NO characters are more conspicuous in History, or excite greater admiration in the generality of readers, than those of celebrated Warriours and Conquerors: we suppose them to partake of a nature more than human; we deck their statues and pic­tures with Laurel; and we dignify them with the name of Great; though, perhaps, if they were stripped of their bright arms, and devested of their pompous titles, we should find most of them to be the meanest and basest of mankind. This infatuation arises, partly from the deplorable servility of our minds, and our eagerness to kiss the foot which tramples on us; partly from our ascribing to the superiour force and abilities of One Man that success, in which chance or treachery have often a con­siderable share, and which could never be obtained without the united effort of a multitude; and partly from our mistaking the nature of true Virtue, which consists, not in destroying our fellow-creatures, but in protecting them, not in seizing their property, but in desending their rights and liberties even at the hazard of our own safety. Many Roman Generals, who had neither valour nor prudence to recommend them, have procured the honour of a Triumph for victories gained by their officers; and Cicero, in his speech for Marcellus, ventured to depre­ciate the glory of Cæsar himself, by asserting, that a commander receives no small assistance from the courage of his men, the advantage of his situation, the strength of his allies, and the plenty of his provisions: but Fortune, he adds, claims the greatest praise in every prosperous achieve­ment, as military actions owe their chief success to her favour*.

Power is always odious, always to be sus­pected, when it resides in the hands of an individual; and a free people will never suffer any single man to be more powerful than the Laws, which themselves have enacted or con­firmed: but no kind of power is more licen­tiously insolent than that, which is supported by force of arms. It was this, which enabled Marius and Sylla to drench the streets of Rome with the blood of her most virtuous citizens; a consciousness of superiour force gave CæÚsar spirits to pass the Rubicon, and oppress the liberty of his country, which the profligate Tyrant Octavius finally extinguished with the same detestable instrument: and the insatiable avarice of Princes, joined to the pride of con­quest and the love of dominion, has filled the world with terrour and misery, from Sesostris who invaded Africk and Europe, to the three mighty potentates, who are ravaging Poland. How much more splendid would their glory have been, if, instead of raising their fame on the subversion of kingdoms, they had applied their whole thoughts to the patronage of arts, science, letters, agriculture, trade; had made their nations illustrious in wisdom, extensive in commerce, eminent in riches, firm in virtue, happy in freedom; and had chosen rather to be the Benefactors, than the Destroyers, of the human species!

These sentiments, which, as nothing can prevent my entertaining them, so nothing shall prevent my expressing as forcibly as I am able, were sufficient to have deterred me from ever attempting to write The Life of a Conqueror; unless it had been for the sake of exposing a character of all others the most infamously wicked, and of displaying the charms of liberty by showing the odiousness of tyranny and oppression: but a circumstance, which it will be proper to relate from the beginning, induced me to depart from my resolution, and hurried me from the contemplation of civil and pacifick virtues to the more dazzling, but less pleasing, scenes of victories and triumphs.

A great northern monarch, who visited this country a few years ago, under the name of the Prince of Travendal, brought with him an Eastern manuscript, containing the life of NADER SHAH, the late Sovereign of Persia, which He was desirous of having translated in England. The Secretary of State, with whom the Danish Minister had conversed upon the subject, sent the volume to me, requesting me to give a literal translation of it in the French language; but I wholly declined the task, alledging, for my excuse, the length of the book, the dryness of the subject, the difficulty of the style, and, chiefly, my want both of leisure and ability to enter upon an undertaking so fruit­less and so laborious. I mentioned, however, a gentleman, with whom I had not then the pleasure of being acquainted, but who had distinguished himself by his translation of a Persian History, and was far abler than myself to satisfy the King of Denmark’s expectations. The learned writer, who had other works upon his hands, excused himself on the account of his many engagements; and the application to me was renewed: it was hinted, that my compliance would be of no small advantage to me at my entrance into life, that it would procure me some mark of distinction, which might be pleasing to me, and, above all, that it would be a reflection upon this country, if the King should be obliged to carry the manu­script into France. Incited by these motives, and principally by the last of them, unwilling to be thought churlish or morose, and eager for the bubble Reputation, I undertook the work, and sent a specimen of it to his Danish Majesty; who returned his approbation of the style and method, but desired, that the whole translation might be perfectly literal, and the Oriental images accurately preserved. The task would have been far easier to me, had I been directed to finish it in Latin; for the acqui­sition of a French style was infinitely more tedious; and it was necessary to have every chapter corrected by a native of France, before it could be offered to the discerning eye of the publick; since in every language there are certain peculiarities of idiom, and nice shades of meaning, which a foreigner can never learn to perfection: but the work, how arduous and unpleasing soever, was completed in a year; not without repeated hints from the Secretary’s office, that it was expected with great impatience by the Court of Denmark. The translation of the History of NADER SHAH was pub­lished in the summer of the year seventeen hundred and seventy*, at the expense of the translator; and forty copies upon large paper were sent to Copenhagen, one of them, bound with uncommon elegance, for the King himself, and the others, as presents to his Courtiers.

