페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

THE

QUARTERLY REVIEW.

Art. I.-Geschichte des Osmanischen Reiches durch Joseph von

Hammer. · Bände 1-8. Pest. 1827–1832. THIS HIS extensive and valuable work, before it is terminated, may

perhaps comprehend the whole drama of the Ottoman greatness. It has already traced the rise, and the decline, of the Turkish monarchy;-if we may judge from the signs of the times, one more concluding volume may describe its fall. The Sublime Porte seems gradually but rapidly sinking to the state of the Byzantine empire, just before its final extinction. With powerful enemies advancing and closing it in on every side-its nominal authority extending over a considerable territory, its real power shrinking by degrees into a still narrower compass—the terror of its name, the memory of former greatness losing its hold upon its own rebellious subjects—the wreck of the mighty empire of Mahomet the Second and of Solyman the Magnificent, appears to have but one chance of safety, which, in her last extremity, was wanting to the Eastern Rome. The politics of the Christian cabinets may yet maintain this barbarous and Asiatic power in possession of what once were the most flourishing and civilized regions of Europe ; mutual jealousy as to the distribution of the spoil, particularly of the great prize, the Imperial City; the difficulty of constructing an independent Christian and European kingdom, of sufficient strength to resist the encroachments of its formidable neighbours, or even perhaps the rallying energies of desperate Mahometanism : such are the only guarantees for the future existence of the Ottoman empire,

-at least in Europe. Its fate will be averted or precipitated, by the turn which negotiations may take at Petersburgh, Paris, and London, rather than by the vigorous or indolent character of the reigning Sultan, or the system of government adopted at Constantinople.

The extraordinary changes which of late years have taken place, under the intluence of the ruling sovereign, in Turkish habits and manners—the improvements which he has attempted to introduce into the military system-above all, the extinction of the Janizaries—are indications of the decay of the ancient Turkish spirit, rather than of recruited strength, or reviving energy The Turk can only be formidable as a Turk; attempt to modernize, to Europeanize his habits, his mind, or even VOL. XLIX. NO, XCVIII.

his

X

his costume-he will lose all the power, the energy, the grandeur of his native and original character, without acquiring the quickness, the dexterity, the vivacity of that which is so foreign to his nature. The turbaned, the scymetared, the loose-trowsered Turk, will never fall into the trim and disciplined line of an European regiment; if he does, his movements, instead of being free, majestic, and vigorous, will be awkward and constrained; as he is initiated in modern habits, the staid and solemn dignity of his manners will depart;—and what will replace it? The buge cannon of the Dardanelles will no more perform the part of the flying artillery in modern warfare, than their grave masters habituate themselves either to the military evolutions, or to the busy, peaceful pursuits of the West. To acquire European habits, the Turk must first forswear that potent drug, which of old used to intoxicate his valour to desperate enterprise-but which now stupifies him to a stately indifference to his humiliation. He must emancipate his mind from the moral opium of predestinarianism ; which, in the same manner, during the days of his ambition and glory, bred the noble defiance of danger, and the contempt of death-now reconciles him to his more inglorious destiny. Mashallah! (as God will !) once the proud exclamation of constant victory, is still the consolation of complacent apathy under defeat. It

It appears almost impossible that the most intimate connexion with Europeans should work a complete revolution in a national character, to a certain degree inborn, and confirmed by centuries of pride or security; and that change, either repelled by the inert resistance of ancient habit, or but partially admitted, it seems still more inconceivable how it is to compete with the rapidly advancing activity of the rest of Europe ; alone to stand still, or advance but slowly, in the midst of the heady current, which is flowing with such violence throughout the Christian world.

If any nation should arise midway, as it were, between Asiatic and European, Mahometan and Christian civilization, the chances seem at present in favour of Egypt:--though even there, as in all countries where such revolutions are effected by the fiat of a despotic sovereign, too much depends on the life of an individual ; the state of the mass of the people is so far behind the forced and exotic cultivation upon the surface, that it would be dangerous to predict the duration of that which

• A breath may scatter, as a breath has made.' These observations, of course, suppose that the present dangerous crisis of the Ottoman power will be averted: that the conqueror of Konia will content himself, even if he renounces altogether bis ancient vassalage, with reconstructing the empire of the Fatemite Sultans; and leave Roum and Stamboul to their fate.

The

The Turkish history, as yet, has lain hid in the ponderous tomes of Knolles and his continuator Rycaut; the rise alone of the Ottoman power, and its rapid growth, up to the taking of Constantinople, are familiar to the general reader, in the rapid but masterly description of Gibbon. The fame of Knolles's History rests on the well-known sentence of Johnson, who eulogizes this old worthy as the first of historians, unhappy only in the choice of his subject.? Gibbon, in his peculiar vein of solemn sarcasm, .doubts whether a partial and verbose compilation from Latin writers, thirteen hundred folio pages of speeches and battles, can either instruct or amuse an enlightened age, which requires from the historian some tincture of philosophy and criticism. It is extraordinary that even the pride of dictatorial paradox should have tempted Johnson to set up an idol of his own, at the head of the historic literature of England, which even then possessed Raleigh and Clarendon. The reverse of Johnson's decision we conceive to be more just. Knolles owes his fame, in a great degree, to his subject. The young imagination of Byron is said to have been strongly excited by the kindling pages of this historian. We suspect, however, that it was the Turkish character, its stern vigour, and its imposing and somewhat mysterious dignity, even perhaps the haughty and ferocious visages, in their noble and picturesque costume, which struck the congenial mind of the poet. The Turkish history retains much of the strangeness, the wildness, if we may so speak, the ' barbaric gorgeousness of its oriental character; while the constant collision with the western nations, its advance into the most celebrated regions of Europe, keep up a perpetual contrast and relief, and break that solemn monotony which reigns throughout Asiatic history. The purely Eastern annals are like one great battle, where a mass of

