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The object of science is the discovery and diffusion of truth: and the flowing veil of poetry is wholly abhorrent from this its only intent and end. Science cannot be taught in allegory or metaphor, and it seeks neither ornament nor disguise; the one can give it no additional fairness, the other must detract from its utility. The lay's and properties of matter are the handmaids' of the Power - who laid the foundations of the world; and in the investigation of their workings, we must confide in reason, without invoking the deceitful aid of fancy or imagination. Let the Muse be content to roam in the haunts to which she has been accustomed from days of old, and employ herself in her wonted tasks. She may breathe the fresh gale without trying it purity in the eudiometer. When she gathers flowers, let her weave them in a wreath, and she will find it easier than to class the sweets which she has culled between the leaves of the hortus siccus. All nature is before her, and it is her duty to point out the beauties of the great pageant; but it will not be required of her, that she should conduct the spectators behind the scenes.
With respect to Miss Porden, we must conclude by confessing, that although we think her endeavour to blend poetry and science together is objectionable, yet her knowledge becomes her well; and we are quite sure that the age cannot produce many female writers possessing ability and information enough to err as she has done.
Art. VI. Lavu-sing-urh, or An Heir in his Old Age, a
Chinese Drama. Translated from the Original Chinese. By J. F. Davis, Esq. of Canton. To which is prefixed a Brief View of the Chinese Drama and of their Theatrical Exhibitions.
Small 8vo. pp. 164. London. 1817. IN N the voluminous compilations concerning China, which were
published on the continent of Europe, and chiefly in France, in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we meet with very few observations on the general state of literature in that country. The Catholic Missionaries, from whom they were received, labour hard, it is true, to persuade their correspondents, by vague and general assertions, that the Chinese are a nation of sages; that the love of letters is universal; that learning alone leads to wealth and honours; that, with it, the highest offices of the state are open to the lowest of the people; and, without it, that princes sink quietly, as a matter of common occurrence, into the vulgar herd; that, in short, under this enlightened government,
< Worth “Worth makes the man, and want of it the fellow,
1345. The rest is all but leather or prunella.' '. We are cautioned, however, at the same time, not to regard the literary qualifications, which pave the way to the highest offices in the state, as consisting of that vulgar wisdoin which implies a know-ledge of men and of things, or of the pursuits of physical or abstract science, or even of the history of the great events which have been passing in any other part of the world ; but that the perfection of the human intellect, and the indispensable qualification for 'a great statesman, consist in kuowing precisely what Yao said, and what Chun did, on any particular occasion, four thousand years ago; and in applying the maxims of the one and the practice of the other to the events of the present time. This, with a critical knowledge of the construction, and precise import, of an old character of their symbolic language, together with the exact mode of addressing a superior, or returning the salute of an inferior, according to the regulations prescribed by Confucius, constitute, in a great measure, the learning of a Chinese state philosopher. But the most remarkable circumstance seems to be that these automatons should have succeeded in persuading the Jesuits, whom no one will accuse of being deficient in worldly wisdom, that this puerile trifling of the Chinese was learuing; while every succeeding communication to their superiors in Europe bore unequivocal proofs of the gross ignorance in which the whole nation was immersed. And yet we ought, perhaps, not so much to wonder at the miraculous accounts of those who had travelled to the opposite side of the globe in search of miracles, as at the credulity of such men as Voltaire, Freret, De Guignes, Isaac Vossius, and many others, who so greedily swallowed them. The Jesuits indeed had some excuse : the conversion of the heathen being the main object of their mission, they found it, probably, conducive to their success to adopt the habits and prejudices of their Chinese neophytes.
It still, however, remains to be explained why these early Missionaries, who were themselves men of learning, and more free from “prejudices than any of the other Religious Orders, should not have bestowed a little attention on the modern state of literature among the great mass of the people. We read, it is true, of the hundreds of thousands of volumes contained in the Imperial library at Pekin, and every now and then we meet with the titles of some of them; we are also told that thousands of the lighter kind of productions, such as moral tales, entertaining stories, novels, plays and songs, issue daily from the press ; but this lumping mention of Chinese libraries and Chinese books, with the exception of one, drama translated by Père Premare, two or three moral tales, as many apologues and some short specimens of poetry, collected and published by Du Halde and Grozier, constituted all the knowledge which, till of very late years, we possessed in Europe, of the taste of the Chinese in that department of literature generally known by the name of belles lettres.
Yet a more intimate knowledge of this particular branch of national literature would seem precisely to be that which was most wanting to enable us to form a true estimate of the national character-it is that which, of all others, appears best calculated to shew us how this singular people acted and thought under the ordinary occurrences of life, and how far the fine moral sentiments, which Confucius uttered, and which are paiuted in large characters in their houses and temples, by the sides of the high roads, and in all public places, are carried into practice in real life. That beautiful little novel the Hao-kiou-tchuan, translated by Mr. Wilkinson and published by Dr. Percy, did this to a certain extent, but it remained for many years the solitary specimen of this kind of composition. The knowledge of the language which the translator had acquired seems to have died with him; and as Bohea and Sou-chong could be provided by the easier process of a sort of telegraphic communication aided by a murderous jargon of English, the study of the language of China revived only with the Embassy of Lord Macartney to the Court of Pekin. This mission afforded an opportunity to the present Sir George Staunton, then a boy, to cultivate it with complete success; and his example has been followed by several of the Company's servants at Canton, but by none with more assiduity and advantage than by Mr. Davis, the translator of the drama before us: this young gentleman is a writer on the establishment of the East India Company's factory at Canton, where, we understand, he has not been resident much more than two years.
