Imágenes de páginas

You now, therefore, perceive that I have some new observation, they have heard it before, pinch intentions of leaving this country; and yet my de- them in argument, and they reply with a sneer. signed departure fills me with reluctance and re- Yet, how trifling soever these little arts may apgret. Though the friendships of travellers are pear, they answer one valuable purpose, of gaining generally more transient than vernal snows, still I the practisers the esteem they wish for. The feel an uneasiness at breaking the connexions I bounds of a man's knowledge are easily concealed, have formed since my arrival; particularly I shall if he has but prudence; but all can readily see and have no small pain in leaving my usual companion, admire a gilt library, a set of long nails, a silver guide, and instructor.

standish, or a well-combed whisker, who are incaI shall wait for the arrival of my son before I set pable of distinguishing a dunce. out. He shall be my companion in every intended When Father Matthew, the first European journey for the future ; in his company I can sup- missionary, entered China, the court was informed, port the fatigues of the way with redoubled ardour, that he possessed great skill in astronomy; he was pleased at once with conveying instruction and ex- therefore sent for, and examined. The established acting obedience. Adieu

astronomers of state undertook this task, and made their report to the emperor that his skill was but

very superficial, and no way comparable to their LETTER CIV.

own. The missionary, however, appealed from

their judgment to experience, and challenged them From Lien Chi Altangi to Fum Hoam, First President of the

to calculate an eclipse of the moon that was to hap Ceremonial Academy at Pekin, in China.

pen a few nights following. " What !" said some, Otr scholars in China have a most profound "shall a barbarian without nails pretend to vie veneration for forms. A first-rate beauty never with men in astronomy, who have made it the studied the decorums of dress with more assiduity; study of their lives; with men who know half of they may properly enough be said to be clothed with the knowable characters of words, who wear sciwisdom from head to foot; they have their philo-entifical caps and slippers, and who have gone sophical caps, and philosophical whiskers; their through every literary degree with applause?” They philosophical slippers, and philosophical fans; there accepted the challenge, confident of success. The is even a philosophical standard for measuring the eclipse began: the Chinese produced a most splennails; and yet, with all this seeming wisdom, they did apparatus, and were fifteen minutes wrong; are often found to be mere empty pretenders. the missionary, with a single instrument, was exact

A philosophical beau is not so frequent in En- to a second. This was convincing; but the court rope; yet I am told that such characters are found astronomers were not to be convinced; instead of here. I mean such as punctually support all the acknowledging their error, they assured the emdecorums of learning, without being really very peror that their calculations were certainly exach, profound, or naturally possessed of a fine under-but that the stranger without nails had actually standing who labour hard to obtain the titular bewitched the moon. “Well, then,” cries the honours attending literary merit, who flatter others good emperor smiling at their ignorance," you in order to be flattered in turn, and only study to shall still continue to be servants of the moon; but be thought students.

I constitute this man her controller." A character of this kind generally receives com- China is thus replete with men, whose only prepany in his study, in all the pensive formality of tensions to knowledge arise from external circumslippers, night-gown, and easy chair. The table is stances; and, in Europe, every country abounds covered with a large book, which is always kept with them in proportion to its ignorance. Spain open, and never read; his solitary hours being dedi- and Flanders, who are behind the rest of Europe cated to dozing, mending pens, feeling his pulse, in learning at least three centuries, have twenty peeping through the microscope, and sometimes literary titles and marks of distinction unknown in reading amusing books, which he condemns in France or England. They have their Clarissimi company. His library is preserved with the most and Præclarissimi, their Accuratissimi and Mireligious neatness, and is generally a repository of (nulissimi. A round cap entitles one student to scarce books, which bear a high price, because too argue, and a square cap permits another to teach, dull or useless to becone common by the ordinary while a cap with a tassel almost sanctifies the head methods of publication.

it happens to cover. But where true knowledge Such men are generally candidates for admit- is cultivated, these formalities begin to disappear tance into literary clubs, academies, and institu- The ermined cowl, the solemn beard, and sweeptions, where they regularly meet to give and receive ing train, are laid aside ; philosophers dress, and a little instruction, and a great deal of praise. In talk, and think, like other men; and lamb-skin conversation they never betray ignorance, because 'dressers, and cap-makers, and tail-carriers now shey never seem to receive information, Oller a deplore a literary age.

From the Same.

