« PreviousContinue »
For the Same.
was just concluded, the waiter came to inform us matrimony, as it is more difficult for the lover to that the water-works were over.
please three than one, and much more difficult to "The water-works over!" cried the widow; please old people than young ones. The laws ore "the water-works over already! that's impossible ! dain, that the consenting couple shall take a long they can't be over so soon!"_"It is not my busi- time to consider before they marry: this is a very ness," replied the fellow, "to contradict your lady- great clog, because people love to have all rash acship; I'll run again and see." He went, and soon tions done in a hurry. It is ordained, that all returned with a confirmation of the dismal tidings. marriages shall be proclaimed before celebration : No ceremony could now bind my friend's disap- this is a severe clog, as many are ashamed to have pointed mistress, she testified her displeasure in their marriage made public, from motives of vicious the openest manner; in short, she now began to modesty, and many afraid from views of temporal tind fault in turn, and at last insisted upon going interest. It is ordained, that there is nothing sacred home, just at the time that Mr. and Mrs. Tibbs in the ceremony, but that it may be dissolved, to assured the company, that the polite hours were all intents and purposes, by the authority of any going to begin, and that the ladies would instan- civil magistrate. And yet, opposite to this, it is taneously be entertained with the horns. Adieu. ordained, that the priest shall be paid a large sum
of money for granting his sacred permission.
Thus you see, my friend, that matrimony here
is hedged round with so many obsiructions, that LETTER LXXII.
those who are willing to break through or surmount them, must be contented if at last they find it a
bed of thorns. The laws are not to blame, for Not far from this city lives a poor tinker, who they have deterred the people from engaging us has educated seven sons, all at this very time in much as they could. It is, indeed, become a very arms, and fighting for their country; and what re- serious affair in England, and none but serious ward do you think has the tinker from the state people are generally found willing to engage. The for such important services? None in the world : young, the gay, and the beautiful, who have mohis sons, when the war is over, may probably be tives of passion only to induce them, are seldoin whipped from parish to parish as vagabonds, and found to embark, as those inducements are taken the old man, when past labour, may die a prisoner away; and none but the old, the ugly, and the in some house of correction.
mercenary, are seen to unite, who, if they have Such a worthy subject in China would be held any posterity at all, will probably be an ill-favoured in universal reverence; his services would be re- race like themselves. warded, if not with dignities, at least with an ex- What gave rise to those laws might have been emption from labour; he would take the left hand some such accidents as these :--It sometimes hapat feasts, and mandarines themselves would be pened that a miser, who had spent all his youth in proud to show their submission. The English scraping up money to give his daughter such a laws punish vice; the Chinese laws do more, they fortune as might get her a mandarine husband, reward virtue!
found his expectations disappointed at last, by her Considering the little encouragement given to running away with his footman; this must have matrimony here, I am not surprised at the dis- been a sad shock to the poor disconsolate parent, couragement given to propagation. Would you to see his poor daughter in a one-horse chaise, believe it, my dear Fum Hoam, there are laws when he had designed her for a coach and six. made which even forbid the people's marrying each What a stroke from Providence! to see his dear other? By the head of Confucius, I jest not; there money go to enrich a beggar; all nature cried out are such laws in being here; and yet their law- at the profanation ! givers have neither been instructed among the Hot- It sometimes happened also, that a lady, who had tentots, nor imbibed their principles of equity from inherited all the titles, and all the nervous comthe natives of Anamaboo.
plaints of nobility, thought fit to impair her dignity There are laws which ordain, that no man shall and mend her constitution, by marrying a farmer : marry a woman against her own consent. This; this must have been a sad shock to her inconsolable though contrary to what we are taught in Asia, relations, to see so fine a flower snatched from a and though in some measure a clog upon matri- Nourishing family, and planted in a dunghill; this mony, I have no great objection to. There are was an absolute inversion of the first principles of laws which ordain, that no woman shall marry things. against her father and mother's consent, unless In order, therefore, to prevent the great from bearrived at an age of maturity; by which is under-ing thus contaminated by vulgar alliances, the obstood, those years when women with us are gene- stacles to matrimony have been so contrived, that rally past child-bearing. This must be a clog upon the rich only can marry amongst the rich, and the poor, who would leave celibacy, must be content to mistress herself upon reasonable terms; but to court increase their poverty with a wife. Thus have her father, her mother, and a long train of cousins, their laws fairly inverted the inducements to matri- aunts, and relations, and then stand the butt of mony. Nature tells us, that beauty is the proper a whole country church; I would as soon turn tail allurement of those who are rich, and money of and make love to her grandmother. those who are poor ; but things here are so con- I can conceive no other reason for thus loading trived, that the rich are invited to marry, by that matrimony with so many prohibitions, unless it be fortune which they do not want, and the poor have that the country was thought already too populous, no inducement, but that beauty which they do and this was found to be the most effectual means not feel.
