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smile at the oddity of my opinion; but be assured, my friend, that wit is in fome measure mechanical; and that a man long habituated to catch at even its resemblance, will at laft be happy enough to poffefs the fubftance: by a long habit of writing he acquires a justness of thinking, and a mastery of manner, which holiday writers, even with ten times his genius, may vainly attempt to equal.
How then are they deceived, who expect from title, dignity, and exterior circumstance, an excellence, which is in fome measure, acquired by habit, and fharpened by neceffity; you have seen, like me, many literary reputations promoted by the influence of fashion, which have scarce survived the poffeffor, you have seen the poor hardly earn the little reputation they acquired, and their merit only acknowledged, when they were incapable of enjoying the pleasures of popularity; such, however, is the reputation worth poffeffing, that which is hardly earned is hardly loft. Adieu.
FROM HINGPO, IN MOSCOW, TO LIEN CHI ALTANGI, IN LONDON.
WHERE will my disappointments end?
ftill be doomed to accufe the feverity of my fortune, and fhew my conftancy in diftrefs rather than moderation in profperity? I had at least hopes of conveying my charming companion fafe from the reach of every enemy, and
of again restoring her to her native foil. But those hopes
are now no more,
Upon leaving Terki, we took the nearest road to the dominions of Ruffia. We paffed the Ural mountains covered in eternal fnow, and traversed the forefts of Ufa, where the prowling bear and fhrieking hyæna keep an undifputed poffeffion. We next embarked upon the rapid river Bolija, and made the best of our way to the banks of the Wolga, where it waters the fruitful valleys of Cafan.
There were two veffels in company, properly equipped and armed, in order to oppose the Wolga pirates, who, we were informed, infested this river. Of all mankind, these tyrants are the most terrible. They are composed of the criminals and outlawed peasants of Ruffia, who fly to the forefts that lie along the banks of the Wolga for protection. Here they join in parties, lead a favage life, and have no other fubfiftence but plunder. Being deprived of houses, friends, or a fixed habitation, they become more terrible even than the tyger, and as infenfible to all the feelings of humanity. They neither give quarter to thofe they conquer, nor receive it when overpowered themselves. The feverity of the laws against them, serve to increase their barbarity, and feem to make them a neutral species of beings, between the wildness of the lion, and the fubtilty of the man. When taken alive, their punishment is hideous. A floating gibbet is erected, which is let run down with the stream; here, upon an iron hook ftuck under their ribs, and upon which the whole weight of their body depends, they are left to expire in the most terrible agonies; some being thus found to linger feveral days fuccessively.
We were but three days voyage from the confluence of this river into the Wolga, when we perceived at a distance behind us an armed bark coming up with the affiftance of fails and oars, in order to attack us. The dreadful fignal of death was hung upon the mast, and our captain with his glafs could easily discern them to be pirates. It is impoffible to exprefs our confternation on this occafion; the whole crew inftantly come together, to confult the propereft means of fafety. It was therefore foon determined to fend off our women and valuable commodities in one of our veffels, and that the men should stay in the other, and boldly oppofe the enemy. This refolution was foon put into execution, and I now reluctantly parted from the beautiful Zelis, for the first time fince our retreat from Perfia. The veffel in which she was disappeared to my longing eyes, in proportion as that of the pirates approached us. They foon came up; but upon examining our strength, and perhaps fenfible of the manner in which we had sent off our most valuable effects, they seemed more eager to purfue the vessel we had fent away, than attack us. In this manner they continued to harass us for three days; ftill endeavouring to pass us without fighting. But, on the fourth day, finding it entirely impoffible, and despairing to seize the expected booty, they defifted from their endeavours, and left us to pursue our voyage without interruption.
Our joy on this occafion was great; but foon a disappointment more terrible, because unexpected, succeeded. The bark in which our women and treasure were fent off, was wrecked upon the banks of the Wolga, for want of a proper number of hands to manage her, and the whole crew carried by the peasants up the country.
Of this, however, we were not fenfible till our arrival at Moscow; where, expecting to meet our separated bark, we were informed of its misfortune, and our lofs. Need I paint the fituation of my mind on this occafion? Need I defcribe all I feel, when I defpair of beholding the beautiful Zelis more! fancy had dreffed the future profpect of my life in the gayeft colouring, but one unexpected ftroke of fortune has robbed it of every charm. Her dear idea mixes with every scene of pleasure, and without her presence to enliven it, the whole becomes tedious, infipid, insupportable. I will confefs, now that fhe is loft, I will confefs, I loved her; nor is it in the power of time, or of reason, to erase her image from my heart. Adieu.
FROM LIEN CHI ALTANGI TO. HINGPO, AT MOScow.*
YOUR misfortunes are mine. But as every period
of life is marked with its own, you must learn to endure them. Disappointed love, makes the misery of youth; disappointed ambition, that of manhood; and fuccefslefs avarice, that of age. These three attack us through life; and it is our duty to ftand upon our guard. To love, we ought to oppose diffipation, and endeavour to change the object of the affections; to ambition, the
This letter is a rhapsody from the maxims of the philofopher Me. Vide Lett. curieufes et edifiantes. Vide etiam Du Halde, vol. ii. p. 98. VOL. II.
happiness of indolence and obfcurity; and to avarice, the fear of foon dying. Thefe are the fhields with which we should arm ourselves, and thus make every fcene of life, if not pleafing, at least supportable.
Men complain of not finding a place of repofe. They are in the wrong; they have it for feeking. What they indeed should complain of, is, that the heart is an enemy to that very repofe they feek. To themfelves alone should they impute their discontent. They seek within the short span of life to fatisfy a thousand defires, each of which alone is unfatiable. One month paffes and another comes on: the year ends and then begins; but man is still unchanging in folly, ftill blindly continuing in prejudice. To the wife man every climate and every foil is pleasing; to him a parterre of flowers is the famous valley of gold; to him a little brook, the fountain of young peach trees;* to fuch a man, the melody of birds is more ravishing than the harmony of a full concert: and the tincture of the cloud preferable to the tincture of the finest pencil.
The life of a man is a journey, a journey that must be travelled, however bad the roads, or the accommodation. If, in the beginning, it is found dangerous, narrow, and difficult, it must either grow better in the end, or we shall by custom learn to bear its inequality.
But though I fee you incapable of penetrating into grand principles, attend at least to a fimile adapted to every apprehenfion. I am mounted upon a wretched afs. I fee another man before me upon a fprightly horfe, at which I find fome uneafinefs. I look behind
*This paffage the editor does not understand.