Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/118

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Nature, just in her gifts, has diffused them equally over the face of the globe. She has allotted to each climate its peculiar productions, good and bad, and has rarely refused to any region one species of tree or plant without bestowing some other in its stead. The same observation applies to the character of each nation, which is composed of a sum of good and bad qualities which counterbalance one another, and which are found in such proportions in that nation exclusively. It is a mark set upon it by the deity, and this mark it will retain in spite of human revolutions and the lapse of ages. We find ancient nations now degenerated and debased; yet there is none of them But has retained some of the primitive features of its character.

It would therefore be not less absurd to seek, than impossible to find, a nation without defects or without virtues: of course, we must balance the one against the other, and, according as the mass of good or bad qualities preponderates, we must form our judgment of the character of the nation which we are studying.

In delineating the character of the Persians, we can scarcely have a better guide than Chardin, whose long residence in the country, and whose intercourse with the great, enabled him to make himself intimately acquainted with the character of the nation, rather than with that of the lower classes, the number of whose vices is increased by the want of education.

The Persians are pre-eminent for intellectual qualities; their moral character exhibits a compound of the most odious defects. They have a sound understanding, a quick imagination, a ready memory, and a happy capacity for the sciences and the liberal and the mechanical arts. Under the appearance of a proud indifference, they derive information from the society of foreigners, and profit by their knowledge: they receive them kindly, patronize them, tolerate their religion, and regard them with pity rather than contempt. In illness and affliction, they even solicit the prayers of infidels; but this may proceed from superstition, rather than from toleration.