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VOLTAIRE, in his Orphan of China, desired to place paternal and maternal love in opposition to each other, and to show the difference between the tenderness of a mother, always ready to sacrifice every thing to the life of her child, and that of the father who sacrifices his son to the duties which honor and the law impose upon him. This contrast is interesting. We only regret that, in Voltaire, this contrast is rather a discussion than a dramatic action.

The subject of the Orphan of China, is taken from a Chinese play, translated by father Premare, and published in 1735. In our days, this piece has been translated anew by Stanislas Julien. It is curious to compare the Chinese drama with the tragedy of Voltaire.

The Chinese drama is the entire life of the Orphan. "It is a barbarous rough-sketch," says Voltaire in the preface of his tragedy.. "We might believe that we were reading the Thousand and one Nights in acts and scenes. But notwithstanding the incredible, it is full of interest, and notwithstanding the multitude of incidents, all is perspicuous." Voltaire did not say enough. There prevails in the Chinese drama an admirable unity of interest, and the author had the merit of knowing how to make the dangers of the Orphan interesting. The interest of the drama turns entirely upon a poor child whom it is necessary to save from death; and this interest suffices, without those romantic passions which Voltaire knew so well how to ridicule, when he does not employ them.

The cruel Tou-an-Kou has caused three hundred members of the family of Tchao to be exterminated. Tchao and his wife, who is pregnant, alone remain. Very soon Tchao receives an order from the Emperor to put himself to death.

He kills himself; but before dying, he enjoins it upon his wife, if she bears a son, to name him Tchao-chi-Kou-eul, that is the Orphan of the family of Tchao, and so to manage it that he may escape from the persecutors of his race; for it is he who will finally revenge them all. The princess Tchao is delivered of a son, to whom she gives the name prescribed by her husband. But Tou-an-Kou, the enemy of Tchao, wishes to destroy the Orphan, and orders a proclamation to be issued, which punished with death whoever would rescue the Orphan from the prison in which the mother was confined. How can the escape of this child be effected, who was brought forth with pain and already threatened with death? An old secretary of the house of Tchao, the physician Tching-Ing, comes to visit the princess in her prison. She begs him to carry off her son. "If I succeed in carrying off your son secretly," says Tching-Ing," and Tou-an-Kou comes to know it, he will ask you where is the little Orphan of the family of Tchao. You will answer: I have given him to TchingIng. I would die with all my family, it matters little to me; but do you believe that he will permit this tender infant to live?" Then in order to quiet the fears of TchingIng with regard to the secret, the princess kills herself. Thus Tching-Ing becomes the only prop of the house of Tchao, and he therefore alone will know the secret of the retreat in which the last scion of the family will be concealed. But he must leave the prison. The soldiers watch at the door, and Tching-Ing despairs of being able to elude their vigilance. Fortunately the General Han-Kioué, who commands them, is a generous and tender-hearted man and an old friend of the family of Tchao. This brave man, seeing Tching-Ing go from the prison with a basket full of herbs, at the bottom of which is concealed the little child, tells him to approach; and then ordering the soldier to retire, he takes the basket, removes the herbs, and discovers the child. This sight affects him and moves him to pity. "The forehead of the young child," he exclaims, "is bathed with perspiration. The corners of his mouth are still white with maternal milk. How frail and delicate are his limbs! He opens his little eyes and seems to recognize me. Although sad and suffering at the bottom of this basket, we might say that he endeavored to restrain his cries. This narrow prison in which he is inclosed, those little bands which tie him

down on all sides, prevent him from turning over his body, and stretching out his little feet." Tching-Ing at the same time begs him to spare this child; "so that one day, when he will have become great, he may protect the tombs of the family of the Tchao." "What shall I do?" says Han-Kioué. "I well know that if I deliver up this child to Tou-an-Kou, I will be rich and powerful, but I would be an infamous wretch. . . . Go then," said he to Tching-Ing, "and carry off this child." But Tching-Ing still hesitates. "If HanKioué were to repent! If, in order to be acquitted by Touan-Kou, who would be very angry in learning that the Orphan had escaped, he were to say that it was Tching-Ing who carried off and concealed this child! Tou-an-Kou would order Tching-Ing to be taken; he would have him put to death, and would also put to death the last descendant of the Tchao." Then in order to quiet the apprehensions of TchingIng, to save the Orphan, Han-Kioué kills himself in his turn. "You, Tching-Ing," says he to him, before killing himself, "watch day and night over this little orphan; let him constantly be the object of all your cares. This feeble scion will one day cause the house of Tchao to be revived; and when he will have become great, relate to him all that has passed. Do not fail to tell him to avenge his parents; and let him, above all, take care to forget my devotedness and my benefits!"

