solicited me to visit the kahya’s lady, saying, he was the second officer in the empire, and ought indeed to be looked upon as the first, the grand vizier having only the name, while he exercised the authority. I had found so little diversion in the vizier’s haram, that I had no mind to go into another. But her importunity prevailed with me, and I am extremely glad I was so complaisant. All things here were with quite another air than at the grand vizier’s; and the very house confessed the difference between an old devotee, and a young beauty. It was nicely clean and magnificent. I was met at the door by two black eunuchs, who led me through a long gallery, between two ranks of beautiful young girls, with their hair finely plaited, almost hanging to their feet, all dressed in fine light damasks, brocaded with silver. I was sorry that decency did not permit me to stop to consider them nearer. But that thought was lost upon my entrance into a large room, or rather pavilion, built round with gilded sashes, which were most of them thrown up, and the trees planted near them gave an agreeable shade, which hindered the sun from being troublesome. The jessamines and honey-suckles that twisted round their trunks, shed a soft perfume, increased by a white marble fountain playing sweet water in the lower part of the room, which fell into three or four basins, with a pleasing sound. The roof was painted with all sorts of flowers, falling out of gilded baskets, that seemed tumbling down. On a sofa, raised three steps, and covered with fine Persian carpets, sat the kahya’s lady, leaning on cushions of white sattin, embroidered; and at her feet sat two young girls about twelve years old, lovely as angels, dressed perfectly rich, and almost covered with jewels. But they were hardly seen near the fair Fatima, (for that is her name) so much her beauty effaced every thing I have seen, nay, all that has been called lovely either in England or Germany. I must own, that I never saw any thing so gloriously beautiful, nor can I recollect a face that would have been taken notice of near hers. She stood up to receive me, saluting me after their fashion, putting her hand to her heart with a sweetness full of majesty, that no court breeding could ever give. She ordered cushions to be given me, and took care to place me in the corner, which is the place of honour. I confess, though the Greek lady had before given me a great opinion of her beauty, I was so struck with admiration, that I could not, for some time, speak to her, being wholly taken up in gazing. That surprising harmony of features! that charming result of the whole! that exact proportion of body! that lovely bloom of complexion unsullied by art! the unutterable enchantment of her smile! — But her eyes! — large and black, with all the soft languishment of the blue! every turn of her face discovering some new grace.
AFTER my first surprise was over, I endeavoured, by nicely examining her face, to find out some imperfection, without any fruit of my search, but my being clearly convinced of the error of that vulgar notion, that a face exactly proportioned, and perfectly beautiful, would not be agreeable; nature having done for her, with more success, what Appelles is said to have essayed, by a collection of the most exact features, to form a perfect face. Add to all this, a behaviour so full of grace and sweetness, such easy motions, with an air so majestic, yet free from stiffness or affectation, that I am persuaded, could she be suddenly transported upon the most polite throne of Europe, no body would think her other than born and bred to be a queen, though educated in a country we call barbarous. To say all in a word, our most celebrated English beauties would vanish near her.
SHE was dressed in a caftan of gold brocade, flowered with silver, very well fitted to her shape, and shewing to admiration the beauty of her bosom, only shaded by the thin gauze of her shift. Her drawers were pale pink, her waistcoat green and silver, her slippers white sattin, finely embroidered: her lovely arms adorned with bracelets of diamonds, and her broad girdle set round with diamonds; upon her head a rich Turkish handkerchief of pink and silver, her own fine black hair hanging a great length, in various tresses, and on one side of her head some bodkins of jewels. I am afraid you will accuse me of extravagance in this description. I think I have read somewhere, that women always speak in rapture when they speak of beauty, and I cannot imagine why they should not be allowed to do so. I rather think it a virtue to be able to admire without any mixture of desire or envy. The gravest writers have spoken with great warmth, of some celebrated pictures and statues. The workmanship of Heaven, certainly excels all our weak imitations, and, I think, has a much better claim to our praise. For my part, I am not ashamed to own, I took more pleasure in looking on the beauteous Fatima, than the finest piece of sculpture could have given me. She told me, the two girls at her feet were her daughters, though she appeared too young to be their mother. Her fair maids were ranged below the sofa, to the number of twenty, and put me in mind of the pictures of the ancient nymphs. I did not think all nature could have furnished such a scene of beauty. She made them a sign to play and dance. Four of them immediately began to play some soft airs on instruments, between a lute and a guitar, which they accompanied with their voices, while the others danced by turns. This dance was very different from what I had seen before. Nothing could be more artful, or more proper to raise certain ideas. The tunes so soft! — the motions so languishing! — accompanied with pauses and dying eyes! half-falling back, and then recovering themselves in so artful a manner, that I am very positive, the coldest and most rigid pride upon earth, could not have looked upon them without thinking of something not to be spoke of. — I suppose you may have read that the Turks have no music, but what is shocking to the ears; but this account is from those who never heard any but what is played in the streets, and is just as reasonable, as if a foreigner should take his ideas of English music, from the bladder and string, or the marrow-bones and cleavers. I can assure you that the music is extremely pathetic; ’tis true, I am inclined to prefer the Italian, but perhaps I am partial. I am acquainted with a Greek lady who sings better than Mrs Robinson, and is very well skilled in both, who gives the preference to the Turkish. ’Tis certain they have very fine natural voices; these were very agreeable. When the dance was over, four fair slaves came into the room, with silver censers in their hands, and perfumed the air with amber, aloes-wood, and other scents. After this, they served me coffee upon their knees, in the finest japan china, with soucoups of silver, gilt. The lovely Fatima entertained me, all this while, in the most polite agreeable manner, calling me often uzelle sultanam, or the beautiful sultana; and desiring my friendship with the best grace in the world, lamenting that she could not entertain me in my own language.
WHEN I took my leave, two maids brought in a fine silver basket of embroidered handkerchiefs; she begged I would wear the richest for her sake, and gave the others to my woman and interpretess. — I retired through the same ceremonies as before, and could not help thinking, I had been some time in Mahomet’s paradise; so much was I charmed with what I had seen. I know not how the relation of it appears to you. I wish it may give you part of my pleasure; for I would have my dear sister share in all the diversions of,
Adrianople. — Description of Adrianople — the exchange — the principal traders Jews — the Turkish camp — procession of the grand signior going to command his troops in person — the manner by which Turkish lovers shew their affection for their mistresses — description of sultan Selim’s mosque — the seraglio — the young princes.
To the Abbot of ——.
Adrianople, May 17. O. S.
I AM going to leave Adrianople, and I would not do it without giving you some account of all that is curious in it, which I have taken a great deal of pains to see. I will not trouble you with wise dissertations, whether or no this is the same city that was anciently called Orestesit or Oreste, which you know better than I do. It is now called from the emperor Adrian, and was the first European seat of the Turkish empire, and has been the favourite residence of many sultans. Mahomet the fourth, and Mustapha, the brother of the reigning emperor, were so fond of it, that they wholly abandoned Constantinople; which humour so far exasperated the janizaries, that it was a considerable motive to the rebellions that deposed them. Yet this man seems to love to keep his court here. I can give you no reason for this partiality. ’Tis true, the situation is fine, and the country all round very beautiful; but the air is extremely bad, and the seraglio itself is not free from the ill effect of it. The town is said to be eight miles in compass, I suppose they reckon in the gardens. There are some good houses in it, I mean large ones; for the architecture of their palaces never makes any great shew. It is now very full of people; but they are most of them such as follow the court, or camp; and when they are removed, I am told, ’tis no populous city. The river Maritza (anciently the Hebrus) on which it is situated, is dried up every summer, which contributes very much to make it unwholesome. It is now a very pleasant stream. There are two noble bridges built over it. I had the curiosity to go to see the exchange in my Turkish dress, which is disguise sufficient. Yet I own, I was not very easy when I saw it crowded with janizaries; but they dare not be rude to a woman, and made way for me with as much respect as if I had been in my own figure. It is half a mile in length, the roof arched, and kept extremely neat. It holds three hundred and sixty-five shops, furnished with all sorts of rich goods, exposed to sale in the same manner as at the new exchange in London. But the pavement is kept much neater; and the shops are all so clean, they seem just new painted. — Idle people of all sorts walk here for their diversion, or amuse themselves with drinking coffee, or sherbet, which is cried about as oranges and sweet-meats are in our play-houses. I observed most of the rich tradesmen were Jews. That people are in incredible power in this country. They have many privileges above all the natural Turks themselves, and have formed a very considerable commonwealth here, being judged by their own laws. They have drawn the whole trade of the empire into their hands, partly by the firm union amongst themselves, and partly by the idle temper and want of industry in the Turks. Every bassa has his Jew, who is his homme d’affaires; he is let into all his secrets, and does all his business. No bargain is made, no bribe received, no merchandise disposed of, but what passes through their hands. They are the physicians, the stewards, and the interpreters of all the great men. You may judge how advantageous this is to a people who never fail to make use of the smallest advantages. They have found the secret of making themselves so necessary, that they are certain of the protection of the court, whatever ministry is in power. Even the English, French, and Italian merchants, who are sensible of their artifices, are, however, forced to trust their affairs to their negotiation, nothing of trade being managed without them, and the meanest amongst them being too important to be disobliged, since the whole body take care of his interests, with as much vigour as they would those of the most considerable of their members. They are many of them vastly rich, but take care to make little public shew of it, though they live in their houses in the utmost luxury and magnificence. This copious subject has drawn me from my description of the exchange, founded by Ali Bassa, whose name it bears. Near it is the sherski, a street of a mile in length, full of shops of all kind of fine merchandise, but excessive dear, nothing being made here. It is covered on the top with boards, to keep out the rain, that merchants may meet conveniently in all weathers. The besiten near it, is another exchange, built upon pillars, where all sorts of horse-furniture is sold: glittering every where with gold, rich embroidery, and jewels, it makes a very agreeable shew. From this place I went, in my Turkish coach, to the camp, which is to move in a few days to the frontiers. The sultan is already gone to his tents, and all his court; the appearance of them is, indeed, very magnificent. Those of the great men are rather like palaces than tents, taking up a great compass of ground, and being divided into a vast number of apartments. They are all of green, and the bassas of three tails, have those ensigns of their power placed in very conspicuous manner before their tents, which are adorned on the top with gilded balls, more or less, according to their different ranks. The ladies go in coaches to see the camp, as eagerly, as ours did to that of Hyde-park; but ’tis very easy to observe, that the soldiers do not begin the campaign with any great cheerfulness. The war is a general grievance upon the people, but particularly hard upon the tradesmen, now that the grand signior is resolved to lead his army in person. Every company of them is obliged, upon this occasion, to make a present according to their ability.
I TOOK the pains of rising at six in the morning to see the ceremony which did not, however, begin till eight. The grand signior was at the seraglio window, to see the procession, which passed through the principal streets. It was preceded by an effendi, mounted on a camel, richly furnished, reading aloud the alcoran, finely bound, laid upon a cushion. He was surrounded by a parcel of boys, in white, singing some verses of it, followed by a man dressed in green boughs, representing a clean husbandman sowing seed. After him several reapers, With garlands of ears of corn, as Ceres is pictured, with scythes in their hands, seeming to mow. Then a little machine drawn by oxen, in which was a wind-mill, and boys employed in grinding corn, followed by another machine, drawn by buffaloes, carrying an oven, and two more boys, one employed in kneading the bread, and another in drawing it out of the oven. These boys threw little cakes on both sides amongst the crowd, and were followed by the whole company of bakers, marching on foot, two by two, in their best clothes, with cakes, loaves, pasties, and pies of all sorts on their heads, and after them two buffoons, or jack-puddings, with their faces and clothes smeared with meal, who diverted the mob with their antic gestures. In the same manner followed all the companies of trade in the empire; the nobler sort, such as jewellers, mercers, &c. finely mounted, and many of the pageants that represent their trades, perfectly magnificent; amongst which, that of the furriers made one of the best figures, being a very large machine, set round with the skins of ermines, foxes, &c. so well stuffed, that the animals seemed to be alive, and followed by music and dancers. I believe they were, upon the whole, twenty thousand men, all ready to follow his highness, if he commanded them. The rear was closed by the volunteers, who came to beg the honour of dying in his service. This part of the shew seemed to me so barbarous, that I removed from the window upon the first appearance of it. They were all naked to the middle. Some had their arms pierced through with arrows, left sticking in them. Others had them sticking in their heads, the blood trickling down their faces. Some slashed their arms with sharp knives, making the blood spring out upon those that stood there; and this is looked upon as an expression of their zeal for glory. I am told that some make use of it to advance their love; and, when they are near the window where their mistress stands, (all the women in town being veiled to see this spectacle) they stick another arrow for her sake, who gives some sign of approbation and encouragement to this gallantry. The whole shew lasted for near eight hours, to my great sorrow, who was heartily tired, though I was in the house of the widow of the captain bassa (admiral) who refreshed me with coffee, sweetmeats, sherbet, &c. with all possible civility.
I WENT two days after, to see, the mosque of sultan Selim I. which is a building very well worth the curiosity of a traveller. I was, dressed in my Turkish habit, and admitted without scruple; though I believe they guessed who I was, by the extreme officiousness of the door-keeper, to shew me every part of it. It is situated very advantageously in the midst of the city, and in the highest part of it, making a very noble show. The first court has four gates, and the innermost three. They are both of them surrounded with cloisters, with marble pillars of the Ionic order, finely polished, and of very lively colours; the whole pavement is of white marble, and the roof of the cloisters divided into several cupolas or domes, headed with gilt balls on the top. In the midst of each court, are fine fountains of white marble; and, before the great gate of the mosque, a portico, with green marble pillars, which has five gates, the body of the mosque being one prodigious dome. I understand so little of architecture, I dare not pretend to speak of the proportions. It seemed to me very regular, this I am sure of, it is vastly high, and I thought it the noblest building I ever saw. It has two rows of marble galleries on pillars, with marble balusters; the pavement is also marble, covered with Persian carpets. In my opinion, it is a great addition to its beauty, that it is not divided into pews, and incumbered with forms and benches like our churches; nor the pillars (which are most of them red and white marble) disfigured by the little tawdry images and pictures, that give Roman-catholic churches the air of toy-shops. The walls seemed to be inlaid with such very lively colours, in small flowers, that I could not imagine what stones had been made use of. But going nearer, I saw they were crusted with japan china, which has a very beautiful effect. In the midst hung a vast lamp of silver, gilt; besides which, I do verily believe, there were at least two thousand of a lesser size. This must look very glorious, when they are all lighted; but being at night, no women are suffered to enter. Under the large lamp is a great pulpit of carved wood, gilt; and just by, a fountain to wash, which, you know, is an essential part of their devotion. In one corner is a little gallery, inclosed with gilded lattices, for the grand-signior. At the upper end, a large niche, very like an altar, raised two steps, covered with gold brocade, and standing before it, two silver gilt candlesticks, the height of a man, and in them white wax candles, as thick as a man’s waist. The outside of the mosque is adorned with towers, vastly high, gilt on the top, from whence the imaums call the people to prayers. I had the curiosity to go up one of them, which is contrived so artfully, as to give surprise to all that see it. There is but one door, which leads to three different stair-cases, going to the three different stories of the tower, in such a manner, that three priests may ascend, rounding, without ever meeting each other; a contrivance very much admired. Behind the mosque, is an exchange full of shops, where poor artificers are lodged gratis. I saw several dervises at their prayers here. They are dressed in a plain piece of woolen, with their arms bare, and a woolen cap on their heads, like a high crowned hat without brims. I went to see some other mosques, built much after the same manner, but not comparable in point of magnificence to this I have described, which is infinitely beyond any church in Germany or England; I won’t talk of other countries I have not seen. The seraglio does not seem a very magnificent palace. But the gardens are very large, plentifully supplied with water, and full of trees; which is all I know of them, having never been in them.
I TELL you nothing of the order of Mr W——‘s entry, and his audience. These things are always the same, and have been so often described, I won’t trouble you with the repetition. The young prince, about eleven years old, sits near his father, when he gives audience: he is a handsome boy; but, probably, will not immediately succeed the sultan, there being two sons of sultan Mustapha (his eldest brother) remaining; the eldest about twenty years old, on whom the hopes of the people are fixed. This reign has been bloody and avaricious. I am apt to believe, they are very impatient to see the end of it.
I am, Sir, yours, &c. &c.
P. S. I will write to you again from Constantinople.
From Constantinople. — Journey from Adrianople — the little seraglio — the Greek church at Selivrea — singular lodging of a hogia or schoolmaster — general view of Pera — Constantinople — their burial places and tombs — manner of renewing a marriage after a divorce — unmarried women, why supposed in Turkey to die in a state of reprobation — this notion compared with the catholic veneration for celibacy — the Eastern taste for antiquities.
To The Abbot ——.
Constantinople, May 29. O. S.
I HAVE had the advantage of very fine weather, all my journey; and as the summer is now in its beauty, I enjoyed the pleasure of fine prospects; and the meadows being full of all sorts of garden flowers, and sweet herbs, my berlin perfumed the air as it pressed them. The grand signior furnished us with thirty covered waggons for our baggage, and five coaches of the country for my women. We found the road full of the great spahis and their equipages coming out of Asia to the war. They always travel with tents; but I chose to ly in houses all the way. I will not trouble you with the names of the villages we passed, in which there was nothing remarkable, but at Ciorlei, where there was a conac, or little seraglio, built for the use of the grand signior, when he goes this road. I had the curiosity to view all the apartments destined for the ladies of his court. They were in the midst of a thick grove of trees, made fresh by fountains; but I was most surprised to see the walls almost covered with little distiches of Turkish verse, wrote with pencils. I made my interpreter explain them to me, and I found several of them very well turned; though I easily believed him, that they had lost much of their beauty in the translation. One was literally thus in English:
We come into this world; we lodge, and we depart;
He never goes, that’s lodged within my heart.
THE rest of our journey was through fine painted meadows, by the side of the sea of Marmora, the ancient Propontis. We lay the next night at Selivrea, anciently a noble town. It is now a good sea-port, and neatly built enough, and has a bridge of thirty-two arches. Here is a famous ancient Greek church. I had given one of my coaches to a Greek lady, who desired the conveniency of travelling with me; she designed to pay her devotions, and I was glad of the opportunity of going with her. I found it an ill-built edifice, set out with the same sort of ornaments, but less rich, as the Roman-catholic churches. They shewed me a saint’s body, where I threw a piece of money; and a picture of the virgin Mary, drawn by the hand of St Luke, very little to the credit of his painting; but, however, the finest Madona of Italy, is not more famous for her miracles. The Greeks have a monstrous taste in their pictures, which, for more finery, are always drawn upon a gold ground. You may imagine what a good air this has; but they have no notion, either of shade or proportion. They have a bishop here, who officiated in his purple robe, and sent me a candle almost as big as myself for a present, when I was at my lodging. We lay that night at a town called Bujuk Cekmege, or Great Bridge; and the night following, at Kujuk Cekmege, or Little Bridge; in a very pleasant lodging, formerly a monastery of dervises; having before it a large court, encompassed with marble cloisters, with a good fountain in the middle. The prospect from this place, and the gardens round it, is the most agreeable I have seen; and shews, that monks of all religions know how to chuse their retirements. ’Tis now belonging to a hogia or schoolmaster, who teaches boys here. I asked him to shew me his own apartment, and was surprised to see him point to a tall cypress tree in the garden, on the top of which was a place for a bed for himself, and a little lower, one for his wife and two children, who slept there every night. I was so much diverted with the fancy, I resolved to examine his nest nearer; but after going up fifty steps, I found I had still fifty to go up, and then I must climb from branch to branch, with some hazard of my neck. I thought it therefore the best way to come down again.
WE arrived the next day at Constantinople; but I can yet tell you very little of it, all my time having been taken up with receiving visits, which are, at least, a very good entertainment to the eyes, the young women being all beauties, and their beauty highly improved by the high taste of their dress. Our palace is in Pera, which is no more a suburb of Constantinople, than Westminster is a suburb to London. All the ambassadors are lodged very near each other. One part of our house shews us the port, the city, and the seraglio, and the distant hills of Asia; perhaps, all together, the most beautiful prospect in the world.
A CERTAIN French author says, Constantinople is twice as big as Paris. Mr W——y is unwilling to own ’tis bigger than London, though I confess it appears to me to be so; but I don’t believe it is so populous. The burying fields about it are certainly much larger than the whole city. ’Tis surprising what a vast deal of land is lost this way in Turkey. Sometimes I have seen burying places of several miles, belonging to very inconsiderable villages, which were formerly great towns, and retain no other mark of their ancient grandeur, than this dismal one. On no occasion do they ever remove a stone that serves for a monument. Some of them are costly enough, being of very fine marble. They set up a pillar, with a carved turbant on the top of it, to the memory of a man; and as the turbants, by their different shapes, shew the quality or profession, ’tis in a manner putting up the arms of the deceased; besides, the pillar commonly bears an inscription in gold letters. The ladies have a simple pillar without other ornament, except those that die unmarried, who have a rose on the top of their monument. The sepulchres of particular families are railed in, and planted round with trees. Those of the sultans, and some great men, have lamps constantly burning in them.
WHEN I spoke of their religion, I forgot to mention two particularities, one of which I have read of, but it seemed so odd to me, I could not believe it; yet ’tis certainly true; that when a man has divorced his wife, in the most solemn manner, he can take her again, upon no other terms, than permitting another man to pass a night with her; and there are some examples of those who have submitted to this law, rather than not have back their beloved. The other point of doctrine is very extraordinary. Any woman that dies unmarried is looked upon to die in a state of reprobation. To confirm this belief, they reason, that the end of the creation of woman is to increase and multiply; and that she is only properly employed in the works of her calling, when she is bringing forth children, or taking care of them, which are all the virtues that God expects from her. And indeed, their way of life, which shuts them out of all public commerce, does not permit them any other. Our vulgar notion, that they don’t own women to have any souls, is a mistake. ’Tis true, they say, they are not of so elevated a kind, and therefore must not hope to be admitted into the paradise appointed for the men, who are to be entertained by celestial beauties. But there is a place of happiness destined for souls of the inferior order, where all good women are to be in eternal bliss. Many of them are very superstitious, and will not remain widows ten days, for fear of dying in the reprobate state of an useless creature. But those that like their liberty, and are not slaves to their religion, content themselves with marrying when they are afraid of dying. This is a piece of theology, very different from that which teaches nothing to be more acceptable to God than a vow of perpetual virginity: which divinity is most rational, I leave you to determine.
