The Rambler.: [pt.1]
JUV.Cur tamen hoc libeat potius decurrere campo,Per quem magnus equos Auruncae flexit alumnus,Si vacat, et placidi rationem admittitis, edam.
THE difficulty of the firſt addreſs on any new occaſion, is felt by every man in his tranſactions with the world, and confeſſed by the ſettled and regular forms of ſalutation which neceſſity has introduced into all languages. Judgment was wearied with the inextricable perplexity of being forced upon choice, where there was no motive to preference; and it was found convenient that ſome eaſy method of introduction ſhould be eſtabliſhed, which, if it wanted the allurement of novelty, might enjoy in its place the ſecurity of preſcription.
PERHAPS few authors have preſented themſelves [Page 2] before the publick, without wiſhing that ſuch ceremonial modes of entrance had been anciently eſtabliſhed, as might have freed them from the dangers which the too ardent deſire of pleaſing is certain to produce, and procluded the vain expedients of ſoftening cenſure by apologies, and rouſing attention by abruptneſs.
THE epic writers, indeed, have found the proemial part of the poem ſuch an addition to their laborious undertaking, that they have almoſt unanimouſly adopted the firſt lines of Homer, and the reader needs only be informed of the ſubject to know in what manner the ſcene will open.
BUT this ſolemn repetition is hitherto the peculiar diſtinction of heroic poetry, and has never been legally extended to the lower orders of literature, but ſeems to be conſidered as an hereditary privilege, to be enjoyed only by thoſe who can claim it from their alliance to the genius of Homer.
THE rules which an obſervation of the injudicious uſe of this prerogative ſuggeſted to Horace may, indeed, be applied to the direction [Page 3] of candidates for inferior fame; and it may be proper for all to remember, that they ought not to raiſe expectation which it is not in their power to ſatisfy, and that it is more pleaſing to ſee ſmoke gradually brightening into flame, than flame ſinking into ſmoke.
YET tho' this precept has been long received, both from regard to the authority of him that delivered it, and its conformity to the general opinion of the world, there have been ſome, as well ſince as before his time, who have thought it no deviation from modeſty to recommend their own labours, and imagined themſelves entitled by indiſputable merit to an exemption from general reſtraints, and to elevations not allowed in common life. They, perhaps, believed that when, like Thucydides, they bequeathed to mankind [...], an eſtate for ever, it was an additional favour to inform them of its value.
IT may, indeed, be no leſs dangerous to claim, on certain occaſions, too little than too much. There is ſomething captivating in ſpirit and intrepidity, to which we often yield, as to a reſiſtleſs power; nor can he reaſonably expect [Page 4] the confidence of others, who, too apparently, diſtruſts himſelf.
PLUTARCH, in his enumeration of the various occaſions, on which a man may, without juſt offence, proclaim his own excellencies, has omitted the caſe of an author entering the world; unleſs it may be comprehended under his general poſition, that a man may lawfully praiſe himſelf for thoſe qualities which cannot be known but from his own mouth; as when he is among ſtrangers, and can probably have no opportunity of an actual exertion of his powers. That the caſe of an author is parallel will ſcarecely be granted, becauſe he neceſſarily diſcovers the degree of his merit to his judges, when he ſolicits their ſuffrages. But it ſhould be remembered, that unleſs his judges be prejudiced in his favour, they will not be perſuaded to hear the cauſe.
IN love, the ſtate which fills the heart with a degree of ſolicitude next that of an author, it has been held a maxim, that ſucceſs is moſt eaſily obtained by indirect and concealed approaches; he who too ſoon profeſſes himſelf a lover, raiſes obſtacles to his own wiſhes and thoſe whom diſappointments have taught [Page 5] experience, endeavour to conceal their paſſion till they believe that their miſtreſs wiſhes for the diſcovery. The ſame method, if it were practicable to writers, would ſave many complaints of the partiality of the world, the ſeverity of the age, and the caprices of criticiſm. If a man could glide imperceptibly into the favour of the publick, and only proclaim his pretenſions to literary honours when he is ſure of not being rejected, he might commence author with better hopes, as his failings might eſcape contempt, though he ſhall never attain excellence ſufficient to excite much regard.
BUT ſince the publick ſuppoſes every man that writes ambitious of applauſe, as ſome ladies have taught themſelves to believe that every man intends love, who expreſſes civility, the miſcarrige of any new endeavour in learning raiſes an unbounded contempt, indulged by moſt minds without ſcruple, as an honeſt triumph over unjuſt claims, and exorbitant expectations. The artiſices of thoſe who put themſelves in this hazardous ſtate, have therefore been multiplied in proportion to their fear as well as their ambition; and are to be looked upon with more indulgence, as they reſult from complicated paſſions, and are incited [Page 6] at once by the two great movers of the human mind, the deſire of good, and the fear of evil. For who can wonder that, thus allured on one ſide, and frightned on the other, ſome men ſhould endeavour to gain favour by bribing the judge with an appearance of reſpect which they do not feel, to excite compaſſion by confeſſing weakneſs of which they are not convinced, or to attract regard by a ſhew of openneſs and magnanimity, by a daring profeſſion of their own deſerts, and a publick challenge of honours and rewards.
THE oſtentatious and haughty diſplay of themſelves has been the uſual refuge of diurnal writers, in vindication of whoſe practice it may be ſaid, that what it wants in prudence is ſupplied by ſincerity, and who at leaſt may plead, that if their boaſts deceive any into the peruſal of their performances, they defraud them of but little time.
The queſtion concerning the merit of the day is ſoon decided, and we are not condemned [Page 7] to toil thro' half a folio, to be convinced that the writer has broke his promiſe.—Quid enim? Concurritur—horaeMomento cita mors venit, aut victoria laeta.
IT is one among many reaſons for which I purpoſe to endeavour the entertainment of my countrymen by a ſhort eſſay on Tueſday and Saturday, that I hope not much to tire thoſe whom I ſhall not happen to pleaſe; and if I am not commended for the beauty of my works, to be at leaſt pardoned for their brevity: but whether my expectations are moſt fixed on pardon or praiſe, I think it not neceſſary to diſcover; for having accurately weighed the reaſons for arrogance and ſubmiſſion I find them ſo nearly equiponderant, that my impatience to try the event of my firſt performance will not ſuffer me to attend any longer the trepidation of the balance.
THERE are, indeed, many conveniencies almoſt peculiar to this method of publication, which may naturally flatter the author, whether he be confident or timorous. The man to whom the extent of his knowledge, or the ſprightlineſs of his imagination, has, in his own opinion, already ſecured the praiſes of the world, willingly takes that way of diſplaying his abilities which will ſooneſt give him an opportunity [Page 8] of hearing the voice of fame, and it heightens his alacrity to think in how many places he ſhall hear what he is now writing, read with ecſtaſies to morrow. He will often pleaſe himſelf with reflecting, that the author of a large treatiſe muſt proceed with anxiety, leſt, before the completion of his work, the attention of the publick may have changed its object; but that he who is confined to no ſingle ſubject, may follow the national taſte through all its variations, and catch the Aura popularis, the gale of favour, from what point ſoever it ſhall blow.
NOR is the proſpect leſs likely to eaſe the doubts of the cautious, and allay the terrours of the fearful, for to ſuch the ſhortneſs of every ſingle paper is a powerful encouragement. He that queſtions his abilities to arrange the diſſimilar parts of an extenſive plan, or fears to be loſt in a complicated ſyſtem, may yet hope to adjuſt a few pages without perplexity; and if, when he turns over the repoſitories of his memory, he finds his collection too ſmall for a volume, he may yet have enough to furniſh out an eſſay. He that is afraid of laying out too much time upon an experiment of which he fears the event, perſuades himſelf that a few [Page 9] days will ſhew him what he is to expect from his learning and his genius. If he thinks his own judgment not ſufficiently enlightned, he may, by attending the remarks which every paper will produce, inform himſelf of his miſtakes, rectify his opinions, and extend his views. If he ſuſpects that he may with too little premeditation encumber himſelf by an unwieldy ſubject, he may quit it without confeſſing his ignorance, and paſs to other topicks leſs dangerous, or more tractable. And if he finds, with all his induſtry, and all his artifices, that he cannot deſerve regard, or cannot attain it, he may let the deſign fall at once, and, without injury to others or himſelf, retire to amuſements of greater pleaſure, or to ſtudies of better proſpect.
STATIUS.Stare loco neſcit, pereunt veſtigia milleAnte fugam, abſentemque ſerit gravis ungula campum.
THAT the mind of man is never ſatisfied with the objects before it, but is always breaking away from the preſent moment, and loſing itſelf in ſchemes of future ſelicity; that we forget the proper uſe of the time now in our power, to provide for the enjoyment of that which, perhaps, may never be granted us, has been frequently remarked; and as this practice is a very commodious ſubject of raillery to the gay, and of declamation to the ſerious, it has been ridiculed with all the pleaſantry of wit, and exaggerated with all the amplifications of rhetoric. Every inſtance, by which its abſurdity might appear moſt flagrant, has been ſtudiouſly collected; it has been marked with every epithet of contempt, and all the tropes and figures have been called forth againſt it.
CENSURE is willingly indulged, becauſe it [Page 11] always implies ſome ſuperiority; men pleaſe themſelves with imagining that they have made a deeper ſearch, or wider ſurvey, than others, and detected faults and follies, which eſcaped vulgar obſervation. And the pleaſure of wantoning in common topicks is ſo tempting to a writer, that he cannot eaſily reſign it; a train of ſentiments generally received enables him to ſhine without labour, and to conquer without a conteſt. It is ſo eaſy to laugh at the folly of him who lives only in idea, refuſes immediate eaſe or diſtant pleaſures, and, inſtead of enjoying the bleſſings of life, lets life glide away in preparations to enjoy them; it affords ſuch opportunities of triumphant exultations, to exemplify the uncertainty of human ſtate, to rouſe mortals from their dream, and inform them of the ſilent celerity of time, that we may reaſonably believe moſt authors willing rather to tranſmit than examine ſo advantageous a principle, and more inclined to purſue a track ſo ſmooth and ſo flowery, than attentively to conſider whether it leads to truth.
THIS quality of looking forward into futurity ſeems the unavoidable and neceſſary condition [Page 12] of a being, whoſe motions are gradual, and whoſe life is progreſſive: as his powers are limited, he muſt uſe means for the attainment of his ends, and muſt intend firſt what he performs laſt; as, by continual advances from his firſt ſtage of exiſtence, he is perpetually varying the horizon of his proſpects, he muſt always diſcover new motives of action, new excitements of fear, and allurements of deſire.
THE end, therefore, which, at preſent, calls forth our efforts will be found, when it is once gained, to be only one of the means to ſome remoter end, and the natural flights of the human mind are not from pleaſure to pleaſure, but from hope to hope.
HE that directs his ſteps to a certain point, muſt frequently turn his eyes to that place which he ſtrives to reach; he that undergoes the fatigue of labour, muſt ſolace his wearineſs with the contemplation of its reward. In agriculture, one of the moſt ſimple and neceſſary employments, no man turns up the ground but becauſe he thinks of the harveſt, that harveſt which blights may intercept, which inundations [Page 13] may ſweep away, or which death or calamity may hinder him from reaping.
YET as few maxims are widely received, or long retained, but for ſome conformity with truth and nature, it muſt be confeſſed, that this caution againſt keeping our view too intent upon remote advantages is not without its propriety or uſefulneſs, though it may have been inclucated with too much levity, or inforced with too little diſtinction: for, not to ſpeak of that vehemence of deſire which preſſes through right and wrong to its gratification, or that anxious inquietude which is juſtly chargeable with diſtruſt of heaven, ſubjects too ſolemn for my preſent purpoſe; it very frequently happens that, by indulging too early the raptures of ſucceſs, we forget the meaſures neceſſary to ſecure it, and ſuffer the imagination to riot in the fruition of ſome poſſible good, till the time of obtaining it has ſlipped away.
THERE would however, perhaps, be few enterpriſes, either of great labour or hazard, undertaken, if we had not the power of magnifying the advantages, which we perſuade [Page 14] ourſelves to expect from them; and when the knight of La Mancha gravely recounts to his companion the adventures by which he is to ſignalize himſelf in ſuch a manner that he ſhall be ſummoned to the ſupport of empires, ſollicited to accept the heireſs of the crown he has preſerved, have honours and riches to ſcatter about him, and an iſland to beſtow on his worthy ſquire, very few readers, amidſt their mirth or their pity, can deny that they have admitted viſions of the ſame kind; though they have not, perhaps, expected events equally ſtrange, nor by means equally inadequate. When we pity him, we reflect on our own diſappointments, and when we laugh, our hearts inform us that he is not more ridiculous than ourſelves, except that he tells what we only thought.
THE underſtanding of a man, naturally ſanguine, may, indeed, be eaſily vitiated by too luxurious an indulgence of the pleaſures of hope, however generally neceſſary to the production of every thing great or excellent, as ſome plants are deſtroyed by too open expoſure to that ſun which gives life and beauty to the vegetable world.
[Page 15] PERHAPS no claſs of the human ſpecies requires more to be cautioned againſt this anticipation of happineſs, than thoſe that aſpire to the name of authors. A man of lively fancy no ſooner finds a hint moving in his mind, than he makes momentaneous excurſions to the preſs, and to the world, and, with a little encouragement from flattery, puſhes forward into future ages, and prognoſticates the honours to be paid him, when envy is extinct, and faction is forgotten, and thoſe, whom the partiality of the preſent generation ſuffers to obſcure him, ſhall give way to other trifles of as ſhort duration as themſelves.
THOSE, who have proceeded ſo far as to appeal to the tribunal of ſucceeding times, are, indeed, not likely to be cured of their infatuation; but all endeavours ought to be uſed for the prevention of a diſeaſe, for which, when it has attained its height, perhaps no remedy will be found in the gardens of philoſophy, however ſhe may boaſt her phyſick of the mind, her catharticks of vice, or her antidotes to paſſion.
I SHALL, therefore, while I am yet but lightly touched with the ſymptoms of the [Page 16] writer's malady, endeavour to fortify myſelf againſt the infection, not without ſome weak hope, that my preſervatives may extend their virtue to others, whoſe employment expoſes them to the ſame danger:
Laudis amore tumes? Sunt certa piacula, quae teTer pure lecto poterunt recreare libello.
IT is the ſage advice of Epictetus, that a man ſhould accuſtom himſelf often to think of what is moſt ſhocking and terrible, that by ſuch reflexions he may be preſerved from too ardent wiſhes for ſeeming good, and from too much dejection in real evil.
THERE is nothing more dreadful to an author than neglect, compared with which reproach, and hatred, and oppoſition, are names of happineſs; yet this worſt, this meaneſt fate every man who dares to write has reaſon to fear. ‘I nunc, et verſus tecum meditare canoros.’
IT may not be unfit for him who makes a new entrance into the lettered world, ſo far to ſuſpect his own powers as to believe that he poſſibly may deſerve neglect; that nature may [Page 17] not have qualified him much to enlarge or embelliſh knowledge, nor ſent him forth entitled by indiſputable ſuperiority to regulate the conduct of the reſt of mankind; that, though the world muſt be granted to be yet in ignorance, he is not deſtined to diſpel the cloud, nor to ſhine out as one of the luminaries of life: for this ſuſpicion, every catalogue of authors will furniſh ſufficient reaſon; as he will find it crouded with names of men, who, though now forgotten, were once no leſs enterpriſing or confident than himſelf, equally pleaſed with their own productions, equally careſſed by their patrons, and flattered by their friends.
BUT, though it ſhould happen that an author is capable of excelling in his province; yet his merit may paſs without notice, huddled in the variety of things, and thrown into the general miſcellany of life. He that endeavours after fame by writing, ſolicits the regard of a multitude fluctuating in pleaſures, or immerſed in buſineſs, without time for intellectual amuſements; he appeals to judges prepoſſeſſed by paſſions, or corrupted by prejudices, which preclude their approbation of any new performance. Some are too indolent [Page 18] to read any thing, till its reputation is eſtabliſh'd; others too envious to promote that fame, which gives them pain by its increaſe. What is new is oppoſed, becauſe moſt are unwilling to be taught; and what is known is rejected, becauſe it is not ſufficiently conſidered, that men more frequently require to be reminded than informed. The learned are afraid to declare their opinion early, leſt they ſhould put their reputation in hazard; the ignorant always imagine themſelves giving ſome proof of delicacy, when they refuſe to be pleaſed: and he, therefore, that finds his way to reputation, through all theſe obſtructions, muſt acknowledge that he is indebted to other cauſes beſides his induſtry, his learning, or his wit.
HOR.VIRTUS, repulſae neſcia ſordidae,Intaminatis fulget honoribus,Nec ſumit aut ponit ſecuresArbitrio popularis aurae.
THE taſk of an author is, either to teach what is not known, or to recommend known truths, by his manner of adorning them; either to let new light in upon the mind, and open new ſcenes to the proſpect, or to vary the dreſs and ſituation of common objects, ſo as to give them freſh grace and more powerful attractions, to ſpread ſuch flowers over the regions through which the intellect has already made its progreſs, as may tempt it to return, and take a ſecond view of things too haſtily paſſed over, or too negligently regarded.
EITHER of theſe labours is very difficult, becauſe, that they may not be fruitleſs, men muſt not only be perſuaded of their errors, but reconciled to their guide; they muſt not only confeſs their ignorance, but, what is ſtill leſs pleaſing, muſt allow that he from whom they [Page 20] are to learn is more knowing than themſelves.
