Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

val; and night itself, which gives others reft, only ferves to increase the female gamefter's induftry. I have been told of an old lady in the country, who, being given over by the phyficians, played with the curate of her parish to pass her time away: having won all his money, she next propofed playing for her funeral charges; her proposal was accepted; but unfortunately the lady expired just as fhe had taken in her game.

There are fome paffions, which, though differently pursued, are attended with equal confequences in every country; here they game with more perfeverance, there with greater fury; here they ftrip their families, there they strip themselves naked. A lady in China, who indulges a paffion for gaming, often becomes a drunkard; and by flourishing a dice-box in one hand, the generally comes to brandish a dram cup in the other. Far be it from me to say there are any who drink drams in England; but it is natural to suppose, that when a lady has loft every thing else but her honour, fhe will be apt to lofe that into the bargain; and grown infenfible to nicer feeling, behave like the Spaniard, who, when all his money was gone, endeavoured to borrow more, by offering to pawn his whiskers. Adieu.

LETTER CIII.

FROM LIEN CHI ALTANGI TO ****, MERCHANT IN AMSTERDAM.

I HAVE

HAVE juft received a letter from my fon, in which he informs me of the fruitleffness of his endeavours to re

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

He

cover the lady with whom he fled from Perfia.
Atrives to cover, under the appearance of fortitude, a
heart torn with anxiety and disappointment. I have of-
fered little confolation, fince that but too frequently feeds
the forrow which it pretends to deplore, and ftrengthens
the impreffion which nothing but the external rubs of
time and accident can thoroughly efface.

He informs me of his intentions of quitting Moscow the first opportunity, and travelling by land to Amfterdam. I muft, therefore, upon his arrival, entreat the continuance of our friendfhip; and beg you to provide him with proper directions for finding me in London. You can scarcely be fenfible of the joy I expect upon seeing him once more: the ties between the father and the fon among us of China, are much more closely drawn than with you of Europe.

The remittances fent me from Argun to Moscow came in safety. I cannot fufficiently admire that spirit of honefty which prevails through the whole country of Siberia: perhaps the favages of that defolate region are the only untutored people of the globe that cultivate the moral virtues, even without knowing that their actions merit praise. I have been told surprising things of their goodness, benevolence, and generofity; and the uninterrupted commerce between China and Ruffia ferves as a collateral confirmation.

"Let us," fays the Chinese law-giver, “ admire the rude virtues of the ignorant, but rather imitate the delicate morals of the polite." In the country where I refide, though honesty and benevolence be not fo congenial, yet art supplies the place of nature. Though here every vice is carried to excefs, yet every virtue is prac

tised also with unexampled fuperiority. A city like this is the foil for great virtues and great vices; the villain can foon improve here in the deepest mysteries of deceiving; and the practical philofopher can every day meet new incitements to mend his honeft intention. There are no pleasures, fenfual or fentimental, which this city does not produce; yet, I know not how, I could not be content to refide here for life. There is fomething fo feducing in that spot in which we first had existence, that nothing but it can please; whatever viciffitudes we experience in life, however we toil, or wherefoever we wander, our fatigued wishes ftill recur to home for tranquillity, we long to die in that spot which gave us birth, and in that pleafing expectation opiate every calamity.

You now, therefore, perceive that I have fome intentions of leaving this country; and yet my designed departure fills me with reluctance and regret. Though the friendships of travellers are generally more tranfient than vernal fnows, ftill I feel an uneafiness at breaking the connexions I have formed fince my arrival ; particularly I fhall have no fmall pain in leaving my ufual companion, guide, and inftructor.

I fhall wait for the arrival of my fon before I fet out. He shall be my companion in every intended journey for the future; in his company I can support the fatigues of the way with redoubled ardour, pleafed at once with conveying instruction and exacting obedience. Adieu.

8 N

LETTER CIV.

FROM LIEN CHI ALTANGI TO FUM HOAM, FIRST
PRESIDENT OF THE CEREMONIAL ACADEMY AT
PEKIN, IN CHINA.

OUR

UR fcholars of China have a moft profound vene. ration for forms. A firft-rate beauty never ftudied the decorums of drefs with more affiduity; they may properly enough be faid to be clothed with wisdom from head to foot; they have their philofophical caps and philofophical whiskers, their philofophical flippers and philofophical fans; there is even a philofophical standard for measuring the nails; and yet, with all this feeming wisdom, they are often found to be mere empty pretenders.

A philofophical beau is not fo frequent in Europe; yet I am told that such characters are found here. I mean such as punctually support all the decorums of learning without being really very profound, or naturally poffeffed of a fine understanding, who labour hard to obtain the titular honours attending literary merit, who flatter others, in order to be flattered in turn, and only study to be thought ftudents.

A character of this kind generally receives company in his study, in all the penfive formality of flippers, night-gown, and eafy chair. The table is covered with a large book, which is always kept open, and never read; his folitary hours being dedicated to dozing, mending pens, feeling his pulfe, peeping through the microscope,

[ocr errors]

and fometimes reading amufing books, which he condemns in company. His library is preserved with the most religious neatness, and is generally a repository of scarce books, which bear an high price, because too dull or useless to become common by the ordinary methods of publication.

Such men are generally candidates for admittance into literary clubs, academies, and inftitutions, where they regularly meet to give and receive a little inftruction, and a great deal of praife. In converfation they never betray ignorance, because they never seem to receive information. Offer a new obfervation, they have heard it before; pinch them in an argument, and they reply with a fneer.

Yet how trifling foever thefe little arts may appear, they answer one valuable purpose of gaining the practifers the esteem they wish for. The bounds of a man's knowledge are easily concealed, if he has but prudence; but all can readily fee and admire a gilt library, a set of long nails, a filver ftandish, or a well-combed whisker, who are incapable of diftinguishing a dunce.

When Father Matthew, the firft European miffioner, entered China, the court was informed that he poffeffed great skill in aftronomy; he was therefore fent for and examined. The eftablished aftronomers of ftate undertook this task; and made their report to the emperor, that his skill was but very fuperficial, and no way comparable to their own. The miffioner, however, appealed from their judgment to experience, and challenged them to calculate an eclipse of the moon, that was to happen a few nights following. "What, (faid fome,) fhall a barbarian, without nails, pretend to vie with men in

« VorigeDoorgaan »