« PreviousContinue »
reproach. Happy, therefore, at last in escaping An inflexible perseverance in what he thought from calumny; happy in leaving a world that was was right
, and a generous detestation of flattery, unworthy of him and his writings!
formed the groundwork of this great man's characLet others, my friend, bestrew the hearses of the ter. From these principles many strong virtues great with panegyric; but such a loss as the world and few faults arose : as he was warm in his friendhas now suffered, affects me with stronger emo- ship, and severe in his resentment, all that mention tions. When a philosopher dies, I consider my-him seem possessed of the same qualities, and self as losing a patron, an instructor, and a friend. speak of him with rapture or detestation. A perI consider the world losing one who might serve to son of his eminence can have few indifferent as to console her amidst the desolations of war and am- his character; every reader must be an enemy or bition. Nature every day produces in abundance an admirer. men capable of filling all the requisite duties of au
This poet began the course of glory so early as thority; but she is niggard in the birth of an exalt- the age of eighteen, and even then was author of a ed mind, scarcely producing in a century a single tragedy which deserves applause. Possessed of a genius to bless and enlighten a degenerate age. small patrimony, he preserved his independence in Prodigal in the production of kings, governors, an age of venality, and supported the dignity of mandarines, chams, and courtiers, she seems to learning, by teaching his contemporary writers to have forgotten, for more than three thousand years, live like him above the favours of the great. He the manner in which she once formed the brain of was banished his native country for a satire upon a Confucius; and well it is she has forgotten, when the royal concubine. He had accepted the place a bad world gave him so very bad a reception. of historian to the French king, but refused to keep
Whence, my friend, this malevolence which has it, when he found it was presented only in order ever pursued the great even to the tomb? whence that he should be the first flatterer of the state. this more than fiend-like disposition of embittering The great Prussian received him as an ornathe lives of those who would make us more wise ment to his kingdom, and had sense enough to and more happy?
value his friendship, and profit by his instructions. When I cast my eye over the fates of several in this court he continued till an intrigue, with philosophers, who have at different periods enlight- which the world seems hitherto unacquainted, obened mankind, I must confess it inspires me with liged him to quit that country. His own happiness, the most degrading reflections on humanity. When the happiness of the monarch, of his sister, of a I read of the stripes of Mentius, the tortures of part of the court, rendered his departure necesTchin, the bowl of Socrates, and the bath of Sene- sary. ca; when I hear of the persecutions of Dante, the imprisonment of Galileo, the indignities suffered the great, he retired to Switzerland, a country of
Tired at length of courts, and all the follies of by Montaigne, the banishment of Cartesius, the
liberty, where he enjoyed tranquillity and the muse. infamy of Bacon, and that even Locke himself escaped not without reproach ; when I think on such himself
, he usually entertained at his table the
Here, though without any taste for magnificence subjects, I hesitate whether most to blame the ig- learned and polite of Europe, who were attracted norance or the villany of my fellow-creatures.
by a desire of seeing a person from whom they had Should you look for the character of Voltaire received so much satisfaction. The entertainment among the journalists and illiterate writers of the age, you will there find him characterized as a conversation was that of philosophers. Every
was conducted with the utmost elegance, and the monster, with a head turned to wisdom, and a heart
country that at once united liberty and science, was inclining to vice; the powers of his mind and the his peculiar favourite. The being an Englishman baseness of his principles forming a detestable con
was to him a character that claimed admiration trast. But seek for his character among writers
and respect. like himself, and you find him very differently described. You perceive him, in their accounts,
Between Voltaire and the disciples of Confucius, possessed of good-nature
, humanity, greatness of there are many differences; however, being of a soul, fortitude, and almost every virtue; in this different opinion does not in the least diminish my description, those who might be supposed best ac- esteem: I am not displeased with my brother, bequainted with his character are unanimous. The cause he happens to ask our father for favours in a royal Prussian,* d'Argents, t Diderot, I d'Alembert, different manner from me. Let his errors rest in and Fontenelle, conspire, in drawing the picture, peace, his excellencies deserve admiration; let me in describing the friend of man, and the patron of with the wise admire his wisdom; let the envious every rising genius.
and the ignorant ridicule his foibles: the folly of
others is ever most ridiculous to those who are * Philosophe sans souci. 1 Lcl. Chin Encyclopéd. themselves nuost foolish. Adieu.
