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Rowing in the fields and on fcaffolds; tortures used as arguments to convince the recufant: to heighten the horror of the piece, behold it fhaded with wars, rebellions, treasons, plots, politics, and poison.
And what advantage has any country of Europe obtained from fuch calamities? Scarce any. Their diffentions for more than a thousand years have served to make each other unhappy, but have enriched none. All the great nations ftill nearly preferve their ancient limits; none have been able to fubdue the other, and fo terminate the difpute. France, in fpite of the conquefts of Edward the Third, and Henry the Fifth, notwithstanding the efforts of Charles the Fifth, and Philip the Second, ftill remains within it's ancient limits. Spain, Germany, Great Britain, Poland, the itates of the North, are nearly ftill the fame. What effect then has the blood of fo many thousands, the destruction of
fo many cities, produced? Nothing either great or confiderable. The Chriftian princes have loft indeed much from the enemies of Chriftendom, but they have gained nothing from each other. Their princes, because they preferred ambition to justice, deferve the character of enemies to mankind; and their priests, by neglecting morality for opinion, have miftaken the interefts of fociety.
On whatever side we regard the hiftory of Europe, we shall perceive it to be a tiffue of crimes, follies, and misfortunes, of politics without defign, and wars without confequence; in this long lift of human infirmity, a great charac ter, or a fhining virtue, may fometimes happen to arife, as we often meet a cottage or a cultivated fpot in the most hideous wilderness. But for an Alfred, an Alphonfo, a Frederic, or one Alexander III. we meet a thousand princes who have difgraced humanity.
FROM LIEN CHI ALTANGI, TO FUM HOAM, FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE CEREMONIAL ACADEMY AT PEKIN, IN CHINA.
W E have juft received accounts
here, that Voltaire the poet and philofopher of Europe is dead! He is how beyond the reach of the thoufand enemies who, while living, degraded his writings, and branded his character. Scarce a page of his latter productions that does not betray the agonies of an heart bleeding under the scourge of unmerited reproach. Happy therefore at laft in efcaping from calumny, happy in leaving a world that was unworthy of him and his writings.
Let others, my friend, beftrew the hearfes of the great with panegyric; but fuch a lofs as the world has now fuffered affects me with stronger emotions. When a philofopher dies, I confider myfelf as lofing a patron, an inftructor, and a friend. I confider the world as loung one who might ferve to confole her amidst the defolations of war and ambition. Nature every day produces in abundance men capable of filling all the requifite duties of authority; but the is niggard in the birth of an exalted mind, fcarcely producing in a century a fingle
genius to blefs and enlighten a degenerate age, Prodigal in the production of kings, governors, mandarines, chams, and courtiers, the feems to have forgotten; for more than three thousand years, the manner in which the once formed the brain of a Confucius; and well it is the has forgotten, when a bad world gave him fo very bad a reception:
Whence, my friend, this malevolence which has ever purfued the great even to the tomb? whence this more than fiend-like difpofition of embittering the lives of those who would make us more wife and more happy?
When I caft my eye over the fates of feveral philofophers, who have at different periods enlightened mankind, I muft confefs it infpires me with the most degrading reflections on humanity. When I read of the stripes of Mentius, the tortures of Tchin, the bowl of Socrates, and the bath of Seneca; when I hear of the perfecutions of Dante, the imprisonment of Galileo, the indignities fuffered by Montange, the banishment of Cartelius, the infamy of Bacon K
and that even Locke himself escaped not without reproach; when I think on fuch fubjects, I hesitate whether moft to blame, the ignorance or the villainy of my fellow-creatures.
Should you look for the character of Voltaire among the journalists and illiterate writers of the age, you will there find him characterized as a monfter, with a head turned to wisdom, and an heart inclining to vice; the powers of his mind and the bafenefs of his principles forming a deteftable contraft. But feek for his character among writers like himself, and you find him very differently defcribed. You perceive him in their accounts poffeffed of good-nature, humanity, greatness of foul, fortitude, and almoft every virtue: in this description those who might be supposed best acquainted with his character are unanimous. The royal Pruffian*, Dargents †, Diderot, D'Alembert, and Fontenelle, confpire in drawing the pic ture, in defcribing the friend of man and the patron of every rifing genius.