I HAVE already made some progress in a collection of Greek medals. Here are several professed antiquaries, who are ready to serve any body that desires them. But you cannot imagine how they stare in my face, when I enquire about them, as if no body was permitted to seek after medals, till they were grown a piece of antiquity themselves. I have got some very valuable ones of the Macedonian kings, particularly one of Perseus, so lively, I fancy I can see all his ill qualities in his face. I have a prophyry head finely cut, of the true Greek sculpture; but who it represents, is to be guessed at by the learned when I return. For you are not to suppose these antiquaries (who are all Greeks) know any thing. Their trade is only to sell; they have correspondents at Aleppo, Grand Cairo, in Arabia and Palestine, who send them all they can find, and very often great heaps, that are only fit to melt into pans and kettles. They get the best price they can for them, without knowing those that are valuable from those that are not. Those that pretend to skill, generally find out the image of some saint in the medals of the Greek cities. One of them, shewing me the figure of a Pallas, with a victory in her hand on a reverse, assured me, it was the Virgin, holding a crucifix. The same man offered me the head of a Socrates, on a sardonyx; and, to enhance the value, gave him the title of saint Augustine. I have bespoke a mummy, which I hope will come safe to my hands, notwithstanding the misfortune that befel a very fine one, designed for the king of Sweden. He gave a great price for it, and the Turks took it into their heads, that he must have some considerable project depending upon it. They fancied it the body of, God knows who; and that the state of their empire mystically depended on the conversation of it. Some old prophecies were remembered upon this occasion, and the mummy committed prisoner to the Seven Towers, where it has remained under close confinement ever since, I dare not try my interest in so considerable a point, as the release of it; but I hope mine will pass without examination. I can tell you nothing more at present of this famous city. When I have looked a little about me, you shall hear from me again. I am, Sir,
Your’s, &c. &c.
From Belgrade Village. — Lady M’s agreeable situation there — diary of her way of spending the week, compared with the modish way of spending time.
To Mr Pope.
Belgrade Village, June 17. O. S.
I HOPE, before this time, you have received two or three of my letters. I had yours but yesterday, though dated the third of February, in which you suppose me to be dead and buried. I have already let you know, that I am still alive; but to say truth, I look upon my present circumstances to be exactly the same with those of departed spirits. The heats of Constantinople have driven me to this place, which perfectly answers the description of the Elysian fields. I am in the middle of a wood, consisting chiefly of fruit-trees, watered by a vast number of fountains, famous for the excellency of their water, and divided into many shady walks, upon short grass, that seems to me artificial, but, I am assured, is the pure work of nature — within view of the Black sea, from whence we perpetually enjoy the refreshment of cool breezes, that make us insensible of the heat of the summer. The village is only inhabited by the richest amongst the Christians, who meet every night at a fountain, forty paces from my house, to sing and dance. The beauty and dress of the women exactly resemble the ideas of the ancient nymphs, as they are given us by the representations of the poets and painters. But what persuades me more fully of my decease, is the situation of my own mind, the profound ignorance I am in, of what passes among the living (which only comes to me by chance) and the great calmness with which I receive it. Yet I have still a hankering after my friends and acquaintances left in the world, according to the authority of that admirable author,
That spirits departed are wondrous kind
To friends and relations left behind:
Which nobody can deny.
Of which solemn truth, I am a dead instance. I think Virgil is of the same opinion, that in human souls there will still be some remains of human passions:
—Curae non ipsae in morte relinquunt.
And ’tis very necessary, to make a perfect elysium, that there should be a river Lethe, which I am not so happy as to find. To say truth, I am sometimes very weary of the singing, and dancing, and sunshine, and wish for the smoke and impertinencies in which you toil; though I endeavour to persuade myself, that I live in a more agreeable variety than you do; and that Monday, setting of partridges; Tuesday, reading English; Wednesday, studying in the Turkish language, (in which, by the way, I am already very learned;) Thursday, classical authors; Friday, spent in writing; Saturday, at my needle; and Sunday, admitting of visits, and hearing of music, is a better way of disposing of the week; than, Monday, at the drawing room; Tuesday, lady Mohun’s; Wednesday, at the opera; Thursday, the play; Friday, Mrs Chetwynd’s, &c. a perpetual round of hearing the same scandal, and seeing the same follies acted over and over, which here affect me no more than they do other dead people. I can now hear of displeasing things with pity, and without indignation. The reflection on the great gulph between you and me, cools all news that come hither. I can neither be sensibly touched with joy or grief, when I consider, that possibly the cause of either is removed, before the letter comes to my hands. But (as I said before) this indolence does not extend to my few friendships; I am still warmly sensible of yours and Mr Congreve’s, and desire to live in your remembrance, though dead to all the world beside.
I am, &c. &c.
Belgrade Village. — Turkish female slaves described — voyages to the Levant filled with untruths — balm of Mecca, its extraordinary effects on the ladies faces — Turkish ladies great dealers in magic charms, to command love.
To the Lady ——.
Belgrade Village, June 17 O. S.
I HEARTILY beg your ladyship’s pardon; but I really could not forbear laughing heartily at your letter, and the commissions you are pleased to honour me with. You desire me to buy you a Greek slave, who is to be mistress of a thousand good qualities. The Greeks are subjects, and not slaves. Those who are to be bought in that manner, are either such as are taken in war, or stolen by the Tartars from Russia, Circassia, or Georgia, and are such miserable, awkward, poor wretches, you would not think any of them worthy to be your house-maids. ’Tis true, that many thousands were taken in the Morea; but they have been, most of them, redeemed by the charitable contributions of the Christians, or ransomed by their own relations at Venice. The fine slaves that wait upon the great ladies, or serve the pleasures of the great men, are all bought at the age of eight or nine years old, and educated with great care, to accomplish them in singing, dancing, embroidery, &c. They are commonly Circassians, and their patron never sells them, except it is as a punishment for some very great fault. If ever they grow weary of them, they either present them to a friend, or give them their freedom. Those that are exposed to sale at the markets, are always either guilty of some crime, or so entirely worthless, that they are of no use at all. I am afraid you will doubt the truth of this account, which, I own, is very different from our common notions in England; but it is no less truth for all that. — Your whole letter is full of mistakes, from one end to the other. I see you have taken your ideas of Turkey, from that worthy author Dumont, who has wrote with equal ignorance and confidence. ’Tis a particular pleasure to me here, to read the voyages to the Levant, which are generally so far removed from truth, and so full of absurdities, I am very well diverted with them. They never fail giving you an account of the women, whom, ’tis certain, they never saw, and talking very wisely of the genius of the men, into whose company they are never admitted; and very often describe mosques, which they dare not even peep into. The Turks are very proud, and will not converse with a stranger they are not assured is considerable in his own country. I speak of the men of distinction; for, as to the ordinary fellows, you may imagine what ideas their conversation can give of the general genius of the people.
AS to the balm of Mecca, I will certainly send you some; but it is not so easily got as you suppose it, and I cannot, in conscience, advise you to make use of it. I know not how it comes to have such universal applause. All the ladies of my acquaintance at London and Vienna, have begged me to send pots of it to them. I have had a present of a small quantity (which, I’ll assure you, is very valuable) of the best sort, and with great joy applied it to my face, expecting some wonderful effect to my advantage. The next morning, the change indeed was wonderful; my face was swelled to a very extraordinary size, and all over as red as my lady H——‘s. It remained in this lamentable state three days, during which, you may be sure, I passed my time very ill. I believed it would never be otherways; and to add to my mortification, Mr W——y reproached my indiscretion, without ceasing. However, my face is since in statu quo; nay, I am told by the ladies here, that it is much mended by the operation, which, I confess, I cannot perceive in my looking-glass. Indeed, if one was to form an opinion of this balm from their faces, one should think very well of it. They all make use of it, and have the loveliest bloom in the world. For my part, I never intend to endure the pain of it again; let my complexion take its natural course, and decay in its own due time. I have very little esteem for medicines of this nature, but do as you please, madam; only remember, before you use it, that your face will not be such as you will care to shew in the drawing-room for some days after. If one was to believe the women in this country, there is a surer way of making one’s self beloved, than by becoming handsome; though, you know that’s our method. But they pretend to the knowledge of secrets, that, by way of inchantment, give them the entire empire over whom they please. For me, who am not very apt to believe in wonders, I cannot find faith for this. I disputed the point last night with a lady, who really talks very sensibly on any other subject; but she was downright angry with me, in that she did not perceive, she had persuaded me of the truth of forty stories she told me of this kind; and, at last, mentioned several ridiculous marriages, that there could be no other reason assigned for. I assured her, that, in England, where we were entirely ignorant of all magic, where the climate is not half so warm, nor the women half so handsome, we were not without our ridiculous marriages; and that we did not look upon it as any thing supernatural, when a man played the fool, for the sake of a woman. But my arguments could not convince her against (as she said) her certain knowledge. To this she added, that she scrupled making use of charms herself; but that she could do it whenever she pleased; and, staring me in the face, said, (with a very learned air) that no enchantments would have their effects upon me; and that there were some people exempt from their power, but very few. You may imagine how I laughed at this discourse; but all the women are of the same opinion. They don’t pretend to any commerce with the devil; but only that there are certain compositions adapted to inspire love. If one could send over a ship-load of them, I fancy it would be a very quick way of raising an estate. What would not some ladies of our acquaintance give for such merchandize? Adieu, my dear lady ——. I cannot conclude my letter with a subject that affords more delightful scenes to the imagination. I leave you to figure to yourself the extreme court that will be made to me, at my return, if my travels should furnish me with such a useful piece of learning.
I am, dear madam, yours, &c. &c.
From Pera of Constantinople. — Barrenness disgraceful among the Turkish ladies — often destroy themselves by quackery on this account — naturally prolific — the Turkish houses why liable to fire — mildness of the winter at Constantinople — Turkish punishment for convicted liars.
To Mrs T——.
Pera of Constantinople, Jan. 4. O. S.
I AM infinitely obliged to you, dear Mrs T—— for your entertaining letter. You are the only one of my correspondents that have judged right enough, to think I would gladly be informed of the news amongst you. All the rest of them tell me, (almost in the same words) that they suppose I know every thing. Why they are pleased to suppose in this manner, I can guess no reason, except they are persuaded, that the breed of Mahomet’s pigeon still subsists in this country, and that I receive supernatural intelligence. I wish I could return your goodness with some diverting accounts from hence. But I know not what part of the scenes here would gratify your curiosity, or whether you have any curiosity at all for things so far distant. To say the truth, I am at this present writing, not very much turned for the recollection of what is diverting, my head being wholly filled with the preparations necessary for the increase of my family, which I expect every day. You may easily guess at my uneasy situation. But I am, however, comforted in some degree, by the glory that accrues to me from it, and a reflection on the contempt I should otherwise fall under. You won’t know what to make of this speech; but, in this country, ’tis more despicable to be married and not fruitful, than ’tis with us to be fruitful before marriage. They have a notion, that whenever a woman leaves off bringing forth children, ’tis because she is too old for that business, whatever her face says to the contrary. This opinion makes the ladies here so ready to make proofs of their youth, (which is as necessary, in order to be a received beauty, as it is to shew the proofs of nobility, to be admitted knights of Malta) that they do not content themselves with using the natural means, but fly to all sorts of quackeries, to avoid the scandal of being past childbearing, and often kill themselves by them. Without any exaggeration, all the women of my acquaintance have twelve or thirteen children; and the old ones boast of having had five and twenty, or thirty a-piece, and are respected according to the number they have produced. — When they are with child, ’tis their common expression to say, They hope God will be so merciful as to send them two this time; and when I have asked them sometimes, How they expected to provide for such a flock as they desire? They answered, That the plague will certainly kill half of them; which, indeed, generally happens, without much concern to the parents, who are satisfied with the vanity of having brought forth so plentifully. The French ambassadress is forced to comply with this fashion as well as myself. She has not been here much above a year, and has lain in once, and is big again. What is most wonderful, is, the exemption they seem to enjoy from the curse entailed on the sex. They see all company on the day of their delivery, and, at the fortnight’s end, return visits, set out in their jewels and new clothes. I wish I may find the influence of the climate in this particular. But I fear I shall continue an English woman in that affair, as well as I do in my dread of fire and plague, which are two things very little feared here. Most families have had their houses burnt down once or twice, occasioned by their extraordinary way of warming themselves, which is neither by chimnies nor stoves, but by a certain machine called a tendour, the height of two feet, in the form of a table, covered with a fine carpet or embroidery. This is made only of wood, and they put into it a small quantity of hot ashes, and sit with their legs under the carpet. At this table they work, read and very often, sleep; and, if they chance to dream, kick down the tendour, and the hot ashes commonly set the house on fire. There were five hundred houses burnt in this manner about a fortnight ago, and I have seen several of the owners since, who seem not at all moved at so common a misfortune. They put their goods into a bark, and see their houses burn with great philosophy, their persons being very seldom endangered, having no stairs to descend.
BUT, having entertained you with things I don’t like, ’tis but just I should tell you something that pleases me. The climate is delightful in the extremest degree. I am now sitting, this present fourth of January, with the windows open, enjoying the warm shine of the sun, while you are freezing over a sad sea-coal fire; and my chamber is set out with carnations, roses, and jonquils, fresh from my garden. I am also charmed with many points of the Turkish law, to our shame be it spoken, better designed, and better executed than ours; particularly, the punishment of convicted liars (triumphant criminals in our country, God knows). They are burnt in the forehead with a hot iron, when they are proved the authors of any notorious falsehoods. How many white foreheads should we see disfigured! How many fine gentlemen would be forced to wear their wigs as low as their eye-brows, were this law in practice with us! I should go on to tell you many other parts of justice, but I must send for my midwife.
Pera of Constantinople. — Lady M. brought to bed — visits the sultana Hafiten — anecdotes of that lady — her dress — entertainment — story of the sultan’s throwing a handkerchief contradicted — amusements of the seraglio — the sultana Hafiten’s gardens, bed chamber, and slaves — the Arabian tales, a true representation of Eastern manners — magnificence of the Turkish harams — visit to the fair Fatima — the characters of the sultana Hafiten and Fatima compared — story of Fatima — magnificence of her habitation.
To the Countess of ——.
Pera of Constantinople, March 10. O. S.
I HAVE not written to you, dear sister, these many months — a great piece of self-denial. But I know not where to direct, or what part of the world you are in. I have received no letter from you since that short note of April last, in which you tell me, that you are on the point of leaving England, and promise me a direction for the place you stay in; but I have, in vain, expected it till now; and now I only learn from the gazette, that you are returned, which induces me to venture this letter to your house at London. I had rather ten of my letters should be lost, than you imagine I don’t write; and I think it is hard fortune, if one in ten don’t reach you. However, I am resolved to keep the copies, as testimonies of my inclination, to give you, to the utmost of my power, all the diverting part of my travels, while you are exempt from all the fatigues and inconveniences.
IN the first place, then, I wish you joy of your niece; for I was brought to bed of a daughter [The present Countess of Bute] five weeks ago. I don’t mention this as one of my diverting adventures; though I must own, that it is not half so mortifying here as in England; there being as much difference, as there is between a little cold in the head, which sometimes happens here, and the consumption cough, so common in London. No body keeps their house a month for lying in; and I am not so fond of any of our customs, as to retain them when they are not necessary. I returned my visits at three weeks end; and, about four days ago, crossed the sea, which divides this place from Constantinople, to make a new one, where I had the good fortune to pick up many curiosities. I went to see the sultana: Hafiten, favourite of the late emperor Mustapha, who, you know, (or perhaps you don’t know) was deposed by his brother, the reigning sultan, and died a few weeks after, being poisoned, as it was generally believed. This lady was, immediately after his death, saluted with an absolute order to leave the seraglio, and chuse herself a husband among the great men at the Porte. I suppose you may imagine her overjoyed at this proposal. — Quite the contrary. — These women, who are called, and esteem themselves queens, look upon this liberty as the greatest disgrace and affront that can happen to them. She threw herself at the sultan’s feet, and begged him to poniard her, rather than use his brother’s widow with that contempt. She represented to him, in agonies of sorrow, that she was privileged from this misfortune, by having brought five princes into the Ottoman family; but all the boys being dead, and only one girl surviving, this excuse was not received, and she was compelled to make her choice. She chose Bekir Effendi, then secretary of state, and above four score years old, to convince the world, that she firmly intended to keep the vow she had made, of never suffering a second husband to approach her bed; and since she must honour some subject so far, as to be called his wife, she would chuse him as a mark of her gratitude, since it was he that had presented her, at the age of ten years, to, her last lord. But she never permitted him to pay her one visit; though it is now fifteen years she has been in his house, where she passes her time in uninterrupted mourning, with a constancy very little known in Christendom, especially in a widow of one and twenty, for she is now but thirty-six. She has no black eunuchs for her guard, her husband being obliged to respect her as a queen, and not to inquire at all into what is done in her apartment.
I WAS led into a large room, with a sofa the whole length of it, adorned with white marble pillars like a ruelle, covered with pale blue figured velvet, on a silver ground, with cushions of the same, where I was desired to repose, till the sultana appeared, who had contrived this manner of reception, to avoid rising up at my entrance, though she made me an inclination of her head, when I rose up to her. I was very glad to observe a lady that had been distinguished by the favour of an emperor, to whom beauties were, every day, presented from all parts of the world. But she did not seem to me, to have ever been half so beautiful as the fair Fatima I saw at Adrianople; though she had the remains of a fine face, more decayed by sorrow than time. But her dress was something so surprisingly rich, that I cannot forbear describing it to you. She wore a vest called dualma, which differs from a caftan by longer sleeves, and folding over at the bottom. It was of purple cloth, strait to her shape, and thick set, on each side, down to her feet, and round the sleeves, with pearls of the best water, of the same size as their buttons commonly are. You must not suppose, that I mean as large as those of my Lord —— but about the bigness of a pea; and to these buttons large loops of diamonds, in the form of those gold loops, so common on birth-day coats. This habit was tied, at the waist, with two large tassels of smaller pearls, and round the arms embroidered with large diamonds. Her shift was fastened at the bottom with a great diamond, shaped like a lozenge; her girdle as broad as the broadest English ribband, entirely covered with diamonds. Round her neck she wore three chains, which reached to her knees; one of large pearl, at the bottom of which hung a fine coloured emerald, as big as a turkey-egg; another, consisting of two hundred emeralds, close joined together, of the most lively green, perfectly matched, every one as large as a half-crown piece, and as thick as three crown pieces, and another of small emeralds, perfectly round. But her ear-rings eclipsed all the rest. They were two diamonds, shaped exactly like pears, as large as a big hazle-nut. Round her talpoche she had four strings of pearl — the whitest and most perfect in the world, at least enough to make four necklaces, every one as large as the duchess of Marlborough’s, and of the same shape, fastened with two roses, consisting of a large ruby for the middle stone, and round them twenty drops of clean diamonds to each. Besides this, her head-dress was covered with bodkins of emeralds and diamonds. She wore large diamond bracelets, and had five rings on her fingers (except Mr Pitt’s) the largest I ever saw in my life. ’Tis for jewellers to compute the value of these things; but, according to the common estimation of jewels, in our part of the world, her whole dress must be worth a hundred thousand pounds sterling. This I am sure of, that no European queen has half the quantity; and the empress’s jewels, though very fine would look very mean near her’s. She gave me a dinner of fifty dishes of meat, which (after their fashion) were placed on the table but one at a time, and was extremely tedious. But the magnificence of her table answered very well to that of her dress. The knives were of gold, and the hafts set with diamonds. But the piece of luxury which grieved my eyes, was the table-cloth and napkins, which were all tiffany, embroidered with silk and gold, in the finest manner, in natural flowers. It was with the utmost regret that I made use of these costly napkins, which were as finely wrought as the finest handkerchiefs that ever came out of this country. You may be sure, that they were entirely spoiled before dinner was over. The sherbet (which is the liquor they drink at meals) was served in china bowls; but the covers and salvers massy gold. After dinner, water was brought in gold basons, and towels of the same kind with the napkins, which I very unwillingly wiped my hands upon, and coffee was served in china, with gold soucoups [Saucers.]
THE sultana seemed in a very good humour, and talked to me with the utmost civility. I did not omit this opportunity of learning all that I possibly could of the seraglio, which is so entirely unknown amongst us. She assured me, that the story of the sultan’s throwing a handkerchief, is altogether fabulous; and the manner, upon that occasion, no other than this: He sends the kyslir aga, to signify to the lady the honour he intends her. She is immediately complimented upon it, by the others, and led to the bath, where she is perfumed and dressed in the most magnificent and becoming manner. The emperor precedes his visit by a royal present, and then comes into her apartment: neither is there any such thing as her creeping in at the bed’s foot. She said, that the first he made choice of was always after the first in rank, and not the mother of the eldest son, as other writers would make us believe. Sometimes the sultan diverts himself in the company of all his ladies, who stand in a circle round him. And she confessed, they were ready to die with envy and jealousy of the happy she that he distinguished by any appearance of preference. But this seemed to me neither better nor worse than the circles in most courts, where the glance of the monarch is watched, and every smile is waited for with impatience, and envied by those who cannot obtain it.
SHE never mentioned the sultan without tears in her eyes, yet she seemed very fond of the discourse. “My past happiness, said she, “appears a dream to me. Yet I cannot forget, that I was beloved by “the greatest and most lovely of mankind. I was chosen from all the “rest, to make all his campaigns with him; and I would not survive “him, if I was not passionately fond of the princess my daughter. “Yet all my tenderness for her was hardly enough to make me preserve “my life. When I left him, I passed a whole twelvemonth without “seeing the light. Time has softened my despair; yet I now pass some “days every week in tears, devoted to the memory of my sultan.” There was no affectation in these words. It was easy to see she was in a deep melancholy, though her good humour made her willing to divert me.
