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our own. In our opinion, notwithstanding Other critics contradict the fulminations their fame throughout the rest of Europe, of this tribunal, call them all spiders, the French are the most contemptible rea- and assure the public, that they ought to soners (we had almost said writers) that can laugh without restraint. Another set are be imagined. However, nevertheless, ex- in the meantime quietly employed in cepting,” &c. Another English writer, writing notes to the book, intended to Shaftesbury, if I remember, on the con- show the particular passages to be laughed trary, says that the French authors are at : when these are out, others still there pleasing and judicious, more clear, more are who write notes upon notes : thus a methodical and entertaining, than those single new book employs not only the of his own country.
paper-makers, the printers, the pressmen, From these opposite pictures you per- the bookbinders, the hawkers, but twenty ceive that the good authors of either critics, and as many compilers. In short, country praise, and the bad revile, each the body of the learned may be compared other; and yet, perhaps, you will be sur- to a Persian army, where there are many prised that indifferent writers should thus pioneers, several sutlers, numberless serbe the most apt to censure, as they have vants, women and children in abundance, the most to apprehend from recrimination: and but few soldiers.-Adieu. you may, perhaps, imagine, that such as are possessed of fame themselves should
LETTER XXI. be most ready to declare their opinions,
To the same. since what they say might pass for decision. But the truth happens to be, The English are as fond of seeing plays that the great are solicitous only of raising acted as the Chinese; but there is a vast their own reputations, while the opposite difference in the manner of conducting class, alas ! are solicitous of bringing them. We play our pieces in the open every reputation down to a level with air, the English theirs under cover; we their own.
act by daylight, they by the blaze of torches. But let us acquit them of malice and One of our plays continues eight or ten envy. A critic is often guided by the days successively; an English piece seldom same motives that direct his author: the takes up above four hours in the represenauthor endeavours to persuade us, that he tation. has written a good book; the critic is My companion in black, with whom I equally solicitous to show that he could am now beginning to contract an intimacy, write a better had he thought proper. A introduced me a few nights ago to the playcritic is a being possessed of all the house, where we placed ourselves con. vanity, but not the genius, of a scholar : veniently at the foot of the stage. As the incapable, from his native weakness, of curtain was not drawn before my arrival, lifting himself from the ground, he applies I had an opportunity of observing the to contiguous merit for support ; makes behaviour of the spectators, and indulging the sportive sallies of another's imagina- those reflections which novelty generally tion his serious employment; pretends to inspires. take our feelings under his care; teaches The richest in general were placed in the where to condemn, where to lay the em- lowest seats, and the poor rose above them phasis of praise; and may with as much in degrees proportioned to their poverty. justice be called a man of taste as the The order of precedence seemed here in. Chinese who measures his wisdom by verted; those who were undermost all the the length of his nails.
day, now enjoyed a temporary eminence, If, then, a book, spirited or humorous, and became masters of the ceremonies. happens to appear in the republic of It was they who called for the music, inletters, several critics are in waiting to bid dulging every noisy freedom, and testifying the public not to laugh at a single line of all the insolence of beggary in exaltation. it; for themselves had read it, and they They who held the middle region seemed know what is proper to excite laughter. not so riotous as those above them, nor yet so tame as those below : to judge by at the submission of the actress, who their looks, many of them seemed strangers should have considered herself as a queen, there as well as myself; they were chiefly as at the little discernment of the audience employed, during this period of expecta- who gave her such marks of applause betion, in eating oranges, reading the story fore she attempted to deserve them. Pre. of the play, or making assignations. liminaries between her and the audience
Those who sat in the lowest rows, which being thus adjusted, the dialogue was supare called the pit, seemed to consider them- ported between her and a most hopeful selves as judges of the merit of the poet youth, who acted the part of her confidant. and the performers; they were assembled They both appeared in extreme distress, partly to be amused, and partly to show for it seems the queen had lost a child some their taste; appearing to labour under that fifteen years before, and still kept its dear restraint which an affectation of superior resemblance next her heart, while her kind discernment generally produces. My com- companion bore a part in her sorrows. panion, however, informed me, that not Her lamentations grew loud; comfort one in a hundred of them knew even the is offered, but she detests the very sound : first principles of criticism; that they as- she bids them preach comfort to the winds. sumed the right of being censors because Upon this her husband comes in, who, there was none to contradict their preten- seeing the queen so much afflicted, can sions; and that every man who now called himself hardly refrain from tears, or avoid himself a connoisseur, became such to all partaking in the soft distress. After thus intents and purposes,
grieving through three scenes, the curtain Those who sat in the boxes appeared in dropped for the first act. the most unhappy situation of all. The "Truly,” said I to my companion, “these rest of the audience came merely for their kings and queens are very much disturbed own amusement; these, rather to furnish at no very great misfortune: certain I am, out a part of the entertainment themselves. were people of humbler stations to act I could not avoid considering them as in this manner, they would be thought acting parts in dumb show-not a curtsey divested of common sense.