The editor of this literary curiosity, for such it must be considered whatever its merits or defects may be, has taken a sunimary view of the Chinese drama, or rather, we should say, of the stage-representations, as they are exbibited for the entertainment of foreign ambassadors; these exhibitions, it must be confessed, are puerile enough, consisting chiefly of broad farce, of tumbling, juggling, posture-making, and ridiculous processions of men disguised as animals, the last of which may be intended perhaps to convey, by personified allegories, allusions to some national tradition or religious superstition. Of their regular dramas, such as this before us, we hear little or nothing in the accounts published of the several embassies sent by different nations to the Court of Pekin. The reason is obvious. Until the present embassy of Lord Amherst, neither the ambassador nor any of his suite were fortunate
enough enough to understand one word of what they heard; and as it is said that, when one sense is shut, the others become more open, these travellers describe accurately enough, no doubt, what they saw, but are necessarily silent as to what they heard.
The editor mentions a poem, written by a common Chinese, called · London,' also translated by Mr. Davis. We have procured a copy of this poem, or rather of that part of it which has been translated : though the author's observations, in general, are just, yet, as he was ignorant of our language, they proceed almost wholly from what was communicated to the mind through the organ of sight. Their play-houses,' he says, ' are always shut during the day; after dark the scenes are opened. The faces of the actors are very handsome. Their dresses are embroidered and splendid; and they sing in exact unison with the music ; and dance to the drums and flutes. The exhibition is delightful in the highest degree, and all go away with laughing countenances. And he adds, in a note, for this Chinese poet too uses his verses as pegs to hang notes upon,—that all descriptions of people mix together and pay a certain fixed price ; that the scenes are painted to represent trees and houses, that they are frequently changed; and that the female characters are all performed by women.' Of the Thames, he says, three bridges resist the stream, and form a communication. Ships and boats pass beneath the arches ; men and horses walk amidst the clouds; a thousand masses of stone rise one above the other; and the river flows through nine channels.' The bridge of Lo-yang, which out-tops all under heaven, resembles them in form.' —But he adds, in a note, that the bridge of Lo-yang, in Fokien, is the finest in the world; that it resenables these (of the Thames) in appearance, but there is a difference in point of size: in the original, there is an artful ambiguity by which the superiority
in point of size' is left undecided. Our traveller (who is not deficient in intelligence) notices chiefly those objects which excited attention by their contrast with those of his own country-thus he observes that, the houses are so lofty that you may pluck the stars from them ;' that, on four sacred days in the month, people put on their best clothes, and go to the temple; that the virtuous read their sacred book, which they call Pe-lee to kot, (pray to God); that the appearance of the country is beautiful, and the hills rising one above another delightful to behold; that little girls have rosy cheeks and fair complexions; that men and women marry from mutual choice; and love and respect each other; and that there are no second wives; that the grass is cut, and dried, to feed cattle in: winter when there is frost and snow, that men and women ramble into the fields to gather flowers; that poor women at the wheat barvest gather the grain which is left, and sing as they go home; VOL. XVI. NO. XXXII. сс
and that people recommend cach other in spring and autumn to return early, lest they should be bewildered in the fog, &c. As this is the first attempt by a Chinese to give his countrymen any information respecting England, we have thought that our readers would not be displeased with a short specimen of the mode in which it is conveyed.
That the Chinese have something better than those exhibitions described by travellers, the Orphan of Tchao, translated by Premare, and the · Laou-sing-urh,' both of which are taken from the same collection of one hundred dramas, abundantly testify; and we think there is also proof that these plays, and others of a similar description, are those which are generally represented before Chinese audiences, though it is not a little remarkable, as the Editor has observed, that those representations appear to descend into lowness and vulgarity, in the inverse ratio of the rank and situation in life of the parties for whose amusement they are exhibited.' The theatrical entertainments exhibited before the
emperor and his court, for the amusement of every ambassador, from Ysbrandt Ives to Titsingh and Van Braam, were more puerile, absurd and mean, than those to which they were invited in the provinces. Thus we find in Lord Macartuey's entertaining Journal a ludicrous detail of the entertainments given at Gohol, which lasted five hours, the account of which bis lordship thus concludes : “ Thus then have I seen King Solomon in all his glory. I use this expression, as the scene recalled perfectly to my memory a puppet-show of that name, which I recollect to have seen in my childhood, and which made so strong an impression on my mind, that I then thought it a true representation of the highest pitch of human greatness and felicity.' But at Tien-sing his lordship speaks of the actors having exhibited during the day several different pantomimes and historical dramas. One of these, Sir George Staunton observes, 'attracted particular attention.' Sçanty as their knowledge was of the language, many of the gentleinen of the embassy perceived, or thought they perceived, the resemblance of the action to one of Shakspeare's historical plays. A rebel general, who has slain his sovereign, pays his addresses to the captive empress; and, whilst she is tearing her hair, and rending the skies with lier complaints, the conqueror enters, approaches her with respect, addresses her in a gentle tove, soothes her sorrows with his passion, talks of love and adoration, and, like Richard the Third with Lady Anue, prevails, in less than half an hour, on the Chinese princess, to dry up her tears, to forget her deceased consort, and yield to a consoling wooer.'
It would be idle to conjecture, in the present state of our imperfect knowledge of China, whence this unfavourable difference