IT might be imagined that ſuch an employment was in itſelf ſufficiently irkſome and hazardous, and that none would be found ſo malevolent as wantonly to add weight to the ſtone of Siſyphus. It might be hoped that few endeavours would be uſed to obſtruct thoſe advances to reputation, which muſt be made at ſuch an expence of time and thought, and by ſuch ſlow degrees, with ſo great hazard in the miſcarriage, and with ſo little advantage from the ſucceſs.
YET there is a certain race of men, that either imagine it their duty, or make it their amuſement, to hinder the reception of every work of learning or of genius, who ſtand as centinels in the avenues of fame, and value themſelves upon giving IGNORANCE and ENVY the firſt notice of a new prey.
TO theſe men, who diſtinguiſh themſelves by the appellation of CRITICKS, it is neceſſary for a new author to find ſome means of recommendation. It is probable, that the moſt malignant of theſe perſecutors might be ſomewhat ſoftened, and prevailed on, for a [Page 21] ſhort time, to remit their fury. For this purpoſe, having conſidered many expedients, I find in the records of ancient times, that ARGUS was lulled by muſic, and CERBERUS quieted with a ſop; and am, therefore, inclined to believe that modern criticks, who, if they have not the eyes, have the watchfulneſs of ARGUS, and can bark as loud as CERBERUS, though, perhaps, they may not bite with equal force, might be ſubdued by methods of the ſame kind. I have heard how ſome have been pacified with claret and a ſupper, and others laid aſleep by the ſoft notes of flattery.
THOUGH the nature of my undertaking gives me ſufficient reaſon to dread the united attacks of this virulent generation, yet I have not hitherto perſuaded myſelf to take any meaſures for flight or treaty. For I am in doubt, whether they can act againſt me by lawful authority, whether they have not preſumed upon a forged commiſſion, ſtiled themſelves the miniſters of CRITICISM, without being able to produce any authentic evidence of delegation, and uttered their own determinations as the decrees of a higher judicature.
CRITICISM, from whom they derive their [Page 22] claim to decide the fate of writers, was the eldeſt daughter of LABOUR and of TRUTH: ſhe was, at her birth, committed to the care of JUSTICE, and brought up by her in the palace of WISDOM. Being ſoon diſtinguiſhed by the celeſtials, for her uncommon qualities, ſhe was appointed the governeſs of FANCY, and impowered to beat time to the chorus of the MUSES, when they ſung before the throne of JUPITER.
WHEN the MUSES condeſcended to viſit this lower world, they came accompanied by CRITICISM, to whom, upon her deſcent from her native regions, JUSTICE gave a ſcepter, to be carried aloft in her right hand, one end of which was tinctured with ambroſia, and inwreathed with a golden foliage of amaranths and bays; the other end was incircled with cypreſs and poppies, and dipped in the waters of oblivion. In her left hand, ſhe bore an unextinguiſhable torch, the manufacture of LABOUR, and lighted by TRUTH, of which it was the particular quality to diffuſe its radiance in ſuch a manner as immediately to ſhew every thing in its true form, however it might be diſguiſed to common eyes. Whatever ART could complicate, or FOLLY could confound, [Page 23] was, upon the firſt gleam of the torch of TRUTH, exhibited in its diſtinct parts and original ſimplicity; it darted through all the labyrinths of ſophiſtry, and ſhewed at once all the abſurdities to which they ſerved for refuge; it pierced through the robes, which rhetorick often ſold to falſehood, and detected the diſproportion of parts, which artificial veils had been contrived to cover.
THUS furniſhed for the execution of her office, CRITICISM camedown to ſurvey the performances of thoſe who profeſſed themſelves the votaries of the MUSES. Whatever was brought before her, ſhe beheld by the ſteady light of the torch of TRUTH, and when her examination had convinced her, that the laws of juſt writing had been obſerved, ſhe touched it with the amaranthine end of the ſcepter, and conſigned it over to immortality.
BUT it more frequently happened, that in the works, which required her inſpection, there was ſome impoſture attempted; that falſe colours were laboriouſly laid upon particular parts; that ſome ſecret inequality was ſound between the words and ſentiments, or ſome diſſimilitude of the ideas and the original [Page 24] objects; that incongruities were linked together, or that ſome parts were of no uſe but to enlarge the appearance of the whole, without contributing to its beauty, its ſolidity, or its uſefulneſs.
WHEREVER ſuch diſcoveries were made, and they were made whenever theſe faults were committed, CRITICISM refuſed the touch which conferred the ſanction of immortality, and, when the errors were frequent and groſs, reverſed the ſcepter, and let the drops of Lethe diſtil from the poppies and cypreſs, a fatal mildew, which immediately began to waſte the work away, till it was at laſt totally deſtroyed.
THERE were frequently ſome compoſitions brought to the teſt, in which, when the ſtrongeſt light was thrown upon them, their beauties and faults appeared ſo equally mingled, that CRTICISM ſtood with her ſcepter poiſed in her hand, in doubt whether to ſhed the drops of oblivion, or ambroſia, upon them. Theſe, at laſt, increaſed to ſo great a number, that ſhe was weary of attending ſuch doubtful claims, and, for fear of uſing improperly the [Page 25] ſcepter of JUSTICE, referred the cauſe to be conſidered by TIME.
THE proceedings of TIME, though very dilatory, were, ſome few caprices excepted, conformable to JUSTICE: and many, who thought themſelves ſecure by a ſhort forbearance, have ſunk under his ſcythe, as they were poſting down with their volumes in triumph to futurity. It was obſervable that ſome were deſtroyed by little and little, and others cruſhed for ever by a ſingle blow.
CRITICISM having long kept her eye fixt ſteadily upon TIME, was at laſt ſo well ſatisfied with his conduct, that ſhe withdrew from the earth with her patroneſs ASTREA, and left PREJUDICE and FALSE-TASTE to ravage at large with FRAUD and MISCHIEF; contenting herſelf thenceforth to ſhed her influence from afar upon ſome ſelect minds, ſitted for its reception by learning and by virtue.
BEFORE her departure, ſhe broke her ſcepter, of which the ſhivers, that formed the ambroſial end, were caught up by FLATTERY, and thoſe that had been infected with the waters of [...], with equal haſte, [...] by MALEVOLENCE. [Page 26] The followers of FLATTERY, to whom ſhe diſtributed her part of the ſcepter, neither had nor deſired light, but touched indiſcriminately whatever POWER or INTEREST happened to exhibit. The companions of MALEVOLENCE were ſupplied by the FURIES with a torch, which had this quality peculiar to infernal luſtre, that its light fell only upon faults.
No light, but rather darkneſs viſibleServ'd only to diſcover ſights of woe.
WITH theſe fragments of authority, the ſlaves of FLATTERY and MALEVOLENCE marched out, at the command of their miſtreſſes, to confer immortality, or condemn to oblivion. But the ſcepter had now loſt its power; and TIME paſſes his ſentence at leiſure, without any regard to their determinations.
THE works of fiction, with which the preſent generation ſeems more particularly delighted, are ſuch as exhibit life in its true ſtate, diverſified only by the accidents that daily happen in the world, and influenced by thoſe paſſions and qualities which are really to be found in converſing with mankind.
THIS kind of writing may be termed not improperly the comedy of romance, and is to be conducted nearly by the rules of comic poetry Its province is to bring about natural eventby eaſy means, and to keep up curioſity without the help of wonder: it is therefore precluded from the machines and expedients of the heroic romance, and can neither employ giants to ſnatch away a lady from the nuptial rites, nor knights to bring her back from captivity; it can neither bewilder its perſonages in deſarts, nor lodge them in imaginary caſtles.
I REMEMBER a remark made by Scaliger upon Pontanus, that all his writings are filled [Page 28] with the ſame images; and that if you take from him his lillies and his roſes, his ſatyrs and his dryads, he will have nothing left that can be called poetry. In like manner, almoſt all the fictions of the laſt age will vaniſh, if you deprive them of a hermit and a wood, a battle and a ſhipwreek.
WHY this wild ſtrain of imagination found reception ſo long, in polite and learned ages, it is not eaſy to conceive; but we cannot wonder that, while readers could be procured, the authors were willing to continue it: for when a man had by practice gained ſome fluency of language, he had no farther care than to retire to his cloſet, let looſe his invention, and heat his mind with incredibilities; and a book was produced without fear of criticiſm, without the toil of ſtudy, without knowledge of nature, or acquaintance with life.
THE taſk of our preſent writers is very different; it requires, together with that learning which is to be gained from books, that experience which can never be attained by ſolitary diligence, but muſt ariſe from general converſe, and accurate obſervation of the living world. Their performances have, as Horace expreſſes [Page 29] it, plus oneris quantum veniae minus, little indulgence, and therefore more difficulty. They are engaged in portraits of which every one knows the original, and can therefore detect any deviation from exactneſs of reſemblance. Other writings are ſafe, except from the malice of learning, but theſe are in danger from every common reader; as the ſlipper ill executed was cenſured by a ſhoemaker who happened to ſtop in his way at the Venus of Apelles.
BUT the danger of not being approved as juſt copyers of human manners, is not the moſt important apprehenſion that an author of this ſort ought to have before him. Theſe books are writen chiefly to the young, the ignorant, and the idle, to whom they ſerve as lectures of conduct, and introductions into life. They are the entertainment of minds unfurniſhed with ideas, and therefore eaſily ſuſceptible of impreſſions; not fixed by principles, and therefore eaſily following the current of fancy; not informed by experience, and conſequently open to every falſe ſuggeſtion and partial account.
THAT the higheſt degree of reverence ſhould be paid to youth, and that nothing indecent [Page 30] or unſeemly ſhould be ſuffered to approach their eyes or ears; are precepts extorted by ſenſe and virtue from an ancient writer, by no means eminent for chaſtity of thought. The ſame kind, tho' not the ſame degree of caution, is required in every thing which is laid before them, to ſecure them from unjuſt prejudices, perverſe opinions, and improper combinations of images.
IN the romances formerly written, every tranſaction and ſentiment was ſo remote from all that paſſes among men, that the reader was in very little danger of making any applications to himſelf; the virtues and crimes were equally beyond his ſphere of activity; and he amuſed himſelf with heroes and with traitors, deliverers and perſecutors, as with beings of another ſpecies, whoſe actions were regulated upon motives of their own, and who had neither faults nor excellencies in common with himſelf.
BUT when an adventurer is levelled with the reſt of the world, and acts in ſuch ſcenes of the univerſal drama, as may be the lot of any other man; young ſpectators fix their eyes upon him with cloſer attention, and hope by [Page 31] obſerving his behaviour and ſucceſs to regulate their own practices, when they ſhall be engaged in the like part.
FOR this reaſon theſe familiar hiſtories may perhaps be made of greater uſe than the ſolemnities of profeſſed morality, and convey the knowledge of vice and virtue with more efficacy than axioms and definitions. But if the power of example is ſo great, as to take poſſeſſion of the memory by a kind of violence, and produce effects almoſt without the intervention of the will, care ought to be taken that, when the choice is unreſtrained, the beſt examples only ſhould be exhibited; and that which is likely to operate ſo ſtrongly, ſhould not be miſchievous or uncertain in its effects.
THE chief advantage which theſe fictions have over real life is, that their authors are at liberty, tho' not to invent, yet to ſelect objects, and to cull from the maſs of mankind, thoſe individuals upon which the attention ought moſt to be employ'd; as a diamond, though it cannot be made, may be poliſhed by art, and placed in ſuch a ſituation, as to diſplay that luſtre which before was buried among common ſtones.
[Page 32] IT is juſtly conſidered as the greateſt excellency of art, to imitate nature; but it is neceſſary to diſtinguiſh thoſe parts of nature, which are moſt proper for imitation: greater care is ſtill required in repreſenting life, which is ſo often diſcoloured by paſſion, or deformed by wickedneſs. If the world be promiſcuouſly deſcribed, I cannot ſee of what uſe it can be to read the account; or why it may not be as ſafe to turn the eye immediately upon mankind, as upon a mirror which ſhows all that preſents itſelf without diſcrimination.
IT is therefore not a ſufficient vindication of a character, that it is drawn as it appears, for many characters ought never to be drawn; nor of a narrative, that the train of events is agreeable to obſervation and experience, for that obſervation which is called knowledge of the world, will be found much more frequently to make men cunning than good. The purpoſe of theſe writings is ſurely not only to ſhow mankind, but to provide that they may be ſeen hereafter with leſs hazard; to teach the means of avoiding the ſnares which are laid by TREACHERY for INNOCENCE, without infuſing any wiſh for that ſuperiority with which [Page 33] the betrayer flatters his vanity; to give the power of counteracting fraud, without the temptation to practiſe it; to initiate youth by mock encounters in the art of neceſſary defence, and to increaſe prudence without impairing virtue.
MANY writers for the ſake of following nature, ſo mingle good and bad qualities in their principal perſonages, that they are both equally conſpicuous; and as we accompany them through their adventures with delight, and are led by degrees to intereſt ourſelves in their favour, we loſe the abhorrence of their faults, becauſe they do not hinder our pleaſure, or, perhaps, regard them with ſome kindneſs for being united with ſo much merit.
THERE have been men indeed ſplendidly wicked, whoſe endowments throw a brightneſs on their crimes, and whom ſcarce any villainy made perfectly deteſtable, becauſe they never could be wholly diveſted of their excellencies; but ſuch have been in all ages the great corrupters of the world, and their reſemblance ought no more to be preſerved, than the art of murdering without pain.
[Page 34] SOME have advanced, without due attention to the conſequences of this notion, that certain virtues have their correſpondent faults, and therefore that to exhibit either apart is to deviate from probability. Thus men are obſerved by Swift to be grateful in the ſame degree as they are reſentful. This principle, with others of the ſame kind, ſuppoſes man to act from a brute impulſe, and perſue a certain degree of inclination, without any choice of the object; for, otherwiſe, though it ſhould be allowed that gratitude and reſentment ariſe from the ſame conſtitution of the paſſions, it follows not that they will be equally indulged when reaſon is conſulted; yet unleſs that conſequence be admitted, this ſagacious maxim becomes an empty ſound, without any relation to practice or to life.
NOR is it evident, that even the firſt motions to theſe effects are always in the ſame proportion. For pride, which produces quickneſs of reſentment, will frequently obſtruct gratitude, by unwillingneſs to admit that inferiority which obligation neceſſarily implies; and it is ſurely very unlikely, that he who cannot think he receives a favour will ever acknowledge it.
[Page 35] IT is of the utmoſt importance to mankind, that poſitions of this tendency ſhould be laid open and confuted; for while men conſider good and evil as ſpringing from the ſame root, they will ſpare the one for the ſake of the other, and in judging, if not of others at leaſt of themſelves, will be apt to eſtimate their virtues by their vices. To this fatal error all thoſe will contribute, who confound the colours of right and wrong, and inſtead of helping to ſettle their boundaries, mix them with ſo much art, that no common mind is able to diſunite them.
IN narratives, where hiſtorical veracity has no place, I cannot diſcover why there ſhould not be exhibited the moſt perfect idea of virtue; of virtue not angelical, nor above probability, for what we cannot credit we ſhall never imitate, but of the higheſt and pureſt kind that humanity can reach, which, when exerciſed in ſuch trials as the various revolutions of things ſhall bring upon it, may, by conquering ſome calamites, and enduring others, teach us what we may hope, and what we can perform. Vice, for vice is neceſſary to be ſhewn, ſhould always diſguſt; nor ſhould the graces of gaiety, or the dignity of courage, be ſo united [Page 36] with it, as to reconcile it to the mind. Whereever it appears, it ſhould raiſe hatred by the malignity of its practices, and contempt by the meanneſs of its ſtratagems; for while it is ſupported by either parts or ſpirit, it will be ſeldom heartily abhorred. The Roman tyrant was content to be hated, if he was but feared; and there are thouſands of the readers of romances willing to be thought wicked, if they may be allowed to be wits. It is therefore to be ſteadily inculcated, that virtue is the higheſt proof of a ſuperior underſtanding, and the only ſolid baſis of greatneſs; and that vice is the natural conſequence of narrow thoughts, that it begins in miſtake, and ends in ignominy.
VIRG.Et nunc omnis ager, nunc omnis parturit arbos,Nunc frondent ſilvae, nunc formoſiſſimus annus.
EVERY man is ſufficiently diſcontented with ſome circumſtances of his preſent ſtate, to ſuffer his imagination to range more or leſs in queſt of future happineſs, and to fix upon ſome point of time, in which he ſhall, by [Page 37] the removal of the inconvenience which now perplexes him, or the acquiſition of advantage which he at preſent wants, find the condition of his life very much improved.
WHEN this time, which is too often expected with great impatience, at laſt arrives, it generally comes without the bleſſing for which it was deſired; but we ſolace ourſelves with ſome new proſpect, and preſs forward again with equal eagerneſs.
IT is ſome advantage to a man, in whom this temper prevails in any great degree, when he turns his hopes upon things wholly out of his own power; ſince he forbears then to precipitate his affairs, for the ſake of the great event that is to complete his felicity, and waits for the bliſsful hour, without neglecting ſuch meaſures as are neceſſary to be taken in the mean time.
I HAVE long known a perſon of this temper, who indulged his dream of happineſs with leſs hurt to himſelf than ſuch chimerical wiſhes commonly produce, and adjuſted his ſcheme with ſuch addreſs, that his hopes were in full bloom three parts of the year, and in [Page 38] the other part never wholly blaſted. Many, perhaps, would be deſirous of learning by what means he procured to himſelf ſuch a cheap and laſting ſatisfaction. It was gained only by a conſtant practice of referring the removal of all his uneaſineſs to the coming of the next ſpring. If his affairs were diſordered, he could regulate them in the ſpring; if a regimen was preſcribed him, the ſpring was the proper time of perſuing it; if what he wanted was at a high price, it would fall its value in the ſpring.
