Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

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 there be found, that they are as often deceived themselves, as they attempt to deceive others. The merchants tell us, perhaps, the price of different commodities, the methods of baling them up, and the properest manner for a European to preserve his health in the country. The missionary, on the other hand, informs us with what pleasure the country to which he was sent embraced Christianity, and the numbers he converted; what methods he took to keep Lent in a region where there was no fish, or the shifts he made to celebrate the rites of his religion, in places where there was neither bread por wine : such accounts, with the usual appendage of marriages and funerals, inscriptions, rivers, and mountains, make up the whole of a European traveller's diary: but as to all the secrets of which the inhabitants are possessed, those are universally attributed to magic; and when the traveller can give no other account of the wonders he sees performed, he very contentedly ascribes them to the devil.

It was a usual observation of Boyle, the English chemist, that, if every artist would but discover what new observations occurred to him in the exercise of his trade, philosophy would thence gain innumerable improvemeuts. It may be observed, with still greater justice, that, if the useful know. ledge 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? Their ivstrument, as an example, for cutting down corn' in Germany, is much more handy and expeditious, in my opivion, than the sickle used in England. The cheap and expeditious manner of making vinegar, without pre

[ocr errors]

vious fermentation, is known only in a part of France. If such discoveries therefore remain still to be koown at home, what funds of knowledge might not be collected in countries yet unexplored, or only passed through by iguorant travellers in hasty caravans ?

The caution with which foreigners are received in Asia, may be alleged as an objection to such a de. sign. But how readily have several European mere chants found admission into regions the most sus. picious, under the character of sanjapins, or northe ern pilgrims ? To such, not even China itself denies

access.

To send cut a traveller properly qualified for these purposes, might be an object of natiopal con. cern: it 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 difficulty 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 swolo with pride, nor hardened by prejudice; neither wedded to one particular system, nor instructed only in one particular science; veither wholly a botanist, nor quite an antiquarian: his mind should be tinctured with miscellaneous knowledge, and his manners humanised by an intercousse with men. He should be, in some measure, an enthusiast to the design ; fond of travelling, from a rapid imagination, and an inpute love of chavge; furnished with a body capa. ble of sustaining every fatigue, and a heart not easily terrified at danger.

A REVERIE AT THE BOAR'S-HEAD

TAVERN, IN EASTCHEAP.

THE

improvements we make iu mental acquire

ments, only render us each day more sensible of the defects of our constitution: with this in view, therefore, let us often recur to the amusements of youth; endeavour to forget age and wisdom, and, as far as innocence goes, be as much a boy as the best of them.

Let idle declaimers mourn over the degeneracy of the age ; but, in my opinion, every age is the saine. This I am sure of, that man, in every season, is a poor, fretful being, with no other means to escape the calamities of the times, but by endeavouring to forget them ; for, if he attempts to resist, he is cere tainly undone. If I feel poverty and pain, I am not so hardy as to quarrel with the executioner, even while under correction: I find myself no way disposed to make fine speeches, while I am making wry faces. In a word, let me drink when the fit is fon, to make me insensible; and drink wlien it is over, for joy that I feel pain no longer.

The character of old Falstaff, even with all his faults, gives me more consolation than the most studied efforts of wisdom : I here behold an agree able old fellow, forgetting age, and showing me the way to be young at sixty-five. Sure I am well able to be as merry, though not so comical, as he. Is it not in my power to have, though not so much wit, at least as much .vivacity? - Age, care, wisdom, reflection, begone!-I give you to the wiods. Let's have t'other bottle: here's to the memory of Shakspeare, falstaff, and all the merry men of Eastcheap.

Such were the reflections that naturally arose

while I sat at the Boar's-head tavern, still kept at Eastcheap. Here, by a pleasant fire, in the very room where old sir John Falstaff cracked his jokes, in the very chair which was sometimes honoured by prioce Henry, and sometimes polluted by his immo sal, merry companions, I sat and ruminated ou the follies of youth ; wished to be young again ; but was resolved to make the best of life while it lasted, and now and then compared past and present times together. I considered myself as the only living representative of the old knight; and transported my imagination back to the times when the prince and he gave life to the revel, and made even de. bauchery not disgusting. The room also conspired to throw my reflections back into antiquity: the oak floor, the Gothic windows, and the ponderous chimney-piece, had long withstood the tooth of time: the watchman had gone twelve: my com. panions had all stolen off, and none now remained with me but the landlord. From him I could have wished to know the history of a tavern that had such a long succession of customers : I could not help thinking that an account of this kind would be a pleasing contrast of the manners of different ages; but my landlord could give me no information. He continued to doze, and sot, and tell a tedious story, as most other landlords usually do; and, though he said nothing, yet was never silent: one good joke followed another good joke, and the best joke of all was generally begun towards the end of a bottle. I found at last, however, his wine and his conversation operate by degrees : he insensibly began to alter his appearance. His cravat seemed quilled into a ruff, and his breeches swelled into a fardingale. I now fancied him changing sexes; and, as my eyes began to close in slumber, I imagined my fat landlord actually converted into as fat a landlady. However, sleep made but few changes in my situation; the tavern, the apartment, aud the table, continued as before; nothing suf

fered mutation but my host, who was fairly altered into a gentlewoman, whom I knew to be dame Quickly, mistress of this tavern in the days of sir John; and the liquor we were drinking, which seemed converted into sack and sugar.

• My dear Mrs. Quickly,' cried I (for I knew her perfectly well at first sight), 'I am heartily glad to see you. How have you left Falstaff, Pistol, and the rest of our friends below stairs? Brave and hearty, I hope? In good sooth,' replied she, . he did deserve to live for ever; but he maketh foul work on't where he hath flitted. Queen Proserpine and he have quarrelled, for his attempting a rape upon her divinity; and were it not that she still had bowels of compassion, it more than seems probable he might have been now sprawling in Tartarus.'

I now found that spirits still preserve the frailties of the flesh; and that, according to the laws of criticism and dreaming, ghosts have been known to be guilty of even more than Platonic affection : wherefore, as I found her too much moved on such a topic to proceed, I was resolved to change the subject; and desiriog she would pledge me in a bumper, observed with a sigh, that our sack was nothing now to what it was in former days. “Ah, Mrs. Quickly, those were merry times when you drew sack for prince Henry: men were twice as strong, and twice as wise, and much braver, and ten thousand times more charitable, than now. Those were the times ! The battle of Agincourt was a victory indeed! Ever since that, we have only been degenerating; and I have lived to see the day when drinking is no longer fashionable. When men wear clean shirts, and women show their necks and arms, all are degenerated, Mrs. Quickly; and we shall probably, in another cen. tury, be fritted away into beaux or monkeys. Had you been on earth to see what I have seen, it would congeal all the blood in your body (your

« PoprzedniaDalej »