of happiness, that can be applied with propriety to LETTER XLIV.
every condition of life. The man of pleasure, the
man of business, and the philosopher, are equally From Lien Chi Altangi to Hingpo, a Slave in Persia.
interested in its disquisition. If we do not find It is impossible to form a philosophic system of happiness in the present moment, in what shall we happiness, which is adapted to every condition in find it? either in reflecting on the past, or prognoslife, since every person who travels in this great ticating the future. But let us see how these are pursuit takes a separate road. The differing colours capable of producing satisfaction. which suit different complexions, are not more A remembrance of what is past, and an anticivarious than the different pleasures appropriated to pation of what is to come, seem to be the two faculdifferent minds. The various sects who have pre- ties by which man differs most from other animals. tended to give lessons to instruct me in happiness, Though brutes enjoy them in a limited degree, yet bave described their own particular sensations their whole life seems taken up in the present, rewithout considering ours, have only loaded their gardless of the past and the future. Man, on the disciples with constraint, without adding to their contrary, endeavours to derive his happiness, and real felicity.
experiences most of his miseries, from these two If I find pleasure in dancing, how ridiculous sources. would it be in me to prescribe such an amusement Is this superiority of reflection a prerogative of for the entertainment of a cripple: should he, on which we should boast, and for which we should the other hand, place his chief delight in painting, thank nature; or is it a misfortune of which we yet would he be absurd in recommending the same should complain and be humble ? Either from the relish to one who had lost the power of distinguish- abuse, or from the nature of things, it certainly ing colours. General directions are, therefore, com- makes our condition more miserable. monly useless: and to be particular would exhaust Had we a privilege of calling up, by the power volumes, since each individual may require a par- of memory, only such passages as were pleasing, ticular system of precepts to direct his choice. unmixed with such as were disagreeable, we might
Every mind seems capable of entertaining a cer- then excite at pleasure an ideal happiness, per. tain quantity of happiness, which no institutions haps more poignant than actual sensation. But can increase, no circumstances alter, and entirely this is not the case: the past is never represented independent of fortune. Let any man compare his without some disagreeable circumstance, which present fortune with the past, and he will probably tarnishes all its beauty; the remembrance of an evil find himself, upon the whole, neither better nor carries in it nothing agreeable, and to remember a worse than formerly.
good is always accompanied with regret. Thus Gratified ambition, or irreparable calamity, may we lose more than we gain by the remembrance. produce transient sensations of pleasure or distress. And we shall find our expectation of the future Those storms may discompose in proportion as to be a gift more distressful even than the former. they are strong, or the mind is pliant to their im- To fear an approaching evil is certainly a most pression. But the soul, though at first lifted up disagreeable sensation : and in expecting an apby the event, is every day operated upon with di- proaching good, we experience the inquietude of minished influence, and at length subsides into the wanting actual possession. level of its usual tranquillity. Should some unex- Thus, whichever way we look, the prospect is pected turn of fortune take thee from fetters, and disagreeable. Behind, we have left pleasures we place thee on a throne, exultation would be natural shall never more enjoy, and therefore regret; and upon the change; but the temper, like the face, before, we see pleasures which we languish to poswould soon resume its native serenity.
sess, and are consequently uneasy till we possess Every wish, therefore, which leads us to expect them. Was there any method of seizing the prehappiness somewhere else but where we are, every sent, unembittered by such reflections, then would institution which teaches us that we should be bet- our state be tolerably easy. ter by being possessed of something new, which This, indeed, is the endeavour of all mankind, promises to lift us a step higher than we are, only who, untutored by philosophy, pursue as much as lays a foundation for uneasiness, because it con- they can a life of amusement and dissipation. tracts debts which we can not repay; it calls that Every rank in life, and every size of understanda good, which, when we have found it, will, in fact, ing, seems to follow this alone; or not pursuing it, add nothing to our happiness.
deviates from happiness. The man of pleasure To enjoy the present, without regret for the past pursues dissipation by profession ; the man of busiof solicitude for the future, has been the advice ra-ness pursues it not less, as every voluntary labour ther of poets than philosophers. And yet the pre- he undergoes is only dissipation in disguise. The copt seems more rational than is generally imagined. philosopher himself, even while he reasons upon the It is the only general precept respecting the pursuit subject, does it unknowingly, with a view of dissipating the thoughts of what he was, or what he which makes the uneasiness and misery of others, must be.
