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scientific research : but in countries where almost every enjoyment is wanting, reason there seems destitute of its great inspirer, and speculation is the business of fools when it becomes its own reward. The barbarous Siberian is, too wise, therefore, to exhaust his time in quest of knowledge, which neither curiosity prompts nor pleasure impels him to pursue. When told of the exact admeasurement of a degree upon the equator at Quito, he feels no pleasure in the account; when informed that such a discovery tends to promote navigation and commerce, he finds himself no way interested in either. A discovery which some have pursued at the hazard of their lives, affects him with neither astonishment nor pleasure, He is satisfied with thoroughly understanding the few objects which contribute to his own felicity; he knows the properest places where to lay the snare for the sable, and discerns the value of furs with more than European sagacity. More extended knowledge would only serve to render him unhappy; it might lend a ray to show him the misery of his situation, but could not guide him in his effort to avoid it. Ignorance is the happiness of the poor. The misery of being endowed with sentiments above its capacity of fruition, is most admirably described in one of the fables of Locman, the Indian moralist. . “An elephant that had been peculiarly serviceable in fighting the battles of Wistnow, was ordered by the god to wish for whatever he thought proper, and the desire should be attended with immediate gratification. The elephant thanked his benefactor on bended knees, and desired to be endowed with the reason and faculties of a man. Wistnow was sorry to hear the foolish request, and endeavoured to dissuade him from his misplaced ambition; but finding it to no purpose, gave him at last such a portion of wisdom, as ould correct even the Zendavesta of Zoroaster. The reasoning elephant went away rejoicing in his new acquisition, and though his body still retained its ancient form, he found his appetites, and passions entirely altered. He first considered, that it would not only be more °omfortable, but also more becoming, to wear othes; but, unhappily he had no method of making them himself, nor had he the use of *Peech to demand them from others; and this was the first time he felt real anxiety. He *on perceived how much more elegantly men Were fed than he, therefore he began to loath housual food, and longed for those delicacies which adorn the tables of Princes; but here *in he found it impossible to be satisfied, !" though he could easily obtain flesh, yet hé "d it impossible to dress it in any degree of *tion. In short, every pleasure that contributed to the felicity of mankind, served on§ to render him more miserable, as he found himself utterly deprived of the power of enjoy* In this manner he led a repining, dis.
a modern philosopher of China.” “He who has begun his fortune by study, will certainly confirm it by perseverance. The love of books damps the passion for pleasure; and when his passion is once extinguished, life is then cheaply supported : thus a man being possessed of more than he wants, can never be subject to great disappointments, and avoids all those meannesses which indigence sometimes unavoidably produces. “There is unspeakable pleasure attending the life of a voluntary student. The first time I read an excellent book, it is to me just as if I had gained a new friend. When I read over a book I have perused before it resembles the meeting with an old one. We ought to lay hold of every incident in life for improvement, the trifling as well as the important. It is not one diamond alone which gives lustre to another: a common coarse stone is also employed for that purpose. Thus I ought to draw advantage from the irisults and contempt I meet with from a worthless fellow. His brutality ought to induce me to self-examination, and correct every blemish that may have given rise to his calumny. “Yet with all the pleasures and profits which are generally produced by learning, parents often find it difficult to induce their children to study. They often seem dragged to what wears the appearance of application. Thus, being dilatory in the beginning, all future hopes of eminence are entirely cut off. If they find themselves obliged to write two lines more polite than ordinary, their pencil then seems as heavy as a mill-stone, and they spend ten days in turning two or three periods with propriety. “These persons are most at a loss when a banquet is almost over ; the plate and the dice go round, that the number of little verses, which each is obliged to repeat, may be determined by chance. The booby, when it comes to his turn, appears quite stupid and insensible. The company divert themselves with his confusion; and sneers, winks, and whispers, are circulated at his expense. As for him, he opens a pair of large heavy eyes, stares at all about him, and even offers to join in the laugh, without ever considering himself as the burden of all their good-humour. “But it is of no importance to read much, except you be regular in your reading. If it be interrupted for any considerable time, it can never be attended with proper improvement. There are some who study for one day with intense application, and repose themselves for ten days after. But wisdom is a coquette, and must be courted with unabating assiduity. “It was a saying of the ancients, that a man
* A translation of this passage may also be seen in Dil Halde, vol. ii. fol. p. 4% and 58. of his extract wil; at least serve to show that fondness for humour which *ppears in the writings of the Chinese.
