« ZurückWeiter »
who with a full belly, can think like a hero, after a course of fasting, shall rise to the sublimity of a demi-god. But what will most amaze is, that this very set of men, who are now so much depreciated by fools, are however, the very best writers they have among them at present. For my own part, were I to buy an hat, I would not have it from a stocking-maker, but an hatter; were I to buy shoes, I should not go to the tailor's for that purpose. It is just so with regard to wit: did I, for my life, desire to be well-served, I would apply only to those who made it their trade, and lived by it. You smile at the oddity of my opinion; but be assured, my friend, that wit is in some measure mechanical ; and that a man long habituated to catch at even its resemblance, will at last be happy enough to possess the substance: by a long habit of writing he acquires a justness of thinking, and a mastery of manner, which holiday-writers, even with ten times his genius, may vainly attempt to equal. How then are they deceived, who expect from title, dignity, and exterior circumstance an excellence, which is in some measure acquired by habit, and sharpened by necessity; you have seen, like me, many literary reputations promoted by the influence of fashion, which have scarcely survived the possessor; you have seen the poor hardly earn the little reputation they acquired, and their merit only acknowledged when they were incapable of enjoying the pleasures of popularity; such however, is the reputation worth possessing, that which is hardly earned is hardly lost. Adieu.
From Hingho, on Moscow, to Lien Chi -íltangi, in
WHERE will my disappointment end ? Must I still be doomed to accuse the severity of my fortune, and show my constancy in distress rather than moderation in prosperity ? I had at least hopes of conveying my charming companion safe from the reach of every enemy, and of again restoring her to her native soil. But those hopes are now no more. Upon leaving Terki, we took the nearest road to the dominions of Russia. We passed the Ural mountains covered with eternal snow, and traversed the forests of Usa, where the prowling bear and shrieking hyena keep an undisputed possession. We next embarked upon the rapid river Bulija, and made the best of our way to the banks of the Wolga, where it waters the fruitful valleys of Casan. There were two vessels in company properly equipped and armed in order to oppose the Wolga pirates, who we were informed infested this river. Of all mankind these pirates are the most terrible. They are composed of the criminals and outlawed peasants of Russia, who fly to the forests that lie along the banks of the Wolga for protection. Here they join in parties, lead a savage life, and have no others sistence but plunder. Being deprived of houses, friends, or a fixed habitation, they become more | terrible even than the tyger, and as insensible to all the feelings of humanity. They neither give quarter to those they conquer, nor receive it when overpowered themselves. The severity of the laws against them serve to increase their barbarity, and seem to make them a neutral species of beings between the wildness of the lion and the subtlety of the manWhen taken alive their punishment is hideous. A floating gibbet is erected, which is let run down with the stream ; here, upon an iron hook stuck under their ribs, and upon which the whole weight of their body depends, they are left to expire in the most terrible agonies; some being thus found to linger several days successively. We were but three days voyage from the confluence of this river into the Wolga, when we perceived at a distance behind us an armed barque coming up with the assistance of sails and oars, in order to attack us. The dreadful signal of death was hung upon the mast, and our captain with his glass could easily discern them to be pirates. It is impossible to express our consternation on this occasion; the whole crew instantly came together to consult the properest means of safety. It was therefore soon determined to send off our women and valuable commodities in one of our vessels, and that the men should stay in the other, and boldly oppose the enemy. This resolution was soon put into execution, and I now reluctantly parted from the beautiful Zelis for the first time since our retreat from Persia. The vessel in which she was, disappeared to my longing eyes, in proportion as that of the pirates approached us. They soon came up; but upon examining our strength: *Perhaps sensible of the manner in which we had sent of our most valuable effects, they seemed more eager to pursue the vessel we had sent away than attack us. In this manner they continued to harass us for three days; still endeavouring to pass us without fighting. But on the fourth day, finding it entirely impossible, and despairing to seize the expected boo:
ty, they desisted from their endeavours, and left us to Pursue our voyage without interruption. Our joy on this occasion was great; but soon a disappointment more terrible, because unexpected, succeeded. The barque, in which our women and treasure were sent off, was wrecked upon the banks of the Wolga, for want of a proper number of hands to manage her, and the whole crew carried by the peasants up the country. Of this however we were not sensible till our arrival at Moscow; where expecting to meet our separated barque, we were informed of its misfortune, and our loss. Need I paint the situation of my mind on this occasion : Need I describe all I feel, when I despair of beholding the beautiful Zelis more Fancy had dressed the future prospect of my life in the gayest colouring; but one unexpected stroke of fortune has robbed it of every charm. Her dear idea mixes with every scene of pleasure, and without her presence to enliven it, the whole becomes tedious, insipid, insupportable. I will confess, now that she is lost; I will confess, I loved her; nor is it in the power of time, or of reason, to erase her image from my heart. Adieu.
-----LETTER XCIV. From Lien Chi Mitangi to Hingho, at Moscow .
Your misfortunes are mine ; but as every period -- - - - -
of life is marked with its own, you must learn to en
dure them. Disappointed love makes the misery of
* This letter is a rhapsody from the Maxims of the philosopher Mé, vide Lett. curieuse & edifiant. vide etiam Du Halde, Vol.II, p. 98.
Vol. IV. I
youth ; disappointed ambition that of manhood; and successful avarice that of age. These three attack us through life; and it is our duty to stand upon our guard. To love we ought to oppose dissipation, and endeavour to change the object of the affections; to ambition the happiness of indolence and obscurity ; and to avarice the fear of soon dying. These are the shields with which we should arm ourselves; and thus make every scene of life, if not pleasing, at least supportable. Men complain of not finding a place of repose. They are in the wrong; they have it for seeking. What they should indeed complain of is, that the heart is an enemy to that very repose they seek. To themselves alone should they impute their discontent. They seek within the short span of life to satisfy a thousand desires, each of which alone is insatiable. One month passes, and another comes on ; the year ends and then begins; but man is still unchanging in folly, still blindly continuing in prejudice. To the wise man every climate and every soil is pleasing; to him a parterre of flowers is the famous valley of gold; to him a little brook the fountain of the young fieach trees *; to such a man, the melody of birds is more ravishing than the harmony of a full concert; and the tincture of the cloud preferable to the touch of the finest pencil. The life of man is a journey; a journey that must e travelled, however bad the roads or the accommodation. If in the beginning it is found dangerous, narrow, and difficult, it must either grow better in the end, or we shall by custom learn to bear its inequality. But though I see you incapable of penetrating into
* This passage the editor does not understand.