serves as a companion and instructor to him. The subject therefore comes to this: 'which is In a word, positive happiness is constitutional, the most perfect sort of dissipation-pleasure, busi- and incapable of increase; misery is artificial, and ness, or philosophy? Which best serves to exclude generally proceeds from our folly. Philosophy can those uneasy sensations which memory or antici- add to our happiness in no other manner, but by pation produce ?
diminishing our misery: it should not pretend to The enthusiasm of pleasure charms only by in- increase our present stock, but make us economists tervals. The highest rapture lasts only for a mo- of what we are possessed of. The great source of ment; and all the senses seem so combined as to calamity lies in regret or anticipation; he, therefore, be soon tired into languor by the gratification of is most wise, who thinks of the present alone, reany one of them. It is only among the poets we gardless of the past or the future. This is imposhear of men changing to one delight, when satiated sible to the man of pleasure; it is difficult to the with another. In nature it is very different: the man of business; and is in some reasure attainable glutton, when sated with the full meal, is unquali- by the philosopher. Happy were we all bom fied to feel the real pleasure of drinking; the drunk- philosophers, all born with a talent of thus dissiard in turn finds few of those transports which pating our own cares, by spreading them upon all lovers boast in enjoyment; and the lover, when mankind! Adieu. cloyed, finds a diminution of every other appetite. Thus, after a full indulgence of any one sense, the man of pleasure finds a languor in all, is placed in a chasm between past and expected enjoyment,
LETTER XLV. perceives an interval which must be filled up. The present can give no satisfaction, because he has From Lien Chi Altangi, to Fum Hoàm, First President of the
Ceremonial Academy at Pekin, in China already robbed it of every charm: a mind thus left without immediate employment, naturally recurs Though the frequent invitations I receive from to the past or future; the reflector finds that he was men of distinction here might excite the vanity of happy, and knows that he can not be so now; he some, I am quite mortified, however, when I consees that he may yet be happy, and wishes the hour sider the motives that inspire their civility. I am was come: thus every period of his continuance is sent for not to be treated as a friend, but to satisfy miserable, except that very short one of immediate curiosity; not to be entertained so much as wondergratification. Instead of a life of dissipation, none ed at; the same earnestness which excites them to has more frequent conversations with disagreeable see a Chinese, would have made them equally self than he; his enthusiasms are but few and proud of a visit from the rhinoceros. transient; his appetites, like angry creditors, con- From the highest to the lowest, this people seem tinually making fruitless demands for what he is fond of sights and monsters. I am told of a person unable to pay; and the greater his former pleasure, here who gets a very comfortable livelihood by the more strong his regret, the more impatient his making wonders, and then selling or showing them expectations. A life of pleasure is therefore the to the people for money; no matter how insignimost unpleasing life in the world.
ficant they were in the beginning, by locking them Habit has rendered the man of business more up close, and showing for money, they soon becool in his desires; he finds less regret for past come prodigies! His first essay in this way was pleasures, and less solicitude for those to come. to exhibit himself as a wax-work figure behind a The life he now leads, though tainted in some glass door at a puppet-show. Thus, keeping the measure with hope, is yet not afflicted so strongly spectators at a proper distance, and having his head with regret, and is less divided between short-lived adorned with a copper crown, he looked extremely rapture and lasting anguish. The pleasures he natural, and very like the life itself. He continued has enjoyed are not so vivid, and those he has to this exhibition with success, till an involuntary fit expect can not consequently create so much anxiety. of sneezing brought him to life before all the spec
The philosopher, who extends his regard to all tators, and consequently rendered him for that time mankind, must still have a smaller concern for what as entirely useless as the peaceable inhabitant of a has already affected, or may hereafter affect him- catacomb. self: the concerns of others make his whole study, Determined to act the statue no more, he next and that study is his pleasure; and this pleasure is levied contributions under the figure of an Indian continuing in its nature, because it can be changed king; and by painting his face, and counterfeiting at will, leaving but few of these anxious intervals the savage howl, he frighted several ladies and which are employed in remembrance or anticipa- children with amazing success: in this manner, tion. The philosopher by this means leads a life therefore, he might have lived very comfortably, of almost continued dissipation; and reflection, had he not been arrested for a debt that was con
tracted when he was the figure in wax-work: thus ties lay, of which I was yet insensible. Sir, cries his face underwent an involuntary ablution, and he, the merit does not consist in the piece, but in he found himself reduced to his primitive complex- the manner in which it was done. The painter ion and indigence.
