Page images
PDF
EPUB

adorned with Chinese manufactures: but these times were comparatively modern ; and, even if we should admit, that the Eigbùris, who are said to have been governed for a period of two thousand years by an I'decùt, or sovereign of their own race, were in some very early age a literary and polished nation, it would prove nothing in favour of the Huns, Turcs, Mongals, and other savages to the north of Pekin, who seem in all ages, before MUHAMMED, to have been equally ferocious and illiterate.

Without actual inspection of the manuscripts, that have been found near the Caspian, it would be impossible to give a correct opinion concerning them ; but one of them, described as written on blue silky paper in letters of gold and silver not unlike Hebrew, was probably a Tibetian composition of the same kind with that, which lay near the source of the Irtish, and of which CASSIANO I believe, made the first accurate version : another, if we may judge from the defcription of it, was probably modern Turkish; and none of them could have been of great antiquity.

IV. From ancient monuments, therefore, we have no proof, that the Turtars were themselves well-instructed, much less that they instructed the world ; nor have we any stronger reason to conclude from their general man

[ocr errors]

ners' and character, that they had made an carly proficiency in arts and sciences : even of poetry, the most universal and most natural of the fine arts, we find no genuine specimens afcribed to them, except fome horrible warsongs expressed in Persian by Ali of Yezd, and possibly invented by him. After the conquest of Persia by the Mongals, their princes, indeed, encouraged learning, and even made astronomical observations at Samarkand; as the Turcs became polished by mixing with the Persians and Arabs, though their very nature, as one of their own writers confesses, bad before been like an incurable distemper, and their minds clouded with ignorance : thus also the Mancheu monarchs of China have been patrons of the learned and ingenious, and the Emperor TIEN-LONG is, if he be now living, a fine Chinese poet. In all these instances the Tartars have resembled the Romans, who, before they had subdued Greece, were little better than tigers in war, and Fauns or Sylvans in science and art.

Before I left Europe, I had insisted in conversation, that the Tuzuc, translated by Major Davy, was never written by TAIMU'R himself, at least not as CÆSAR wrote his commentaries, for one very plain reason, that no Tartarian king of his age could write at all; and, in support of my opinion, I had cited IBNU ARABSHA'H, who, though justly hostile to the savage, by whom his native city, Damascus, had been ruined, yet praises his talents and the real greatness of his mind, but adds : “ He was wholly illiterate; he “ neither read nor wrote any thing; and he

knew nothing of Arabick ; though of Persian, Turkish, and the Mogul dialect, he knew as “ much as was sufficient for his purpose, and no “ more : he used with pleasure to hear histories “ read to him, and so frequently heard the same “ book, that he was able by memory to correct “ an inaccurate reader.” This passage had no effect on the translator, whom great and learned men in India had assured, it seems, that the work was authentick, by which he meaned composed by the conqueror himself : but the great in this country might have been unlearned, or the learned might not have been great enough to answer any leading question in a manner that opposed the declared inclination of a British inquirer ; and, in either case, since no witnesses are named, so general a reference to them will hardly be thought conclusive evidence. On my part, I will name a Muselman, whom we all know, and who has enough both of greatness and of learning to decide the question both impartially and satisfactorily: the Nawwàb MOZAFFER JANG informed me of his own accord, that no man of sense in Hinduftàn believed the work to have

patron, after

been composed by TaiMu'r, but that his favourite, surnamed Hindu SHAH, was known to have written that book and others afcribed to his

many confidential discourses with the Emir, and, perhaps, nearly in the Prince's words as well as in his person; a story, which Ali' of Yezd, who attended the court of TalMU'R, and has given us a flowery panegyrick instead of a history, renders highly probable, by confirming the latter part of the Arabian account, , and by total silence as to the literary productions of his master. It is true, that a very ingenious but indigent native, whom Davy supported, has given me a written memorial on the subject, in which he mentions TAIMU'R as the author of two works in Turkish ; but the credit of his in, formation is overset by a strange apocryphal story of a king of Yemen, who invaded, he says, the Emir's dominions, and in whose library the manuscript was afterwards found, and translated by order of Ali'shi'R, first minister of TaiMU'R's grandson; and Major Davy himself, be fore he departed from Bengal, told me, that he was greatly perplexed by finding in a very accurate and old copy of the Tuzuc, which he de signed to republish with considerable additions, a particular account, written unquestionably by. TAIMU'R, of his own death. No evidence, therefore, has been adduced to shake my opinion,

that, the Moguls and Tartars, before their conqueft of India and Persia, were wholly unlettered; although it may be possible, that, even without art or fcience, they had, like the Huns, both warriours and lawgivers in their own country fome centuries before the birth of CHRIST.

If learning was ever anciently cultivated in the regions to the north of India, the seats of it, I have reafon to fufpe&, must have been Eighùr, Cafbghar, Khata, Chin, Tancut, and other countries of Chinese Tartary, which lie between the thirtyfifth and forty-fifth degrees of northern latitude; but I fhall, in another difcourse, produce my reafons for supposing, that those very countries were peopled by a race allied to the Hindus, or enlightened at least by their vicinity to India and China; yet in Tancìt, which by some is annexed to Tibet, and even among its old inhabitants, the Seres, we have no certain accounts of uncommon talents or great improvements: they were famed, indeed, for the faithful discharge of moral duties, for a pacifick disposition, and for that longevity, which is often the reward of patient virtues and a calm temper; but they are faid to have been wholly indifferent, in former ,ages, to the elegant arts and even to commerce; though FADLU'LLAH had been informed, that, near the close of the thirteenth century, many

« PreviousContinue »