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Letters of the Right Hon. Lady M-y Wy M
Vol. II, See our laft Month's Review.
HAT men of fenfe are all of the fame religion, wherever
Tborn, or wherever fituated, is commonly faid, and ad
mitted, among men of fenfe. Of this truth our ingenious and entertaining Lady My gives us a ftriking inftance in her character of the Turks; which we fhall extract from Letter XXVII. being the firft Letter of het second volume, dated Adrianople, April 1, 1717, and addreffed to the Abbot
"An intimate daily converfation 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 pleafed to hear there were Chriftians that did not worship images, or adore the Virgin Mary. The ridicule of Tranfubftantiation appeared very ftrong to him.Upon comparing our creeds together, I am convinced that if our friend Dr. had free liberty of preach
ing here, it would be very eafy to perfuade the generality to Chriftianity, whofe notions are very little different from his. Mr. Whitton would make à very good Apoftle here. I don't doubt his zeal will be much fired, if you communicate this account to him; but tell him, he muft firft have the gift of tongues, before he can poffibly be of any ufe.
Mahometifm is divided into as many fects as Christianity; and the firft inftitution as much neglected, and obfcured by interpretations. I cannot here forbear reflecting on the natural inelination of mankind to make myfteries and novelties.-The Zeidi, Kudi, Jabari, &c. puts me in mind of the Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinifts, and are equally zealous against one another, But the moft prevailing opinion, if you fearch into the fecret of the Effendis, is plain Deifm. This is, indeed, kept from the people, who are amafed with a thoufand different notions, according to the different interefts of their Preachers.→→→→ There are very few among them (Achmet-beg denied there were any) fo abfurd as to fet up for wit, by declaring they believe no Gód at all. And Sir Paul Rycaut is mistaken (as he commonly is) in calling the fect Muterin (i. e. the fecret with us) Atheists, they being Deifts, whofe impiety confifts in making a jeft of their Prophet. Achmet-beg did not own to me, that he was of this opinion, but made no fcruple of deviating from fome part of Mahomet's law, by drinking wine with the fame freedom we did. When I afked him, how he came to allow himself that
liberty, he made anfwer, That all the creatures of God are good, and defigned for the ufe of man; however, that the prohibition of wine was a very wife maxim, and meant for the common people, being the fource of all diforders amongst them; but, that the Prophet never defigned to confine thofe that knew how to use it with moderation; nevertheless, he faid, that fcandal 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 affured me, that if I understood Arabic, I fhould be very well pleafed to read the Alkoran, which is fo far from the nonienfe we charge it with, that it is the pureft morality, delivered in the very bett language. I have fince heard impartial Chriftians fpeak of it in the fame manner; and I do not doubt, but that all our tranflations are from copies got from the Greek Prefts, who would not fail to falfify it with the extremity of malice. No body or men ever were more ignorant, or more corrupt; yet the `ifer fo little from the Romish church, that, I confefs, nothing gives me a greater abhorrence of the cruelty of your Cler y, than the barbarous perfecution of them, whenever they have been their mafters, for no other reafon, than their not acknowlezing the Pope. The diffenting in that one article, has got them the titles of Heretics, and Schifmatics; and what is worse, the fame treatment."
This Achmet-beg feems to have been a very honest fort of : Gentleman; and if he be yet living, we should be glad of 2 opportunity of taking a fober glafs with him, to the memory a his old acquaintance Lady M-y.
We are alfo particularly pleafed with the fenfible moderati of a certain fect among the Grecks; of whofe compound regon our Authorefs gives the following account, in the abort quoted Letter to the Abbe
"But of all the religions I have feen, that of the Arno-r feems to me the most particular; they are natives of Arnou lich, the ancient Macedonia, and ftill retain the courage hardine's, tho' they have loft the name, of Macedonians, te the best Militia in the Turkish empire, and the only check the Janizaries. They are foot fold:ers; we had a guar thm, relieved in every confiderable town we pafed; "the cli cloathed and armed at their own expence, dreffed in waite courfe cloth, carrying guns of a prodigious len ̧ 2. » they run with upon their fhoulders, as if they did not fo weight of them, the leader finging a fort of a rude tune, unpleasant, and the reft making up the chorus. Th
living between Chriftians and Mahometans, and not being ·
ed in controverfy, declare, that they are utterly unable to judge which religion is beft; but to be certain of not entirely rejecting the truth, they very prudently follow both. They go to the mofques on Fridays, and to the church on Sunday, faying, for their excufe, that at the day of judgment they are fure 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 fo modeft an opinion of their own capacity.
"These are the remarks I have made on the diverfity of reli-` gions I have seen. I don't afk your pardon for the liberty I have taken in fpeaking of the Roman. I know you equally condemn' the quackery of all churches, as much as you revere the facred" truths, in which we both agree."
Letter XXVIII. is written in the true English fpi.it of Liberty; and fhews the hateful effects of arbitrary government; by enumerating fome of the oppreffions under which the Turks labour, from the tyranny of the Ottoman government.