drew the whole with his foot, and held the pencil After some time, being freed from gaol, he was between his toes: I bought it at a very great price; now grown wiser, and insteail of making himself a for peculiar merit should ever be rewarded. wonder, was resolved only to make wonders. He But these people are not more fond of wonders, learned the art of pasting up mummies; was never than liberal in rewarding those who show them. at a loss for an artificial lusus naturæ ; nay, it has From the wonderful dog of knowledge, at present been reported, that he has sold seven petrified lob- under the patronage of the nobility, down to the sters of his own manufacture to a noted collector of man with the box, who professes to show the best rarities; but this the learned Cracovius Putridus has imitation of Nature that was ever seen, they all undertaken to refute in a very elaborate dissertation. live in luxury. A singing-woman shall collect
His last wonder was nothing more than a halter, subscriptions in her own coach and six ; a fellow yet by this halter he gained more than by all his shall make a fortune by tossing a straw from his toe former exhibitions. The people, it seems, had got to his nose; one in particular has found that eating it in their heads, that a certain noble criminal was fire was the most ready way to live; and another to be hanged with a silken rope. Now there was who jingles several bells fixed to his cap, is the nothing they so much wished to see as this very only man that I know of, who has received emolurope; and he was resolved to gratify their curiosity: ment from the labours of his head. he therefore got one made, not only of silk, but to A young author, a man of good-nature and render it more striking, several threads of gold were learning, was complaining to me some nights ago intermixed. The people paid their money only to of this misplaced generosity of the times. Here, see silk, but were highly satisfied when they found says he, have I spent part of my youth in attemptit was mixed with gold into the bargain. It is ing to instruct and amuse my fellow-creatures, and scarcely necessary to mention, that the projector all my reward has been solitude, poverty, and resold his silken rope for almost what it had cost proach; while a fellow, possessed of even the smallhim, as soon as the criminal was known to be est share of fiddling merit, or who has perhaps hanged in hempen materials.
learned to whistle double, is rewarded, applauded, By their fondness of sights, one would be apt to and caressed! Prythee, young man, says I to him, imagine, that instead of desiring to see things as are you ignorant, that in so large a city as this, it they should be, they are rather solicitous of seeing is better to be an amusing than a useful member of them as they ought not to be. A cat with four society? Can you leap up, and touch your feet legs is disregarded, though never so useful; but if four times before you come to the ground? No, it has but two, and is consequently incapable of sir. Can you pimp for a man of quality? No, catching mice, it is reckoned inestimable, and every sir. Can you stand upon two horses at full speed? man of taste is ready to raise the auction. A man, No, sir. Can you swallow a pen-knife? I can do though in his person faultless as an aerial genius, none of these tricks. Why then, cried I, there is might starve; but if stuck over with hideous warts no other prudent mean of subsistence left
, but to like a porcupine, his fortune is made for ever, and apprise the town that you speedily intend to eat he may propagate the breed with impunity and up your own nose, by subscription. applause.
I have frequently regretted that none of our A good woman in my neighbourhood, who was Eastern posture-masters, or showmen, have ever bred a habit-maker, though she handled her needle ventured to England. I should be pleased to see tolerably well, could scarcely get employment. But that money circulate in Asia, which is now sent to being obliged, by an accident, to have both her Italy and France, in order to bring their vagabonds bands cut off from the elbows, what would in hither. Several of our tricks would undoubtedly another country have been her ruin, made her for- give the English high satisfaction. Men of fashion tune bere: she now was thought more fit for her would be greatly pleased with the postures as well trade than before ; business flowed in apace, and all as the condescension of our dancing girls; and the people paid for seeing the mantua-maker who ladies would equally admire the conductors of our wrought without hands.
fire-works. What an agreeable surprise would it A gentleman showing me his collection of pic be to see a huge fellow with whiskers flash a tures, stopped at one with peculiar admiration : charged blunderbuss full in a lady's face, without there, cries he, is an inestimable piece. I gazed at singeing her hair, or melting her pomatum. Perthe picture for some time, but could see none of haps, when the first surprise was over, she might those graces with which he seemed enraptured; then grow familiar with danger; and the ladies it appeared to me the most paltry piece of the whole might vie with each other in standing fire with incollection : I therefore demanded where those beau- trepidity.
