Слике страница
PDF
ePub

desolate region are the only untutored people of the globe that cultivate the

LETTER CIV. moral virtues, even without knowing that From Lien Chi Altangi to Fum Hoam, First their actions merit praise. I have been

President of the Ceremonial Academy at

Pekin in China. told surprising things of their goodness, benevolence, and generosity; and the Our scholars in China have a most prouninterrupted commerce between China found veneration for forms. A first-rate and Russia serves as a collateral confir- beauty never studied the decorums of dress mation,

with more assiduity ; they may properly “Let us,” says the Chinese lawgiver, enough be said to be clothed with wisdom “admire the rude virtues of the ignorant, from head to foot : they have their philoso. but rather imitate the delicate morals of phical caps, and philosophical whiskers ; the polite.” In the country where I reside, their philosophical slippers, and philosothough honesty and benevolence be not phical fans; there is even a philosophical so congenial, yet art supplies the place of standard for measuring the nails; and yet, nature. Though here every vice is carried with all this seeming wisdom, they are to excess, yet every virtue is practised also often found to be mere empty pretenders. with unexampled superiority. A city like A philosophical beau is not so frequent this is the soil for great virtues and great in Europe; yet I am told that such chavices: the villain can soon improve himself racters are found here. I mean such as in the deepest mysteries of deceiving; and punctually support all the decorums of the practical philosopher can every day learning without being really very promeet new incitements to mend his honest found, or naturally possessed of a fine intentions. There are no pleasures, sensual understanding; who labour hard to obtain or sentimental, which this city does not the titular honours attending literary merit, produce; yet, I know not how, I could not who flatter others in order to be flattered be content to reside here for life. There in turn, and only study to be thought is something so seducing in that spot in students. which we first had existence, that nothing A character of this kind generally but it can please. Whatever vicissitudes receives company in his study, in all the we experience in life, however we toil, pensive formality of slippers, night-gown, or wheresoever we wander, our fatigued and easy chair. The table is covered with wishes still recur to home for tranquillity: a large book, which is always kept open, we long to die in that spot which gave us and never read; his solitary hours being birth, and in that pleasing expectation find dedicated to dozing, mending pens, feeling an opiate for every calamity.

his pulse, peeping through the microscope, You now, therefore, perceive that I have and sometimes reading amusing books, some intentions of leaving this country.; which he condemns in company. His and yet my designed departure fills me library is preserved with the most religious with reluctance and regret. Though the neatness, and is generally a repository of friendships of travellers are generally more scarce books, which bear a high price, transient than vernal snows, still I feel an because too dull or useless to become uneasiness at breaking the connexions I common by the ordinary methods of have formed since my arrival; particularly, publication. I shall have no small pain in leaving my Such men are generally candidates for usual companion, guide, and instructor. admittance into literary clubs, academies,

I shall wait for the arrival of my son and institutions, where they regularly meet before I set out. He shall be my com- to give and receive a little instruction, and panion in every intended journey for the a great deal of praise. In conversation future; in his company I can support the they never betray ignorance, because they fatigues of the way with redoubled ardour, never seem to receive information. Offer pleased at once with conveying instruction, a new observation, they have heard it and exacting obedience. --Adieu. before; pinch them in argument, and they

reply with a sneer.

Yet, how trifling soever these little arts distinction unknown in France or England. may appear, they answer one valuable They have their Clarissimi and Præclapurpose, -of gaining the practisers the rissimi, their Accuratissimi and Minutis. esteem they wish for. The bounds of a simi. A round cap entitles one student man's knowledge are easily concealed, if to argue, and a square cap permits another he has but prudence; but all can readily to teach, while a cap with a tassel almost see and admire a gilt library, a set of long sanctifies the head it happens to cover. nails, a silver standish, or a well-combed But where true knowledge is cultivated, whisker, who are incapable of distinguish- these formalities begin to disappear. ing a dunce.