For my own part, my friend, I have seen enough! Some men have a manner of describing, which of presuming ignorance never to venerate wisdom only wraps the subject in more than former obscu but where it actually appears. I have received rity; thus I was unable, with all my companion's literary titles and distinctions myself; and, by the volubility, to form a distinct idea of the intended quantity of my own wisdom, know how very little procession. I was certain that the inauguration of wisdom they can confer. Adieu.

a king should be conducted with solemnity and religious awe; and I could not be persuaded, that

there was much solemnity in this description. “If LETTER CV.

this be true,” cried I to myself, "the people of Europe surely have a strange manner of mixing

solemn and fantastic images together; pictures at The time for the young king's coronation ap- once replete with burlesque and the sublime. At proaches. The great and the little world look a time when the king enters into the most solemn forward with impatience. A knight from the compact with his people, nothing surely should be country, who has brought up his family to see and admitted to diminish from the real majesty of the be seen on this occasion, has taken all the lower ceremony. A ludicrous image, brought in at such part of the house where I lodge. His wife is lay- a time, throws an air of ridicule upon the whole. ing in a large quantity of silks, which the mercer It soineway resembles a picture I have seen, detells her are to be fashionable next season ; and signed by Albert Durer, where, amidst all the somiss, her daughter, has actually had her ears bored lemnity of that awful scene, a deity judging, and a previous to the ceremony. In all this bustle of trembling world awaiting the decree, he has intropreparation I am considered as mere lumber, and duced a merry mortal trundling a scolding wife to have been shoved up two stories higher, to make hell in a wheel-barrow.” room for others 'my landlady seems perfectly con- My companion, who mistook my silence, during vinced are my betters, but whom, before me, she this interval of reflection, for the rapture of asis contented with only calling very good company. tonishment, proceeded to describe those frivolous

The little beau, who has now forced himself into parts of the show that most struck his imaginamy intimacy, was yesterday giving me a most mi- tion; and to assure me, that if I stayed in this nute detail of the intended procession. All men country some months longer, I should see fine are eloquent upon their favourite topic : and this things. “For my own part," contir seemed peculiarly adapted to the size and turn of know already of fifteen suits of clothes, that would his understanding. His whole mind was blazoned stand on one end with gold lace, all designed to be over with a variety of glittering images; coronets, first shown there ; and as for diamonds, rubies, escutcheons, lace, fringe, tassals, stones, bugles, emeralds, and pearls, we shall see them as thick as and spun glass. “Here,” cried be, "Garter is to brass nails in a sedan chair. And then we are walk; and there Rouge Dragon marches with the all to walk so majestically thus; this foot always escutcheons on his back. Here Clarencieux moves behind the fout before. 'i ne ladies are to fling forward ; and there Blue Mantle disdains to be nosegays; the court poets to scatter verses : the left behind. Here the alderman march two and spectators are to be all in full dress : Mrs. Tibbs two ; and there the undaunted champion of Eng. in a new sack, ruffles, and frenched hair : look land, no way terrified at the very numerous ap- where you will, one thing finer than another; pearance of gentlemen and ladies, rides forward in Mrs. Tibbs courtesies to the duchess; her grace complete armour, and with an intrepid air, throws returns the compliment with a bow. 'Largess,' down his glove. Ah !" continued he, "should any cries the herald. 'Make room,' cries the gentlebe so hardy as to take up that fatal glove, and so man usher. "Knock him down,' cries the guard, accept the challenge, we should see fine sport ; the Ah!" continued he, amazed at his own description, champion would show him no mercy; he would what an astonishing scene of grandeur can art soon teach him all his passes with a witness. How-produce from the smallest circumstance, when it ever, I am afraid we shall have none willing to try thus actually turns to wonder one man putting on it with him upon the approaching occasion, for another man's hat!" two reasons; first, because his antagonist wouk! I now found his mind was entirely set upon the stand a chance of being killed in the single combat; fopperies of the pageant, and quite regarlless of the and, secondly, because if he escapes the champion's real meaning of such costly preparations. “Paarm, he would certainly be hanged for treason. geants,” says Bacon, "are pretty things; but we No, no; 1 fancy none will be so hardly as to dis- should rather study to make them elegant than er. pute it with a champion like him inured to arms; pensive." Processions, avalcades, and all that and we shall probably see him prancing unmolest- fund of gay frippery, furnished out by tailors, barel away, holding his bridle thus in one hand, and bers, and tirewomen, mechanically influence the brandishing his dram-cup in the other." mind into veneration. An emperor in his night

he, “I

From the Same.

