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CONDITION OF FEMALES.

441

of a rank inferior to his own, each is entitled to a separate establishment, and all can demand equal privileges till one be elevated above the rest by becoming a parent; and the mother of the eldest son is called the chief

spouse.

The principal object of desire with the Moslim, as with the Hebrew, women is children; and those whose wishes are realized regard with contempt their less fortunate rivals, while, in turn, they are eyed with burning jealousy.

Among the tenants of the harem who can claim no connubial privileges, the mother of a daughter ranks above one who is childless; but the mother of a son is immediately raised to the dignity of a wife, unless the father have already four, the conjugal limit prescribed by the Koran. Such an order of things necessarily opens the door to ambition, jealousy, hatred, and other evil passions, occasionally giving rise to persecutions and even to murders : yet, strange as it may appear, the Turkish women are said by those who visit them to be not unhappy; their pleasures and resources, though few, are all that they have ever known, expected, or coveted; and happiness is less accurately measured by relative possessions than by the proportion between the desires fostered and the enjoyment realized. Hitherto, the

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VOL. I.

442

TURKISH FEMALES.

cultivation of the mind has been almost entirely neglected among them ; but many have now learned the value of education, and are following the example set by the sultan's daughter, lately married to Halil pasha, who has been instructed in music by a Frank lady. From the time that a girl reaches the

age

of ten, she is taught to shun the eye of man. Her marriage is arranged by her friends with an individual whom she has never seen; and after she becomes a wife, she is excluded from intercourse even with her male relations, except her father, brothers, and uncles, who are allowed to pay her a short visit of ceremony on festal days. When she appears abroad, she is so wrapped up as to conceal her face, any exposure of which, however partial, is regarded as a violation of delicacy. A Frank lady informed us that one day, in the street, her arm was rudely seized, and separated from that of a gentleman who escorted her, by a Moslimah who felt her sex dishonored by such familiarity; and we heard from another that, only three years ago, a green veil was pulled off her head by a Turkish female, enraged at seeing the sacred color defiled by contact with an infidel so indelicate as to exhibit her face. It is sometimes supposed that

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the Koran excludes women from heaven : yet this is not the fact. Mohammed does not provide for them, as for men, a paradise of sensual bliss; but he declares that rewards and punishments will hereafter be distributed to all the faithful.

The dress of the Turks consists of a loose robe and a short jacket embroidered with silk, both without collars; a wide girdle ; a very

full petticoat joined for some inches between the knees, and thus resembling trowsers ; a long cloth gaiter, and a graceful turban of any color except green, which is restricted, as already mentioned, to the descendants of the prophet. Inside the shoe, a thin leather sock over the stocking protects the foot from cold in the house and mosque. The white veil of the women passes in a straight line over the eyebrows, and is brought back across the tip of the nose or held between the lips. Some appear with a shade like that used for weak eyes, but larger and of a black color. With all this desire to conceal the face, the form is so lightly covered that the whole region of the chest is often exposed to view. Under a long loose robe they wear full trowsers and yellow slippers. Young girls have generally a dress open at the sides, a bodice buttoned in front, full

444

TURKISH PECULIARITIES.

trowsers, and a white veil thrown over the head, but not concealing the face; they allow the hair to hang down on the shoulders either in curls or small plaits.

A modern writer has adduced the following instances as affording a curious proof of the contrariety observable between the minor customs and usages of the Turks and those of western Europe. “ The abhorrence of the hat is well known; but the uncovering of the head, which with us is an expression of respect, is by them considered disrespectful and indecent. A quaker would give no offence by keeping on his hat in a mosque, if his shoes were left at the threshold. The Turks turn in their toes; they mount on the right side of the horse; they follow their guests into a room and precede them on leaving it; the left hand is the place of honor; they do the honors of the table by serving themselves first; they take the wall and walk hastily in sign of respect; they beckon by throwing back the hand, instead of drawing it towards them; they cut the hair from the head, and remove it from the body, but leave it on the chin ; they sleep in their clothes; they look upon beheading as a more disgraceful punishment than strangling; they deem our close and short dresses indecent, and our shaven

TURKISH PECULIARITIES.

445

chins a mark of effeminacy or servitude; they resent an enquiry after their wives as an insult; they eschew pork as an abomination ; they regard dancing as a theatrical performance only to be practised by slaves; lastly, their mourning habit is white, their sacred color is green, and their holy day is Friday.” To this curious list may be added, they sit with their legs under them, and at meals prefer fingers to forks; they regard the acquisition of foreign languages as a crime,* and, like the Jews, identify their civil polity with religion ; they consider it a sin to drink wine, and make smoking a necessary part of the day's occupation; they never shake hands with one another, but go through a sort of half embrace; they treat their slaves like children, and every sultan is a slave's son; they never suffer their women to be seen, choose their wives by proxy, and practise polygamy.

* This prejudice, with many others, is now rapidly decreasing

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