Imágenes de página


The subjects of the “Middle Kingdom," or, as we more frequently call it “Celestial Empire,” are far from being unprovided with books on these subjects. One author alone, the celebrated Luhchow, whom some of our missionaries have not hesitated to call a “ Chinese Addison," has written a work in twenty volumes, called Neu Heo,' or the Female Instructor.' Luhchow, who really appears to have been in deed, as well as in theory, a good moral man and honest district magistrate, died in 1734. He insists (more than would be agreeable to our ladies in Europe) on the paramount duty of obedience and submission in women. He does not flatter, but tells them plainly that through natural inferiority of intellect, they cannot understand the books of high philosophy, or ever hope to rule the world. He thinks it is very necessary to tell them to avoid all sorcerers and witches. He sets down the rearing the silk-worm, and working cloth, as the most important of the employments of a female ; preparing and serving up the food for the family and household, coming next. When these things have been strictly attended to, the lady of the house may take up her book and amuse herself with reading. But she must not neglect to look after the family sacrifices, and to be always sober and decorous, and cleanly in preparing the wine and viands for the altar.

In the whole of this code of female morality, there are not many clauses that would be of much use in Europe. The following is one of the best :

“ The virtue of a female does not consist altogether in extraordinary intelligence or abilities, but in being modestly grave, and inviolably chaste, tidy in her person, and neat in everything about her; in whatever she does she must be unassuming, and whether she walks or sits, it must be with modesty and decorum. This is female virtue.”

There are scarcely any limits to the obedience of a wife. She must obey her husband, and her husband's father and mother, and (if he have any) elder brothers and sisters ; at the same time she must obey her own father and mother, and her own elder brothers and sisters. The author very solemnly tells us, that, unless the daughter-in-law lives pleasantly with her mother-in-law, the peace of the whole family will be disturbed ; but this hint is scarcely needed in Europe. A wife must never be jealous, let her husband take as many wives, or otherwise stock his harem, as he will. Old Luhchow, however, admits, that in these matters, even Chinese wives are apt to be very perverse and obstreperous. According to his teaching, a wife must at all times be ready to sacrifice her life, and even submit, nay, volunteer to be eaten, to save the life of her husband. Here he enforces his maxims with several historical illustrations and examples. What will our English wives think of the following ?

“During the reign of Cheching of the Yuen dynasty, a man in the district of Fanshan named Le, who had a wife named Lew, was seized by starving soldiers in a season of severe famine. People were devouring one another for want of other food, and the famishing soldiers were preparing to kill and cook Le, when his wife Lew, hearing of it, hastily ran to the spot, and throwing herself on the ground weeping, said, 'Soldiers ! he whom you have seized is my husband ; I beseech you have pity on him, and let me ransom him. In my house there is a large jar of preserved beans, and a measure or more of rice, buried in the ground, these you can dig up and take for my husband.' The soldiers refused the ransom, whereupon Mrs. Lew added : ‘Warriors ! my husband, as you see, is but a lean, fair, small man, but I have heard that women who are fat and dark are well tasted; now this is the case with me, so take me, cook and eat me, instead of my husband !' The soldiers, who were many, seeing that she was indeed plump and of the right complexion, and that Le was so very scraggy and diminutive, that he would be only a few mouthfuls apiece for them, let go Le, and cooked Mrs. Lew, and before the husband could well get back to his home, his wife was eaten up. No one who heard of this tragedy could refrain from pitying Mrs. Lew, and saying There was a model of a wife!"

Luhchow admits that there are two things excessively difficult in female training :-1. (To teach stepmothers to be fond of the children their husbands have had by other wives : 2. To prevent women, whether young or old, from running after story-telling fortune-tellers, and listening to the incoherent ravings of ignorant unlicensed preachers.

We have the most ample and firmest reliance on conjugal affection and devotedness, in general, but we should not like to put these English virtues to such a test as Mrs. Lew underwent.

