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How few appear in those streets, which but some few hours ago were crowded ; and those who appear now no longer wear their daily mask, nor attempt to hide their lewdness or their misery.
But who are those who make the streets their couch, and find a short repose from wretchedness at the doors of the opulent? These are strangers, wanderers, and orphans, whose circumstances are too humble to expect redress, and whose distresses are too great even for pity. Their wretchedness excites rather horror than pity. Some are without the covering even of rags, and others emaciated with disease; the world has disclaimed them; society turns its back upon their distress, and has given them up to nakedness and hunger. These poor shivering females have once seen happier days, and been flattered into beauty. They have been prostituted to the gay luxurious villain, and are now turned out to meet the severity of winter. Perhaps, now lying at the doors of their betrayers, they sue to wretches whose hearts are insensible, or debauchees who may curse, but will not relieve them.
Why, why, was I born a man, and yet see the sufferings of wretches I cannot relieve! Poor houseless creatures! the world will give you reproaches, but will not give you relief. The slightest misfortunes of the great, the most imaginary uneasinesses of the rich, are aggravated with all the power of eloquence, and held up to engage our attention and sympathetic. sorrow
The poor weep unheeded, persecuted by every subordinate species of tyranny; and every law, which gives others security, becomes an enemy to
only makes the man who feels it, more wretched than the obje ct which sues for assistance.
Fum Hoam to Lien Chi Altangi, the discontented wan
derer, by the way of Moscow.
I HAVE been just sent upon an embassy to Japan ; my commission is to be dispatched in four days, and you can hardly conceive the pleasure I shall find upon revisiting my native country. I shall leave with joy this proud, barbarous, in hospitable region, where every object conspires to diminish my satisfaction, and increase my patriotism.
But though I find the inhabitants savage, yet the Dutch merchants who are permitted to trade hither, seem still more detestable. They have raised my dislike to Europe in general; by them I learn how low avarice can degrade human nature ; how many indige nities an European will suffer for gain.
I was present at an audience given by the emperor to the Dutch envoy, who had sent several presents to all the courtiers some days previous to his admission; but he was obliged to attend those designed for the emperor himself. From the accounts I had heard of this ceremony, mny curiosity prompted me to be a spectator of the whole.
First went the presents, set out on beautiful enamelled tables, adorned with flowers, borne on men's shoulders, and followed by Japanese music and dancers. From so great respect paid to the gifts themselves, I had fancied the donors must have received almost divine honours. But about a quarter of an hour after the presents had been carried in trilimph, the envoy and his train were brought forward. They were covered from head to foot with long black veils, which prevented their seeing, each led by a Conductor, chosen from the meanest of the people. In this dishonourable manner, having traversed the city of Jedo, they at length arrived at the palacegate, and after waiting half an hour, were admitted into the guard-room. Here their eyes were uncovered, and in about an hour the gentleman-usher introduced them into the hall of audience.
The emperor was at length shown sitting in a kind of alcove at the upper end of the room, and the Dutch envoy was conducted towards the throne.
As soon as he had approached within a certain dis. tance, the gentleman-usher cried out with a loud voice, Holanda Capitan; upon these words the envoy fell flat upon the ground, and crept upon his hands and feet towards the throne. Still approaching, he reared himself upon his knees, and then bowed his forehead to the ground. These ceremonies being over, he was directed to withdraw, still groveling on his belly, and going backwards like a lobster.
Men must be excessively fond of riches, when they are earned with such circumstances of abject submission? Do the Europeans worship Heaven itself with marks of more profound respect? Do they confer those honours on the Supreme of beings, VOL. IV.
which they pay to a barbarous king, who gives them a permission to purchase trinkets and porcelaine? What a glorious exchange, to forfeit their national honour, and even their title to humanity, for a screen or a snuff-box!
If these ceremonies essayed in the first audience appeared mortifying, those which are practised in the second are infinitely more so. In the second audience, the emperor and the ladies of court were placed behind lattices in such a manner as to see without being seen. Here all the Europeans were directed to pass in review, and grovel and act the serpent as before: with this spectacle the whole court seemed highly delighted. The strangers were asked a thousand ridiculous questions; as their names, and their ages : they were ordered to write, to stand upright, to sit, to stop, to compliment each other, to be drunk, to speak the Japanese language, to talk Dutch, to sing, to eat ; in short they were or dered to do all that could satisfy the curiosity of woo
Imagine, my dear Altangi, a set of grave men thus transformed into buffoons, and acting a part every whit as honourable as that of those instructed animals which are shown in the streets of Pekin to the mob on a holiday. Yet the ceremony did not end here, for every great lord of the court was to be visited in the same manner; and their ladies, who took the whim from their husbands, were all equally fond of seeing the strangers perform, even the children seemed highly diverted with the dancing Dutchmen.
Alas, cried I to myself, upon returning from such a spectacle, is this the nation which assumes such dignity at the court of Pekin? Is this that people
that appear so proud at home, and in every country where they have the least authority? How does a love of gain transform the gravest of mankind into the most contemptible and ridiculous? I had rather continue poor all my life, than become rich at such a rate. Perish those riches which are acquired at the expense of my honour or my humanity. Let me quit, said I, a country where there are none but such as treat all others like slaves, and more detestable still, in suffering such treatment. i have seen enough of this nation to desire to see more of others. Let me leave a people suspicious to excess, whose morals are corrupted, and equally debased by superstition and vice; where the sciences are left uncultivated, where the great are slaves to the prince, and tyrants to the people, where the women are chaste only when debarred of the power of transgression ; where the true disciples of Confucius are not less persecuted than those of Christianity : in a word, a country where men are forbidden to think, and consequently labour under the most miserable slavery, that of mental servitude.