never opens a book without reaping some advantage by it, I say with them, that every book can serve to make us more expert, except romances, and these are no better than instruments of debauchery. . They are dangerous fictions, where love is the ruling passion. “The most indecent strokes there pass for turns of wit; intrigue and criminal liberties for gallantry and politeness. , Assignations, and even villany, are put in such strong lights, as may inspire even grown men with the strongest passion; how much more, therefore, ought the youth of either sex to dread them, whose reason is so weak, and whose hearts are so susceptible of passion ? “To slip in by a back-door, or leap a wall, are accomplishments that, when handsomely set off, enchant a young heart. . It is true, the plot is commonly wound up by a marriage, concluded with the consent of the parents, and adjusted by every ceremony prescribed by law. But as in the body of the work there are many passages, that ... good morals, overthrow laudable customs, violate the laws, and destroy the duties most essential to society, virtue is thereby exposed to the most dangerous attacks. “But, say some, the authors of these romances have nothing in view, but to represent vice punished, and virtue rewarded. Granted. But will the greater number of readers take notice of these punishments and rewards? Are not their minds.carried to something else? Can it be imagined that the art with which the author inspires the love of virtue, can overcome that crowd of thoughts which sway them to licentiousness . To be able to inculcate virtue by so leaky a vehicle, the author must be a philosopher of the first rank. But in our age, we can find but few first-rate philosophers. “Avoid such performances where vice assumes the face of virtue: seek wisdom and knowledge, without ever thinking you have found them. A man is wise, while he continues in the pursuit of wisdom ; but when he once fancies that he has found the object of his inquiry, he then becomes a fool. Learn to pursue virtue from the man that is blind, who never makes a step without first examining the ground with his staff. “The world is like a vast sea ; mankind like a vessel sailing on its tempestuous bosom. Our prudence is its sails, the sciences serve us for oars, good or bad fortune are the favourable or contrary winds, and judgment is the rudder: without this last the vessel is tossed by every billow, and will find shipwreck in every breeze. In a word, obscurity and indigence are the parents of vigilance and econo. my; vigilance and economy, of riches and honour ; riches and honour, of pride and luxury; pride and luxury, of impurity and idleness; and impurity and idleness again produce indigence and obcurity. Such are the revolutions of life.” Adieu.
FROM LIEN CHI ALTANGI, To FUM HOAM, FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE CEREMONIAL ACADEMY AT pekin IN CHINA.