SHE asked me to walk in her garden, and one of her slaves immediately brought her a pellice of rich brocade lined with sables. I waited on her into the garden, which had nothing in it remarkable but the fountains; and from thence she shewed me all her apartments. In her bed-chamber, her toilet was displayed, consisting of two looking-glasses, the frames covered With pearls, and her night talpoche set with bodkins of jewels, and near it three vests of fine sables, every one of which is, at least, worth a thousand dollars, (two hundred pounds English money.) I don’t doubt but these rich habits were purposely placed in sight, though they seemed negligently thrown on the sofa. When I took my leave of her, I was complimented with perfumes, as at the grand vizier’s, and presented with a very fine embroidered handkerchief. Her slaves were to the number of thirty, besides ten little ones, the eldest not above seven years old. These were the most beautiful girls I ever saw, all richly dressed; and I observed that the sultana took a great deal of pleasure in these lovely children, which is a vast expence; for there is not a handsome girl of that age to be bought under a hundred pounds sterling. They wore little garlands of flowers, and their own hair, braided, which was all their head-dress; but their habits were all of gold stuffs. These served her coffee kneeling; brought water when she washed, &c. —’Tis a great part of the work of the older slaves to take care of these young girls, to learn them to embroider, and to serve them as carefully as if they were children of the family. Now, do you imagine I have entertained you, all this while, with a relation that has, at least, received many embellishments from my hand? This, you will say, is but too like the Arabian tales. — These embroidered napkins! and a jewel as large as a turkey’s egg! — You forget, dear sister, those very tales were written by an author of this country, and (excepting the enchantments) are a real representation of the manners here. We travellers are in very hard circumstances: If we say nothing but what has been said before us, we are dull, and we have observed nothing. If we tell any thing new, we are laughed at as fabulous and romantic, not allowing either for the difference of ranks, which affords difference of company, or more curiosity, or the change of customs, that happen every twenty years in every country. But the truth is, people judge of travellers, exactly with the same candour, good nature, and impartiality, they judge of their neighbours upon all occasions. For my part, if I live to return amongst you, I am so well acquainted with the morals of all my dear friends and acquaintances, that I am resolved to tell them nothing at all, to avoid the imputation (which their charity would certainly incline them to) of my telling too much. But I depend upon your knowing me enough, to believe whatever I seriously assert for truth; though I give you leave to be surprised at an account so new to you. But what would you say if I told you, that I have been in a haram, where the winter apartment was wainscoted with inlaid work of mother of pearl, ivory of different colours, and olive wood, exactly like the little boxes you have seen brought Out of this country; and in whose rooms designed for summer, the walls are all crusted with japan china, the roofs gilt, and the floors spread with the finest Persian carpets? Yet there is nothing more true; such is the palace of my lovely friend, the fair Fatima, whom I was acquainted with at Adrianople. I went to visit her yesterday; and, if possible, she appeared to me handsomer than before. She met me at the door of her chamber, and, giving me her hand With the best grace in the world; You Christian ladies (said she, with a smile that made her as beautiful as an angel) have the reputation of inconstancy, and I did not expect, whatever goodness you expressed for me at Adrianople, that I should ever see you again. But I am now convinced that I have really the happiness of pleasing you; and, if you knew how I speak of you amongst our ladies, you would be assured, that you do me justice in making me your friend. She placed me in the corner of the sofa, and I spent the afternoon in her conversation, with the greatest pleasure in the world. — The sultana Hafiten is, what one Would naturally expect to find a Turkish lady, willing to oblige, but not knowing how to go about it; and ’tis easy to see, in her manner, that she has lived excluded from the world. But Fatima has all the politeness and good breeding of a court, with an air that inspires, at once, respect and tenderness; and now, that I understand her language, I find her wit as agreeable as her beauty. She is very carious after the manners of other countries, and has not the partiality for her own, so common in little minds. A Greek that I carried with me, who had never seen her before, (nor could have been admitted now, if she had not been in my train,) shewed that surprise at her beauty and manners, which is unavoidable at the first sight, and said to me in Italian — This is no Turkish lady, she is certainly some Christian. — Fatima guessed she spoke of her, and asked what she said. I would not have told her, thinking she would have been no better pleased with the compliment, than one of our court beauties to be told she had the air of a Turk; but the Greek lady told it to her; and she smiled, saying, It is not the first time I have heard so: my mother was a Poloneze, taken at the siege of Caminiec; and my father used to rally me, saying, He believed his Christian wife had found some gallant; for that I had not the air of a Turkish girl. — I assured her, that if all the Turkish ladies were like her, it was absolute necessary to confine them from public view, for the repose of mankind; and proceeded to tell her, what a noise such a face as hers would make in London or Paris. I can’t believe you, replied she agreeably; if beauty was so much valued in your country, as you say, they would never have suffered you to leave it. — Perhaps, dear sister, you laugh at my vanity in repeating this compliment; but I only do it, as I think it very well turned, and give it you as an instance of the spirit of her conversation. Her house was magnificently furnished, and very well fancied; her winter rooms being furnished with figured velvet, on gold grounds, and those for summer, with fine Indian quilting embroidered with gold. The houses of the great Turkish ladies are kept clean with as much nicety as those in Holland. This was situated in a high part of the town; and from the window of her summer apartment, we had the prospect of the sea, the islands, and the Asian mountains. — My letter is insensibly grown so long, I am ashamed of it. This is a very bad symptom. ’Tis well if I don’t degenerate into a downright story-teller. It may be, our proverb, that knowledge is no burden, may be true, as to one’s self but knowing too much, is very apt to make us troublesome to other people.
I am, &c, &c.
Pera. — Turkish love-letter, with a translation — the confusion of tongues spoke at Pera — Lady M. in danger of losing her English.
To the Lady ——.
Pera, March 16. O. S.
I AM extremely pleased, my dear lady, that you have, at length, found a commission for me, that I can answer, without disappointing your expectations; though I must tell you, that it is not so easy as perhaps you think it; and that if my curiosity had not been more diligent than any other stranger’s has ever yet been, I must have answered you with an excuse, as, I was forced to do, when you desired me to buy you a Greek slave. I have got for you, as you desire, a Turkish love-letter, which I have put into a little box, and ordered the captain of the Smyrniote to deliver it to you with this letter. The translation of it is literally as follows: The first piece you should pull out of the purse, is a little pearl, which is in Turkish called Ingi, and must be understood in this manner:
|Sensin Uzellerin gingi
Fairest of the young.
|Caremfilsen cararen yok
Conge gulsum timarin yok
Benseny chok than severim
Senin benden, haberin yok.
You are as slender as the clove!
You are an unblown rose!
I have long loved you, and you have not known it!
|Derdime derman bul
Have pity on my passion!
|Birlerum sahat sahat
I faint every hour!
|Ver bixe bir umut
Give me some hope.
|Derdinden oldum zabun
I am sick with love.
|Ben oliyim size umur
May I die, and all my years be yours!
|Ben aglarum sen gul
May you be pleased, and your sorrows mine!
|Oliim sana yazir
Suffer me to be your slave.
|Ustune bulunmaz pahu
Your price is not to be found.
|Sen ghel ben chekeim senin hargin
But my fortune is yours.
|Esking-ilen oldum ghira
I burn, I burn! my flame consumes me!
|Uzunu benden a yirma
Don’t turn away your face.
Crown of my head!
|Benim iki Guzum
|Ulugorum tez ghel
I die--come quickly.
And, by way of postscript:
|Bize bir dogm haber
Send me an answer.
You see this letter is all in verse, and I can assure you, there is as much fancy shewn in the choice of them, as in the most studied expressions of our letters; there being, I believe, a million of verses designed for this use. There is no colour, no flower, no weed, no fruit, herb, pebble, or feather, that has not a verse belonging to it; and you may quarrel, reproach, or send letters of passion, friendship, or civility, or even Of news, without ever inking your fingers.
I FANCY you are now wondering at my profound learning; but, alas! dear madam, I am almost fallen into the misfortune so common to the ambitious; while they are employed on distant insignificant conquests abroad, a rebellion starts up at home; — I am in great danger of losing my English. I find ’tis not half so easy to me to write in it, as it was a twelvemonth ago. I am forced to study for expressions, and must leave off all other languages, and try to learn my mother tongue. — Human understanding is as much limited as human power, or human strength. The memory can retain but a certain number of images; and ’tis as impossible for one human creature to be perfect master of ten different languages, as to have, in perfect subjection, ten different kingdoms, or to fight against ten men at a time; I am afraid I shall at last know none as I should do. I live in a place, that very well represents the tower of Babel: in Pera they speak Turkish, Greek, Hebrew, Armenian, Arabic, Persian, Russian, Sclavonian, Walachian, German, Dutch, French, English, Italian, Hungarian; and, what is worse, there are ten of these languages spoken in my own family. My grooms are Arabs; my footmen French, English, and Germans; my nurse an Armenian; my house-maids Russians; half a dozen other servants, Greeks; my steward an Italian; my janizaries Turks; so that I live in the perpetual hearing of this medley of sounds, which produces a very extraordinary effect upon the people that are born here; for they learn all these languages at the same time, and without knowing any of them well enough to write or read in it. There are very few men, women, or even children here, that have not the same compass of words in five or six of them. I know, myself, several infants of three or four years old, that speak Italian, French, Greek, Turkish, and Russian, which last they learn of their nurses, who are generally of that country. This seems almost incredible to you, and is, in my mind, one of the most curious things in this country, and takes off very much from the merit of our ladies, who set up for such extraordinary geniuses, upon the credit of some superficial knowledge of French and Italian.
AS I prefer English to all the rest, I am extremely mortified at the daily decay of it in my head, where I’ll assure you (with grief of heart) it is reduced to such a small number of words, I cannot recollect any tolerable phrase to conclude my letter with, and am forced to tell your ladyship very bluntly, that I am,
Your’s, &C. &c.
Suburbs of Constantinople — Turkish water-man — Constantinople, why not easy to be seen by Europeans — pleasure of rowing down the Bosphorus — view of Constantinople from the water — the seraglio — Sancta Sophia — the mosque Of sultan Solyman — of sultana Valida — the atlerdan — the brazen serpentine column — the exchange — the bisisten — humanity of the Turks towards their slaves — the historical pillar fallen down — the dervises — their devotion and dancing.
To the Countess of B——.
AT length I have heard from my dear Lady B—— for the first time. I am persuaded you have had the goodness to write before, but I have had the ill fortune to lose your letters. Since my last, I have staid quietly at Constantinople, a city that I ought in conscience to give your ladyship a right notion of, since I know you can have none but what is partial and mistaken from the writings of travellers. ’Tis certain, there are many people that pass years here in Pera, without having ever seen it, and yet they all pretend to describe it. Pera, Tophana, and Galata, wholly inhabited by French Christians (and which, together, make the appearance of a very fine town,) are divided from it by the sea, which is not above half so broad as the broadest part of the Thames; but the Christian men are loth to hazard the adventures they sometimes meet with amongst the levents or seamen, (worse monsters than our watermen) and the women must cover their faces to go there, which they have a perfect aversion to do. ’Tis true, they wear veils in Pera, but they are such as only serve to shew their beauty to more advantage, and would not be permitted in Constantinople. These reasons deter almost every creature from seeing it; and the French ambassadress will return to France (I believe) without ever having been there. You’ll wonder, madam, to hear me add, that I have been there very often. The asmack, or Turkish veil, is become not only very easy, but agreeable to me; and, if it was not, I would be content to endure some inconveniency, to gratify a passion that is become so powerful with me, as curiosity. And, indeed, the pleasure of going in a barge to Chelsea, is not comparable to that of rowing upon the canal of the sea here, where, for twenty miles together, down the Bosphorus, the most beautiful variety of prospects present themselves. The Asian side is covered with fruit-trees, villages, and the most delightful landskips in nature; on the European, stands Constantinople, situated on seven hills. — The unequal heights make it seem as large again as it is, (though one of the largest cities in the world) shewing an agreeable mixture of gardens, pine and cypress-trees, palaces, mosques, and public buildings, raised one above another, with as much beauty and appearance of symmetry, as your ladyship ever saw in a cabinet, adorned by the most skilful hands, where jars shew themselves above jars, mixed with canisters, babies and candlesticks. This is a very odd comparison; but it gives me an exact idea of the thing. I have taken care to see as much of the seraglio as is to be seen. It is on a point of land running into the sea; a palace of prodigious extent, but very irregular. The gardens take in a large compass of ground, full of high cypress-trees, which is all I know of them. The buildings are all of white stone, leaded on the top, with gilded turrets and spires, which look very magnificent; and, indeed, I believe there is no Christian-king’s palace half so large. There are six large courts in it, all built round, and set with trees, having galleries of stone; one of these for the guard, another for the slaves, another for the officers of the kitchen, another for the stables, the fifth for the divan, and the sixth for the apartment destined for audiences. On the ladies side, there are, at least, as many more, with distinct courts belonging to their eunuchs and attendants, their kitchens, &c.
THE next remarkable structure is that of St Sophia which is very difficult to see. I was forced to send three times to the caimairam, (the governor of the town) and he assembled the chief effendis, or heads of the law, and enquired of the mufti, whether it was lawful to permit it. They passed some days in this important debate; but I insisting on my request, permission was granted. I can’t be informed why the Turks are more delicate on the subject of this mosque, than on any of the others, where what Christian pleases may enter without scruple. I fancy they imagine, that, having been once consecrated, people, on pretence of curiosity, might profane it with prayers, particularly to those saints, who are still very visible in Mosaic work, and no other way defaced but by the decays of time; for it is absolutely false, though so universally asserted, that the Turks defaced all the images that they found in the city. The dome of St Sophia is said to be one hundred and thirteen feet diameter, built upon arches, sustained by vast pillars of marble, the pavement and stair-case marble. There are two rows of galleries, supported with pillars of party-coloured marble, and the whole roof Mosaic work, part of which decays very fast, and drops down. They presented me a handful of it; its composition seems to me a sort of glass, or that paste with which they make counterfeit jewels. They shew here the tomb of the emperor Constantine, for which they have a great veneration.
THIS is a dull, imperfect description, of this celebrated building; but I understand architecture so little, that I am afraid of talking nonsense, in endeavouring to speak of it particularly. Perhaps I am in the wrong, but some Turkish mosques please me better. That of sultan Solyman is an exact square, with four fine towers in the angles, in the midst is a noble cupola, supported with beautiful marble pillars; two lesser at the ends, supported in the same manner; the pavement and gallery round the mosque, of marble; under the great cupola is a fountain, adorned with such fine coloured pillars, that I can hardly think them natural marble; on one side is the pulpit, of white marble, and on the other, the little gallery for the grand signior. A fine stair-case leads to it, and it is built up with gilded lattices. At the upper end is a sort of altar, where the name of God is written; and before it stand two candlesticks, as high as a man, with wax candles as thick as three flambeaux. The pavement is spread with fine carpets, and the mosque illuminated with a vast number of lamps. The court leading to it is very spacious, with galleries of marble, of green columns, covered with twenty-eight leaded cupolas on two sides, and a fine fountain of basins in the midst of it.
THIS description may serve for all the mosques in Constantinople. The model is exactly the same, and they only differ in largeness and richness of materials. That of the sultana Valida is the largest of all, built entirely of marble, the most prodigious, and, I think, the most beautiful structure I ever saw, be it spoken to the honour of our sex, for it was founded by the mother of Mahomet IV. Between friends, Paul’s church would make a pitiful figure near it, as any of our squares would do near the atlerdan, or place of horses, (at signifying a horse in Turkish). This was the hippodrome, in the reign of the Greek emperors. In the midst of it is a brazen column, of three serpents twisted together, with their mouths gaping. ’Tis impossible to learn why so odd a pillar was erected; the Greeks can tell nothing but fabulous legends, when they are asked the meaning of it, and there is no sign of its having ever had any inscription. At the upper end is an obelisk of porphyry, probably brought from Egypt, the hieroglyphics all very entire, which I look upon as mere ancient puns. It is placed on four little brazen pillars, upon a pedestal of square free stone, full of figures in bas-relief on two sides; one square representing a battle, another an assembly. The others have inscriptions in Greek and Latin; the last I took in my pocket-book, and it is as follows:
Difficilis quondam, dominis parere serenis
Jussus, et extinctis palman portare tyrannis
Omnia Theodosio cedunt, sobolique perenni.
Your lord will interpret these lines. Don’t fancy they are a love-letter to him.
ALL the figures have their heads on; and I cannot forbear reflecting again on the impudence of authors, who all say they have not; but I dare swear the greatest part of them never saw them; but took the report from the Greeks, who resist, with incredible fortitude, the conviction of their own eyes, whenever they have invented lies to the dishonour of their enemies. Were you to believe them, there is nothing worth seeing in Constantinople, but Sancta Sophia, though there are several large, and, in my opinion, more beautiful mosques in that city. That of sultan Achmet has this particularity, that its gates are of brass. In all these mosques there are little chapels, where are the tombs of the founders and their families, with wax candles burning before them.
THE Exchanges are all noble buildings, full of fine alleys, the greatest part supported with pillars, and kept wonderfully neat. Every trade has its distinct alley, where the merchandize is disposed in the same order as in the New Exchange at London. The besisten, or jeweller’s quarter, shews so much riches, such a vast quantity of diamonds, and all kinds of precious stones, that they dazzle the sight. The embroiderer’s is also very glittering, and people walk here as much for diversion as business. The markets are most of them handsome squares, and admirably well provided, perhaps better than in any other part of the world.
I KNOW, you’ll expect I should say something particular of the slaves; and you will imagine me half a Turk, when I don’t speak of it with the same horror other Christians have done before me. But I cannot forbear applauding the humanity of the Turks to these creatures; they are never ill used, and their slavery is, in my opinion, no worse than servitude all over the world. ’Tis true, they have no wages; but they give them yearly clothes to a higher value than our salaries to our ordinary servants. But you’ll object, that men buy women with an eye to evil. In my opinion, they are bought and sold as publicly, and as infamously, in all our Christian great cities.
I MUST add to the description of Constantinople, that the historical pillar is no more. It dropped down about two years before I came to this part of the world. I have seen no other footsteps of antiquity, except the aqueducts, which are so vast, that I am apt to believe they are yet more ancient than the Greek empire. The Turks indeed have clapped in some stones with Turkish inscriptions, to give their natives the honour of so great a work; but the deceit is easily discovered. — The other public buildings are the hanns and monasteries; the first are very large and numerous; the second few in number, and not at all magnificent. I had the curiosity to visit one of them, and to observe the devotions of the dervises, which are as whimsical as any at Rome. These fellows have permission to marry, but are confined to an odd habit, which is only a piece of coarse white cloth, wrapped about them, with their legs and arms naked. Their order has few other rules, except that of performing their fantastic rites, every Tuesday and Friday, which is done in this manner: They meet together in a large hall, where they all stand with their eyes fixed on the ground, and their arms across, while the imaum or preacher reads part of the alcoran from a pulpit placed in the midst; and when he has done, eight or ten of them make a melancholy concert with their pipes, which are no unmusical instruments. Then he reads again, and makes a short exposition on what he has read; after which they sing and play, ‘till their superior (the only one of them dressed in green) rises and begins a sort of solemn dance. They all stand about him in a regular figure; and while some play, the others tie their robe (which is very wide) fast round their waist, and begin to turn round with an amazing swiftness, and yet with great regard to the music, moving slower or faster as the tune is played. This lasts above an hour, without any of them shewing the least appearance of giddiness, which is not to be wondered at, when it is considered they are all used to it from their infancy; most of them being devoted to this way of life from their birth. There turned amongst them some little dervises, of six or seven years old, who seemed no more disordered by that exercise than the others. At the end of the ceremony, they shout out, There is no other god, but God, and Mahomet his prophet; after which, they kiss the superior’s hand, and retire. The whole is performed with the most solemn gravity. Nothing can be more austere than the form of these people; they never raise their eyes, and seem devoted to contemplation. And as ridiculous as this is in description, there is something touching in the air of submission and mortification they assume. — This letter is of a horrible length; but you may burn it when you have read enough, &c. &c.
Mr Hill’s account of the sweating pillar, and of the Turkish ladies, contradicted — manner of living of the Turkish wives — ceremony of receiving a Turkish bride at the bagnio — no public cognizance taken of murder — generally compounded for by money — story of a Christian lady taken prisoner by a Turkish admiral, who chose to continue with and marry her ravisher — the Turks great venerators of truth — the Eastrn manner of adopting children — account of the Armenians — their strict observance of fasts — summary view of their religion — ceremonies at an Armenian marriage.
To the Countess of ——.
I AM now preparing to leave Constantinople, and perhaps you will accuse me of hypocrisy, when I tell you ’tis with regret, but as I am used to the air, and have learnt the language, I am easy here; and as much as I love travelling, I tremble at the inconveniencies attending so great a journey, with a numerous family, and a little infant hanging at the breast. However, I endeavour, upon this occasion, to do, as I have hitherto done in all the odd turns of my life; turn them, if I can, to my diversion. In order to this, I ramble every day, wrapped up in my serigee and asmack, about Constantinople, and amuse myself with seeing all that is curious in it. I know you will expect that this declaration should be followed with some account of what I have seen. But I am in no humour to copy what has been writ so often over. To what purpose should I tell you, that Constantinople is the ancient Byzantium? that ’tis at present the conquest of a race of people, supposed Scythians? that there are five or six thousand mosques in it? that Sancta Sophia was founded by Justinian? &c. I’ll assure you, ’tis not for want of learning, that I forbear writing all these bright things. I could also, with very little trouble, turn over Knolles and Sir Paul Rycaut, to give you a list of Turkish emperors; but I will not tell you what you may find in every author that has writ of this country. I am more inclined, out of a true female spirit of contradiction, to tell you the falsehood of a great part of what you find in authors; as, for instance, in the admirable Mr Hill, who so gravely asserts, that he saw, in Sancta Sophia, a sweating pillar, very balsamic for disordered heads. There is not the least tradition of any such matter; and I suppose it was revealed to him in vision, during his wonderful stay in the Egyptian catacombs; for I am sure he never heard of any such miracle here. ’Tis also very pleasant to observe how tenderly he and all his brethren voyage-writers lament the miserable confinement of the Turkish ladies, who are perhaps more free than any ladies in the universe, and are the only women in the world that lead a life of uninterrupted pleasure, exempt from cares; their whole time being spent in visiting, bathing, or the agreeable amusement of spending money, and inventing new fashions. A husband would be thought mad, that exacted any degree of economy from his wife, whose expences are no way limited but by her own fancy. ’Tis his business to get money, and hers to spend it: and this noble prerogative extends itself to the very meanest of the sex. Here is a fellow that carries embroidered handkerchiefs upon his back to sell. And as miserable a figure as you may suppose such a mean dealer, yet, I’ll assure you, his wife scorns to wear any thing less than cloth of gold; has her ermine furs, and a very handsome set of jewels for her head. ’Tis true, they have no places but the bagnios, and these can only be seen by their own sex; however, that is a diversion they take great pleasure in.
I WAS, three days ago, at one of the finest in the town, and had the opportunity of seeing a Turkish bride received there, and all the ceremony used on that occasion, which made me recollect the epithalamium of Helen, by Theocritus; and it seems to me, that the same customs have continued ever since. All the she-friends, relations and acquaintance of the two families, newly allied, meet at the bagnio; several others go, out Of curiosity, and I believe there were that day two hundred women. Those that were, or had been married, placed themselves round the rooms, on the marble sofas; but the virgins very hastily threw off their clothes, and appeared without other ornament or covering, than their own long hair braided with pearl or ribbon. Two of them met the bride at the door, conducted by her mother and another grave relation. She was a beautiful maid of about seventeen, very richly dressed, and shining with jewels, but was presently reduced to the state of nature. Two others filled silver gilt pots with perfume, and began the procession, the rest following in pairs, to the number of thirty. The leaders sung an epithalamium, answered by the others in chorus, and the two last led the fair bride, her eyes fixed on the ground, with a charming affectation of modesty. In this order they marched round the three largest rooms of the bagnio. ’Tis not easy to represent to you the beauty of this sight, most of them being well proportioned and white skinned; all of them perfectly smooth and polished by the frequent use of bathing. After having made their tour, the bride was again led to every matron round the rooms, who saluted her with a compliment and a present, some of jewels, others of pieces of stuff, handkerchiefs or little gallantries of that nature, which she thanked them for, by kissing their hands. I was very well pleased with having seen this ceremony; and you may believe me, the Turkish ladies have, at least, as much wit and civility, nay liberty, as among us. ’Tis true, the same customs that give them so many opportunities of gratifying their evil inclinations (if they have any), also put it very fully in the power of their husbands to revenge themselves, if they are discovered; and I do not doubt, but they suffer sometimes for their indiscretions in a very severe manner. About two months ago, there was found at day break, not very far from my house, the bleeding body of a young woman, naked, only wrapped in a course sheet, with two wounds of a knife, one in her side, and another in her breast. She was not quite cold, and was so surprisingly beautiful, that there were very few men in Pera, that did not go to look upon her; but it was not possible for any body to know her, no woman’s face being known. She was supposed to have been brought, in the dead of the night, from the Constantinople side, and laid there. Very little inquiry was made about the murderer, and the corpse was privately buried without noise. Murder is never pursued by the king’s officers, as with us. ’Tis the business of the next relations to revenge the dead person; and if they like better to compound the matter for money (as they generally do) there is no more said of it. One would imagine this defect in their government should make such tragedies very frequent, yet they are extremely rare; which is enough to prove the people are not naturally cruel. Neither do I think, in many other particulars, they deserve the barbarous character we give them. I am well acquainted with a Christian woman of quality, who made it her choice to live with a Turkish husband, and is a very agreeable sensible lady. Her story is so extraordinary, I cannot forbear relating it; but I promise you, it shall be in as few words as I can possibly express it.