The ermine cowl, the solemn beard, and When Father Matthew, the first Euro- su oing train, are laid aside; philopean missionary, entered China, the court sophers dress, and talk, and think, like was informed that he possessed great skill other men; and lamb-skin dressers, and in astronomy; he was therefore sent for, cap-makers, and tail-carriers, now deplore and examined. The established astro

a literary age. nomers of state undertook this task, and For my own part, my friend, I have made their report to the Emperor that seen enough of presuming ignorance, never his skill was but very superficial, and no to venerate wisdom but where it actually way comparable to their own. The mis- appears. I have received literary titles and sionary, however, appealed from their distinctions myself; and, by the quantity judgment to experience, and challenged of my own wisdom, know how very little them to calculate an eclipse of the moon wisdom they can confer. -Adieu. that was to happen a few nights following. What !” said some, “ shall a barbarian

LETTER CV. without nails pretend to vie with men in

To the same.
astronomy who have made it the study of The time for the young king's coronation
their lives; with men who know half the approaches. The great and the little
knowable characters of words, who wear world look forward with impatience. A
scientifical caps and slippers, and who knight from the country, who has brought
have gone through every literary degree up his family to see and be seen on this
with applause?” They accepted the chal- occasion, has taken all the lower part of
lenge, confident of success. The eclipse the house where I lodge. His wife is
began : the Chinese produced a most laying in a large quantity of silks, which
splendid apparatus, and fifteen the mercer tells her are to be fashionable
minutes wrong; the missionary, with a next season; and miss, her daughter, has
single instrument, was exact to a second. actually had her ears bored previous to
This was convincing : but the court astro the ceremony. In all this bustle of pre-
nomers were not to be convinced; instead paration, I am considered as mere lumber,
of acknowledging their error, they assured and have been shoved up two stories
the Emperor that their calculations were higher, to make room for others my land-
certainly exact, but that the stranger with lady seems perfectly convinced are my
out nails had actually bewitched the moon. betters; but whom, before me, she is

Well, then,” cries the good Emperor, contented with only calling very good
smiling at their ignorance, “you shall still company.
continue to be servants of the moon, but The little Beau, who has now forced
I constitute this man her controller.” himself into my intimacy, was yesterday

China is thus replete with men whose giving me a most minute detail of the inonly pretensions to knowledge arise from tended procession. All men are eloquent external circumstances; and in Europe upon their favourite topic; and this seemed every country abounds with them in pro. peculiarly adapted to the size and turn of portion to its ignorance. Spain and his understanding. His whole mind was Flanders, who are behind the rest of blazoned over with a variety of glitterEurope in learning at least three centuries, ing images, --coronets, escutcheons, lace, have twenty literary titles and marks of fringe, tassels, stones, bugles, and spun

were

2

glass. Here,” cried he, “ Garter is to deity judging, and a trembling world walk; and there Rouge Dragon marches awaiting the decree, he has introduced a with the escutcheons on his back. Here merry mortal trundling a scolding wife to Clarencieux moves forward; and there hell in a wheelbarrow. Blue Mantle disdains to be left behind. My companion, who mistook my silence, Here the Aldermen march two and two; during this interval of reflection, for the and there the undaunted Champion of rapture of astonishment, proceeded to England, no way terrified at the very describe those frivolous parts of the show numerous appearance of gentlemen and that most struck his imagination; and to ladies, rides forward in complete armour, assure me, that if I stayed in this country and with an intrepid air throws down his some months longer, I should see fine glove. Ah!” continued he, “should any things. “For my own part,” continued be so hardy as to take up that fatal glove, he, “ I know already of fifteen suits of and so accept the challenge, we should clothes that would stand on one end with see fine sport; the Champion would show gold lace, all designed to be first shown him no mercy; he would soon teach him there; and as for diamonds, rubies, emeall his passes, with a witness. However, ralds, and pearls, we shall see them as I am afraid we shall have none willing to thick as brass nails in a sedan chair. And try it with him upon the approaching oc- then we are all to walk so majestically, casion, for two reasons, - first, because his thus; this foot always behind the foot antagonist would stand a chance of being before. The ladies are to fling nosegays; killed in the single combat; and, secondly, the court poets to scatter verses; the spec. because if he escapes the champion's arm, tators are to be all in full dress; Mrs. he would certainly be hanged for treason. Tibbs in a new sack, ruffles, and Frenched No, no; I fancy none will be so hardy as hair: look where you will, one thing finer. to dispute it with a champion like him, than another; Mrs. Tibbs curtsies to the inured to arms; and we shall probably Duchess; her Grace returns the complisee him prancing unmolested away, hold- ment with a bow. “Largess !' cries the ing his bridle thus in one hand, and herald. 'Make room !' cries the gentlebrandishing his dram-cup in the other.” man usher. • Knock him down ! cries

