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From The Spectator, 16 June. BARON GROS' EMBASSY TO CHINA AND
Having finished his business at Tien-tsin, Baron Gros took the opportunity of visiting the Great Wall to ascertain the truth of the statement, that it begins at the seaward near the entrance of the Gulf of Leotung. He found what he sought:
curious incident, illustrative of Chinese manners, imparted a touch of the ridiculous to this fatal Occurrence. Three old men came on board. They had been sent by the relations to offer IF publishers were much in the habit of themselves as substitutes for the prisoners. letting their business transactions be gov- They were willing, they said, to be hanged in erned by sentimental motives, we should not lieu of those who had committed the offence. be so entirely unable, as we confess ourselves They were very much surprised when their offer to be, to assign any plausible reason for the was refused by the commander, and, indeed, on appearance of M. de Moges' lively but shal- leaving any one seeing them would have said low little book in an English dress. It was their proposal been accepted, they would have that they had been badly used by him. a mere waste of labor to translate it, except obtained a large sum in return for their lives, as an act of international courtesy, which which would have enriched their relations for indeed would be the more laudable for being years. They had missed a good bargain in wholly gratuitous. Although M. de Moges consequence of the childish scruples of tl was officially concerned in the proceedings French officer. These extraordinary transac of the French embassy to China and Japan, tions are not uncommon in the history of th he writes like a dilettante, and there is little Chinese empire, and, indeed, they are closely in his gossip that can interest the country-lish have often been deceived in this way on the interwoven with Chinese manners. The Engmen of Mr. Oliphant, Captain Sherard Os-Canton River when they have endeavored to obborne, and Mr. Wingrove Cooke. The most tain justice from the mandarins for attacks upon novel thing we find in his notice of Tien-tsin their countrymen. In such cases, poor creatures, is, an account of some Chinese caricatures who had voluntarily taken the place of the murof the foreign devils, with which the latter derers, and who were perfectly innocent of the were greatly amused. "One of them rep-crime, have been executed with great solemnity resented a European accoutred after the in presence of the persons appointed by the Eumost outrageous fashion, buying a hedgehog, ropean authorities to see that the punishment working himself into a state of excitement was actually inflicted." to drive a hard bargain, but at last making the purchase with a big bag of money." A capital emblem surely of the nature and results of our diplomacy in China; it gives us a higher opinion than we had yet conceived of Chinese wit. How often have the rogues made us pay dear for what was worth little, and pricked our fingers when we tried to lay hold on it! When sailing down the Peiho, after the conclusion of the treaty, M. de Moges picked up a story worth telling: "We passed near the junk of M. Delorisse, the naval officer, who, having charge of the transport service between Tien-tsin and Pecheli, had been for some time living with a few European sailors in the midst of the enemy's country. We learned, to our surprise, that he had hanged two Chinamen the night before. Two of his sailors had gone on shore, in the usual way, to minating in the sea, covered with bastions and buy provisions, and had been attacked at the pagodas, and clambering over the wildest and corner of a street. One of them had received most precipitous crags, it imparted a character six deadly wounds from a spear. M. Delorisse the most sluggish imagination. At the foot of to the whole landscape calculated to stir even armed his twelve Europeans, gave his junk in the wall, on the Chinese side, we could see the charge to the Chinese crew, and set out in pur- white tents of two Tartar encampments, the suit of the mandarins of the village. He told horses belonging to which were wandering at them that, if they did not deliver up the perpe- largo in the surrounding pastures. The landtrators, their own heads would suffer for it. Scape, in the golden light of dawn, was charmGreat Wall resembled a huge carthen mound ing. Seen from the Chinese side, the crowned with battlements built of brick. Everywhere, it had an old and dilapidated appearance. In some places, it had been altogether destroyed. On the Mantchoorian side, on the other hand, the Great Wall seemed constructed of bricks, resting upon a basement of stone. It is flanked by square towers throughout its whole length.
They brought the guilty parties without delay. One was already dead from wounds he had received. The two others were alive. They were hanged from the mast of the junk. A very *Recollections of Baron Gros' Embassy to China and Japan in 1857-58. By the Marquis de Moges, Attaché to the Mission. (Authorized Translation.) With Colored Illustrations. Published by Griffin, London.