An inflexible perfeverance in what he thought was right, and a generous deteftation of flattery, formed the groundwork of this great man's character. From thefe principles many ftrong vir tues and few faults arofe; as he was warm in his friendship, and fevere in refentment, all that mention him feem poffeffed of the fame qualities, and fpeak of him with rapture or detestation. A perfon of his eminence can have few indifferent as to his character; every reader must be an enemy or an admirer.
This poet began the courfe of glory fo early as the age of eighteen, and even then was author of a tragedy which deferves applaufe. Poffeffed of a small patrimony, he preferved his independence in an age of venality, and fupported the dignity of learning, by teaching his cotemporary writers to live, like him, above all the favours of the great. He was banished his native country for a fatire
Philofophe Sans Souci.
upon the royal concubine. He had ac cepted the place of hiftorian to the French king, but refused to keep it, when he found it was prefented only in order that he should be the first flatterer of the state.
The great Pruffian received him as an ornament to his kingdom, and had fente enough to value his friendship, and profit by his inftructions. In this court he continued, till an intrigue, with which the world feems hitherto unacquainted, obliged him to quit that country. His own happiness, the happiness of the monarch, of his fifter, of a part of the court, rendered his departure neceffary.
Tired at length of courts, and all the follies of the great, he retired to Switzerland, a country of liberty, where he enjoyed tranquillity and the muse. Here, though without any tafte for magnificence himself, he ufually entertained at his table the learned and polite of Europe, who were attracted by a defire of seeing a perfon from whom they had received fo much fatisfaction. The entertainment was conducted with the utmoft elegance, and the conversation was that of philofophers. Every country that at once united liberty and science, were his peculiar favourites. The being an Englishman was to him a character that claimed admiration and respect.
Between Voltaire and the difciples of Confucius, there are many differences ; however, being of a different opinion does not in the least dininifh my esteem; I am not displeased with my brother, because he happens to ask our father for favours in a different manner from me. Let his errors reft in peace, his excellencies deferve admiration; let me with the wife admire his wifdom; let the envious and the ignorant ridicule his forbles, the folly of others is ever moft ridicu lous to those who are themfelves moft foolish. Adieu.
FROM LIEN CHI ALTANGI, TO HINGPO, A SLAVE IN PERSIA.
T is impoffible to form a philofophic fyftem of happinefs which is adapted to every condition of life, fince every perfon who travels in this great purfuit takes a feparate road. The differing colours which fuit different complexions, are not more various than the different pleafures appropriated to different minds. The various fects who have pretended to give leffons to inftruct me in happinefs, have defcribed their own particular fenfations, without confidering ours; have only loaded their difciples with contraint, without adding to their real felicity.
If I find pleafure in dancing, how ridiculous would it be in me to prefcribe fuch an amusement for the entertainment of a cripple! Should he, on the other hand, place his chief delight in painting, yet would he be absurd in recommending the faine relish to one who had loft the power of diftinguishing colours. General directions are therefore commonly useless; and to be particular would exhauft volumes, fince each individual may require a particular fyftem of precepts to direct his choice.
Every with, therefore, which leads us to expect happiness somewhere else but where we are, every inftitution which teaches us that we fhould be better, by being poffeffed of fomething new, which promises to lift us a step higher than we are, only lays a foundation for uneafinefs, becaufe it contracts debts which we cannot repay; it calls that a good, which when we have found it, will in fact add nothing to our happinefs.
To enjoy the prefent, without regret for the paft, or folicitude for the future, has been the advice rather of poets than philofophers. And yet the precept seems more rational than is generally imagined. It is the only general precept refpecting the purfuit of happiness, that can be applied with propriety to every condition of life. The man of pleasure, the man of bufinefs, and the philofopher, are equally interested in it's dif quifition. If we do not find happiness in the present moment, in what shall we find it? Either in reflecting on the past, or prognofticating the future. But let us fee how thefe are capable of produc
Every mind feems capable of entering fatisfaction. taining a certain quantity of happiness, which no inftitutions can increafe, no circumstances alter, and entirely independent on fortune. Let any man compare his prefent fortune with the paft, and he will probably find himself, upon the whole, neither better nor worse than formerly.