What marks of distinction I have since received, and what fruits I have reaped for my labour, it would ill become me to mention at the head of a work, in which I profess to be the Historian of others, and not of myself: but since an advertisement has appeared on this subject in the publick papers, which is noto­riously false in every article, and casts a most unjust reflection upon an amiable monarch, it seems a duty imposed upon me by the laws of justice and gratitude, to print at the end of this Volume the honourable testimony of regard, which his Majesty Christian VII. sent publickly to London, a few months after He had received my work, together with my letter of thanks for so signal a token of His favour; and I cannot, certainly, be charged with want of respect to the great and illustrious Personage, to whom that royal Epistle is addressed, since it was not sent in a private manner, but openly and in the eyes of the world; and a copy of it was even delivered to me, after having passed through several hands. Nothing more remains to be said on this subject, but that the worthy and excellent man, who was my sole guide and adviser in this affair, and to whom I opened my thoughts in my familiar letters with the utmost frankness, having retired from the office which he then held, I am left at perfect liberty to relate the whole transaction, without a possibility of giving offence to any one living; especially since I have not suffered his name to be made cheap, by mentioning it in any part of the narrative.

This was the circumstance, which induced me, against my inclination, to describe the Life of a Conqueror, and to appear in publick as an Author, before a maturity of judgement had made me see the dangers of the step, which I was inconsiderately taking; for, I believe, if I had reflected on the little solid glory which a man reaps from acquiring a name in literature, on the jealousy and envy which attend such an acquisition, on the distant re­serve which a writer is sure to meet with from the generality of mankind, and on the obstruction which a contemplative habit gives to our hopes of being distinguished in active life; if all, or any, of these reflections had occurred to me, I should not have been tempted by any consideration to enter upon so invidious and so thankless a career: but, as Tully says, I should have considered, before I embarked, the nature and extent of my voyage; now, since the sails are spread, the vessel must take its course*.

It may perhaps be expected, that some account should here be given of the Persian History, which I was thus appointed to send abroad in an European dress, with some remarks on the veracity and merit of its Eastern Author; but, before we descend to these mi­nute particulars, it will not be foreign from the subject of the present publication, to enquire into the general nature of Historical composition, and to offer the idea, rather of what is required from a perfect Historian, than of what hitherto seems to have been executed in any age or nation.

CICERO, who was meditating an History of Rome, had established a set of rules for the conduct of his work, which he puts into the mouth of Antonius in his treatise on the accom­plished Orator; where he declares “the basis and ground-work of all History to depend upon these primary Laws, that the writer should not dare to set down a Falshood, nor be deterred by fear from divulging an interesting Truth; and that he should avoid any just suspicion of partiality or resent­ment: the edifice, he adds, which must be raised on this foundation, consists of two parts, the relation of things, and the words in which they are related; in the first, the Historian should adhere to the order of time, and diversify his narrative with the descrip­tion of countries; and since, in all memorable transactions, first the counsels are explained, then the acts, and, lastly, the events, he should pronounce his own judge­ment on the merit of the counsels; should show what acts ensued, and in what manner they were performed; and unfold the causes of all great events, whether he imputes them to chance, or wisdom, or rashness: he should also describe, not only the actions, but the lives and characters, of all the persons, who are eminently distinguished in his piece; and, as to the words, should be master of a copious and expanded style, flowing along with ease and delicacy, without the rough­ness of pleadings at the Bar, or the affecta­tation of pointed sentences*.”

If we form our idea of a complete Historian from these rules, we shall presently perceive the reason, why no writer, ancient or modern, has been able to sustain the weight of so important a character; which includes in it the perfection of almost every virtue and every noble accomplishment, an unbiassed integrity, a comprehensive view of nature, an exact knowledge of men and manners, a mind stored with free and generous principles, a penetrating sagacity, a fine taste and copious eloquence: a perfect Historian must know many languages, many arts, many sciences; and, that he may not be reduced to borrow his materials wholly from other men, he must have acquired the height of political wisdom, by long experience in the great affairs of his country, both in peace and war. There never was, perhaps, any such character; and, perhaps, there never will be: but in every art and science there are certain ideas of perfection, to which the works of human genius are continually tending, though, like the Logarithmick Spiral, they will never meet the point to which they are infinitely approach­ing. Cicero himself, had he found leisure to accomplish his design, though he would have answered his own idea in most respects, would have been justly liable to the suspicion of an illiberal bias in relating the history of his own times, and drawing the several characters of his age.

