called a spirited and manly educa tion.

before their entry into the world, Ce they can then only be looked upon as evils of the greatest magnitude, however they may be sanctioned by opinion, or rendered familiar to us by habit.

In by far the greatest number of cases, we cannot think publick schools favourable to the cultivation of knowledge; and we have equally strong doubts if they be so to the cultivation of morals, though we admit, that, upon this point, the most striking arguments have been pro duced in their favour.

*F, ༢


It is contended by the friends to publick schools, that every person, before he comes to man's estate, must run through a certain career of dissipation; and if that career is, by the means of a private education, deferred to a more advanced period of life, it will only be begun with greater eagerness, and pursued into more blamable excess. The time must, of course, come, when every man must be his own master; when his conduct can be no longer regulated by the watchful superintendance of another, but must be guided by his own discretion. Emancipation must come at last; and we admit, that the object to be aimed at is, that such emancipation should be gradual and not premature. Upon this very inviduous point of the discussion, we rather wish to avoid offering any opinion. The manners of great schools vary considerably from time to time; and what may have been true many years ago, is very possibly not true at the present period. In this instance, every parent must be governed by his own observations and means of information. If the license which prevails at publick schools is only a fair increase of liberty, proportionate to advancing age, and calculated to prevent the bad effects of a sudden transition from tutelary thraldom to perfect self government, it is certainly a good, rather than an evil. If, on the contrary, there exists in these places of education a system of premature debauchery, and if they only prevent men from being corrupted by the world, by corrupting them

The vital and essential part of a school, is the master; but, at a publick school, no boy, or, at the best, only a very few, can see enough of him to derive any considerable benefit from his character, manners, and information. It is certainly of eminent use, particularly tova young man of rank, that he should have lived among boys; but it is only so when they are all moderately watched by some superiour understanding. The morality of boys is generally very imperfect; their notions of honour extremely mistaken; and their objects of ambition frequently very absurd. The probability then is, that the kind of discipline they exercise over each other will produce (when left to itself) a great deal of mis chief; and yet this is the discipline to which every child at a publick school is not only necessarily exposed, but principally confined. Our objection (we again repeat) is not to the interference of boys in the formation of the character of boys their character, we are persuaded, will be very imperfectly formed without their assistance; but our objection is, to that almost exclusive agency which they exercise in publick schools.


After having said so much in op. position to the general prejudice în favour of publick schools, we may be expected to state what species of school we think preferable to them; for if publick schools, with all their disadvantages, are the best that can actually be found, or easily attained, the objections to them are certainly made to very little purpose.

We have no hesitation, however, in saying, that that education seems to us to be the best, which mingles a domestick with a school life; and · which gives to a youth the advantage

which is to be derived from the learning of a master, and the emulation which results from the society of other boys, together with the af fectionate vigilance which he must experience in the house of his parents. But where this species of education, from peculiarity of circumstances or situation, is not attainable, we are disposed to think, a society of twenty or thirty boys, under the guidance of a learned man, and, above all, of a man of good sense, to be a seminary the best a dapted for the education of youth. The numbers are sufficient to excite a considerable degree of emulation, to give to a boy some insight into the diversities of the human character, and to subject him to the observation and control of his superiours. It by no means follows, that a judicious man should always interfere with his authority and advice, because he has always the means; he may connive at many things which he cannot approve, and suffer some little failures to proceed to a certain extent, which, if indulged in wider limits, would be attended with irretrievable mischief.

[ocr errors]

He will be aware, that his object is, to fit his pupil for the world; that constant control is a very bad preparation for complete emancipation from all control; that it is not bad policy to expose a young man, under. the eye of superiour wisdom, to some of those dangers which will assail him hereafter in greater number, and in greater strength; when he has only his own resources to depend upon. A private education, con. ducted upon these principles, is not calculated to gratify, quickly, the va nity of a parent who is blest with a child of strong character and preemi. nent abilities. To be the first scholar of an obscure master, at an obscure place, is no very splendid distinc tion, nor does it afford that opportu nity, of which so many parents are desirous, of forming great connexions for their children. But if the ob ject be, to induce the young to love knowledge and virtue, we are inclined to suspect, that, for the average of human talents and characters, these are the situations in which such tastes will be the most effec tually formed...