THE ſpring, indeed, did often come without any of theſe effects, but he was always certain that the next would be more propitious; and was never convinced that the preſent ſpring would fail him until the middle of ſummer; for he always talked of the ſpring as coming 'till it was paſt, and when it was once paſt, every one agreed with him that it was coming.
BY long converſe with this man, I am, perhaps, in ſome degree brought to feel the ſame immoderate pleaſure in the contemplation of this delightful ſeaſon; but I have the ſatiſfaction of finding many, whom it can be no ſhame to reſemble, infected with the ſame enthuſiaſm; [Page 39] for there is, I believe, ſcarce any poet of eminence, who has not left ſome teſtimony of his fondneſs for the flowers, the zephyrs, and the warblers of the ſpring. Nor has the moſt luxuriant imagination been able to deſcribe the ſerenity and happineſs of the golden age, otherwiſe than by giving a perpetual ſpring, as the higheſt reward of uncorrupted innocence.
THERE is, indeed, ſomething inexpreſſibly pleaſing, in the annual renovation of the world, and the new diſplay of the treaſures of nature. The cold and darkneſs of winter, with the naked deformity of every object on which we turn our eyes, makes us neceſſarily rejoice at the ſucceeding ſeaſon, as well for what we have eſcaped, as for what we may enjoy; and every budding flower, which a warm ſituation brings early to our view, is conſidered by us as a meſſenger to inform us of the approach of more joyous days.
THE SPRING affords to a mind, ſo free from the diſturbance of cares or paſſions as to be vacant to calm amuſements, almoſt every thing that our preſent ſtate makes us capable of enjoying. The variegated verdure of the [Page 40] fields and woods, the ſucceſſion of grateful odours, the voice of pleaſure pouring out its notes on every ſide, with the obſervation of the gladneſs apparently conceived by every animal, from the growth of his food, and the clemency of the weather, throw over the whole earth an air of gaiety, which is very ſignificantly expreſſed by the ſmile of nature.
THERE are men to whom theſe ſcenes are able to give no delight, and who hurry away from all the varieties of rural beauty, to loſe their hours, and divert their thoughts by cards, or aſſemblies, a tavern dinner, or the prattle of the day.
IT may be laid down as a poſition which will ſeldom deceive, that when a man cannot bear his own company there is ſomething wrong. He muſt fly from himſelf, either becauſe he feels a tediouſneſs in life from the equipoiſe of an empty mind, which, having no tendency to one motion more than another but as it is impelled by ſome external power, muſt always have recourſe to foreign objects; or he muſt be afraid of the intruſion of ſome unpleaſing ideas, and, perhaps, is always ſtruggling to eſcape from the remembrance of [Page 41] a loſs, the fear of a calamity, or ſome other thought of greater horror.
THOSE, who are incapacitated to enjoy the pleaſures of contemplation by their griefs, may, very properly, apply to ſuch diverſions, provided they are in [...], as lay ſtrong hold on the attention; and thoſe, whom fear of any [...] down to miſery, muſt endeavour to obviate the danger.
MY conſiderations ſhall, on this occaſion, be [...] ſuch [...] are burthenſome to themſelves merely becauſe they want ſubjects for reflection, and to whom the volume of nature is thrown open without affording them pleaſure or inſtruction, becauſe they never learned to read the characters.
A FRENCH author has advanced this ſeeming paradox, that very few men know how to take a walk; and, indeed, it is very true, that few men know how to take a walk with a proſpect of any other pleaſure, than the ſame company would have afforded them in any other circumſtances.
THERE are animals that borrow their colour [Page 42] from the neighbouring body, and, conſequently, vary their hue as they happen to change their place. In like manner it ought to be the endeavour of every man to derive his reflections from the objects about him; for it is to no purpoſe that he alters his poſition, if his attention continues fixed to the ſame point. The mind ſhould be kept open to the acceſs of every new idea, and ſo far diſengaged from the predominance of particular thoughts, as to be able to accommodate itſelf to emergent occaſions, and remark every thing that offers itſelf to preſent examination.
A MAN that has formed this habit of turning every new object to his entertainment, finds in the productions of nature an inexhauſtible ſtock of materials upon which he can employ himſelf, without any temptations to envy or malevolence; faults, perhaps, ſeldom totally avoided by thoſe, whoſe judgment is much exerciſed upon the works of art. He has always a certain proſpect of diſcovering new reaſons for adoring the ſovereign author of the univerſe, and probable hopes of making ſome diſcovery of benefit to others, or of profit to himſelf. There is no doubt but many vegetables and animals have qualities [Page 43] that might be of great uſe, to the knowledge of which there is not required much ſagacity of penetration, or fatigue of ſtudy, but only frequent experiments, and cloſe attention. What is ſaid by the chymiſts of their darling mercury, is, perhaps, true of every body through the whole creation, that, if a thouſand lives ſhould be ſpent upon it, all its properties would not be found out.
MANKIND muſt neceſſarily be diverſified by various taſtes, ſince life affords and requires ſuch multiplicity of employments, and a nation of naturaliſts is therefore neither to be hoped, or deſired; but it is ſurely not improper to point out a freſh amuſement to thoſe who languiſh in health, and repine in plenty, for want of ſome ſource of diverſion that may be leſs eaſily exhauſted, and to inform the multitudes of both ſexes, who are burthened with every new day, that there are many ſhows which they have not ſeen.
HE that enlarges his curioſity after the works of nature, demonſtrably multiplies the inlets to happineſs; and, therefore, the younger part of my readers, to whom I dedicate this vernal ſpeculation, muſt excuſe me for calling [Page 44] upon them, to make uſe at once of the ſpring of the year, and the ſpring of life; to acquire, while their minds may be yet impreſſed with new images, a love of innocent pleaſures, and an ardour for uſeful knowledge; and to remember, that a blighted ſpring makes a barren year, and that the vernal flowers, however beautiful and gay, are only intended by nature as preparatives to autumnal fruits.
HOR.Strenua nos exercet inertia, navibus atqueQuadrigis petimus bene vivere: quod petis, hic eſt;Eſt Ulubris, animus ſi te non deficit aequus.
THAT man ſhould never ſuffer his happineſs to depend upon external circumſtances, is one of the chief precepts of the Stoical philoſophy; a precept, indeed, which that lofty ſect has extended beyond the condition of human life, and in which ſome of them ſeem to have compriſed an utter excluſion of all corporeal pain and pleaſure, from the regard or attention of a wiſe man.
[Page 45] SUCH ſapientia inſaniens, as Horace calls the doctrine of another ſect, ſuch extravagance of philoſophy, can want neither authority nor argument for its confutation; the experience of every hour is ſufficient to overthrow it, and the powers of nature riſe up againſt it. But we may very properly inquire, how near to this exalted ſtate it is in our power to approach, how far we can exempt ourſelves from outward influences, and ſecure to our minds a ſtate of tranquillity: For, as the boaſt of abſolute independence is ridiculuos and vain, ſo a mean flexibilty to every impulſe, and a patient ſubmiſſion to the tyranny of every caſual trouble, is below the dignity of that mind, which, however depraved or weakened, boaſts its derivation from a celeſtial original, and hopes for an union with infinite goodneſs, and unvariable felicity;
Ni vitiis pejora fovensProprium deſerat ortum.
THE neceſſity of erecting ourſelves to ſome degree of intellectual dignity, and of preſerving [...]ome reſource of pleaſure, which may not be wholly at the mercy of accident, is never more apparent than when we turn our eyes upon [Page 46] thoſe whom fortune has let looſe to their own conduct; who not being chained down by their condition to a regular and ſtated allotment of their hours, are obliged to find themſelves buſineſs or diverſion, and having nothing within that can either entertain or employ them, are compelled to try all the arts of deſtroying time.
THE numberleſs expedients practiſed by this claſs of mortals to alleviate the burthen of life, is not leſs ſhameful, nor, perhaps, much leſs pitiable, than thoſe to which a trader on the edge of bankruptcy is reduced. I have ſeen melancholy overſpread a whole family at the diſappointment of a party for cards, and after the propoſal of a thouſand different ſchemes to ſupply the loſs, and the diſpatch of the footmen upon a hundred meſſages, they have ſubmitted, with a gloomy reſignation, to the inevitable misfortune of paſſing one evening in converſation with each other: But on a ſudden, ſuch are the revolutions of the world, an unexpected viſiter has brought them relief, acceptable as proviſion to a ſtarving city, and enabled them to hold out till the next day.
THE general remedy of thoſe, who are uneaſy [Page 47] without knowing the cauſe, is a change of place; they are always willing to imagine that their pain is the conſequence of ſome local inconvenience, and endeavour to fly from it, as children from their ſhadows; always hoping for more ſatisfactory delight from every new ſcene of diverſion, and always returning home with diſappointment and complaints.
I CANNOT look upon this kind of infatuation, without reflecting on thoſe that ſuffer under the dreadful ſymptom of canine madneſs, termed by phyſicians the hydrophobia, or dread of water. Theſe miſerable wretches, when they are unable to drink, though burning with thirſt, are ſometimes known to try various contortions, or inclinations of the body, flattering themſelves that they can ſwallow in one poſture that liquor, which they find in another to repel their lips.
YET ſuch folly is not peculiar to the thoughtleſs, or the ignorant, but ſometimes ſeizes thoſe minds, which ſeem moſt exempted from it, by the variety of their attainments, the quickneſs of their penetration, or the ſeverity of their judgment; and, indeed, the pride of wit and knowledge is often mortified [Page 48] by finding, that they can confer no ſecurity againſt the common errors, which miſlead the weakeſt and meaneſt of mankind.
THESE reflexions aroſe in my mind upon the remembrance of a paſſage in Cowley's preface to his poems, where, however exalted by his genius, and enlarged by his acquiſitions, he informs us of a ſcheme of happineſs to which the imagination of a girl, upon the loſs of her firſt lover, would have ſcarcely given way; but which he ſeems to have indulged till he had totally forgotten its abſurdity, and would have, probably, put in execution, had he been hindered only by his reaſon.‘'MY deſire,' ſay she, 'has been for ſome years paſt, though the execution has been accidentally diverted, and does ſtill vehemently continue, to retire myſelf to ſome of our American plantations, not to ſeek for gold, or enrich myſelf with the traffic of thoſe parts, which is the end of moſt men that travel thither; but to forſake this world for ever, with all the vanities and vexations of it, and to bury my ſelf there in ſome obſcure retreat, but not without the conſolation of letters and philoſophy.'’
[Page 49] SUCH was the chimerical proviſion which Cowley had made, in his own mind, for the quiet of his remaining life, and which he ſeems to recomend to poſterity, ſince there is no other reaſon for his diſcloſing it. Surely no ſtronger inſtance can be given of a perſuaſion that content was the inhabitant of particular regions, and that a man might ſet ſail with a fair wind, and leave behind him all his cares, incumbrances, and calamities.
IF he travelled ſo far with no other purpoſe than to bury himſelf in ſome obſcure retreat, he might have found, in his own country, innumerable coverts ſufficiently obſcure to have concealed the genius of Cowley; for, whatever might be his own opinion of the importunity with which he ſhould be ſummoned back into public life, a ſhort experience would have convinced him, that privation is much eaſier than acquiſition, and that it would require very little policy to free himſelf from the intruſion of the world. There is pride enough in the human heart to prevent much deſire of acquaintance with a man by whom we are ſure to be treated with neglect, however his reputation for ſcience or virtue may excite [Page 50] our curioſity or eſteem; ſo that the lover of retirement need not be much afraid leſt the reſpect of ſtrangers ſhould overwhelm him with viſits; and thoſe to whom he has formerly been known will very patiently ſupport his abſence, when they have tryed a little to live without him, and found new diverſions for thoſe moments which his company contributed to exhilarate or relax.
IT was, perhaps, ordained by providence, to hinder us from tyranniſing over one another, that no individual ſhould be of ſo much importance, as to cauſe by his retreat or death any chaſm in the world. And Cowley had converſed to little purpoſe with mankind, if he had not remarked, how ſoon the uſeful friend, the gay companion, and the favoured lover, when once they are removed from before the fight, give way to the ſucceſſion of new objects.
THE privacy, therefore, of his hermitage might have been ſafe enough from violation, though he had choſen it within the limits of his native iſland; and he might have found here preſervatives againſt the vanities and vexations of the world, not leſs efficacious than [Page 51] thoſe, which the woods or fields of America could afford him: but having once his mind imbittered with diſguſt, he conceived it impoſſible to be far enough from the cauſe of his uneaſineſs; he was poſting away with all the expedition of a coward, who, for want of venturing to look behind him, thinks the enemy perpetually at his heels.
WHEN he was interrupted by company, or fatigued with buſineſs, he ſo ſtrongly imaged to himſelf the happineſs of leiſure and retreat, that he determined to enjoy them for the future without interuption, and to exclude for ever all that could deprive him of his darling ſatiſfactions. He forgot, in the vehemence of his deſire, that ſolitude and quiet owe their pleaſures to thoſe miſeries, which he was ſo ſtudious to obviate; for ſuch are the viciſſitudes of the world, through all its parts, that day and night, labour and reſt, converſe and retirement, endear each other; ſuch are the changes that keep the mind in action; we deſire, we perſue, we obtain, we are ſatiated; we deſire ſomething elſe, and begin a new perſuit.
IF he had proceeded in his project, and ſixt his habitation in the moſt delightful part [Page 52] of the new world, it may be much doubted, whether his diſtance from the vanities of life would have enabled him to have kept away the vexations. It is common for a man, who feels pain, to fancy that he could bear it better in any other part. Cowley having known the troubles and perplexities of a particular condition, very readily perſuaded himſelf that nothing worſe was to be found, and that every alteration would bring ſome improvement; he never ſuſpected that the cauſe of his unhappineſs was in himſelf, that his own paſſions were not ſufficiently regulated, and that he was harraſſed by his own impatience, which, as it could never be without ſomething to awaken it, would torment him in any other country, accompany him over the ſea, and find its way to his American elyſium. He would, upon the tryal, have been ſoon convinced, that the fountain of content muſt ſpring up in the mind; and that he, who has ſo little knowledge of human nature, as to ſeek happineſs by changing any thing, but his own diſpoſitions, will waſte his life in fruitleſs efforts, and multiply the griefs which he purpoſes to remove.
BOETHIUS.O qui perpetuâ mundum ratione gubernas,Terrarum coelique ſaton!—Disjice terrenae nebulas & pondera molis,Atque tuo ſplendore mica! Tu namque ſerenum,Tu requies tranquilla piis. Te cernere, finis,Principium, vector, dux, ſemita, terminus, idem.
THE love of RETIREMENT has, in all ages, adhered very cloſely to thoſe minds, which have been moſt enlarged by knowledge, or elevated by genius. Thoſe who have enjoyed every thing that is generally ſuppoſed to confer happineſs, have been forced to ſeek it in the ſhades of privacy. Though they have poſſeſſed both power and riches, and been, therefore, ſurrounded by men, who conſidered it as their chief intereſt to remove from them every thing that might offend their eaſe, ruffle their tranquillity, or interrupt their pleaſure, they have ſoon felt the languors of ſatiety, and found themſelves unable to purſue the race of life except with frequent reſpirations of intermediate ſolitude.
[Page 54] TO produce this diſpoſition nothing appears requiſite but a quick ſenſibility, and active imagination; for, without being devoted to the perſuit of virtue, or the ſtudy of ſcience, a man, whoſe faculties enable him to make ready compariſons of the preſent with the paſt, will find ſuch a conſtant recurrence of the ſame pleaſures, the ſame troubles, the ſame expectations, and the ſame diſappointments, that he will gladly ſnatch an hour of retreat, to let his thoughts expatiate at large, and ſeek for that variety in his own ideas, which the objects of ſenſe cannot afford him.
NOR will greatneſs, or abundance, contribute to exempt him from the importunities of this deſire, ſince, if he is born to think, he cannot reſtrain himſelf from a thouſand inquiries and ſpeculations, which he muſt perſue by his own reaſon, and which the ſplendour of his condition can only hinder; for thoſe who are moſt exalted above dependance or controul, are yet condemned to pay ſo large a tribute of their time to cuſtom, ceremony, and popularity, that, according to the Greek proverb, no man in the houſe is more a ſlave than the maſter.
[Page 55] WHEN a king aſked Euclid the mathematician, whether he could not explain his art to him in a more compendious manner, he was anſwered, that there was no royal way to geometry. Other things may be ſeized by might, or purchaſed with money, but knowledge is to be gained only by ſtudy, and ſtudy to be proſecuted only in retirement.
THESE are ſome of the motives which have had power to ſequeſter kings and heroes from the crouds that ſoothed them with flatteries, or inſpirited them with acclamations; but their efficacy ſeems confined to ſuperior abilities, and to operate little upon the common claſſes of mankind, to whoſe conceptions the preſent aſſemblage of things is adequate, and who ſeldom range beyond thoſe entertainments and vexations, which ſolicit their attention by preſſing on their ſenſes.
BUT there is an univerſal reaſon for ſome ſtated intervals of ſolitude, which the inſtitutions of the church call upon me, now eſpecially, to mention; a reaſon, which extends as wide as moral duty, or the hopes of divine favour in a future ſtate; and which ought to [Page 56] influence all ranks of life, and all degrees of intellect; ſince none can imagine themſelves not comprehended in its obligation, but ſuch as determine to ſet their maker at defiance by obſtinate wickedneſs, or whoſe enthuſiaſtick ſecurity of his approbation places them above external ordinances, and all human means of improvement.