Some men have a manner of describing the guard. Ah!” continued he, amazed which only wraps the subject in more than at his own description, “what an astonishformer obscurity; thus I was unable, with ing scene of grandeur can art produce all my companion's volubility, to form a from the smallest circumstance, when it distinct idea of the intended procession. thus actually turns to wonder one man I was certain that the inauguration of a putting on another man's hat !” king should be conducted with solemnity I now found his mind was entirely set and religious awe; and I could not be upon the fopperies of the pageant, and persuaded that there was much solemnity quite regardless of the real meaning of in this description. “ If this be true, such costly preparations. Pageants," cried I to myself, “ the people of Europe says Bacon, are pretty things; but we surely have a strange manner of mixing should rather study to make them elegant solemn and fantastic images together; than expensive.” Processions, cavalcades, pictures at once replete with burlesque and all that fund of gay frippery furnished and the sublime. At a time when the out by tailors, barbers, and tirewomen, king enters into the most solemn compact mechanically influence the mind into venewith his people, nothing surely should ration. An emperor in his nightcap be admitted to diminish from the real would not meet with half the respect of majesty of the ceremony. A ludicrous an emperor with a glittering crown. Poli. image brought in at such a time throws tics resemble religion ; attempting to divest an air of ridicule upon the whole. It either of ceremony is the most certain someway resembles a picture I have seen, method of bringing either into contempt. designed by Albert Durer, where, amidst | The weak must have their inducements all the solemnity of that awful scene, a to admiration as well as the wise; and

it is the business of a sensible government have neither mentioned the dimensions to impress all ranks with a sense of sub- of a lord's cap, nor measured the length ordination, whether this be effected by a of a lady's tail. I know your delight is diamond buckle or a virtuous edict, a in minute description: and this I am un. sumptuary law or a glass necklace. happily disqualified from furnishing; yet,

This interval of reflection only gave my upon the whole, I fancy it will be no way companion spirits to begin his description comparable to the magnificence of our afresh; and, as a greater inducement to late Emperor Whangti's procession, when raise my curiosity, he informed me of the he was married to the moon, at which vast sums that were given by the spectators Fum Hoam himself presided in person. for places.. “ That the ceremony must -Adieu. be fine,” cries he,“ is very evident from the fine price that is paid for seeing it.

LETTER CVI. Several ladies have assured me, they

To the same. would willingly part with one eye rather than be prevented from looking on with It was formerly the custom here, when the other. Come, come,” continues he, men of distinction died, for their surviving • I have a friend, who, for my sake, will acquaintance to throw each a slight present supply us with places at the most reason into the grave. Several things of little able rates; I'll take care you shall not value were made use of for that purpose, be imposed upon; and he will inform you -perfumes, relics, spices, bitter herbs, of the use, finery, rapture, splendour, and camomile, wormwood, and verses. This enchantment of the whole ceremony, custom, however, is almost discontinued, better than I.”

and nothing but verses alone are now Follies often repeated lose their ab- lavished on such occasions; an oblation surdity, and assume the appearance of which they suppose may be interred with

His arguments were so often and the dead, without any injury to the living. so strongly enforced, that I had actually Upon the death of the great, therefore, some thoughts of becoming a spectator. the poets and undertakers are sure of emWe accordingly went together to bespeak ployment. While one provides the long a place; but guess my surprise when the cloak, black staff, and mourning coach, man demanded a purse of gold for a single the other produces the pastoral or elegy, seat! I could hardly believe him serious the monody or apotheosis. The nobility upon making the demand. Prithee, need be under no apprehensions, but die friend,” cried I, “after I have paid twenty as fast as they think proper,--the poet and pounds for sitting here an hour or two, undertaker are ready to supply them ; can I bring a part of the coronation back?” these can find metaphorical tears and No, sir."

