« ZurückWeiter »
nations 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 seal 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,
I 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 expected from men of very narrow or very prejudiced education, the dictates of superstition or the result of ignorance. Is it not surprising, that in such a variety of adventurers not one single philosopher should be found 2 for as to the travels of G melli, the learned are long agreed that the whole is but an imposture. There is scarcely any country how rude or undulu wated soever, where the inhabitants are not posses sed of some peculiar secrets either in Nature or art, whic, might be transplanted with success; in Siberian Tartary, for instance, the natives extract a stron spirit from milk, which is a secret probably unknown to the chymists of Europe. In the most savage parts of India they are possessed of the secret of dying vegetable substances scarlet; and of refining lead into a 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 power 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 secrets of gunpowder, and the mariner's compass in the same manner, had they been 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 tempest, 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 mankind expect: how would he enlighten the regions 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
think, that a person who was ready to give more knowledge than he received, would be welcome wherever he came. All his care in travelling should only be to suit his intellectual banquet to the people
would not disclose all it knew, if it received from the traveller equivalent information; and I am apt to
numbers he converted; what methods he took keep Lent in a region where there was no fish, or.
with whom he conversed; he should not attempt to teach the unlettered Tartar 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 more to his collection; or still, if possible, more triflingly sedulous in the incatenation of fleas, or the sculpture of a cherry-stone I never consider this subject, without being surprised that none of those societies so laudably established in England for the promotion of arts and learning, have ever thought of sending 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 merchant tells us perhaps the price of different commodities, the methods of baling them up, and the properest manner for an European to preserve his health in the country. The missioner, on the other hand, informs us, with what pleasure the country to which he was sent embraced Christianity, and
the shifts he made to celebrate the rites of his religion. in places where there was neither bread nor wine such accounts, with the usual appendage of marriage and funerals, inscriptions, rivers, and mountains, make up the whole of an European traveller's diary; but as to all the secrets of which the inhabitants are posses
sed, those are universally attributed to magic; and when the traveller can give no other account of the wonders he sees performed, very contentedly ascribes them to the power of the devil. It was an usual observation of Boyle, the English chymist, that if every artist would but discover what new observations occurred to him in the exercise of his trade, philosophy would thence gain innumerable improvements. It may be observed with still greater justice, that if the useful knowledge of every country, howsoever barbarous, was gleaned by a judicious observer, the advantages would be inestimable. Are there not even in Europe many useful inventions known or practised but in one place : The instrument, as an example, for cutting down corn in Germany is much more handy and expeditious, in my opinion, than the sickle used in England. The cheap and expeditious manner of making vinegar without previous fermentation is known only in a part of France. If such discoveries, therefore, remain still to be known at home ; what funds of knowledge might not be collected in countries yet unexplored, or only passed through by ignorant travellers in hasty caravans ! The caution with which foreigners are received in Asia may be alleged as an objection to such a design. But how ready have several European merchants found admission into regions the most suspecting, unor the character of Sanjafins, or northern pilgrims; such not even China itself denies access.
would in some measure repair the breaches made by ambition; and might show that there were still some who boasted a greater name than that of patriots, who professed themselves lovers of men. The only diffi
To send out a traveller, properly qualified for thesepurposes, might be an object of national concern; it
culty would remain in choosing a proper person, for
so arduous an enterprise. He should be a man of a philosophical turn, one apt to deduce consequences of general utility from particular occurrences, neither swollen with pride, nor hardened by prejudice, neither wedded to one particular system, nor instructed only in one particular science ; neither wholly a botahist, nor quite an antiquarian ; his mind should be tinctured with miscellaneous knowledge, and his manners humanized by an intercourse with men. He should be in some measure an enthusiast in the design; fond of travelling from a rapid imagination and an innate love of change; furnished with a body capable of sustaining every fatigue, and an heart not easily terrified at danger. Adiet.
ONE of the principal tasks I had proposed to myself on my arrival here, was to become acquainter with the names and characters of those now li
who as scholars or wits, had acquired share of reputation. In order a succeed in this de
* I fancied the surest method would be to begin
my inquiry among the ignorant, judging that his same would be greatest, which was loud enough to be heard by the vulgar. Thus predisposed I began the search, but only went in quest of disappointment and perplexity. I found every district had a peculiar fa