THE great taſk of the man, who conducts his life by the precepts of religion, is to make the future predominant over the preſent, to impreſs upon his mind ſo ſtrong a ſenſe of the importance of obedience to the divine will, of the value of the reward promiſed to virtue, and the terrors of the puniſhment denounced againſt crimes, as may overbear all the temptations which temporal hope or fear can bring in his way, and enable him to bid equal defiance to joy and ſorrow, to turn away at one time from the allurements of ambition, and puſh forward at another againſt the threats of calamity.
IT is not without reaſon that the apoſtle repreſents our paſſage through this ſtage of our exiſtence by images drawn from the alarms and ſolicitude of a military life; for we are [Page 67] placed in ſuch a ſtate, that almoſt every thing about us conſpires againſt our chief intereſt. We are in danger from whatever can get poſſeſſion of our thoughts; all that can excite in us either pain or pleaſure has a tendency to obſtruct the way that leads to happineſs, and either to turn us aſide, or retard our progreſs.
OUR ſenſes, our appetites, and our paſſions, are our lawful and faithful guides, in moſt things that relate ſolely to this life; and, therefore, by the hourly neceſſity of conſulting them, we gradually ſink into an implicit ſubmiſſion, and habitual confidence. Every act of compliance with their motions facilitates a ſecond compliance, every new ſtep towards depravity is made with leſs reluctance than the former, and thus the deſcent to life merely ſenſual is perpetually accelerated.
THE ſenſes have not only that advantage over conſcience, which things neceſſary muſt always have over things choſen, but they have likewiſe a kind of preſcription in their favour. We feared pain much earlier than we apprehended guilt, and were delighted with the ſenſations of pleaſure, before we had capacities [Page 58] to be charmed with the beauty of rectitude. To this power, thus early eſtabliſhed, and inceſſantly increaſing, it muſt be remembered, that almoſt every man has, in ſome part of his life, added new ſtrength by a voluntary or negligent ſubjection of himſelf; for who is there that has not inſtigated his appetites by indulgence, or ſuffered them by an unreſiſting neutrality to enlarge their dominion, and multiply their demands?
FROM the neceſſity of diſpoſſeſſing the ſenſual faculties of the influence which they muſt naturally gain by this preoccupation of the ſoul, ariſes that conflict between oppoſite deſires, in the firſt endeavours after a religious life; which, however enthuſiaſtically it may have been deſcribed, however contemptuouſly ridiculed, will naturally be felt in ſome degree, though varied without end, by different tempers of mind, and innumerable circumſtances of health or condition, greater or leſs fervour, more or fewer temptations to relapſe.
FROM the perpetual neceſſity of conſulting the animal faculties, in our proviſion for the preſent life, ariſes the difficulty of withſtanding their impulſes, even in caſes where they [Page 59] ought to be of no weight; for the motions of ſenſe are inſtantaneous, its objects ſtrike unſought, we are accuſtomed to follow its directions, and therefore often ſubmit to the ſentence without examining the authority of the judge.
THUS it appears upon a philoſophical eſtimate, that, ſuppoſing the mind, at any certain time, in an equipoiſe between the pleaſures of this life, and the hopes of futurity, preſent objects falling more frequently into the ſcale would in time preponderate, and that our regard for an inviſible ſtate would grow every moment weaker, till at laſt it would loſe all its activity, and become abſolutely without effect.
TO prevent this dreadful event, the balance is put into our own hands, and we have power to transfer the weight to either ſide. The motives to a life of holineſs are infinite, not leſs than the favour or anger of omnipotence, not leſs than eternity of happineſs or miſery. But theſe can only influence our conduct as they gain our attention, which the buſineſs, or diverſions, of the world are always calling off by contrary attractions.
[Page 60] THE great art therefore of piety, and the end for which all the rites of religion ſeem to be inſtituted, is the perpetual renovation of the motives to virtue, by a voluntary employment of our mind in the contemplation of its excellence, its importance, and its neceſſity, which, in proportion as they are more frequently and more willingly revolved, gain a more forcible and permanent influence, 'till in time they become the reigning ideas, the ſtanding principles of action, and the teſt by which everything propoſed to the judgment is rejected or approved.
TO facilitate this change of our affections, it is neceſſary that we weaken the temptations of the world, by retiring at certain ſeaſons from it; for its influence ariſing only from its preſence, is much leſſened when it becomes the object of ſolitary meditation. A conſtant reſidence amidſt noiſe and pleaſure inevitably obliterates the impreſſions of piety, and a frequent abſtraction of ourſelves into a ſtate, where this life, like the next, operates only upon the reaſon, will reinſtate religion in its juſt authority, even without thoſe irradiations from above, the hope of which I have yet no [Page 61] no intention to withdraw from the ſincere and the diligent.
THIS is that conqueſt of the world and of ourſelves, which has been always conſidered as the perfection of human nature; and this is only to be obtained by fervent prayer, ſteady reſolutions, and frequent retirement from folly and vanity, from the cares of avarice, and the joys of intemperance, from the lulling ſounds of deceitful flattery, and the tempting ſight of proſperous wickedneſs.
JUV.—Patitur poenas peccandi ſola voluntas;Nam ſcelus intra ſe tacitum qui cogitat ullum,Facti crimen habet.
IF the moſt active and induſtrious of mankind was able, at the cloſe of life, to recollect diſtinctly his paſt moments, and diſtribute them, in a regular account, according to the manner in which they have been ſpent, it is ſcarcely to be imagined how few would be marked out to the mind, by any permanent or viſible effects, how ſmall a proportion his [Page 62] real action would bear to his ſeeming poſſibilities of action, how many chaſms he would find of perfect vacuity, and how many interſtitial ſpaces unfilled, even in the moſt tumultuous hurries of buſineſs, and the moſt eager vehemence of perſuit.
IT is obſerved by modern philoſophers, that not only the great globes of matter are thinly ſcattered through the univerſe, but the hardeſt bodies are ſo porous, that, if all matter were compreſſed to perfect ſolidity, it might be contained in a cube of a few feet. In like manner, if all the employments of life were crowded into the time which it really occupied, perhaps a few weeks, days, or hours, would be ſufficient for its accompliſhment, ſo far as the mind was engaged in the performance. For ſuch is the inequality of our corporeal to our intellectual faculties, that we contrive in minutes what we execute in years, and the ſoul often ſtands an idle ſpectator of the labour of the hands, and expedition of the feet.
FOR this reaſon, the antient generals often found themſelves at leiſure to perſue the ſtudy of philoſophy in the camp; and Lucan, with [Page 63] hiſtorical veracity, makes Caeſar relate of himſelf, that his wars never hindered celeſtial obſervations, and that he noted the revolutions of the ſtars in the midſt of preparations for battle.
—Media inter praelia ſemperSideribus, caelique plagis, ſuperiſque vacavi.
THAT the ſoul always exerts her peculiar powers, with greater or leſs force, is very probable, though the common occaſions of our preſent condition require but a ſmall part of that inceſſant cogitation; and by the natural frame of our bodies, and general combination of the world, we are, unavoidably, condemned to ſo frequent inactivity, that, as through all our time we are thinking, for a great part of our time we can only think.
LEST ſo reſtleſs a power ſhould be either unprofitably, or hurtfully employed, and the ſuperfluities of intellect run to waſte, it is no vain ſpeculation to conſider how we may govern our thoughts, reſtrain them from irregular motions, or confine them from boundleſs diſſipation.
HOW the underſtanding is beſt conducted to [Page 64] the knowledge of ſcience, by what ſteps it is to be led forwards in its perſuit, how it is to be cured of its defects, and habituated to new ſtudies, has been the inquiry of many acute and learned men, whoſe obſervations I ſhall not, on this occaſion, either adopt or cenſure; my purpoſe being to conſider the moral diſcipline of the mind, and to promote the increaſe of virtue rather than of learning.
THIS inquiry ſeems to have been neglected for want of remembering that all action has its origin in the mind, and that therefore to ſuffer the thoughts to be vitiated, is to poiſon the fountains of morality: Irregular deſires will produce licentious practices; what men allow themſelves to wiſh they will ſoon believe, and will be at laſt incited to execute what they pleaſe themſelves with contriving.
FOR this reaſon the caſuiſts of the Romiſh church, who gain, by confeſſion, great opportunities of knowing human nature, have, I think, generally determined that what it is a crime to do, it is a crime to think. Since by revolving with pleaſure, the facility, ſafety or advantage of a wicked deed, a man ſoon begins to find his conſtancy relax, and his deteſtation [Page 65] ſoften; the happineſs of ſucceſs is glittering before him, withdraws his attention from the atrociouſneſs of the guilt, and acts-are at laſt confidently perpetrated, of which the firſt conception only crept into the mind, diſguiſed in pleaſing complications, and permitted rather than invited.
NO man has ever been drawn to crimes, by love or jealouſy, envy or hatred, but he can tell how eaſily he might at firſt have repelled the temptation, how readily his mind would have obeyed a call to any other object, and how weak his paſſion has been after ſome caſual avocation, 'till he has recalled it again to his heart, and revived the viper by too warm a fondneſs.
SUCH, therefore, is the importance of keeping our reaſon a conſtant guard over our imagination, that we have otherwiſe no ſecurity for our own virtue, but may corrupt our hearts in the moſt recluſe ſolitude, with more pernicious and tyrannical appetites and wiſhes, than the commerce of the world will generally produce; for we are eaſily ſhocked by crimes which appear at once in their full magnitude, but the gradual growth of our own wickedneſs, [Page 66] endeared by intereſt, and palliated by all the artifices of ſelf-deceit, gives us time to form diſtinctions in our own favour, and reaſon by degrees ſubmits to abſurdity, as the eye is accommodated to darkneſs.
IN this diſeaſe of the ſoul, it is of the utmoſt importance to apply remedies at the beginning; and, therefore, I ſhall endeavour to ſhew what thoughts are to be rejected or improved, as they regard the paſt, preſent, or future; in hopes that ſome may be awakened to caution and vigilance, who, perhaps, indulge themſelves in dangerous dreams, ſo much the more dangerous, becauſe being yet only dreams they are concluded innocent.
THE recollection of the paſt is only uſeful by way of proviſion for the future, and thererfore, in reviewing all the occurrences that fall under a religious conſideration, it is proper that a man ſtop at the firſt thoughts, to remark how he was led thither, and why he continues the reflection. If he is dwelling with delight upon a ſtratagem of ſucceſsful fraud, a night of licentious riot, or an intrigue of guilty pleaſure, let him ſummon off his imagination as from an unlawful perſuit, expel thoſe [Page 67] paſſages from his remembrance, of which, though he cannot ſeriouſly approve them, the pleaſure overpowers the guilt, and refer them to a future hour, when they may be conſidered with greater ſafety. Such an hour will certainly come; for the impreſſions of paſt pleaſure are always leſſening, but the ſenſe of guilt, which reſpects futurity, continues the ſame.
THE ſerious and impartial retroſpect of our conduct is indiſputably neceſſary to the confirmation or recovery of virtue, and is, therefore, recommended under the name of ſelf-examination, by divines, as the firſt act previous to repentance. It is, indeed, of ſo great uſe, that without it we ſhould always be to begin life, be ſeduced for ever by the ſame allurements, and miſled by the ſame fallacies. But in order that we may not loſe the advantage of our experience, we muſt endeavour to ſee every thing in its proper form, and excite in ourſelves thoſe ſentiments which the great author of nature has decreed the concomitants or followers of good or bad actions.‘ [...] ’ ‘ [Page 68] Let not ſleep, ſays Pythagoras, fall upon thy eyes till thou haſt thrice reviewed the tranſactions of the paſt day. Where have I turned aſide from rectitude? What have I been doing? What have I left undone, which I ought to have done? Begin thus from the firſt act, and proceed; and in concluſion, at the ill which thou haſt done be troubled, and rejoice for the good.’
OUR thoughts on preſent things being determined by the objects before us, fall not under thoſe indulgences, or excurſions, which I am now conſidering. But I cannot forbear, under this head, to caution pious and tender minds, that are diſturbed by the irruptions of wicked imaginations, againſt too great dejection, and too anxious alarms; for thoughts are only criminal, when they are firſt choſen, and then voluntarily continued.
Evil into the mind of god or manMay come and go, ſo unapprov'd, and leaveNo ſpot or ſtain behind.MILTON.
IN futurity chiefly are the ſnares lodged, by which the imagination is intangled. Futurity is the proper abode of hope and fear, with all their train and progeny of ſubordinate apprehenſions and deſires. In futurity events and [Page 69] chances are yet floating at large, without apparent connexion with their cauſes, and we therefore eaſily indulge the liberty of gratifying ourſelves with a pleaſing choice. To pick and cull among poſſible advantages is, as the civil law terms it, in vacuum venire, to take what belongs to nobody; but it has this hazard in it, that we ſhall be unwilling to quit what we have ſeized, though an owner ſhould be found. It is eaſy to think on that which may be gained, till at laſt we reſolve to gain it, and to imagine the happineſs of particular conditions till we can be eaſy in no other. We ought, at leaſt, to let our deſires fix upon nothing in another's power for the ſake of our quiet, or in another's poſſeſſion for the ſake of our innocence. When a man finds himſelf led, though by a train of honeſt ſentiments, to a wiſh for that to which he has no right, he ſhould ſtart back as from a pitfal covered with flowers. He that fancies he ſhould benefit the publick more in a great ſtation than the man that fills it, will in time imagine it an act of virtue to ſupplant him; and, as oppoſition readily kindles into hatred, his eagerneſs to do that good, to which he is not called, will betray him to crimes, which in his original ſcheme were never purpoſed.
[Page 70] HE therefore that would govern his actions by the laws of virtue, muſt regulate his thoughts by thoſe of reaſon; he muſt keep guilt from the receſſes of his heart, and remember that the pleaſures of fancy, and the emotions of deſire are more dangerous as they are more hidden, ſince they eſcape the awe of obſervation, and operate equally in every ſituation, without the concurrence of external opportunities.
IT is juſtly remarked by Horace, that, howſoever every man may complain occaſionally of the hardſhips of his condition, he is ſeldom willing to change it for any other on the ſame level: for whether it be that he, who follows an employment, made choice of it at firſt on account of its ſuitableneſs to his inclination; or that when accident, or the determination of others, have placed him in a particular ſtation, he, by endeavouring to reconcile himſelf to it, gets the cuſtom of viewing [Page 71] it only on the faireſt ſide; or whether every man thinks that claſs to which he belongs the moſt illuſtrious, merely becauſe he has honoured it with his name; it is certain, that, whatever be the reaſon, moſt men have a very ſtrong and active prejudice in favour of their own vocation, always working upon their minds, and influencing their behaviour.
THIS partiality is ſufficiently viſible in every rank of the human ſpecies; but it exerts itſelf more frequently and with greater force among thoſe who have never learned to conceal their ſentiments for reaſons of policy, or to model their expreſſions by the laws of politeneſs; and therefore the chief conteſts of wit among artificers and handicraftſmen ariſe from a mutual endeavour to exalt one trade by depreciating another.
FROM the ſame principle are derived many conſolations to alleviate the inconveniences to which every calling is peculiarly expoſed. A blackſmith was lately pleaſing himſelf at his anvil, with obſerving that, though his trade was hot and ſooty, laborious and unhealthy, yet he had the honour of living by his hammer, he got his bread like a man, and if his ſon [Page 72] ſhould riſe in the world, and keep his coach, no body could reproach him that his father was a taylor.
A MAN, truly zealous for his fraternity, is never ſo irreſiſtibly flattered, as when ſome rival calling is mentioned with contempt. Upon this principle a linen-draper boaſted that he had got a new cuſtomer, whom he could ſafely truſt, for he could have no doubt of his honeſty, ſince it was known, from unqueſtionable authority, that he was now filing a bill in chancery to delay payment for the cloaths which he had worn the laſt ſeven years; and he himſelf had heard him declare, in a publick coffee-houſe, that he looked upon the whole generation of woollen-drapers to be ſuch deſpicable wretches, that no gentleman ought to pay them till the demand was doubled by law charges.
IT has been obſerved that phyſicians and lawyers are no friends to religion; and many conjectures have been formed to diſcover the reaſon of ſuch a combination between men who agree in nothing elſe, and who ſeem leſs to be affected, in their own provinces, by religious opinions, than any other part of the [Page 73] community. The truth is, very few of them have thought about religion; but they have all ſeen a parſon, ſeen him in a habit different from their own, and therefore declared war againſt him. A young ſtudent from the inns of court, who has often attacked the curate of his father's pariſh with ſuch arguments as his acquaintances could furniſh, and returned to town without ſucceſs, is now gone down with a reſolution to deſtroy him; for he has learned at laſt how to manage a prig, and if he pretends to hold him again to ſyllogiſm, he has a catch in reſerve, which neither logic nor metaphyſics can reſiſt.
I laugh to think how your unſhaken CatoWill look aghaſt, when unforeſeen deſtructionPours in upon him thus.
THE malignity of ſoldiers and ſailors againſt each other has been often experienced at the coſt of their country; and, perhaps, no orders of men have an enmity of more acrimony, or longer continuance. When, upon our late ſucceſſes at ſea, ſome new regulations were concerted for eſtabliſhing the rank of the naval commanders, a captain of foot very acutely remarked, that nothing was more abſurd than to give any honorary rewards to ſeamen, "for [Page 74] honour, ſays he, ought only to be won by bravery, and all the world knows that there is no danger, and therefore no evidence of courage in a fight at ſea."
BUT as this general deſire of aggrandizing themſelves by raiſing their profeſſion, betrays men to a thouſand ridiculous and miſchievous acts of ſupplantation and detraction, ſo, as almoſt all paſſions have their good as well as bad effects, it likewiſe excites ingenuity, and ſometimes raiſes an honeſt and uſeful emulation of diligence. It may be obſerved in general that no trade had ever reached the excellence to which it is now improved, had its profeſſors looked upon it with the eyes of indifferent ſpectators; the advances, from the firſt rude eſſays, muſt have been made by men who valued themſelves for performances, for which ſcarce any other would be perſuaded to eſteem them.
