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N° 20. TUESDAY, MAY 15.
EMPIRE OF NOTHING.
If what I have already related of my extraordinary vision of the Empire of Nothing have left any curiosity in the minds of my readers, they will not think it too early to give them the rest of it.
After having been pretty much fatigued with the bustle, pomp, and noise, of the great city of Tintinabia, I entreated my guide to conduct me a little way up the country; a request which he acceded to with his usual complaisance, and immediately ordered his balloon to be brought round to meet us at one of the gates, called Addle-gate, where the road began which led to the palace of his Inane Majesty. In the mean time we continued our walk through the suburbs of the city ; and passing on through Rottenrow and Trumpery-street, we came to Abra-Cadabrasquare, one side of which was filled
with the great college of arts and sciences. Being myself of a learned profession, I felt a strong inclination to make some inquiries respecting the institutions and practices of this venerable community; and it was doubtless an instance of great good fortune, that my guide,
being himself a considerable member of it, was well able to instruct me in all these particulars.
I have not room to give a detail of half what I saw, much less relate all the observations I made upon the spot: I shall give my readers merely a glance into this emporium of literature and philosophy. It was here that the very spirit of inanity and nothingness seemed to reside, and that the taste for genuine nonsense prevailed in its classical purity.
The public library, which I was told was a complete repository of the national learning, was contained in a vast amphitheatre, that made a most resplendent show of ornamented binding. I entertained myself with turning over as many volumes as my time would permit; and must confess, that the matter they comprised was, in general, of a graver cast than those which the booksellers' shops had presented. One whole compartment, which I was informed contained a hundred thousand volumes, was wholly allotted to treatises on conjuration with cards, and the rules of leger-de-main. Next to that was a similar space, taken
with dissertations on the black art, and the study of demonology and witchcraft. Modern metaphysics made a most important figure in this wonderful collection; and the learning accumulated on the subject of animal magnetism, was the pride of their academy. The rules of divination had occupied no small number of their schoolmen and philosophers; and having these short and satisfactory modes of ascertaining the future, they held it folly, if not impiety, to reason from the past. in politics, the books of the highest authority were such as promulgated principles the most abstracted from man's nature and capacities; and the vulgar notion of civil society, as composed of individual men, had long been exploded as the ground-work of their political
reasonings. All their practical rules of government and civil polity were drawn from the consideration of human beings, as existing in a collective, metaphysical, corporate capacity; and to man, in this sublime and contemplative idea of him, were all laws to be so framed and tempered as, at length, to constitute an indivisible invisible part of his spiritual essence; to rush into a sort of sudden sympathetic union with the qualities of the soul; and thus to anticipate the completion of our nature, and carry us at once into the order of superior intelligences.
I was very much chagrined, feeling as I do for the credit of the fair sex, to see so many female contributors to this learned lumber, the warmth of whose fancies does not always suffer them to engage in these stubborn disquisitions with a sufficient regard to facts and possibilities.
While we were thus considering this class of learned productions, my guide called my attention to a manuscript very superbly bound and lettered, purporting to be the Scheme of a Commonwealth. Before we turned over any of the pages of this valuable book, I was apprised of a feature of this nation's polity, which I believe is peculiar to itself, and may be a fact important to be known to my countrymen and others in these goodly times of political experiment. There was a certain island, situated at the distance of about two thousand miles from the great kingdom of Nothing, and nearly as far separated from every other shore. The property of this island had formerly been vested in the crown of Inania, or the great kingdom of Nothing; and as it was barren of every produce that was marketable in the mother country, being entirely covered with solid timber and substantial fruits, it had long been made the receptacle of obnoxious persons, of which description a very large supply was annually exported from the shores of Inania. But though the productions of this country were considered as of no value by this whimsical nation, yet a means had been found of turning it to very admirable account. A society of politicians had lately sprung up within the walls of the university, which, as it had innovated upon
the long-established modes of treating the great questions of civil polity, having so far inverted the order of inquiry as to postpone hypothesis to experiment, had with great difficulty obtained their charter of incorporation. By making, however, such proposals as his Inane Majesty could not resist; having, as my oracle informed me, paid into the royal treasury a prodigious sum in horse-chesnuts, which was the specie of that country; they were admitted purchasers of this island, which they had destined to the purpose I shall now explain to my
readers. The object of this society carried with it very lofty pretensions, being nothing less than an undertaking to promote and improve political knowledge, by a course of philosophical experiments; and as the compass which experiments of such magnitude demanded must needs be extensive, they had, by the aid of a general subscription, enabled themselves to purchase this remote territory, with a view to try therein each new theory of government, that was thought worthy of experiment by this highly patriotic fraternity. It was the rule of the society to prepare, digest, and render mature for trial, once in every two years, a new scheme of a commonwealth; and at every ex. piration of that term, to dispatch to the devoted island, with all due observance of ceremony, a draught or instrument, containing the new constitutional system, with the seal of the corporation subjoined, which was immediately to be established by
proclamation, and to displace every vestige of former institutions. The proceedings of this extraordinary body produced two very different effects: to the mother country, it was a source of everlasting expectation, and kept up a very lively suspense in the public mind; to the unhappy theatre of these political dramas, it occasioned a perpetuity of bloodshed and horror, in so much that there was need of very large and frequent draughts of population from the ports of Inania. As the inhabitants of this miserable place were merely considered as the subjects of experiment, and that for an object so vast as the interest of human nature at large, their pains and sufferings weighed nothing in so unequal a scale; and it was thought the mark of a very diminutive mind, to lament the catastrophes consequent upon these trials, or to cherish any moral or humane scruples respecting them. So fast did these plans of government follow each other, and so sudden and radical a change was necessary, at every introduction of a fresh system, to give it immediate effect, that it was impossible for the habits of the people to keep pace with these transitions, or for the best-disposed member of this versatile community to be cognisant of the laws under which he was to live. The first month, therefore, after the new establishments had been imported, or, in other words, the commission of the new constitution had been opened, was sure to bring many hundreds to public execution, who, in the perplexity of jarring codes, mistook the rule of their political conduct, and were hanged as traitors to-day for the patriotism of yesterday. A leap-year was always particularly sanguinary, as it had never been settled whether the intercalary day belonged to the old or the new establishments, till the commissioners or deputies had time to determine the point, which