exp would not meet with half the respect of an em- the moon, at which Fum Hoam himself presided peror with a glittering crown. Politics resemble in person. Adieu. religion; attempting to divest either of ceremony is the most certain method of bringing either into contempt. The weak must have their inducements to admiration as well as the wise; and it is the bu

LETTER CVI. siness of a sensible government to impress all ranks with a sense of subordination, whether this be effected by a diamond buckle, or a virtuous edict, a

It was formerly the custom here, when men of sumptuary law, or a glass necklace,

distinction died, for their surviving acquaintance to This interval of reflection only gave my com- throw each a slight present into the grave. Several panion spirits to begin his description afresh; and, things of little value were made use of for that puras a greater inducement to raise my curiosity, he'pose ; perfumes, relics, spices, bitter herbs, camo informed me of the vast sums that were given by mile, wormwood, and verses. This custom, howthe spectators for places. “That the ceremony ever, is almost discontinued, and nothing but verses must be fine,” cries he, "is very evident from the alone are now lavished on such occasions; an ob. fine price that is paid for seeing it. Several ladies lation which they suppose may be interred with nave assured me, they would willingly part with the dead, without any injury to the living. one eye rather than be prevented from looking on

Upon the death of the great, therefore, the poets with the other. Come, come,” continues he, "I and undertakers are sure of employment. While have a friend, who, for my sake, will supply us one provides the long cloak, black staff, and mournwith places at the most reasonable rates; I'll take ing coach, the other produces the pastoral or elegy, care you shall not be imposed upon; and he will the monody or apotheosis. The nobility need be inform you of the use, finery, rapture, splendour, under no apprehensions, but die as fast as they and enchantment of the whole ceremony, better think proper, the poet and undertaker are ready to than I."

supply them; these can find metaphorical tears and Follies often repeated lose their absurdity, and family escutcheons at half an hour's warning; and assume the appearance of reason. His arguments when the one has soberly laid the body in the grave, were so often and so strongly enforced, that I had the other is ready to fix it figuratively among the actually some thoughts of becoming a spectator. stars

. We accordingly went together to bespeak a place; There are several ways of being poetically sor. but guess my surprise, when the man demanded rowful on such occasions. The bard is now some a purse of gold for a single seat! I could hardly pensive youth of science, who sits deploring among believe him serious upon making the demand.- the tombs ; again, he is Thyrsis complaining in a "Prithee, friend," cried I, “after I have paid twen- circle of harmless sheep. Now Britannia sits upon ty pounds for sitting here an hour or two, can I her own shore, and gives a loose to maternal tenbring a part of the coronation back ?—"No, sir."— derness; at another time, Parnassus, even the " How long can I live upon it, after I have come mountain Parnassus, gives way to sorrow, and is away?"_"Not long, sir."-"Can a coronation bathed in tears of distress. clothe, feed, or fatten me?"_"Sir," replied the But the most usual manner is thus : Damon man, you seem to be under a mistake; all that meets Menalcas, who has got a most gloomy counyou can bring away is the pleasure of having it to tenance. The shepherd asks his friend, whence say, that you saw the coronation."~" Blast me!" that look of distress? to which the other replies, cries Tibbs, “if that be all, there is no need of pay- that Pollio is no more. “If that be the case then," ing for that, since I am resolved to have that plea- eries Damon, "let us retire to yonder bower at some sure, whether I am there or no!"

distance off, where the cypress and the jessamine I am conscious, my friend, that this is but a very add fragrance to the breeze; and let us weep alterconfused description of the intended ceremony. nately for Pollio, the friend of shepherds, and the You may object, that I neither settle rank, pre-patron of every muse."-"Ah," returns his fellow cedency, nor place; that I seem ignorant whether shepherd, “what think you rather of that grotto Gules walks before or behind Garter; that I have by the fountain side! the murmuring stream will neither mentioned the dimensions of a lord's cap, help to assist our complaints, and a nightingale on nor measured the length of a lady's tail. I know a neighbouring tree will join her voice to the conyour delight is in minute description; and this I cert!" When the place is thus settled, they begin: am unhappily disqualified from furnishing: yet, the brook stands still to hear their lamentations ; upon the whole, I fancy it will be no way compa- the cows forget to graze; and the very tigers start rable to the magnificence of our late emperor from the forest with sympathetic concern. By the Whangti's procession, when he was married to tombs of our ancestors ! my dear Fum, I am quito