IT is pleaſing to contemplate a manufacture riſing gradually from its firſt mean ſtate by the ſucceſſive labours of innumerable minds; to conſider the firſt hollow trunk of an oak, in which, perhaps, the ſhepherd could ſcarce venture to croſs a brook ſwelled with a [Page 75] ſhower, enlarged at laſt into a ſhip of war, attacking fortreſſes, terrifying nations, ſetting ſtorms and billows at defiance, and viſiting the remoteſt parts of the globe. And it might contribute to diſpoſe us to a kinder regard for the labours of one another, if we were to conſider from what unpromiſing beginnings the moſt uſeful productions of art have probably ariſen. Who, when he ſaw the firſt ſand or aſhes, by a caſual intenſeneſs of heat melted into a metalline form, rugged with excreſcences, and clouded with impurities, would have imagined, that in this ſhapeleſs lump lay concealed ſo many conveniencies of life, as would in time conſtitute a great part of the happineſs of the world? Yet by ſome ſuch fortuitous liquefaction was mankind taught to procure a body at once in a high degree ſolid and tranſparent, which might admit the light of the ſun, and exclude the violence of the wind; which might extend the ſight of the philoſopher to new ranges of exiſtence, and charm him at one time with the unbounded extent of the material creation, and at another with the endleſs ſubordination of animal life; and, what is yet of more importance, might ſupply the decays of nature, and ſuccour old age with ſubſidiary ſight. Thus was the firſt [Page 76] artificer in glaſs employed, though without his own knowledge or expectation. He was facilitating and prolonging the enjoyment of light, enlarging the avenues of ſcience, and conferring the higheſt and moſt laſting pleaſures; he was enabling the ſtudent to contemplate nature, and the beauty to behold herſelf.
This paſſion for the honour of a profeſſion, like that for the grandeur of our own country, is to be regulated not extinguiſhed. Every man, from the higheſt to the loweſt ſtation, ought to warm his heart and animate his endeavours with the hopes of being uſeful to the world, by advancing the art which it is his lot to exerciſe; and for that end he muſt neceſſarily conſider the whole extent of its application, and the whole weight of its importance. But let him not too readily imagine that another is ill employed, becauſe, for want of fuller knowledge of his buſineſs, he is not able to comprehend its dignity. Every man ought to endeavour at eminence, not by pulling others down, but by raiſing himſelf, and enjoy the pleaſure of his own ſuperiority, whether imaginary or real, without interrupting others in the ſame felicity. The philoſopher may [Page 77] very juſtly be delighted with the extent of his views, and the artificer with the readineſs of his hands; but let the one remember, that, without mechanical performances, refined ſpeculation is an empty dream, and the other, that, without theoretical reaſoning, dexterity is little more than a brute inſtinct.
THE number of correſpondents which encreaſes every day upon me, ſhows that my paper is at leaſt diſtinguiſhed from the common productions of the preſs. It is no leſs a proof of eminence to have many enemies than many friends, and I look upon every letter, whether it contains encomiums, or reproaches, as an equal atteſtation of riſing credit. The only pain, which I can feel from my correſpondence, is the fear of diſguſting thoſe, whoſe letters I ſhall ſeem to neglect; and, therefore, I take this opportunity of reminding them, that in diſapproving their attempts whenever it may happen, I only return the [Page 78] treatment, which I often receive. Beſides, many particular motives influence a writer, known only to himſelf, or his private friends; and it may be juſtly concluded, that, not all letters which are poſtponed are rejected, nor all that are rejected, critically condemned.
HAVING thus eaſed my heart of the only apprehenſion that ſat heavy on it, I can pleaſe myſelf with the candour of Benevolus, who encourages me to proceed, without ſinking under the anger of Flirtilla, who quarrels with me for being old and ugly, and for wanting both activity of body, and ſprightlineſs of mind; feeds her monkey with my lucubrations, and refuſes any mitigation, till I have appeared in vindication of maſquerades. That ſhe may not however imagine me without ſupport, and left to reſt wholly upon my own fortitude, I ſhall now publiſh ſome letters, which I have received from men as well dreſſed, and as handſome, as her favorite; and others from ladies, whom I ſincerely believe as young, as rich, as gay, as pretty, as faſhionable, and as often toaſted and treated as herſelf.
A SET of candid readers ſend their reſpects to the Rambler, and acknowledge [Page 79] his merit in ſo well beginning a work that may be of publick benefit. But, ſuperior as his genius is to the impertinences of a trifling age, they cannot help a wiſh, that he would condeſcend to the weakneſs of minds ſoftened by perpetual amuſements, and now and then throw in, like his predeceſſor, ſome papers of a gay and humorous turn. Too fair a field now lies open, with too plentiful a harveſt of follies! let the chearful Thalia put in her ſickle, and, ſinging at her work, deck her hair with red and blue.
A LADY ſends her compliments to the Rambler, and deſires to know, by what other name ſhe may direct to him; what are his ſet of friends, his amuſements; what his way of thinking, with regard to the living world, and its ways; in ſhort, whether he is a perſon now alive, and in town? If he be, ſhe will do herſelf the honour to write to him pretty often, and hopes, from time to time, to be the better for his advice and animadverſions; for his animadverſions on her neighbours at leaſt. But, if he is a mere eſſayiſt, and troubles not himſelf with the manners of the age, ſhe [Page 80] is ſorry to tell him, that even the genius and correctneſs of an Addiſon will not ſecure him from neglect.
NO man is ſo much abſtracted from common life, as not to feel a particular pleaſure from the regard of the female world; the candid writers of the firſt billet will not be offended, that my haſte to ſatisfy a lady has hurried their addreſs too ſoon out of my mind, and that I refer them for a reply to ſome future paper, in order to tell this curious inquirer after my other name, the anſwer of a philoſopher to a man, who, meeting him in the ſtreet, deſired to ſee what he carried under his cloak; I carry it there, ſays he, that you may not ſee it. But, though ſhe is never to know my name, ſhe may often ſee my face; for I am of her opinion, that a diurnal writer ought to view the world, and that he who neglects his contemporaries, may be, with juſtice, neglected by them.
LADY Racket ſends compliments to the Rambler, and lets him know, ſhe ſhall have cards at her houſe, every Sunday, the remainder of the ſeaſon, where he will be ſure of meeting all the good company in town. By this means ſhe hopes to ſee his papers [Page 81] interſperſed with living characters. She longs to ſee the torch of truth produced at an aſſembly, and to admire the charming luſtre it will throw on the jewels, complexions, and behaviour of every dear creature there.
IT is a rule with me to receive every offer with the ſame civility as it is made; and, therefore, though lady Racket may have had ſome reaſon to gueſs, that I ſeldom frequent card-tables on Sundays, I ſhall not inſiſt upon an exception, which may to her appear of ſo little force. My buſineſs has been to view, as opportunity was offered, every place in which mankind was to be ſeen; but at card-tables, however brilliant, I have always thought my viſit loſt, for I could know nothing of the company, but their cloaths and their faces. I ſaw their looks clouded at the beginning of every game with an uniform ſolicitude, now and then in its progreſs varied with a ſhort triumph, at ſometimes wrinkled with cunning, at others deadened with deſpondency, or by accident fluſhed with rage at the unſkilful or unlucky play of a partner. From ſuch aſſemblies, in whatever humour I happened to enter them, I was quickly forced to retire; [Page 82] they were too trifling for me, when I was grave and too dull, when I was chearful.
YET I cannot but value myſelf upon this token of regard from a lady, who is not afraid to ſtand before the torch of truth. Let her not however conſult her curioſity, more than her prudence; but reflect a moment on the fate of Semele, who might have lived the favorite of Jupiter, if ſhe could have been content without his thunder. It is dangerous for mortal beauty, or terreſtrial virtue, to be examined by too ſtrong a light. The torch of truth ſhows much that we cannot, and all that we would not ſee. In a face dimpled with ſmiles, it has often diſcovered malevolence and envy, and detected, under jewels and brocade, the frightful forms of poverty and diſtreſs. A fine hand of cards have changed before it into a thouſand ſpectres of ſickneſs, miſery, and vexation; and immenſe ſums of money, while the winner counted them with tranſport, have at the firſt glimpſe of this unwelcome luſtre vaniſhed from before him. If her ladyſhip therefore deſigns to continue her aſſembly, I would adviſe her to ſhun ſuch dangerous experiments, to ſatisfy herſelf with common appearances, and to light up her apartments [Page 83] rather with myrtle candles than the torch of truth.
A MODEST young man ſends his ſervice to the author of the Rambler, and will be very willing to aſſiſt him in his work, but is ſadly afraid of being diſcouraged by having his firſt eſſay rejected, a diſgrace he has wofully experienced in every offer he had made of it to every new writer of every new paper; but he comforts himſelf by thinking, without vanity, that this has been from a peculiar favour of the muſes, who ſaved his performance from being buried in traſh, and reſerved it to appear with luſtre in the Rambler.
I AM equally a friend to modeſty and enterprize; and, therefore ſhall think it an honour to correſpond with a young man who poſſeſſes both in ſo eminent a degree. Youth is, indeed, the time in which theſe qualities ought chiefly to be found; modeſty ſuits well with inexperience, and enterprize with health and vigour, and an extenſive proſpect of life. One of my predeceſſors has juſtly obſerved, that, though modeſty has an amiable and winning appearance, it ought not to hinder the exertion of [Page 84] the active powers, but that a man ſhould ſhow under his bluſhes a latent reſolution. This point of perfection, nice as it is, my correſpondent ſeems to have attained. That he is modeſt, his own declaration may evince; and, I think, the latent reſolution may be diſcovered in his letter by an acute obſerver. I will adviſe him, ſince he ſo well deſerves my precepts, not to be diſcouraged, though the Rambler ſhould prove equally envious, or taſteleſs, with the reſt of this fraternity. If his paper is refuſed, the preſs of England is open, let him try the judgment of the publick If, as it has ſome times happened, by a general combination againſt ſuperior merit, he cannot perſuade the world to buy his works, he may preſent them to his friends; and if his friends are ſeized with the epidemical infatuation, and cannot find his genius, or will not confeſs it, let him then refer his cauſe to poſterity, and reſerve his other labours for a wiſer age.
THUS have I diſpatched ſome of my correſpondents, in the uſual manner, with fair words, and general civility. But to Flirtilla, the gay Flirtilla, what ſhall I reply? Unable as I am to fly, at her command, over land and ſeas, or to ſupply her, from week to week, [Page 85] with the faſhions of Paris, or the intrigues of Madrid, I am yet not willing to incur her farther diſpleaſure, and would ſave my papers from her monkey on any reaſonable terms. By what propitiation, therefore, may I atone for my former gravity, and open, without trembling, the future letters of this ſprightly perſecutor? To write in defence of maſquedes is no eaſy taſk; yet ſomething difficult and daring may well be required, as the price of ſo important an approbation. I therefore conſulted, in this great emergency, a man of high reputation in gay life, who having added, to his other accompliſhments, no mean proficiency in the minute philoſophy, after the fifth peruſal of her letter, broke out with rapture into theſe words: 'And can you, Mr Rambler, ſtand out againſt this charming creature? Let her know, at leaſt, that from this moment Nigrinus devotes his life and his labours to her ſervice. Is there any ſtubborn prejudice of education, that ſtands between thee and the moſt amiable of mankind? Behold, Flirtilla, at thy feet, a man grown grey in the ſtudy of thoſe noble arts, by which right and wrong may be confounded; by which reaſon may be blinded, when we have a mind to eſcape [Page 86] from her inſpection, and caprice and appetite inſtated in uncontroulled command, and boundleſs dominion! Such a caſuiſt may ſurely engage, with certainty of ſucceſs, in vindication of an entertainment, which in an inſtant gives confidence to the timorous, and kindles ardour in the cold; and entertainment where the vigilance of jealouſy has ſo often been eluded, and the virgin is ſet free from the neceſſity of languiſhing in ſilence; where all the outworks of chaſtity are at once demoliſhed; where the heart is laid open without a bluſh; where baſhfulneſs may ſurvive virtue, and no wiſh is cruſh'd under the frown of modeſty. Far weaker influence than Flirtilla's might gain over an advocate for ſuch amuſements. It was declared by Pompey, that, if the common-wealth was violated, he could ſtamp with his foot, and raiſe an army out of the ground; if the rights of pleaſure are again invaded, let but Flirtilla crack her fan, no pens, nor ſwords, ſhall be wanting at the ſummons; the wit and the colonel ſhall march out at her command, and neither law nor reaſon ſhall ſtand before us.'
HOR.Non Dindymene, non adytis quatitMentem ſacerdotum incola Pythius,Non Liber aeque, non acutaSic geminant Corybantes aera,Triſtes ut irae.—
THE maxim which Periander of Corinth, one of the ſeven ſages of Greece, left as a memorial of his knowledge and benevolence was [...], Be maſter of thy anger. He conſidered anger as the great diſturber of human life, the chief enemy both of publick happineſs and private tranquillity, and therefore thought that he could not lay on poſterity a ſtronger obligation to reverence his memory, than by leaving them a ſalutary caution againſt this outrageous paſſion.
TO what latitude Periander might extend the word, the brevity of his precept will ſcarce allow us to conjecture. From anger, in its full import, protracted into malevolence, and exerted in revenge, ariſe, indeed, many of the [Page 88] evils to which the life of man is expoſed. By anger operating upon power are produced the ſubverſion of cities, the deſolation of countries, the maſſacre of nations, and all thoſe dreadful and aſtoniſhing calamities which fill the hiſtories of the world, and which could not be read at any diſtant point of time, when the paſſions ſtand neutral, and every motive and principle is leſt to its natural force, without ſome doubt of the veracity of the relation, did we not ſee the ſame cauſes ſtill tending to the ſame effects, and only acting with leſs vigour for want of the ſame concurrent opportunities.
BUT this gigantick and enormous ſpecies of anger falls not properly under the animadverſion of a writer, whoſe chief end is the regulation of common life, and whoſe precepts are to recommend themſelves by their general uſe. Nor is this eſſay intended to expoſe the tragical or fatal effects even of private malignity. The anger which I propoſe now for my ſubject is ſuch as makes thoſe who indulge it more troubleſome than formidable, and ranks them rather with hornets and waſps, than with baſiliſks and lions. I have, therefore; prefixed a motto, which characteriſes [Page 89] this paſſion, not ſo much by the miſchief that it cauſes, as by the noiſe that it utters.
THERE is in the world a certain claſs of mortals, known, and contentedly known, by the appellation of paſſionate men, who imagine themſelves entitled by that diſtinction to be provoked on every ſlight occaſion, and to vent their rage in vehement and fierce vociferations, in furious menaces and licentious reproaches. Their rage, indeed, for the moſt part, fumes away in outcries of injury, and proteſtations of vengeance, and ſeldom proceeds to actual violence, unleſs a drawer or link-boy falls in their way; but they interrupt the quiet of thoſe that happen to be within the reach of their clamours, diſturb the courſe of converſation, and interrupt the enjoyment of ſociety.
MEN of this kind are ſometimes not without underſtanding or virtue ſufficient to recommend them to love and regard, and are, therefore, not always treated with the ſeverity which their neglect of the eaſe of all about them might juſtly provoke; they have obtained a kind of preſcription for their folly, and being conſidered by their companions as [Page 90] under a predominant influence that leaves them no maſters of their conduct or their language, as acting without thought, and ruſhing into miſchief with a miſt before their eyes, they are pitied rather than cenſured, and their ſallies are paſſed over as the involuntary blows of a man agitated by the ſpaſms of a convulſion.
IT is ſurely not to be obſerved without indignation, that men are to be found of minds mean enough to be ſatisfied with this treatment; wretches who are proud to obtain the privilege of madmen, and can, without ſhame, and without regret, conſider themſelves as receiving hourly pardons from their companions, and giving them continual opportunities of exerciſing their patience, and boaſting their clemency.
PRIDE is undoubtedly the original of anger; but pride, like every other paſſion, if it once breaks looſe from reaſon, counteracts its own purpoſes. A paſſionate man, upon the review of his day, will have very few gratifications to offer to his pride, when he has conſidered how his outrages were cauſed, why they were [Page 91] born, and in what they are likely to end at laſt.
THOSE ſudden burſts of rage generally break out upon ſmall occaſions; for life, unhappy as it is, cannot ſupply great evils as frequently as the man of fire thinks fit to be enraged; and therefore the firſt reflection upon his violence muſt ſhow him that he is mean enough to be driven from his poſt by every petty incident, that he is the mere ſlave of trivial chances, and that his reaſon and his virtue are in the power of the wind.
ONE motive there is of theſe loud extravagancies, which a man is generally careful to conceal from others, and, perhaps, does not always diſcover to himſelf. He that finds his knowledge narrow, and his arguments weak, and, by conſequence, his ſuffrage not much regarded in queſtions accurately examined, and ſeriouſly debated, is ſometimes in hope of gaining that attention by his clamours, which he cannot otherwiſe obtain, and is pleaſed with remembring that at leaſt he made himſelf heard, that he had the power to interrupt thoſe whom he could not confute, and ſuſpend the deciſion which he could not guide.
[Page 92] OF this kind is the fury to which many men give way among their ſervants and domeſticks; they feel their own ignorance, they ſee their own inſignificance, and, therefore, they endeavour, by their fury, to fright away contempt from before them, when they know it muſt follow them behind, and think themſelves eminently maſters, when they ſee one folly tamely complied with, only for fear leſt refuſal or delay ſhould provoke them to a greater.
