The citizen of the world: or, letters from a Chinese philosopher, residing in London, to his friends in the east. ... [pt.1]
Goldsmith, Oliver, 1730?-1774.

LETTER VII.

From Lien Chi Altangi, to Fum Hoam, first president of the Ceremonial Academy at Pekin, in China.

The Editor thinks proper to acquaint the reader, that the greatest part of the following letter seems to him to be little more than a rhapsody of sentences borrowed from Confucius, the Chinese philosopher.

A Wife, a daughter carried into captivity to ex∣piate my offence, a son scarce yet arrived at ma∣turity, resolving to encounter every danger in the pious pursuit of one who has undone him, these indeed are circumstances of distress; tho' my tears were more pre∣cious than the gem of Golconda, yet would they fall upon such an occasion.

But I submit to the stroke of heaven, I hold the vo∣lume of Confucius in my hand, and as I read grow humble and patient, and wise. We should eel sorrow, says he, but not sink under its oppression; the heart of a wise man should resemble a mirrour, which reflects every object without being sullied by any. The wheel of fortune turns incessantly round, and who can say within himself I shall to day be uppermost. We should hold the immutable mean that lies between insensibility and anguish; our attempts should be not to extinguish Page  29 nature, but to repress it; not to stand unmoved at dis∣tress, but endeavour to turn every disaster to our own advantage. Our greatest glory is, not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

I fancy myself at present, O thou reverend disciple of Tao, more than a match for all that can happen; the chief business of my life has been to procure wis∣dom, and the chief object of that wisdom was to be happy. My attendance on your lectures, my confer∣ences with the missionaries of Europe, and all my sub∣sequent adventures upon quitting China, were calcu∣lated to increase the sphere of my happiness, not my curiosity. Let European travellers cross seas and de∣serts merely to measure the height of a mountain, to describe the cataract of a river, or tell the commodi∣ties which every country may produce; merchants or geographers, perhaps, may find profit by such dis∣coveries, but what advantage can accrue to a philoso∣pher from such accounts, who is desirous of under∣standing the human heart, who seeks to know the men of every country, who desires to discover those dif∣ferences which result from climate, religion, educa∣tion, prejudice, and partiality.

I should think my time very ill bestowed, were the only fruits of my adventures to consist in being able to tell, that a tradesman of London lives in a house three times as high as that of our great Emperor. That the ladies wear longer cloaths than the men, that the priests are dressed in colours which we are taught to detest, and that their soldiers wear scarlet, which is with us the symbol of peace and innocence. How many travellers are there, who confine their relations to such minute Page  30 and useless particulars; for one who enters into the ge∣nius of those nations, with whom he has conversed, who discloses their morals, their opinions, the ideas which they entertain of religious worship, the intrigues of their ministers, and their skill in sciences; there are twenty, who only mention some idle particulars, which can be of no real use to a true philosopher. All their remarks tend, neither to make themselves nor others more happy; they no way contribute to control their passions, to bear adversity, to inspire true virtue, or 〈◊〉 a detestation of vice.

Men may be very learned, and yet very miserable; it is easy to be a deep geometrician, or a sublime astro∣nomer, but very difficult to be a good man; I esteem, therefore, the traveller who instructs the heart, but despise him who only indulges the imagination; a man who leaves home to mend himself and others is a philosopher; but he who goes from country to country, guided by the blind impulse of curiosity, is only a vagabond. From Zerdusht down to him of Tyanea, I honour all those great names who endea∣voured to unite the world by their travels; such men grew wiser as well as better, the farther they departed from home, and seemed like rivers, whose streams are not only encreased, but refined, as they travel from their source.

For my own part, my greatest glory is, that travel∣ling has not more steeled my constitution against all the vicissitudes of climate, and all the depressions of fa∣tigue, than it has my mind against the accidents of for∣tune, or the accesses of despair.

Farewell.