Letter XXIX. will infallibly please the Ladies, and the beau Readers; it is all about drefs; except a paffage or two relating to the privileges of the Haram, (or woman's apartment): from a due confideration of which, Lady M concludes, the Turkish women are the only free people in the empire. This is giving us an idea of the fituation of the females in that part of the world, very different from the relations of male Travellers: but, we have already remarked, that in refpect to fuch matters as more peculiarly fell under the obfervation of a Lady, our Authoress has greatly the advantage.
In Letter XXX. which is addreffed to Mr. Pope, we have fomething to please the Poets, and, what is more, the Critics.
"I am at this prefent moment, fays fhe, writing in a house fituated on the banks of the Hebrus, which runs under iny chamber window. My garden is full of tall cyprefs trees, upon the branches of which feveral 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 confefs, to my praise, that it is more than an ordinary difcretion that can refift the wicked fuggeftions of poetry, in a place where truth, for once, furnishes all the ideas of paftoral. The fummer is already far advanced in this part of the world; and for fome miles round Adrianople, the whole ground is laid out in gardens, and the banks of the rivers are fet with rows of fruit trees, under which all the moft confiderable Turks
divert themselves every evening, not with walking, that is not one of their pleasures; but a fet party of them choose out a green fpot, where the fha le is very thick, and there they spread a carpet, on which they fit drinking their coffee, and are generally attended by fome flave with a fine voice, or that plays on fome inftrument. Every twenty paces you may fee one of thefe little companies, liftening to the dafhing of the river; and this: tafte is fo univerfal, that the very Gardeners are not without it. I have often feen them and their children fitting on the banks of the river, and playing on a rural inftrument, perfectly answering the defcription of the ancient Fiftula, being compofed of unequal reeds, with a fimple, but agreeable, foftnefs in the found.
Mr. Addifon might here make the experiment he speaks of in his travels; there not being one inftrument of mufic among the Greek or Roman ftatues, that is not to be found in the hands of the people of this country. The young lads generally divert themfelves with making garlands for their favourite lambs, which I have often seen painted and adorned with flowers, lying at their feet, while they fung or played. It is not that they ever read romances; but these are the ancient amufements here, and as natural to them as cudgel-playing and football to our British twains; the foftnefs and warmth of the climate forbidding all rough exercises, which were never fo much as heard of amongst them, and naturally inspiring a laziness and averfion to labour, which the great plenty indulges. Thefe Gardeners are the only happy race of country people in Turkey. They furnish all the city with fruits and herbs, and feem to live very eafily. They are most of them Greeks; and have little houfes in the midft 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 fhade 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 oppreffion had reduced them to want, were, I fuppofe, all employed as the better fort of them are now. I don't doubt, had he been born a Briton, bnt his Idylliums had been filled with defcriptions of thrashing and churning, both which are unknown here, the corn being all trod out by oxen; and butter (I speak it with forrow) unheard of.
# I read over your Homer here, with an infinite pleasure, and find feveral little paffages explained, that I did not before entirecomprehend the beauty of many of the cuftoms, and much
of the dress then in fashion, being yet retained. I don't wonder to find more remains here of an age fo diftant, than is to be found in any other country; the Turks not taking that pains to introduce their own manners, as has been generally practifed by other nations, that imagine themfelves more polite. It would be too tedious to you to point out all the paffages that relate to prefent customs. But I can affure you, that the Princeffes and great Ladies pafs their time at their looms, embroidering veils and robes, furrounded by their maids, which are always very numerous, in the fame manner as we find Andromache and Helen defcribed. The defcription of the belt of Menelaus, exactly resembles those that are now worn by the great men, faftened before with broad golden clafps, and embroidered round with rich work. The fnowy veil that Helen throws over her face, is ftill fashionable; and I never fee half a dozen of old Bafhaws, (as I do very often) with their reverend beards, fitting bafking in the fun, but I recollect good King Priam and his Counsellors. Their manner of dancing is certainly the fame that Diana is fung to have danced on the banks of Eurotas. The great Lady ftill leads the dance, and is followed by a troop of young girls, who imitate her fteps, and, if the fings, make up the chorus. The tunes are extremely gay and lively, yet with fomething in them wonderfully foft. 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 leaft in my opinion. I fometimes make one in the train, but am not skilled 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-paffages, that appear odd to us; their phrafes being commonly what we fhould call Scripture language. The vulgar Turk is very different from what is fpoke at Court, of amongst the people of figure; wha always mix so much Arabic and Perfian in their discourse, that it may very well be called another language. And it is as ridiculous to make use of the expreffions commonly used, in speaking to a great Man or Lady, as it would be to speak broad YorkThire, or Somerfetfhire, in the drawing-room. Befides this diftinction, they have what they call the fublime, that is, a ftyle for poetry, and which is the exact Scripture ftyle. I believe you would be pleased to fee a genuine example of this; and I am very glad I have it in my power to fatisfy your curiofity, by fending you a faithful copy of the verfes that Ibrahim Baffa, the reigning Favourite, has made for the young Princefs, his contracted wife, whom he is not yet permitted to vifit without withelles, though the is gone home to his houfe. He is a man of