"Wo had before us the most interesting and most picturesque scene in China. Along the const lay a spacious plain, covered with rich meadows, and dotted here and there with villages buried in the midst of trees. Further in
the distance, the landscape was bounded by lofty mountains, some of which were abrupt and rocky, while others were wooded and green to their very summits. The general effect was magnificent, and, perhaps, only to be equalled among the Alpine valleys of Switzerland. The
it an additional charm.
These are placed at the distance of about two bow-shots, in order that the enemy may be everywhere within range. It descends into the sea in two parallel piers or jetties, which slope so gently that one can ascend to the top from the water flowing between them. The largest ships may approach within two miles of the wall, and, indeed, it is the very place at which visitors should, in future, disembark.”
had brought with him from China. The incident is not without interest, as showing how easily Europeans may be led, by their ignorance of Japanese peculiarities, into giving unintentional offence:
"The evening before, in the historical chair which had figured at Tien-tsin, Baron Gros had made his entrance into the town, carried by The members of the embassy landed under Now, it appears that it is a thing quite unknown eight Japanese coolics decked out as Chinamen. an escort of a dozen soldiers, for the purpose in Japan, for a native to appear in Chinese garof exploring the Wall, but their intention ments; it is an enormity -a violation of all was very civilly resisted by a force of three propriety. It is more; it is a crime. On this hundred Tartar horsemen, whom they could easily have kept at bay with the twelve bayonets of their escort and the revolvers of the civilians; but the French envoy was unwilling to engage in a quarrel upon a mere matter of curiosity. The French party were astonished to find that their Tartar friends, encamped almost at the gates of the capital, were not even aware of the fact that their government had been at war with France and England.
The visit to Japan occupies little more than fifty pages. The most notable thing in it is, an account of a misunderstanding occasioned by the manner in which the French envoy entered Yedo in the chair of state he
occasion, the unfortunate coolies were not considered the only guilty parties. Six hundred Japanese officials, who had not prevented the offence, were sentenced to a hundred days' imthousand days imprisonment, all on account of prisonment! Here, then, was a total of sixty. this unlucky palanquin. The ambassador was much annoyed when he heard of this proceeding, and took caro to get the prisoners immediately liberated. But if a wholesome respect for Japanese legislation had been taught the two hundred officers sent by the taïcoon to guard and watch us, they had also been alarmed to an extent painful to us, lest we should be found wanting in respect for those rites to which the without their having it in their power to keep us government attached so much importance, right."
THE last hours of La Fayette are described by | of his life, he died. In arranging his funeral, M. Guizot, who belonged to a younger generation; but who, in all likelihood, will not see the end of the French Revolution :
it was a recognized fact in the family, that M. de La Fayette had always wished to be buried in the small cemetery adjoining the convent of "No life had ever been more passionately po- victims of the Revolution, the greater part Picpus, by the side of his wife, in the midst of litical than his; no man had ever placed his royalists and aristocrats, whose ancestors had ideas and political sentiments more constantly founded that pious establishment. The desire above all other prepossessions or interests. But of the veteran of 1789 was scrupulously respected politics were utterly unconnected with his death. and complied with. An immense crowd-solIll for three weeks, he approached his last hour. diers, national guards, and populace-accomHis children and household surrounded his bed; panied the funeral procession along the bouleho ceased to speak, and it was doubtful whether vards and streets of Paris. Arrived at the gate he could still sec. His son George observed of the convent of Picpus, the crowd halted; the that with uncertain gesture he sought for some-interior enclosure could only admit two or three thing in his bosom. He came to his father's assistance, and placed in his hand a medallion which he always wore suspended round his neck. M. de La Fayette raised it to his lips; this was his last motion. That medallion contained a miniature and a lock of hair of Madame de La Fayette, his wife, whoso loss he had mourned for twenty-seven years. Thus, already separated from the entire world, alone with the thought and image of the devoted companion
hundred persons. The family, the nearest relatives, and the principal authorities entered, passed through the convent in silence, then across the garden, and finally entered the cem place; no oration was pronounced; religion and etery. There no political manifestation took the intimate reminiscences of the soul alone were present; public politics assumed no place near the death-bed or the grave of the man whose life they had occupied and ruled.”