The very soul and essence of History, is Truth, without which it can preserve neither its name nor its nature, and with which the most indifferent circumstances in a barren chronicle are more interesting to a sensible reader, than the greatest events, how copiously or elegantly soever they may be described, in a romance or a legend: yet it is strange, that, of so many Histories, ancient or modern, Euro­pean or Asiatick, there should be so few, which we can read without asking in almost every page, Is this true?

History, in its original state, was, proba­bly nothing more than the bare relation of publick events, which were digested in the form of Annals, like the life of Tully by Fabricius: we are assured that this was the case in old Rome*; and it seems, indeed, in all ages, to be the wisest, as well as the most useful, method of writing history, unless the facts were more diligently examined and more fairly represented, than they appear to be in most productions of this nature. Among the Greeks, Pherecydes, Hellanicus, Epimenides, and among the Latins, Cato, Pictor, Piso, are said to have written without affecting any orna­ment, or aiming at any other merit than that of a nervous brevity. HERODOTUS sent abroad his nine books with the advantage of a more polished dress: there is a noble simplicity in his diction, to which the open vowels of the Ionick dialect greatly contribute, and many of his narratives are extremely pleasing; but his accounts of the Persian affairs are at least doubtful, if not fabulous; and he followed his Egyptian guides with an implicit confi­dence, not scrupling to relate a number of facts, which he could never have verified, if he thought they would improve the manners, or gratify the curiosity, of his own inquisitive nation. THUCYDIDES added stronger nerves to historical composition; his facts are in general authentick, his observations deep and saga­cious; but his language is abrupt, obscure, and sententious, particularly in the speeches, which, though they abound with wise maxims and exalted sentiments, bear all the marks of labour and stiffness, and have not even the air of probability, since it is impossible, that many of them could have been comprehended by a popular audience. What Thucydides wanted, namely, a simple and graceful style, XENO­PHON possessed in an eminent degree: nothing can equal the sweetness and delicacy of his lan­guage; but that sweetness itself is hardly con­sistent with the gravity of his subject, and all his pieces, if we except that on the Expedition of Cyrus, in which he was personally engaged, have more liveliness of imagination than depth of judgement, and display more of the scholar and moralist, than of the statesman and orator. The sentiments of Thucydides, expressed in the style of Xenophon, would have approached very nearly to that idea of perfect History, which we have just delineated; but it seems to be wisely ordained by nature, that no single man shall excel all others in every great accomplishment, lest he should be tempted to fancy himself a being of a superiour order, and should exert his talents to the ruin of his fellow-creatures. Of all the Greek Historians, POLYBIUS was, perhaps, the gravest, the wisest, and the most faithful; but his language is even harsher than that of Thucydides; and, in the few books which remain of his excel­lent work, we are at a loss to discern the taste and elegance of Scipio and Lælius, by whom he was assisted.

That forced and stiff kind of writing, than which nothing can be more odious in History, was designedly adopted by SALLUST, and seems inexcusable in a man of his rank and knowledge, who lived in the very age of Cicero: the same abruptness and obscurity may well be pardoned in TACITUS, who flourished when the purity of the Roman language had declined with the Roman liberty; but the defect of his style prevents us from considering him as a consummate Historian, though his wisdom and penetration would otherwise give him a just claim to that title. It is not easy to conceive what the Ancients mean by the lactea ubertas of LIVY: in many parts of his work he shows great candour and judgement; but his language is not remarkable for ease or copiousness, and it was below a writer of his genius to relate all the superstitious and incredible fictions, which were invented only to please the people of Rome, by ascribing the foundation and support of their City to the interposition of the Gods.

The writers of Lives, as Plutarch and Nepos, belong to a different class: Diodorus the Sicilian, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, were rather scholars and antiquaries, than masters of political knowledge; and the later Greek Historians, Appian, Dio, Herodian, and the rest, can hardly be supposed to stand the test of Cicero’s rules, by which even Thucydides and Polybius have been declared imper­fect. It would far exceed the limits of a prefatory discourse, if we attempted to examine by these laws the many Historians, who have related the affairs of their respective states, in the various dialects of modern Europe, Italian or Spanish, French or English: some of them are grave and judicious, some bold and impartial, others polished and elegant; but none of them seem to have possessed all those qualities, a perfect union of which is required in the character of a finished Historian.

The History of Florence by MACHIAVELLI, how beautifully soever it may be written, must necessarily be liable to suspicion from the known principles of its Author; and the work of GUICCIARDINI, who bore an eminent part in the actions which he relates, is not, I believe, considered by the Italians themselves as a model of fine writing.

