Imágenes de páginas

their behaviour, and you will confess there are some happiness! What yet untasted banquet, what luxainong us who practise true devotion.

ury yet unknown, has rewarded thy painful adI now looked round me as directed, but saw ventures? Name a pleasure which thy native counnothing of that fervent devotion which he had try could not apply procure; frame a wish that promised: one of the worshippers appeared to be might not have been satisfied in China! Why then ogling the company through a glass; another was such toil, and such danger, in pursuit of raptures fervent, not in addresses to Heaven, but to his mis- within your reach at home? tress; a third whispered, a fourth took snuff, and The Europeans, you will say, excel us in scithe priest himself, in a drowsy tone, read over the ences and in arts; those sciences which bound the duties of the day.

aspiring wish, and those arts which tend to gratify Bless my eyes, cried I, as I happened to look to even unrestrained desire. They may perhaps outwards the door, what do I sce! one of the worship- do us in the arts of building ships, casting cannons, pers fallen fast asleep, and actually sunk down on or measuring mountains; but are they superior in his cushion! Is he now enjoying the benefit of a the greatest of all arts, the art of governing king. trance, or does he receive the influence of some doms and ourselves? mysterious vision? Alas! Alas! replied my com- When I compare the history of China with that panion, no such thing; he has only had the mis- of Europe, how do I exult in being a native of that Fortune of eating too hearty a dinner, and finds kingdom which derives its original from the sun. it impossible to keep his eyes open. Turning to Upon opening the Chinese history, I there behold another part of the temple, I perceived a young an ancient extended empire, established by laws lady just in the same circumstances and attitude: which nature and reason seem to have dictated, Strange! cried I, can she too have over-eaten her- The duty of children to their parents, a duty which self? O fie! replied my friend, you now grow nature implants in every breast, forms the strength censorious. She grow drowsy from eating too of that government, which has subsisted for time much! that would be a profanation! She only immemorial. Filial obedience is the first and greatsleeps nou from haring sat up all night at a brag est requisite of a state; by this we become good party. Turn me where I will then, says ), I can subjects to our emperors, capable of behaving with perceive no single symptom of devotion among the just subordination to our superiors, and grateful worshippers, except from that old woman in the dependants on Heaven: by this we become fonder corner, who sits groaning behind the long sticks of marriage, in order to be capable of exacting of a mourning fan; she indeed seems greatly edi-obedience from others in onr turn; by this we befied with what she hears. Ay, replied my friend, come good magistrates; for varly submission is the I knew we should find some to catch you; I know truest lesson to those who would learn to rule. By her; that is the deaf lady who lives in the clois- this the whole state may be said to resenible one ters.

family, of which the emperor is the protector, In short, the remissness of behaviour in almost all father, and friend. the worshippers, and some even of the guardians, In this happy region, sequestered from the rest struck me with surprise. I had been taught to be- of mankind, I see a succession of princes who in lieve that none were ever promoted to offices in the general considered themselves as the fathers of their temple, but men remarkable for their superior people; a race of philosophers who bravely comsanctity, learning, and rectitude; that there was bated idolatry, prejudice, and tyranny, at the exno such thing heard of, as persons being introduced pense of their private happiness and immediate into the church merely to oblige a senator, or pro- reputation. Whenever a usurper or a tyrant invide for the younger branch of a noble family: I truded into the administration, how have all the expected, as their minds were continually set upon good and great been united against him! Can Euheavenly things, to see their eyes directed there ropean history produce an instance like that of the also; and hoped, from their behaviour, to perceive twelve mandarines, who all resolved to apprize the their inclinations corresponding with their duty. vicious emperor Tisiang of the irregularity of his But I am since informed, that some are appointed conduct? He who first undertook the dangerous to preside over temples they never visit; and, task was cut in two by the emperor's order; the while they receive all the money, are contented second was ordered to be tormented, and then put with letting others do all the good. Adieu. to a cruel death: the third undertook the task with

intrepidity, and was instantly stabbed by the ty.

rant's hand: in this manner they all suffered exLETTER XLII.

cept one. But not to be turned from his purpose, From Pum Moam, to Lien Chi Aliangi, the discontented the brave survivor, entering the palace with the Wanderer, by the way of Moscow.

