Page images


He attention and judgment with which you fele& the most

yout Review, entitle you to public approbation ; and particularly your care to exhibit whatever immediately interefts the general ceconomy of life. In this view I consider your extra&ts and remarks in the last month on Dr. Ingenhoofz's experiments upog vegetables, from which you take occasion to communicate the danger of confinement in a. clofe room containing a large quantity of fragrant flowers. As I imagine your Review is more generally read than any other periodical performance in Europe, I doubt not bur your communication will excenfively diffufe a proper fufpicion of this fragrant and infidious poison, and thereby obviate future injuries from the fame causes but I was not a little surprised, when you mentioned this as a cause of danger « hitherto unsuspezted." I Though I am of opinion, that Dr. Irigen houfz has more clearly explained this deleterious quality in fragrant flowers, it has, I believe, been long fuspected, though not elucidated with that accuracy which the discoveries of Dr. Priestley have fince enabled experimentalifts to do. About ten years ago I intimated my opioion, in the History of Tea, that its fragrance was deleterious, founded upon experiments, and confirmed by expérience ; and instanced two examples of death in rea-brokers, who in order to ascertain the re{pe&tive qualities of teas, smell at them forcibly, and thus inspire their eff uvia; one of these persons died paralycic, and the ocher apoplectie* 31

Lucrețios, in His 6th Book, fpeaks very fully of the deleterious effects of efluvia from different fabftances; and his ideas are fo applicable to the present fubje&, that I beg leave to transcribe them here:

Arboribus primum certis gravis umbra tributa eft
Ufque adeo, capitis faciant ut fæpe dolores,
Siquis eas fubter jacuit prokratus in berbis.
Eft etiam in magnis Heliconis montibus arbos

Floris odore hominem retro consueta necare. In the Acta Curioforum, as well as in fome of the earlier Philofophical Transactions, I think I recollect having seen accounts of some examples of fatality from exposure to fragrant flowers in confined rooms. All the early navigators to the Wett Indies notice the deleterious effluvium of the Manchineel tree, though they vary respecting its virulence. I do not therefore address you as claiming the merit of a discovery, but to confirm the fufpicions which you have already fuggefted, as several cases have been related to me of persons who have loft their lives by this expofure, and more than one infance where the same fatal confequences have happened from sleeping in a field of beans in bloffom. London, June 12, 1780.

Joun COAKLEY LETTSOM, C.'s favour is received, and fhall be farther noticed in our dext,






ART. 1. Memoire dans lequel on examine les Fondemens de l'Ancienne Hipoire

Chinoise, & ou l'on fait voir que les Millionaires se font appuyés fur divers Passages corrompus d'Auteurs Chinois pour etablir l Ancienneté de la Nation:- An Inquiry into the Foundations of the ANCIENT History of China, in which it is proved, that she Missionaries have employed several corrupted Passages of the Chinese Authors to afcertain the Antiquity of that Nasion. By M. DE GUIGNBS, Member of the Royal Academy of Inscriptions, &c.

THIS Piece is the summary of a more ample and extensive


fittings of the Royal Academy, and it contains an examination of the proofs that have been employed to ascertain the Chinese chronology; ift, in the writings of the Missionaries; and 2dly, in the annals of China, themselves. In a former Memoir, M. de'GUIGNES, by an attentive discussion of some parts of the ancient history of China, had shewn how uncertain that history is : and as several Missionaries had endeavoured to answer his objections, he returns to the subject in the present Memoir, and illustrates and confirms, by new accessions of evidence, what he had formerly maintained.

One of the first particulars we observe in this Memoir, is, the learned Freret employing a passage of Meng-tse, a classical author among the Chinese, and looking upon it as one of the strongest proofs of the authenticity of the Chinese chronology; while it is evident, that this paffage does not exist in Meng-tse, but was a note of a commentator, who lived near twelve hundred years after * Father Noel, in his tranflation of the works Meng-ise lived in the ivih century before the Christian sa,

and his Commentator in the xiith century ofter. APP, REV. Vol. lxii.



of Meng-tse, inserted into the text the notes of the modern commentator, without either distinguishing them as they are distinguished in the Chinese work, or informing the public thae he had taken this liberty: and as M. FRERET did not understand the Chinese language, and was therefore obliged to lean upon the authority, and follow the lights (often worse than ambiguous), of the Missionaries, he built his confident assertion of the antiquity of the Chinese chronology on Father Noel's translation, and alleged, for proof, a falle quotation, without knowing it.-The reader need not be surprised at this instance of credulity in an unbeliever, though implicit faith in a monkish missionary be rather a curious phenomenon in such a man as M. Freret.-Be that as it may, Father Noel's translation is full of additions of this kind, which cannot be distinguished by a French reader from the Chinese text; but our learned author, by consulting the original, discovered the error of M. FRERET, whose hypothefis, and all the labour it cost him, vanilh into air in consequence of this discovery.– Father Couplet, in his translation of the works of Confucius, has followed, says our author, the same method ; if we depend upon the authority of these tranflations, we shall find, indeed, in them a multitude of passages, that prove the antiquity of the Chinefe chronologybut the misfortune is, that these passages do not exist in the originals.