M. DE VOLTAIRE seems to bear away the palm of History among the French: his style is lively and spirited, his descriptions, animated and striking, his remarks, always ingenious, often deep; and, if some trifling errours are discovered in his writings, we are willing to excuse them, when we reflect, that he is not only the best Historian, but the finest Poet also, and the greatest Wit, of his nation. He appears to be unjustly charged with embellishing his pieces at the expense of Truth, and with relating facts which he had not examined: this may, perhaps, be the case in one or two instances; but his Life of Charles the Twelfth gains fresh credit every day, and his account of Peter the Great was extracted from the most authentick materials: it was, indeed, the necessary fate of any author, who should write the lives and adventures of those two singular Princes, to pass rather for the compiler of fables, than for the relater of real events, till time should confirm the truth of the actions recorded by him. It may be thought arro­gant in a foreigner, to criticise so great a writer in the article of style and language; but it seems to me, that his periods are not sufficiently expanded: he describes a battle, and dis­courses on the fate of kingdoms, in the diction of an Essay; and frequently huddles the most important remarks into the compass of a short sentence; so that the perpetual return of the full pause makes his language often dry, abrupt, and difficult to be read aloud without a fatiguing monotony. There are as many different kinds of style, as there are different subjects: that of an essay should be light and elegant; of a letter, lively and familiar; of an oration, copious and elate; of a moral discourse, grave and solemn; but that of an history ought to be smooth, flowing, and natural, without any graces but perspicuity: yet most authors form a way of writing peculiar to their own taste and genius, which they use indifferently on all occasions; thus Voltaire is equally gay, equally polished, whether he writes upon History, Criticism, or Philosophy. His distinguishing excellence is Wit; which, however, sometimes gets the better of his judgement. Wit is never displayed to advantage, but in its proper place: it has often a great effect in controversy; it may even be admitted into an essay; it is the charm of conversation, when it rises naturally from the subject, without seeming to be pre­pared: but it should be wholly banished from historical composition, and solemn speeches; since nothing can be more absurd, than to discuss the weighty points of legislation and politicks in a string of conceits and allusions. It suited the Roman Orator’s purpose, in his defense of Muræna, to make the judges merry at the expense of the accuser, Cato; whose Stoical principles he rallies with infinite humour; but we meet with no examples of this kind in the Catilinarian or Philippick Orations, when nothing less was concerned, than the destiny of the whole Empire: thus in the relation tion of common occurrences, if they happen to be of a ludicrous nature, there cannot be too much brilliancy and liveliness; but humour should no more find its way into an historical piece, than into an heroick poem; and all our veneration for the genius of Milton will not make us excuse the impertinence of his jokes in his battle of the angels. I dwell the longer on the absurdity of ill-placed Wit, because all the works of Voltaire are tinctured with it*; and he cannot give an abstract of the New­tonian philosophy, without interspersing it with strokes of humour. On the whole, however, Voltaire is one of the most agreeable writers in the world, and has brought his native lan­guage to the greatest elegance, which it seems capable of receiving.

The English historians are not to be read without caution: CLARENDON himself is often liable to exception both in sentiment and style; and our language, indeed, was never entirely polished till the present century. I avoid touching upon the works of living authors; lest, in my very preface, I should vio­late a fundamental law of History, by incur­ring the suspicion of prejudice for a particular nation, or affection for particular men; but another law obliges me to declare, that there are historians now in Britain, whose writings have sufficiently proved, that if their subjects were equal to their talents, they would be able to contest the merit of veracity, judgement, and elegance with the Ancients themselves. That perfect liberty, which forms the very essence of our constitution, makes it unneces­sary for an English historian to flatter any potentate or statesman upon earth; and our lan­guage, though inferiour to the Greek and Roman, will not yield the prize of energy, variety, and copiousness, to any modern idiom what­ever.

If all the histories of Europe are deficient in one or other of the articles, to which we may reduce the rules of Cicero, we cannot hope to find this ideal perfection in the numerous compilations, with which the world has been pestered since the revival of letters, and for which we are chiefly indebted to our neigh­bours, the French. Those who judge the most favourably of these works, must allow them at least to be useless; for to what purpose are so many of our years spent in studying the languages of old Greece and Rome, unless it be to read the ancient compositions in their original beauty, and to draw our knowledge from those sources, whence all modern learning was derived? It were happy, if nothing could be objected to these elaborate volumes, but their inutility; they deserve, I fear, an heavier censure; since it is certain, that they help to multiply errours, and abound in fables, which the wisest of the Ancients would have exploded, and many of which they really did explode, when they were poured into Greece through the strainers of the Egyptians. It is agreed by all writers, that nothing can be so rash, nothing so far removed from the dignity of a wise man, as either to profess what is false, or to assert what has not been sufficiently examined by him*: yet one would think, that the very reverse of this was established as a maxim by those, who sit down to compose the history of ancient Empires. At first one is apt to suspect, that these compilers are a set of Wits, who agree among themselves to impose upon the common sense of mankind: some of them tell us, that the Aristophili were a people of the higher Asia; some place Laosthenes and Amyntas among the Kings of Assyria; and others assure us, with a provoking solemnity, that Cyrus, before a certain battle, ordered his soldiers to sing an Hymn to Castor and Pollux; as if the Assyrians were acquainted with Greek names, or the Persians with Grecian deities; a multitude of these ridiculous blunders occur in almost every page of our pretended ancient Histories; but on a more intimate acquaintance with these writers, we discover them to be any thing rather than Wits, and find that their ignorance can be surpassed only by their dullness. The truth is, to write an history, and to repeat what others have written, are tasks of a very different nature: we might find many Rollins in every hamlet; but nature produces only a single Tacitus in a course of ages. We have already shown what a number of rare talents are required in an historian; but a compiler may succeed to his best wishes, if he have but tolerable eyes, and a great share of patience, and, above all, if he be fortunate enough to be endued with a total want of judgement and fancy.