instruments of torture in bis hand, Here, cried he, Must I ever continue to condemn thy persever- addressing himself to the throne, here, 0 Tisiang, ance, and blame that curiosity whiih destroys thy are the marks your faithful subjects receite fin their loyalty ; I am wearied with serving a tyrant, prey to those whom they had conquered. We see and now come for my reward. The emperor, those barbarians, when become Christians, engaged struck with his intrepidity, instantly forgave the in a continual war with the followers of Mahomet; boldness of his conduct, and reformed his own. or, more dreadful still, destroying each other. We What European annals can thus boast of a tyrant see councils in the earlier ages authorizing every thus reclaimed to lenity?

iniquity; crusades spreading desolation in the When five brethren had set upon the great em-country left, as well as that to be conquered; experor Ginsong alone, with his sabre he slew four communications freeing subjects from natural alleof them; he was stuggling with the fifth, when his giance, and persuading to sedition; blood flowing guards coming up were going to cut the conspi- in the fields and on scaffolds; tortures used as arator into a thousand pieces. No, no, cried the guments to convince the recusant; to heighten the emperor with a calm and placid countenance, of all horror of the piece, behold it shaded with wars, rehis brothers he is the only one remaining, at least bellions, treasons, plots, politics, and poison. let one of the family be suffered to lire, that his And what advantage has any country of Europe aged parents may have somebody left to feed and obtained from such calamities? Scarcely any. Their comfort them!

dissensions for more than a thousand years have When Haitong, the last emperor of the house served to make each other unhappy, but have enrichof Ming, saw himself besieged in his own city by ed none. All the great nations still nearly preserve the usurper, he was resolved to issue from his pa- their ancient limits; none have been able to subdue lace with six hundred of his guards, and give the the other, and so terminate the dispute. France, enemy battle; but they forsook him. Being thus in spite of the conquests of Edwari the Third and without hopes, and choosing death rather than to Henry the Fifth, notwithstanding the efforts of fall alive into the hands of a rebel, he retired to his Charles the Fifth and Philip the Second, still regarden, conducting his little daughter, an only mains within its ancient limits. Spain, Germany, child, in, his hand; there, in a private arbour, un- Great Britain, Poland, the States of the North, sheathing his sword, he stabbed the young inno- are nearly still the same. What effect then has cent to the heart, and then dispatched himself, leav- the blood of so many thousands, the destruction of ing the following words written with his blood on so many cities, produced? Nothing either great or the border of his vest: Forsaken by my subjects, considerable. The Christian princes have lost inabandoned by my friends, use my body as you deed much from the enemies of Christendom, but will, but spare, O spare my people !

they have gained nothing from each other. Their An empire which has thus continued invariably princes, because they preferred ambition to justice, the same for such a long succession of ages; wbich, deserve the character of enemies to mankind; and though at last conquered by the Tartars, still pre- their priests, by neglecting morality for opinion, serves its ancient laws and learning, and may more have mistaken the interests of society. properly be said to annex the dominions of Tartary On whatever side we regaril the history of Euto its empire, than to admit a foreign conguerer; anrope, we shall perceive it to be a tissue of crimes, empire as large as Europe, governed by one law, ac- follies, and misfortunes, of politics without design, knowledging subjection to one prince, and experi- and wars without consequence: in this long lisi of encing but one revolution of any continuance in the human infirmity, a great character, or a shining space of four thousand years; this is something so virtue, may sometimes happen to arise, as we often peculiarly great, that I am naturally led to despise all meet a cottage or a cultivated spot in the most other nations on the comparison. Here we see no bideous wilderness. But for an Alfred, an Alphionreligious persecutions, no enmity between man- so, a Frederick, or an Alexander III., we ineet a kind, for difference in opinion. The disciples of thousand princes who have disgraced humanity. Lao Kium, the idolatrous sectaries of Fohi, and the philosophical children of Confucius, only strive to show by their actions the truth of their doctrines.