SHE is a Spaniard, and was at Naples with her family, When that kingdom was part of the Spanish dominion. Coming from thence in a felucca, accompanied by her brother, they were attacked by the Turkish admiral, boarded and taken. — And now how shall I modestly tell you the rest of her adventure? The same accident happened to her, that happened to the fair Lucretia so many years before her. But she was too good a Christian to kill herself, as that heathenish Roman did. The admiral was so much charmed with the beauty and long-suffering of the fair captive, that, as his first compliment, he gave immediate liberty to her brother and attendants, who made haste to Spain, and, in a few months, sent the sum of four thousand pounds sterling, as a ransom for his sister. The Turk took the money, which he presented to her, and told her she was at liberty. But the lady very discreetly weighed the different treatment she was likely to find in her native country. Her relations (as the kindest thing they could do for her in her present circumstances) would certainly confine her to a nunnery for the rest of her days. — Her infidel lover was very handsome, very tender, very fond of her, and lavished at her feet all the Turkish magnificence. She answered him very resolutely, that her liberty was not so precious to her as her honour; that he could no way restore that, but by marrying her; and she therefore desired him to accept the ransom as her portion, and give her the satisfaction of knowing, that no man could boast of her favours, without being her husband. The admiral was transported at this kind offer, and sent back the money to her relations, saying, he was too happy in her possession. He married her, and never took any other wife, and (as she says herself) she never had reason to repent the choice she made. He left her, some years after, one of the richest widows in Constantinople. But there is no remaining honourably a single woman, and that consideration has obliged her to marry the present captain bassa (i.e. admiral) his successor. — I am afraid that you will think my friend fell in love with her ravisher; but I am willing to take her word for it, that she acted wholly on principles of honour, though I think she might be reasonably touched at his generosity, which is often found amongst the Turks of rank.
’TIS a degree of generosity to tell the truth, and ’tis very rare that any Turk will assert a solemn falsehood. I don’t speak of the lowest sort; for as there is a great deal of ignorance, there is very little virtue amongst them; and false witnesses are much cheaper than in Christendom; those wretches not being punished (even when they are publicly detected) with the rigour they ought to be.
NOW I am speaking of their law, I don’t know whether I have ever mentioned to you one custom peculiar to their country, I mean adoption, very common amongst the Turks, and yet more amongst the Greeks and Armenians. Not having it in their power to give their estates to a friend or distant relation; to avoid its falling into the grand signior’s treasury, when they are not likely to have any children of their own, they chuse some pretty child of either sex, amongst the meanest people, and carry the child and its parents before the cadi, and there declare they receive it for their heir. The parents, at the same time, renounce all future claim to it; a writing is drawn and witnessed, and a child thus adopted, cannot be disinherited. Yet I have seen some common beggars, that have refused to part with their children in this manner, to some of the richest among the Greeks; (so powerful is the instinctive affection that is natural to parents!) though the adopting fathers are generally very tender to these children of their souls, as they call them. I own this custom pleases me much better than our absurd one of following our name. Methinks, ’tis much more reasonable to make happy and rich an infant whom I educate after my own manner, brought up (in the Turkish phrase) upon my knees, and who has learned to look upon me with a filial respect, than to give an estate to a creature, without other merit or relation to me, than that of a few letters. Yet this is an absurdity we see frequently practised. — Now I have mentioned the Armenians, perhaps it will be agreeable to tell you something of that nation, with which I am sure you are utterly unacquainted. I will not trouble you with the geographical account of the situation of their country, which you may see in the maps; or a relation of their ancient greatness, which you may read in the Roman history. They are now subject to the Turks; and, being very industrious in trade, and increasing and multiplying, are dispersed in great numbers through all the Turkish dominions. They were, as they say, converted to the Christian religion by St Gregory, and are perhaps the devoutest, Christians in the whole world. The chief precepts of their priests enjoin the strict keeping of their lents, which are, at least seven months in every year, and are not to be dispensed with on the most emergent necessity; no occasion whatever can excuse them, if they touch any thing more than mere herbs or roots (without oil) and plain dry bread. That is their constant diet. — Mr W——y has one of his interpreters of this nation, and the poor fellow was brought so low, by the severity of his fasts, that his life was despaired of. Yet neither his master’s commands, nor the doctor’s entreaties (who declared nothing else could save his life) were powerful enough to prevail with him to take two or three spoonfuls of broth. Excepting this, which may rather be called a custom than an article of faith, I see very little in their religion different from ours. ’Tis true, they seem to incline very much to Mr Whiston’s doctrine; neither do I think the Greek church very distant from it, since ’tis certain, the holy Spirit’s proceeding only from the Father, is making a plain subordination in the Son. — But the Armenians have no notion of transubstantiation, whatever account Sir Paul Rycaut gives of them, (which account, I am apt to believe, was designed to compliment our Court in 1679;) and they have a great horror for those amongst them, that change to the Roman religion. What is most extraordinary in their customs, is their matrimony; a ceremony, I believe, unparallell’d all over the world. They are always promised very young; but the espoused never see one another, till three days after their marriage. The bride is carried to church, with a cap on her head, in the fashion of a large trencher, and over it a red silken veil, which covers her all over to her feet. The priest asks the bridegroom, Whether he is contented to marry that woman, be she deaf, be she blind? These are the literal words: to which having answered, yes, she is led home to his house, accompanied with all the friends and relations on both sides, singing and dancing, and is placed on a cushion in the corner of the sofa; but her veil is never lifted up, not even by her husband. There is something so odd and monstrous in these ways, that I could not believe them, till I had inquired of several Armenians myself, who all assured me of the truth of them, particularly one young fellow, who wept when he spoke of it, being promised by his mother to a girl that he must marry in this manner, though he protested to me, he had rather die than submit to this slavery, having already figured his bride to himself with all the deformities of nature. — I fancy I see you bless yourself at this terrible relation. I cannot conclude my letter with a more surprising story; yet ’tis as seriously true, as that I am,
Dear sister, yours, &c. &c.
From Constantinople. — Observations on the accounts given by Sir Paul Rycaut and Gemelli — the canal between Constantinople and Calcedon — the precarious nature of human grandeur in Turky — description of the house of the grand vizier who was killed at Peterwaradin — moral reflections on the difference between the taste of the Europeans and the Easterns.
To the Abbot of ——.
Constantinople, May 19. O. S. 1718.
I AM extremely pleased with hearing from you, and my vanity (the darling frailty of mankind) not a little flattered by the uncommon questions you ask me, though I am utterly incapable of answering them. And, indeed, were I as good a mathematician as Euclid himself, it requires an age’s stay to make just observations on the air and vapours. I have not been yet a full year here, and am on the point of removing. Such is my rambling destiny. This will surprise you, and can surprise no body so much as myself. Perhaps you will accuse me of laziness, or dulness, or both together, that can leave this place, without giving you some account of the Turkish court. I can only tell you, that if you please to read Sir Paul Rycaut, you will there find a full and true account of the vizier’s, the beglerbys, the civil and spiritual government, the officers of the seraglio, &c. things that ’tis very easy to procure lists of, and therefore may be depended on; though other stories, God knows — I say no more — every body is at liberty to write their own remarks; the manners of people may change; or some of them escape the observation of travellers; but ’tis not the same of the government; and, for that reason, since I can tell you nothing new, I will tell you nothing of it. In the same silence shall be passed over the arsenal and seven towers; and for mosques, I have already described one of the noblest to you very particularly. But I cannot forbear taking notice to you of a mistake of Gemelli, (though I honour him in a much higher degree than any other voyage-writer:) he says that there are no remains of Calcedon; this is certainly a mistake: I was there, yesterday, and went cross the canal in my galley, the sea being very narrow between that city and Constantinople. ’Tis still a large town, and has several mosques in it. The Christians still call it Calcedonia, and the Turks give it a name I forgot, but which is only a corruption of the same word. I suppose this is an error of his guide, which his short stay hindered him from rectifying, for I have, in other matters, a very just esteem for his veracity. Nothing can be pleasanter than the canal; and the Turks are so well acquainted with its beauties, that all their pleasure-seats are built on its banks, where they have, at the same time, the most beautiful prospects in Europe and Asia; there are near one another some hundreds of magnificent palaces. Human grandeur being here yet more unstable than any where else, ’tis common for the heirs of a great three-tailed bassa, not to be rich enough to keep in repair the house he built; thus, in a few years, they all fall to ruin. I was yesterday to see that of the late grand Vizier, who was killed at Peterwaradin. It was built to receive his royal bride, daughter of the present sultan; but he did not live to see her there. I have a great mind to describe it to you; but I check that inclination, knowing very well, that I cannot give you, with my best description, such an idea of it as I ought. It is situated on one of the most delightful parts of the canal, with a fine wood on the side of a hill behind it. The extent of it is prodigious; the guardian assured me, there are eight hundred rooms in it; I will not, however, answer for that number, since I did not count them; but ’tis certain the number is very large, and the whole adorned with a profusion of marble, gilding, and the most exquisite painting of fruit and flowers. The windows are all sashed with the finest crystalline glass brought from England; and here is all the expensive magnificence that you can suppose in a palace founded by a vain luxurious young man, with the wealth of a vast empire at his command. But no part of it pleased me better than the apartments destined for the bagnios. There are two built exactly in the same manner, answering to one another; the baths, fountains, and pavements, all of white marble, the roofs gilt, and the walls covered with Japan china. Adjoining to them are two rooms, the uppermost of which is divided into a sofa, and in the four corners are falls of water from the very roof, from shell to shell, of white marble, to the lower end of the room, where it falls into a large basin, surrounded with pipes, that throw up the water as high as the roof. The walls are in the nature of lattices; and, on the outside of them, there are vines and woodbines planted, that form a sort of green tapestry, and give an agreeable obscurity to those delightful chambers. I should go on and let you into some of the other apartments (all worthy your curiosity); but ’tis yet harder to describe a Turkish palace than any other, being built entirely irregular. There is nothing that can be properly called front or wings; and though such a confusion is, I think, pleasing to the sight, yet it would be very unintelligible in a letter. I shall only add, that the chamber destined for the sultan, when he visits his daughter, is wainscotted with mother of pearl, fastened with emeralds like nails. There are others of mother of pearl and olive wood inlaid, and several of Japan china. The galleries, which are numerous, and very large, are adorned with jars of flowers, and porcelain dishes of fruit of all sorts, so well done in plaster, and coloured in so lively a manner, that it has an enchanting effect. The garden is suitable to the house, where arbours, fountains, and walks, are thrown together in an agreeable confusion. There is no ornament wanting, except that of statues. Thus, you see, Sir, these people are not so unpolished as we represent them. ’Tis true, their magnificence is of a very different taste from ours, and perhaps of a better. I am almost of opinion, they have a right notion of life. They consume it in music, gardens, wine, and delicate eating, while we are tormenting our brains with some scheme of politics, or studying some science to which we can never attain; or, if we do, cannot persuade other people to set that value upon it we do ourselves. ’Tis certain, what we feel and see is properly (if any thing is properly) our own; but the good of fame, the folly of praise, are hardly purchased, and, when obtained, a poor recompence for loss of time and health. We die or grow old before we can reap the fruit of our labours. Considering what short-liv’d, weak animals men are, is there any study so beneficial as the study of present pleasure? I dare not pursue this theme; perhaps I have already said too much, but I depend upon the true knowledge you have of my heart. I don’t expect from you the insipid railleries I should suffer from another in answer to this letter. You know how to divide the idea of pleasure from that of vice, and they are only mingled in the heads of fools. — But I allow you to laugh at me for the sensual declaration in saying, that I had rather be a rich effendi, with all his ignorance, than Sir Isaac Newton with all his knowledge.
I am, Sir, &c. &c.
From Tunis. — Vovage from Constantinople — the Hellespont, and castles of Sestos and Abydos — reflections on the story of Hero and Leander — the burial-places of Hecuba and Achilles — antiquities — habits of the Greek peasants — conjectures as to the ruins of a large city — remarks on the face of the country illustrated by reference to passages from Homer — Troy, no remains of it existing — ruins of old Constantinople — Latin inscriptions, and remains of antiquity — isle of Tenedos — Mytilene — Lesbos — Scio, and its inhabitants — promontory of Lunium the present Cape Colonna — temple of Theseus, how destroyed present condition of the Morea, the ancient Peloponnesus — Candia — reflections on the contrast between ancient and modern Greece — Trinacria — Malta — arrival at Tunis — face of the country — manner of celebrating the Mahometan ramadan or Lent — the natives — ruins of the aqueduct of Carthage — description and chronological anecdotes of the city of Tunis — ruins of Carthage.
To the Abbot of ——.
Tunis, July 31. O. S. 1718
I LEFT Constantinople the sixth of the last month, and this is the first post from whence I could send a letter, though I have often wished for the opportunity, that I might impart some of the pleasure I found in this voyage, through the most agreeable part of the world, where every scene presents me some poetical idea,
Warm’d with poetic transport I survey
Th’ immortal islands, and the well known sea.
For here so oft the muse her harp has strung,
That not a mountain rears its head unsung.
I BEG your pardon for this sally, and will, if I can, continue the rest of my account in plain prose. The second day after we set sail, we passed Gallipolis, a fair city, situated in the bay of Chersonesus, and much respected by the Turks, being the first town they took in Europe. At five the next morning, we anchored in the Hellespont, between the castles of Sestos and Abydos, now called the Dardanelli. These are now two little ancient castles, but of no strength, being commanded by a rising ground behind them, which, I confess, I should never have taken notice of, if I had not heard it observed by our captain and officers, my imagination being wholly employed by the tragic story, that you are well acquainted with:
The swimming lover, and the nightly bride,
How HERO lov’d, and how LEANDER died.
Verse again! — I am certainly infected by the poetical air I have passed through. That of Abydos is undoubtedly very amorous, since that soft passion betrayed the castle into the hands of the Turks who besieged it in the reign of Orchanes. The governor’s daughter, imagining to have seen her future husband in a dream, (though I don’t find she had either slept upon bride-cake, or kept St Agnes’s fast) fancied she saw the dear figure in the form of one of her besiegers; and, being willing to obey her destiny, tossed a note to him over the wall, with the offer of her person, and the delivery of the castle. He shewed it to his general, who consented to try the sincerity of her intentions, and withdrew his army, ordering the young man to return with a select body of men at midnight. She admitted him at the appointed hour; he destroyed the garrison, took the father prisoner, and made her his wife. This town is in Asia, first founded by the Milesians. Sestos is in Europe, and was once the principal city of Chersonesus. Since I have seen this strait, I find nothing improbable in the adventure of Leander, or very wonderful in the bridge of boats of Xerxes. ’Tis so narrow, ’tis not surprising a young lover should attempt to swim, or an ambitious king try to pass his army over it. But then, ’tis so subject to storms, ’tis no wonder the lover perished, and the bridge was broken. From hence we had a full view of mount Ida;
Where Juno once caress’d her am’rous Jove,
And the world’s master lay subdu’d by love.
Not many leagues sail from hence, I saw the point of land where poor old Hecuba was buried, and about a league from that place is Cape Janizary, the famous promontory of Sigaeum, where we anchored. My curiosity supplied me with strength to climb to the top of it, to see the place where Achilles was buried, and where Alexander ran naked round his tomb, in honour of him, which, no doubt, was a great comfort to his ghost. I saw there the ruins of a very large city, and found a stone, on which Mr W——y plainly distinguished the words of Sigaen Polin. We ordered this on board the ship; but were shewed others much more curious by a Greek priest, tho’ a very ignorant fellow, that could give no tolerable account of any thing. On each side the door of this little church ly two large stones, about ten feet long each, five in breadth, and three in thickness. That on the right is a very fine white marble, the side of it beautifully carved in bas-relief; it represents a woman, who seems to be designed for some deity, sitting on a chair with a footstool, and before her another woman, weeping, and presenting to her a young child that she has in her arms, followed by a procession of women with children in the same manner. This is certainly part of a very ancient tomb; but I dare not pretend to give the true explanation of it. On the stone, on the left side, is a very fair inscription; but the Greek is too ancient for Mr W——y’s interpretation. I am very sorry not to have the original in my possession, which might have been purchased of the poor inhabitants for a small sum of money. But our captain assured us, that without having machines made on purpose, ’twas impossible to bear it to the sea-side; and, when it was there, his long-boat would not be large enough to hold it.
THE ruins of this great city are now inhabited by poor Greek peasants, who wear the Sciote habit, the women being in short petticoats, fastened by straps round their shoulders, and large smock sleeves of white linen, with neat shoes and stockings, and on their heads a large piece of muslin, which falls in large folds on their shoulders. — One of my countrymen, Mr Sands, (whose book I doubt not you have read, as one of the best of its kind) speaking of these ruins, supposes them to have been the foundation of a city begun by Constantine, before his building Byzantium; but I see no good reason for that imagination, and am apt to believe them much more ancient.
WE saw very plainly from this promontory, the river Simois rolling from mount Ida, and running through a very spacious valley. It is now a considerable river, and is called Simores, it is joined in the vale by the Scamander, which appeared a small stream half choaked with mud, but is perhaps large in the winter. This was Xanthus amongst the gods, as Homer tells us; and ’tis by that heavenly name, the nymph Oenone invokes it, in her epistle to Paris. The Trojan virgins used to offer their first favours to it, by the name of Scamander, till the adventure, which Monsieur de la Fontaine has told so agreeably, abolish’d that heathenish ceremony. When the stream is mingled with the Simois, they run together to the sea.
ALL that is now left of Troy is the ground on which it stood; for, I am firmly persuaded, whatever pieces of antiquity may be found round it, are much more modern, and I think Strabo says the same thing. However, there is some pleasure in seeing the valley where I imagined the famous duel of Menelaus and Paris had been fought, and where the greatest city in the world was situated. ’Tis certainly the noblest situation that can be found for the head of a great empire, much to be preferred to that of Constantinople, the harbour here being always convenient for ships from all parts of the world, and that of Constantinople inaccessible almost six months in the year, while the north-wind reigns.
NORTH of the promontory of Sigaeum we saw that of Rhaeteum, famed for the sepulchre of Ajax. While I viewed these celebrated fields and rivers, I admired the exact geography of Homer, whom I had in my hand. Almost every epithet he gives to a mountain or plain, is still just for it; and I spent several hours here in as agreeable cogitations, as ever Don Quixote had on mount Montesinos. We sailed next night to the shore, where ’tis vulgarly reported Troy stood; and I took the pains of rising at two in the morning to view cooly those ruins which are commonly shewed to strangers, and which the Turks call Eski Stamboul, i.e. Old Constantinople. For that reason, as well as some others, I conjecture them to be the remains of that city begun by Constantine. I hired an ass (the only voiture to be had there) that I might go some miles into the country, and take a tour round the ancient walls, which are of a vast extent. We found the remains of a castle on a hill, and of another in a valley, several broken pillars and two pedestals, from which I took these Latin inscriptions:
DIVI. AUG. COL.
ET. COL. IUL. PHILIPPENSIS
EORUNDEM ET PRINCIP. AM
COL. IUL. PARIANAE. TRIBUN.
MILIT. COH. XXXII. VOLUNTAR.
TRIB. MILIT. LEG. XIII. GEM.
PRAEFECTO EQUIT. ALAE. I.
DIVI. IULI. FLAMINI
C. ANTONIO. M. F.
VOLT. RUFO. FLAMIN.
DIV. AUG. COL. CL. APRENS.
ET. COL. IUL. PHILIPPENSIS
EORUNDEM ET PRINCIP. ITEM
COL. IUL. PARIANAE TRIB.
MILIT. COH. XXXII. VOLUNTARIOR.
TRIB. MILIT. XIII.
GEM. PRAEF. EQUIT. ALAE. I.
I do not doubt but the remains of a temple near this place, are the ruins of one dedicated to Augustus; and I know not why Mr Sands calls it a Christian temple, since the Romans certainly built hereabouts. Here are many tombs of fine marble, and vast pieces of granate, which are daily lessened by the prodigious balls that the Turks make, from them, for their cannon. We passed that evening the isle of Tenedos, once under the patronage of Apollo, as he gave it in, himself, in the particulars of his estate, when he courted Daphne. It is but ten miles in circuit, but, in those days, very rich and well-peopled, still famous for its excellent wine. I say nothing of Tenes, from whom it was called; but naming Mytilene, where we passed next, I cannot forbear mentioning Lesbos, where Sappho sung, and Pittacus reigned, famous for the birth of Alcaeus, Theophrastus and Arion, those masters in poetry, philosophy, and music. This was one of the last islands that remained in the Christian dominion after the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks. But need I talk to you of Catucuseno, &c. princes that you are as well acquainted with as I am. ’Twas with regret I saw us sail from this island into the Egean sea, now the Archipelago, leaving Scio (the ancient Chios) on the left, which is the richest and most populous of these islands, fruitful in cotton, corn and silk, planted with groves of orange and lemon trees, and the Arvisian mountain, still celebrated for the nectar that Virgil mentions. Here is the best manufacture of silks in all Turkey. The town is well built, the women famous for their beauty, and shew their faces as in Christendom. There are many rich families; though they confine their magnificence to the inside of their houses, to avoid the jealousy of the Turks, who have, a bassa here: however, they enjoy a reasonable liberty, and indulge the genius of their country:
And eat, and sing, and dance away their time,
Fresh as their groves, and happy as their clime.