Whatever errours may have been multiplied in ancient history by the folly or credulity of some authors; it is certain, that the malice or flattery of others has introduced as many into the modern. A volume might be filled with the contemptible mistakes or wilful misrepresentations of facts, which abound in the history of Europe for the two last centuries. Let us turn our eyes to Asia: what a multi­tude of improbable stories have been spread over our part of the world, concerning the manners, the laws, the religion of the Maho­medans! Euthymius accuses them of adoring the morning star under the name of Cobar; which is a palpable lie, arising from the igno­rance of the writer, who heard the criers on the mosques calling the people to morning prayers by the words Allah Acbar, or GOD is the most High. Such a calumny may be pardoned in so obscure an author, whose credit cannot mislead many readers; but a scholar, and man of the world, like Grotius, ought to have blushed, when he talked of a steel coffin at Medina, suspended in the air between two loadstones of equal force.

An historian, who is obliged to rely upon the veracity of other men, and cannot say with Æneas, Quæ ipse vidi et quorum pars magna fui, must be very diligent and circumspect in weighing and sifting his authorities, unless he have a mind to propagate errour, instead of establishing truth, and to obtrude upon his reader a set of fables, which the factious or envious invent in all ages, and which the ignorant or malevolent are always ready to cir­culate. His caution must be still greater, when he records the events of very distant nations; since we have no small difficulty to learn the true state of those occurrences, which pass around us every day; and it generally happens, that, the more intimately we are concerned in any transaction, the more mistakes we find in the publick accounts of it. Men are often at a loss to give a perfect relation of actions, over which they presided in person; as Pollio detected several errours in a narrative, pub­lished by Cæsar, of a battle, in which Cæsar himself commanded; or, to speak of our own times, as Adlerfeld, in his description of Schul­lembourg’s passage over the Oder, disagrees in many points from the description given by the General himself.

The History, therefore, of those events, which happen in remote countries, can hardly fail of being erroneous; for, in general, we are forced to depend upon reports of reports, echoed from the ignorant natives to inquisitive travellers, and brought by them to Europe decorated with a thousand ornaments: and even if we study the languages of those nations, and read their own Histories, we are commonly deceived, either by the zeal or malignity of the authors. The following example will confirm and illustrate this obser­vation.

There are two celebrated histories of the Life of Tamerlane, one in Persian, the other in Arabick, both of them written with all the pomp and elegance of the Asiatick style: in the first, the Tartarian Conqueror is repre­sented as a liberal, benevolent, and illustrious prince; in the second, as deformed and impious, of a low birth and detestable principles. It seems difficult at first to reconcile this con­tradiction; but the difficulty vanishes, when we learn, that great part of the Persian History was composed under the inspection of Tamer­lane himself, and received only the polish of language from the pen of Ali-Yezdi; and that the Arabian author bore the most inveterate hatred against that monarch. The story of the iron cage, in which Tamerlane confined Baja­zed, is generally treated as a fable upon the authority of the very learned M. d’Herbelot; who asserts, that it is not mentioned by the Ara­bian Historian, though he omits no opportunity of debasing the moral character of his Hero: this argument would, perhaps, be decisive, if it were founded upon true premises; but unfor­tunately, in the thirteenth line of the two hundred-sixty-eighth page, the Arahian expressly affirms, “that Tamerlane did enclose his captive Ilderim Bajazed in a cage of iron, in order to retaliate the insult offered to the Persians by a sovereign of the lower Asia, who had treated Shapor, King of Persia, in the same manner; that he intended to carry him in this confinement into Tartary, but that the miserable prince died in Syria, at a place called Akshebr.” This fact is not the more true, for being asserted by Ebn Arab­shab; but it seems strange, that the judicious M. d’Herbelot should have overlooked this pas­sage, and should speak so positively of a book, which he had read with so little attention: nor is the point itself of any great consequence; but it may show, how cautious we should be, in relying upon the authority of illustrious names.