But of all the wonders of the East, the most use-/ virginity in a pawnbroker's shop, now attempted ful, and I should fancy the most pleasing, would to make up the defects of breeding and sentiment be the looking-glass of Lao, which reflects the by the magnificence of her dress, and the expenmind as well as the body. It is said that the Em- siveness of her amusements. Mr. Showman, peror Chusi, used to make his concubines dress their cried she, approaching, I am told you has someheads and their hearts in one of these glasses eve-thing to show in that there sort of magic-lantern, ry morning: while the lady was at her toilet, he by which folks can see themselves on the inside : would frequently look over her shoulder ; and it 1 protest, as my Lord Beetle says, I am sure it will is recorded, that among the three hundred which be vastly pretty, for I have never seen any thing composed his seraglio, not one was found whose like it before. But how; are we to strip off our mind was not even more beautiful than her per-clothes and be turned inside out? if so, as Lord
Beetle says, I absolutely declare off; for I would I make no doubt but a glass in this country not strip for the world before a man's face, and so would have the very same effect. The English I tells his lordship almost every night of my life. ladies, concubines and all, would undoubtedly cut I informed the lady that I would dispense with the very pretty figures in so faithful a monitor. There ceremony of stripping, and immediately presented should we happen to peep over a lady's shoulder my glass to her view. while dressing, we might be able to see neither As when a first-rate beauty, after having with gaming nor ill-nature ; neither pride, debauchery, difficulty escaped the small-pox, revisits her fanor a love of gadding. We should find her, if vourite mirror—that mirror which had repeated any sensible defect appeared in the mind, more the flattery of every lover, and even added force careful in rectifying it, than plastering up the ir- to the compliment, -expecting to see what had reparable decays of the person; nay, I am even so often given her pleasure, she no longer beholds apt to fancy, that ladies would find more real plea- the cherry lip, the polished forehead, and speaking sure in this utensil in private, than in any other blush ; but a hateful phiz, quilted into a thousand bauble imported from China, though ever so ex- seams by the hand of deformity; grief, resentment, pensive or amusing.
and rage, fill her bosom by turns: she blames the fates and the stars, but most of all, the unhappy
glass feels her resentment: so it was with the lady LETTER XLVI.
in question; she had never seen her own mind before, and was now shocked at its deformity. One
single look was sufficient to satisfy her curiosity; UPON finishing my last letter, I retired to rest, I held up the glass to her face, and she shut her reflecting upon the wonders of the glass of Lao, eyes; no entreaties could prevail upon her to gaze wishing to be possessed of one here, and resolved once more. She was even going to snatch it from in such a case to oblige every lady with a sight of my hands and break it in a thousand pieces. I it for nothing. What furtune denied me waking, found it was time, therefore, to dismiss her as incorfancy supplied in a dream : the glass, I know not rigible, and show away to the next that offered. how, was put into possession, and I could perceive This was an unmarried lady, who continued in several ladies approaching, some voluntarily, others a state of virginity till thirty-six, and then admitted driven forward against their wills, by a set of dis- a lover when she despaired of a husband. No contented genii, whom by intuition I knew were woman was louder at a revel than she, perfectly their husbands.
free hearted, and almost in every respect a man: The apartment in which I was to show away she understood ridicule to perfection, and was once was filled with several gaming-tables, as if just for- known even to sally out in order to beat the watch. saken : the candles were burnt to the socket, and “Here, you my dear with the outlandish face the hour was five o'clock in the morning. Placed (said she, addressing me), let me take a single at one end of the room, which was of prodigious peep. Not that I care three damns what figure I length, I could more easily distinguish every female may cut in the glass of such an old-fashioned creafigure as she marched up from the door ; but guess ture; if I am allowed the beauties of the face by my surprise, when I could scarcely perceive one people of fashion, I know the world will be comblooming or agreeable face among the number. plaisant enough to toss me the beauties of the This, however, I attributed to the early hour, and mind into the bargain.” I held my glass before kindly considered that the face of a lady just risen her as she desired, and must confess was shocked from bed, ought always to find a compassionate with the reflection. The lady, however, gazed for advocate.
some time with the utmost complacency; and at The first person who came up in order to view last, turning to me, with the most satisfied smile her intellectual face was a commoner's wife, who, said, she never could think she had been half 50 as I afterward found, being bred up during her handsome.
To the Same.