THESE temptations cannot but be owned to have ſome force, and it is ſo little pleaſing to any man to ſee himſelf wholly overlooked in the maſs of things, that he may be allowed to try a few expedients for procuring ſome kind of ſupplemental dignity, and to endeavour to add weight by the violence of his temper, to the lightneſs of his other powers. But this has now been long practiſed, and found, upon the moſt exact eſtimate, not to produce advantages equal to its inconveniences; for it has not appeared that a man has by uproar, and tumult, and bluſter, altered any one's opinion of his underſtanding, or been able to gain any influence except over thoſe [Page 93] whom fortune or nature have made his dependents. He may by a ſteady perſeverance in his ferocity fright his children, and harraſs his ſervants, but all the reſt of the world will look on and laugh; and he will have the comfort at laſt of thinking, that he lives only to raiſe contempt and hatred, emotions to which wiſdom and virtue would be always unwilling to give occaſion. He will find that he has contrived only to make thoſe fear him, whom every reaſonable being is endeavouring to endear by kindneſs, and muſt content himſelf with the pleaſure of a triumph obtained by trampling on thoſe who could not reſiſt him. He muſt perceive that the apprehenſion which his preſence cauſes is not the awe of his virtue, but the dread of his brutality, and that he has given up the felicity of being loved, without gaining the honour of being reverenced.
BUT this is not the only ill conſequence of the frequent indulgence of this bluſtering paſſion, which a man, by often calling to his aſſiſtance, will teach, in a ſhort time, to intrude before the ſummons, to ruſh upon him with reſiſtleſs violence, and without any previous notice of its approach. He will find himſelf liable to be inflamed at the firſt touch of provocation, and [Page 94] unable to retain his reſentment, till he has a full conviction of the offence, to proportion his anger to the cauſe, or to regulate it by prudence, or by duty. When a man has once ſuffered his mind to be thus vitiated, he becomes one of the moſt hateful and unhappy beings. He can give no ſecurity to himſelf that he ſhall not, at the next interview, alienate by ſome ſudden tranſport his deareſt friend; or break out, upon ſome ſlight contradiction, into ſuch terms of rudeneſs as can never be perfectly forgotten. Whoever converſes with him lives with the ſuſpicion and ſolicitude of a man that plays with a tame tiger, always under a neceſſity of watching the moment, in which the capricious ſavage ſhall begin to growl.
IT is told by Prior, in a panegyrick on lord Dorſet, that his ſervants uſed to put themſelves in his way when he was angry, becauſe he was ſure to recompenſe them for any indignities which he made them ſuffer. This is the round of a paſſionate man's life; he contracts debts when he is furious, which his virtue, if he has virtue, obliges him to diſcharge at the return of reaſon. He ſpends his time in outrage and acknowledgement, injury and [Page 95] reparation. Or, if there be any who hardens himſelf in oppreſſion, and juſtifies the wrong, becauſe he has done it, his inſenſibility can make ſmall part of his praiſe, or his happineſs; he only adds deliberate to haſty folly, aggravates petulance by contumacy, and deſtroys the only plea that he can offer for the tenderneſs and patience of mankind.
YET, even this degree of depravity we may be content to pity, becauſe it ſeldom wants a puniſhment equal to its guilt. Nothing is more deſpicable or more miſerable than the old age of a paſſionate man. When the vigour of youth fails him, and his amuſements pall with frequent repetition, his occaſional rage ſinks by decay of ſtrength into peeviſhneſs, that peeviſhneſs, for want of novelty and variety, becomes habitual; the world falls off from around him, and he is left, as Homer expreſſes it, [...], to devour his own heart in ſolitude and contempt.
Lucanus ad Piſonem.—Miſerum parvâ ſtipe focilat, ut pudibundosExercere ſales inter convivia poſſit.——Tu mitis, & acriAſperitate carens, poſitoque per omnia faſtu,Inter ut aequales unus numeraris amicos,Obſequiumque doces, & amorem quaeris amando.
To the RAMBLER.
AS you ſeem to have devoted your labours to virtue, I cannot forbear to inform you of one ſpecies of cruelty, with which the life of a man of letters perhaps does not often make him acquainted, and which, as it ſeems to produce no other advantage to thoſe that practiſe it than a ſhort gratification of thoughtleſs vanity, may become leſs common when it has been once expoſed in its various forms, and its full magnitude.
I AM the daughter of a country gentleman, whoſe family is numerous, and whoſe eſtate, not at firſt ſufficient to ſupply us with affluence, [Page 97] has been lately ſo much impaired by an unſucceſsful lawſuit, that all the younger children are obliged to try ſuch means as their education affords them, for procuring the neceſſaries of life. Diſtreſs and curioſity concurred to bring me to London, where I was received by a relation with the coldneſs which misfortune generally finds. A week, a long week, I lived with my couſin, before the moſt vigilant enquiry could procure us the leaſt hopes of a place, in which time I was much better qualified to bear all the vexations of ſervitude. The firſt two days ſhe was content to pity me, and only wiſh'd I had not been quite ſo well bred, but people muſt comply with their circumſtances. This lenity, however, was ſoon at an end; and, for the remaining part of the week, I heard every hour of the pride of my family, the obſtinacy of my father, and of people better born than myſelf that were common ſervants.
AT laſt, on Saturday noon, ſhe told me, with very viſible ſatisfaction, that Mrs Bombaſine, the great ſilk-mercer's lady, wanted a maid, and a fine place it would be, for there would be nothing to do but to clean my miſtreſs's room, get up her linen, dreſs the young ladies, wait at tea in the morning, [Page 8] take care of a little miſs juſt come from nurſe, and then ſit down to my needle. But madam was a woman of great ſpirit, and would not be contradicted, and therefore I ſhould take care, for good places were not eaſily to be got.
WITH theſe cautions, I waited on madam Bombaſine, of whom the firſt ſight gave me no raviſhing ideas. She was two yards round the waiſt, her voice was at once loud and ſqueaking, and her face brought to my mind the picture of the full-moon. Are you the young woman, ſays ſhe, that are come to offer yourſelf? It is ſtrange when people of ſubſtance want a ſervant, how ſoon it is the town-talk. But they know they ſhall have a belly-full that live with me. Not like people at the other end of the town, we dine at one o'clock. But I never take any body without a character; what friends do you come of? I then told her that my father was a gentleman, and that we had been unfortunate.—A great misfortune, indeed, to come to me and have three meals a-day!—So your father was a gentleman, and you are a gentlewoman I ſuppoſe—ſuch gentlewomen!—Madam, I did not mean to claim any exemptions, I only anſwered [Page 99] your enquiry.—Such gentlewomen! people ſhould ſet their children to good trades, and keep them off the pariſh. Pray go to the other end of the town, there are gentlewomen, if they would pay their debts: I am ſure we have loſt enough by gentlewomen. Upon this, her broad face grew broader with triumph, and I was afraid ſhe would have taken me for the pleaſure of continuing her inſult; but happily the next word was, Pray, Mrs gentlewoman, troop down ſtairs. You may believe I obeyed her.
I RETURNED and met with a better reception from my couſin than I expected; for while I was out, ſhe had heard that Mrs Standiſh, whoſe huſband had lately been raiſed from a clerk in an office, to be commiſſioner of the exciſe, had taken a fine houſe, and wanted a maid.
TO Mrs Standiſh I went, and, after having waited ſix hours, was at laſt admitted to the top of the ſtairs, when ſhe came out of her room, with two of her company. There was a ſmell of punch. So young woman, you want a place, whence do you come?—From the country, madam.—Yes, they all come out of [Page 100] the country. And what brought you to town, a baſtard? Where do you lodge? At the Seven-Dials? What, you never heard of the foundling houſe? Upon this, they all laughed ſo obſtreperouſly, that I took the opportunity of ſneaking off in the tumult.
I THEN heard of a place at an elderly lady's. She was at cards; but in two hours, I was told, ſhe would ſpeak to me. She aſked me if I could keep an account, and ordered me to write. I wrote two lines out of ſome book that lay by her. She wonder'd what people meant, to breed up poor girls to write at that rate. I ſuppoſe, Mrs Flirt, if I was to ſee your work, it would be fine ſtuff!—You may walk. I will not have love-letters written from my houſe to every young fellow in the ſtreet.
TWO days after, I went on the ſame perſuit to lady Lofty, dreſſed, as I was directed, in what little ornaments I had, becauſe ſhe had lately got a place at court. Upon the firſt ſight of me, ſhe turns to the woman that ſhowed me in, Is this the lady that wants a place? Pray what place wou'd you have, miſs? a maid of honour's place? Servants now adays!—Madam, I heard you wanted-Wanted [Page 101] what? Somebody finer than myſelf! A pretty ſervant indeed—I ſhould be afraid to ſpeak to her—I ſuppoſe, Mrs Minx, theſe fine hands cannot bear wetting—A ſervant indeed! Pray move off—I am reſolved to be the head perſon in this houſe—You are ready dreſs'd, the taverns will be open.
I WENT to enquire for the next place in a clean linen gown, and heard the ſervant tell his lady, there was a young woman, but he ſaw ſhe would not do. I was brought up however. Are you the trollop that has the impudence to come for my place? What, you have hired that naſty gown, and are come to ſteal a better.—Madam, I have another, but being obliged to walk—Then theſe are your manners, with your bluſhes and your courteſies, to come to me in your worſt gown. Madam, give me leave to wait upon you in my other. Wait on me, you ſaucy ſlut! Then you are ſure of coming—I could not let ſuch a drab come near me—Here, you girl that came up with her, have you touch'd her? If you have, waſh your hands before you dreſs me.—Such trollops! Get you down. What, whimpering? Pray walk.
[Page 102] I WENT away with tears; for my couſin had loſt all patience. However ſhe told me, that ſhe had a reſpect for my relations, was willing to keep me out of the ſtreet, and would let me have another week.
THE firſt day of this week I ſaw two places. At one I was aſked where I had lived? And upon my anſwer, was told by the lady, that people ſhould qualify themſelves in ordinary places, for ſhe ſhould never have done if ſhe was to follow girls about. At the other houſe, I was a ſmirking huſſy, and that ſweet face I might make money of—For her part, it was a rule with her, never to take any creature that thought herſelf handſome.
THE three next days were ſpent in lady Bluff's entry, where I waited ſix hours every day for the pleaſure of ſeeing the ſervants peep at me, and go away laughing—Madam will ſtretch her ſmall ſhanks in the entry; ſhe will know the houſe again—At ſun-ſet the two firſt days I was told, that my lady would ſee me to-morrow; and on the third, that her woman ſtaid.
[Page 103] MY week was now near its end, and I had no hopes of a place. My relation, who always laid upon me the blame of every miſcarriage, told me that I muſt learn to humble myſelf, and that all great ladies had particular ways; that if I went on in that manner, ſhe could not tell who would keep me; ſhe had known many that had refuſed places, ſell their cloaths, and beg in the ſtreets.
IT was to no purpoſe that the refuſal was declared by me to be never on my ſide; I was reaſoning againſt intereſt, and againſt ſtupidity; and therefore I comforted myſelf with the hope of ſucceeding better in my next attempt, and went to Mrs Courtly, a very fine lady, who had routs at her houſe, and ſaw the beſt company in town.
I HAD not waited two hours before I was called up, and found Mr Courtly and his lady at piquet, in the height of good humour. This I looked on as a favourable ſign, and ſtood at the lower end of the room in expectation of the common queſtions. At laſt Mr Courtly call'd out, after a whiſper, Stand facing the light, that one may ſee you. I chang'd my [Page 104] place, and bluſh'd. They frequently turn'd their eyes upon me, and ſeem'd to diſcover many ſubjects of merriment; for at every look they whiſper'd, and laugh'd with the moſt violent agitations of delight. At laſt Mr Courtly cried out, Is that colour your own, child? Yes, ſays the lady, if ſhe has not robb'd the kitchen hearth. This was ſo happy a conceit, that it renew'd the ſtorm of laughter, and they threw down their cards in hopes of better ſport. The lady then called me to her, and began with an affected gravity to enquire what I could do? But firſt turn about, and let us ſee your fine ſhape; Well, what are you fit for, Mrs Mum? You would find your tongue, I ſuppoſe, in the kitchen. No, no, ſays Mr Courtly, the girl's a good girl yet, but I am afraid a briſk young fellow, with fine tags on his ſhoulder—Come, child, hold up your head; what? you have ſtole nothing—Not yet, ſays the lady, but ſhe hopes to ſteal your heart quickly.—Here was a laugh of happineſs and triumph, prolonged by the confuſion which I could no longer repreſs. At laſt the lady recollected herſelf: Stole? no—but if I had her, I ſhould watch her; for that downcaſt eye—Why cannot you look people in the face? [Page 105] Steal! ſays her huſband, ſhe would ſteal nothing but, perhaps, a few ribbands before they were left off by her lady. Sir, anſwer'd I, why ſhould you, by ſuppoſing me a thief, inſult one from whom you have received no injury? Inſult, ſays the lady; are you come here to be a ſervant, you ſaucy baggage, and talk of inſulting? What will this world come to, if a gentleman may not jeſt with a ſervant? Well, ſuch ſervants! pray be gone, and ſee when you will have the honour to be ſo inſulted again. Servants inſulted—a fine time.—Inſulted! Get down ſtairs, you ſlut, or the footman ſhall inſult you.
THE laſt day of the laſt week was now coming, and my kind couſin talked of ſending me down in the waggon to preſerve me from bad courſes. But in the morning ſhe came and told me that ſhe had one trial more for me, Euphemia wanted a maid, and perhaps I might do for her; for, like me, ſhe muſt fall her creſt, being forced to lay down her chariot upon the loſs of half her fortune by bad ſecurities, and with her way of giving her money to every body that pretended to want it, ſhe could have little beforehand; therefore I [Page 106] might ſerve her; for, with all her fine ſenſe, ſhe muſt not pretend to be nice.
I WENT immediately, and met at the door a young gentlewoman, who told me ſhe had herſelf been hired that morning, but that ſhe was order'd to bring any that offered up ſtairs. I was accordingly introduced to Euphemia, who, when I came in, laid down her book, and told me, that ſhe ſent for me not to gratify an idle curioſity, but leſt my diſappointment might be made ſtill more grating by incivility; that ſhe was in pain to deny any thing, much more what was no favour; that ſhe ſaw nothing in my appearance which did not make her wiſh for my company; but that another, whoſe claims might perhaps be equal, had come before me. The thought of being ſo near to ſuch a place, and miſſing it, brought tears into my eyes, and my ſobs hinder'd me from returning my acknowledgments. She roſe up confuſed, and ſuppoſing by my concern that I was diſtreſſed, placed me by her, and made me tell her my ſtory: which when ſhe had heard, ſhe put two guineas in my hand, ordering me to lodge near her, and make uſe of her table till ſhe could provide [Page 107] for me. I am now under her protection, and know not how to ſhew my gratitude better than by giving this account to the RAMBLER.
IT is related by Quintus Curtius, that the Perſians always conceived a laſting and invincible contempt of a man, who had violated the laws of ſecrecy; for they thought, that, however he might be deficient in the qualities requiſite to actual excellence, the negative virtues at leaſt were always in his power, and though he perhaps could not ſpeak well if he was to try, it was ſtill eaſy for him not to ſpeak.
IN this opinion of the eaſineſs of ſecrecy, they ſeem to have conſider'd it as oppoſed, not to treachery, but loquacity, and to have conceived the man, whom they thus cenſured, not frighted by menaces to reveal, or bribed [Page 108] by promiſes to betray, but incited by the mere pleaſure of talking, or ſome other motive equally trivial, to lay open his heart without reflection, and to let whatever he knew ſlip from him, only for want of power to retain it. Whether, by their ſettled and avowed ſcorn of thoughtleſs talkers, the Perſians were able to diffuſe to any great extent the virtue of taciturnity, we are hindered by the diſtance of thoſe times from being able to diſcover, there being very few memoirs remaining of the court of Perſepolis, nor any diſtinct accounts handed down to us of their office clerks, their ladies of the bed-chamber, their attorneys, their chamber-maids, or their footmen.
IN theſe latter ages, though the old animoſity againſt a prattler is ſtill retained, it appears wholly to have loſt its effects upon the conduct of mankind; for ſecrets are ſo ſeldom kept, that it may with ſome reaſon be doubted, whether the antients were not miſtaken in their firſt poſtulate, whether the quality of retention be ſo generally beſtowed, and whether a ſecret has not ſome ſubtle volatility, by which it eſcapes almoſt imperceptibly at the ſmalleſt vent; or ſome power of fermentation, by [Page 109] which it expands itſelf ſo as to burſt the heart that will not give it way.
THOSE that ſtudy either the body or the mind of man, very often find the moſt ſpecious and pleaſing theory falling under the weight of contrary experience; and inſtead of gratifying their vanity by inferring effects from cauſes, they are always reduced at laſt to conjecture cauſes from effects. That it is eaſy to be ſecret the ſpeculatiſt can demonſtrate in his retreat, and therefore thinks himſelf juſtified in placing confidence; the man of the world knows, that, whether difficult or not, it is uncommon, and therefore finds himſelf rather inclined to ſearch after the reaſon of this univerſal failure in one of the moſt important duties of ſociety.
THE vanity of being known to be truſted with a ſecret is generally one of the chief motives to diſcloſe it; for however abſurd it may be thought to boaſt an honour, by an act which ſhews that it was conferred without merit, yet moſt men ſeem rather inclined to confeſs the want of virtue than of importance, and more willingly ſhew their influence and their power, though at the expence of their probity, than glide through life with no other pleaſure [Page 110] than the private conſciouſneſs of fidelity; which, while it is preſerved, muſt be without praiſe, except from the ſingle perſon who tries and knows it.