In this obscurity of human affairs, nothing remains for a wise historian, but to confine himself to great and notorious events, in which the true and incontestable part of all History consists; for, whenever he descends to particular characters, and minute descriptions, or attempts to relate the very words, and unfold the sentiments, of princes, he will run into wildness and uncertainty, and lead his readers into a kind of fairy land, while they expect to be conducted through the paths of real knowledge. Since in History, as in Philosophy, we can only catch the general and striking features of Truth, it is a folly to deck her picture with our own imperfect colours, and to dress up a phantom of our imagination instead of a reality.

There are a multitude of historical pieces in the Persian, Arabian, and Turkish languages; some of which are tolerably authentick, all curious and entertaining, but very few written with taste or simplicity, and none, which answer in any degree to the Ciceronian idea of perfection: they contain, however, the best materials for an History of Asia from the age of Mahomed to the present century, and the com­pletion of such a work, if any man had leisure or courage to undertake it, would greatly enrich our European literature.

We come now, after a long interval, to con­sider the Persian History of the Life of NADER SHAH, which was translated by the author of the following work. It must be allowed, that his testimony is not wholly free from suspicion; but his narrative must necessarily be more authentick, than that of our travellers, who could not possibly be acquainted with the facts, which they relate so confidently. The Persian historian attended his Hero in many of his expeditions, and was an eye-witness of the actions which he describes: it is probable, indeed, that his attachment to the Deliverer of his country might induce him to paint Nader Shah in brighter and more pleasing colours than he deserved; to cast a veil over the deformities of his character, and to present us only with the beauties of it; but, as the work was finished after the death of the Monarch, and as it passes a very free censure upon the latter part of his life, we may reasonably con­clude, that the author delivers his real senti­ments, though his veneration for the memory of so extraordinary a man often betrays him into expressions, which border upon the mean­est flattery. The Persian language has declined so much from its original purity, that no great elegance could be expected from Mirza Mahadi: the work is genuine, and may be recommended as a curiosity; but I will fairly confess, that, had I been left to my own choice, it would have been the last manuscript in the world, which I should have thought of translating: out of so many Persian books of poetry, ethicks, criticism, science, history, it would have been easy to have selected one more worthy of the publick attention; and the works of Hafez or Sadi might have been printed for half the expense, and in half the time.

I was willing, however, to try, whether this Asiatick history might not appear to better advantage without the stiffness of a verbal translation; with which intent I drew up a short abstract of it in my native language: I stripped the original of its affected flowers and ornaments, and here present the English reader with all the interesting facts in a plain and natural dress; but, in compliance with Tully’s rules, I have in some places ventured to inter­pose my own judgement upon counsels, acts, and events; have preserved the order of time without anticipation or confusion; and have occasionally interwoven the description of remarkable places; taking care to assert nothing of any moment without the authority of the Persian to support it, and not to run after the false gleam of conjectures and reports, by which most of the writers on the same subject have been led. After all, I am far from expecting, that this little work will give me any claim to the title of an Historian: when I com­pare my piece, not only with the idea of Cicero, but even with the productions of others, I am like the drop of water, in the fable of Sadi, which fell from a cloud into the sea, and was lost in the consciousness of its own insignificance. The chief merit of the book, if it has any, consists in exhibiting in one view the transactions of sixty years in the finest part of Asia, and in comprising in a few short sec­tions the substance of a large volume. Life is so short, and time so valuable, that it were happy for us, if all great works were reduced to their quintessence: a famous scholar at Leip­sick proposed to reprint the vast compilation of M. d’Herbelot enlarged to the double of its present size; but he would deserve better of the learned world, if he would diminish it to a fourth part of its bulk, by rejecting all its repetitions and superfluities.

Before I conclude this preface, it seems necessary to give some account of the two short tracts, which were designed as preparatory to the principal work.

It was thought useful to prefix to the Life of Nader Shah, a succinct description of Asia, and particularly of the Persian Empire, that the reader, upon opening the History, might not find himself in a country wholly unknown to him; and that he might be prepared for the Oriental names, which in such a work could not possibly be avoided, and are not easily accommodated to an Eúropean ear. Many read­ers are disgusted with the frequent return of harsh and unpleasing names of rivers, cities, and provinces, the very sound of which, they say, conveys the idea of something savage; but they would be at a loss to assign a reason, why the Aras and the Forát are words less melo­dious than the Dnieper and the Bogh; why the archbishop of Gnesne has a softer title than the Mulla of Ispahan; or why the cities of Samar­cand and Bokhara are less agreeable to the ear than Warsaw and Cracow; yet the accounts of the northern kingdoms are read with pleasure, and are thought to abound with a variety of interesting events, while the histories of the East are neglected, and the Asiatick languages considered as inharmonious and inelegant. It must, nevertheless, be remembered, that a great part of Persia, and all Sogdiana, lie in the same climate with Italy and the South of France; and that the people of Asia had among them a number of fine writers, sublime poets, eminent artists, at a time, when our part of the world had neither learning, poetry, nor arts; when the inestimable remains of Menander, Alcæus, Sappho, and the rest, were publickly burned at Constantinople by order of a Greek Emperor; and when the inhabitants of all Europe besides had never heard of Menander, or Alcæus, or Sappho.