I had scarce or nod that was not the result of art; finished this observation, when the curtain not a look nor a smile that was not de- rose, and the king came on in a violent signed for murder. Gentlemen and ladies passion. His wife had, it seems, refused ogled each other through spectacles; for his proffered tenderness, had spurned his my companion observed, that blindness royal embrace, and he seemed resolved not was of late become fashionable; all affected to survive her fierce disdain. After he indifference and ease, while their hearts at had thus fretted, and the queen had fretted the same time burned for conquest. Upon through the second act, the curtain was the whole, the lights, the music, the ladies let down once more. in their gayest dresses, the men with cheer- Now,” says my companion, “you fulness and expectation in their looks, all perceive the king to be a man of spirit; conspired to make a most agreeable pic- he feels at every pore: one of your phleyture, and to fill a heart that sympathises matic sons of clay would have given the at human happiness with inexpressible queen her own way, and let her come to serenity.
herself by degrees; but the king is for The expected time for the play to begin immediate tenderness, or instant death : at last arrived; the curtain was drawn, death and tenderness are leading passions and the actors came on. A woman, who of every modern buskined hero; this personated a queen, came in curtseying moment they embrace, and the next stab, to the audience, who clapped their hands mixing daggers and kisses in every period.' upon her appearance. Clapping of hands I was going to second his remarks, when is, it seems, the manner of applauding in my attention was engrossed by a new England; the manner is absurd, but every object; a man came in balancing a straw country, you know, has its peculiar absur- upon his nose, and the audience were dities. I was equally surprised, however, clapping their hands in all the raptures of applause.“ To what purpose,” cried I, crown will fit his head better than that of "does this unmeaning figure make his ap- her husband, whom she knows to be a pearance? is he a part of the plot?”. driveller. The king discovers her design,
Unmeaning do you call him?" replied, and here comes on the deep distress; he my friend in black; “this is one of the loves the queen, and he loves the kingmost important characters of the whole dom; he resolves, therefore, in order to play; nothing pleases the people more possess both, that her son must die. The than seeing a straw balanced: there is a queen exclaims at his barbarity, is frantic great deal of meaning in a straw: there is with rage, and at length, overcome with something suited to every apprehension sorrow, falls into a fit; upon which the in the sight; and a fellow possessed of curtain drops, and the act is concluded. talents like these is sure of making his “Observe the art of the poet,” cries my fortune.”
companion. “When the queen can say The third act now began with an actor no more, she falls into a fit. While thus who came to inform us that he was the her eyes are shut, while she is supported villain of the play, and intended to show in the arms of her Abigail, what horrors strange things before all was over. He do we not fancy! We feel it in every was joined by another who seemed as nerve: take my word for it, that fits are much disposed for mischief as he; their the true aposiopesis of modern tragedy." intrigues continued through this whole The fifth act began, and a busy piece it division. “ If that be a villain,” said I, was. Scenes shifting, trumpets sounding, "he must be a very stupid one to tell his mobs hallooing, carpets spreading, guards secrets without being asked; such soli- bustling from one door to another; gods, loquies of late are never admitted in demons, daggers, racks, and ratsbane. China.”