Gratified ambition, or irreparable calamity, may produce tranfient fenfations of pleasure or diftrefs. Those ftorms may difcompofe in proportion as they are strong, or the mind is pliant to their impreffion. But the foul, though at firit lifted up by the event, is every day operated upon with diminished influence; and at length fubfides into the level of it's ufual tranquillity. Should fome unexpected turn of fortune take thee from fetters, and place thee on a throne, exultation would be natural upon the change; but the temper, like the face, would foon refume it's native ferenity.
A remembrance of what is past, and an anticipation of what is to come, seem to be the two faculties by which man differs most from other animals. Though brutes enjoy them in a limited degree, yet their whole life feems taken up in the prefent, regardless of the past and the future. Man, on the contrary, endeavours to derive his happiness, and experiences moft of his miseries, from these two fources.
Is this fuperiority of reflection a prerogative of which we should boat, and for which we fhall thank Nature; or is it a misfortune of which we should complain and be humble? Either from the abufe, or from the nature of things, it certainly makes our condition more miferable.
Had we a privilege of calling up, by the power of memory, only fuch paffages as were pleasing, unmixed with fuch as were difagreeable, we might then excite
at pleasure an ideal happinefs, perhaps more poignant than actual fenfation. But this is not the cafe; the paft is never reprefented without fome difagreeable circumstance, which tarnishes all it's beauty; the remembrance of an evil carries in it nothing agreeable, and to remember a good is always accompanied with regret. Thus we lofe more than we gain by remembrance.
unqualified to feel the real pleasure of drinking; the drunkard, in turn, finds few of thofe tranfports which lovers boaft in enjoyment; and the lover, when cloyed, finds a diminution of every other appetite, Thus, after a full indulgence of any one fenfe, the man of pleature finds a languor in all, is placed in a chafin between paft and expected enjoyinent, perceives an interval which must be filled up. The prefent can give no fatisfaction, because he has al
And we fhall find our expectation of the future to be a gift more diitressful even than the former. To fear an ap-ready proaching evil is certainly a most dif agreeable fenfation; and in expecting an approaching good, we experience the inquietude of wanting actual poffeffion.
Thus, which ever way we look, the profpect is difagrecable. Behind, we have left pleasures we fhall never more enjoy, and therefore regret; and before, we fee pleafures which we languish to poffefs, and are confequently uneafy till we poffefs them. Was there any method of feizing the prefent, unimbittered by fuch reflections, then would our state be tolerably easy.
This, indeed, is the endeavour of all mankind, who, untutored by philofe phy, purfue as much as they can a life of amufement and diffipation. Every rank in life, and every fize of underftanding, feems to follow this alone; or not purfuing it, deviates from happinefs. The man of pleature purfues dif fipation by profeffion; the man of bufinefs purfues it not lets, as every voluntary labour he undergoes is only diffipation in difquife. The philofopher himfelf, even while he reafons upon the fubject, does it unknowingly with a view of diffipating the thoughts of what he was, or what he mult be.
The fubject, therefore, comes to this. Which is the most perfect fort of diffipation pleasure, bufinefs, or philofophy? which belt ferves to exclude thofe unealy fenfations, which memory or anticipation produce?
The enthusiatim of pleafure charms only by intervals. The higheft rapture Jafts only for a moment; and all the fenies item to combined, as to be foon tired into languor by the gratification of any one of them. It is only among the poets we hear of men changing to one delight, when fatiated with another. In nature it is very different: the glutton, when fated with the full meal, is
robbed it of every charm: a mind thus left without immediate gratification. Inftead of a life of diffipation, none has more frequent converfations with difagreeable felf than he; his enthufiafins are but few and tranfient; his appetites, like angry creditors, continually making fruitless demands for what he is unable to pay; and the greater his former pleafure, the more impatient his expectations; a life of pleature is therefore the most unpleafing life in the
Habit has endered the man of bufinels more cool in his defires; he finds lefs regret for paft pleasures, and lefs folicitude for those to come. The life he now leads, though tainted in fome meature with hope, is yet not af flicted fo ftrongly with regret, and is le's divided between fhort-lived rapture and lafting anguifh. The pleasures he has enjoyed are not fo vivid, and those he has to expect, cannot confequently create fo much anxiety.