The dissertation on Asiatick Georgraphy must, from its very nature, be stiff and uniform. Tully, whose noble style might have given a grace to any subject whatever, had begun, at the request of Atticus, to compose a Geographical Treatise; but he never finished it, because he found it a barren soil, that was not favour­able to the flowers of his language*.

I was very soon aware of this objection; but, as such a work was necessary to my plan, it occurred to me, that the subject would appear less dry, if it were interspersed with anec­dotes of Eastern literature, and with summary accounts of the learned men, whom each city of Asia has produced; for a relation of all their sieges and revolutions would have been still more unpleasant, and, in general, the cities of Persia have had the same fortune with the Empire itself. It will be fair to acknowledge, that, in both parts of the Introduction, many passages are borrowed from the celebrated work of M. d’Herbelot; but nothing has been copied from him, which has not also been found in several manuscripts: our materials were taken from the same originals; and it is natural for two persons, who search the same mine, to meet with the same kind of ore. The prin­cipal Geographers, whom I consulted, were Abulfeda, and Ulugbeg; the first, a King of Hama in Syria, and the second, a grandson of Tamerlane, who was also an excellent Astronomer, and built a fine Observatory in his imperial city of Samarcand. It is much to be wished, that a correct Map of Asia were engraved, with all the names properly spelled, and the latitudes of the cities exactly marked, upon the authority of these illustrious writers; but such a work would require infinite labour, since a number of manuscripts must be col­lated, lest the mistakes of ignorant transcribers should mislead the designer of the Map, and the fine art of engraving be applied to per­petuate their ridiculous errours*. Until some Geographer, equally skilled in the Eastern languages, and in the science which he pro­fesses, will supply an able artist with materials to accomplish this useful design, the reader of Asiatick history must be satisfied with the Maps of M. de la Croix, which are inserted in his Life of Tamerlane, and are far the most accu­rate of any, that I have had occasion to consult; especially in the description of Khorasan, where notice is taken even of the castle at Kelat, so frequently mentioned in the following History. The reader will be candid enough to consider this essay on the Geography of Asia as the sketch only of a larger tract, which, from the very nature of an introductory piece, must needs be superficial and imperfect; for it would be absurd to make any introduction so copious, as to divert the reader’s attention from the work, which it was intended to illustrate.

In the short History of Persia, which follows the chapters on Geography, I pursued, as closely as I was able, the plan of a book compiled by Atticus, which was greatly admired by the Romans, but is now unfortunately lost: it con­tained an abstract of general History, and exhibited in one view a relation of the most interesting events, that happened in a period of seven hun­dred years*. Thus the second part of my Introduction comprises all the great and memorable occurrences in the Persian Empire, from the doubtful and fabulous ages to the decline of the Sefi family in the present cen­tury: it was extracted from several Asiatick writers, Mirkhond, Khandemir, Ferdusi, &c. and might have been considerably enlarged, if all the fables and dull events, which are found, it must be confessed, in great abun­dance in the originals, had been transcribed at full length; but it has long been a maxim with me, that, as nothing should be admitted into History, which is false, how agreeable so ever it may be, so nothing should be related, merely because it is true, if it be not either instructive or entertaining. The dullest records of ancient times should be preserved, that they may occasionally be consulted; but they should be reposited in cabinets and archives: as the old arms and utensils of the Romans are kept in museums for the inspection of the curious, while modern pieces of elegant or useful workmanship are the constant fur­niture of our apartments, either for our plea­sure, our convenience, or our defence. The poetical fables of the old Persians, however curious or amusing, ought not to be mixed, like glittering dross, with the pure ore of true History: but, if some student of Eastern literature would amuse himself with collecting these fables, and reducing them to a System of Persian Mythology, he would greatly assist every learner of the Asiatick languages; who, with­out such help, must be stopped in every page by allusions to adventures, of which he never heard; since a man, who is unacquainted with the fairies, dragons, and enchanters, so fre­quently introduced in the poems of Ferdusi; who knows nothing of the griffon Simorg, the speaking horse of Rostam, the dark sea which surrounds the world, the mountain of Kaf, or the battle of the twelve Heroes, can no more pretend to read the finest writings of Persia, than he could understand the Odes of Pindar, if he never heard of the Trojan war, the groves of Elysium, the voyage of the Argonauts, or the several attributes of the heathen Deities.

The Persians would not readily forgive my presumption, if they knew what a liberty I have taken with their Chronology, and how many thousand years I have retrenched from the pre­tended Duration of their Empire. They reckon but eleven Monarchs of the first race, and nine, including Darius, of the second; yet they assign to the reigns of these twenty princes a period of above three thousand years, or an bundred and fifty to each prince one with another; but these are Persian tales: human nature is nearly the same in all ages; and it has been proved by the strongest induction, that Kings seldom reign, one with another, longer than eighteen or twenty years each*: so that we must ascribe these fictions of the Per­sian Chronologers to the vain desire of aggran­dizing their country, by raising its Antiquity so far beyond the truth.

