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ours or not, it is exceedingly different, and, with one or two exceptions, has never been relished in Europe. Yet it is very hard for a writer, habitually, conversing with particular forms of expression, so to keep watch over his style as that none of these barbarisms, as we call them, shall creep into it. Indeed, it is nearly impossible. For, granting that the writer sets out an orthodox critic, his reverence for the canons of his language lessens o till he ends at length in admiring what at first it was his chief endeavour to avoid. A man may very justly, therefore, claim indulgence, if, in such a task, he fails of guarding entirely against foreign idioms; but indulgence is not praise; and the more frequently an author makes claims upon our generosity, the farther is he from our admiration. However, we relax much of our demands, if, as in the case of the ‘Bibliotheque Orientale, the undertaking of the writer be of great tool. ; as other cares then call away the attention from the elegancies of language.
But Oriental scholars are sometimes liable to adopt the opinions, as well as the rhetorical figures of the East. Sale was nearly, if not altogether, a Mohammedan; and other travellers of more modern date have been known to prefer the Koran to the Hebrew Scriptures. We wish not, in the least, to insinuate that D'Herbelot was infected with Islamism; his eulogist, the President Cousin, assures us of the contrary; for, as he was mo Mohammedan, we may consider his attributing solid piety to our great Eastern scholar, a complete proof that he meant Christian piety, though he does not so qualify it. Our design in mentioning the fact, that the study of Oriental literature has been known to generate a belief in Oriental creeds, is merely to show how very prone we may expect men to be, to pass from those studies to the adoption of a foreign taste, a thing of so much less importance.
The ‘Bibliotheque Orientale' is one of those books which are chiefly known to the public at second-hand, from a few scanty extracts scattered about in more popular productions. In itself it is too voluminous to be popular. But we have frequently thought it deserved to be much more extensively known than it has hitherto been ; and shall now endeavour, by succinctly informing our readers what sort of entertainment it affords, to recommend it to as many as delight in extending their intellectual empire. To render our notice of this vast compilation as complete as we can, we shall first speak a little of its author, |. mising only, that we have never yet seen any thing resembling a good biography of him, and gather what we are about to say from the meagré hints of Mr. Cousin's Eloge, and the ‘Biographie Universelle.”
M.D'Herbelot was born, at Paris, on the 4th of December,1625.
He was descended from a respectable family, and received from his parents the rudiments of a learned education. A predilection for Oriental literature seems to have taken very early possession of his mind, and may perhaps be traced to the desire he conceived of acquiring an intimate knowledge of the language and history of the Bible. He applied him elf with particular industry to the Hebrew language, and passed by an easy transition from thence to the Arabic. His enthusiasm for the branch of literature he had chosen, at that time cultivated but little in Europe, now led him into Italy, where he expected to meet with considerable aid in the prosecution of his studies, from the conversation of those Armenians, and other Eastern o whom commerce attracted to the ports of that country. He was received in a very flattering manner by the Cardinals Barbarini and Grimaldi, at Rome; and formed in the same city an intimate friendship with Lucas Holstenius, and Leo Allatius, two of the most learned and celebrate i men of those times. Christina, queen of Sweden, was then at Marseilles, in France, and as that princess affected great admiration for learned men, Cardinal Grimaldi introduced our great Orientalist to Her Majesty, who felt exceedingly ...ii. at his immense erudition. On his return to Paris, after an absence of about eighteen months, Fouquet, the superintendant of finance, invited him to reside at his house, and granted him a small pension, agreeably to the mode then prevalent of rewarding literary merit. After the disgrace of Fouquet, for whom, we are told, D'Herbelot had a particular attachment, the Court promoted him to the post of Oriental Secretary and Interpreter.
Some few years afterwards, he made a second journey into Italy, during which he was introduced to Ferdinand II., Grand Duke of Tuscany, who did him the honour to hold frequent conversations with him; and moreover, out of respect for his learning and agreeable manners, gave him a most pressing invitation to his royal palace at Florence. Our author's elogist, the President Cousin, speaks wiłł peculiar emphasis of the elegantl furnished house, well covered table, and fine carriaore, whic His Serene Highness placed at the service of D'Herbelot, during his stay at Florence; but, although we undervalue not the carriage and the good dinners, we are much better pleased with another instance of His Highness's generosity, which is one that really reflects honour on his memory. It seems that while the great Orientalist was at Florence, a large collection of MSS. in the languages of the East, was offered for sale; Ferdinand, being desirous of purchasing the most valuable of them, requested his illustrious visitor to examine the whole, and having selected the best, to fix what he might consider a just price for them. D'Herbelot, who must have felt a pleasure in choosing for the library of so munificent a prince, readily did as he was desired. When the selection had been made, the Grand Duke became the purchaser, and, to give his guest a lasting token of his friendship, presented him with the whole.