From The Saturday Review.
JOHNSON'S LIVES OF THE POETS.*
SCARCELY any book written a century ago enjoys greater popularity now than Johnson's Lives of the Poets. Many of the biographies still remain the only readable account of minor poets; and if the lives of the greater poets have since received more elaborate notices, they have never been described and criticised with more judgment and wit. Johnson's book was the first work of criticism written in the modern fashion, and the greater
common sense is eminently and successfully displayed under the several heads of the excriticism of ideas and notions peculiar to the amination of particular biographical facts, the poet of whom he is speaking, and the exposure of delusions more widely entertained, but connected with the circumstances of the poet's history. Under the first head, the instances but most of the facts of any man's life are will necessarily be of rather a trivial nature; trivial, except to himself, and it is one of the first duties of biographical criticism to pass so as to put these trivial facts before the a rapid judgment or raise a passing doubt, reader's mind in the right light. It so hap pens that both in the Life of Swift and in that of Pope, there is an example of this kind of criticism as applied to statements regarding the trivial subject of the poet's eating.
Johnson tells us that Swift attributed the illindiscretion which he committed as a boy in ness which tormented him through life to an eating too largely of fruit. Nintey-nine biographers out of a hundred would have let this statement pass. Swift might be expected and if he said that he made himself ill with to be the best judge of his own stomach; But Johnson remarks, that "the original of eating fruit, why should he be contradicted ? diseases is commonly obscure. Almost every
part of it is exactly what the critics of the present day would say if they knew how to say it. It is only as a model of critical writing that we now propose to speak of so wellknown a work. Few educated persons failed to enjoy, at some time of their lives, the pleasure of reading these charming volumes; but it is necessary not only to read, but to reread them, in order to see what we may term their critical construction-the principles on which the criticism is based, and the arts by which it is set off to so much advantage. Much the greater part of criticism consists in applying common sense to decide on the value of what has been written, and in stating the result in a telling style. In this department of criticism Johnson is unrivalled, and so far his criticising must remain a permanent model to all English crit-boy eats as much fruit as he can get without ics. A few examples will best show what from the Lives which are probably most fawe mean, and as examples may be best taken miliar to the reader we will confine ourselves to those of Pope and Swift. These two Lives supply abundant instances both of the application of Johnson's strong common sense, and of the happy turns of language which gave point to the expression of his judgment. There is also another department of criticism in which the critic shows his appreciation of authors whom he thoroughly admires, and connects the particular views of the author whom he is studying with a general system of morals. Here Johnson is, we think, greatly inferior to the critics who have succeeded him, and especially to Coleridge. His moral remarks are indeed, so badly expressed, and so near the surface, that they may be examined rather as warnings than as models. There are moral passages in the Lives so bad as to make a critic feel reasonably alarmed, and
incline him to abstain from moral remarks
altogether. It is only for the pungent expression of the dictates of common sense that Johnson deserves any high praise as a critic.
We may class the instances in which his
*Johnson's Lives of the Poets. London: Mur
any great inconvenience." This is obvious, of Swift's illness. In the same way he tells but it is also undeniable; and after we have read it, we feel very doubtful as to the cause and that his kind friends ascribed his death us that Pope was very fond of good living, to the free use of a silver saucepan in which unanswerably observes, "That he loved too he used to boil lampreys. On this Johnson well to eat, is certain; but that his sensuality shortened his life will not be hastily concluded, when it is remembered that a conformation so irregular lasted six-and-fifty years, notwithstanding such pertinacious diligence of study and meditation."