It is a curious circumstance that a bonâ fide magnifying-glass, identified by Sir David Brewster as decidedly and designedly such, was recently found by Mr. Layard, in one of the temples at Nineveh. Mr. Layard says, that many of the cruciform inscriptions, and other smaller sculptures, are so delicately cut, and so minute, as to be almost unintelligible without a magnifying-glass.


St. Distaff's Day, or the morrow after Twelfth Day, was so called, by country folk, because the Christmas holidays having ended, good housewives resumed their distaff and their other employments. It was celebrated in honour of the rock-a distaff held in the hand, from whence wool is spun, by twirling a ball below. The burning of the women's flax and tow was the men's diversion in the evening of the first day's labour, and the women retaliated the interruption of their industry by well sluicing with water their assailants. In the olden time, when boisterous diversions were better suited to the simplicity of rustic life than to the comparative refinement of the present, these contests between fire and water must have afforded great and risible amusement. An extraordinary work, of which only one copy is known, entitled "The Gospelles of the Dystaves,' written in the true Boccaccio style of humour, and printed by Wynkyn de Worde, occurs in the sale of the tenth portion of the late Mr. Heber's library. It appears to be a translation of "Les Evangiles des Quenoilles, faittes a l'onneur et exaulcement des Dames,' described by De Bure, Bibliogr. Instr., No. 3,998, and supposed by him to have been printed in 1475. The circumstance that gave rise to these • Gospels’ is thus in part related by the author :-“ Upon a night after supper, for to take my disport and pass my time joyously, in the long winter nights between Christmas and Candlemas, I transported me into the house of a well-aged demoiselle, my neighbour near, where I was accustomed for to resort, and to devise with her, for divers of her neighbours came hither to spin and devise of small and joyous purposes, whereat I took great pleasure and solace." The gossips are six in number, and each begins her lecture or gospel in such guise as to overpower his modesty." In truth, these chapters are short sentences, containing aphorisms, quack recipes, and all manner of grotesque and strange remarks—not overburdened with delicacy. The last night's tale concludes on a Saturday; and the author then says, “Great was the laughing among the assistants, who had already washed and combed their heads, had wound up their yarn, and ready to truss up the gear, whereof I was right joyous, for certainly I began to be much weary of them.” The initials of the translator of this unique volume are J. H. W.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small]




Winter is passing away, though still “ the trembling year is unconfirmed :"

“ And winter oft at eve resumes the breeze,
Chills the pale morn, and bids his driving sleets

Deform the day delightless." Yet winter is passing away and spring-time (the time par excellence of poetry) is advancing, encircled by a floral band. The buds which formed last autumn at the base or axil of the leaves of the lilac, the apple-tree, and others which we need not particularise, from the oak and horse-chestnut to the willow, have already begun fairly to expand; the catkins of the birch and the ozier give a new grace to every pliant twig, and “the larch has hung all her tassels forth.” The violet and the primrose render the hedgerow banks, and the sheltered beds of the coppice, a carpet of blue and paly gold, intermingled with russet-brown and tender green. The snowdrop, the crocus, and the daffodil, “ that comes before the swallow dares, and takes the winds of March with beauty,” with the mezereon, yet leafless, but in the luxuriance of bloom, grace our gardens, struggling from barrenness into the teeming of Flora's prime. If we wander forth we shall find every mound of clay, however recently upturned, studded with the golden flowers of the coltsfoot. Green is the wheat-field, and let the day be sunny and clear, high overhead, from his loftiest pitch of fight, the lark will send down his melody-an animating strain, telling of brighter days, of warmer skies, of richer flowers " and a downy nest.”

“Come to the woods”--the damp open spots are carpeted by the golden-eyed celandine ; and in its depths, from amidst decaying leaves and crumbling branches forming a soft, deep over-layer of rich vegetable mould, the lovely wood anemone, or wind-flower, spreads in countless profusion its frail and delicate blossoms. Hark to the bold piping of the clear-toned thrush, seated as he sings on the topmost perch of some tall tree, while from the dense brake resounds the mellifluous warble of the shyer blackbird. These have already built their nests; and the female, serenaded by her

« AnteriorContinuar »