The philofopher, who extends his regard to all mankind, muit have still a finaller concern for what has already affected, or may hereafter affect himself; the concerns of others make his whole ftudy, and that ftudy is his pleasure; and this pleafure is continuing in it's nature, because it can be changed at will, leaving but few of thefe anxious intervals which are employed in remembrance or anticipation. The philofopher, by this means, leads a life of almoft continued diffipation; and reflection, which makes the uneafinefs and mifery of others, ferves as a companion and inftructor to him.
In a word, pofitive happiness is conftitutional, and incapable of encrease; mifery is artificial, and generally proceeds from our folly. Philofophy can add to our happiness in no other manner, but by diminishing our mifery: it, fhould not pretend to encrease our pre
fent stock, but make us œconomists of what we are poffeffed of. The great fource of calamity lies in regret or anticipation: he, therefore, is moft wife, who thinks of the prefent alone, regard. lefs of the paft or the future. This is impoffible to the man of pleafure; it is
difficult to the man of bufinefs; and is in fome measure attainable by the philofopher. Happy were we all born philofophers; all born with a talent of thus diffipating our own cares, by fpreading them upon all mankind! Adieu.
FROM LIEN CHI ALTANGI, TO FUM HOAM, FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE CEREMONIAL ACADEMY AT PEKIN, IN CHINA.
From the highest to the lowest, this people feem fond of fights and monsters, I am told of a perfon here who gets a very comfortable livelihood by making wonders, and then felling or fhewing them to the people for money, no matter how infignificant they were in the beginning, by locking them up clofe, and Thewing for money, they foon became prodigies! His first effay in this way was to exhibit himfelf as a wax-work figure behind a glass door at a puppetfhow. Thus keeping the fpectators at a proper diftance, and having his head adorned with a copper crown, he looked extremely natural, and very like the life itself. He continued this exhibition with fuccefs, till an involuntary fit of fneezing brought him to life before all the spectators, and confequently rendered him for that time as entirely ufelefs, as the peaceable inhabitant of a catacomb.
Determined to act the statue no more, he next levied contributions under the figure of an Indian king; and by painting his face, and counterfeiting the favage howl, he frighted feveral ladies and children with amazing fuccefs: in this manner, therefore, he might have lived very comfortably, had he not been arrefted for a debt that was contracted when he was the figure in wax-work;
thus his face underwent an involuntary ablution, and he found himself reduced to his primitive complexion and indigence.
After fome time, being freed from gaol, he was now grown wifer, and inftead of making himself a wonder, was refolved only to make wonders. He learned the art of pafting up mummies; was never at a lofs for an artificial lufus natura; nay, it has been reported, that he has fold feven petrified lobsters of his own manufacture to a noted collector of rarities; but this the learned Cracovius Putridus has undertaken to refute in a very elaborate differtation.
His laft wonder was nothing more than an halter, yet by this halter he gained more than by all his former exhibitions. The people, it seems, had got it in their heads, that a certain noble criminal was to be hanged with a filken rope. Now there was nothing they so much defired to fee as this very rope; and he was refolved to gratify their curiofity: he therefore got one made, not only of filk, but, to render it more striking, feveral threads of gold were intermixed. The people paid their money only to fee filk, but were highly fatif fied when they found it was mixed with gold into the bargain. It is fcarce neceffary to mention, that the projector fold his filken rope for almoft what it had coft him, as foon as the criminal was known to be hanged in hempen materials.
By their fondness of fights, one would be apt to imagine, that instead of defiring to fee things as they fhould be, they are rather folicitous of feeing them as they ought not to be. A cat with four legs is disregarded, though never so useful; but if it has but two, and is confequently incapable of catching mice, it