friendship was succeeded by a violent quarrel, and that for many years Pope pursued his former ally with malignant animosity. Horace Walpole has also assailed her reputation with all the wit and venom which his practised pen could command. Daring, imprudent, and reckless as Lady Mary was, there seems no adequate reason for the attacks to which she was subjected. The circumstances under which she left England and separated from her husband, were perhaps sufficient ground for much that has been said of her. But of these circumstances little is known. The introduction of inoculation into England was perhaps a doubtful national benefit, but Lady Mary is at least entitled to the praise of moral courage for allowing the experiment to be tried on her own son. Her literary merits have perhaps received exaggerated praise. The Letters from Turkey are full of brilliancy, sparkle, and vivacity, but they fail to impress a generation familiar with productions of a higher tone. The style of Lady Mary is entirely her own. Less artificial than Walpole's, more sustained than Cowper's, her letters resemble Lord Byron's, more nearly perhaps than do those of any other English writer. There are touches of polished wit worthy of Addison or Steele—descriptive passages of the rarest felicity--shrewd apophthegms recalling familiar sayings in greater authors, scattered abundantly throughout the Letters during Mr. Montagu's Embassy to Constantinople.

1. Adrianople (from a Letter to Mr. Pope).

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 all full of 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 choose 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 cudgelplaying 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 Idylliums had been filled with descriptions of threshing and churning, both which are unknown here, the corn being all trodden out by oxen; and butter (I speak it with sorrow) unheard of.—Letter during the Embassy to Constantinople.

2. A Procession to a Turkish Camp.

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 pashás of three tails have those ensigns of their power placed in a 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 it is 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 windmill, 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 among 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; among 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 show 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 show 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-pashá (admiral), who refreshed me with coffee, sweetmeats, sherbet, &c., with all possible civility.-Letters during the Embassy to Constantinople.

3. A German Court.

Blankenburg, Oct. 1716.

I RECEIVED yours, 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 fifteenth, very late at night, after a terrible journey, in the worst roads and weather that ever poor

« VorigeDoorgaan »