Feast of Lanthorns.
This is a festival with the Chinese on the fifteenth day of the first month of their year. It is so called from the great number of lanthorns hung out of the houses, and in the streets; insomuch that it rather appears a season of madness, than of feasting. On this day are exposed lanthorns of all prices, whereof some are said to cost two thousand crowns. Some of their grandees retrench somewhat every day out of their table, their dress, their equipage, &c. to appear the more magnificent in lanthorns. They are adorned with gilding, sculpture, painting, japanning, &c. and as to their size, it is extravagant; some are from twenty-five to thirty feet diameter; they represent halls and chambers. Two or three such machines together would make handsome houses. In lanthorns of these dimensions the Chinese are able to eat, lodge, receive visits, have balls, and act plays. The great multitude of smaller lanthorns usually consist of six faces or lights, each about four feet high, and one and a half broad, framed in wood finely gilt and adorned; over these are stretched a fine transparent silk, curiously painted with flowers, trees, and sometimes human figures. The colours are extremely bright; and when the torches are lighted, they appear highly beautiful and surprising.
French Lark Shooting.
To the gentleman whose letter from Abbeville, descriptive of "Wild fowl shooting in France," is on p. 1575 of vol. I., the editor is indebted for another on "Lark shooting," which is successfully practised there by a singular device unknown to sportsmen in this country.*
Lark Shooting in France.
————As far-off islanders,
Innocent of trade, unskilled in commerce,
To whom a glass or toy unknown before
Is wonderful, give freely, flocks and fruits
To gain mere baubles; so, these silly birds,
Attracted by the glisten of the twirler,
Hover above the passing strange decoy,
Intent to gaze, and fall the gunner's prey.
If I do not send you your wished for wood cuts I at least keep my promise of letting you hear from me. I told you in my last you should have something about our lark-shooting, and so you shall, and at this time too; though I assure you writing flying as I almost do, is by no means so agreeable to me as shooting flying, which is the finest sport imaginable. When I come home I will tell you all about it, for the present I can only acquaint you with enough to let you into the secret of the enjoyment that I should always find in France, if I had no other attraction to the country. I must "level" at once, for I have no time to spare, and so "here goes," as the boy says.
Partridge and quail shooting cease in this delightful part of the world about the middle of October, for by that time the partridges are so very wild and wary that there is no getting near them. The reason of this is, that our fields here are all open without either hedge or ditch, and when the corn and hemp are off, the stubble is pulled up so close by the poor people for fuel, that there is no cover for partridges; as to the quails, they are all either "killed off," or take their departure for a wilder climate; and then there is nothing left for the French gentry to amuse themselves with but lark-shooting. These birds are attracted to any given spot in great numbers by a singular contrivance, called a miroir.  This is a small machine, made of a piece of mahogany, Shaped like a chapeau bras, and highly polished; or else it is made of common wood, inlaid with small bits of looking glass, so as to reflect the sun's rays upwards. It is fixed on the top of a thin iron rod, or upright spindle, dropped through an iron loop or ring attached to a piece of wood, to drive into the ground as here represented.
By pulling a string fastened to the spindle, the miroir twirls, and the reflected light unaccountably attracts the larks, who hover over it, and become a mark for the sportsman. In this way I have had capital sport. A friend of mine actually shot six dozen before breakfast. While he sat on the ground he pulled the twirler himself, and his dogs fetched the birds as they dropped. However, I go on in the common way, and employ a boy to work the twirler. Ladies often partake in the amusement on a cold dry morning, not by shooting but by watching the sport. So many as ten or a dozen parties are sometimes out together, firing at a distance of about five hundred yards apart, and in this way the larks are constantly kept on the wing. The most favourable mornings are when there is a gentle light frost, with little or no wind, and a clear sky—for when there are clouds the larks will not approach. One would think the birds themselves enjoyed their destruction, for the fascination of the twirler is so strong, as to rob them of the usual "fruits of experience." After being fired at several times they return to the twirler, and form again into groupes above it. Some of them even fly down and settle on the ground, within a yard or two of the astonishing instrument, looking at it "this way and that way, and all ways together," as if nothing had happened.
Larks in France fetch from three to four sous a piece. In winter, however, when they are plentiful, they are seldom eaten, because here they are always dressed with the trail, like snipes and woodcocks; but for this mode of cooking they are not fitted when the snow is on the ground, because they are then driven to eat turnip-tops, and other watery herbs, which communicate an unpleasant flavour to the trail. Were you here at the season, to eat larks in their perfection, and dressed as we dress them, I think your praise of the cooking would give me the laugh against you, if you ever afterwards ventured to declaim against the use of the gun, which, next to my pencil, is my greatest hobby. I send you a sketch of the sport, with the boy at the twirler—do what you like with it.
I rather think I did not tell you in my last, that the decoy ducks, used in wildfowl shooting, are made of wood—any stump near at hand is hacked out any how for the body, while a small limb of any tree is thrust into the stump for the duck's neck, and one of the side branches left short makes his head. These ducks answer the purpose with their living prototypes, who fly by moonlight, and have not a perfect view, and don't stay for distinctions, like philosophers.
It will not be long before I'm off for England, and then, &c.
I am, &c.
J. H. H.
Mean Temperature . . . 37 . 02.
Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:
1. To his former letter J. J. H. are printed as the initials by mistake, instead of J. H. H. [return]
2. See also the account of a similar English device, at Vol. 2, January 23. [KG] [return]