Ta Tsing Leu Lee; being the Fundamental Laws, and a Selection from the supplementary Statutes of the Penal Code of China; originally printed and published in Pekin, in various successive Editions, under the Sanction and by the Authority of the several Emperours of the Ta Tsing, or present Dynasty. Translated from the Chinese; and accompanied with an Appendix, consisting of authentick Documents and a few occasional Notes, illustrative of the Subject of the Work. By Sir George Thomas Staunton, Bart. F. R. S. 4to. pp. 581. London, 1810.

THE Chinese have not hitherto had very fair play in Europe. The first missionaries, from the natural propensity of all discoverers to magnify the importance of their discovery, gave a most exaggerated account of their merits and attainments; and then came a set of philosophers, who, from their natural

love of paradox, and laudable zeal to depreciate that part of their spe cies with which they are best ac quainted, eagerly took up and improved upon the legends of the holy fathers, till they had not only exalted those remote Asiaticks above all European competition, but had transformed them into a sort of biped

[ocr errors]

Houyhnms; the creatures of pure reason and enlightened beneficence. This extravagance, of course, provoked an opposite extravagance; and De Pauw and others, not contented with denying the virtues and sciences of the Chinese, called e qually in question their numbers, their antiquity, and their manual dexterity; and represented them as among the most contemptible and debased of the barbarians, to whom all but Europe seemed to have been allotted in perpetuity. More moderate and rational opinions at length succeeded; and, when our embassy entered the country in 1793, the intelligent men who composed it were as little inclined, we believe, to extol the Chinese, from childish admiration, or out of witty malice, as to detract from their real merits, because they appeared under an outlandish aspect, or had been overpraised by some of their predecessors. The effect of this aspect, however, and this overpraise, were still visible, we think, in the different opinions of the candid and intelligent persons to whom we have alluded. The noble lord who was at the head of the mission, appears, on the whole, to have formed a higher estimate of this singular people than any of the persons of his train. His ingenious and enlightened secretary, sir George Staunton, seems to have wavered a good deal as to the point of the scale at which he should place them; and Mr. Barrow, though infinitely more accurate and candid than De Pauw, is evidently actuated by something of the same pique or antipathy to the formal orientals, which has given so singular a colouring to most of the statements and observations of that zealous philosopher.

While the opinions of the best informed persons were thus at variance on the subject, it was particuJarly to be regretted, that there were scarcely any documents before the publick, from which they could, with

safety, form a judgment for themselves. The translations exhibited by the missionaries were mostly from works of fancy; and these were said to be so coloured and adorned in their versions, as to convey no idea whatever either of the taste; style, or character of the people; while the statements made, as to matters of science and government, were far too general to serve as the foundation of any important conclusions. It is rather remarkable, indecd, that, notwithstanding the great commercial intercourse which England has now maintained with China, for more than a century, the work before us should have been the very first ever rendered out of that language directly into our own. It appears to us, however, to be at least as important in itself, as it is remarkable for its rarity. It contains, as the title imports, the authentick text of the whole penal law of China; and as their peculiar system of jurisprudence has attached a certain publick punishment to the violation or neglect of almost every civil obligation, their penal law comprises an incidental view of their whole system of legislation. Now, there certainly is no one document from which we may form a judgment of the character and condition of any nation, with so much safety as from the body of their laws; and when these are presented to us, not in the partial abstracts of their admirers or detractors, but in the original fulness and nakedness of their authentick statutes, the information which they afford may fairly be considered as paramount to all that can be derived from other sources. The representations of travellers, even where their fidelity is liable to no impeachment, will almost always take a tinge from their own imagination or affections; and, where enthusiasm or controversy have any place in the discussion, there is an end to all prospect of accuracy or justice. The laws of a people, how


[ocr errors]

more than ordinary degree of reprobation. -Trans. Pref. p. ix.

In spite of all this, he observes, that this nation will be found to possess certain considerable advantages, both in a moral and political view, which are not to be exactly paralleled in any European society. These he ascribes, in a very brief and philosophical enumeration,

ever, are actual specimens of their intellect and character; and may lead the reflecting observer, to whom they are presented, in any corner of the world, to a variety of important conclusions that did not occur to the individual by whom they were collected. In such a work, the legislator inevitably paints both himself and the people for whom he legislates; and, as nothing here depends upon the colouring of style or ornament, nothing short of intentional fabrication in the translator, can prevent us from forming a correct notion of the original. In the case before us, however, we have not only every reason to believe that the translation is perfectly just and accurate, but think we can discover, in the translator, such candour and coolness of judgment, as would en-people to an indulgence in ambitious pro

title him to be trusted in a matter of far greater temptation.