-“ How long can I live family escutcheons at an hour's warning; upon it, after I have come away?”—“Not and when the one has soberly laid the long, sir.”—“Can a coronation clothe, body in the grave, the other is ready to feed, or fatten me?”—“Sir,” replied the fix it figuratively among the stars. man, you seem to be under a mistake; There are several ways of being poetiall that you can bring away is the pleasure cally sorrowful on such occasions. The of having it to say, that you saw the coro- bard is now some pensive youth of science, nation. “ Blast me!” cries Tibbs, “ if who sits deploring among the tombs; that be all, there is no need of paying for again, he is Thyrsis complaining in a circle

since I am resolved to have that of harmless sheep. Now Britannia sits pleasure, whether I am there or no !” upon her own shore, and gives a loose to

I am conscious, my friend, that this is maternal tenderness; at another time but a very confused description of the in- Parnassus, even the mountain Parnassus, tended ceremony. You may object, that gives way to sorrow, and is bathed in tears I neither settle rank, precedency, nor of distress. place; that I seem ignorant whether Gules But the most usual manner is this: walks before or behind Garter; that I Damon meets Menalcas, who has got a

reason.

that;

most gloomy countenance. The shepherd

Oh, were he born to bless mankind

In virtuous times of yore, asks his friend, whence that look of dis

Heroes themselves had fall'n behindtress? To which the other replies, that Wheneer he went before. Pollio is no more.

“If that be the case, How sad the groves and plains appear, then,” cries Damon, “let us retire to And sympathetic sheep; yonder bower at some distance off, where E'en pitying hills would drop a tearthe cypress and the jessamine add fragrance

If hills could learn to weep. to the breeze ; and let us weep alternately

His bounty in exalted strain for Pollio, the friend of shepherds, and

Each bard may well display ;

Since none implored relief in vainthe patron of every muse.

Ah !" re

That went relieved away. turns his fellow shepherd, “what think

And hark! I hear the tuneful throng you rather of that grotto by the fountain

His obsequies forbid : side? the murmuring stream will help to He still shall live, shall live as long

As ever dead man did. assist our complaints, and a nightingale on a neighbouring tree will join her voice

LETTER CVII. to the concert !”. When the place is thus

To the same. settled, they begin ; the brook stands still to hear their lamentations; the cows forget It is the most usual method in every to graze ; and the very tigers start from report, first to examine its probability, and the forest with sympathetic concern. By then act as the conjuncture may require. the tombs of our ancestors, my dear Fum, The English, however, exert a different I am quite unaffected in all this distress : spirit in such circumstances : they first act, the whole is liquid laudanum to my spirits; and when oo late, begin to examine. and a tiger of common sensibility has From a knowledge of this disposition, twenty times more tenderness than İ. there are several here, who make it their

But though I could never weep with business to frame new reports at every conthe complaining shepherd, yet I am some- venient interval, all tending to denounce times induced to pity the poet, whose trade ruin both on their contemporaries and their is thus to make demigods and heroes for posterity. This denunciation is eagerly a dinner. There is not in nature a more caught up by the public: away they fling dismal figure than a man who sits down to propagate the distress; sell out at one to premeditated flattery: every stanza he place, buy in at another, grumble at their writes tacitly reproaches the meanness of governors, shout in mobs, and, when they his occupation, till at last his stupidity have thus for some time behaved like fools, becomes more stupid, and his dulness sit down coolly to argue and talk wisdom, more diminutive.

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

to sink him the deeper.

There are some here who, I am told, On the Death of the Right Honourable

make a tolerable subsistence by the cre. Ye Muses, pour the pitying tear For Pollio snatched away ;

dulity of their countrymen. As they find Oh, had he lived another year

the people fond of blood, wounds, and He had not died to-day.

death, they contrive political ruins suited

« ПретходнаНастави »