Page images

nations who, that one may be free, are all content to be slaves; who first lift a tyrant into terror, and then shrink under his power as if delegated from Heaven. Liberty is echoed in all their assemblies, and thousands might be found ready to offer up their lives for the sound, though perhaps not one of all the number understands its meaning. The lowest mechanic, however, looks upon it as his duty to be a watchful guardian of his country's freedom, and often uses a language that might seem haughty even in the mouth of the great emperor who traces his ancestry to the moon.

A few days ago, passing by one of their prisons, I could not avoid stopping, in order to listen to a dialogue which I thought might afford me some entertainment. The conversation was carried on between a debtor through the grate of his prison, a porter who had stopped to rest his burden, and a soldier at the window. The subject was upon a threatened invasion from France, and each seemed extremely anxious to rescue his country from the impending danger. “For my part,” cries the prisoner, the greatest of my apprehensions is for our freedom; if the French should conquer, what would become of English liberty? My dear friends, liberty is the Englishman's prerogative; we must preserve that at the expense of our lives; of that the French shall never deprive us; it is not to be expected that men who are slaves themselves would preserve our freedom should they happen to conquer.”. slaves,” cries the porter, " they are all slaves, fit only to carry burdens, every one of them. Before I would stoop to slavery, may this be my poison," and he held the goblet in his hand,

may this be my poison-but I would sooner 'list for a soldier."

The soldier, taking the goblet from his friend with much awe, fervently cried out, “ It is not so much our liberties as our religion that would suffer by such a change : ay, our religion, my lads. May the devil


sink me into flames," such was the solemnity of his adjuration, “if the French should come over, but our religion would be utterly undone.” So saying, instead of a libation, he applied the goblet to his lips, and confirmed his sentiments with a ceremony of the most persevering devotion.

In short, every man here pretends to be a politician; even the fair sex are sometimes found to mix the severity of national altercation with the blandishments of love, and often become conquerors by more weapons of destruction than their eyes.

This universal passion for politics is gratified by daily gazettes, as with us at China. But as in ours the emperor endeavours to instruct his people, in theirs the people endeavour to instruct the administration. You must not, however, imagine that they who compile these papers have any actual knowledge of the politics or the government of a state ; they only collect their materials from the oracle of some coffee-house, which oracle has himself gathered them the night before from a beau at a gaming-table, who has pillaged his knowledge from a great man's porter, who has had his information from the great man's gentleman, who has invented the whole story for his own amusement the night preceding.

The English, in general, seem fonder of gaining the esteem than the love of those they converse with. This gives a formality to their amusements ; their gayest conversations have something too wise for innocent relaxation; though in company you are seldom disgusted with the absurdity of a fool, you are seldom lifted into rapture by those strokes of vivacity which give instant though not permanent pleasure.

What they want, however, in gayety they make up in politeness. You smile at hearing me praise the English for their politeness ; you, who have heard very different accounts from the missionaries at Pekin, who have seen such a different behaviour in their merchants and seamen at home. But I must still repeat it, the English seem more polite than any of their neighbours; their great art in this respect lies in endeavouring, while they oblige, to lessen the force of the favour. Other countries are fond of obliging a stranger, but seem desirous that he should be sensible of the obligation. The English confer their kindness with an appearance of indifference, and give away benefits with an air as if they despised them.

Walking, a few days ago, between an Englishman and a Frenchman into the suburbs of the city, we were overtaken by a heavy shower of rain. I was unprepared, but they had each large coats, which defended them from what seemed to me a perfect inundation. The Englishman, seeing me shrink from the weather, accosted me thus : “Psha, man, what dost shrink at? Here, take this coat; I don't want it; I find it no way useful to me; I had as lief be without it.” The Frenchman began to show his politeness in turn. “My dear friend,” cries he, why won't you oblige me by making use of my coat? you see how well it defends me from the rain. I should not choose to part with it to others, but to such a friend as you I could even part with my skin to do him service.”

From such minute instances as these, most reverend Fum Hoam, I am sensible your sagacity will collect instruction. The volume of nature is the book of knowledge ; and he becomes most wise who makes the most judicious selection. Farewell.




TENTED WANDERER; BY THE WAY OF MOSCOW. Happiness Lost by seeking after Refinerent.—The Chinese

Philosopher's Disgraces. WHETHER sporting on the flowery banks of the river Irtis, or scaling the steepy mountains of Douchenour; whether traversing the black deserts of Kobi, or giving lessons of politeness to the savage inhabitants of Europe : in whatever country, whatever climate, and whatever circumstances, all hail! May Tien, the universal soul, take you under his protection, and inspire you with a superior portion of himself.

How long, my friend, shall an enthusiasm for knowledge continue to obstruct your happiness, and tear you from all the connexions that make life pleasing? How long will you continue to rove from climate to climate, circled by thousands, and yet without a friend ; feeling all the inconveniences of a crowd, and all the anxiety of being alone?

I know you will reply that the refined pleasure of growing every day wiser is a sufficient recompense for every inconvenience. I know you will talk of the vulgar satisfaction of soliciting happiness from sensual enjoyment only; and probably enlarge upon the exquisite raptures of sentimental bliss. Yet, believe me, friend, you are deceived; all our pleasures, though seemingly never so remote from sense, derive their origin from some one of the senses. The most exquisite demonstration in mathematics, or the niost pleasing disquisition in metaphysics, if it does not ultimately tend to increase some sensual satisfaction, is delightful only to fools, or to men who have by long habit contracted a false idea of pleasure; and he who separates sensual and sentimental enjoyments, seeking happiness from mind alone, is in fact as wretched as the naked inhabitant of the forest, who places all his happiness in the first, regardless of the latter. There are two extremes in this respect; the savage, who swallows down the draught of pleasure without staying to reflect on his happiness, and the sage, who passes the cup while he reflects on the conveniences of drinking.

It is with a heart full of sorrow, my dear Altangi, that I must inform you that what the world calls happiness must now be yours no longer. Our great emperor's displeasure at your leaving China, contrary to the rules of our government and the immortal custom of the empire, has produced the most terrible effects. Your wife, daughter, and the rest of your family have been seized by his order and appropriated to his use; all, except your son, are now the peculiar property of him who possesses all ; him I have hidden from the officers employed for this purpose, and even at the hazard of my life I have concealed him. The youth seems obstinately bent on finding you out, wherever you are ; he is determined to face every danger that opposes his pursuit. Though yet but fifteen, all his father's virtues and obstinacy sparkles in his eyes, and mark him as one destined to no mediocrity of fortune.

You see, my dearest friend, what imprudence has brought thee to; from opulence, a tender family, surrounding friends, and your master's esteem, it has reduced them to want, persecution, and, still worse, to our mighty monarch's displeasure. Want of prudence is too frequently the want of virtue ; nor is there upon earth a more powerful advocate for vice than poverty. As I shall endeavour to guard theo from the one, so guard thyself from the other; and still think of me with affection and esteem. Farewell.

« PreviousContinue »