Their chains hang lightly on them, tho’ ’tis not long since they were imposed, not being under the Turk till 1566. But perhaps ’tis as easy to obey the grand signior as the state of Genoa, to whom they were sold by the Greek emperor. But I forget myself in these historical touches, which are very impertinent when I write to you. Passing the strait between the islands of Andros and Achaia, now Libadia, we saw the promontory of Lunium, now called Cape Colonna, where are yet standing the vast pillars of a temple of Minerva. This venerable sight made me think, with double regret, on a beautiful temple of Theseus, which, I am assured, was almost entire at Athens, till the last campaign in the Morea, that the Turks filled it with powder, and it was accidentally blown up. You may believe I had a great mind to land on the fam’d Peloponnesus, tho’ it were only to look on the rivers of Asopus, Peneus, Inachus and Eurotas, the fields of Arcadia, and other scenes of ancient mythology. But instead of demigods and heroes, I was credibly informed, ’tis now over-run by robbers, and that I should run a great risque of falling into their hands, by undertaking such a journey through a desert country, for which, however, I have so much respect, that I have much ado to hinder myself from troubling you with its whole history, from the foundation of Nycana and Corinth, to the last campaign there; but I check the inclination, as I did that of landing. We sailed quietly by Cape Angelo, once Malea, where I saw no remains of the famous temple of Apollo. We came that evening in sight of Candia: it is very mountainous; we easily distinguished that of Ida. — We have Virgil’s authority, that here were a hundred cities —
— Centum urbes habitant magnas —
The chief of them — the scene of monstrous passions. — Metellus first conquered this birth-place of his Jupiter; it fell afterwards into the hands of —— I am running on to the very siege of Candia; and I am so angry with myself, that I will pass by all the other islands with this general reflection, that ’tis impossible to imagine any thing more agreeable than this journey would have been two or three thousand years since, when, after drinking a dish of tea with Sappho, I might have gone, the same evening, to visit the temple of Homer in Chios, and passed this voyage in taking plans of magnificent temples, delineating the miracles of statuaries, and conversing with the most polite and most gay of mankind. Alas! art is extinct here; the wonders of nature alone remain; and it was with vast pleasure I observed those of mount Etna, whose flame appears very bright in the night many leagues off at sea, and fills the head with a thousand conjectures. However, I honour philosophy too much, to imagine it could turn that of Empedocles; and Lucian shall never make me believe such a scandal of a man, of whom, Lucretius says,
— Vix humana videtur stirpe creatus —
WE passed Trinacria without hearing any of the syrens that Homer describes; and, being thrown on neither Scylla nor Charybdis, came safe to Malta, first called Melita, from the abundance of honey. It is a whole rock covered with very little earth. The grand master lives here in the state of a sovereign prince; but his strength at sea now is very small. The fortifications are reckoned the best in the world, all cut in the solid rock with infinite expence and labour. — Off this island we were tossed by a severe storm, and were very glad, after eight days, to be able to put into Porta Farine on the African shore, where our ship now rides. At Tunis we were met by the English consul who resides here. I readily accepted of the offer of his house there for some days, being very curious to see this part of the world, and particularly the ruins of Carthage. I set out in his chaise at nine at night, the moon being at full. I saw the prospect of the country almost as well as I could have done by day-light; and the heat of the sun is now so intolerable, ’tis impossible to travel at any other time. The soil is, for the most part, sandy, but every where fruitful of date, olive, and fig-trees, which grow without art, yet afford the most delicious fruit in the world. There vineyards and melon-fields are inclos’d by hedges of that plant we call Indian-fig, which is an admirable fence, no wild beast being able to pass it. It grows a great height, very thick, and the spikes or thorns are as long and sharp as bodkins; it bears a fruit much eaten by the peasants, and which has no ill taste.
IT being now the season of the Turkish ramadan, or Lent, and all here professing, at least the Mahometan religion, they fast till the going down of the sun, and spend the night in feasting. We saw under the trees, companies of the country people, eating, singing, and dancing, to their wild music. They are not quite black, but all mulattoes, and the most frightful creatures that can appear in a human figure. They are almost naked, only wearing a piece of coarse serge wrapped about them. — But the women have their arms, to their very shoulders, and their necks and faces, adorned with flowers, stars, and various sorts of figures impressed by gunpowder; a considerable addition to their natural deformity; which is, however, esteemed very ornamental amongst them; and I believe they suffer a good deal of pain by it.
ABOUT six miles from Tunis, we saw the remains of that noble aqueduct, which carried the water to Carthage, over several high mountains, the length of forty miles. There are still many arches entire. We spent two hours viewing it with great attention, and Mr W——y assured me that of Rome is very much inferior to it. The stones are of a prodigious size, and yet all polished, and so exactly fitted to each other, very little cement has been made use of to join them. Yet they may probably stand a thousand years longer, if art is not made use of to pull them down. Soon after day-break I arrived at Tunis, a town fairly built of very white stone, but quite without gardens, which, they say, were all destroyed when the Turks first took it, none having been planted since. The dry land gives a very disagreeable prospect to the eye; and the want of shade contributing to the natural heat of the climate, renders it so excessive, that I have much ado to support it. ’Tis true, here is, every noon, the refreshment of the sea-breeze, without which it would be impossible to live; but no fresh water but what is preserved in the cisterns of the rains that fall in the month of September. The women of the town go veiled from head to foot under a black crape, and being mixed with a breed of renegadoes, are said to be many of them fair and handsome. This city was besieged in 1270, by Lewis king of France, who died under the walls of it, of a pestilential fever. After his death, Philip, his son, and our prince Edward, son of Henry III. raised the siege on honourable terms. It remained under its natural African kings, till betrayed into the hands of Barbarossa, admiral of Solyman the Magnificent. The emperor Charles V. expelled Barbarossa, but it was recovered by the Turk, under the conduct of Sinan Bassa, in the reign of Selim II. From that time till now, it has remained tributary to the grand signior, governed by a bey, who suffers the name of subject to the Turk, but has renounced the subjection, being absolute, and very seldom paying any tribute. The great city of Bagdat is, at this time, in the same circumstances, and the grand signior connives at the loss of these dominions, for fear of losing even the titles of them.
I WENT very early yesterday morning (after one night’s repose) to see the ruins of Carthage. — I was, however, half broiled in the sun, and overjoyed to be led into one of the subterranean apartments, which they called, The stables of the elephants, but which I cannot believe were ever designed for that use. I found in them many broken pieces of columns of fine marble, and some of porphyry. I cannot think any body would take the insignificant pains of carrying them thither, and I cannot imagine such fine pillars were designed for the use of stables. I am apt to believe they Were summer apartments under their palaces, which the heat of the climate rendered necessary. They are now used as granaries by the country people. While I sat here, from the town of Tents not far off, many of the women flocked in to see me, and we were equally entertained with viewing one another. Their posture in sitting, the colour of their skin, their lank black hair falling on each side their faces, their features, and the shape of their limbs, differ so little from their country-people the baboons, ’tis hard to fancy them a distinct race; I could not help thinking there had been some ancient alliances between them.
WHEN I was a little refreshed by rest, and some milk and exquisite fruit they brought me, I went up the little hill where once stood the castle of Byrsa, and from thence I had a distinct view of the situation of the famous city of Carthage, which stood on an isthmus, the sea coming on each side of it. ’Tis now a marshy ground on one side, where there are salt ponds. Strabo calls Carthage forty miles in circumference. There are now no remains of it, but what I have described; and the history of it is too well known to want my abridgement of it. You see, Sir, that I think you esteem obedience better than compliments. I have answered your letter by giving you the accounts you desired, and have reserved my thanks to the conclusion. I intend to leave this place tomorrow, and continue my journey through Italy and France. In one of those places I hope to tell you, by word of mouth, that I am,
Your humble servant, &c. &c.
From Genoa. — Description of Genoa and its inhabitants — Cizisbeis, the nature of their employment, and occasion of their institution — the government — palaces — paintings — remark on their fondness for the representation of crucifixes — church of St Lawrence, and the famous emerald plate — their churches not to be compared with the Sancta Sophia at Constantinople.
To the Countess of ——.
Genoa, Aug. 28. O. S. 1718
I BEG your pardon, my dear sister, that I did not write to you from Tunis, the only opportunity I have had since I left Constantinople. But the heat there was so excessive, and the light so bad for the sight, I was half blind by writing one letter to the Abbot —— and durst not go to write many others I had designed; nor indeed could I have entertained you very well out of that barbarous country. I am now surrounded with subjects of pleasure, and so much charmed with the beauties of Italy, that I should think it a kind of ingratitude not to offer a little praise in return for the diversion I have had here. — I am in the house of Mrs D’Avenant at St Pierre d’Arena, and should be very unjust not to allow her a share of that praise I speak of, since her good humour and good company have very much contributed to render this place agreeable to me.
GENOA is situated in a very fine bay; and being built on a rising hill, extermixed with gardens, and beautified with the most excellent architecture, gives a very fine prospect off at sea; though it lost much of its beauty in my eyes, having been accustomed to that of Constantinople. The Genoese were once masters of several islands in the Archipelago, and all that part of Constantinople which is now called Galata. Their betraying the Christian cause, by facilitating the taking of Constantinople by the Turk, deserved what has since happened to them, even the loss of all their conquests on that side to those infidels. They are at present far from rich, and are despised by the French, since their doge was forced by the late king to go in person to Paris, to ask pardon for such a trifle as the arms of France over the house of the envoy, being spattered with dung in the night. This, I suppose, was done by some of the Spanish faction, which still makes up the majority here, though they dare not openly declare it. The ladies affect the French habit, and are more genteel than those they imitate. I do not doubt but the custom of Cizisbei’s has very much improved their airs. I know not whether you ever heard of those animals. Upon my word, nothing but my own eyes could have convinced me there were any such upon earth. The fashion began here, and is now received all over Italy, where the husbands are not such terrible creatures as we represent them. There are none among them such brutes, as to pretend to find fault with a custom so well established, and so politically founded, since I am assured, that it was an expedient, first found out by the senate, to put an end to those family hatreds, which tore their state to pieces, and to find employment for those young men who were forced to cut one another’s throats, pour passer le temps: and it has succeeded so well, that since the institution of Cizisbei, there has been nothing but peace and good humour amongst them. These are gentlemen who devote themselves to the service of a particular lady (I mean a married one) for the virgins are all invisible, and confined to convents: They are obliged to wait on her to all public places, such as the plays, operas, and assemblies, (which are called here Conversations) where they wait behind her chair, take care of her fan and gloves, if she plays, have the privilege of whispers, &c. — When she goes out, they serve her instead of lacquies, gravely trotting by her chair. ’Tis their business to prepare for her a present against any day of public appearance, not forgetting that of her own name [That is, the day of the saint after whom she is called.]; in short, they are to spend all their time and money in her service, who rewards them accordingly (for opportunity they want none) but the husband is not to have the impudence to suppose this any other than pure Platonic friendship. ’Tis true, they endeavour to give her a Cizisbei of their own chusing; but when the lady happens not to be of the same taste, as that often happens, she never fails to bring it about to have one of her own fancy. In former times, one beauty used to have eight or ten of these humble admirers; but those days of plenty and humility are no more. Men grow more scarce and saucy, and every lady is forced to content herself with one at a time.
You may see in this place the glorious liberty of a republic, or more properly, an aristocracy, the common people being here as arrant slaves as the French; but the old nobles pay little respect to the doge, who is but two years in his office, and whose wife, at that very time, assumes no rank above another noble lady. ’Tis true, the family of Andrea Doria (that great man, who restored them that liberty they enjoy) have some particular privileges. When the senate found it necessary to put a stop to the luxury of dress, forbidding the wearing of jewels and brocades, they left them at liberty to make what expence they pleased. I look with great pleasure on the statue of that hero, which is in the court belonging to the house of duke Doria. This puts me in mind of their palaces, which I can never describe as I ought. — Is it not enough, that I say, they are, most of them, the design of Palladio? The street called Strada Nova, is perhaps the most beautiful line of building in the world. I must particularly mention the vast palaces of Durazzo, those of the two Balbi, joined together by a magnificent colonade, that of the Imperiale at this village of St Pierre d’Arena, and another of the Doria. The perfection of architecture, and the utmost profusion of rich furniture are to be seen here, disposed with the most elegant taste, and lavish magnificence. But I am charmed with nothing so much as the collection of pictures by the pencils of Raphael, Paulo Veronese, Titian, Caracci, Michael Angelo, Guido, and Corregio, which two I mention last as my particular favourites. I own, I can find no pleasure in objects of horror; and, in my opinion, the more naturally a crucifix is represented, the more disagreeable it is. These, my beloved painters, shew nature, and shew it in the most charming light. I was particularly pleased with a Lucretia in the house of Balbi; the expressive beauty of that face and bosom, gives all the passion of pity and adoration, that could be raised in the soul, by the finest artist on that subject. A Cleopatra of the same hand, deserves to be mentioned; and I should say more of her if Lucretia had not first engaged my eyes. — Here are also some inestimable ancient bustos. — The church of St Lawrence is built of black and white marble, where is kept that famous plate of a single emerald, which is not now permitted to be handled, since a plot, which, they say, was discovered, to throw it on the pavement and break it; a childish piece of malice, which they ascribe to the king of Sicily, to be revenged for their refusing to sell it to him. The church of the annunciation is finely lined with marble; the pillars are of red and white marble; that of St Ambrose has been very much adorned by the Jesuits; but I confess, all the churches appeared so mean to me, after that of Sancta Sophia, I can hardly do them the honour of writing down their names. But I hope you will own, I have made good use of my time, in seeing so much, since ’tis not many days that we have been out of the quarantine, from which no body is exempted coming from the Levant. Ours, indeed, was very much shortened, and very agreeably passed in Mrs D’Avenant’s company, in the village of St Pierre d’Arena, about a mile from Genoa, in a house built by Palladio, so well designed, and so nobly proportioned, ’twas a pleasure to walk in it. We were visited here only by a few English, in the company of a noble Genoese; commissioned to see we did not touch one another. — I shall stay here some days longer, and could almost wish it were for all my life; but mine, I fear, is not destined to so much tranquillity.
I am, &c. &c.
From Turin. — Character of Turin, its palaces and churches — Lady M. waits on the queen — persons of the king and prince of Piedmont described.
To the Countess of ——.
Turin, Sept. 12. O. S. 1718.
I CAME in two days from Genoa, through fine roads, to this place. I have already seen what is shewed to strangers in the town, which, indeed, is not worth a very particular description; and I have not respect enough for the holy handkerchief, to speak long of it. The churches are handsome, and so is the king’s palace; but I have lately seen such perfection of architecture, I did not give much of my attention to these pieces. The town itself is fairly built, situated in a fine plain on the banks of the Po. At a little distance from it, we saw the palaces of La Venerie, and La Valentin, both very agreeable retreats. We were lodged in the Piazza Royale, which is one of the noblest squares I ever saw, with a fine portico of white stone quite round it. We were immediately visited by the Chevalier —— whom you knew in England; who, with great civility, begged to introduce us at Court, which is now kept at Rivoli, about a league from Turin. I went thither yesterday, and had the honour of waiting on the queen, being presented to her by her first lady of honour. I found her majesty in a magnificent apartment, with a train of handsome ladies, all dressed in gowns, amongst which it was easy to distinguish the fair princess of Carignan. The queen entertained me with a world of sweetness and affability, and seemed mistress of a great share of good sense. She did not forget to put me in mind of her English blood; and added, that she always felt in herself a particular inclination to love the English. I returned her civility, by giving her the title of majesty, as often as I could, which, perhaps, she will not have the comfort of hearing many months longer. — The king has a great deal of vivacity in his eyes; and the young prince of Piedmont is a very handsome young man; but the great devotion which this Court is, at present, fallen into, does not permit any of those entertainments proper for his age. Processions and masses are all the magnificence in fashion here; and gallantry is so criminal, that the poor Count of —— who was our acquaintance at London, is very seriously disgraced, for some small overtures he presumed to make to a maid of honour. I intend to set out tomorrow, and to pass those dreadful Alps, so much talked of. — If I come to the bottom, you shall hear of me. — I am, &c. &c.
From Lyons. — Journey from Turin to Lyons — passage over mount Cenis — the frontier towns between Savoy and France.
To Mrs T——.
Lyons, Sept, 25. O. S. 1718.
I RECEIVED, at my arrival here, both your obliging letters, and also letters from many of my other friends, designed to Constantinople, and sent me from Marseilles hither; our merchant there, knowing we were upon our return. I am surprised to hear my sister has left England. I suppose what I wrote to her from Turin will be lost, and where to direct I know not, having no account of her affairs from her own hand. For my own part, I am confined to my chamber, having kept my bed till yesterday, ever since the 17th, that I came to this town, where I have had so terrible a fever, I believed, for some time, that all my journeys were ended here; and I do not at all wonder, that such fatigues as I have passed, should have such an effect. The first day’s journey from Turin to Novalesse, is through a very fine country, beautifully planted, and enriched by art and nature. The next day we began to ascend mount Cenis, being carried in little seats of twisted osiers, fixed upon poles, upon mens shoulders; our chaises taken to pieces, and laid upon mules.
THE prodigious prospect of mountains covered with eternal snow, of clouds hanging far below our feet, and of vast cascades tumbling down the rocks with a confused roaring, would have been entertaining to me, if I had suffered less from the extreme cold that reigns here. But the misty rains which fall perpetually, penetrated even the thick fur I was wrapped in; and I was half dead with cold, before we got to the foot of the mountain, which was not till two hours after dark. This hill has a spacious plain on the top of it, and a fine lake there; but the descent is so steep and slippery, ’tis surprising to see these chairmen go so steadily as they do. Yet I was not half so much afraid of breaking my neck, as I was of falling sick; and the event has shewed, that I placed my fears right.
THE other mountains are now all passable for a chaise, and very fruitful in vines and pastures: Amongst them is a breed of the finest goats in the world. Acquebellet is the last, and soon after we entered Pont Beauvoisin, the frontier town of France, whose bridge parts this kingdom, and the dominions of Savoy. The same night we arrived late at this town, where I have had nothing to do, but to take care of my health. I think myself already out of any danger; and am determined, that the sore throat, which still remains, shall not confine me long. I am impatient to see the curiosities of this famous city, and more impatient to continue my journey to Paris, from whence I hope to write you a more diverting letter than ’tis possible for me to do now, with a mind weakened by sickness, a head muddled with spleen, from a sorry inn, and a chamber crammed with mortifying objects of apothecaries vials and bottles. — I am, &c. &c.
From Lyons. — Reflections on the insipidity of female visits — the inscriptions on brass tables on each side of the town-house at Lyons — remains of antiquity — cathedral of St John — critique on the statue of Louis XIV.
To Mr Pope.
Lyons, Sept. 28. O. S. 1718.
I RECEIVED yours here, and should thank you for the pleasure you seem to enjoy from my return; but I can hardly forbear being angry at you for rejoicing at what displeases me so much. You will think this but an odd compliment on my side. I’ll assure you, ’tis not from insensibility of the joy of seeing my friends; but when I consider, that I must, at the same time, see and hear a thousand disagreeable impertinents; that I must receive and pay visits, make courtesies and assist at tea-tables, where I shall be half killed with questions: and, on the other part, that I am a creature that cannot serve any body, but with insignificant good wishes; and that my presence is not a necessary good to any one member of my native country, I think I might much better have staid where ease and quiet made up the happiness of my indolent life. — I should certainly be melancholy, if I pursued this theme one line farther. I will rather fill the remainder of this paper with the inscriptions on the tables of brass, that are placed on each side of the town-house.
I. T A B L E.
Maererum. nostr::::: sii::::: Equidem. primam. omnium. illum. cogitationem. hominum. quam. maxime. primam. occursuram. mihi. provideo. deprecor. ne. quasi. novam. istam. rem. introduci. exhorreseatis. sed. illa. po. tius. cogitetis. quam. multa. in. hac. civitate. novata. sint. et. quidem. statim. ab. origine. urbis. nostrae. in. quod. formas. statusque. res. p. nostra. diducta. sit.
Quondam. reges. hanc. tenuere. urbem. ne. tamen. domesticis. successoribus. eam. tradere. contigit. supervenere. alieni. et. quidam. externi. ut. Numa. Romulo. successerit. ex. Sabinis. veniens. vicinus. quidem. sed. tunc. externus. ut. Anco. Marcio. Priseus, Tarquinius. propter. temeratum. sanguinem. quod. patre. de. marato. Corinthio. natus. eret. et. Tarquiniensi. matre. generosa. sed. inopi. ut. quae. tali. marito. necesse. habuerit. succumbere. cum. domi. repelleretur. a. gerendis. honoribus. postquam. Romam. migravit. regnum. adeptus. est. huie. quoque. et. filio. nepotive. ejus. nam. et. hoc. inter. auctores. discrepat. incretus. Servius. Tullius. si. nostros. sequimur. captiva. natus. ocresia. si. tuscos. coeli. quondam. vivennae. sodalis. fidelissimus. omnisque. ejus. casus. comes. postquam. varia. fortuna. exactus. cum. omnibus. reliquis. coeliani. exercitus. Etruria. excessit. montem. Coelium. occupavit. et. a. duce. suo. Coelio. ita. appellitatus. mutatoque. nomine. nam. tusce. mastarna. ei. nomen. erat. ita. appellatus. est. ut. dixi. et. regnum. summa. cum. reip. utilitate. obtinuit. diende. postquam. Tarquini. Superbi. mores. invisi. civitati. nostrae. esse. coeperunt. qua. ipsius. qua. filiorum ejus nempe. pertaesum. est. mentes. regni. et. ad. consules. annuos. magistratus. administratio. reip. translata. est.
Quid. nunc. commemorem. dictaturae, hoc. ipso. consulari. imperium. valentius. repertum. apud. majores. nostros quo. in. asperioribus. bellis. aut. in. civili. motu. difficiliori. uterentur. aut. in. auxilium. plebis. creatos. tribunos. plebei. quid. a. consulibus. ad. decemviros. translatum. imperium. solutoque postea decemvirali. regno. ad. consules. rursus. reditum. quid. im:::: v ris. distributum. consulare, imperium. tribunosque. militum. consulari. imperio. appellatus. qui. seni. et octoni. crearentur. quid. communicatos. postremo. cum. plebe. honores. non. imperi. solum. sed. sacerdotorum. quoque. jamsi. narrem. bella. a. quibus. coeperint. majores. nostri. et. quo. processerimus. vereor. ne. nimio. insolentior. esse. videar. et. quaesisse. jactationem. gloriae. prolati. imperi. ultra. oceanum. sed. illo. C. Porius. revertar. civitatem.
II. T A B L E.
::::::::::::::: sane:::::::::::::::::::: nova::: divus: aug::: no: lus. et. patruus. Ti. Caesar. omnem. florem. ubique. coloniarum. ac. municipiorum. bonorum. scilicet. virorum. et. locupletium. in. hac. curia. esse. voluit. quid. ergo. non. italicus. senator. provinciali, potior. est. jam. vobis. cum. hanc. partem. censurae. meae. approbare. coepero. quid. de. ca. re. sentiam. rebus. ostendam. sed. ne. provinciales. quidem. si. modo. ornare. curiam. poterint. rejiciendos. puto.