Sir George Staunton, in an introduction of considerable length, but which its clearness, modesty, and intelligence, made us wish longer, has presented us with an interesting sketch of the general character of the Chinese institutions; and endeavoured, though with a visible leaning in their favour, to mediate between those who had exaggerated their pretensions, and those who had been offended at the disappointment of extravagant expectations. He confesses, that the romantick ideas which had been diffused by the writings of some of the missionaries, were far, indeed, from being realized by an actual inspection of the Chinese.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

"to their system of early and universal marriage, ezcept, indeed, as far as that system may be considered to conduce to the misfortune of a redundant population; to the sacred regard that is habitually paid to the ties of kindred; to the sobriety, industry, and even intelligence of the lower classes; to the almost total absence of feudal rights and privileges; to the equable distribution of landed property; to the natural incapacity and indisposition of the government and

jects and foreign conquests; and lastly, to a system of penal laws, if not the most just and equitable, at least the most comprehensive, uniform, and suited to the genius of the people for whom it is designed, perhaps of any that ever existed." Trans. Preface, p. xi.

Upon the whole, he thinks it reasonable to conclude, that a philosopher who should survey this people with an enlightened and liberal indulgence, would probably find "something to compensate the evils he had justly reprobated and lamented; and might even have at last determined, that a considerable proportion of the opinions most generally entertained by Chinese and Europeans either to prejudice, or to misinforof each other, was to be imputed mation; and that, upon the whole, it was not allowable to arrogate, on either side, any violent degree of moral or physical superiority."Trans. Pref. p. ix.

Though we approve very much of the spirit of these observations, we cannot yet persuade ourselves to acquiesce in the equation with which they conclude. Yet if Sir George Staunton's statements are to be relied on, and every thing about them

entitles them to the highest authority; the intellectual condition of the Chinese must be a subject of more curious investigation than the best of our recent accounts would lead us to believe.

The elements of literature, by which we suppose is meant the art of reading the easiest and most simple characters, are almost universally diffused among the natives; and this accomplishment is fostered and rewarded, by an infinite multitude of publications, upon all subjects but those connected with the government of the country, and particularly in the departments of poetry and the belles lettres. These works are multiplied by a clumsy species of printing, which has been practised among them for time immemorial; and every considerable city contains various booksellers' shops, where a great variety of publications may always be purchased.

[ocr errors]

The extreme difficulty of the written language is acknowledged by sir George Staunton; and, unfortunately, this difficulty increases pretty nearly in the same proportion with the merit of their works of poetry and eloquence. In compositions which have nothing to do with words, all the beauties of versification, rythm, and every thing that is called style in other languages, is of course out of the question. Their poetry does not consist of verses, nor their oratory of periods; but both are distinguished from the pictures of their ordinary thoughts by the use of less obvious and more ingenious metaphors, and by a selection of characters, the elementary parts of which present, a series of pleasing ideas, though the signification of the whole may not be different from that of some ordinary character. Compositions of this kind do not, of course, admit of translation; and, as the genius of the language rejects the aid of common particles of connexion, and presents merely a string of detached images, the relations of

[blocks in formation]

which the reader is left to find from their intrinsick qualities, it is easy to conceive how infinitely laborious the task must be, of decyphering their more elaborate and ornamental compositions. We learn, accordingly, from sir George Staunton, that one of the missionaries, who was most thoroughly acquainted with the language, and was highly distinguished among the Chinese themselves for proficiency in their literature, declared, that he should never have been able to read or translate a celebrated, imperial poem, which he entitles "Eloge De Mougden," without referring, occasionally, to a previous translation of it into the language of the Manchoo Tartars.

The elementary books of the laws, however, the translator assures us, are composed in a much simpler style; and, being intended for the perusal of the whole body of the people, consist, almost entirely, of the easiest and most simple characters. This circumstance, joined to their great importance in illustrating the character and condition of the peo ple, recommended them, in a peculiar manner, as a subject for translation, and as calculated to afford a safe and satisfactory specimen, both of Chinese composition and of Chinese legislation..

As sir George Staunton considers it (upon grounds which we hope he will hereafter elucidate more fully) as one of the facts most incontestably proved in history, that the Chinese were united under a regular government, and in no low state of civilisation, at least as early as the third century before our era, it might have been expected that, among a people so tenacious of old usages, their fundamental, penal code should have been deduced from a very remote antiquity. Their great love of their ancestors, however, gives place, it seems, to their greater love for their reigning emperour; and, on the accession of every new dynasty, it is the custom to make a sort of

« VorigeDoorgaan »