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The people of the United States have assured me that they themselves are the most enlightened nation under the sun; but thou knowest that the barbarians of the desert, who assemble at the summer solstice, to shoot their arrows at the glorious luminary, in order to extinguish its burning rays, make precisely the same boast ;-wbich of them have the superior claim, I shall not attempt to decide.
I have observed with some degree of surprise, that the men in this country do not seem in haste to accommodate themselves even with a single wife, which alone the laws permit them to marry; this backwardness is probably owing to the misfortune of their absolutely having no female mutes among them. Thou knowest how invaluable are these silent companions; what a price is given for them in the east, and what entertaining wives they make. What delightful entertainment arises from beholding the silent eloquence of their signs and gestures; but a wife possessed both of a tongue and a soul- monstrous! monstrous! Is it astonishing that these unhappy infidels should shrink from a union with a woman so preposterously endowed ?
Thou hast doubtless read in the words of Abel Faraj, the Arabian historian, the tradition which mentions that the muses were once upon the point of falling together by the ears about the admission of a tenth among their number, until she assured them, by signs, that she was dumb; whereupon they received her with great rejoicing. I should, perhaps, inform thee, that there are but nine Christian muses, who were formerly Pagans, but have since been converted, and that in this country we never hear of a tenth, unless some crazy poet wishes to pay an hyperbolical compliment to his mistress; on which occasion it goes hard but she figures as a tenth muse, or fourth grace, even though she should be more illiterate than a Hottentot, and more ungraceful than a dancing bear! Since my arrival in this country, I have met not less than a hundred of these supernumerary muses and graces-and may Allah preserve me from ever meeting any more!
WOUTER VAN TWILLER. The renowned Wouter (or Walter Van Twiller was descended from a long line of Dutch burgomasters, who had successively dozed away their lives, and grown fat upon the bench of magistracy in Rotterdam; and who had comported themselves with such singular wisdom and propriety that they were never either heard or talked of-which, next to being universally applauded, should be the object of ambition to all sage magistrates and rulers.
His surname of Twiller is said to be a corruption of the original Twijfler, which in English means doubter; a name admirably descriptive of his deliberative habits. For though he was a man shut up within himself like an oyster, and of such a profoundly reflective turn that he scarcely
ever spoke except in monosyllables : yet did he never make up his mind on any doubtful point. This was clearly accounted for by his adherents, who affirmed that he always conceived every subject on so comprehensive a scale that he had not room in his head to turn it over and examine both sides of it; so that he always remained in doubt, merely in consequence of the astonishing magnitude of his ideas.
There are two opposite ways by which some men get into notice-one by talking a vast deal and thinking a little, and the other by holding their tongues and not thinking at all. By the first, many a vapouring superficial pretender acquires the reputation of a man of quick parts—by the other, many a vacant dunderpate, like the owl, the stupidest of birds, comes to be complimented by a discerning world, with all the attributes of wisdom. This, by the way, is a mere casual remark, which I would not for the universe have it thought I apply to Governor Van Twiller. On the contrary, he was a very wise Dutchman, for he never said a foolish thing; and of such invincible gravity that he was never known to laugh, or even to smile, through the course of a long and prosperous life. Certain, however, it is, there never was a matter proposed, however simple, and on which your common narrow-minded mortals would rashly determine at the first glance, but what the renowned Wouter put on a mighty mysterious, vacant kind of look, shook his capacious head, and having smoked for five minutes with redoubled earnestness sagely observed, that
“he had his doubts about the matter,"—which, in process of time, gained him the character of a man slow in belief, and not easily imposed on.
The person of this illustrious old gentleman was as regularly formed, and nobly proportioned, as though it had been moulded by the hands of some cunning Dutch statuary, as a model of majesty and lordly grandeur. He was exactly five feet six inches in height, and six feet five inches in circumference. His head was a perfect sphere, far excelling in magnitude that of the great Pericles (who was thence waggishly called Schenocephalus, or onion head)—indeed of such stupendous dimensions was it, that dame Nature herself, with all her sex's ingenuity, would have been puzzled to construct a neck capable of supporting it; wherefore she wisely declined the attempt, and settled it firmly on the top of his backbone, just between the shoulders; where it remained, as snugly bedded as a ship of war in the mud of Potowmac. His body was of on oblong form, particularly capacious at bottom; which was wisely ordered by providence, seeing that he was a man of sedentary habits, and very averse to the idle labour of walking. His legs, though exceeding short, were sturdy in proportion to the weight they had to sustain ; so that when erect he had not a little the appearance of a robustious beer barrel, standing on skids. His face, that infallible index of the mind, presented a vast expanse perfectly unfurrowed or deformed by any of those lines and angles which disfigure the human countenance with what is termed ex
pression. Two small grey eyes twinkled feebly in the midst, like two stars of lesser magnitude, in a hazy firmament; and his full-fed cheeks, which seemed to have taken toll of every thing that went into his mouth, were curiously mottled and streaked with dusky red, like a Spitzenberg apple.
His habits were as regular as his person. He daily took his four stated meals, appropriating exactly an hour to each; he smoked and doubted eight hours, and he slept the remaining twelve of the four-and-twenty. Such was the renowned Wouter Van Twiller-a true philosopher, for his mind was either elevated above, or tranquilly settled below, the cares and perplexities of this world. He had lived in it for years, without feeling the least curiosity to know whether the sun revolves round it, or it round the sun; and he had even watched, for at least half a century, the smoke curling from his pipe to the ceiling, without once troubling his head with any of those numerous theories by which a philosopher would have perplexed his brain, in accounting for its rising above the surrounding atmosphere.
In his council he presided with great state and solemnity. He sat in a huge chair of solid oak, hewn in the celebrated forest of the Hague, fabricated by an experienced Timmerman of Amsterdam, and curiously carved about the arms and feet, into exact imitations of gigantic eagles' claws. Instead of a sceptre, heswayed a long Turk. ish pipe, wrought with jasmin and amber, which had been presented to a stadtholder of Holland,