But whether the king was killed, or the The noise of clapping interrupted me queen was drowned, or the son was poionce more; a child of six years old was soned, I have absolutely forgotten. learning to dance on the stage, which gave When the play was over, I could not the ladies and mandarines infinite satisfac- avoid observing, that the persons of the tion. "I am sorry," said I, “to see the drama appeared in as much distress in the pretty creature so early learning so bad a first act as the last. How is it possible," trade; dancing being,' I presume, as con- said I, “to sympathise with them through temptible here as in China.' Quite five long acts! Pity is but a short-lived the reverse,” interrupted my companion; passion. I hate to hear an actor mouth" dancing is a very reputable and genteel ing trifles : neither startings, strainings, employment here; men have a greater nor attitudes, affect me, unless there be chance for encouragement from the merit cause : after I have been once or twice of their heels than their heads. One who deceived by those unmeaning alarms, my jumps up and flourishes his toes three heart sleeps in peace, probably unaffected times before he comes to the ground, may by the principal distress. There should have three hundred a year: he who fou be one great passion aimed at by the actor rishes them four times, gets four hundred; as well as the poet; all the rest should be but he who arrives at five is inestimable, subordinate, and only contribute to make and may demand what salary he thinks that the greater; if the actor, therefore, proper. The female dancers, too, are exclaims upon every occasion, in tones of valued for this sort of jumping and cross- despair, he attempts to move us too soon; ing; and it is a cant word amongst them, he anticipates the blow, he ceases to that she deserves most who shows highest. affect, though he gains our applause. But the fourth act is begun; let us be I scarce perceived that the audience attentive.”
were almost all departed; wherefore, In the fourth act the queen finds her mixing with the crowd, my companion long lost child, now grown up into a youth and I got into the street, where, essaying of smart parts and great qualifications; an hundred obstacles from coach-wheels wherefore she wisely considers that the and palanquin poles, like birds in their
flight through the branches of a forest, tensive and desolate regions that border after various turnings, we both at length on the shores of the Aral lake. got home in safety. -Adieu.
Here he lived by hunting ; and was
obliged to supply every day a certain LETTER XXII.
proportion of the spoil, to regale his
savage masters. His learning, his virtues, From the same.
and even his beauty, were qualifications The letter which came by the way of that no way served to recommend him ; Smyrna, and which you sent me un- they knew no merit, but that of providing opened, was from my son. As I have large quantities of milk and raw flesh permitted you to take copies of all those and were sensible of no happiness but I sent to China, you might have made no that of rioting on the undressed meal. ceremony in opening those directed to Some merchants from Mesched, how
Either in joy or sorrow, my friend ever, coming to trade with the Tartars should participate in my feelings, It for slaves, he was sold among the numwould give pleasure to see a good man ber, and led into the kingdom of Persia, pleased at my success; it would give where he is now detained. He is there almost equal pleasure to see him sympa obliged to watch the looks of a volup, thise at my disappointment.
tuous and cruel master, a man fond of Every account I receive from the East pleasure, yet incapable of refinement, seems to come loaded with some new whom many years' service in war has affliction. My wife and daughter were taught pride, but not bravery. taken from me, and yet I sustained the That treasure which I still keep within loss with intrepidity ; my son is made a my bosom--my child, my all that was slave among the barbarians, which was left to
- is now a slave. Good the only blow that could have reached my heavens! why was this? Why have I heart: yes, I will indulge the transports been introduced into this mortal apartof nature for a little, in order to show I ment, to be a spectator of my own miscan overcome them in the end. True fortunes, and the misfortunes of my fel. magnanimity consists not in never falling, low-creatures? Wherever I turn, what a but in rising every time we fall.
labyrinth of doubt, error, and disappointWhen our mighty emperor had pub- ment appears! Why was I brought into lished his displeasure at my departure, being ? for what purposes made ? from and seized upon all that was mine, my whence have I come? whither strayed ? son was privately secreted from his resent- to what regions am I hastening ? ment. Under the protection and guardian. Reason cannot resolve. It lends a ray to ship of Fum Hoam, the best and the show the horrors of my prison, but not a wisest of all the inhabitants of China, he light to guide me to escape them. Ye was for some time instructed in the learn- boasted revelations of the earth, how ing of the missionaries, and the wisdom little do you aid the inquiry ! How am of the East. But hearing of my adven- I surprised at the inconsistency of the tures, and incited by filial piety, he was Magi! Their two principles of good and resolved to follow my fortunes, and share evil affright me. The Indian who bathes my distress.
