vendredi 2 décembre 2011

Cantemir and Burke

It was a great pleasure to read Rachel Polonsky’s article “Is this not paradise ? The East through Western eyes, or how the steppe came to St Petersburg : the paradoxes of Russian Orientalism”, in The Times Literary Supplement (September 9). 

Following the footsteps of David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, in his book, Russian Orientalism (Yale Unuversity Press) the author appreciates that Moldavia’s prince Cantemir “wrote a nuanced study of Islam, as well as the History of the Growth and Decay of the Othoman Empire, which […] remained a standard reference on the Ottomans for a century, cited by William Jones, as well as by Gibbon, Byron and Voltaire”.

Certainly, this list is not exhaustive. I would simply like to add Edmund Burke to it. He quoted Cantemir’s History of the Othoman Empire during the Impeachment trial of Warren Hastings in Parliament. His speech has inspired James Sayer’s caricature “A Reverie of Prince Demetrius Cantemir” (1788). F. P. Lock largely insisted on these details in the second volume of his  seminal work Edmund Burke (Clarendon Press, 2006) and I also described them in my book Les Cantemir. L’aventure européenne d’une famille princière (Paris, Complexe, 2009).

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