« PreviousContinue »
THE TRUE ENJOYMENT OF SPLENDOR.
A CHINESE APOLOGUE.
OUBTLESS, saith the illustrious Me, he that
gaineth much possession hath need of the wrists of Hong and the seriousness of ShanFee, since palaces are not built with a tea
spoon, nor are to be kept by one who runneth after butterflies. But above all it is necessary that he who carrieth a great burden, whether of gold or silver, should hold his head as lowly as is necessary, lest on lifting it on high he bring his treasure to nought, and lose with the spectators the glory of true gravity, which is meekness.
Quo, who was the son of Quee, who was the son of Quee-Fong, who was the five-hundred and fiftieth in lineal descent from the ever-to-be-remembered Fing, chief minister of the Emperor Yau, one day walked out into the streets of Pekin in all the lustre of his rank. Quo, besides the greatness of his birth and the multitude of his accomplishments, was a courtier of the first order, and his pigtail was proportionate to his merits, for it hung down to the ground and kissed the dust as it went with its bunch of artificial roses. Ten huge and sparkling rings, which incrusted his hands with diamonds, and almost rivalled the sun that struck on them, led the ravished eyes of the beholders to the more precious enormity of his nails, which were each an inch long, and by proper nibbing might have taught the barbarians of the West to look with just scorn on their many writing-machines. But even these were nothing to the precious stones that covered him from head to foot. His bonnet, in which a peacock's feather was stuck in a most engaging manner, was surmounted by a sapphire of at least the size of a pigeon's egg; his shoulders and sides sustained a real burden of treasure; and as he was one of the handsomest men at court, being exceedingly corpulent, and indeed, as his flatterers gave out, hardly able to walk, it may be imagined that he proceeded at no undignified pace. He would have ridden in his sedan, had he been lighter of body, but so much unaffected corpulence was not to be concealed, and he went on foot that nobody might suspect him of pretending to a dignity he did not possess. Behind him, three servants attended, clad in the most gorgeous silks ; the middle one held his umbrella over his head; he on the right bore a fan of ivory, whereon were carved the exploits of Whay-Quang; and he on the left sustained a purple bag on each arm, one containing opium and Arecanut, the other the ravishing preparation of Gin-Seng, which possesses the Five Relishes. All the servants looked the same way as their master, that is to say, straight forward, with their eyes majestically half-shut, only they cried every now and then with a loud voice, “Vanish from before the illustrious Quo, favorite of the mighty Brother of the Sun and Moon."
Though the favorite looked neither to the right nor to the left, he could not but perceive the great homage that was paid him as well by the faces as the voices of the multitude. But one person, a Bonze, seemed transported beyond all the rest with an enthusiasm of admiration, and followed at a respectful distance from his side, bowing to the earth at every ten paces and exclaiming, “ Thanks to my lord for his jewels !”. After repeating this for about
six times, he increased the expressions of his gratitude, and said, “Thanks to my illustrious lord from his poor servant for his glorious jewels,” — and then again, “Thanks to my illustrious lord, whose eye knoweth not degradation, from his poor servant, who is not fit to exist before him, for his jewels that make the rays of the sun look like ink.” In short, the man's gratitude was so great, and its language delivered in phrases so choice, that Quo could contain his curiosity no longer, and turning aside, demanded to know his meaning: “I have not given you the jewels,” said the favorite, “and why should you thank me for them?"
Refulgent Quo!” answered the Bonze, again bowing to the earth, “what you say is as true as the five maxims of Fo, who was born without a father :— but your slave repeats his thanks, and is indeed infinitely obliged. You must know, O dazzling son of Quee, that of all my sect I have perhaps the greatest taste for enjoying myself. Seeing my lord therefore go by, I could not but be transported at having so great a pleasure, and said to myself, “The great Quo is very kind to me and my fellow-citizens : he has taken infinite labor to acquire his magnificence; he takes still greater pains to preserve it, and all the while, I, who am lying under a shed, enjoy it for nothing.'”
A hundred years after, when the Emperor Whang heard this story, he diminished the expenditure of his household one half, and ordered the dead Bonze to be raised to the rank of a Colao.
RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW MEN WEDDED TO BOOKS—THE CONTEST BETWEEN THE NIGHTINGALE AND MUSICIAN.
E have often had occasion to think of the ex
clamation of that ingenious saint, who, upon reading a fine author, cried out “Pereant male qui ante nos nostra dixerunt !”
“ Deuce take those who have said our good things before us ! ”
» -- Now, without mentioning the extendibility (we are writing in high spirits, early on a fine morning, and cannot stop to find a better word) — without mentioning the extendibility of this judicious imprecation to deeds, as, “Deuce take those who have anticipated our exploits ; ” or to possessions, as Confound those fellows that ride in our coaches and eat our asparagus ; ” — we cannot help thinking the phrase particularly applicable to those who have read our authors -“Plague take those who anticipate our articles, — who quote our highly interesting passages out of old books.”
Here is a Retrospective Review set up, which with an alarming precision of prepositions undertakes to make “Criticisms upon, Analyses of, and Extracts from, curious, useful, and valuable Books in all languages, that have been published from the Revival of Literature to the Commencement of the Present Century;”.
And what is very inconsiderate, it performs all this, and more. Its criticisms are of a very uncritical kind ; deep and well-tempered. It can afford to let other people have their merits. Proud of the literature of past ages, it is nevertheless not at all contemptuous of the present; and even in reading a lecture to modern critics, as it does admirably in its second number in an article on the once formidable John Dennis, it expostulates in so genial and informing a spirit, that he must be a very far gone critical old woman indeed, who does not feel inclined to leave off the brandy-drinking of abuse, - the pin-sticking of grudging absurdity. It is extremely pleasant to see it travelling in this way over so wide a range of literature, warming as well as penetrating as it goes, with a sunny eye, now fetching out the remotest fields, and anon driving the shadows before it and falling in kindly lustre upon ourselves. The highest compliment that we can pay it, or indeed any other work, is to say, that the enthusiasm is young, and the knowledge old ; -a rare, a wise, and a delightful combination.*
It is lucky for us that we happened to speak of this work in another publication, the very day before the appearance of the second number; for the latter contained a very kind mention of the little work now before the reader; and thus our present notice might have been laid
* “The Retrospective Review,” says Lowell, in a pleasant passage of his uncollected prose writings, "continues to be good reading, in virtue of the antique aroma (for wine only acquires its bouquet by age) which pervades its pages. Its sixteen volumes are so many tickets of admission to the vast and devious vaults of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, through which we wander, tasting a thimbleful of rich Canary, honeyed Cyprus, or subacidulous Hock, from what dusty butt or keg our fancy chooses. The years during which this Review was published were altogether the most fruitful in genuine appreciation of old English literature. Books were prized for their imaginative, and not their antiquarian, value, by young writers who sat at the feet of Lamb and Coleridge." One of the best and most agreeable contributors to the “Retrospective Review” was Thomas Noon Talfourd, the biographer of Lamb, and the early friend and literary guide of Dickens. He wrote the article on John Dennis, mentioned above, and those on North's “Life of Lord Guilford," “Rymer on Tragedy,” Colley Cibber's “Apology for his Life,” and Wallace's “Prospects of Mankind, Nature, and Providence.” – ED.