Ornatissima. ecce. colonia. valentissimaque. Riennensium. quam. longo. jam. tempore. senatores. huic. curiae. consert. ex. qua. colonia. inter. paucos. equestris. ordinis. ornamentum. L. restinum. familiarissime. diligo. et. hodieque. in. rebus. meis. detineo. cujus. liberi. fruantur. quaeso. primo. sacerdotiorum. gradu. post. modo. cum. annis. promoturi. dignitatis. suae. incrementa. ut. dirum. nomen. latronis. taceam. et. odi. illud. palestricum. prodiguum. quod. ante. in. domum. consulatum. intulit. quam. colonia. sua. solidum. civitatis. Romanae. beneficium. consecuta. est. idem. de fratre. ejus. possum. dicere. miserabili. quidem. indignissimoque. hoc. casu. ut. vobis. utilis. senator. esse. non. possit.
Tempus. est. jam. Ti. Caesar. Germanice. detegere. te. patribus. conscriptis. quo. tendat. oratio. tua. jam. enim. ad. extremos. sines. Galliae. Narbonensis. venisti.
Tot. ecce. insignes. juvenes. quot. intueor. non. magis. sunt. poenitenci. senatorib. quam. poenitet. Persicum. nobilissimum. virum. amicum. meum. inter. imagines. majorum. suorum. Allorogici. nomen. legere. quod. si. hae. ita. esse. consenti. is. quid. ultra. desideratis. quam. ut. vobis. digito. demonstrem. solum. ipsum. ultra. sines. provinciae. Narbonensis jam. vobis. senatores. mittere. quando. ex. Lugduno. habere. nos. nostri. ordinis. viros. non. poenitet. timide. quidim. p. c. egressus. adsuetos. familiaresque. vobis. provinciarum, terminos. sum. sed. destricte jam comatae. Galliae. causa. agenda. est. in. qua. si. quis. hoc. intuetur. quod. bello. per. decem. annos. exercuerunt. divom. julium. idem opponat. centum. annorum. immobilem. fidem. obsequiumque. multis. tripidis. rebus. nostris plusquam. expertum. illi. patri. meo. Druso. Germaniam. subigenti. tutam. quiete. sua secaramque. a tergo pacem. praestiterunt. et. quidem. cum. ad. census. novo. tum. opere. et. in. adsueto. Galliis. ad. bellum. avocatus. esset. quod. opus. quam. arduum. sit. nobis. nunc. cum. maxime. quamvis. nihil. ultra. quam. ut. publice. notae. sint. facultates. nostrae. exquiratur. nimis. magne. experimento. cognoscimus.
I WAS also shewed without the gate of St Justinus, some remains of a Roman aqueduct; and behind the monastery of St Mary, there are the ruins of the imperial palace, where the emperor Claudius was born, and where Severus lived. The great cathedral of St John is a good Gothic building, and its clock much admired by the Germans. In one of the most conspicuous parts of the town, is the late king’s statue set up, trampling upon mankind. I cannot forbear saying one word here, of the French statues (for I never intend to mention any more of them) with their gilded full-bottomed wigs. If their king had intended to express, in one image, ignorance, ill taste, and vanity, his sculptors could have made no other figure, so proper for that purpose, as this statue, which represents the odd mixture of an old beau, who had a mind to be a hero, with a bushel of curled hair on his head, and a gilt truncheon in his hand. — The French have been so voluminous on the history of this town, I need say nothing of it. The houses are tolerably well built, and the Belle Cour well planted, from whence is seen the celebrated joining of the Soane and Rhone.
“Ubi Rhodanus ingens amne praerapido fluit
“Ararque dubitans quo suos fluctus agat.“
I have had time to see every thing with great leisure, having been confined several days to this town by a swelling in my throat, the remains of a fever, occasioned by a cold I got in the damps of the Alps. The doctors here threaten me with all sorts of distempers, if I dare to leave them; but I, that know the obstinacy of it, think it just as possible to continue my way to Paris, with it, as to go about the streets of Lyons; and am determined to pursue my journey tomorrow, in spite of doctors, apothecaries, and sore throats.
WHEN you see Lady R—— tell her I have received her letter, and will answer it from Paris, believing that the place that she would most willingly hear of.
I am, &c. &c:
From Paris. — Miserable condition of the French peasants — palace of Fontainbleau — fair of St Lawrence — opera house — general character of the French actors — comparison between the French and English ladies.
To the Lady R——.
Paris, Oct. 10. O. S. 1718.
I CANNOT give my dear Lady R——a better proof of the pleasure I have in writing to her, than chusing to do it in this seat of various amusements, where I am accableed with visits, and those so full of vivacity and compliments, that ’tis full employment enough to hearken, whether one answers or not. The French ambassadress at Constantinople has a very considerable and numerous family here, who all come to see me, and are never weary of making inquiries. The air of Paris has already had a good effect on me; for I was never in better health, though I have been extremely ill all the road from Lyons to this place. You may judge how agreeable the journey has been to me; which did not want that addition to make me dislike it. I think nothing so terrible as objects of misery, except one had the God-like attribute of being capable to redress them; and all the country villages of France shew nothing else. While the post horses are changed, the whole town comes out to beg, with such miserable starved faces, and thin tattered cloths, they need no other eloquence, to persuade one of the wretchedness of their condition. This is all the French magnificence, till you come to Fountainbleau, when you are shewed one thousand five hundred rooms in the king’s hunting palace. The apartments of the royal family are very large, and richly gilt; but I saw nothing in the architecture or painting worth remembering. The long gallery, built by Henry IV. has prospects of all the king’s houses. Its walls are designed after the taste of those times, but appear now very mean. The park is, indeed, finely wooded and watered, the trees well grown and planted, and in the fish-ponds are kept tame carp, said to be, some of them, eighty years of age. The late king passed some months every year at this seat; and all the rocks round it, by the pious sentences inscribed on them, shew the devotion in fashion at his court, which I believe died with him; at least, I see no exterior marks of it at Paris, where all peoples thoughts seem to be on present diversion.
THE fair of St Lawrence is now in season. You may be sure I have been carried thither, and think it much better disposed than ours of Bartholomew. The shops being all set in rows so regularly and well lighted, they made up a very agreeable spectacle. But I was not at all satisfied with the grossierte of their harlequin, no more than with their music at the opera, which was abominably grating, after being used to that of Italy. Their house is a booth, compared to that of the Hay-market, and the play-house not so neat as that of Lincoln’s-Inn-fields; but then it must be owned, to their praise, their tragedians are much beyond any of ours. I should hardly allow Mrs O——d a better place than to be confidante to La ——. I have seen the tragedy of Bajazet so well represented, that I think our best actors can be only said to speak, but these to feel; and ’tis certainly infinitely more moving to see a man appear unhappy, than to hear him say that he is so, with a jolly face, and a stupid smirk in his countenance. —A propos of countenances, I must tell you something of the French ladies; I have seen all the beauties, and such —(I can’t help making use of the coarse word) nauseous creatures! so fantastically absurd in their dress! so monstrously unnatural in their paints! their hair cut short, and curled round their faces, and so loaded with powder, that it makes it look like white wool! and on their cheeks to their chins, unmercifully laid on a shining red japan, that glistens in a most flaming manner, so that they seem to have no resemblance to human faces. I am apt to believe, that they took the first hint of their dress from a fair sheep newly ruddled. ’Tis with pleasure I recollect my dear pretty country-women: and if I was writing to any body else, I should say, that these grotesque daubers give me still a higher esteem of the natural charms of dear Lady R——‘s auburne hair, and the lively colours of her unsullied complexion.
I am, &c. &c.
P. S. I have met the Abbe here, who desires me to make his compliments to you.
Paris. — General remarks on the palace of Versailles — Trianon — Marli — St Cloud — paintings at the house of the Duke d’Antin — the Thuilleries — the Louvre — behaviour of Mr Law at Paris — Paris compared with London.
To Mr T——.
Paris, Oct. 16. O. S. 1718.
YOU see I’m just to my word, in writing to you from Paris, where I was very much surprised to meet my sister; I need not add, very much pleased. She as little expected to see me as I her (having not received my late letters); and this meeting would shine under the hand of de Seuderie; but I shall not imitate his style so far, as to tell you how often we embraced, how she inquired, by what odd chance I returned from Constantinople? And I answered her by asking, what adventure brought her to Paris? To shorten the story, all questions, and answers, and exclamations, and compliments being over, we agreed upon running about together, and have seen Versailles, Trianon, Marli, and St Cloud. We had an order for the water to play for our diversion, and I was followed thither by all the English at Paris. I own, Versailles appeared to me rather vast than beautiful; and after having seen the exact proportions of the Italian buildings, I thought the irregularity of it shocking.
THE king’s cabinet of antiques and medals, is, indeed, very richly furnished. Amongst that collection, none pleased so well, as the apotheosis of Germanicus, on a large agate, which is one of the most delicate pieces of the kind that I remember to have seen. I observed some ancient statues of great value. But the nauseous flattery, and tawdry pencil of Le Brun, are equally disgusting in the gallery. I will not pretend to describe to you the great apartment, the vast variety of fountains, the theatre, the grove of Esop’s fables, &c. all which you may read very amply particularized in some of the French authors, that have been paid for these descriptions. Trianon, in its littleness, pleased me better than Versailles; Marli, better than either of them; and St Cloud best of all; having the advantage of the Seine running at the bottom of the gardens, the great cascade, &c. You may find information in the aforesaid books, if you have any curiosity to know the exact number of the statues, and how many feet they cast up the water.
WE saw the king’s pictures in the magnificent house of the duke D’Antin, who has the care of preserving them till his majesty is of age. There are not many but of the best hands. I looked, with great pleasure on the arch-angel of Raphael, where the sentiments of superior beings are as well expressed as in Milton. You won’t forgive me, if I say nothing of the Thuilleries, much finer than our Mall; and the Cour, more agreeable than our Hyde-park, the high trees giving shade in the hottest season. At the Louvre, I had the opportunity of seeing the king, accompanied by the Duke regent. He is tall, and well shaped but has not the air of holding the crown so many years as his grandfather. And now I am speaking of the Court, I must say, I saw nothing in France that delighted me so much, as to see an Englishman (at least a Briton) absolute at Paris, I mean Mr Law, who treats their dukes and peers extremely de haut en bas, and is treated by them with the utmost submission and respect. — Poor souls! — This reflection on their abject slavery, puts me in mind of the place des victoires; but I will not take up your time, and my own, with such descriptions, which are too numerous.
IN general, I think Paris has the advantage of London, in the neat pavement of the streets, and the regular lighting of them at nights, in the proportion of the streets, the houses being all built of stone, and most of those belonging to people of quality being beautified by gardens. But we certainly may boast of a town very near twice as large; and when I have said that, I know nothing else we surpass it in. I shall not continue here long; if you have any thing to command me during my short stay, write soon, and I shall take pleasure in obeying you.
I am, &c. &c.
From Dover. — Ludicrous distresses in the passage to Dover — reflections on travelling — brief comparison between England and the rest of the world in general.
To the Abbot ——.
Dover, Oct. 31. O. S. 1718.
I AM willing to take your word for it, that I shall really oblige you, by letting you know, as soon as possible, my safe passage over the water. I arrived this morning at Dover, after being tossed a whole night in the packet-boat, in so violent a manner, that the master, considering the weakness of his vessel, thought it proper to remove the mail, and give us notice of the danger. We called a little fishing boat, which could hardly make up to us; while all the people on board us were crying to Heaven. ’Tis hard to imagine one’s self in a scene of greater horror than on such an occasion: and yet, shall I own it to you? though I was not at all willingly to be drowned, I could not forbear being entertained at the double distress of a fellow-passenger. She was an English lady that I had met at Calais, who desired me to let her go over with me in my cabin. She had bought a fine point-head, which she was contriving to conceal from the custom-house officers. When the wind grew high, and our little vessel cracked, she fell very heartily to her prayers, and thought wholly of her soul. When it seemed to abate, she returned to the worldly care of her head-dress, and addressed herself to me —“Dear madam, will you take care of this point? if it should be lost! — Ah, Lord, we shall all be lost! — Lord have mercy on my soul! — Pray, madam, take care of this head-dress.” This easy transition from her soul to her head-dress, and the alternate agonies that both gave her, made it hard to determine which she thought of greatest value. But, however, the scene was not so diverting, but I was glad to get rid of it, and be thrown into the little boat, though with some hazard of breaking my neck. It brought me safe hither; and I cannot help looking with partial eyes on my native land. That partiality was certainly given us by nature, to prevent rambling, the effect of an ambitious thirst after knowledge, which we are not formed to enjoy. All we get by it, is a fruitless desire of mixing the different pleasures and conveniencies which are given to the different parts of the world, and cannot meet in any one of them. After having read all that is to be found in the languages I am mistress of, and having decayed my sight by midnight studies, I envy the easy peace of mind of a ruddy milk-maid, who, undisturbed by doubt, hears the sermon, with humility, every Sunday, not having confounded the sentiments of natural duty in her head by the vain-inquiries of the schools, who may be more learned, yet, after all, must remain as ignorant. And, after having seen part of Asia and Africa, and almost made the tour of Europe, I think the honest English squire more happy, who verily believes the Greek wines less delicious than March beer; that the African fruits have not so fine a flavour as golden pippins; that the Beca figuas of Italy are not so well tasted as a rump of beef; and that, in short, there is no perfect enjoyment of this life out of Old England. I pray God I may think so for the rest of my life; and, since I must be contented with our scanty allowance of day-light, that I may forget the enlivening sun of Constantinople.
I am, &c. &c.
Dover. — Reflections on the fates of John Hughes and Sarah Drew — epitaph on them.
To Mr P——.
Dover, Nov. 1. O. S. 1718.
I Have this minute received a letter of yours, sent me from Paris. I believe and hope I shall very soon see both you and Mr Congreve; but as I am here in an inn, where we stay to regulate our march to London, bag and baggage, I shall employ some of my leisure time, in answering that part of yours, that seems to require an answer.
I MUST applaud your good nature, in supposing, that your pastoral lovers (vulgarly called hay-makers) would have lived in everlasting joy and harmony, if the lightning had not interrupted their scheme of happiness. I see no reason to imagine, that John Hughes and Sarah Drew, were either wiser or more virtuous than their neighbours. That a well-set man of twenty-five should have a fancy to marry a brown woman of eighteen, is nothing marvellous; and I cannot help thinking, that had they married, their lives would have passed in the common track with their fellow parishioners. His endeavouring to shield her from a storm, was a natural action, and what he would have certainly done for his horse, if he had been in the same situation. Neither am I of opinion, that their sudden death was a reward of their mutual virtue. You know the Jews were reproved for thinking a village destroyed by fire, more wicked than those that had escaped the thunder. Time and chance happen to all men. Since you desire me to try my skill in an epitaph, I think the following lines perhaps more just, tho’ not so poetical as yours.
Here lies John Hughes and Sarah Drew;
Perhaps you’ll say, What’s that to you?
Believe me, friend, much may be said
On that poor couple that are dead.
On Sunday next they should have married;
But see how oddly things are carried!
On Thursday last it rain’d and lighten’d,
These tender lovers sadly frighten’d,
Shelter’d beneath the cocking hay,
In hopes to pass the time away,
But the BOLD THUNDER found them out,
(Commission’d for that end no doubt)
And seizing on their trembling breath,
Consign’d them to the shades of death.
Who knows if ’twas not kindly done?
For had they seen the next year’s fun,
A beaten wife and cockold swain
Had jointly curs’d the marriage chain:
Now they are happy in their doom,
FOR POPE HAS WROTE UPON THEIR TOMB.
I CONFESS, these sentiments are not altogether so heroic as yours; but I hope you will forgive them in favour of the two last lines. You see how much I esteem the honour you have done them; though I am not very impatient to have the same, and had rather continue to be your stupid living humble servant, than be celebrated by all the pens in Europe.
I WOULD write to Mr C——; but suppose you will read this to him, if he inquires after me.
Character of Mrs D—— and humorous representation of her intended marriage with a greasy curate — anecdotes of another couple — remarks on the abuse of the word nature; applied to the case of a husband who insisted on his wife suckling her own child — observations on the forbidding countenance of a worthy gentleman.
[This and the following letters are now first published.]
To Lady ——.
January 13. 1715–16.
I FIND, after all, by your letter of yesterday, that Mrs D—— is resolved to marry the old greasy curate. She was always high-church in an excessive degree; and, you know, she used to speak of Sacheveral as an apostolic saint, who was worthy to sit in the same place with St Paul, if not a step above him. It is a matter, however, very doubtful to me, whether it is not still more the man than the apostle that Mrs D—— looks to in the present alliance. Though at the age of forty, she is, I assure you, very far from being cold and insensible; her fire may be covered with ashes, but it is not extinguished. — Don’t be deceived, my dear, by that prudish and sanctified air. — Warm devotions is no equivocal mark of warm passions; besides, I know it is a fact, (of which I have proofs in hand, which I will tell you by word of mouth) that our learned and holy prude is exceedingly disposed to use the means, supposed in the primitive command, let what will come of the end. The curate indeed is very filthy. — Such a red, spungy, warty nose! Such a squint! — In short, he is ugly beyond expression; and, what ought naturally to render him peculiarly displeasing to one of Mrs D——‘s constitution and propensities, he is stricken in years. Nor do I really know how they will live. He has but forty-five pounds a-year — she but a trifling sum; so that they are likely to feast upon love and ecclesiastical history which will be very empty food, without a proper mixture of beef and pudding. I have however, engaged our friend, who is the curate’s landlord, to give them a good lease; and if Mrs D—— instead of spending whole days in reading Collier, Hicks, and vile translations of Plato and Epictetus; will but form the resolution of taking care of her house, and minding her dairy, things may go tolerably. It is not likely that their tender loves will give them many sweet babes to provide for.
I MET the lover yesterday, going to the ale-house in his dirty nightgown, with a book under his arm, to entertain the club; and, as Mrs D—— was with me at the time, I pointed out to her the charming creature: she blushed, and looked prim; but quoted a passage out of Herodotus, in which it is said that the Persians wore long night-gowns. There is really no more accounting for the taste in marriage of many of our sex, than there is for the appetite of your Miss S——y, who makes such waste of chalk and charcoal, when they fall in her way.
AS marriage produces children, so children produce care and disputes; and wrangling, as is said (at least by old batchelors and old maids) is one of the sweets of the conjugal state. You tell me that our friend Mrs —— is, at length, blessed with a son, and that her husband, who is a great philosopher, (if his own testimony is to be depended upon) insists on her suckling it herself. You ask my advice on this matter; and, to give it you frankly, I really think that Mr ——‘s demand is unreasonable, as his wife’s constitution is tender, and her temper fretful. A true philosopher would consider these circumstances; but a pedant is always throwing his system in your face, and applies it equally to all things, times and places, just like a taylor who would make a coat out of his own head, without any regard to the bulk or figure of the person that must wear it. All those fine-spun arguments that he has drawn from nature, to stop your mouths, weigh, I must own to you, but very little with me. This same Nature is, indeed, a specious word, nay there is a great deal in it, if it is properly understood and applied; but I cannot bear to hear people using it, to justify what common sense must disavow. Is not nature modified by art in many things? Was it not designed to be so? And is it not happy for human society, that it is so? Would you like to see your husband let his beard grow, until he would be obliged to put the end of it in his pocket, because this beard is the gift of nature? The instincts of nature point out neither taylors, nor weavers, nor mantua-makers, nor sempsters, nor milliners; and yet I am very glad that we do not run naked like the Hottentots. But not to wander from the subject — I grant, that nature has furnished the mother with milk to nourish her child; but I maintain, at the same time, that if she can find better milk elsewhere, she ought to prefer it without hesitation. I don’t see why she should have more scruple to do this, than her husband has to leave the clear fountain which nature gave him, to quench his thirst, for stout october, port, or claret. Indeed, if Mrs —— was a buxom, sturdy woman, who lived on plain food, took regular exercise, enjoyed proper returns of rest, and was free from violent passions (which you and I know is not the case) she might be a good nurse for her child; but, as matters stand, I do verily think, that the milk of a good comely cow, who feeds quietly in her meadow, never devours ragouts, nor drinks ratifia, nor frets at quadrille, nor sits up till three in the morning, elated with gain, or dejected with loss; I do think, that the milk of such a cow, or of a nurse that came as near it as possible, would be likely to nourish the young squire much better than hers. If it be true that the child sucks in the mother’s passions with her milk, this is a strong argument in favour of the cow, unless you may be afraid that the young squire may become a calf; but how many calves are there both in state and church, who have been brought up with their mother’s milk.
I PROMISE faithfully, to communicate to no mortal the letter you wrote me last. — What you say of two of the rebel lords, I believe to be true; but I can do nothing in the matter. — If my projects don’t fail in the execution, I shall see you before a month passes. Give my service to Dr Blackbeard. — He is a good man, but I never saw in my life, such a persecuting face cover a humane and tender heart. I imagine (within myself) that the Smithfield priests, who burned the protestants in the time of Queen Mary, had just such faces as the doctor’s. If we were papists, I should like him very much for my confessor; his seeming austerity would give you and I a great reputation for sanctity; and his good, indulgent heart, would be the very thing that would suit us, in the affair of penance and ghostly direction.
Farewell, my dear lady, &c. &c.
From Vienna. — Remarks on some illustrious personages at the court of Vienna — character of the poet Rousseau — alchymy much studied at Vienna — prince Eugene’s library.
To the Abbot ——.
Vienna, Jan. 2. O. S. 1717.
I AM really almost tired with the life of Vienna. I am not, indeed, an enemy to dissipation and hurry, much less to amusement and pleasure; but I cannot endure, long, even pleasure, when it is fettered with formality, and assumes the air of system. ’Tis true I have had here some very agreeable connections; and what will perhaps surprise you, I have particular pleasure in my Spanish acquaintances, count Oropesa and general Puebla. These two noblemen are much in the good graces of the emperor, and yet they seem to be brewing mischief. The court of Madrid cannot reflect, without pain, upon the territories that were cut off from the Spanish monarchy by the peace of Utrecht, and it seems to be looking wishfully out, for an opportunity of getting them back again. That is a matter about which I trouble myself very little; let the Court be in the right or in the wrong, I like mightily the two counts its ministers. I dined with them both some days ago at count Wurmbrand’s, an aulic counsellor, and a man of letters, who is universally esteemed here. But the first man at this court, in point of knowledge and abilities, is certainly count Schlick, high chancellor of Bohemia, whose immense reading is accompanied with a fine taste and a solid judgment; he is a declared enemy to prince Eugene, and a warm friend to the honest hot-headed marshal Staremberg. One of the most accomplished men I have seen at Vienna, is the young count Terracco, who accompanies the amiable prince of Portugal. I am almost in love with them both, and wonder to see such elegant manners, and such free and generous sentiments in two young men that have hitherto seen nothing but their own country. The count is just such a Roman-catholic as you; he succeeds greatly with the devout beauties here; his first overtures in gallantry are disguised under the luscious strains of spiritual love, that were sung formerly by the sublimely voluptuous Fenelon, and the tender madam Guion, who turned the fire of carnal love to divine objects: thus the count begins with the spirit, and ends generally with the flesh, when he makes his addresses to holy virgins.
