Графични страници
PDF файл

nose; 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 subsistence by the credulity of their countrymen: as they find the public fond of blood, wounds, and death, they contrive political ruin suited 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 de signed to beat the French back; now the people are going to jump down the gulf of luxury; and now nothing but a herring subscription can fish them up again. Time passes on; the report proves false; new circumstances produce new changes, but the people never change, they are preserving in folly.

In other countries, those boding politicians would be left to fret over their own schemes alone, and grow sple. netic without hopes of infecting others : but England seems to be the very region where spleen delights to dwell: a man not only can give an unbounded scope to the disorder 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 go. vernment 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 universal decadence with sympathetic sorrow, and, by fancying the conftitution in a decay, absolutely to impair its vigor.

This people would laugh at my fimplicity, should I advise them to be less fanguine in harbouring gloomy predictions, and examine coolly before they attempted to complain. I have just heard a story, which, though transacted in a private family, serves very well to describe the behaviour of the whole nation, in cases of threatened calamity. As there are public, so there are private, incendiaries here. One of the last, either for the amusement of his friends, or to divert a fit of the spleen, lately sent 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 secret of poisoning man, woman, and child, without danger of detection. Don't be uneasy, Sir, you may take your choice of being poisoned in a fortnight, or a month, or poisoned 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 muit die; I have determined it within my own breast that you must die. Blood, Sir, blood is my trade! so I could wish you would this day fix weeks take leave of your friends, wife, and family, for I cannot possibly allow you longer time. To convince you more cer. ainly 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 feal, fold it up and give it to your Dutch mastiff that fits by the fire ; he will swallow it, Sir, like a buttered toast; in three hours four minutes after he has taken it, he will attempt to Lite off his own tongue, and half an hour after burst asunder in twenty pieces. Blood, blood, blood! so no more at present from, Sir, your most obedient, most devoted humble servant to command till death."

You may easily imagine the consternation into which this letter threw the whole good-natured family. The poor man to whom it was addressed was the more sur. prised, as not knowing how he could merit such 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 should be soli. cited to offer a reward and pardon: a fellow of this kind would go on poisoning family after family, and it was impossible to say where the destruction 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 midst of the friends and relations, the feal was torn off, the pacquet folded up with care, and soon they found, to the great surprise of all that the dog would not eat the letter. Adieu.




HAVE frequently been amazed at the ignorance of almost all the European travellers who have penetrated any considerable way eastward into Asia. They have been influenced either by motives of commerce or piety, and their accounts are such as might reasonably be ex. pected from men of very narrow or very prejudiced education, the dictates of superstition, or the result of igno.


It is not surprising, that in such a variety of ad. venturers, not one single philosopher 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 soever, where the inhabitants are not possessed of some peculiar secrets, either in nature or art, which might be transplanted with success; Siberian Tartary, for instance, the natives extract a strong spirit from milk, which is a secret probably unknown to the chemists of Europe. In the most favage parts of India, they are possessed of the secret of dying vegetable substances scarlet; and of re. fining lead into metal, which, for hardness and colour, is little inferior to silver; not one of which secrets but would in Europe make a man's fortune. The


of the Asiatics 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 same manner, had they bean told the Chinese used such arts before the invention was common with themselves at home.

Of all the English philosophers I most reverence Bacon, that great and hardy genius ; he it is who allows of secrets yet unknown; who undaunted by the seeming difficulties that oppose, prompts human curiosity to examine every part of nature, and even

exhorts man to try whether he cannot subject 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 those countries, which have been visited only by the superstitious and mercenary, what might not

[ocr errors]

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 so barbarous that would, not disclose all it knew, if it received from the traveller equivalent information; and I am apt to think that a person, who was ready to give more knowledge than he receive ed, would be welcome wherever he came. All his care in travelling should only be to suit his intellectual banquet to the people with whom he conversed; he should not attempt to teach the unlettered Tarter astronomy, nor yet instruct the polite Chinese in the ruder arts of subsistence; he should endeavour to improve the barbarian in the secrets of living comfortably; and the inhabitant of a more refined country, in the speculative pleasures of science. How much more nobly would a philosopher thus employed spend his time, than by sitting at home earnestly intent upon adding one star more to his catalogue, or one monster to his collection; or still, if possible more trifling sedulous in the incatenation of fleas, or the sculpture of a cherry stone.

I never consider 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 offending one of their members into the most eastern parts of Asia, to make what discoveries he was able. To be convinced of the utility of such 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

[ocr errors]
« ПредишнаНапред »