There cannot be a better instance of crit
ical common sense applied to the opinions
for delay, and she liked self-murder better so. "This transgression of regularity was than suspense." This is a perfectly just and by Swift and his admirers termed greatness legitimate account of the facts as stated, and of soul. But a great mind disdains to hold yet the Unfortunate Lady is entirely anni- any thing by courtesy, and, therefore, never hilated by them. The reader enjoys the usurps what a lawful claimant may take pleasure of seeing things put upon a sound away. The exposure of Pope's delusion is footing, and this pleasure is, perhaps, height- still better, because it is not quite so solemn. ened by the consciousness that, until he read "It is evident," Johnson says, "that Pope's the common-sense criticism, he thought the own importance swells often in his mind. Unfortunate Lady a very interesting young He is afraid of writing lest the clerks of the woman. Of course every thing depends on post-office should know his secrets; he has the criticism in such a case being perfectly many enemies; he considers himself as surlegitimate. It is easy to vulgarize every rounded by universal jealousy; "after subject of poetry by describing it in the lan- many deaths and many dispersions, two or guage of contemptuous prose. But we feel three of us, says Pope, may still be brought that if the history of this lady was as it is together, not to plot, but to divert ourselves, represented by her admirers, it was very and the world too, if it pleases," and we can little to her credit, and that therefore she live together and "show what friends wits never deserved to be made a heroine. Much may be, in spite of all the fools in the world." in the same way, Johnson comments on a Johnson proceeds to make mincemeat of this. passage in the preface to the Miscellanies, in "All this while it was likely that the clerks which Pope complains of the robberies com- did not know his hand; he certainly had no mitted upon authors by the clandestine seiz- more enemies than a public character like ure and sale of their papers, and states that his inevitably excites; and with what degree the cabinets of the sick and the closets of of friendship the wits might live very few the dead have been broken open and ran- were so much fools as ever to inquire." sacked. We naturally accept the fact as Considering that Johnson himself lived historical, and feel a generous indignation at among all the wits of his time, and was the the wrong done to such illustrious men, until centre of one of the best literary circles that we read Johnson's sarcastic remark-"as if have ever been formed in England, it is in those violences were often committed for the highest degree creditable to him, that papers of uncertain and accidental value, his common sense was too strong to allow which are rarely provoked by real treasures him to suppose that society may be divided -as if epigrams and essays were in danger into a knot of literary gods and a mass of where gold and diamonds are safe." So, outside worshippers. It is to be regretted again, by a few caustic sentences, Johnson that his common sense has not descended in entirely dissipates all the admiration which any large or complete degree to this generaPope tried to raise in his readers by speak- tion. ing slightingly of what he had written. "One of Pope's favorite topics," says Johnson, "is contempt of his own poetry. For this, if it had been real, he would deserve no commendation; and in this he was certainly not sincere, for his high value of himself was sufficiently observed; and of what could he be proud but of his poetry?".
Critical common sense is, however, never very effective unless it is aided by a telling and pointed style. Partly by a natural gift, partly by long practice, Johnson had the power of putting his common sense in nearly as good a form as it could be put in; and it is interesting to observe how he produces the effect which every reader, however rapid, Among the delusions which Johnson no- cannot fail to admire. Sometimes there is tices as shared by the particular poet of whom a single expression which is either ambitious mention is being made, but also as common or neat enough to arrest our attention. to many other people, may be instanced the Thus, in speaking of the influence exercised supposition of Swift that he honored himself by Martha Blount in determining Pope to by affecting an equality with the great, and insert an insult to Mr. Allen in his will, he the supposition of Pope that the whole world says, Pope suffered his testament to be was absorbed in thinking what he and his polluted with female resentment." But genliterary friends were doing. Johnson tells erally the style is rather pointed than ambius that in Swift's letters there frequently tious. Slight sarcasms are put indirectly, appears an affectation of familiarity with and almost as matters of fact. Thus we are the great, an ambition of momentary equal- told that Swift obtained his degree at Dubity sought and enjoyed by the neglect of lin by special favor-"a term used in that those ceremonies which custom has estab- university to denote want of merit." This lished between one rank and another." He is quite in the vein of the best jokes of the then proceeds to hold up this affectation Dictionary. Sometimes the sarcasm is skilto ridicule, and to justify himself for doing fully veiled in the narrative, and the com