of thinning it. If this was the motive, I can not An equal diffusion of riches through any coun- but congratulate the wise projectors on the success try ever constitutes its happiness. Great wealth of their scheme. “Hail, O ye dim-sighted politiin the possession of one stagnates, and extreme cians, ye weeders of men ! 'Tis yours to clip the poverty with another keeps him in unambitious wing of industry, and convert Hymen to a broker. indigence; but the moderately rich are generally 'Tis yours to behold small objects with a microactive: not too far removed from poverty to fear its scopic eye, but to be blind to those which require calamities, nor too near extreme wealth to slacken an extent of vision. 'Tis yours, O ye discerners the nerve of labour, they remain still between both of mankind! to lay the line between society, and in a state of continual Auctuation. How impolitic, weaken that force by dividing, which should bind therefore, are those laws which promote the accu- with united vigour. 'Tis yours, to introduce namulation of wealth among the rich ; more impolitic tional real distress, in order to avoid the imaginary still, in attempting to increase the depression on distresses of a few. Your actions can be justified poverty.
| by a hundred reasons like truth; they can be opBacon, the English philosopher, compares money posed by but a few reasons, and those reasons are to manure"If gathered in heaps," says he, “it true." Farewell. does no good; on the contrary, it becomes offensive. But being spread, though never so thinly, over the surface of the earth, it enriches the whole country.” Thus the wealth a nation possesses must expati
LETTER LXXIII. ate, or it is of no benefit to the public; it becomes From Lien Chi Altangi to Hingpo, by the way of Moscow. rather a grievance, where matrimonial laws thus confine it to a few.
Age, that lessensthe enjoyment of life, increases But this restraint upon matrimonial community, our desire of living. Those dangers which, in the even considered in a physical light, is injurious. vigour of youth, we had learned to despise, assume As those who rear up animals, take all possible new terrors as we grow old. Our caution increasing pains to cross the strain, in order to improve the as our years increase, fear becomes at last the prebreed; so, in those countries where marriage is vailing passion of the mind; and the small remainmost free, the inhabitants are found every age to der of life is taken up in useless efforts to keep off improve in stature and in beauty; on the contrary, our end, or provide for a continued existence. where it is confined to a cast, a tribe, or a horde, Strange contradiction in our nature, and to as among the Gaurs, the Jew or the Tartars, which even the wise are liable! If I should judge each division soon assumes a family likeness, and of that part of life which lies before me, by that every tribe degenerates into peculiar deformity. which I have already seen, the prospect is hideous. Hence it may be easily inferred, that if the man- Experience tells me, that my past enjoyments have darines here are resolved only to marry among each brought no real felicity; and sensation assures me, other, they will soon produce a posterity with man- that those I have felt are stronger than those darine faces; and we shall see the heir of some which are yet to come. Yet experience and sengonourable family scarcely equal to the abortion of sation in vain persuade; hope, more powerful than a country farmer.