We learn farther, in this curious Memoir, that Father de Mailla, in the celebrated Chinese annals, that are published from his translation, is guilty of the same inconfiderate way of proving, and that his references to passages in the Chinese books are inaccurate, and fallacious, in a very high degree. M. DE GUIGNES gives an instance of this, which is really ftriking: De Mailla, in order to prove that the Chinefe have not fixed, at random, the duration of the reigns of their ancient kings, tells us, that the Chou-king, a book of the first authority in China, mentions pofitively the duration of the reigns of ten kings of the second Dynasty ;- he even indicates the chapter, where this is to be found. - Happily for Father Mailla, few critics are capable of examining the original; but, unhappily for him, our Author is one of the few, and assures us, that in the chapter, to which the Rev. Father refers us, there are only three princes mentioned, together with the years in which they governed, and that the greatest part of the others are not even named. Thus the mistakes and tricks of the Miffionaries, and the conjectures and imaginations of other authors, make a confiderable part of that hiftory of China, which a certain set of philosophers set up as a regulator of the chronology of other histories.


The champions of Chinese history have availed themselves much of astronomical observations to support the credit of its ancient chronology; but the contradictions and ambiguity that reign in the accounts of these observations, render the conclufions, drawn from them, very uncertain.-Father Amiot, in a work sent to the king's library, in 1769, affirms, that the conjunction of five planets, which happened under Tchuen hio, is a fictitious epocha, -that it is not mentioned in any work really authentic, or worthy of credit, and that, consequently, it cannot be employed to ascertain the Chinese chronology. But, as if this Rev. Father had forgot himself, he, in another work, sent to France in 1775, and lately published, contiders the same conjunction as a demonstration of the authenticity of the Chinese chronology, and fixes its epocha at the 28th of February of the year 2449, before Christ. "How he came to change his opinion, our Author cannot tell: nor can we imagine, how historians, that were unworthy of credit in 1769, should command our assent in 1775. Beside, if we attend to the reports of the other Milionaries, some of them will be found rejccting this chronology, others adopting it, and all of them calculating it in different ways.

Who fall decide when Doctors disagree? --Similar doubts are excited by similar contradictions with respect to the eclipse of Tchong-kang. Father De Premare, in one of his publications, throws a profusion of ridicule upon the astronomers, by whom it was calculated; and yet we find this fame Father represented in the Lettres Edifiantes, as maintaining the credit of this eclipse. Our Author also shews the interruption, the disorder, and inaccuracy, that have always reigned in the Chinese cycle of fixty (designed, at first, to form a period of fixty days, and which was long after applied to a period of sixty years), and of consequence, the fallacy of those calculations, which M. Freret and the Missionaries have founded upon it.

M. De Guignes, after having evinced the precipitation of the Miffionaries, and thewn the errors and contradictions into which they have been betrayed by their enthufiaftical admiration of the Chinese history, goes a step farther, and undertakes to examine that history, with his own eyes, in order to see in what it confists, and on what foundations its credit rests. For this purpose, he examines the history of the Dynasty of Hia, the first of the imperial Dynasties, which had seventeen emperors, during the space of 440 years, and which began about the year 2207 before Jesus Christ. The Chou-king (says he) which the Chinese consider as the basis of their history, and the purest source of instruction, gives very little information with respect to that ancient Dynasty ;-it mentions only four of the LI 2


seventeen emperors, that modern writers suppose to have belonged to it, without even taking notice of the duration of each reign : it contains abundance of reflections and maxims relative to government, but few or no events. The history of the second Dynasty is not more circumstantial: of twenty-fix emperors, that it is supposed to have contained, the Chou-king mentions only eight, and of these only three, the duration of whose reigns is specified.

It is pretended, that so early as the reign of Yoa, 2357 years before Christ, the Chinese made astronomical observations, in countries far diftant from the capital of their empire – that they had a complete year of 365 days and a quarter, and that they undertook immense works, to change the course of certain rivers--and all this--when? at a time when they were learning the first elements of agriculture, and only beginning to emerge from a state of barbarism! This, indeed, is not likely : unless we follow M. Bailli's hypothesis, according to which it is possible, that when the great northern Colossus of erudition and philosophy (erected who knows when or where?) was broken into pieces (who knows how ?), some splinters of astronomy might have been carried into China, even in its rude and uncivilized state.

Nor does the Chinese history, according to our Author, derive more considerable riches from the works of Meng-tse, who occasionally speaks of some of the ancient princes, the same that are mentioned in the Chou-king :-Confucius, in the little treatises that have been collected by his disciples, mentions no other; so that, from these different works, which are anterior to the general conflagration of the Chinese books (and about which fome doubts might perhaps be easily excited), it is impossible to draw a solid body of history.- How then did Se-maifien, about 97 years before Christ, compose one, and from what fource did he take the names of all thele ancient emperors? It is true, indeed, he does no more than merely indicate them, and begins to mark the dates only at the year 841 before Chrift, so that the two first imperial Dynasties are without date,-which is a strange manner of fixing chronology.-Be that as it may“ Se-ma-tsien is the father of Chinese history; but, even in China, he has the reputation of a story-teller, is accused of having employed the fables invented by the Bonzes; and, in general, his history is little esteemed by the Missionaries. Father Sibaud, whole works have been lately printed at Paris, under the name of a Chinese called Ko, fays, that Se-ma-tien designed to flatter the vanity of the emperor of China, by composing á history, in such a manner, that the ambassadors from the weltern nations of Asia thould not be able to dispute with that


« PreviousContinue »