It is with the utmost diffidence, that I ven­ture to add an observation of my own upon any work of NEWTON; whose admirable tracts on the abstract sciences, and on the application of those sciences to natural Philosophy, exhibit the noblest specimen of perfection, to which the human intellect can be exalted; and whose treatises on lighter subjects, though incapable, from their very nature, of strict demonstration, are not without many strokes of that piercing genius, which raised him above all men who ever lived: but it appears to me, that his medium of twenty years to a reign is too general, and that, in some ages and nations, it must be considerably less, in others, far greater, according to the necessary difference of government or manners, in the different empires of the world. Thus, by comparing the duration of the modern Asiatick dynasties, since the decline of the Califate, with the reigns of the several princes, I have observed, that those Monarchs have seldom sitten on the throne longer than ten or twelve years each, at a medium; for, if one or two of them have contrived to hold their seats forty years, the greater part of them have reigned but six or seven, and many have been dethroned in a few months, some, even in a few days, after their accession. This can be owing to nothing, but the imperfection of those unhappy govern­ments, where a Sultan no sooner has the dia­dem on his head, than his ministers, sons, or brothers, form a confederacy against him, so that he either perishes in the field, or closes his days in prison, to make room for one of his relations, who frequently meets with the same fate: this is apparent from almost every page in the Histories of modern Asia. The case was very different in the infancy of the Persian Empire: the sovereigns were almost deified by the people, whom they had civi­lized; the temperance of those early ages might tend to lengthen their natural lives; and few of them were disturbed by civil wars or rebellions; so that we may safely allow the space of five hundred and sixty years to the two first families of Persian Kings, or twenty-eight to a reign; which computation, if we count backwards, from the death of Darius, in the three-hundred-thirtieth year before CHRIST, will place the foundation of the Persian Monarchy in the eight-hundred-ninetieth year before the same Epoch, about fourteen years, according to Newton, after the burning of Troy, and just a century before some General or feudatory of Tahmuras founded the dynasty of the Assyrians*: but here we must observe, that it is not possible for us, to fix the precise years, in which each of these ancient Monarchs began his reign, or how long each of them really sat on his throne; so that these calculations, when we descend to minute par­ticulars, must needs be very uncertain, and, where we cannot hope to find the perfect truth, we must, like the old Academicks, be content with a bare probability. To conclude; if any essential mistakes be detected in this whole performance, the reader will excuse them, when he reflects upon the great variety of dark and intricate points, which are dis­cussed in it; and if the obscurity of the subject be not a sufficient plea for the errours, which may be discovered in the work, let it be con­sidered, to use the words of Pope in the preface to his juvenile Poems, that there are very few things in this collection, which were not written under the age of five and twenty; most of them, indeed, were composed in the intervals of my leisure in the South of France, before I had applied my mind to a study of a very different nature, which it is now my resolution to make the sole object of my life. Whatever then be the fate of this production, I shall never be tempted to vindicate any part of it, which may be thought exceptionable; but shall gladly resign my own opinions, for the sake of embracing others, which may seem more probable; being persuaded, that nothing is more laudable than the love of Truth, nothing more odious than the obstinacy of persisting in Errour. Nor shall I easily be induced, when I have disburdened myself of two more pieces, which are now in the press, to begin any other work of the literary kind; but shall confine myself wholly to that branch of knowledge, in which it is my chief ambition to excel. It is a painful consideration, that the profession of literature, by far the most labo­rious of any, leads to no real benefit or true glory whatsoever. Poetry, Science, Letters, when they are not made the sole business of life, may become its ornaments in prosperity, and its most pleasing consolation in a change of fortune; but, if a man addicts himself entirely to learning, and hopes by that, either to raise a family, or to acquire, what so many wish for, and so few ever attain, an honourable retirement in his declining age, he will find, when it is too late, that he has mistaken his path; that other labours, other studies are necessary; and that, unless he can assert his own independence in active life, it will avail him little, to be favoured by the learned, esteemed by the eminent, or recommended even by Kings. It is true, on the other hand, that no external advantages can make any amends for the loss of virtue and integrity, which alone give a perfect comfort to him who possesses them. Let a man, therefore, who wishes to enjoy, what no fortune or honour can bestow, the blessing of self-appro­bation, aspire to the glory given to Pericles by a celebrated Historian, of being acquainted with all useful knowledge, of expressing what he knows with copiousness and freedom, of loving his friends and country, and of disdaining the mean pursuits of lucre and interest*: this is the only career, on which an honest man ought to enter, or from which he can hope to gain any solid happiness.