The munificence of Ferdinand operated still more for the
ood of D'Herbelot in another way: it excited the jealousy of the French Government, which, although it might occasionally think proper to neglect a learned man at home, could not consent to stand tamely by, and see him driven to accept the pa_ tronage of a foreign prince. Observing, therefore, that D'Herbelot was about to become domiciliated at Florence, to the no small reproach of France, Colbert now caused him to be invited back to his country, with strong assurances that he would meet, on his return, with solid proofs of the reputation and esteem he had acquired. . It was not, however, without much difficulty that he obtained the Grand Duke's permission to leave Florence; for Ferdinand seems to have possessed sufficient tact to discern in him the marks of an extraordinary man. Returning to France, he had the honour, and a vast honour it was, in the opinion of his elogist, to converse several times with the king, who, to do him justice, was remarkably desirous of buying up learned men almost at any price, and therefore granted oš. belot a pension of fifteen hundred livres per annum. Possessed of leisure, and what was equivalent to a small independence, he now pursued the design he had formed in Italy of writing the ‘Bibliotheque Orientale.’ At first he very strangely compiled his materials in Arabic; and it was intended by M. Colbert to have Arabic types cast expressly for the purpose, and have the work printed at the Louvre. ło, this foolish design, which would have effectually extinguished all M. D'Herbelot's chances of same, was abandoned; the portions of the work already written were translated, and the remainder continued in French. He lived not to superintend the publication of the “Bibliotheque Orientale,” which fell to the lot of Antoine Galland, the immortal translator of the ‘Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.” D'Herbelot did not, however, die young, being within a few days of the “threescore years and ten,” fixed by the Bible as the natural period of human life. His character, according to his biographer, was that of an amiable, modest man; his immense erudition having not tended in the least to disturb the original equanimity of his disposition.
It is exceedingly difficult at present to understand the character of a scholar of the seventeenth century: his capacity to labour, his patience in research, his readiness to .. mind with the languages of various nations, are almost inconceivable now. Anxious, as scholars ever must be, to acquire reputation, he never, rushed impatiently before the public to demand their praise; his love of fame he nourished in secret, and was abund
antly delighted if the grey hair and the bay appeared upon his temples *. This was especially the case with Oriental scholars, Certain they could have but few genuine admirers, because but a small number of their countrymen understood the learning on which their glory was founded, they patiently awaited the gradual spreading of their name, and sometimes, as in the case of D'Herbelot, relied upon posthumous publication for going down to posterity. The learning of D'Herbelot consisted not in the knowledge of mere words; for, although he understood critically the Latin, the Greek, the Hebrew, the Chaldaic, the Syriac, the Arabic, the Persian, and the Turkish languages, he was still more profoundly versed in the laws, history, and manners of Oriental nations; his sole object, in studying the various dialects of the Eastern people, being, to acquire by that means a more complete acquaintance with their ideas and opinions. He does not seem to have been led accidentally to #. of publishing his researches, as is the case with many authors, but to have formed from the beginning the design of aiming at literary fame; and though the fruit fhis studies was produced late, this was owing to the vastness of his plan, not to any relaxation in the ardour and energy with which he pursued it. While merely o: ...; himself to execute this great undertaking, he acaccomplished an enterprise that would have been consid by many a task sufficient to occupy a whole life; observing that, § want of proper helps, the acquiring of Oriental o was rendered F.I. tedious, he actually compiled a Turkish and Persian Dictionary, in three volumes folio, which Galland reckoned the best by far that had ever been written. Having acquired the necessary languages, his next step was to make collections, which he translated into French, of what-ever was curious or instructive respecting the East; these ‘materials he afterwards divided into two parts, to the first of which he gave the name of ‘The Oriental Library,’ the work. .now before us; the second, which he denominated “Florilegium,' or Anthology,’ we believe was never published. M. Galland, the editor of the ‘Bibliotheque Orientale,' observes, that this work in reality is an abridgement of all the Oriental books D'Herbelot had ever read, and contains the history of the East, from the creation down to the times in which the author lived, together with a species of introduction, in which are re'lated the exploits of the pre-adamite Sultans, F. who reigned before the period assigned by the Mosaic chronology to 1 the creation. In perusing the history of all ancient countries, we first pass through the dominion of fable, peopled with beings interestiñg,
or otherwise, according to the genius of the nation who created them. Heroes and demi-gods amuse us in the ancient relations of Greece and Egypt; and the Asiatic natious have their Dives and Peris, races of creatures that inhabited the world, and warred and loved before the creation of Adam. Perhaps the fables, which are in the mouth of every Persian poet, relating to these beings, may be built upon certain obscure traditions of creatures and events not altogether fabulous : the vast antiquity which nearly all Oriental nations attribute to the world,
is not by any means so improbable as is vulgarly imagined; for
although the ". anterior to the birth of genuine history has been usurped by poets and mythologists, there is, even in their marvellous commonwealth, sufficient light to show the human countenance, however dimly and in perfectly.
But, setting aside all speculations of this kind, the mythology of the East is a collection of splendid fancies, richly poetical, and wonderfully various. Every European reader has had his imagination stirred and ennobled by the genii and magical personages of the ‘Arabian Nights,” which is commonly the first book by which we are initiated into the mysteries of invention; and recently, all admirers of sublime fiction, enlivened by singular wit and humour, have again been led back to the wild vagaries of Oriental fancy, by the History of the Cal ph Wathek. In D'Herbelot, the reader will meet with all the my...thological personages of the East, clothed with an air of veracity, and all the distinguishing attributes bestowed on them by the poets.
By their manner of relating the history of patriarchs and rophets, the Arabs have transformed the heroes of scripture into a kind of mythological existences. All the events of the Jewish history are distorted in their version from their original form, being, in most instances, adorned with new supernatural ornaments, much more surp ising than their original accompaniments. Ignorant nations know of no impossibilities, because they never reason on the laws of nature. To them, miracles and prodigies appear every-day occurrences, and are admired in proportion to their extravagance. As civilization advances, supernatural events become of more rare occurrence; nations think more of themselves, and less of the powers above them; actions drop down to the level of possibility, and the historian abandons prodigies to the poet. Nevertheless, an examination of the legends of the East, of those more especially which relate to Palestine and its ancient inhabitants, may not obe without its utility: in them we see the principal characters of the Hebrew Scriptures as they appear to the Arabs, who, residing from time immemorial in the neighbourhood of the country where they performed their exploits, have some claim to be