Now turn from this happy, peaceful scene, to
Europe, the theatre of intrigue, avarice, and ambi-

From Lien Chi Aliang', to Fum foam, Firs. President of the tion. How many revolutions does it not experience

Ceremonial Academy at Pekin, in China. in the compass even of one age! and to what do these revolutions tend but the destruction of thou- We have just received accounts here, that Vol sands? Every great event is replete with some new taire, the poet and philosopher of Europe, is dead ! calamity. The seasons of serenity are passed over He is now beyond the reach of the thousand enein silence, their histories seem to speak only of the mies, who, while living, degraded his writings, and storin.

branded his character. Scarcely a page of his lat. There we see the Romans extending their pow- ter productions, that does not betray the agonies of er over barbarous nations, and in turn becoming ala heart bleeding under the scourge of unmerited pproach. Flappy, therefore,' at last in escaping| An inflexible perseverance in what he thought froin calumny; happy in leaving a world that was was right, and a generous detestation of Nattery, unworthy of him and his writings!

formed the groundwork of this great man's characLet others, my friend, bestrew the hearses of the ter. From these principles many strong virtues great with panegyric; but such a loss as the world and few faults arose : as he was warm in his friendhas now suffered, affects me with stronger emo- ship, and severe in his resentment, all that mention tions. When a philosopher dies, I consider my-him seem possessed of the same qualities, and self as losing a patron, an instructor, and a friend. speak of him with rapture or detestation. A perI consider the world losing one who might serve to son of his eminence can have few indifferent as to console her amidst the desolations of war and am- his character; every rcader must be an enemy or bition. Nature every day produces in abundance an admirer. men capable of filling all the requisite duties of au- This poct began the course of glory so early as thority; but she is niggard in the birth of an exalt- the age of eighteen, and even then was author of a ed mind, scarcely producing in a century a single tragedy which deserves applause. Possessed of a genius to bless and enlighten a degenerate age. small patrimony, he preserved his independence in Prodigal in the production of kings, governors, an age of venality, and supported the dignity of mandarines, chams, and courtiers, she seems to learning, by teaching his contemporary writers to have forgotten, for more than three thousand years, live like him above the favours of the great. He the manner in which she once formed the brain of was banished his native country for a satire upon a Confucius; and well it is she has forgotten, when the royal concubine. He had accepted the place a bad world gave him so very bad a reception. of historian to the French king, but refused to keep

Whence, my friend, this malevolence which has it, when he found it was presented only in order ever pursued the great even to the tomb? whence that he should be the first flatterer of the state. this more than tiend-like disposition of embittering The great Prussian received him as an ornathe lives of those who would make us more wise ment to his kingdom, and had sense enough to and more happy?

value his friendship, and profit by his instructions. When I cast my eye over the fates of several In this court he continued till an intrigue, with philosophers, who have at different periods enlight- which the world seems hitherto unacquainted, obened mankind, I must confess it inspires me with liged him to quit that country. His own happiness, the most degrading reflections on humanity. When the happiness of the monarch, of his sister, of a I read of the stripes of Mentius, the tortures of part of the court, rendered his departure neces. Tchin, the bowl of Socrates, and the bath of Sene- sary. ca ; when I hear of the persecutions of Dante, the imprisonment of Galileo, the indignities suffered the great, he retired to Switzerland, a country of

Tired at length of courts, and all the follies of by Montaigne, the banishment of Cartesius, the

liberty, where he enjoyed tranquillity and the muse. infamy of Bacon, and that even Locke himself escaped not without reproach ; when I think on such himself, he usually entertaiyed at his table the

Here, though without any taste for magnificence subjects, I hesitate whether most to blame the ig- learned and polite of Europe, who were attracted norance or the villany of my fellow-creatures. Should you look for the character of Voltaire received so much satisfaction. The entertainment

by a desire of seeing a person from whom they had among the journalists and illiterate writers of the

was conducted with the utmost elegance, and the age, you will there find him characterized as a

conversation was that of philosophers. Every monster, with a head turned to wisdom, and a heart inclining to vice; the powers of his mind and the his peculiar favourite. The being an Englishman

country that at once united liberty and science, was baseness of his principles forming a detestable con

was to him a character that claimed admiration trast. But seek for his character among writers like himself, and you find him very differently described. You perceive him, in their accounts,

Between Voltaire and the disciples of Confucius, possessed of good-nature, humanity, greatness of there are many differences; however, being of a soul

, fortitude, and almost every virtue; in this different opinion does not in the least diminish my description, those who might be supposed best ac- esteem: I am not displeased with my brother, bequainted with his character are unanimous. The cause he happens to ask our father for favours in a coyal Prussian,* d'Argents, Diderot, I d'Alembert, different manner from me. Let his errors rest in and Fontenelle, conspire, in drawing the picture, peace, his excellencies deserve admiration; let me in describing the friend of man, and the patron of with the wise admire his wisdom; let the envious every rising genius.

and the ignorant ridicule his foibles: the folly of

others is ever most ridiculous to those who are Philosophe sans souci + Let. Chin. Encyclopich themselves niost foolish. Adicu.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

and respect.

