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TO THE TRANSLATION OF
FATHER LOBO's VOYAGE TO ABYSSINIA", The following relation is so curious and entertaining, and the dissertations that accompany it so judicious and instructive, that the translator is confident his attempt stands in need of no apology, whatever censures may fall on the performance.
The Portuguese traveller, contrary to the general vein of his countrymen, has amused his reader with no romantick absurdities or incredible fictions : whatever he relates, whether true or not, is at least probable; and he who tells nothing exceeding the bounds of probability, has a right to demand that they should believe him who cannot contradict him.
He appears, by his modest and unaffected narration, to have described things as he saw them, to have copied nature from the life, and to have consulted his senses, not his imagination. He meets with no basilisks that destroy with their eyes; his crocodiles devour their prey without tears; and his cataracts fall from the rock without deafening the neighbouring inhabitants.
The reader will here find no regions cursed with irremediable barrenness, or blest with spontaneous fecundity; no perpetual gloom or unceasing sunshine ; nor are the nations here described either devoid of all sense of humani
* For an account of this book, see the Life of Dr. Jonno
by Mr. Murphy
ty, or consummate in all private and social virtues : here are no Hottentots without religion, polity, or articulate language ; no Chinese perfectly polite, and completely skilled in all sciences : he will discover what will always be discovered by a diligent and impartial inquirer, that wherever human nature is to be found, there is a mixture of vice and virtue, a contest of passion and reason; and that the Creator doth not appear partial in his distributions, but has balanced in most countries their particular inconveniences by particular favours.
In his account of the mission, where his veracity is most to be suspected, he neither exaggerates over-much the merits of the jesuits, if we consider the partial regard paid by the Portuguese to their countrymen, by the jesuits to their society, and by the papists to their church, nor aggravates the vices of the Abyssinians; but if the reader will not be satisfied with a popish account of a popish mission, he may have recourse to the History of the Church of Abyssinia, written by Dr. Geddes, in which he will find the actions and sufferings of the missionaries placed in a different light, though the same in which Mr. Le Grand, with all his zeal for the Roman church, appears to have seen them.
This learned dissertator, however valuable for his industry and erudition, is yet more to be esteemed for having dared so freely, in the midst of France, to declare his disapprobation of the patriarch Oviedo’s sanguinary zoal, who was continually importuning the Portuguese to beat up their drums for missionaries who might preach the gospel with swords in their hands, and propagate by desolation and slaughter the true worship of the God of peace.
It is not easy to forbear reflecting with how little reason these men profess themselves the followers of Jesus, who left this great characteristick to his disciples, that they should be known by loving one another, by universal and unbounded charity and benevolence.
Let us suppose an inhabitant of some remote and superior region, yet unskilled in the ways of men, having read and considered the precepts of the gospel, and the example of our Saviour, to come down in search of the true church. If he would not enquire after it among the cruel, the insolent, and the oppressive; among those who are continually grasping at dominion over souls as well as bodies ; among those wbo are employed in procuring to themselves impunity for the most enormous villanies, and studying methods of destroying their fellow creatures, not for their crimes but their errors—if he would not expect to meet benevolence engage in massacres, or to find mercy in a court of inquisition, he would not look for the true church in the church of Rome.
Mr. Le Grand has given in one dissertation an example of great moderation, in deviating from the temper of his religion; but in the others has left proofs, that learning and honesty are often too weak to oppose prejudice. He has made no scruple of preferring the testimony of father Du Bernat to the writings of all the Portuguese jesuits, to whom he allows great zeal, but little learning, without giving any other reason than that his favourite was a Frenchman. This is writing only to Frenchmen and to papists: a protestant would be desirous to know, why be must imagine that father Du Bernat had a cooler head or more knowledge, and why one man whose account is singular, is not more likely to be mistaken than many agreeing in the same account.
If the Portuguese were biassed by any particular views, another bias equally powerful may have deflected the Frenchman from the truth; for they evidently write with contrary designs : the Portuguese, to make their mission seem more necessary, endeavoured to place in the strongest light the differences between the Abyssinian and Roman church; but the great Ludolfus, laying hold on the advantage, reduced these later writers to prove their conformity.
Upon the whole, the controversy seems of no great importance to those who believe the Holy Scriptures sufficient to teach the way of salvation; but, of whatever moment it may be thought, there are no proofs sufficient to decide it.
His discourses on indifferent subjects will divert as well as instruct; and if either in these, or in the relation of father Lobo, any argument shall appear unconvincing, or description obscure, they are defects incident to all mankind, which, however, are not too rashly to be imputed to the authors, being sometimes perhaps more justly chargeable on the translator.
In this translation (if it may be so called) great liberties have been taken, which, whether justifiable or not, shall be fairly confessed, and let the judicious part of mankind pardon or condemn them.
In the first part the greatest freedom has been used, in reducing the narration into a narrow compass ; so that it is by no means a translation, but an epitome, in which, whether every thing either useful or entertaining be comprised, the compiler' is least qualified to determine.
In the account of Abyssinia, and the continuation, the authors have been followed with more exactness; and as few passages appeared either insigniticant or tedious, few have been either shortened or omitted.
The dissertations are the only part in which an exact translation has been attempted; and even in those, abstracts are sometimes given instead of literal quotations, particularly in the first; and sometimes other parts have been contracted.
Several memorials and letters, which are printed at the end
the dissertations to secure the credit of the foregoing narrative, are entirely left out.
It is hoped that after this confession, whoever shall compare this attempt with the original, if he shall find no proofs of fraud or partiality, will candidly overlook any failure of judgment.
ESSAY ON EPITAPHS. From the Gentleman's Magazine, 1740. Though criticism has been cultivated in every age of learning, by men of great abilities and extensive knowledge, till the rules of writing are become rather burthensome than instructive to the mind; though almost every species of