[ocr errors]

unaffected in all this distress: the whole is liquid From a knowledge of this disposition, there are so laudanum to my spirits; and a tiger of common veral here, who make it their business to frame new sensibility has twenty times more tenderness than I. reports at every convenient interval, all tending to

But though I could never weep with the com-denounce ruin both on their contemporaries and plaining shepherd, yet I am sometimes induced to their posterity. This denunciation is eagerly caught pity the poet, whose trade is thus to make demi- up by the public : away they fling to propagate the gods and heroes for a dinner. There is not in na-distress; sell out at one place, buy in at another, ture a more dismal figure than a man who sits grumble at their governors, shout in mobs, and down to premeditated flattery: every stanza he when they have thus for some time behaved like writes tacitly reproaches the meanness of his oc- fools, sit down coolly to argue and talk wisdom, to cupation, till at last his stupidity becomes more puzzle each other with syllogism, and prepare for stupid, and his dulness more diminutive. the next report that prevails, which is always at

I am amazed, therefore, that none have yet found tended with the same success. out the secret of flattering the worthless, and yet Thus are they ever rising above one report, only of preserving a safe conscience. I have often to sink into another. They resemble a dog in a wished for some method, by which a man might do well, pawing to get free. When he has raised his himself and his deceased patron justice, without upper parts above water, and every spectator imabeing under the hateful reproach of self-conviction. gines him disengaged, his lower parts drag him After long lucubration, I have hit upon such an down again, and sink him to the nose; he makes expedient: and send you the specimen of a poem new efforts to emerge, and every effort increasing upon the decease of a great man, in which the flat- his weakness, only tends to sink him the deeper. tery is perfectly fine, and yet the poet perfectly in- There are some here who, 1 am told, make a nocent.

tolerable subsistence by the credulity of their coun

trymen. As they find the people fond of blood, ON THE DEATH OF THE RIGHT HONOURABLE

wounds, and death, they contrive political ruins Ye muses, pour the pitying tear

suited to every month in the year. This month For Pollio snatch'd away:

the people are to be eaten up by the French in flatO, had he lived another year,

bottomed boats; the next, by the soldiers designed He had not died to-day.

to beat the French back. Now the people are go

ing to jump down the gulf of luxury; and now noO, were he born to bless mankind

thing but a herring subscription can fish them up In virtuous times of yore,

again. Time passes on; the report proves false; Heroes themselves had fallen behind, new circumstances produce new changes; but the Whene'er he went before.

people never change, they are persevering in folly. How sad the groves and plains appear,

In other countries, those boding politicians would

be left to fret over their own schemes alone, and And sympathetic sheep:

grow splenetic without hopes of infecting others: Even pitying hills would drop a tear,

but England seems to be the very region where If hills could learn to weep.

spleen delights to dwell; a man not only can give His bounty in exalted strain

an unbounded scope to the disorder in himself, but Each bard may well display

may, if he pleases, propagate it over the whole kingSince none implored relief in vain,

dom, with a certainty of success. He has only to That went relieved away.

cry out that the government, the government is all

wrong; that their schemes are leading to ruin; that And hark! I hear the tuneful throng Britons are no more ;-every good member of the His obsequies forbid :

commonwealth thinks it his duty, in such a case, He still shall live, shall live as long- to deplore the universal decadence with sympaAs ever dead man did.

thetic sorrow, and, by fancying the constitution in a decay, absolutely to impair its vigour.