..I FANCY the character of a poet is in every country the same; fond of enjoying the present, careless of the future, his conversation that of a man of sense, his actions those of a fool; of fortitude able to stand unmoved at the bursting of an earthquake, yet of sensibility to be affected by the breaking of a tea-cup ;—such is his character, which, considered in every light, is the very opposite of that which leads to riches. The poets of the West are as remarkable for their indigence as their genius, and yet, among the numerous hospitals designed to relieve the poor, I have heard of but one erected for the benefit of decayed authors. This was founded by Pope Urban VIII., and called the retreat of incurables, intimating, that it was equally impossible to reclaim the patients, who sued for reception, from poverty or from poetry. To be sincere, were I to send you an account of the lives of the western poets, either ancient or modern, I fancy yon would think me employed in collecting materials for a history of human wretchedness. Homer is the first poet and beggar of note among the ancients; he was blind, and sung his ballads about the streets; but it is observed, that his mouth was more frequently filled with verses than with bread, Plautus, the comic poet, was better off—he had two trades ; he was a poet for his diversion, and helped to turn a mill in order to gain a livelihood. Terence was a slave; and Boethius died in a jail. Amon the Italians, Paulo Borghese, almost as good a poet as Tasso, knew fourteen different trades, and yet died because he could get employment in none. Tasso himself, who had the most amiable character of all the poets, has often been obliged to borrow a crown from some friend, in order to pay for a month's subsistence; he has left us a pretty soanet, addressed to his cat, in which he begs the light of her eyes to write by, being too poor to afford himself a candle. Put Bentivoglio, poor Bentivoglio ! chiefly demands our pity. His comedies will last with the Italian language: he dissipated a noble fortune in acts of charity and benevolence; but, falling into misery in his old age, was refused to be admitted into an hospital which he himself had erected. Jil Spain, it is said, the great Cervantes died of hunger; and it is certain, that the famous Camoens ended his days in an hospital. If we turn to France, we shall there find •ven stronger instances of the ingratitude of the Public. Vaugelas, one of the politest writers, and one of the honestest men of his time, was ournamed the Owl, from his being obliged to keep within all day, and venture out only by
night, through fear of his creditors. His last will is very remarkable. After having bequeathed all his worldly substance to the discharging his debts, he goes on thus: “But, as there still may remain some creditors unpaid even after all that I have shall be disposed of in such a case it is my last will, that my body should be sold to the surgeons to the best advantage, and that the purchase should go to the discharging those debts which I owe to society; so that if I could not, while living, at least, when dead, I may be useful.” Cassander was one of the greatest geniuses of his time, yet all his merit could not procure him a bare subsistence. Being by degrees driven into a hatred of all mankind, from the little pity he found amongst them, he even ventured at last ungratefully to impute his calamities to Providence. In his last agonies, when the priest entreated him to rely on the justice of Heaven, and ask mercy from him that made him—“If God,” replies he, “has shown me no justice here, what reason have I to expect any from him hereafter 2". But being answered that a suspension of justice was no argument that should induce us to doubt of its reality—“Let me entreat you,” continued his confessor, “by all that is dear, to be reconciled to God, your father, your maker, and friend.”—“No,” replied the exasperated wretch, “you know the manner in which he left me to live; and (pointing to the straw on which he was stretched) you see the manner in which he leaves me to die l’’ But the sufferings of the poet in other countries is nothing, when compared to his distresses here; the names of Spenser, and Otway, Butler and Dryden, are every day mentioned as a national reproach: some of them lived in a state of precarious indigence, and others literally died of hunger. At present, the few poets of England no longer depend on the great for subsistence : they have now no other patrons but the public, and the public, collectively considered, is a good and a generous master. It is, indeed, too frequently mistaken as to the merits of every candidate for favour; but, to make amends, it is never mistaken long. A performance, indeed, may be forced for a time into reputation, but, destitute of real merit, it soon sinks; time, the touchstone of what is truly valuable, will soon discover the fraud, and an author should never arrogate to himself any share of success, till his works have been read at least ten years with satisfaction. A man of letters at present, whose works are valuable, is perfectly sensible of their value. Every polite member of the community, by buying what he writes, contributes to reward him. The ridicule, therefore, of living in a garret, might have been wit in the last age, but continues such no longer, because no longer true. A writer of real merit now may easily be rich, if his heart be set only on fortune; and for those who have no merit, it is but fit that such should remain in merited obscurity. He may now refuse an invitation to dinner, without fearing to incur his patron's displeasure, or to starve by remaining at home. He may now venture to appear in company with just such clothes as other men generally wear, and talk even to princes with all the conscious superiority of wisdom. Though he cannot boast of fortune here, yet he can bravely assert the dignity of independence. Adieu.
LETTER LXXXIV. FROM The SAME.