ment on a course of proceeding is put in the passages where different opinions on the same shape of a historical fact. Pope, for in- point are brought into close juxtaposition, stance, is said to have attempted to terrify and the reader is led up to thinking the one the world by a threat that he would not write last assigned is the best. Thus, Johnson any more. Johnson quietly adds, "When tells us that Swift often slept at a penny lodghe talked of laying down his pen, those who ing, and then goes on:-"This practice Lord sat round him entreated and implored; and Orrery imputes to his innate love of grossself-love did not suffer him to suspect that ness and vulgarity; some may ascribe it to they went away and laughed." Johnson his desire of surveying human life through all had no means whatever of knowing that, as its varieties; and others, perhaps with equal a fact, they did go away and laugh, but he probability, to a passion which seems to have wishes to insinuate it was likely they did been deeply fixed in his heart, the love of a so; and, in order to insinuate it strongly, he shilling." A writer who can frame such passtates it as historically true. He is often sages naturally delights in them, and Johnalso extremely happy in adding a metaphor- son is very fond of constructing his sentences ical illustration at the end of a piece of sar- in an inverted order merely because it pleases castic reasoning, so as to terminate the pas-him to exercise his ingenuity and his comsage with as much point as possible. For mand over language. He frequently frames instance, in the part of Pope's life to which his sentences in this way-"To charge those we have already referred, where the poet is favorable representations which men give of stated to have complained of the danger to themselves with the guilt of hypocritical which literary papers are exposed. Johnson falsehood would show more severity than ends by saying, "A cat hunted for its musk knowledge." Here, we may observe, that is, according to Pope's account, but the em- not only is the language twisted, but the blem of a wit winded by the booksellers." thought is highly condensed. For we do not The introduction of the technical word suspect that any one would do the thing that "winded" in this sentence is a little master- is denounced until we find it denounced, and stroke of neat writing. the offence is thus hypothetically inserted in a sentence framed to condemn it. In the same way Johnson says, in the Life of Swift
Usually Johnson, where he is really good, is more elaborate; and where he is sarcastic, he generally gains by the involved and highly wrought construction of his sentences. It is only when he is didactic and moral that he is tedious and confused. The concluding words of the following passage about Pope's grotto at Twickenham are perhaps rather stilted, but otherwise afford a model of quiet ridicule. "A grotto is not often the wish or the pleasure of an Englishman, who has more frequent need to solicit than to exclude the sun; but Pope's excavation was requisite as an entrance to his garden, and as some men try to be proud of their defects, he extracted an ornament from an inconvenience, and vanity produced a grotto where necessity enforced a passage." Johnson also understood the art of condensing a long train of reasoning into a single sentence. For example, he thus disposes of Swift's project of an English Academy, and of the reasoning by which the project was supported. "The certainty and stability which, contrary to all experience, he thinks attainable, he proposes to secure by instituting an Academy, the decrees of which every man would have been willing, and many would have been proud, to disobey, and which, being renewed by successive elections, would in a short time have differed from itself." If the reasoning contained in this sentence had been drawn out fully, it would have filled a closely printed octavo page. The same sort of skill is exhibited in many
"Three years afterwards was published the Tale of a Tub. Of this book charity may be persuaded to think that it might be written by a man of peculiar character without ill intention, but it is certainly of dangerous example." From this sentence we have to gather that the Tale of a Tub is a dangerous book that it is not certain whether the author designed it should be so
that it would require a charitable mind to believe he did not that it is not certain that any mind, however charitable, could believe it-that in any case it must take much persuasion to come to such a conclusion-that charity itself would only believe that the author might have written innocently, not that he did so and that he could not possibly have done so unless he had been of a peculiar character. To condense all this into a neat flowing sentence shows great skill, and the author will generally be rewarded by the pleasure he takes in its construction. does not, however, follow that he will always please all readers. The mass of mankind is too indolent, and reads too hastily, to consider elaborate and condensed sentences any thing but a bore. The few who take the pains to unravel them will rate them as highly as the thought expended on them deserves. But the many will much prefer something simpler and plainer, and the popularity of Johnson has been sustained because his