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The Picture of Human Life, from the Greek
IT is observed in the sage Gil Blas, that an exasperated author is not easily pacified. I have, therefore, very little hope of making my peace with the writer of the Eight Days Journey: indeed so li:tle, that I have long deliberated whether I should not rather sit silently down under his displeasure, than aggravate my misfortune by a defence of which my heart forebodes the ill success. Deliberation is often useless. I am afraid that I have at last made the wrong choice; and that I might better have resigned my cause, without a struggle, to time and fortune, since I shall run the hazard of a new offence, by the necessity of asking hm why he is angry.
Distress and terror often discover to us those faults with which we should never have reproached ourselves in a happy state. Yet, dejected as I am, when I review the transaction between me
* From the Literary Magazine, vol. II, page 253. Vol. IIJ.
and this writer, I cannot find that I have been deficient in reverence.
When his book was first printed, he hints that I procured a sight of it before it was published, How the sight of it was procured I do not now very exactly remember; but if my curiosity was greater than my prudence, if I laid rash hands on the fatal volume, I have surely suffered like him who burst the box from which evil rushed into the world.
I took it, however, and inspected it as the work of an author not higher than myself; and was confirmed in my opinion, when I found that these letters were not written to be printed. I concluded, however, that though not written to be printed, they were printeil to be read, and inserted one of them in the collection of November last. Not many days after I received a note, i::forming me, that I ought to have waited for a more correct edition. This injunction was obeyed. The edition appeared, and I supposed myself at liberty to tell my thoughts upon it, as upon any other book, upon a royal manifesto, or an act of parliament. But see the fate of ignorant temerity! I now find, but find too late, that instead of a writer whose only power is in his per, I have irritated an important member of an important corporation; a man who, as he tells us in his letters, puts horses to his chariot.
It was allowed to the disputant of old to yield up the controversy with little resistance to the master of forty legions. Those who know how weakly naked truth can defend her advocates, would forgive me if I should
the same respect to a Governor of the Foundlings. Yet the con
sciousness of my own rectitude of intention incites. me to ask once again, how I have offended. There are only three subjects upon
my unlucky pen
has happened to venture. Tea; the author of the Journal; and the Foundling Hospital.
Of Tea what have I said? That I have drank it twenty years without hurt, and therefore believe it not to be poison: that if it dries the fibres, it cannot soften them; that if it constringes, it cannot relax. I have modestly doubted whether it has diminished the strength of our men, or the beauty of our women; and whether it much hinders the progress of our woollen or iron manufactures ; but I allowed it to be a barren superfluity, neither medicinal nor nutricious, that neither supplied strength nor cheerfulness, neither relieved weariness, nor exhilerated sorrow : I inserted, without charge or suspicion of falsehood, the sums exported to purchase it; and proposed a law to prohibit it for ever.
Of the author I unfortunately said, that his injunction was somewhat too magisterial. This I said before. I knew that he was a Governor of the Foundlings; but he seems inclined to punish this failure of respect, as the czar of Muscovy made war upon Sw len, because he was not treated with sufficient honours when he passed through the country in disguise. Yet was not this irreverence without extenuation. Something was said of the merit of meaning well, and the Journalist was declared to be a man whose fuilings might well be pardoned for his virtues. This is the highest praise which human gratitude can confer upon
human merit; praise that would have more than satisfied Titus or Augustus, but which I must own to be inadequate and penurious, when offered to the member of an important corporation.
I am asked whether I meant to satirize the man or criticise the writer, when I say that he believes, only perhaps because he has inclination to believe it, that the English and Dutch consume more Tea than the vast empire of China ? Between the writer and the man I did not at that time consider the distinction. The writer I found not of more than mortal miglit, and I did not immediately recollect that the man put horses to his chariot. But I did not write wholly without consideration. I knew but two causes of belief, evidence and inclination. What evidence the Journalist could have of the Chinese consumption of Tea, I was not able to discover. The officers of the East India Company are excluded, they best know why, from the towns and the country of China; they are treated as we treat gypsies and vagrants, and obliged to retire every night to their own hove!. What intelligence such travellers may bring is of no great importance. And though the missionaries boast of having once. penetrated further, I think they have never calculated the Tea drank by the Chinese. There being thus no evidence for his opinion, to what could I ascribe it but to inclination ?
I am yet charged more heavily for having said, that he has no intention to find any thing right at home. I believe every reader restrained this imputation to the subject which produced it, and supposed me to insinuate only that he meant to spare ņo part of the Tea-table, whether essence or cir