It is doubtless these two voluntary deaths, that of the Princess T ao, and that of General Han-Kioué, which Voltaire describes in alluding to the stories from the Thousand and one Nights. In fact, these sacrifices, performed so quickly and so easily, that they almost cease to become heroic, these suicides which follow each other as if by imitation, are certainly strange, and we have need, in order that we may not be too much astonished, to remember the manners of Japan and China, and the inconceivable contempt which these people have for life. Voltaire has not failed, in his Orphan, to remember this peculiarity in their manners, and even to praise it:

Let us imitate the firmness of our haughty neighbors,

says Idamé to Zamti, her husband, in proposing to him to kill themselves in order to escape the yoke of Gengis-Khan:

They sustain the rights of human nature,

They live free among themselves, and die when they please.

An insult suffices to drive them to death,
And they dread infamy more than annihilation.

Act v. scene 5.

These accumulated instances of devotedness, as incredible as they may appear, are not contrary to the morals of the country in which the scene passes. Moreover, Voltaire was right in saying that in the Chinese piece, the incredible does not injure the interest of it. What, in fact, does the Chinese poet wish? He wishes to affect us by the fate of the infant. Is not the best way to interest us, to show us the devotedness which this helpless creature inspires? God has intended that children should possess a natural charm which makes us love them; for in order to live they require our tenderness and care. Infancy is pleasing and attractive by its simplicity and helplessness; and the Chinese poet was right to show in Han-Kioué, that men who have become hardened in the profession of arms are sensible to the charms of infancy. But when the infant, in addition to its natural attraction, is the last descendant of an illustrious and unfortunate race; when his life is menaced, and it becomes necessary to save him with great difficulty from dangers of which he is still ignorant, then the pity which he excites becomes greater, and pity may extend even to devotedness. These very instances of devotedness show the singular value which is attached to the life of the child. No; it cannot be an ordinary child whose cradle is surrounded by so many dangers and protected by so many wonderful sacrifices; he is scarcely born before his mother kills herself to insure the secret of his flight; and even the chief of the soldiers, whose duty it was to prevent this flight, touched with pity at the sight, kills himself in his turn, in order to escape from the cruel duty which the persecutor of the Tchao has imposed upon him. These are strange instances of devotedness, we must confess, but which at least possess the merit of being turned to the benefit of its dramatic interest.

There is in this Orphan more than one infant; there is a whole family. It is that which constitutes its strength. We know how sacred and holy was the family institution in China:

This empire destroyed, which ought to be immortal,
My lord, was founded upon paternal right,

says the Idamé of Voltaire to Gengis-Khan. It is well to say it; but it is still better to show, in the drama itself, how strong and powerful is the idea of a family, and how this idea controls and directs all. Why is this infant saved at the price of so many generous lives? In order that the family of the Tchao may not be entirely extinct-in order tha the tombs of this family may not remain without some one who would preserve and honor them. The people who make of the family the foundation of society, do not only respect the family which is living, they also do honor to the family which is dead. And do not believe that in this traffic of respect which is rendered to fathers and ancestors, children give without ever receiving. No; the future is no where more prosperous than in those places where the past is revered; children are no where held more dear than in families where their ancestors are adored; and the cradle of the new-born is deemed still more sacred, if it is possible, than the tombs of their ancestors. Such is the cradle of the Orphan of the Tchao, a kind of domestic altar, where a mother and a friend are sacrificed in their turn, in order to save the perpetuity of the family of the Tchao. This perpetuity of the family is, if we may so speak, in the Chinese drama, the fatality of the antique tragedy; it directs and controls all its events; it takes the different personages of the drama, in their turn, and orders them to be sacrificed for the Orphan, and they are sacrificed. These instances of devotedness are accomplished with a calmness and a gravity which show that it is not prompted by passion, and that duty alone determines them. The devotedness of passion is violent, tumultuous, and ardent. They hasten on as if they feared lest they would never more recover themselves. The devotedness of duty is slow and deliberate.

Tching-Ing has saved the Orphan. He brings him, still inclosed in the basket, to an old family servant of the Tchao, Kong-Sun, who has retired to a little farm to end his days in repose. This scene is admirable. Tching-Ing and Kong-Sun both endeavor to find the safest means of securing the life of the Orphan.

I will soon be forty-five years of age, and I have a son, [says Tching-Ing,] who is not yet one month old. I will make him pass for the orphan of the family of the Tchao. You must denounce me to Tou-an-Kou; you will tell him that I have concealed the orphan;

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