I MADE acquaintance yesterday with the famous poet Rousseau, who lives here under the peculiar protection of prince Eugene, by whose liberality he subsists. He passes here for a free-thinker, and, what is still worse in my esteem, for a man whose heart does not feel the encomiums he gives to virtue and honour in his poems. I like his odes mightily; they are much superior to the lyric productions of our English poets, few of whom have made any figure in that kind of poetry. I don’t find that learned men abound here; there is, indeed, a prodigious number of alchymists at Vienna; the philosopher’s stone is the great object of zeal and science; and those who have more reading and capacity than the vulgar, have transported their superstition (shall I call it?) or fanaticism, from religion to chymistry; and they believe in a new kind of transubstantiation, which is designed to make the laity as rich as the other kind has made the priesthood. This pestilential passion has already ruined several great houses. There is scarcely a man of opulence or fashion, that has not an alchymist in his service; and even the emperor is supposed to be no enemy to this folly, in secret, though he has pretended to discourage it in public.
PRINCE EUGENE was so polite as to shew me his library yesterday; we found him attended by Rousseau, and his favourite count Bonneval, who is a man of wit, and is here thought to be a very bold and enterprizing, spirit. The library, though not very ample, is well chosen; but as the prince will admit into it no editions but what are beautiful and pleasing to the eye, and there are, nevertheless, numbers of excellent books that are but indifferently printed, this finikin and foppish taste makes many disagreeable chasms in this collection. The books are pompously bound in Turkey leather; and two of the most famous book-binders of Paris were expressly sent for to do this work. Bonneval pleasantly told me, that there were several quartos, on the art of war, that were bound with the skins of spahis and janizaries: and this jest, which was indeed elegant, raised a smile of pleasure on the grave countenance of the famous warrior. The prince, who is a connoisseur in the fine arts, shewed me, with particular pleasure, the famous collection of portraits that formerly belonged to Fouquet, and which he purchased at an excessive price. He has augmented it with a considerable number of new acquisitions; so that he has now in his possession such a collection in that kind, as you will scarcely find in any ten cabinets in Europe. If I told you the number, you will say that I make an indiscreet use of the permission to lie, which is more or less given to travellers, by the indulgence of the candid.
COUNT TARRACCO is just come in. — He is the only person I have accepted, this morning, in my general order to receive no company. — I think I see you smile; — but I am not so far gone as to stand in need of absolution; though as the human heart is deceitful, and the count very agreeable, you may think, that even though I should not want an absolution, I would, nevertheless, be glad to have an indulgence. — No such thing. — However, as I am a heretic, and you no confessor, I shall make no declarations on this head. — The design of the count’s visit is a ball; — more pleasure. — I shall be surfeited.
Victory of prince Eugene over the Turks, and the surrender of Belgrade — the news how received at Constantinople — contrast between European and Asiatic manners — estimate of the pleasures of the seraglio — observations on Mr Addison being appointed secretary of state — Mr Addison, Mr Pope, and Mr Congreve, in what respects three happy poets — reflections on the Iliad, and Mr Pope’s translation of it.
To Mr P——.
Sept. 1. 1717.
WHEN I wrote to you last, Belgrade was in the hands of the Turks; but, at this present moment, it has changed masters, and is in the hands of the Imperialists. A janizary, who, in nine days, and yet without any wings but what a panic terror seems to have furnished, arrived at Constantinople from the army of the Turks before Belgrade, brought Mr W—— the news of a complete victory obtained by the Imperialists, commanded by prince Eugene, over the Ottoman troops. It is said, the prince has discovered great conduct and valour in this action; and I am particularly glad that the voice of glory and duty has call’d him from the —(Note in the published book: here several words of the manuscript are effaced.)— Two day’s after the battle, the town surrendered. The consternation, which this defeat has occasioned here, is inexpressible; and the sultan, apprehending a revolution, from the resentment and indignation of the people, fomented by certain leaders, has begun his precautions, after the goodly fashion of this blessed government, by ordering several persons to be strangled, who were the objects of his royal suspicion. He has also ordered his treasurer to advance some months pay to the janizaries, which seems the less necessary, as their conduct has been bad in this campaign, and their licentious ferocity seems pretty well tamed by the public contempt. Such of them as return in straggling and fugitive parties to the metropolis, have not spirit nor credit enough to defend themselves from the insults of the mob; the very children taunt them, and the populace spit in their faces as they pass. They refused, during the battle, to lend their assistance to save the baggage and the military chest, which, however, were defended by the bashaws and their retinue, while the janizaries and spahis were nobly employed in plundering their own camp.
You see here, that I give you a very handsome return for your obliging letter. You entertain me with a most agreeable account of your amiable connexions with men of letters and taste, and of the delicious moments you pass in their society under the rural shade; and I exhibit to you, in return, the barbarous spectacle of Turks and Germans cutting one another’s throats. But what can you expect from such a country as this, from which the Muses have fled, from which letters seem eternally banished, and in which you see, in private scenes, nothing pursued as happiness, but the refinements of an indolent voluptuousness; and where those who act upon the public theatre live in uncertainty, suspicion, and terror? Here, pleasure, to which I am no enemy, when it is properly seasoned, and of a good composition, is surely of the coying kind. Veins of wit, elegant conversation, easy commerce, are unknown among the Turks; and yet they seem capable of all these, if the vile spirit of their government did not stifle genius, damp curiosity, and suppress an hundred passions, that embellish and render life agreeable. The luscious passion of the seraglio is the only one almost that is gratified here to the full; but it is blended so with the surly spirit of despotism in one of the parties, and with the dejection and anxiety which this spirit produces in the other, that, to one of my way of thinking, it cannot appear otherwise than as a very mixed kind of enjoyment. The women here are not, indeed, so closely confined as many have related; they enjoy a high degree of liberty, even in the bosom of servitude, and they have methods of evasion and disguise, that are very favourable to gallantry; but, after all, they are still under uneasy apprehensions of being discovered; and a discovery exposes them to the most merciless rage of jealousy, which is here a monster that cannot be satiated but with blood. The magnificence and riches that reign in the apartments of the ladies of fashion here, seem to be one of their chief pleasures, joined with their retinue of female slaves, whose music, dancing, and dress, amuse them highly; but there is such an air of form and stiffness amidst this grandeur, as hinders it from pleasing me at long-run, however, I was dazzled with it at first sight. This stiffness and formality of manners are peculiar to the Turkish ladies; for the Grecian belles are of quite another character and complexion; with them, pleasure appears in more engaging forms; and their persons, manners, conversation and amusements, are very far from being destitute of elegance and ease.
I RECEIVED the news of Mr Addison’s being declared secretary of state with the less surprise, in that I know that post was almost offered to him before. At that time he declined it; and I really believe that he would have done well to have declined it now. Such a post as that, and such a wife as the Countess, do not seem to be, in prudence, eligible for a man that is asthmatic; and we may see the day, when he will be heartily glad to resign them both. It is well that he laid aside the thoughts of the voluminous dictionary, of which I have heard you or somebody else frequently make mention. But no more on that subject; I would not have said so much, were I not assured that this letter will come safe and unopened to hand. I long much to tread upon English ground, that I may see you and Mr Congreve, who render that ground classic ground; nor will you refuse our present secretary a part of that merit, whatever reasons you may have to be dissatisfied with him in other respects. You are the three happiest poets I ever heard of; one a secretary of state, the other enjoying leisure, with dignity, in two lucrative employments; and you, though your religious profession is an obstacle to Court promotion, and disqualifies you from filling civil employments, have found the philosopher’s stone; since, by making the Iliad pass through your poetical crucible into an English form, without losing aught of it’s original beauty, you have drawn the golden current of Pactolus to Twickenham. I call this finding the philosopher’s stone, since you alone found out the secret, and nobody else has got into it. A——n and T——l tried it, but their experiments failed; and they lost, if not their money, at least a certain portion of their fame in the trial — while you touched the mantle of the divine bard, and imbibed his spirit. I hope we shall have the Odyssey soon from your happy hand; and I think I shall follow, with singular pleasure, the traveller Ulysses, who was an observer of men and manners, when he travels in your harmonious numbers. I love him much better than the hot-headed son of Peleus, who bullied his general, cried for his mistress, and so on. It is true, the excellence of the Iliad does not depend upon his merit or dignity; but I wish, nevertheless, that Homer had chosen a hero somewhat less pettish and less fantastic: a perfect hero is chimerical and unnatural, and consequently uninstructive; but it is also true, that while the epic hero ought to be drawn with the infirmities that are the lot of humanity, he ought never to be represented as extremely absurd. But it becomes me ill to play the critic; so I take my leave of you for this time, and desire you will believe me, with the highest esteem,
From Florence. — Remarks on the road between Bologna and Florence — visit to the monastery of La Trappe, with reflections on the monastic life — occasion of the institution of the order of La Trappe — the burning mountains near Fierenzuola — general description of Florence — the grand gallery — the statues of Antinous and Venus de Medicis — the first sketches of Raphael’s cartoons — envious behaviour of modern painters, in defacing the productions of the ancients — digressions to some reports raised by Mr P. concerning the writer.
To The Countess of ——.
[As this letter is the supplement to a preceding one, which is not come to the hands of the editor, it was probably, on that account, sent without a date. It seems evidently to have been written after Lady M. W. M. had fixed her residence in Italy.]
I SET out from Bologne the moment I had finished the letter I wrote you on Monday last, and shall now continue to inform you of the things that have struck me most in this excursion. Sad roads — hilly and rocky — between Bologna and Fierenzuola. Between this latter place and Florence, I went out of my road to visit the monastery of La Trappe, which is of French origin, and one of the most austere and self-denying orders I have met with. In this gloomy retreat, it gave me pain to observe the infatuation of men, who have devoutly reduced themselves to a much worse condition than that of the beasts. Folly, you see, is the lot of humanity, whether it arises in the flowery paths of pleasure, or the thorny ones of an ill-judged devotion. But of the two sorts of fools, I shall always think that the merry one has the most eligible fate; and I cannot well form a notion of that spiritual and ecstatic joy, that is mixed with sighs, groans, hunger and thirst, and the other complicated miseries of monastic discipline. It is a strange way of going to work for happiness, to excite an enmity between soul and body, which nature and providence have designed to live together in an union and friendship, and which we cannot separate like man and wife, when they happen to disagree. The profound silence that is enjoined upon the monks of La Trappe, is a singular circumstance of their unsociable and unnatural discipline; and were this injunction never to be dispensed with, it would be needless to visit them in any other character than as a collection of statues; but the superior of the convent suspended, in our favour, that rigorous law, and allowed one of the mutes to converse with me, and answer a few discreet questions. He told me, that the monks of this order in France are still more austere than those of Italy, as they never taste wine, flesh, fish, or eggs; but live entirely upon vegetables. The story that is told of the institution of this order is remarkable, and is well attested, if my information be good. Its founder was a French nobleman, whose name was Bouthillier da Rance, a man of pleasure and gallantry, which were converted into the deepest gloom of devotion, by the following incident. His affairs obliged him to absent himself for some time, from a lady with whom he had lived in the most intimate and tender connections of successful love. At his return to Paris, he proposed to surprise her agreeably; and, at the same time, to satisfy his own impatient desire of seeing her, by going directly, and without ceremony, to her apartment by a back stair, which he was well acquainted with. — But think of the spectacle that presented itself to him at his entrance into the chamber that had so often been the scene of love’s highest raptures! His mistress dead — dead of the small-pox — disfigured beyond expression — a loathsome mass of putrified matter — and the surgeon separating the head from the body, because the coffin had been made too short! He stood for a moment motionless in amazement, and filled with horror — and then retired from the world, shut himself up in the convent of La Trappe, where he passed the remainder of his days in the most cruel and disconsolate devotion. — Let us quit this sad subject.
I MUST not forget to tell you, that before I came to this monastery, I went to see the burning mountains near Fierenzuola, of which the naturalists speak as a great curiosity. The flame it sends forth is without smoke, and resembles brandy set on fire. The ground about it is well cultivated, and the fire appears only in one spot where there is a cavity, whose circumference is small, but in it are several crevices whose depths are unknown. It is remarkable, that when a piece of wood is thrown into this cavity, though it cannot pass through the crevices, yet it is consumed in a moment; and that though the ground about it be perfectly cold, yet if a stick be rubbed with any force against it, it emits a flame, which, however, is neither hot nor durable like that of the volcano. If you desire a more circumstantial account of this phenomenon, and have made a sufficient progress in Italian, to read father Carazzi’s description of it, you need not be at a loss, for I have sent this description to Mr F—— and you have only to ask it of him. After observing the volcano, I Scrambled up all the neighbouring hills, partly on horse-back, partly on foot, but could find no vestige of fire in any of them; though common report would make one believe that they all contain volcanos.
I HOPE you have not taken it in your head to expect from me a description of the famous gallery, here, where I arrived on Thursday at noon; this would be requiring a volume instead of a letter; besides I have as yet seen but a part of this immense treasure, and I propose employing some weeks more to survey the whole. You cannot imagine any situation more agreeable than Florence. It lies in a fertile and smiling valley watered by the Arno, which runs through the city; and nothing can surpass the beauty and magnificence of its public buildings, particularly the cathedral, whose grandeur filled me with astonishment. The palaces, squares, fountains, statues, bridges, do not only carry an aspect full of elegance and greatness, but discover a taste quite different, in kind, from that which reigns in the public edifices in other countries. The more I see of Italy, the more I am persuaded that the Italians have a style (if I may use that expression) in every thing, which distinguishes them almost essentially from all other Europeans. Where they have got it — whether from natural genius or ancient imitation and inheritance, I shall not examine; but the fact is certain. I have been but one day in the gallery, that amazing repository of the most precious remains of antiquity, and which alone is sufficient to immortalize the illustrious house of Medicis, by whom it was built, and enriched as we now see it. I was so impatient to see the famous Venus of Medicis, that I went hastily through six apartments, in order to get a sight of this divine figure; purposing, when I had satisfied this ardent curiosity, to return and view the rest at my leisure. As I, indeed, passed through the great room which contains the ancient statues, I was stopped short at viewing the Antinous, which they have placed near that of Adrian, to revive the remembrance of their preposterous loves; which, I suppose, the Florentines rather look upon as an object of envy, than of horror and disgust. This statue, like that of the Venus de Medicis, spurns description: such figures my eyes never beheld. — I can now understand that Ovid’s comparing a fine woman to a statue, which I formerly thought a very disobliging similitude, was the nicest and highest piece of flattery. The Antinous is entirely naked, all its parts are bigger than nature; but the whole, taken together, and the fine attitude of the figure, carry such an expression of ease, elegance and grace, as no words can describe. When I saw the Venus I was rapt in wonder — and I could not help casting a thought back upon Antinous. They ought to be placed together; they are worthy of each other. — If marble could see and feel, the separation might be prudent — if it could only see, it would certainly lose its coldness, and learn to feel; and, in such a case, the charms of these two figures would produce an effect quite opposite to that of the Gorgon’s head, which turned flesh into stone. Did I pretend to describe to you the Venus, it would only set your imagination at work to form ideas of her figure; and your ideas would no more resemble that figure, than the Portuguese face of Miss — — who has enchanted our knights, resembles the sweet and graceful countenance of lady —— his former flame. The description of a face or figure, is a needless thing, as it never conveys a true idea; it only gratifies the imagination with a fantastic one, until the real one is seen. So, my dear, if you have a mind to form a true notion of the divine forms and features of the Venus and Antinous, come to Florence.
I WOULD be glad to oblige you and your friend Vertue, by executing your commission with respect to the sketches of Raphael’s cartoons at Hampton-court; but I cannot do it to my satisfaction. I have, indeed, seen, in the grand duke’s collection, four pieces, in which that wonderful artist had thrown freely from his pencil the first thoughts and rude lines of some of these compositions; and as the first thoughts of a great genius are precious, these pieces attracted my curiosity in a particular manner; but when I went to examine them closely, I found them so damaged and effaced, that they did not at all answer my expectation. Whether this be owing to negligence or envy, I cannot say; I mention the latter, because it is notorious, that many of the modern painters have discovered ignoble marks of envy at a view of the inimitable productions Of the ancients. Instead of employing their art to preserve the master-pieces of antiquity, they have endeavoured to destroy and efface many of them. I have seen with my own eyes an evident proof of this at Bologna, where the greatest part of the paintings in fresco on the walls of the convent of St Michael in Bosco, done by the Carracci, and Guido Rheni, have been ruined by the painters, who, after having copied some of the finest heads, scraped them almost entirely out with nails. Thus, you see, nothing is exempt from human malignity.
THE word malignity, and a passage in your letter, call to my mind the wicked wasp of Twickenham; his lies affect me now no more; they will be all as much despised as the story of the seraglio and the handkerchief, of which I am persuaded he was the only inventor. That man has a malignant and ungenerous heart; and he is base enough to assume the mark of a moralist in order to decry human nature, and to give a decent vent to his hatred to man and woman kind. — But I must quit this contemptible subject, on which a just indignation would render my pen so fertile, that, after having fatigued you with a long letter, I would surfeit you with a supplement twice as long. Besides, a violent head-ach advertises me that it is time to lay down my pen and get me to bed. I shall say some things to you in my next, that I would have you to impart to the strange man, as from yourself. My mind is at present tolerably quiet; if it were as dead to sin, as it is to certain connections, I should be a great saint. Adieu, my dear madam.
Yours very affectionately, &c.
Remarks on Paris — reflections on staring and grinning — character of the French people — criticism on statues in the gardens of Versailles — the gardens compared with the royal gardens of England.
To Mr P.
I HAVE been running about Paris at a strange rate with my sister, and strange sights have we seen. They are, at least, strange sights to me; for, after having been accustomed to the gravity of Turks, I can scarce look with an easy and familiar aspect at the levity and agility of the airy phantoms that are dancing about me here; and I often think that I am at a puppet-shew, amidst the representations of real life. I stare prodigiously, but nobody remarks it, for every body stares here, staring is a-la-mode — there is a stare of attention and interet, a stare of curiosity, a stare of expectation, a stare of surprise; and it will greatly amuse you to see what trifling objects excite all this staring. This staring would have rather a solemn kind of air, were it not alleviated by grinning; for at the end of a stare, there comes always a grin; and very commonly, the entrance of a gentleman or lady into a room is accompanied with a grin, which is designed to express complacence and social pleasure, but really shews nothing more than a certain contortion of muscles, that must make a stranger laugh really, as they laugh artificially. The French grin is equally remote from the cheerful serenity of a smile, and the cordial mirth of an honest English horse-laugh. I shall not perhaps stay here long enough to form a just idea of French manners and characters, though this I believe would require but little study, as there is no great depth in either. It appears, on a superficial view, to be a frivolous, restless, and agreeable people. The abbot is my guide, and I could not easily light upon a better; he tells me, that here the women form the character of the men, and I am convinced in the persuasion of this, by every company into which I enter. There seems here to be no intermediate state between infancy and manhood; for as soon as the boy has quit his leading-strings, he is set agog in the world; the ladies are his tutors, they make the first impressions, which, generally remain, and they render the men ridiculous, by the imitation of their humours and graces; so that dignity in manners, is a rare thing here before the age of sixty. Does not king David say somewhere, that Man walketh in a vain shew? I think he does; and I am sure this is peculiarly true of the Frenchman — but he walks merrily, and seems to enjoy the vision; and may he not therefore be esteemed more happy than many of our solid thinkers, whose brows are furrowed by deep reflection, and whose wisdom is so often clothed with a misty mantle of spleen and vapours?
WHAT delights me most here, is a view of the magnificence, often accompanied with taste, that reigns in the king’s palaces and gardens; for tho’ I don’t admire much the architecture, in which there is great irregularity and want of proportion, yet the statues, paintings, and other decorations, afford me high entertainment. One of the pieces of antiquity that struck me most in the gardens of Versailles, was the famous Colossean statue of Jupiter, the workmanship of Myron, which Mark Anthony carried away from Samos, and Augustus ordered to be placed in the capitol. It is of Parian marble; and though it has suffered in the ruin of time, it still preserves striking lines of majesty. But surely, if marble could feel, the god would frown with a generous indignation, to see himself transported from the capitol into a French garden; and, after having received the homage of the Roman emperors, who laid their laurels at his feet when they returned from their conquests, to behold now nothing but frizzled beaus passing by him with indifference.
I PROPOSE setting out soon from this place, so that you are to expect no more letters from this side of the water; besides, I am hurried to death, and my head swims with that vast variety of objects which I am obliged to view with such rapidity, the shortness of my time not allowing me to examine them at my leisure. There is here an excessive prodigality of ornaments and decorations, that is just the opposite extreme to what appears in our royal gardens; this prodigality is owing to the levity and inconstancy of the French taste, which always pants after something new, and thus heaps ornament upon ornament, without end or measure. It is time, however, that I should put an end to my letter; so I wish you good night,
And am, &c.
Observations on the koran, and the conduct of the Greek priests with regard to it — women not excluded from Mahomet’s paradise — who among the women excluded — the exhortations of Mahomet to the women, compared with the monastic institution of popery — the sciences cultivated among the Turks by the effendis — sentiments of an intelligent one respecting abstinence from wine — strange mixture of different countries in the suburbs of Constantinople — different species of men asserted — mongrels in the human species — why the English women so fond of hoop-petticoats.
Translated from the French.
To the Count ——.
I AM charmed, Sir, with your obliging letter; and you may perceive, by the largeness of my paper, that I intend to give punctual answers to all your questions, at least if my French will permit me; for, as it is a language I do not understand to perfection, so I much fear, that, for want of expressions, I shall be quickly obliged to finish. Keep in mind, therefore, that I am writing in a foreign language, and be sure to attribute all the impertinencies and triflings dropping from my pen, to the want of proper words for declaring my thoughts, but by no means to dulness, or natural levity.
THESE conditions being thus agreed and settled, I begin with telling you, that you have a true notion of the alcoran, concerning which the Greek priests (who are the greatest scoundrels in the universe) have invented, out of their own heads, a thousand ridiculous stories, in order to decry the law of Mahomet; to run it down, I say, without any examination, or so much as letting the people read it; being afraid, that if once they began to sift the defects of the alcoran, they might not stop there, but proceed to make use of their judgment about their own legends and fictions. In effect, there is nothing so like as the fables of the Greeks and of the Mahometans; and the last have multitudes of saints, at whose tombs miracles are by them said to be daily performed; nor are the accounts of the lives of those blessed musselmans much less stuffed with extravagancies, than the spiritual romances of the Greek papas.