[ocr errors][merged small]

of happiness, that can be applied with propriety to LETTER XLIV.

every condition of life. The man of pleasure, the

man of business, and the philosopher, are equally From Lien Chi Altangi to Hingpo, a Slave in Persia.

interested in its disquisition. If we do not find It is impossible to form a philosophic system of happiness in the present moment, in what shall we happiness, which is adapted to every condition in find it? either in reflecting on the past, or prognozlife, since every person who travels in this great ticating the future. But let us see how these are pursuit takes a separate road. The differing colours capable of producing satisfaction. which suit different complexions, are not more A remembrance of what is past, and an anticivarious than the different pleasures appropriated to pation of what is to come, seem to be the two faculdifferent minds. The various sects who have pre- ties by which man differs most from other animals. tended to give lessons to instruct me in happiness, Though brutes enjoy them in a limited degree, yet have described their own particular sensations their whole life seems taken up in the present, rewithout considering ours, have only loaded their gardless of the past and the future. Man, on the disciples with constraint, without adding to their contrary, endeavours to derive his happiness, and real felicity.

experiences most of his miseries, from these two If I find pleasure in dancing, how ridiculous sources. would it be in me to prescribe such an amusement Is this superiority of reflection a prerogative of for the entertainment of a cripple: should he, on which we should boast, and for which we should the other hand, place his chief delight in painting, thank nature; or is it a misfortune of which we yet would he be absurd in recommending the same should complain and be humble? Either from the relish to one who had lost the power of distinguish- abuse, or from the nature of things, it certainly ing colours. General directions are, therefore, com- makes our condition more iniserable. monly useless: and to be particular would exhaust Had we a privilege of calling up, by the power volumes, since each individual may require a par- of memory, only such passages as were pleasing, ticular system of precepts to direct his choice. unmixed with such as were disagreeable, we might

Every mind seems capable of entertaining a cer- then excite at pleasure an ideal happiness, per. tain quantity of happiness, which no institutions haps more poignant than actual sensation. But can increase, no circumstances alter, and entirely, this is not the case: the past is never represented independent of fortune. Let any man compare his without some disagreeable circumstance, which present fortune with the past, and he will probably tarnishes all its beauty; the remembrance of an evil find himself, upon the whole, neither better nor carries in it nothing agreeable, and to remember a worse than formerly.

good is always accompanied with regret. Thus Gratified ambition, or irreparable calamity, may we lose more than we gain by the remembrance. produce transient sensations of pleasure or distress. And we shall find our expectation of the future Those storms may discompose in proportion as to be a gift more distressful even than the forner. they are strong, or the mind is pliant to their im- To fear an approaching evil is certainly a most pression. But the soul, though at first lifted up disagreeable sensation : and in expecting an apby the event, is every day operated upon with di- proaching good, we experience the inquietude o minished influence, and at length subsides into the wanting actual possession. level of its usual tranquillity. Should some unex- Thus, whichever way we look, the prospect is pected turn of fortune take thee from fetters, and disagreeable. Behind, we have left pleasures we place thee on a throne, exultation would be natural shall never more enjoy, and therefore regret; anu upon the change; but the temper, like the face, before, we see pleasures which we languish to poswould soon resume its native serenity.

sess, and are consequently uneasy till we possess Every wish, therefore, which leads us to expect them. Was there any method of seizing the prehappiness somewhere else but where we are, every sent, unembittered by such reflections, then would institution which teaches us that we should be bet- our state be tolerably easy. ter by being possessed of something new, which This, indeed, is the endeavour of all mankind, promises to lift us a step higher than we are, only who, untutored by pliilosophy, pursue as much as lays a foundation for uneasiness, because it con- they can a life of amusement and dissipation, tracts debts which we can not repay; it calls that Every rank in life, and every size of understanda good, which, when we have found it, will, in fact, ing, seems to follow this alone; or not pursuing , add nothing to our happiness.

deviates from happiness. The man of pleasure To enjoy the present, without regret for the past pursues dissipation by profession; the man of busior solicitude for the future, has been the advice ra- ness pursues it not less, as every voluntary labour ther of poets than philosophers. And yet the pre- he undergoes is only dissipation in disguise. The cept seems more rational than is generally imagined. philosopher himself, even while he reasons upon the It is the only general precept respecting the pursuit subject, does it unknowingly, with a view of dissi


pating the thoughts of what he was, or what he which makes the uneasiness and misery of others must be.