THERE are many ways of telling a ſecret, by which a man exempts himſelf from the reproaches of his conſcience, and gratifies his pride without ſuffering himſelf to believe that he impairs his virtue. He tells the private affairs of his patron, or his friend, only to thoſe from whom he would not conceal his own; he tells them to thoſe, who have no temptation to betray their truſt, or with a denunciation of a certain forfeiture of his friendſhip, if he diſcovers that they become public.
SECRETS are very frequently told in the firſt ardour of kindneſs, or of love, for the ſake of proving, by ſo important a ſacrifice, the ſincerity of profeſſions, or the warmth of tenderneſs; but with this motive, though it be ſometimes ſtrong in itſelf, vanity generally concurs, ſince every man naturally deſires to be moſt eſteemed by thoſe whom he loves, or with whom he converſes, with whom he paſſes his hours of pleaſure, and to whom he retires from buſineſs and from care.
[Page 111] WHEN the diſcovery of ſecrets is under conſideration, there is always a diſtinction carefully to be made between our own and thoſe of another, thoſe of which we are fully maſters as they affect only our own intereſt, and thoſe which are repoſited with us in truſt, and involve the happineſs or convenience of ſuch as we have no right to expoſe to hazard by experiments upon their lives, without their conſent. To tell our own ſecrets is generally folly, but that folly is without guilt; to communicate thoſe with which we are intruſted is always treachery, and treachery for the moſt part combined with folly.
THERE have, indeed, been ſome enthuſiaſtic and irrational zealots for friendſhip, who have maintained, and perhaps believed, that one friend has a right to all that is in poſſeſſion of another; and that therefore it is a violation of kindneſs to exempt any ſecret from this boundleſs confidence: Accordingly a late female miniſter of ſtate has been ſhameleſs enough to inform the world, that ſhe uſed, when ſhe wanted to extract any thing from her ſovereign, to remind her of Montaigne's reaſoning, who has determined, that to tell a ſecret to a friend [Page 112] is no breach of fidelity, becauſe the number of perſons truſted is not multiplied, a man and his friend being virtually the ſame.
THAT ſuch a fallacy could be impoſed upon any human underſtanding, or that an author could have been imagined to advance a poſition ſo remote from truth and reaſon, any otherwiſe than as a declaimer, to ſhew to what extent he could ſtretch his imagination, and with what ſtrength he could preſs his principle, would ſcarcely have been credible, had not this lady kindly ſhewn us how far weakneſs may be deluded, or indolence amuſed. But ſince it appears, that even this ſophiſtry has been able, with the help of a ſtrong deſire to repoſe in quiet upon the underſtanding of another, to miſlead honeſt intentions, and an underſtanding not contemptible, it may not be ſuperfluous to remark, that thoſe things which are common among friends are only ſuch as either poſſeſſes in his own right, and can alienate or deſtroy without injury to any other perſon. Without this limitation, confidence muſt run on without end, the ſecond perſon may tell the ſecret to the third upon the ſame principle as he received it from the [Page 113] firſt, and the third may hand it forward to a fourth, till at laſt it is told in the round of friendſhip to them from whom it was the firſt intention chiefly to conceal it.
THE confidence which Caius has of the faithfulneſs of Titius is nothing more than an opinion which himſelf cannot know to be true, and which Claudius, who firſt tells his ſecret to Caius may know, at leaſt may ſuſpect to be falſe; and therefore the truſt is transferred by Caius, if he reveal what has been told him, to one from whom the perſon originally concerned would probably have withheld it; and, whatever may be the event, Caius has hazarded the happineſs of his friend, without neceſſity and without permiſſion, and has put that truſt in the hand of fortune which was given only to virtue.
ALL the arguments upon which a man who is telling the private affairs of another may ground his confidence of ſecurity, he muſt upon reflection know to be uncertain, becauſe he finds them without effect upon himſelf. When he is imagining that Titius will be cautious from a regard to his intereſt, his reputation, or his duty, he ought to reflect that he is [Page 114] himſelf at that inſtant acting in oppoſition to all theſe reaſons, and revealing what intereſt, reputation, and duty direct him to conceal.
EVERY one feels that he ſhould conſider the man incapable of truſt, who believed himſelf at liberty to tell whatever he knew to the firſt whom he ſhould conclude deſerving of his confidence; therefore Caius, in admitting Titius to the affairs imparted only to himſelf, violates his faith, ſince he acts contrary to the intention of Claudius, to whom that faith was given. For promiſes of friendſhip are, like all others, uſeleſs and vain, unleſs they are made in ſome known ſenſe, adjuſted and acknowledged by both parties.
I AM not ignorant that many queſtions may be ſtarted relating to the duty of ſecrecy, where the affairs are of publick concern; where ſubſequent reaſons may ariſe to alter the appearance and nature of the truſt; that the manner in which the ſecret was told may change the degree of obligation; and that the principles upon which a man is choſen for a confident may not always equally conſtrain him. But theſe ſcruples, if not too intricate, are of too extenſive conſideration for my preſent purpoſe, [Page 115] nor are they ſuch as generally occur in common life; and though caſuiſtical knowledge be uſeful in proper hands, yet it ought by no means to be careleſly expoſed, ſince moſt will uſe it rather to lull than awaken their own conſciences; and the threads of reaſoning, on which truth is ſuſpended, are frequently drawn to ſuch ſubtility, that common eyes cannot perceive, and common ſenſibility cannot feel them.
THE whole doctrine as well as practice of ſecrecy, is ſo perplexing and dangerous, that, next to him who is compelled to truſt, I think him unhappy who is choſen to be truſted; for he is often involved in ſcruples without the liberty of calling in the help of any other underſtanding, he is frequently drawn into guilt, under the appearance of friendſhip and honeſty; and ſometimes ſubjected to ſuſpicion by the treachery of others, who are engaged without his knowledge in the ſame ſchemes, for he that has one confident has generally more, and when he is at laſt betrayed, is in doubt on whom he ſhall fix the crime.
THE rules therefore that I ſhall propoſe concerning ſecrecy, and from which I think it not ſafe to deviate, without long and exact [Page 116] deliberation, are—Never to ſolicit the knowledge of a ſecret. Not willingly, nor without many limitations, to accept ſuch confidence when it is offered. When a ſecret is once admitted, to conſider the truſt as of a very high nature, important as ſociety, and ſacred as truth, and therefore not to be violated for any incidental convenience, or ſlight appearance of contrary fitneſs.
HOR.—Nil fuit unquamSic diſpar ſibi—
AMONG the many inconſiſtencies which folly produces, or infirmity ſuffers in the human mind, there has often been obſerved a manifeſt and ſtriking contrariety between the life of an author and his writings; and Milton, in a letter to a learned ſtranger, by whom he had been viſited, with great reaſon congratulates himſelf upon the conſciouſneſs of being found equal to his own character, and having preſerved in a private and familiar interview that reputation which his works had procured him.
[Page 117] THOSE whom the appearance of virtue, or the evidence of genius, have tempted to a nearer knowledge of the writer in whoſe performances they may be found, have, indeed, had frequent reaſon to repent their curioſity; the bubble that ſparkled before them has become common water at the touch, and the phantom of perfection has vaniſhed when they wiſhed to preſs it to their boſom. They have loſt the pleaſure of imagining how far humanity may be exalted, and, perhaps, feel themſelves leſs inclined to toil up the ſleeps of virtue, when they obſerve thoſe who ſeem beſt able to point the way loitering below, as either afraid of the labour, or doubtful of the reward.
IT has been long the cuſtom of the oriental monarchs to hide themſelves in their gardens and their palaces, to avoid the converſation of mankind, and to be known to their ſubjects only by their edicts. The ſame policy is no leſs neceſſary to him that writes, than to him that governs; for men would, not more patiently ſubmit to be taught, than commanded, by one, who ſhould be known to have the ſame follies and weakneſſes with themſelves.
[Page 118] Perhaps, a ſudden intruder into the cloſet of an author would feel equal ſurpriſe and indignation with the officer, who having long ſolicited admiſſion into the preſence of Sardanapalus, ſaw him at laſt not conſulting upon laws, enquiring into grievances, planning fortifications, or modelling armies, but employed in feminine amuſements, and directing the ladies in their work.
IT is not difficult to conceive, however, that for many reaſons a man writes much better than he lives. For, without entering into refined ſpeculations, it is many degrees eaſier to deſign than to perform. A man propoſes his ſchemes of life in a ſtate of abſtraction and diſengagement, exempt from the enticements of hope, the ſolicitations of affection, the importunities of appetite, or the depreſſions of fear, and is in the ſame ſtate with him that teaches, upon land, the art of navigation, to whom the ſea is always ſmooth, and the wind is always proſperous.
THE mathematicians are well acquainted with the difference between pure ſcience, which has to do only with ideas, and the application of its laws to the uſe of life, in which [Page 119] they are conſtrained to ſubmit to the imperfection of matter and the influence of accidents: thus, in moral diſcuſſions it is to be remembred that many impediments obſtruct our practice, which very eaſily give way to theory. The ſpeculatiſt is only in danger of error, but the man involved in life has his own paſſions, and thoſe of others, to encounter, and is embarraſſed with a thouſand inconveniences on every ſide, which confound him with variety of impulſe, and either perplex or obſtruct his way. He is often forced to act without deliberation, and obliged to chooſe before he can examine; he is often ſurpriſed by ſudden alterations of the ſtate of things, and changes his meaſures according to ſuperficial appearances; he is often led by others, either becauſe he is indolent, or becauſe he is timorous; he is ſometimes afraid to know what is right, and ſometimes finds others diligent to deceive him.
WE are, therefore, not to wonder that moſt fail, amidſt tumult, and ſnares, and danger, in the obſervance of thoſe precepts, which they laid down in ſolitude, ſafety, and tranquillity, with a mind unbiaſſed, and with liberty unobſtructed. It is the condition of [Page 120] our preſent ſtate to ſee more than we can attain, the exacteſt vigilance and caution can never maintain a ſingle day of pure and unmingled innocence, much leſs can the utmoſt efforts of incorporated mind reach the ſummits of ſpeculative virtue.
IT is, however, neceſſary for the idea of perfection to be propoſed, that we may have ſome object to which our endeavours are to be directed; and he that is moſt deficient in the duties of life, makes ſome atonement for his faults, by warning others againſt his own failings, and endeavouring by the ſalubrity of his admonitions to hinder the contagion of his example.
NOTHING is more unreaſonable, however common, than to charge with hypocriſy him that expreſſes zeal for thoſe virtues, which he neglects to practiſe; ſince he may be ſincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his paſſions, without having yet obtained the victory, as a man may be confident of the advantages of a voyage, or a journey, without having courage, or induſtry, to undertake it, and may honeſtly recommend to others, thoſe attempts which he neglects himſelf.
[Page 121] THE intereſt which the corrupt part of mankind have in hardening themſelves againſt every motive to amendment, has diſpoſed them to give to theſe contradictions, when they can be produced againſt the cauſe of virtue, that weight which they will not allow them in any other caſe. They ſee men act in oppoſition to their intereſt, without ſuppoſing, on other occaſions, that they do not know it; they ſee them give way to the ſudden violence of paſſion, and forſake the moſt important perſuits for trivial pleaſures, without imagining that they have changed their ſentiments, or approve their own conduct. In moral or religious queſtions alone, they reſolve to determine the ſentiments by the actions, and charge every man with endeavouring to impoſe upon the world, whoſe writings are not confirmed by his life. They never conſider that they themſelves neglect, or practiſe ſomething every day, inconſiſtently with their own ſettled opinion, nor diſcover that the conduct of the advocates for virtue can little increaſe, or leſſen, the obligations of their dictates; argument is to be invalidated only by argument, and is in itſelf of the ſame force, whether or not it convinces him by whom it is propoſed.
[Page 122] YET ſince this prejudice, however unreaſonable, is always likely to have ſome prevalence, it is the duty of every man to take care leſt he ſhould hinder the efficacy of his own inſtructions. When he deſires to gain the belief of others, he ſhould ſhew that he believes himſelf; and when he teaches the fitneſs of virtue by his reaſonings, he ſhould, by his example, prove its poſſibility: Thus much at leaſt may be required of him, that he ſhall not act worſe than others becauſe he writes better, nor imagine that, by the merit of his genius, he may claim ſome indulgence beyond mortals of the lower claſſes, and be excuſed for want of prudence, or neglect of virtue.
BACON in his Hiſtory of the winds, after having offered ſomething to the imagination as deſirable, often propoſes lower advantages in its place to the reaſon as attainable. The ſame method may be ſometimes purſued in moral endeavours, which this philoſopher has obſerved in natural enquiries; and having firſt ſet poſitive and abſolute excellence before us, we may be pardoned though we ſink down to humbler virtue, trying, however, to keep our point always in view, and ſtruggling [Page 123] not to loſe ground, though we cannot gain it.
IT is recorded of Sir Matthew Hale, that he, for a long time, concealed the conſecration of himſelf to the ſtricter duties of religion, leſt, by ſome flagitious and ſhameful action, he ſhould bring piety into diſgrace. For the ſame reaſon, it may be prudent for a writer, who apprehends that he ſhall not enforce his own maxims by his domeſtic character, to conceal his name that he may not injure them.
THERE are, indeed, a far greater number whoſe curioſity to gain a more familiar knowledge of ſucceſsful writers, is not ſo much prompted by an opinion of their power to improve as to delight, and who expect from them not arguments againſt vice, or diſſertations on temperance or juſtice, but flights of wit, ſtrains of humour, and ſallies of pleaſantry, or, at leaſt, acute remarks, nice diſtinctions, juſtneſs of ſentiment, and elegance of diction.
THIS expectation is, indeed, ſpecious and probable, and yet, ſuch is the fate of all human hopes, that it is very often fruſtrated, and [Page 124] thoſe who raiſe admiration by their books, diſguſt by their company. A man of letters for the moſt part ſpends, in the privacies of ſtudy, that ſeaſon of life in which the manners are to be ſoftened into eaſe, and poliſhed into elegance, and, when he has gained knowledge enough to be reſpected, has neglected the minuter acts by which he might have pleaſed. When he enters life, if of a weak and timorous temper, he is diffident and baſhful, from the knowledge of his defects; or if he was born with ſpirit and reſolution, he is ferocious and arrogant from the conſciouſneſs of his merit: he is either diſſipated by the awe of ſuperior company, and unable to aſſemble his ideas, recollect his reading, and arrange his arguments; or he is hot, and dogmatical, quick in oppoſition, and tenacious in defence, diſabled by his own violence, and confuſed by his haſte to triumph.
THE graces of writing and converſation are of different kinds, and though he who excels in one might have been with opportunity and application equally ſucceſsful in the other, yet as many pleaſe by extemporary talk, though utterly unacquainted with the more accurate method, and more laboured beauties, which [Page 125] compoſition requires; ſo it is very poſſible that men, wholly accuſtomed to works of ſtudy, may want that readineſs of conception, and affluence of language, always neceſſary to colloquial entertainment. They may want addreſs to watch the hints which converſation offers for the diſplay of their particular attainments, or they may be ſo much unfurniſhed with matter on common ſubjects, that diſcourſe not profeſſedly literary glides over them as heterogeneous bodies, without admitting their conceptions to mix in the circulation.
A TRANSITION from an author's books to his converſation, is too often like an entrance into a large city, after a diſtant proſpect. Remotely, we ſee nothing but ſpires of temples, and turrets of palaces, and imagine it the reſidence of ſplendor, grandeur, and magnificence; but, when we have paſſed the gates, we find it perplexed with narrow paſſages, diſgraced with deſpicable cottages, embarraſſed with obſtructions, and clouded with ſmoke.
JUV.Et quando uberior vitiorum copia? QuandoMajor avaritiae patuit ſinus? Alca quandoHos animes?
THERE is no grievance, publick or private, of which, ſince I took upon me the office of a periodical monitor, I have received ſo many, or ſo earneſt complaints, as of the predominance of play; of a fatal paſſion for cards and dice, which ſeems to have overturned, not only the ambition of excellence, but the deſire of pleaſure, to have extinguiſhed the flames of the lover, as well as of the patriot; and threatens, in its further progreſs, to deſtroy all diſtinctions, both of rank and ſex, to cruſh all emulation, but that of fraud, to corrupt all thoſe claſſes of our people, whoſe anceſtors have, by their virtue, their induſtry, or their parfimony, given them the power of living in extravagance, idleneſs, and vice, and to leave them without knowledge, but of the modiſh games, and without wiſhes, but for lucky hands.
[Page 127] I HAVE found, by long experience, that there are few enterpriſes ſo hopeleſs as conteſts with the faſhion, in which the opponents are not only made confident by their numbers, and ſtrong by their union, but are hardened by contempt of their antagoniſt, whom they always look upon as a wretch of low notions, contracted views, mean converſation, and narrow fortune, who envies the elevations which he cannot reach, who would gladly imbitter the happineſs which his obſcurity, his inelegance, or his indigence deny him to partake, and who has no other end in his advice, than to revenge his own mortifications by hindering thoſe, whom their birth and taſte have ſet above them, from the enjoyment of their ſuperiority, and bringing them down to a level with himſelf.
THOUGH I have never found myſelf much affected by this formidable cenſure, which I have incurred often enough to be acquainted with its full force, yet I ſhall, in ſome meaſure, obviate it on this occaſion, by offering very little in my own name, either of argument, or intreaty, ſince thoſe who ſuffer by [Page 128] this general infatuation may be ſuppoſed beſt able to relate its effects.