This people would laugh at my simplicity,

should I advise them to be less sanguine in harLETTER CVII.

bouring gloomy predictions, and examine coolly before they attempted to complain, I have just

heard a story, which, though transacted in a priIt is the most usual method in every report, tirst vate family, serves very well to describe the behato examine its probability, and then act as the con- viour of the whole nation, in cases of threatened juncture may require. The English, however, calamity, As there are public, so there are privats exert a different spirit in such circumstances; they incendiaries here. One of the last, either for the first act, and, when too late, begin lo examine, amusement of his friends, or to divert a fit of the

From the Same

spleen, lately sent a threatening letter to a worthy |tives of commerce or piety; and their accounts are family in my neighbourhood, to this effect:- such as might reasonably be expected from men of

"Sir, -Knowing you to be very rich, and find- very narrow or very prejudiced education, the dicing myself to be very poor, I think proper to inform tates of superstition or the result of ignorance. ls you, that I have learned the secret of poisoning it not surprising, that in such a variety of advenman, woman, and child, without danger of detec-turers, not one single philosopher should be found? cion. Don't be uneasy, sir, you may take your for as to the travels of Gemelli, the learned are choice of being poisoned in a fortnight, or poisoned long agreed that the whole is but an imposture. in a month, or poisoned in six weeks:, you shall There is scarcely any country, how rude or unhave full time to settle all your affairs. Though I cultivated soever, where the inhabitants are not am poor, I love to do things like a gentleman. possessed of some peculiar secrets either in nature But, sir, you must die; I have determined it within or art, which might be transplanted with success. my own breast that you must die. Blood, sir, In Siberian Tartary, for instance, the natives exblood is my trade; so I could wish you would this tract a strong spirit from milk, which is a secret day six weeks take leave of your friends, wife, and probably unknown to the chemists of Europe. In family, for I can not possibly allow you longer time. the most savage parts of India, they are possessed To convince you more certainly of the power of of the secret of dyeing vegetable substances scarlet; my art, by which you may know I speak truth, and of refining lead into a metal, which, for hardtake this letter; when you have read it, tear off the ness and colour, is little inferior to silver: not one seal, fold it up, and give it to your favourite Dutch of which secrets but would, in Europe, make a mastiff that sits by the fire; he will swallow it, sir, man's fortune. The power of the Asiatics in pro like a buttered toast : in three hours four minutes ducing winds, or bringing down rain, the Europeafter he has eaten it, he will attempt to bite off his ans are apt to treat as fabulous, because they have own tongue, and half an hour after burst asunder no instances of the like nature among themselves; in twenty pieces. Blood, blood, blood! So no but they would have treated the secrets of gunmore at present from, sir, your most obedient, powder, and the mariner's compass, in the same most devoted humble servant to command, till manner, had they been told the Chinese used such death."

arts before the invention was common with themYou may easily imagine the consternation into selves at home. which this letter threw the whole good-natured Of all the English philosophers, I most reverence family. The poor man to whom it was addressed Bacon, that great and hardy genius! he it is who was the more surprised, as not knowing how he allows of secrets yet unknown; who, undaunted by could merit such inveterate malice. All the friends the seeming difficulties that oppose, prompts human of the family were convened; it was universally curiosity to examine every part of nature, and even agreed that it was a most terrible affair, and that exhorts man to try, whether he can not subject the the government should be solicited to offer a re- tempest, the thunder, and even earthquakes, to ward and a pardon : a fellow of this kind would go human control! O, did a man of his daring spirit, on poisoning family after family, and it was im- of his genius, penetration, and learning, travel to possible to say where the destruction would end. those conntries which have been visited only by in pursuance of these determinations, the govern- the superstitious and the mercenary, what might ment was applied to; strict search was made after not mankind expect! How would be enlighten the incendiary, but all in vain. At last, therefore, the regions to which he travelled! and what a they recollected that the experiment was not yet variety of knowledge and useful improvement tried upon the dog; the Dutch mastiff was brought would he not bring back in exchange! up, and placed in the midst of the friends and re- There is, probably, no country so barbarous, lations, the seal was torn off, the packet folded up that would not disclose all it knew, if it received with care, and soon they found, to the great sur from the traveller equivalent information; and I prise of all-that the dog would not eat the letter. am apt to think, that a person who was ready to Adieu.

give more knowledge than he received, would be welcome wherever he came. All his care in travelling should only be to suit his intellectual banquet

to the people with whom he conversed; he should LETTER CVIII.

not attempt to teach the unlettered Tartar astronomy, nor yet instruct the polite Chinese in the ruder

arts of subsistence. He should endeavour to im. I have frequently been amazed at the ignorance prove the barbarian in the secrets of living con of almost all the European travellers who have fortably; and the inhabitant of a more refined penetrated any considerable way eastward into country in the speculative pleasures of science, Asia. They have been influenced either by mo- How much more nobly would a philosopher thus

From the Same.

« AnteriorContinuar »