serves as a companion and instructor to him. The subject therefore comes to this: which is In a word, positive happiness is constitutional, the most perfect sort of dissipation-pleasure, busi- and incapable of increase; misery is artificial, and ness, or philosophy? Which best serves to exclude generally proceeds from our folly. Philosophy can those uneasy sensations which memory or antici- add to our happiness in no other manner, but by pation produce ?

diminishing our misery: it should not pretend to The enthusiasm of pleasure charms only by in- increase our present stock, but make us economists tervals. The highest rapture lasts only for a mo- of what we are possessed of. The great source of ment; and all the senses seem so combined as to calamity lies in regret or anticipation; he, therefore, be soon tired into languor by the gratification of is most wise, who thinks of the present alone, reany one of them. It is only among the poets we gardless of the past or the future. This is imposhear of men changing to one delight, when satiated sible to the man of pleasure; it is difficult to the with another. In nature it is very different: the man of business; and is in some measure attainable glutton, when sated with the full meal, is unquali- by the philosopher. Happy were we all born fied to feel the real pleasure of drinking; the drunk- philosophers, all born with a talent of thus dissi. ard in turn finds few of those transports which pating our own cares, by spreading them upon all lovers boast in enjoyment; and the lover, when mankind! Adieu. cloyed, finds a diminution of every other appetite. Thus, after a full indulgence of any one sense, the man of pleasure finds a languor in all, is placed in a chasm between past and expected enjoyment,

LETTER XLV. perceives an interval which must be filled up. The present can give no satisfaction, because he has From Lien Chi Altangi

, to Fum Hoam, First President of the

Ceremonial Academy at Pekin, in China already robbed it of every charm: a mind thus left without immediate employment, naturally recurs Though the frequent invitations I receive from to the past or future; the reflector finds that he was men of distinction here might excite the vanity of happy, and knows that he can not be so now; he some, I am quite mortified, however, when I consees that he may yet be happy, and wishes the hour sider the motives that inspire their civility. I am was come: thus every period of his continuance is sent for not to be treated as a friend, but to satisfy miserable, except that very short one of immediate curiosity; not to be entertained so much as wondergratification. Instead of a life of dissipation, none at; the same earnestness which excites them to has more frequent conversations with disagreeable see a Chinese, would have made them equally self than he; his enthusiasms are but few and proud of a visit from the rhinoceros. transient; his appetites, like angry creditors, con- From the highest to the lowest, this people seem tinually making fruitless demands for what he is fond of sights and monsters. I am told of a person unable to pay; and the greater his former pleasure, here who gets a very comfortable livelihood by the more strong his regret, the more impatient his making wonders, and then selling or showing them expectations. A life of pleasure is therefore the to the people for money; no matter how insigni. most unpleasing life in the world.

ficant they were in the beginning, by locking them Habit has rendered the man of business more up close, and showing for money, they soon becool in his desires; he finds less regret for past come prodigies! His first essay in this way was pieasures, and less solicitude for those to come. to exhibit himself as a wax-work figure behind a The life he now leads, though tainted in some glass door at a puppet-show. Thus, keeping the measure with hope, is yet not afflicted so strongly spectators at a proper distance, and having his head with regret, and is less divided between short-lived adorned with a copper crown, he looked extremely rapture and lasting anguish. The pleasures he natural, and very like the life itself. He continued has enjoyed are not so vivid, and those he has to this exhibition with success, till an involuntary fit expect can not consequently create so much anxiety. of sneezing brought him to life before all the spece

The philosopher, who extends his regard to all tators, and consequently rendered him for that time mankind, must still have a smaller concern for what as entirely useless as the peaceable inhabitant of a has already affected, or may hereafter affect him- catacomb. self: the concerns of others make his whole study, Determined to act the statue no more, he next and that study is his pleasure; and this pleasure is levied contributions under the figure of an Indian continuing in its nature, because it can be changed king; and by painting his face, and counterfeiting at will, leaving but few of these anxious intervals the savage howl, he frighted several ladies and which are employed in remembrance or anticipa- children with amazing success: in this manner, lion. The philosopher loy this means leads a life therefore, he might have lived very comfortably, of almost continued dissipation; and reflection, I had he not been arrested for a debt that was con

« AnteriorContinuar »