I HAVE interested myself so long in all the concerns of this people, that I am almost be. come an Englishman ; I now begin to read with pleasure of their taking towns or gaining battles, and secretly wish disappointment to all the enemies of Britain. Yet still my regard to mankind fills me with concern for their contentions. I could wish to see the disturbances of Europe once more amicably adjusted ; I am an enemy to nothing in this good world but war ; I hate fighting between rival states; I hate it between man and man; I hate fighting even between women I already informed you, that while Europe was at variance, we were also threatened from the stage with an irreconcilable opposition, and that our singing women were resolved to sing at each other to the end of the season. O my friend, those fears were just! They are not only determined to sing at each other to the end of the season, but what is worse, to sing the same song; and, what is still more insupportable, to make us pay for hearing, If they be for war, for my part, I should advise them to have a public congress, and there fairly squall at each other. What signifies sounding the trumpet of defiance at a distance, and calling in the town to fight their battles 2 I would have them come boldly into one of the most open and frequented streets, face to face, and there try their skill in quavering. However this may be, resolved I am that they shall not touch one single piece of silver more of mine. Though I have ears for music, thanks be to Heaven, they are not altogether ass's ears. What? Polly and the Pickpocket to night, Polly and the Pickpocket tomorrow night, and Polly and the Pickpocket again ' I want patience, I'll hear no more. My soul is out of tune; all jarring discord and confusion. Rest, rest, ye dear three clinking shillings in my pocket's bottom ; the music you make is more harmonious to my spirit, than catgut, rosin, or all the nightingales that ever chirruped in petticoats. But what raises my indignation to the greatest degree is, that this piping does not only pester ine on the stage, but is my punishment
in private conversation. What is it to me, whether the fine pipe of the one, or the great manner of the other be preferable 2 what care
I if one has a better top, or the other a nobler
bottom ? how am I concerned if one sings from the stomach, or the other sings with a snap 2 Yet paltry as these matters are, they make a subject of debate wherever I go; and this musical dispute, especially among the fair sex, almost always ends in a very unmusical altercation. Sure the spirit of contention is mixed with the very constitution of the people ! divisions among the inhabitants of other countries arise only from their higher concerns, but subjects the most contemptible are made an affair of party here ; the spirit is carried even into their an usernents. The very ladies, whose duty should seem to allay the impetuosity of the opposite sex, become themselves party champions, engage in the thickest of the fight, scold at each other, and show their courage, even at the expense of their lovers and their beauty. There are even a numerous set of poets who help to keep up the contention, and write for the stage. Mistake me not, I do not mean pieces to be acted upon it, panegyrical verses on the performers,—for that is the most universal method of writing for the stage at present. ... It is the business of the stage poet, therefore, to watch the appearance of every new player at his own house, and so come out next day with a flaunting copy of newspaper verses. In these, nature and the actor may be set to run races, the player always coming off victorious; or nature may mistake him for her. self; or old Shakspeare may put on his winding sheet, and pay him a visit; or the tuneful nine may strike up their harps in his praise; or, should it happen to be an actress, Venus, the beauteous queen of love, and the naked Graces, are ever in waiting: the lady must be herself a goddess bred and born ; she must. But you shall have a specimen of one of these poems, which may convey a more precise idea.