his visage in urine, and calls it piety, He passed the confines of China in strikes me with astonishment. The Chrisdisguise, hired himself as a camel-driver tian who believes in three Gods is highly to a caravan that was crossing the deserts absurd. The Jews, who pretend that Deity of Thibet, and was within one day's is pleased with the effusion of blood, are journey of the river Laur, which divides not less displeasing. I am equally surthat country from India, when a body of prised, that rational beings can come wandering Tartars falling unexpectedly from the extremities of the earth, in upon the caravan, plundered it, and order to kiss a stone, or scatter pebbles. made those who escaped their first fury How contrary to reason are those ! and slaves. By those he was led into the ex: 1 yet all pretend to teach me to be happy.
Surely all men are blind and ignorant In other countries, the giver is generally of truth. Mankind wanders, unknowing influenced by the immediate impulse of his way, from morning till evening. pity; his generosity is exerted as much to Where shall we turn after happiness; or relieve his own uneasy sensations as to is it wisest to desist from the pursuit ?- comfort the object in distress. In EngLike reptiles in a corner of some stupen- land, benefactions are of a more general dous palace, we peep from our holes, look nature. Some men of fortune and uniabout us, wonder åt all we see, but are versal benevolence propose the proper ignorant of the great architect's design. objects; the wants and the merits of the Oh for a revelation of Himself, for a petitioners are canvassed by the people; plan of His universal system! Oh for neither passion nor pity find a place in the reasons of our creation; or why were the cool discussion ; and charity is then we created to be thus unhappy! If we only exerted when it has received the are to experience no other felicity but approbation of reason. what this life affords, then are we miser- A late instance of this finely directed able indeed ; if we are born only to look benevolence forces itself so strongly on about us, repine and die, then has Hea- my imagination, that it in a manner reven been guilty of injustice. If this life conciles me to pleasure, and once more terminates my existence, I despise the makes me the universal friend of man. blessings of Providence, and the wisdom The English and French have not only of the giver; if this life be my all, let political reasons to induce them to mutual the following epitaph be written on the hatred, but often the more prevailing tomb of Altangi :-BY MY FATHER's motive of private interest to widen the CRIMES I RECEIVED THIS; BY MY OWN breach. A war between other countries BEQUEATH
POS. is carried on collectively; army fights TERITY !
against army, and a man's own private
resentment is lost in that of the comLETTER XXIII.
munity : but in England and France, the
individuals of each country plunder each To the same.
other at sea without redress, and conYET, while I sometimes lament the case sequently feel that animosity against each of humanity, and the depravity of human other which passengers do at a robber. nature, there now and then appear gleams They have for some time carried on an of greatness that serve to relieve the eye expensive war; and several captives have oppressed with the hideous prospect, been taken on both sides : those made and resemble those cultivated spots that prisoners by the French have been used are sometimes found in the midst of an with cruelty, and guarded with unnecesAsiatic wilderness. I see many superior sary caution : those taken by the English, excellences among the English, which it being much more numerous, were conis not in the power of all their follies to fined in the ordinary manner ; and not hide : I see virtues, which in other coun- being released by their countrymen, began tries are known only to a few, practised to feel all those inconveniences which here by every rank of people.
arise from want of covering and long I know not whether it proceeds from confinement. their superior opulence that the English Their countrymen were informed of are more charitable than the rest of man. their deplorable situation; but they, more kind ; whether by being possessed of all intent on annoying their enemies than the conveniences of life themselves, they relieving their friends, refused the least have more leisure to perceive the uneasy assistance. The English now saw thou. situation of the distressed ; whatever be sands of their fellow-creatures starving in the motive, they are not only the most every prison, forsaken by those whose charitable of any other nation, but most duty it was to protect them, labouring judicious in distinguishing the properest with disease, and without clothes to keep objects of compassion,
off the severity of the season, Național