• Dusk faces, with white silken turbans wreathed,' mingle in undistinguishable confusion :- but in the Turkish, we find the scymitar and the turban opposed to the spear and the helmet of Christian chivalry. Nor is it here one warlike adventurer, one head of a wandering tribe, who suddenly rises up, forms a vast empire, founds a brief dynasty, which is as rapidly swept away, and replaced by another; one Tartar race, which perpetually throws down and reconstructs the empire or the kingdom of another; it is a solid and established monarchy; a line of kings, in which, notwithstanding the constitutional practice of general fratricide at each accession, the regular order of descent has been as seldom departed from, as in any royal race in Europe. Knolles, to whom we would render full justice, is occasionally both spirited and graphic in his battles and sieges : there is a grave earnestness in his manner, sometimes darkening into animosity,

x 2

sometimes, sometimes, as it were, thrilling into awe, which indicates the time when the Turk had not yet ceased to be the proverbial terror of the West. His narrative is sometimes free and almost flowing, where it is not interrupted by interminable speeches, and solemn moralizing—which bears much the same analogy to the profound political observation of Thucydides or Clarendon, that the poetry of his panegyrist's Irene does to Shakspeare. His verbosity is now and then condensed into vigour, and his quaintness,* which unfortunately too often degenerates into coarseness and vulgarity, is at times amusing and characteristic. Still

, his immeasurable prolixity must have wearied his own more patient age, and as a history, the book is entirely without authority. It is hard, perhaps, that Knolles should be condemned for compiling from Latin writers, who, with the exception of the Byzantines, furnished almost the only accessible information of the time. After the fashion of his day, he sweeps into one vast mass all the heterogeneous materials which he could bring together: nor could he be expected to anticipate the severer discrimination of a more critical age.

The outline of Gibbon is drawn with all his accustomed boldness and brilliancy, and considering the inevitable deficiency of his materials, with singular accuracy. In few passages has the historian of the Decline and Fall' displayed with greater success his unrivalled felicity in combining into a brief and pregnant narrative his multifarious and widely-scattered information, than in the chapters which describe the rise and progress of the Ottoman power. If it be our object, in the course of this article, to point out, from the higher authority of the work before us, some of the errors into which he has fallen, it is very far from our design to detract from his fame. M. Guizot, if we remember right, has said, that the more profound his historical researches, the more inaccuracies he has been enabled to detect in Gibbon; but that, at the same time, admiration has been constantly on the increase at his general truth and fidelity, and the consummate skill with which he has moulded his vast materials into one symmetrical design.

The history of M. Von Hammer comes before us with high pretensions, both from the reputation of the author as a profound oriental scholar, and the various and yet unexplored sources of information at his command. To his extensive Eastern knowledge M. Von Hammer adds that extraordinary familiarity with the whole literature of Europe, which none but his indefatigable countrymen have time or leisure to acquire ; and of which, like others of his race, he is sometimes lured, it must be owned, into an ostentatious

* Johnson would have been somewhat astounded, if in his desultory manner of reading, he had opened on one chapter which begins with this dignified phrase, “Now Juy the great city of Nice in the suds.'

display, display, and a whimsical misapplication. But besides this genera preparation for his important work, M. Von Hammer has possessed great and peculiar advantages. He has had free access to the archives of Vienna and of Venice; and, in the latter, has brought to light some important documents which had escaped even the searching vigilance of Daru. Above all, his intimate acquaintance with what our readers may be surprised to hear described as the voluminous literature of Turkey, gives weight to his statements, still further increased by his calm and philosophic impartiality. We have here the picture of the great contest as drawn by the lion as well as by the man. The greater part of these historical treasures have been accumulated by the exertions and at the cost of the author. Of 200 Turkish, Arabian, or Persian works, which relate the general bistory, or that of some portion of the Ottoman Empire, only twelve were known to Sir W. Jones, and not above twenty-four are found in the public libraries of Constantinople. The poetic wealth of the Turks appears equally inexhaustible, and, what is not less extraordinary, possesses considerable historic value. Of the stern and sanguinary Barbarians, who have deluged both continents with blood—those . malignant and turbaned Turks'whom the popular imagination of Europe supposes utterly inaccessible to the softer emotions, and incapable of gentler or more refined pursuits, not a few have been poets. Viziers and even sultans have retired from the tumult of the battle, the intrigue of the court, the luxury of the harem, to pour forth the mystic strains of divine love, or to embody their own terrestrial emotions in native or in Persian verse. Nor are theirs the rude, simple, and spirit-stirring strains of a warlike people in its heroic or mythic age, when history, law, and religion are alike poetry: the style of these writers appears singularly elaborate and artificial; it is not the ordinary language of a youthful and imaginative people, but the luxury of a highly civilized and polished court.

Probably the only instance in the annals of mankind of a poetical intercourse between a general and the court of his sovereign, is the Bulletin announcing the retreat of the grand vizier from the unsuccessful siege of Bagdad, in a Gazelle, a favourite measure of the Turks ; to which the sultan replied, in the same metre, and playing on the same images and metaphors with his poetic vizier. Conceive a dispatch to the Foreign Office in a madrigal; and his gracious Majesty-assisted a little, perhaps, by one of the authors of The New Whig Guide'-intimating his pleasure in responsive lyric strain. We shall introduce, during The course of our observations, some of these royal and noble authors' to the acquaintance of our readers. • It was on the 27th of July, in the year 1299 of the Christian

era,

« 이전계속 »