either, dresses out the distant prospect in fancied These are a few of the obstacles to marriage beauty; some happiness in long perspective still here, and it is certain they have, in some measure, beckons me to pursue; and, like a losing gamester, answered the end, for celibacy is both frequent and every new disappointment increases iny ardour to fashionable. Old bachelors appear abroad without continue the game. a mask, and old maids, my dear Fum Hoam, have Whence, my friend, this increased love of life, been absolutely known to ogle. To confess in which grows upon us with our years ? whence friendship, if I were an Englishman, I fancy 1 comes it, that we thus make greater efforts to pre should be an old bachelor myself; I should never serve our existence, at a period when it becomes find courage to run through all the adventures pre- scarcely worth the keeping? Is it that nature, atxcribed by the law. I could submit to court my tentive to the preservation of mankind, increason our wishes to live, while she lessens our enjoy- serve to bind us closer to earth, and embitter our ments; and, as she robs the senses of every plea- parting. Life sues the young like a new acquaintsure, equips imagination in the spoil ? Life would ance; the companion, as yet unexhausted, is at be insupportable to an old man, who, loaded with once instructive and amusing; its company pleases; infirmities, feared death no more than when in the yet, for all this, it is but little regarded. To us vigour of manhoud ; the numberless calamities of who are declined in years, life appears like an old decaying nature, and the consciousness of surviv- friend; its jests have been anticipated in former ing every pleasure, would at once induce him, with conversation; it has no new story to make us his own hand, to terminate the scene of misery ; smile; no new improvement with which to surbut happily the contempt of death forsakes him, at prise; yet still we love it : destitute of every enjoya time when it could be only prejudicial; and life ment, still we love it; husband the wasting treaacquires an imaginary value, in proportion as its sure with increased frugality, and feel all the poig. real value is no more.
nancy of anguish in the fatal separation. Our attachment to every object around us in- Sir Philip Mordaunt was young, beautiful, sincreases, in general, from the length of our acquaint-cere, brave, an Englishman. He had a complete ance with it. “I would not choose," says a French fortune of his own, and the love of the king his philosopher, "to see an old post pulled up, with master, which was equivalent to riches. Life openwhich I had been long acquainted.” A mind longjed all her treasure before him, and promised a long habituated to a certain set of objects, insensibly succession of future happiness,
tasted becomes fond of seeing them; visits them from of the entertainment, but was disgusted even in habit, and parts from them with reluctance; from the beginning. He professed an aversion to livhence proceeds the avarice of the old in every kind ing; was tired of walking round the same circle ; of possession. They love the world and all that had tried every enjoyment, and found them all grow it produces; they love life and all its advantages ; weaker at every repetition. “If life be in youth so not because it gives them pleasure, but because they displeasing," cried he to himself, "what will it aphave known it long.
pear when age comes on? if it be at present indifChinvang the Chaste, ascending the throne of ferent, sure it will then be execrable.” This though China, commanded that all who were unjustly de- embittered every reflection; till at last, with all the tained in prison, during the preceding reigns, serenity of perverted reason, he ended the debate should be set free. Among the number who came with a pistol! Had this self-deluded man been to thank their deliverer on this occasion, there ap- apprised, that existence grows more desirable to us peared a majestic old man, who, falling at the em- the longer we exist, he would have then faced old peror's feet, addressed him as follows: “Great age without shrinking, he would have boldly dared father of China, behold a wretch, now eighty-five to live, and secved that society by his future assiyears old, who was shut up in a dungeon at the duity, which he basely injured by his desertion age of twenty-two. I was imprisoned though a Adieu. stranger to crime, or without being even confronted by my accusers. I have now lived in solitude and darkness for more than fifty years, and am grown familiar with distress. As yet, dazzled with
LETTER LXXIV. the splendour of that sun to which you have re- From Lien Chi Altangi, to Fum Hoem, First President of the stored me, I have been wandering the streets to
Ceremonial Academy at Pekin, in China. find some friend that would assist, or relieve, or remember me ; but my friends, my family, and rela- In reading the newspapers here, I have reckon. tions, are all dead, and I am forgotten. Permit me, ed up not less than twenty-five great men, seventhen, O Chinvang, to wear out the wretched re-teen very great men, and nine very extraordinary mains of life in my former prison: the walls of my men, in less than the compass of half a-year. dungeon are to me more pleasing than the most " These," say the gazettes, "are the men that possplendid palace; I have not long to live, and shall terity are to gaze at with admiration; these the he unhappy except I spend the rest of my days names that fame will be employed in holding up where my youth was passed—in that prison from for the astonishment of succeeding ages.” Let me which you were pleased to release me.”