To you, bright fair, the nine address their lays,
And yet think not, my friend, that I have any particular animosity against the champions who are at the head of the present commotion: on the contrary, I could find pleasure in the music, if served up at proper intervals; if I heard it only on proper occasions, and not
about it wherever I go. In fact, I could patronize them both ; and as an instance of my condescension in this particular, they may come and give me a song at my lodgings, on any evening when I am at leisure, provided they keep a becoming distance, and stand, while they continue to entertain me, with decent humility, at the door. You perceive I have not read the seventeen books of Chinese ceremonies to no purpose. I know the proper share of respect due to every rank of society. Stage-players, fire-eaters, singing women, dancing dogs, wild beasts, and wire-walkers, as their efforts are exerted for our amusement, ought not entirely to be despised. The laws of every country should allow them to play their tricks at least with impunity. They should not be branded with the ignominious appellation of vagabonds; at least they deserve a rank in society equal to the mystery of barbers or undertakers, and, could my influence extend so far, they should be allowed to earn even forty or fifty pounds a year, if eminent in their profession. I am sensible, however, that you will censure me of profusion in this respect, bred up as you are in the narrow prejudices of eastern frugality. You will undoubtedly assert, that such a stipend is too great for so useless an employment. Yet how will your surprise increase, when told, that though the law.holds them as vagabonds, many of them earn more than a thousand a-year ! You are amazed. There is cause for amazement. A vagabond with a thousand a-year is indeed a curiosity in nature; a wonder far surpassing the flying fish, petrified crab, or travelling lobster. However, from my great love to the profession, I would willingly have them divested of their contempt, and part of their finery; the law should kindiy take them under the wing of protection, fix them into a corporation, like that of the barbers, and abridge their ignominy and their pensions. As to their abilities in other respects, I would leave that entirely to the public, who are certainly in this case the properest judges,—whether they despise them or not. Yes, my Fum, I would abridge their pension. A theatrical warrior, who conducts the battles of the stage, should be cooped up with the same caution as a bantam cock that is kept for fighting. When one of those animals is taken from its native dunghill, we retrench it both in the quantity of its food, and the number of its seraglio : players should in the same manner be fed, not fattened; they should be permitted to get their bread, but not eat the people's bread into the bargain; and, instead of being permitted to keep four mistresses, in conscience, they should be contented only with tWO. Were stage-players thus brought into bounds, perhaps we should find their admirers less sanguine, and consequently less ridiculous, in patronizing them. We should be no longer struck with the absurdity of seeing the same
people, whose valour makes such a figure abroad, apostrophizing in the praise of a bouncing blockhead, and wrangling in the defence of a copper-tailed actress at home. I shall conclude my letter with the sensible admonition of Mé the philosopher. “You love harmony,” says he, “and are charmed with music. I do not blame you for hearing a fine voice, when you are in your closet, with a lovely parterre under your eye, or in the night-time, while perhaps the moon diffuses her silver rays. But is a man to carry this passion so far, as to let a company of comedians, musicians, and singers, grow rich upon his exhausted fortune? If so, he resembles one of those dead bodies, whose brains the embalmer has picked out through its ears.” Adieu.
LETTER LXXXV. FROM THE SAME.
Of all the places of amusement where gen tlemen and ladies are entertained. I have not been yet to visit Newmarket. This, I am told, is a large field, where, upon certain occasions, three or four horses are brought together, then set a-running, and that horse which runs swiftest wins the wager. This is reckoned a very polite and fashionable amusement here, much more followed by the mobility than partridge fighting at Java, or paper kites in Madagascar : several of the great here, I am told, understand as much of farriery as their grooms; and a horse, with any share of merit, can never want a patron among the nobility. We have a description of this entertainment almost every day in some of the gazettes, as for instance: “On such a day, the Give and Take Plate was run for between his Grace's Crap, his Lordship's Periwinkle, and 'Squire Smackem's Slamerkin. All rode their own horses. There was the greatest concourse of nobility that has been known here for several seasons. The odds were in favour of Crab in the beginning; but Slamerkin, after the first heat, seemed to have the match hollow ; however, it was soon seen that Periwinkle improved in wind, which at last turned out accordingly; Crab was run to a stand-still, Slamerkin was knocked up, and Periwinkle was brought in with universal applause.” Thus, you see, Periwinkle received universal applause, and, no doubt, his lordship came in for some share of that praise which was so liberally bestowed upon Periwinkle. Sun of China! how glorious must the senator appear in his cap and leather breeches, his whip crossed in his mouth, and thus coming to the goal, amongst the shouts of grooms, jockies, pimps, stable-bred dukes, and degraded generals | From the description of this princely amusement, now transcribed, and from the great