AS to your next inquiry, I assure you, ’tis certainly false, though commonly believed in our parts of the world, that Mahomet excludes women from any share in a future happy state. He was too much a gentleman, and loved the fair sex too well, to use them so barbarously. On the contrary, he promises a very fine paradise to the Turkish women. He says, indeed, that this paradise will be a separate place from that of their husbands; but I fancy the most part of them won’t like it the worse for that; and that the regret of this separation will not render their paradise the less agreeable. It remains to tell you, that the virtues which Mahomet requires of the women, to merit the enjoyment of future happiness, are, not to live in such a manner as to become useless to the world, but to employ themselves, as much as possible, in making little musselmans. The virgins, who die virgins, and the widows who marry not again, dying in mortal sin, are excluded out of paradise: For women, says he, not being capable to manage the affairs of state, nor to support the fatigues of war, God has not ordered them to govern or reform the world; but he has entrusted them with an office which is not less honourable; even that of multiplying the human race: and such as, out of malice or laziness, do not make it their business to bear or to breed children, fulfil not the duty of their vocation, and rebel against the commands of God. Here are maxims for you, prodigiously contrary to those of your convents. What will become of your St Catharines, your St Theresas, your St Claras, and the whole bead-roll of your holy virgins and widows; who, if they are to be judged by this system of virtue, will be found to have been infamous creatures, that passed their whole lives in most abominable libertinism.
I KNOW not what your thoughts may be, concerning a doctrine so extraordinary with respect to us; but I can truly inform you, Sir, that the Turks are not so ignorant as we fancy them to be in matters of politics, or philosophy, or even of gallantry. ’Tis true, that military discipline, such as now practised in Christendom, does not mightily suit them. A long peace has plunged them into an universal sloth. Content with their condition, and accustomed to boundless luxury, they are become great enemies to all manner of fatigues. But, to make amends, the sciences flourish among them. The effendis (that is to say, the learned) do very well deserve this name: They have no more faith in the in inspiration of Mahomet, than in the infallibility of the Pope. They make a frank profession of Deism among themselves, or to those they can trust; and never speak of their law but as of a politic institution, fit now to be observed by wise men, however at first introduced by politicians and enthusiasts.
IF I remember right, I think I have told you, in some former letter, that, at Belgrade, we lodged with a great and rich effendi, a man of wit and learning, and of a very agreeable humour. We were in his house about a month, and he did constantly eat with us, drinking wine without any scruple. As I rallied him a little on this subject, he answered me, smiling, that all creatures in the world were made for the pleasure of man; and that God would not have let the vine grow, were it a sin to taste of its juice; but that, nevertheless, the law, which forbids the use of it to the vulgar, was very wise, because such sort of folks have not sense enough to take it with moderation. This effendi appeared no stranger to the parties that prevail among us: Nay, he seemed to have some knowledge of our religious disputes, and even of our writers; and I was surprised to hear him ask, among other things, how Mr Toland did.
MY paper, large as it is, draws towards an end. That I may not go beyond its limits, I must leap from religions to tulips, concerning which you ask me news. Their mixture produces surprising effects. But, what is to be observed most surprising, are the experiments of which you speak concerning animals, and which are tried here every day. The suburbs of Pera, Jophana, and Galata, are collections of strangers from all countries of the universe. They have so often intermarried, that this forms several races of people, the oddest imaginable. There is not one single family of natives that can value itself on being unmixed. You frequently see a person, whose father was born a Grecian, the mother an Italian, the grandfather a Frenchman, the grandmother an Armenian, and their ancestors English, Muscovites, Asiatics, &c.
THIS mixture produces creatures more extraordinary than you can imagine; nor could I ever doubt, but there were several different species of men; since the whites, the woolly and the long-haired blacks, the small-eyed Tartars and Chinese, the beardless Brasilians, and (to name no more) the oily-skinned yellow Nova Zemblians, have as specific differences, under the same general kind, as grey-hounds, mastiffs, spaniels, bull-dogs, or the race of my little Diana, if nobody is offended at the comparison. Now, as the various intermixing of these latter animals causes mongrels, so mankind have their mongrels too, divided and subdivided into endless sorts. We have daily proofs of it here, as I told you before. In the same animal is not seldom remarked the Greek perfidiousness, the Italian diffidence, the Spanish arrogance, the French loquacity; and, all of a sudden, he is seized with a fit of English thoughtfulness, bordering a little upon dulness, which many of us have inherited from the stupidity of our Saxon progenitors. But the family which charms me most, is that which proceeds from the fantastical conjunction of a Dutch male with a Greek female. As these are natures opposite in extremes, ’tis a pleasure to observe how the differing atoms are perpetually jarring together in the children, even so as to produce effects visible in their external form. They have the large black eyes of the country, with the fat, white, fishy flesh of Holland, and a lively air streaked with dulness. At one and the same time, they shew that love of expensiveness, so universal among the Greeks, and an inclination to the Dutch frugality. To give an example of this; young women ruin themselves, to purchase jewels for adorning their heads, while they have not the heart to buy new shoes, or rather slippers for their feet, which are commonly in a tattered condition; a thing so contrary to the taste of our English women, that it is for shewing how neatly their feet are dressed, and for shewing this only, they are so passionately enamoured with their hoop petticoats. I have abundance of other singularities to communicate to you; but I am at the end, both of my French and my paper.
IT may be thought a presumptuous attempt in me to controvert a maxim advanced by such a celebrated genius as Monsieur Rochefoucault, and received with such implicit faith by a nation which boasts of superior politeness to the rest of the world, and which, for a long time past, has prescribed the rules of gallantry to all Europe.
NEVERTHELESS, prompted by that ardour which truth inspires, I dare to maintain the contrary, and resolutely insist, that there are some marriages formed by love, which may be delightful, where the affections are sympathetic. Nature has presented us with pleasures suitable to our species, and we need only to follow her impulse, refined by taste, and exalted by a lively and agreeable imagination, in order to attain the most perfect felicity of which human nature is susceptible. Ambition, avarice, vanity, when enjoyed in the most exquisite perfection, can yield but trifling and tasteless pleasures, which will be too inconsiderable to affect a mind of delicate sensibility.
WE may consider the gifts of fortune as so many steps necessary to arrive at felicity, which we can never attain, being obliged to set bounds to our desires, and being only gratified with some of her frivolous favours, which are nothing more than the torments of life, when they are considered as the necessary means to acquire or preserve a more exquisite felicity.
THIS felicity consists alone in friendship, founded on mutual esteem, fixed by gratitude, supported by inclination, and animated by the tender solicitudes of love, whom the ancients have admirably described under the appearance of a beautiful infant: It is pleased with infantine amusements; it is delicate and affectionate, incapable of mischief, delighted with trifles; its pleasures are gentle and innocent.
THEY have given a very different representation of another passion, too gross to be mentioned, but of which alone men, in general, are susceptible. This they have described under the figure of a satyr, who has more of the brute than of the man in his composition. By this fabulous animal they have expressed a passion, which is the real foundation of all the fine exploits of modish gallantry, and which only endeavours to glut its appetite with the possession of the object which is most lovely in its estimation: A passion founded in injustice, supported by deceit, and attended by crimes, remorse, jealousy, and contempt. Can such an affection be delightful to a virtuous mind? Nevertheless, such is the delightful attendant on all illicit engagements; gallants are obliged to abandon all those sentiments of honour which are inseparable from a liberal education, and are doomed to live wretchedly in the constant pursuit of what reason condemns, to have all their pleasures embittered by remorse, and to be reduced to the deplorable condition of having renounced virtue, without being able to make vice agreeable.
IT is impossible to taste the delights of love in perfection, but in a well assorted marriage; nothing betrays such a narrowness of mind as to be governed by words. What though custom, for which good reasons may be assigned, has made the words husband and wife somewhat ridiculous? A husband, in common acceptation, signifies a jealous brute, a surly tyrant; or, at best, a weak fool, who may be made to believe any thing. A wife is a domestic termagant, who is destined to deceive or torment the poor devil of a husband. The conduct of married people, in general, sufficiently justifies these two characters.
BUT, as I said before, why should words impose upon us? A well regulated marriage is not like these connections of interest or ambition. A fond couple, attached to each other by mutual affection, are two lovers who live happily together. Though the priest pronounces certain words, though the lawyer draws up certain instruments; yet I look on these preparatives in the same light as a lover considers a rope-ladder which he fastens to his mistress’s window: If they can but live together, what does it signify at what price, or by what means, their union is accomplished. Where love is real, and, well founded, it is impossible to be happy but in the quiet enjoyment of the beloved object; and the price at which it is obtained, does not lessen the vivacity and delights of a passion, such as my imagination conceives. If I was inclined to romance, I would not picture images of true happiness in Arcadia. I am not prudish enough to confine the delicacy of affection to wishes only. I would open my romance with the marriage of a couple united by sentiment, taste, and inclination. Can we conceive a higher felicity, than the blending of their interests and lives in such an union? The lover has the pleasure of giving his mistress the last testimony of esteem and confidence; and she, in return, commits her peace and liberty to his protection. Can they exchange more dear and affectionate pledges? Is it not natural, to give the most incontestible proofs of that tenderness with which our minds are impressed? I am sensible, that some are so nice as to maintain, that the pleasures of love are derived from the dangers and difficulties with which it is attended; they very pertly observe, that a rose would not be a rose without thorns. There are a thousand insipid remarks of this sort, which make so little impression on me, that I am persuaded, was I a lover, the dread of injuring my mistress would make me unhappy, if the enjoyment of her was attended with danger to herself.
TWO married lovers lead very different lives: They have the pleasure to pass their time in a successive intercourse of mutual obligations and marks of benevolence; and they have the delight to find, that each forms the entire happiness of the beloved object. Herein consists perfect felicity. The most trivial concerns of economy become noble and elegant, when they are exalted by sentiments of affection: To furnish an apartment, is not barely to furnish an apartment; it is a place where I expect my lover: To prepare a supper, is not merely giving orders to my cook; it is an amusement to regale the object I dote on. In this light, a woman considers these necessary occupations, as more lively and affecting pleasures than those gaudy sights which amuse the greater part of the sex, who are incapable of true enjoyment.
A FIXED and affectionate attachment softens every emotion of the soul, and renders every object agreeable which presents itself to the happy lover (I mean one who is married to his mistress). If he exercises any employment, the fatigues of the camp, the troubles of the court, all become agreeable, when he reflects, that he endures these inconveniences to serve the object of his affections. If fortune is favourable to him, (for success does not depend on merit) all the advantages it procures, are so many tributes which he thinks due to the charms of the lovely fair; and, in gratifying this ambition, he feels a more lively pleasure, and more worthy of an honest man, than that of raising his fortune, and gaining public applause. He enjoys glory, titles, and riches, no farther than as they regard her he loves; and when he attracts the approbation of a senate, the applause of an army, or the commendation of his prince, it is her praises which ultimately flatter him.
IN a reverse of fortune, he has the consolation of retiring to one who is affected by his disgrace; and, locked in her embraces, he has the satisfaction of giving utterance to the following tender reflections: “My happiness does not depend on the caprice of fortune; “I have a constant asylum against inquietude. Your esteem renders me “insensible of the injustice of a court, or the ingratitude of a “master; and my losses afford me a kind of pleasure, since they “furnish me with fresh proofs of your virtue and affection. Of what “use is grandeur to those who are already happy? We have no need of “flatterers, we want no equipages; I reign in your affections, and I “enjoy every delight in the possession of your person.”
IN short, there is no situation in which melancholy may not be assuaged by the company of the beloved object. Sickness itself is not without its alleviation, when we have the pleasure of being attended by her we love. I should never conclude, if I attempted to give a detail of all the delights of an attachment, wherein we meet with every thing which can flatter the senses with the most lively and diffusive raptures. But I must not omit taking notice of the pleasure of beholding the lovely pledges of a tender friendship, daily growing up, and of amusing ourselves, according to our different sexes, in training them to perfection. We give way to this agreeable instinct of nature, refined by love. In a daughter, we praise the beauty of her mother; in a son, we commend the understanding, and the appearance of innate probity, which we esteem in his father. It is a pleasure which, according to Moses, the Almighty himself enjoyed, when he beheld the work of his hands; and saw that all was good.
SPEAKING of Moses, I cannot forbear observing, that the primitive plan of felicity infinitely surpasses all others; and I cannot form an idea Of paradise, more like a paradise, than the state in which our first parents were placed: That proved of short duration, because they were unacquainted with the world; and it is for the same reason, that so few love matches prove happy. Eve was like a silly child, and Adam was not much enlightened. When such people come together, their being amorous is to no purpose, for their affections must necessarily be short-lived. In the transports of their love, they form supernatural ideas of each other. The man thinks his mistress an angel, because she is handsome; and she is enraptured with the merit of her lover, because he adores her. The first decay of her complexion deprives her of his adoration; and the husband, being no longer an adorer, becomes hateful to her who had no other foundation for her love. By degrees, they grow disgustful to each other; and, after the example of our first parents, they do not fail to reproach each other With the crime of their mutual imbecillity. After indifference, contempt comes apace, and they are convinced, that they must hate each other, because they are married. Their smallest defects swell in each other’s view, and they grow blind to those charms, which, in any other object, would affect them. A commerce founded merely on sensation can be attended with no other consequences.
A MAN, when he marries the object of his affections, should forget that she appears to him adorable, and should consider her merely as a mortal, subject to disorders, caprice, and ill temper; he should arm himself with fortitude, to bear the loss of her beauty, and should provide himself with a fund of complaisance, which is requisite to support a constant intercourse with a person, even of the highest understanding and the greatest equanimity. The wife, on the other hand, should not expect a continued course of adulation and obedience, she should dispose herself to obey in her turn with a good grace: A science very difficult to attain, and consequently the more estimable in the opinion of a man who is sensible of the merit. She should endeavour to revive the charms of the mistress, by the solidity and good sense of the friend.
WHEN a pair who entertain such rational sentiments, are united by indissoluble bonds, all nature smiles upon them, and the most common objects appear delightful. In, my opinion, such a life is infinitely more happy and more voluptuous, than the most ravishing and best regulated gallantry.
A WOMAN who is capable of reflection, can consider a gallant in no other light than that of a seducer, who would take advantage of her weakness, to procure a momentary pleasure, at the expence of her glory, her peace, her honour, and perhaps, her life. A highwayman, who claps a pistol to your breast, to rob you of your purse, is less dishonest and less guilty; and I have so good an opinion of myself, as to believe, that if I was a man, I should be as capable of assuming the character of an assassin, as that of defiling an honest woman, esteemed in the world, and happy in her husband, by inspiring her with a passion, to which she must sacrifice her honour, her tranquillity, and her virtue.
SHOULD I make her despicable, who appears amiable in my eyes? Should I reward her tenderness, by making her abhorred by her family, by rendering her children indifferent to her, and her husband detestible? I believe that these reflections would have appeared to me in as strong a light, if my sex had not rendered them excusable in such cases; and I hope, that I should have had more sense, than to imagine vice the less vicious, because it is the fashion.
N. B. I AM much pleased with the Turkish manners; a people, though ignorant, yet, in my judgment, extremely polite. A gallant, convicted of having debauched a married Woman, is regarded as a pernicious being, and held in the same abhorrence as a prostitute with us. He is certain of never making his fortune; and they would deem it scandalous to confer any considerable employment on a man suspected of having committed such enormous injustice.
WHAT would these moral people think of our antiknights-errant, who are ever in pursuit of adventures to reduce innocent virgins to distress, and to rob virtuous women of their honour; who regard beauty, youth, rank, nay virtue itself, as so many incentives, which inflame their desires, and render their efforts more eager; and who, priding themselves in the glory of appearing expert seducers, forget, that with all their endeavours, they can only acquire the second rank in that noble order, the devil having long since been in possession of the first?
OUR barbarous manners are so well calculated for the establishment of vice and wretchedness, which are ever inseparable, that it requires a degree of understanding and sensibility, infinitely above the common, to relish the felicity of a marriage, such as I have described. Nature is so weak, and so prone to change, that it is difficult to maintain the best grounded constancy, in the midst of those dissipations, which our ridiculous customs have rendered unavoidable.
IT must pain an amorous husband, to see his wife take all the fashionable liberties; it seems harsh not to allow them; and, to be conformable, he is reduced to the necessity of letting every one take them that will; to hear her impart the charms of her understanding to all the world, to see her display her bosom at noon-day, to behold her bedeck herself for the ball, and for the play, and attract a thousand and a thousand adorers, and listen to the insipid flattery of a thousand and a thousand coxcombs. Is it possible to preserve an esteem for such a creature? or, at least, must not her value be greatly diminished by such a commerce?
I MUST still resort to the maxims of the East, where the most beautiful women are content to confine the power of their charms to him who has a right to enjoy them; and they are too sincere, not to confess, that they think themselves capable of exciting desires.
I RECOLLECT a conversation that I had with a lady of great quality at Constantinople, (the most amiable woman I ever knew in my life, and with whom I afterwards contracted the closest friendship.) She frankly acknowledged, that she was satisfied with her husband. What libertines, said she, you Christian ladies are! you are permitted to receive visits from as many men as you think proper, and your laws allow you the unlimited use of love and wine. I assured her, that she was wrong informed, and that it was criminal to listen to, or to love, any other than our husbands. “Your husbands are great fools,” she replied smiling, “to be content with so precarious a fidelity. “Your necks, your eyes, your hands, your conversation are all for the “public, and what do you pretend to reserve for them? Pardon me, “my pretty sultana,” she added, embracing me, “I have a strong “inclination to believe all that you tell me, but you would impose “impossibilities upon me. I know the filthiness of the infidels; I “perceive that you are ashamed, and I will say no more.”
I FOUND so much good sense and propriety in what she said, that I knew not how to contradict her; and, at length, I acknowledged, that she had reason to prefer the Mahometan manners to our ridiculous customs, which form a confused medley of the rigid maxims of Christianity, with all the libertinism of the Spartans: And, notwithstanding our absurd manners, I am persuaded, that a woman who is determined to place her happiness in her husband’s affections, should abandon the extravagant desire of engaging public adoration; and that a husband, who tenderly loves his wife, should, in his turn, give up the reputation of being a gallant. You find that I am supposing a very extraordinary pair; it is not very surprising, therefore, that such an union should be uncommon in those countries, where it is requisite to conform to established customs, in order to be happy.
GIVE me, great God! Said I, a little farm,
In summer shady, and in winter warm;
Where a clear spring gives birth to murm’ring brooks,
By nature gliding down the mossy rocks.
Not artfully by leading pipes convey’d,
Or greatly falling in a forc’d cascade,
Pure and unsully’d winding thro’ the shade.
All-bounteous Heaven has added to my prayer
A softer climate, and a purer air.
OUR frozen ISLE now chilling winter binds,
Deform’d by rains, and rough with blasting winds;
The wither’d woods grow white with hoary frost,
By driving storms their verdant beauty lost,
The trembling birds their leafless covert shun,
And seek, in distant climes a warmer sun:
The water-nymphs their silent urns deplore,
Ev’n Thames benum’d’s a river now no more:
The barren meads no longer yield delight,
By glist’ring snows made painful to the sight.
HERE summer reigns with one eternal smile,
Succeeding harvests bless the happy soil.
Fair fertile fields, to whom indulgent Heaven
Has ev’ry charm of ev’ry season given;
No killing cold deforms the beauteous year,
The springing flowers no coming winter fear.
But as the parent Rose decays and dies,
The infant-buds with brighter colour rise,
And with fresh sweets the mother’s scent supplies,
Near them the Violet grows with odours blest,
And blooms in more than Tyrian purple drest;
The rich Jonquils their golden beams display,
And shine in glories emulating day;
The peaceful groves their verdant leaves retain,
The streams still murmur undefil’d with rain,
And tow’ring greens adorn the fruitful plain.
The warbling kind uninterrupted sing,
Warm’d with enjoyments of perpetual spring.
HERE, at my window, I at once survey
The crowded city and resounding sea;
In distant views the Asian mountains rise,
And lose their snowy summits in the skies;
Above those mountains proud Olympus towers,
The parliamental seat of heavenly powers.
New to the sight, my ravish’d eyes admire
Each gilded crescent and each antique spire,
The marble mosques, beneath whose ample domes
Fierce warlike sultans sleep in peaceful tombs;
Those lofty structures, once the Christians boast,
Their names, their beauty, and their honours lost;
Those altars bright with gold and sculpture grac’d,
By barb’rous zeal of savage foes defac’d:
Sophia alone her ancient name retains,
Tho’ unbelieving vows her shrine profanes;
Where holy saints have died in sacred cells,
Where monarchs pray’d, the frantic Dervise dwells.
How art thou fall’n, imperial city, low!
Where are thy hopes of Roman glory now?
Where are thy palaces by prelates rais’d?
Where Grecian artists all their skill display’d,
Before the happy sciences decay’d;
So vast, that youthful kings might here reside,
So splendid, to content a patriarch’s pride;
Convents where emperors profess’d of old,
Their labour’d pillars that their triumphs told;
Vain monuments of them that once were great,
Sunk undistinguish’d by one common fate;
One little spot, the tenure small contains,
Of Greek nobility, the poor remains.
Where other Helens with like powerful charms,
Had once engag’d the warring world in arms;
Those names which royal ancestors can boast,
In mean mechanic arts obscurely lost:
Those eyes a second Homer might inspire,
Fix’d at the loom destroy their useless fire;
Griev’d at a view which struck upon my mind
The short-liv’d vanity of human kind.
IN gaudy objects I indulge my sight,
And turn where Eastern pomp gives gay delight;
See the vast train in various habits drest,
By the bright scimitar and sable vest,
The proud vizier distinguish’d o’er the rest;
Six slaves in gay attire his bridle hold,
His bridle rich with gems, and stirrups gold;
His snowy steed adorn’d with costly pride,
Whole troops of soldiers mounted by his side,
These top the plumy crest Arabian courtiers guide.
With artful duty, all decline their eyes,
No bellowing shouts of noisy crowds arise;
Silence, in solemn state, the march attends,
Till at the dread divan the slow procession ends.
YET not these prospects all profusely gay,
The gilded navy that adorns the sea,
The rising city in confusion fair,
Magnificently form’d irregular;
Where woods and palaces at once surprise,
Gardens on gardens, domes on domes arise,
And endless beauties tire the wand’ring eyes;
So sooth my wishes, or so charm my mind,
As this retreat secure from human kind.
No knave’s successful craft does spleen excite,
No coxcomb’s tawdry splendour shocks my sight;
No mob-alarm awakes my female fear,
No praise my mind, nor envy hurts my ear,
Ev’n fame itself can hardly reach me here:
Impertinence with all her tattling train,
Fair-sounding flattery’s delicious bane;
Censorious folly, noisy party-rage
The thousand tongues with which she must engage,
Who dares have virtue in a vicious age.
IN beauty or wit,
No mortal as yet
To question your empire has dar’d;
But men of discerning
Have thought that in learning,
To yield to a lady was hard.
With musty dull rules
Have reading to females deny’d;
So papists refuse
The BIBLE to use,
Lest flocks should be wise as their guide.
’Twas a woman at first
(Indeed she was curst)
In knowledge that tasted delight;
And sages agree,
The laws should decree
To the first possessor the right.
Then bravely, fair dame,
Renew the old claim,
Which to your whole sex does belong,
And let men receive,
From a second bright Eve,
The knowledge of right and of wrong.
But if the first Eve
Hard doom did receive,
When only one apple had she,
What a punishment new
Shall be found out for you,
Who tasting have robb’d the whole tree?
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005