Imágenes de páginas

the ground, I pronounced the following words, as they had been taught me the night before, Ickpling glofthrob squut serumm blibop mlashnalt zwin tnodbalkuffh slbiophad gurdlubh asht. This is the coinpliment established by the laws of the land for all persons admitted to the king's presence. It may te rendered into English thus: May your celestial majesty outlive the sun eleven moons and

a half.

Swift. Gulliver's Travels, part iii. cb. ix. The emperor had a mind one day to entertain me with several of the country shows, wherein they exceed all nations I have known both for dexa terity and magnificence. Į was diverted with none so much as that of the rope dancers, performed upon a slender white thread, extended about two feet and twelve inches from the ground. Upon which I shall desire liberty, with the reader's pa. tience, to enlarge a little.

This diversion is only practised by those persons, who are candidates for great employments, and high favour at court. They are trained in this art froin their youth, and are not always of liberal birth or noble education. When a great office is vacant either by death or disgrace (which often happens) five or six of those candidates petition the emperor to entertain his majesty and the court with a dance on the rope, and whoever jumps the highest without falling, succeeds in the office. Very often the chief ministers themselves are commanded to show their skill, and to convince the emperor, that they have not lost their faculty. Flimnap, the treasurer, is allowed to cut à caper on the strait' rope at least an inch higher than any other lord in the whole empire. I have seen him do the summerset * several times together upon a trencher, fixed on a rope, which is no thicker than a common pack-thread in England. My friend Reldresal, principal secretary for private affairs, is, in my opinion, if I am not partial, the second after the treasurer ; the rest of the great officers are much upon a par.

These diversions are often attended with fatal accidents, whereof great numbers are on record. I myself have seen two or three candidates break a limb. But the danger is much greater when the ministers themselves and their fellows are commanded to show their dexterity ; for contending to excel themselves and their fellows they strain so far, that there is hardly one of them, who hath not received a fall, and some of them two or three. I was assured, that a year or two before my arrival, Flimnap would have infallibly broke his neck, if one of the king's cushions, that accidentally lay on the ground, had not weakened the force of his fall.

There is likewise another diversion, which is only shown before the emperor and empress, and first minister, upon particular occasions. The emperor lays on the table three fine silken threads


* Summerset, or summersault, a gambol of a tumbler, in which he springs up, turns heels over head in the air, and comes down upon his feet.

[ocr errors]

of six inches long; one is blue, the other red, che other green. These threads are proposed as prizes for those persoas, whom the emperor hath a mind to distinguish by a peculiar mark of his favour. The ceremony is performed in his majesty's great chamber of state, where the candidates are to undergo a trial of dexterity very different from the former, and such as I have not observed the least resemblance of in any other country of the old or new world. The emperor holds a stick in his hands, both ends parallel to the horizon, while the cindidates advancing, one by one, so'netimes leap oser the stick, sometimes creep under it backwards and forwards several times, according as the stick is advanced or depressed. Sometimes the emperor holds one end of the stick, and his first minister the other; sometimes the minister has it entirely to himself. Whoever performs his part with most agility, and holds out the longest iu leaping and creeping, is rewarded with the blue coloured silk; the red is given to the next, and the green to the third ; which they all wear girt iwice round about the middle; and you see few great persons about this court, who are not adorned with one of these girdles.

Ib. part 1. cb.iii. Three kings protested to me that in their whole reigns they never did once prefer any person of merit, unless by mistake, or treachery of some minister in whom they confided : neither would they do it if they were to live again; and they showed with great strength of reason, that


[ocr errors]

the royal throne could not be supported without corruption, because that positive, confident, restive temper, which virtue infused into a man, was a perpetual clog to public business.

Ib. part i. ch. viii. WHEN I first arrived in France, I found the late king [Louis XIV.] absolutely governed by women : and yet, considering his age, I believe there was no monarch in the universe who had less occasion for them. I one day' overheard a woman saying : We must do someting for that young colonel : his valour I am well acquainted with ; I will speak of it to the minister. Another said: It is strange that young abbé should be forgot: he must be a bishop; he is a man of birth and I can answer for his morals. Yet imagine not that the women who talked at this rate were the prince's favourites; they never spoke to him twice in their lives. The truth is, there is scarcely an individual who has any employment a: court, that has not some woman through whose hands all the favours, and sometines all the injustice he can do, always pass. These women are all fastened together by mutual ties, and form a kind of republic, of which the members, always. activé, succour and assist each other : it is in a manner a state within a state ; and a person at court who should see the ministry act, without knowing that women govern them, would be like a man that sees a machine at work but is ig. norant of the springs that move it.


Dost thou fancy, that a woman consents to be mistress to a minister of state, for the pleasure of sleeping with him? No such thing: it is to have an opportunity of presenting him every morning with five or six petitions ; and the goodness of their disposition appears in their zeal for doing good to a number of unhappy persons, by which they gain a hundred thousand livres a year.


Persian Letters. No. cvii. It is impossible to enumerate the millions which the Marquis de Marigney reaped from the inhe. ritance of the Marchioness de Pompadour his sister (mistress of Louis XV.] The sale of her furniture alorie lasted a year.

Private Life of Louis XV, vol. iv. p. 29. The reformation of the imperial court was one of the first and most necessay acts of the government of Julian. Soon after his entrance into the palace of Constantinople, he had occasion for the services of a barber. An officer magnificently dressed presented himself. “ It is a barber,” exclaimed the prince, with affected surprize, “ that "I want, and not a receiver-general of the finan૮

He questioned the man concerning the profits of his employment; and was informed, that, besides a large salary and some valuable perquisites, he enjoyed a daily allowance for twenty servants and as many horses. A thousand barbers, a thousand cup bearers, a thousand cooks, were distributed in the several offices of luxury; and




« AnteriorContinuar »