forty-six great men in half a-year, amount The old man's passion for confinement is simi- just to ninety-two in a year. I wonder how poslar to that we all have for life. We are habituated terity will be able to remember them all, or whether to the prison, we look round with discontent, are the people, in future times will have any other bu. displeased with the abode, and yet the length of siness to mind, but that of getting the catalogue by our captivity only increases our fondness for the heart. cell. The trees we have planted, the houses we Does the mayor of a corporation make a speech? have built, or the posterity we have begotten, all he is instantly set down for a great man. Does a
pedant digest his common-place book into a folio ? praise ; and straight, whether statesman or author, he quickly becomes great. Does a poet string up he is set down in the list of fame, continuing to trite sentiments in rhyme ? he also becomes the be praised while it is fashionable to praise, or great man of the hour. How diminutive soever while he prudently keeps his minuteness conceal. the object of admiration, each is followed by a ed from the public. crowd of still more diminutive admirers. The I have visited many countries, and have been in shout begins in his train, onward he marches to- cities without number, yet never did I enter a town wards immortality, looks back at the pursuing crowd which could not produce ten or twelve of those. with self satisfaction; catching all the oddities, the little great men; all fancying themselves known whimsies, the absurdities, and the littleness of con- to the rest of the world, and complimenting each scious greatness, by the way.
other upon their extensive reputation. It is amusI was yesterday invited by a gentleman ta din- ing enough when two of those domestic prodigies ner, who promised that our entertainment should of learning mount the stage of ceremony, and give consist of a haunch of venison, a turtle, and a and take praise from each other. I have been pregreat man. I came according to appointment. sent when a German doctor, for having pronounced The venison was fine, the turtle good, but the great a panegyric upon a certain monk, was thought the man insupportable. The moment I ventured to most ingenious man in the workl : till the monk speak, I was at once contradicted with a snap. I soon after divided this reputation by returning the attempted, by a second and a third assault, to re- compliment; by which means they both marched trieve my lost reputation, but was still beat back off with universal applause. with confusion. I was resolved to attack him once The same degree of undeserved adulation that more from intrenchment, and turned the conver- attends our great man while living often also folsation upon the government of China: but even lows him to the tomb. lt frequently happens that here he asserted, snapped, and contradicted as be one of his little admirers sits down lvig with the imfore. “Heavens," thought I, “this man pretends portant subject, and is delivered of the history of to know China even better than myself!" I look- his life and writings. This may properly be called ed round to see who was on my side; but every the revolutions of a life between the fire-side and eye was fixed in admiration on the great man: I the easy-chair. therefore at last thought proper to sit silent, and In this we learn, the year in which he was act the pretty gentleman during the ensuing con- born, at what an early age he gave symptoms of versation.
uncommon genius and application, together with Wher a man has once secured a circle of ad- some of his smart sayings, collected by his aunt and mirers, he may be as ridiculous here as he thinks mother, while yet but a boy. The next book in. proper ; and it all passes for elevation of sentiment, troduces him to the university, where we are inor learned absence. If he transgresses the com- formed of his amazing progress in learning, his mon forms of breeding, mistakes even a tea-pot for excellent skill in darning stockings, and his new a tobacco-box, it is said that his thoughts are fixed invention for papering books to save the covers. on more important objects; to speak and to act like He next makes his appearance in the republic of the rest of mankind, is to be no greater than they. letters, and publishes his folio. Now the colossus 'There is something of oldity in the very idea of is reared, his works are eagerly bought up by all greatness; for we are seldom astonished at a thing the purchasers of scaroe books. The learned sovery much resembling ourselves.
cieties invite him to become a member; he dis When the Tartars make a Lama, their first putes against some foreigner with a long Latin care is to place him in a dark corner of the tem-name, conquers in the controversy, is complimentple: here he is to sit half concealed from view, to ed by several authors of gravity and importance, is regulate the motion of his hands, lips, and eyes; excessively fond of egg-sauce with his pig, becomes but, above all, he is enjoined gravity and silence. president of a literary club, and dies in the meriThis, however, is but the prelude to his apotheo- dian of his glory. Happy they who thus have sis: a set of emissaries are despatched among the some little faithful attendant, who never forsakes people, to ery up his piety, gravity, and love of them but prepares to wrangle and to praise against raw flesh; the people take them at their word, ap- every opposer ; at once ready to increase their pride proach the Lama, now become an idol, with the while living, and their character when dead. For most humble prostration; he receives their address- you and I, my friend, who have no humble ad es without motion, commences a gol, and is ever mirer thus to attend us, we, who neither are, nor after fed by his priests with the spoon of immor- ever will be, great men, and who do not much tality. The same receipt in this country serves to care whether we are great men or no, at least let make a great man. The idol only keeps close, us strive to be honest men, and to have common tends out his little emissaries to be bearty in his sense. Adieu.
