페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

the whole story for his own amusement the night preceding.

The English in general seem fonder of gaining the esteem than the love of those they converse with: this gives a formality to their amusements; their gayest conversations have something too wise for innocent relaxation; though in company you are seldom disgusted with the absurdity of a fool, you are seldom lifted into rapture by those strokes of vivacity which give instant, though not permanent pleasure.

What they want, however, in gaiety, they make up in politeness. You smile at hearing me praise the English for their politeness; you who have heard very different accounts from the missionaries at Pekin, who have seen such a different behaviour in their merchants and seamen at home. But I must

still repeat it, the English seem more polite than any of their neighbours; their great art in this respect lies in endeavouring, while they oblige, to lessen the force of the favour. Other countries are fond of obliging a stranger; but seem desirous that he should be sensible of the obligation. The English confer their kindness with an appearance of indifference, and give away benefits with an air as if they despised them.

Walking a few days ago between an English and a Frenchman into the suburbs of the city, we were overtaken by a heavy shower of rain. I was unprepared; but they had each large coats, which defended them from what seemed to be a perfect inundation. The Englishman seeing me shrink from the weather, accosted me thus: "Psha, man, what dost shrink at? here, take this coat; I don't want it; I find it no way useful to me ; I had as lief be without it." The Frenchinan began to shew his politeness in turn. "My dear Friend,” cries he," why won't you oblige me by making use of my coat; you see how

well

well it defends me from the rain; I should not chuse to part with it to others, but to such a friend as you I could even part with my skin to do him service,'

From such minute instances as these, most reverend Fum Hoam, I am sensible your sagacity will collect instruction. The volume of Nature is the book of knowledge; and he becomes most wise who makes the most judicious selection. Farewell.

LETTER V.

TO THE SAME.

I HAVE already informed you of the singular passion of this nation for politics. An Englishman not satisfied with finding, by his own prosperity, the contending powers of Europe properly balanced, desires also to know the precise value of every weight in either scale. To gratify this curiosity, a leaf of political instruction is served up every morning with tea: when our politician has feasted upon this, he repairs to a coffee-house, in order to ruminate upon what he has read, and encrease his collection; from thence he proceeds to the ordinary, enquires what news, and, treasuring up every acquisition there, hunts about all the evening in quest of more, and carefully adds it to the rest. Thus at night he retires home, full of the important advices of the day. When lo! awaking next morning, he finds the instructions of yesterday a collection of absurdity or palpable falsehood. This, one would think, a mortifying repulse in the pursuit of wisdom; yet our politician, no way discouraged, hunts on, in order

to

to collect fresh materials, and in order to be again disappointed.

I have often admired the commercial spirit which prevails over Europe; have been surprised to see them carry on a traffic with productions, that an Asiatic stranger would deem entirely useless. It is a proverb in China, that an European suffers not even his spittle to be lost; the maxim, however, is not sufficiently strong; since they sell even their Lies to great advantage. Every nation drives a considerable trade in this commodity with their neighbours.

An English dealer in this way, for instance, has only to ascend to his work-house, and manufacture a turbulent speech, averred to be spoken in the senate; or a report supposed to be dropt at court; a piece of scandal that strikes at a popular mandarine: or a secret treaty between two neighbouring powers. When finished, these goods are baled up, and consigned to a factor abroad, who sends in return two battles, three sieges, and a shrewd letter filled with dashes blanks and stars

great importance.

of

Thus you perceive, that a single gazette is the joint manufacture of Europe; and he who would peruse it with a philosophical eye might perceive in every paragraph something characteristick of the nation to which it belongs. A map does not exhibit a more distict view of the boundaries and situation of every country, than its news does a picture of the genius and the morals of its inhabitants. The superstition and erroneous delicacy of Italy, the formality of Spain, the cruelty of Portugal, the fears of Austria, the confidence of Prussia, the levity of France, the avarice of Holland, the pride of England, the absurdity of Ireland, and the national partiality of Scotland, are all conspicuous in every page.

But,

But, perhaps, you may find more satisfaction in a real newspaper, than in my description of one; I therefore send a specimen, which may serve to exhibit the manner of their being written, and distinguish the characters of the various nations which are united in its composition.

NAPLES. We have lately dug up here a curious Etruscan monument, broke in two in the raising. The characters are scarce visible; but Lugosi, the learned antiquary, supposes it to have been erected in humour of Picus, a Latin King, as one of the lines may he plainly distinguished to begin with a P. It is hoped this discovery will produce something valuable, as the literati of our twelve academies are deeply engaged in the disquisition.

PISA. Since father Fudgi, prior of St. Gilbert's, has gone to reside at Rome, no miracles have been performed at the shrine of St. Gilbert: the devout begin to grow uneasy, and some begin actually to fear that St. Gilbert has forsaken them with the reverend father.

LUCCA. The administrators of our serene republic have frequent conferences upon the part they shall take in the present commotions of Europe. Some are for sending a body of their troops, consisting of one company of foot and six horsemen, to make a diversion in favour of the empress queen; others are as strenuous assertors of the Prussian interest; what turn these debates may take, time only can discover. However, certain it is, we shall be able to bring into the field, at the opening of the next campaign, seventy-five armed men, a commander in chief, and two drummers of great experience.

SPAIN. Yesterday the new king shewed himself to his subjects, and, after having stayed half an hour in his balcony, retired to the royal apartment.

The

The night concluded on this extraordinary occasion. with illuminations, and other demonstrations of joy.

The queen is more beautiful than the rising sun, and reckoned one of the first wits in Europe: she had a glorious opportunity of displaying the readiness of her invention, and her skill in repartee lately at court. The duke of Lerma, coming up to her with a low bow and a smile, and presenting a nosegay set with diamonds, Madam, cries he, I am your most obedient humble servant. Oh, Sir, replies the queen, without any prompter, or the least hesitation, I'm very proud of the very great honour you do me. Upon which she made a low courtesy, and all the courtiers fell a laughing at the readiness and the smartness of her reply.

LISBON. Yesterday we had an auto de fe, at which were burned three young women accused of heresy, one of them of exquisite beauty; two Jews and an old woman convicted of being a witch: one of the friars, who attended this last, reports, that he saw the devil fly out of her at the stake in the shape of a flame of fire. The populace behaved on this occasion with great good-humour, joy, and sincere devotion.

Our merciful Sovereign has been for some time past recovered of his fright: though so atrocious an attempt deserved to exterminate half the nation, yet he has been graciously pleased to spare the lives of his subjects; and not above five hundred have been broke upon the wheel, or otherwise executed, upon this horrid occasion.

VIENNA. We have received certain advices that a party of twenty thousand Austrians, having attacked a much superior body of Prussians, put them l to flight, and took the rest prisoners of war. BERLIN. We have received certain advices that ex of twenty thousand Prussians, having attacked

« 이전계속 »