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the body, which to all appearance had been dead, began to move. Terrified at the sight, Hansi dropped the mattock, and Choang walked out, astonished at his own situation, his wife's unusual magnificence, and her more amazing surprise. He went among the apartments, unable to conceive the cause of so much splendour. He was not long in suspense before his domestics informed him of every transaction since he first became insensible. He could scarce believe what they told him, and went in pursuit of Hansi herself, in order to receive more certain information, or to reproach her infidelity. But she prevented his reproaches : he found her weltering in blood; for she had stabbed herself to the heart, being unable to survive her shame and disappointment.
Choang, being a philosopher, was too wise to make any loud lamentations; he thought it best to bear his loss with serenity; so, mending up the old coffin where he had lain himself, he placed his faithless spouse in his room; and, unwilling that so many nuptial preparations should be expended in vain, he the same night married the widow with the large fan.
As they were both apprized of the foibles of each other beforehand, they knew how to excuse them after marriage. They lived together for many years in great tranquillity, and, not expecting rapture, made a shift to find contentment. Farewell.
FROM THE SAME.
Some Account of the Republic of Letters in England “The republic of letters” is a very common expression among the Europeans; and yet, when applied to the learned of Europe, is the most absurd that can be imagined, since nothing is more unlike a republic than the society which goes by that name. From this expression, one would be apt to imagine that the learned were united into a single body, joining their interests, and concurring in the same design. From this one might be apt to compare them to our literary societies in China, where each acknowledge a just subordination, and all contribute to build the temple of science, without attempting, from ignorance or envy, to obstruct each other.
But very different is the state of learning here; every member of this fancied republic is desirous of governing, and none willing to obey; each looks upon his fellow as a rival, not an assistant, in the same pursuit. They calumniate, they injure, they despise, they ridicule each other; if one man writes a book that pleases, others shall write books to show that he might have given still greater pleasure, or should not have pleased. If one happens to hit upon something new, there are numbers ready to assure the public that all this was no
novelty to them or the learned ; that Cardanus, or Brunos, or some other author, too dull to be generally read, had anticipated the discovery. Thus, instead of uniting like the members of a commonwealth, they are divided into almost as many factions as there are men; and their jarring constitution, instead of being styled a republic of letters, should be entitled an anarchy of literature.
It is true, there are some of superior abilities, who reverence and esteem each other, but their mutual admiration is not sufficient to shield off the contempt of the crowd. The wise are but few, and they praise with a feeble voice ; the vulgar are many, and roar in reproaches. The truly great seldom unite in societies, have few meetings, no cabals ; the dunces hunt in full cry till they have run down a reputation, and then snarl and fight with each other about dividing the spoil. Here you may see the compilers and the book-answerers of every month, when they have cut up some respectable name, most
frequently reproaching each other with stupidity and dulness ; resembling the wolves of the Russian forest, who prey upon venison or horses' flesh when they can get it; but, in cases of necessity, lying in wait to devour each other. While they have new books to cut up, they make a hearty meal ; but, if this resource should unhappily fail, then it is that critics eat up critics, and compilers rob from compilations.
Confucius observes, that it is the duty of the learned to unite society more closely, and to persuade men to become citizens of the world; but the authors I refer to are not only for disuniting society, but kingdoms also; if the English are at war with France, the dunces of France think it their duty to be at war with those of England. Thus Freron, one of their first-rate scribblers, thinks proper to characterize all the English writers in the gross.
• Their whole merit,” says he, “consists in exaggeration, and often in extravagance; correct their pieces as you please, there still remains a leaven which corrupts the whole. They sometimes discover genius, but not the smallest share of taste : England is not a soil for the plants of genius to thrive in.” This is open enough, with not the least adulation in the picture. But hear what a Frenchman of acknowledged abilities says upon the same subject : “I am at a loss to determine in what we excel the English, or where they excel us : when I compare the merits of both in any one species of literary composition, so many reputable and pleasing writers present themselves from either country, that my judgment rests in suspense: I am pleased with the disquisition, without finding the object of my inquiry.” But, lest you should think the French alone are faulty in this respect, hear how an English journalist delivers his sentiments of them. “ We are amazed,” says he, to find so many works translated from the French, while we have such numbers neglected of
In our opinion, notwithstanding their fame throughout the rest of Europe, the French are the most contemptible reasoners (we had almost said writers) that can be imagined. However, nevertheless, excepting,” &c. Another English writer, Shaftesbury, if I remember, on the contrary, says that the French authors are pleasing and judicious, more clear, more methodical and entertaining than those of his own country.
From these opposite pictures, you perceive that the good authors of either country praise, and the bad revile each other; and yet, perhaps, you'll be surprised that indifferent writers should be most apt to censure, as they have the most to apprehend from recrimination ; you may, perhaps, imagine that such as are possessed of fame themselves should be most ready to declare their opinions, since what they say might pass for decision. But the truth happens to be, that the great are solicitous only of raising their own reputations, while the opposite class, alas ! are solicitous of bringing every reputation down to a level with their own.
But let us acquit them of malice and envy; a critic is often guided by the same motives that direct his author. The author endeavours to persuade us that he has written a good book; the critic is equally solicitous to show that he could write a better, had he thought proper. A critic is a being possessed of all the vanity, but not the genius of a scholar; incapable, from his native weakness, of lifting himself from the ground, he applies to contiguous merit for support ; makes the sportive sallies of another's imagination his serious employnient; pretends to take our feelings under his care; teaches where to condemn, where to lay the emphasis of praise; and may, with as much justice, be called a man of taste, as the Chinese who measures his wisdom by the length of his nails.
if. then. a book, spirited or humorous, happens to
appear in the republic of letters, several critics are in waiting to bid the public not to laugh at a single line of it, for themselves had read it, and they know what is most proper to excite laughter. Other critics contradict the fulminations of this tribunal; call them all spiders, and assure the public that they ought to laugh without restraint. Another set are, in the mean time, quietly employed in writing notes to the book, intended to show the particular passages to be laughed at; when these are out, others still there are who write notes upon notes. Thus a single new book employs not only the paper-makers, the printers, the pressmen, the bookbinders, the hawkers, but twenty critics, and as many compilers. In short, the body of the learned may be compared to a Persian army, where there are many pioneers, several sutlers, numberless servants, women and children in abundance, and but few soldiers. Adieu.
TO THE SAME.
The Chinese goes to see a Play. The English are as fond of seeing plays acted as the Chinese; but there is a vast difference in the manner of conducting them. We play our pieces in the open air, the English theirs under cover; we act by daylight, and they by the blaze of torches. One of our plays continues eight or ten days successively ; an English play seldom takes up above four hours in the representation.
My companion in black, with whom I am now be. ginning to contract an intimacy, introduced me, a few nights ago, to the playhouse, where we placed ourselves conveniently at the foot of the stage. As the curtain was not drawn before my arrival, I had an opportunity of observing the behaviour of the