From the Same.
| antidote should be changed accordingly-should LETTER LXXV.
still be new.
Instead, therefore, of thinking the number of
new publications here too great, I could wish it still There are numbers in this city who live by greater, as they are the most useful instruments of writing new books : and yet there are thonsands of reformation. Every country must be instructed volumes in every large library unread and forgot- either by writers or preachers; but as the number ten. This, upon my arrival, was one of those of readers increases, the number of hearers is procontradictions which I was unable to account for. portionably diminished, the writer becomes more “ Is it possible,” said I, “that there should be any useful, and the preaching Bonze less necessary. demand for new books, before those already pub- Instead, therefore, of complaining that writers lished are read? Can there be so many employed are overpaid, when their works procure them a bare in producing a commodity with which the mar- subsistence, I should imagine it the duty of a state, ket is already over-stocked : and with goods also not only to encourage their numbers, but their inbetter than any of modern manufacture ?" dustry. A Bonze is rewarded with immense riches
What at first view appeared an inconsistence, is for instructing only a few, even of the most ignoa proof at once of this people's wisdom and refine- rant of the people; and sure the poor scholarshould ment. Even allowing the works of their ances- not beg his bread, who is capable of instructing a tors to be better written than theirs, yet those of million. the moderns acquire a real value by being marked Of all rewards, I grant, the most pleasing to a with the impression of the times. Antiquity has man of real merit, is fame; but a polite age, of all been in the possession of others; the present is our times, is that in which scarcely any share of merit own : let us first therefore learn to know what be- can acquire it. What numbers of fine writers in longs to ourselves, and then, if we have leisure, the latter empire of Rome, when refinement was cast our reflections back to the reign of Shonou, carried to the highest pitch, have missed that fame who governed twenty thousand years before the and immortality which they had fondly arrogated creation of the moon.
to themselves! How many Greek authors who wrote The volumes of antiquity, like medais, may very at that period when Constantinople was the refined well serve to amuse the curious ; but the works of mistress of the empire, now rest, either not printthe moderns, like the current coin of a kingdom, ed, or not read, in the libraries of Europe! Those are much better for immediate use : the former are who came first, while either state as yet was baroften prized above their intrinsic value, and kept barous, carried all the reputation away. Authors, with care; the latter seldom pass for more than as the age refined, became more numerous, and they are worth, and are often subject to the merci. their numbers destroyed their fame. It is but less hands of sweating critics and clipping compi- natural, therefore, for the writer, when conscious lers: the works of antiquity were ever praised, that his works will not procure him fame hereafter, those of the moderns read: the treasures of our to endeavour to make them turn out to his temancestors have our esteem, and we boast the pas-poral interest here. sion: those of contemporary genius engage our Whatever be the motives which induce men to heart, although we blush to own it. The visits we write, whether avarice or fame, the country bepay the former resemble those we pay the great, comes most wise and happy, in which they most the ceremony is troublesome, and yet such as we serve for instructors. The countries where sacerwould not choose to forego; our acquaintance with dotal instruction alone is permitted, remain in igmodern books is like sitting with a friend, our norance, superstition, and hopeless slavery. In Enpride is not flattered in the interview, but it gives gland, where there are as many new books published more internal satisfaction.
as in all the rest of Europe together, a spirit of freeIn proportion as society refines, new books must dom and reason reigns among the people; they ever become more necessary. Savage rusticity is have been often known to act like fools; they are reclaimed by oral admonition alone: but the elegant generally found to think like men. excesses of refinement are best corrected by the The only danger that attends a multiplicity of still voice of studious inquiry. In a polite age, al- publications is, that some of them may be calculated most every person becomes a reader, and receives to injure rather than benefit society. But where more instruction from the press than the pulpit. writers are numerous, they also serve as a check The preaching Bonze may instruct the illiterate upon each other; and perhaps, a literary inquisipeasant; but nothing less than the insinuating ad- tion is the most terrible punishment that can be dress of a fine writer can win its way to a heart al-conceived to a literary transgressor. ready relaxed in all the effeminacy of refinement. But to do the English justice, there are but few Books are necessary to correct the vices of the po- offenders of this kind; their publications in general lite; but those vices are ever changing, and the aim at mending either the heart, or improving the