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habitant must go through the different stages of hunter, shepherd, and husbandman: then when property becomes valuable, and consequently gives cause for injustice; then when laws are appointed to repress injury, and secure possession; when men, by the sanction of those laws, become possessed of superfluity; when luxury is thus introduced and demands its continual supply, then it is that the sciences become necessary and useful; the state then cannot subsist without them ; they must then be introduced, at once to teach men to draw the greatest possible quantity of pleasure from circumscribed possession ; and to restrain them within the bounds of moderate enjoyment. The sciences are not the cause of luxury, but its consequence, and this destroyer thus brings with it an antidote which resists the virulence of its own poison. By asserting that luxury introduces the sciences, we assert a truth; but if with those, who reject the utility of learning, we assert that the sciences also introduce luxury, we shall be at once false, absurd, and ridiculous. Adieu.
*” Lien Chi Mitangi, to Hingho, by the way of
You are now arrived at an age, my son, when plea sure dissuades from application; but rob not, by pre: sent gratification, all the succeeding period of life of its happiness. Sacrifice a little pleasure at first to the expectance of greater. The study of a few years wis make the rest of life completely easy.
But instead of continuing the subject myself, take the following instructions borrowed from a modern philosopher of China". “ He who has begun his for“tune by study will certainly confirm it by perseve* rance. The love of books damps the passion for “ pleasure, and when this passion is once extinguished, life is then cheaply supported; thus a man being possessed of more than he wants, can never be subject to great disappointments, and avoids all those meannesses which indigence sometimes una“voidably produces. “ There is unspeakable pleasure attending the life of a voluntary student. The first time I read an excellent book, it is to me just as if I had gained a “new friend. When I read over a book I have pe.
rused before, it resembles the meeting with an old “ one. We ought to lay hold of every incident in life for improvement, the trifling as well as the im“ portant. It is not one diamond alone which gives
lustre to another, a common coarse stone is also employed for that purpose. Thus I ought to draw advantage from the insults and contempt I meet with from a worthless fellow. His brutality ought to induce me to self-examination, and correct every blemish that may have given rise to his calumny. “Yet with all the pleasures and profits which are generally produced by learning, parents often find it difficult to induce their children to study. They often seem dragged to what wears the appearance of application. Thus being dilatory in the begin**ing, all future hopes of eminence are entirely cut
* A translation of this passage may also be seen in Du Halde, Vol. II. Fol. p. 47, and 58. This extract will at least serve
to show that fondness for humour which appears in the writings of the Chinese.
“ off. If they find themselves obliged to write two “ lines more polite than ordinary, their pencil then “ seems as heavy as a mill-stone, and they spend ten “ years in turning two or three periods with propri“ ety. “ These persons are most at a loss when a banquet “ is almost over; the plate and the dice go round, “ that the number of little verses which each is obliged to repeat may be determined by chance. The boo“ by, when it comes to his turn, appears quite stupid and insensible. The company divert themselves with his confusion; and sneers, winks, and whispers “ are circulated at his expense. As for him, he “ opens a pair of large heavy eyes, stares at all about “ him, and even offers to join in the laugh, without ever considering himself as the burthen of all their “good humour. “But it is of no importance to read much, except “ you be regular in reading. If it be interrupted for “ any considerable time, it can never be attained with “ proper improvement. There are some who study “ for one day with intense application, and repose “ themselves for ten days after. But wisdom is a “ coquet, and must be courted with unabating assidu“ity. “. It was a saying of the ancients, that a man never “ opens a book without reaping some advantage by it. * I say with them, that every book can serve to make * us more expert, except romances, and these are no * better than the instruments of debauchery. They * are dangerous fictions, where love is the ruling pas** sidn. * The most indecent strokes there pass for turns * of wit, intrigue and criminal liberties for gallantry * and politeness. Assignations, and even villainy, are * put in such strong lights, as may inspire even grown
men with the strongest passion ; how much more therefore ought the youth of either sex to dread them, whose reason is so weak, and whose hearts are so susceptible of passion : “To slip in by a back-door, or leap a wall, are accomplishments that when handsomely set of enchant a young heart. It is true the plot is commonly wound up by a marriage, concluded with the consent of parents, and adjusted by every ceremony prescribed by law. But as in the body of the work there are many passages that offend good morals, overthrow laudable custom, violate the laws, and destroy the duties most essential to society, virtue is thereby exposed to the most dangerous attacks. “But, say some, the authors of these romances have nothing in view, but to represent vice punished, and virtue rewarded. Granted: but will the greater number of readers take notice of these punishments and rewards? Are not their minds carried to something else Can it be imagined that the heart with which the author inspires the love of virtue, can overcome that crowd of thoughts which sway them to licentiousness? To be able to inculcate virtue by so leaky a vehicle, the author must be a philosopher of the first rank. But in our age we can find but few first-rate philosophers. “Avoid such performances where vice assumes the face of virtue; seek wisdom and knowledge without ever thinking you have found them. A man
- - - * is wise, while he continues in the pursuit of wisdom;
but when he once fancies that he has found the object of his inquiry, he then becomes a fool. Learn to pursue virtue from the man that is blind, who never makes a step without first examining the ground with his staff.
“ The world is like a vast sea; mankind like a vessel sailing on its tempestuous bosom. Our prudence is its sails, the sciences serve us for oars, good or bad fortune are the favourable or contrary “ winds, and judgment is the rudder; without this “ last the vessel is tossed by every billow, and will “ find shipwreck in every breeze. In a word, obscurity and indigence are the parents of vigilance “ and economy; vigilance and economy of riches and honour; riches and honour of pride and luxury; pride and luxury of impurity and idleness; “ and impurity and idleness again produce indigence and obscurity. Such are the revolutions of life.” Adieu,
Prom Lien Chi Mitangi, to Pum Hoam, first President of the Ceremonial Academy at Pekin, in China.
I FANCY the character of a poet is in every country the same, fond of enjoying the present, careless of the future, his conversation that of a man of sense, his actions those of a fool! of fortitude able to stand unmoved at the bursting of an earthquake, yet of sensibility to be affected by the breaking of a tea-cup ; such is his character, which considered in every light is the very opposite of that which leads to riches. The poets of the West are as remarkable for their indigence as their genius, and yet among the nume’ rous hospitals designed to relieve the poor, I have heard of but one erected for the benefit of decayed authors. This was founded by pope Urban VIII. and called the retreat of the incurables, intimating: