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nofe; he makes new efforts to emerge, and every effort increasing his weakness, only tends to fink him the deeper.
There are some here, who I am told, make a tolerable fubfiftence by the credulity of their countrymen: as they find the public fond of blood, wounds, and death, they contrive political ruin fuited to every month in the year; this month the people are to be eaten up by the French in flat-bottomed boats; the next by the foldiers defigned to beat the French back; now the people are going to jump down the gulf of luxury; and now nothing but a herring fubscription can fish them up again. Time paffes on; the report proves falfe; new circumftances produce new changes, but the people never change, they are preferving in folly.
In other countries, those boding politicians would be left to fret over their own schemes alone, and grow splenetic without hopes of infecting others: but England feems to be the very region where fpleen delights to dwell: a man not only can give an unbounded scope to the diforder in himself, but may, if he pleases, propagate it over the whole kingdom, with a certainty of success. He has only to cry out, that the government, the government is all wrong; that their schemes are leading to ruin; that Britons are no more; every good member of the common-wealth thinks it his duty, in such a case, to deplore the univerfal decadence with fympathetic forrow, and, by fancying the conftitution in a decay, absolutely to impair its vigor.
This people would laugh at my fimplicity, fhould I advise them to be less fanguine in harbouring gloomy predictions, and examine coolly before they attempted
to complain. I have just heard a ftory, which, though tranfacted in a private family, ferves very well to defcribe the behaviour of the whole nation, in cafes of threatened calamity. As there are public, fo there are private, incendiaries here. One of the laft, either for the amusement of his friends, or to divert a fit of the fpleen, lately fent a threatening letter to a worthy family in my neighbourhood, to this effect:
SIR, knowing you to be very rich, and finding myself to be very poor, I think proper to inform you, that I have learned the fecret of poisoning man, woman, and child, without danger of detection. Don't be uneafy, Sir, you may take your choice of being poisoned in a fortnight, or a month, or poifoned in fix weeks; you shall have full time to settle your affairs. Though I'm poor, I love to do things like a gentleman. But, Sir, you must die; I have determined it within my own breaft that you muft die. Blood, Sir, blood is my trade! fo I could wish you would this day fix weeks take leave of your friends, wife, and family, for I cannot poffibly allow you longer time. To convince you more certainly of the power of my art, by which you may know I speak truth, take this letter, when you have read it, tear off the seal, fold it up and give it to your Dutch maftiff that fits by the fire; he will fwallow it, Sir, like a buttered toaft; in three hours four minutes after he has taken it, he will attempt to bite off his own tongue, and half an hour after burft afunder in twenty pieces. Blood, blood, blood! fo no more at prefent from, Sir, your moft obedient, moft devoted humble fervant to command till death."
You may easily imagine the confternation into which this letter threw the whole good-natured family. The poor man to whom it was addreffed was the more furprised, as not knowing how he could merit fuch inveterate malice. All the friends of the family were convened; it was universally agreed, that it was a most terrible affair, and that the government fhould be folicited to offer a reward and pardon: a fellow of this kind would go on poisoning family after family, and it was impoffible to fay where the deftruction would end. In pursuance of these determinations, the government was applied to; strict search was made after the incendiary, but all in vain. At last, therefore, they recollected, that the experiment was not yet tried upon the dog; the Dutch mastiff was brought up, and placed in the midft. of the friends and relations, the feal was torn off, the
pacquet folded up with care, and foon they found, to the great furprife of all-that the dog would not eat the letter. Adieu.
TO THE SAME.
I HAVE frequently been amazed at the ignorance of
almost all the European travellers who have penetrated any confiderable way eastward into Afia. They have been influenced either by motives of commerce or piety, and their accounts are fuch as might reasonably be pected from men of very narrow or very prejudiced education, the dictates of fuperftition, or the refult of igno
rance. It is not furprifing, that in fuch a variety of adventurers, not one fingle philofopher should be found; for as to the travels of Gemelli, the learned are long agreed, that the whole is but an imposture.
There is scarce any country, how rude or uncultivated foever, where the inhabitants are not poffeffed of some peculiar fecrets, either in nature or art, which might be transplanted with fuccefs; Siberian Tartary, for inftance, the natives extract a strong spirit from milk, which is a fecret probably unknown to the chemifts of Europe. In the most savage parts of India, they are poffeffed of the fecret of dying vegetable substances scarlet; and of refining lead into metal, which, for hardness and colour, is little inferior to filver; not one of which fecrets but would in Europe make a man's fortune. The power of the Afiatics in producing winds, or bringing down rain, the Europeans are apt to treat as fabulous, because they have no instances of the like nature among themselves; but they would have treated the fecrets of gunpowder and the mariner's compass in the fame manner, had they been told the Chinese used such arts before the invention was common with themselves at home.
Of all the English philofophers I moft reverence Bacon, that great and hardy genius; he it is who allows of fecrets yet unknown; who undaunted by the seeming difficulties that oppose, prompts human curiofity to examine every part of nature, and even exhorts man to try whether he cannot fubject the tempeft, the thunder, and even earthquakes to human control: O! did a man of his daring spirit, of his genius, penetration, and learning, travel to thofe countries, which have been visited only by the fuperftitious and mercenary, what might not
mankind expect: how would he enlighten the regions to which he travelled! And what a variety of knowledge and useful improvement would he not bring back in exchange!
There is probably no country fo barbarous that would, not disclose all it knew, if it received from the traveller equivalent information; and I am apt to think,that a perfon, who was ready to give more knowledge than he received, would be welcome wherever he came. All his care in travelling should only be to fuit his intellectual banquet to the people with whom he conversed; he should not attempt to teach the unlettered Tarter aftronomy, nor yet inftruct the polite Chinese in the ruder arts of fubfiftence; he should endeavour to improve the barbarian in the secrets of living comfortably; and the inhabitant of a more refined country, in the fpeculative pleasures of science. How much more nobly would a philofopher thus employed spend his time, than by fitting at home earnestly intent upon adding one ftar more to his catalogue, or one monster to his collection; or ftill, if poffible more trifling fedulous in the incatenation of fleas, or the sculpture of a cherry ftone.
I never confider this subject without being surprised how none of those societies fo laudably'established in England for the promotion of arts and learning, have never thought of fending one of their members into the most eastern parts of Afia, to make what discoveries he was able. To be convinced of the utility of fuch an undertaking, let them but read the relations of their own travellers. It will be there found, that they are as often deceived themselves, as they attempt to deceive others. The merchants tell us prehaps the price of different commodities, the methods