Tragi-comic incident in 19th century Nagasaki

この夏長崎に滞在していたオランダの友人が、文久元年(1861)長崎で発刊された英字新聞The Nagasaki Shipping List and Advertiser<長崎歴史文化博物館 2_361>の第1巻第24号(1861年9月18日付)に掲載されている英文コラムが面白いと教えてくれた。読んでみると、確かに読ませる。なにより題材がおもしろい。そしてそれを外国人の目から皮肉たっぷりに書き上げているのが可笑しいのだ。

紹介されているのは、その頃長崎で噂になったという、ある若い奥方と老女中が引き起こした、哀しくも馬鹿馬鹿しい事件である。その若奥方は、婚期を逃したことで望まぬ相手と親に結婚させられ、やがて結婚生活に絶望してしまった。彼女は自らの死をもって尊厳を示そうと決意し、年老いた女中を伴って、浦上街道を時津方面へと、死に場所を求めてさまよった。着物の袖に、なぜ自ら死を選んだのか、思いの丈を認めた手紙をしのばせながら。ところがまったく予想もしなかった事態が起こってしまう。若奥方と老女中の運命や如何!? 続きは原文で。

To the editor of the Nagasaki Shipping List and Advertiser.

      NAGASAKI, 17th September, 1861.


     In pursuing my enquiries regarding the customs of the Japanese, I meet with incidents comic, tragic and tragi-comic. Of the latter sort is the following. A young lady of this town, in conformity with a very general usage -as I am reliably informed- amongst Japanese young ladies, did not wait for her parents' sanction and selection before she bestowed her heart, &c., upon a lover. But when the time, in their opinion, arrived for giving her away in matrimony, they interested themselves in providing for her a suitable match, and finally introduced as her futur a gentleman considerably older than herself, but possessed of those sinews considered alike essential to prosperous matrimony and successful war, even if his physical sinews were somewhat relaxed by age. They not being. as we are, possessed of her secret, were suprised as well as disappointed at her strong repugnance to the object of thier choice; considering no doubt, as Papas and Mammas in other countries do, that a young lady's first duty is to marry whomsoever they elect. even if afterwards they do as they please: though the latter part of the code is not so applicable to Japan as to the other countries alluded to. as the husband here has much more stringent rights, and an unfaithful spouse is punishable with Death.

  As Papas and Mammas generally do in such cases, they scolded and reasoned and threatened, -until the poor girl did not know whither to turn to avoid their persecution. Death alone seemed to offer a door of escape, -and she therefore determined to commit suicide. The Japanese consider that an honorable death is far preferable to a degraded or a troublous life, -and of all deaths, the most honorable is by their own hand. To execute themselves becomingly is a matter of education, in which little boys and girls of a very tender age are instructed. Young ladies do not vulgarly sever the carotid artery or gash their delicate bodies as the men do; but proceeding to a secluded spot they seat themselves against a grave-stone or a tree, and taking their own little sword delicately with both hands at a short distance from the point press it into their dear little throat and faint away out of the world. No "large hearted" Japanese girl would submit to a tithe of the misery and wrong which womankind in civilized countries are made to endure; -and this is owing to the difference of education; a difference which has also a most favorable aspect; for except in some domestic matters neither Japanese people nor Government would think of allowing helpless women to be ground to the wall in a strife for existence with mankind, as is the case in our enlightened lands.

  This young lady then had not determined on a course which she had been taught would leave her body to be buried in a cross road and her soul to damnation, -but as preferring death to meek endurance of injury would ensure her honorable burial and the admiration and respect of her world. She accordingly dressed herself with care, and summoned an aged dependant to accompany her for a walk. As usual under such circumstances she prepared a statement of the reasons which had determined her to the act, and placed the paper in the ample pocket of her sleeve, which would certainly be searched for such a document. Setting forward, the two proceeded on their way towards the village of Tokitz, on the road to which are many pretty spots well suited for a romantic tragedy of the nature purposed. But the walk proved too much for the strength of the old woman, -at which nobody who has traversed the rough roads and numerous steps which lead in that direction from the town will be surprised. Squatting upon her heels, after the fashion of the country, upon a knoll on the road side, she lost her balance, and falling upon lower ground suffered such a shock that she died there and then. Our heroine, probably alarmed at the sight of death, reflected on her intention and finally abandoned it. Before leaving the spot however she transferred her deposition to the sleeve of the old nurse, and then returned home. The body was found in due course, and the pockets emptied. their contents being examined by the coroner -who found the writing to the following effect. "My Father and Mother wish me to marry Mr.Asakitch, but he is old and ugly and I do not like him, -and besides there is someone whom I have long loved very much, and in consequence of which I have for three months been in an interesting condition. I have therefore resolved to terminate my life and so end the matter."

  The absurdity of this confession being found on the old woman created, as may be readily supposed, a greater sensation than the fact of her death, -and from the Governor, to whom it was duly reported, downwards, the town indulged in a gossip and a laugh over it for several days.

□The Nagasaki Shipping List and Advertiser参考文献・サイト

"The Nagasaki Shipping List and Advertiser" デジタル化実行委員会ブログ

長谷川進一「日本最初の英字新聞 The Nagasaki Shipping List and Advertiser(No.3-28); The Nagasaki Shipping List -The First English Newspaper in Japan」『新聞学評論』第13号、1963年、37-48頁。

小野沢隆「英字新聞 The Nagasaki Shipping List and Advertiser -その背景と変容-」『富士フェニックス論叢』第3号、1995年、63-77頁。


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