THERE ſeems to be ſo little knowledge left in the world, and ſo little of that reflection practiſed, by which knowledge is to be gained, that I am in doubt, whether I ſhall be underſtood, when I complain of want of opportunity for thinking; or whether a condemnation, which at preſent ſeems irreverſible, to perpetual ignorance will raiſe any compaſſion, either in you, or your readers: yet I will venture to lay my ſtate before you, becauſe, I believe, it is natural, to moſt minds, to take ſome pleaſure in complaining of evils, of which they have no reaſon to be aſhamed.
I AM the daughter of a man of great fortune, whoſe diffidence of mankind, and, perhaps, the pleaſure of continual accumulation incline him to reſide upon his own eſtate, and to educate his children in his own houſe, where I was bred, if not with the moſt brilliant examples of virtue before my eyes, at leaſt remote enough from any incitements to vice; and, wanting neither leiſure, nor books, nor [Page 129] the acquaintance of ſome perſons of learning in the neighbourhood, I endeavour'd to acquire ſuch knowledge as might moſt recommend me to eſteem, and thought myſelf able to ſupport a converſation upon moſt of the ſubjects, which my ſex, and my condition, made it proper for me to underſtand.
I HAD, beſides my knowledge, as my mamma and my maid told me, a very fine face, and elegant ſhape, and with all theſe advantages had been ſeventeen months the reigning toaſt for twelve miles round, and never came to the monthly aſſembly, but I heard the old ladies that ſat by, wiſhing that it might end well, and their daughters criticiſing my air, my features, or my dreſs.
YOU know, Mr Rambler, that ambition is natural to youth, and curioſity to underſtanding, and therefore, will hear, without wonder, that I was deſirous to extend my victories over thoſe, who might give more honour to the conqueror; and that I found in a country life a continual repetition of the ſame pleaſures, which was not ſufficient to fill up the mind for the preſent, or raiſe any expectations of the [Page 130] future; and, I will confeſs to you, that I was impatient for a ſight of the town, and filled my thoughts with the diſcoveries which I ſhould make, the triumphs that I ſhould obtain, and the praiſes that I ſhould receive.
AT laſt the time came. My aunt, whoſe huſband has a ſeat in parliament, and a place at court, buried her only child, and ſent for me to ſupply the loſs. The hope that I ſhould ſo far inſinuate myſelf into their favour, as to obtain a conſiderable augmentation of my fortune, procured me every convenience for my departure, with great expedition; and I could not amidſt all my tranſports forbear ſome indignation to ſee with what readineſs the natural guardians of my virtue ſold me to a ſtate, which they thought more hazardous than it really was, as ſoon as a new acceſſion of fortune glittered in their eyes.
THREE days I was upon the road, and on the fourth morning my heart danced at the ſight of London. I was ſet down at my aunt's, and entered upon the ſcene of action. I expected now, from the age and experience of my aunt, ſome leſſons of prudential conduct; [Page 131] but, after the firſt civilties and firſt tears were over, was told what pity it was to have kept ſo fine a girl ſo long in the country; for that people who did not begin young ſeldom dealt their cards handſomely, or played them tolerably.
YOUNG perſons are commonly inclined to ſlight the remarks and counſels of their elders. I ſmiled, perhaps, with too much contempt, and was upon the point of telling her, that my time had not been paſt in ſuch trivial attainments. But I ſoon found that things are to be eſtimated, not by the importance of their effects, but the frequency of their uſe.
A FEW days after, my aunt gave me notice, that ſome company, which ſhe had been ſix weeks in collecting, was to meet that evening, and ſhe expected a finer aſſembly than had been ſeen all the winter. She expreſſed this in the jargon of a gameſter, and, when I aſked an explication of her terms of art, wondered where I had lived. I had already found my aunt ſo incapable of any rational concluſion, and ſo ignorant of every thing, whether great or little, that I had loſt all regard to her opinion, [Page 132] and dreſſed myſelf with great expectations of an opportunity to diſplay my charms among rivals, whoſe competition would not diſhonour me. The company came in, and after the curſory compliments of ſalutation, alike eaſy to the loweſt and the higheſt underſtanding, what was the reſult? The cards were broke open, the parties were formed, the whole night paſſed in a game, upon which the young and old were equally employed; nor was I able to attract an eye, or gain an ear, but being compelled to play without ſkill, I perpetually embarraſſed my partner, and ſoon perceived the contempt of the whole table gathering upon me.
I CANNOT but ſuſpect, Sir, that this odious faſhion is produced by a conſpiracy of the old, the ugly, and the ignorant, againſt the young and beautiful, the witty and the gay, as a contrivance to level all diſtinctions of nature and of art, to confound the world in a chaos of folly, to take from thoſe, who could outſhine them, all the advantages of mind and body, to withold youth from its natural pleaſures, deprive wit of its influence, and beauty of its charms, to fix thoſe hearts upon money, to [Page 133] which we have hitherto been entitled, to ſink life into a tedious uniformity, and to allow it no other hopes, or fears, but thoſe of robbing, and being robbed.
BE pleaſed, Sir, to inform thoſe of my ſex, who have minds capable of nobler ſentiments, that, if they will unite in vindication of their pleaſures and their prerogatives, they may fix a time, at which cards ſhall ceaſe to be in faſhion, or be left only to thoſe who have neither beauty to be loved, nor ſpirit to be feared; neither knowledge to teach, nor modeſty to learn; and who, having paſſed their youth in vice, are juſtly condemned to ſpend their age in folly.
I am, SIR, &c. CLEORA.
VEXATION will burſt my heart, if I do not give it vent. As you publiſh a paper, I inſiſt upon it, that you inſert this in your next, as ever you hope for the kindneſs and encouragement of any women of taſte, ſpirit, and virtue. I would have it publiſhed to the world, how deſerving wives are uſed by imperious coxcombs, that henceforth no woman [Page 134] may marry, who has not the patience of Grizzel. Nay, if even Grizzel had been married to a gameſter, her temper would never have held out. A wretch that loſes his good humour and humanity along with his money, and will not allow enough from his own extravagances to ſupport a woman of faſhion in the neceſſary amuſements of life!—Why does not he employ his wiſe head to make a figure in parliament, raiſe an eſtate, and get a title? That would be fitter for the maſter of a family, than rattling a noiſy dice-box; and then he might indulge his wife in a few ſlight expences and elegant diverſions.
WHAT if I was unfortunate at Brag?—ſhould he not have ſtayed to ſee how luck would turn another time? Inſtead of that, what does he do, but picks a quarrel, upbraids me with loſs of beauty, abuſes my acquaintance, ridicules my play, and inſults my underſtanding; ſays, forſooth, that women have not heads enough to play with any thing but dolls, and that they ſhould be employed in things proportionable to their underſtanding, keep at home, and mind family affairs.
I DO ſtay at home, Sir, and all the town [Page 135] knows I am at home every Sunday. I have had ſix routs this winter, and ſent out ten packs of cards in invitations to private parties. As for management, I am ſure he cannot call me extravagant, or ſay I do not mind my family. The children are out at nurſe in villages as cheap as any two little brats can be kept, nor have I ever ſeen them ſince; ſo he has no trouble about them. The ſervants live at board wages. My own dinners come from the Thatch'd houſe; and I have never paid a penny for any thing I have bought ſince I was married. As for play, I do think I may, indeed, indulge in that, now I am my own miſtreſs. Papa made me drudge at whiſt 'till I was tired of it; and, far from wanting a head, Mr Hoyle, when he had not given me above forty leſſons, ſaid I was one of his beſt ſcholars. I thought then with myſelf, that, if once I was at liberty, I would leave play, and take to reading romances, things ſo forbidden at our houſe, and ſo railed at, that it was impoſſible nor to fancy them very charming. Moſt fortunately, to ſave me from abſolute undutifulneſs, juſt as I was married came dear Brag into faſhion, and ever ſince it has been the joy of my life; ſo eaſy, ſo chearful and careleſs, ſo void of thought, and ſo genteel! [Page 136] Who can help loving it? Yet the perfidious thing has uſed me very ill of late, and tomorrow I ſhould have changed it for Faro. But, oh! this deteſtable to-morrow, a thing always expected, and never found.—Within this few hours muſt I be dragged into the country. The wretch, Sir, left me in a ſit, which his threatenings had occaſioned, and unmercifully ordered a poſt-chaiſe. Stay I cannot, for money I have none, and credit I cannot get—But I will make the monkey play with me at picquet upon the road for all I want. I am almoſt ſure to beat him, and his debts of honour I know he will pay. Then who can tell but I may ſtill come back and conquer lady Packer? Sir, you need not print this laſt ſcheme, and, upon ſecond thoughts, you may—Oh diſtraction! the poſt-chaiſe is at the door. Sir, publiſh what you will, only let it be printed without a name.
JUV.—Multis dicendi copia torrens,Et ſua mortifera eſt facundia—
I AM the modeſt young man whom you favoured with your advice, in a late paper; and, as I am very far from ſuſpecting that you foreſaw the numberleſs inconveniences which I have, by following it, brought upon myſelf, I will lay my condition open before you, for you ſeem bound to extricate me from the perplexities, in which your counſel, however innocent in the intention, has contributed to involve me.
YOU told me, as you thought, to my comfort, that a writer might eaſily find means of introducing his genius to the world, for the preſs of England was open. This I have now fatally experienced; the preſs is, indeed, open,
—Facilis deſcenſus Averni,Noctes atque dies patet atri janua Ditis.
THE means of doing hurt to ourſelves are [Page 138] always at hand. I immediately ſent to a printer, and contracted with him for an impreſſion of ſeveral thouſands of my pamphlet. While it was at the preſs, I was ſeldom abſent from the printing-houſe, and continually urged the workmen to haſte, by ſolicitations, promiſes, and rewards. From the day all other pleaſures were excluded, by the delightful employment of correcting the ſheets; and from the night ſleep was generally baniſhed, by anticipations of the happineſs, which every hour was bringing nearer.
AT laſt the time of publication approached, and my heart beat with the raptures of an author. I was above all little precautions, and, in defiance of envy, or of criticiſm, ſet my name upon the title, without ſufficiently conſidering, that what has once paſſed the preſs is irrevocable, and that though the printing-houſe may properly be compared to the infernal regions, for the facility of its entrance, and the difficulty with which authors return from it; yet there is this difference, that a great genius can never return to his former ſtate, by a happy draught of the waters of oblivion.
[Page 139] I AM now, Mr Rambler, known to be an author, and am condemned, irreverſibly condemned, to all the miſeries of high reputation. The firſt morning after publication my friends aſſembled about me; I preſented each, as is uſual, with a copy of my book. They looked into the firſt pages, but were hindered, by their admiration, from reading farther. The firſt pages are, indeed, very elaborate. Some paſſages they particularly dwelt upon, as more eminently beautiful than the reſt; and ſome more delicate ſtrokes, and ſecret elegancies, I pointed out to them, which had eſcaped their obſervation. I then begged of them to forbear their compliments, and invited them, I could not do leſs, to dine with me at a tavern. After dinner, the book was reſumed; but their praiſes very often ſo much overpowered my modeſty, that I was forced to put about the glaſs, and had often no means of repreſſing the clamours of their admiration, but by thundering to the drawer for another bottle.
NEXT morning another ſet of my acquaintance congratulated me upon my performance, with ſuch importunity of praiſe, that I was [Page 140] again forced to obviate their civilities by a treat. On the third day I had yet a greater number of applauders to put to ſilence in the ſame manner; and, on the fourth, thoſe whom I had entertained the firſt day came again, having, in the peruſal of the remaining part of the book, diſcovered ſo many forcible ſentences and maſterly touches, that it was impoſſible for me to bear the repetition of their commendations. I, therefore, perſuaded them once more to adjourn to the tavern, and chooſe ſome other ſubject, on which I might ſhare in the converſation. But it was not in their power to withold their attention from my performance, which had ſo intirely taken poſſeſſion of their minds, that no intreaties of mind could change their topick, and I was obliged to ſtifle, with claret, that praiſe, which neither my modeſty could hinder, nor my uneaſineſs redreſs.
THE whole week was thus ſpent in a kind of literary revel, and I have now found that nothing is ſo expenſive as great abilities, unleſs there is join'd with them an inſatiable eagerneſs of praiſe; for to eſcape from the pain of hearing myſelf exalted above the greateſt names dead and living of the learned world, it has [Page 141] already coſt me two hogſheads of port, fifteen gallons of arrack, ten dozen of claret, and five and forty bottles of champagne.
I WAS reſolved to ſtay at home no longer, and, therefore, roſe early and went to the coffeehouſe; but found that I had now made myſelf too eminent for happineſs, and that I was no longer to enjoy the pleaſure of mixing, upon equal terms, with the reſt of the world. As ſoon as I enter the room, I ſee part of the company raging with envy, which they endeavour to conceal, ſometimes with the appearance of laughter, and ſometimes with that of contempt; but the diſguiſe is ſuch, that I can diſcover the ſecret rancour of their hearts, and as envy is deſervedly its own puniſhment, I frequently indulge myſelf in tormenting them with my preſence.
BUT though there may be ſome ſlight ſatiſfaction received from the mortification of my enemies, yet my benevolence will not ſuffer me to take any pleaſure in the terrors of my friends. I have been cautious, ſince the appearance of my work, not to give myſelf more premeditated airs of ſuperiority, than the moſt rigid humility might allow. It is, indeed, [Page 142] not impoſſible that I may ſometimes have laid down my opinion, in a manner that ſhewed a conſciouſneſs of my ability to maintain it, or interrupted the converſation, when I ſaw its tendency, without ſuffering the ſpeaker to waſte his time in explaining his ſentiments; and, indeed, I did indulge myſelf for two days in a cuſtom of drumming with my fingers, when the company began to loſe themſelves in abſurdities, or to encroach upon ſubjects which I knew them unqualified to diſcuſs. But I generally acted with great appearance of reſpect, even to thoſe whoſe ſtupidity I pitied in my heart. Yet, notwithſtanding this exemplary moderation, ſo univerſal is the dread of uncommon powers, and ſuch the unwillingneſs of mankind to be made wiſer, that I have now for ſome days found myſelf ſhunned by all my acquaintance. If I knock at a door, no body is at home; if I enter a coffeehouſe, I have the box to myſelf. I live in the town like a lion in his deſart, or an eagle on his rock, too great for friendſhip or ſociety, and condemned to ſolitude, by unhappy elevation, and dreaded aſcendency.
NOR is my character only formidable to others, but burdenſome to myſelf. I naturally [Page 143] love to talk without much thinking, to ſcatter my merriment at random, and to relax my thoughts with ludicrous remarks and fanciful images; but ſuch is now the importance of my opinion, that I am afraid to offer it, leſt, by being eſtabliſhed too haſtily into a maxim, it ſhould be the occaſion of error to half the nation; and ſuch is the expectation with which I am attended, when I am going to ſpeak, that I frequently pauſe to reflect whether what I am about to utter is worthy of myſelf.
THIS, Sir, is ſufficiently miſerable, but there are ſtill greater calamities behind. You muſt have read how men of parts have had their cloſets rifled, and their cabinets broke open at the inſtigation of piratical bookſellers, for the profit of their works; and it is apparent, that there are many prints now ſold in the ſhops, of men whom you cannot ſuſpect of ſitting for that purpoſe, and whoſe likeneſſes muſt have been certainly ſtolen when their names made their faces vendible. Theſe conſiderations at firſt put me on my guard, and I have, indeed, found ſufficient reaſon for my caution, for I have diſcovered many people examining my countenance, with a curioſity that ſhewed their intention [Page 144] to draw it; I immediately left the houſe, but find the ſame behaviour in another.
OTHERS may be perſecuted, but I am hunted; I have good reaſon to believe that eleven painters are now dogging me, for they know that he who can get my face firſt will make his fortune. I often change my wig, and wear my hat over my eyes, by which I hope ſomewhat to confound them; for you know it is not fair to ſell my face, without admitting me to ſhare the profit.
I AM, however, not ſo much in pain for my face as for my papers, which I dare neither carry with me nor leave behind. I have, indeed, taken ſome meaſures for their preſervation, having put them in an iron cheſt, and fixed a padlock upon my cloſet. I change my lodgings five times a week, and always remove at the dead of night.
THUS I live, in conſequence of having given too great proofs of a predominant genius, in the ſolitude of a hermit, with the anxiety of a miſer, and the caution of an outlaw; afraid to ſhew my face, leſt it ſhould be copied; afraid to ſpeak, leſt I ſhould injure my character, [Page 145] and to write leſt my correſpondents ſhould publiſh my letters; always uneaſy leſt my ſervants ſhould ſteal my papers for the ſake of money, or my friends for that of the publick. This it is to ſoar above the reſt of mankind; and this repreſentation I lay before you, that I may be informed how to diveſt myſelf of the laurels which are ſo cumberſome to the wearer, and deſcend to the enjoyment of that quiet from which I find a writer of the firſt claſs ſo fatally debarred.
LUCAN.—Me non oracula certum,Sed mors certa facit.
IT is recorded of ſome eaſtern monarch, that he kept an officer in his houſe, whoſe employment it was to remind him of his mortality, by calling out every morning, at a ſtated hour; Remember, prince, that thou ſhalt die. And the contemplation of the frailneſs and uncertainty of our preſent ſtate appeared of ſo much importance to Solon of Athens, that he left this precept to future ages; Keep thine eye fixed upon the end of life.
[Page 146] A FREQUENT and attentive proſpect of that hour, which muſt put a period to all our ſchemes, and deprive us of all our acquiſitions, is, indeed, of the utmoſt efficacy to the juſt and rational diſpoſition of our affairs, and the wiſe and happy regulation of our lives; nor would ever any thing wicked, or often any thing abſurd, be undertaken or proſecuted by him who ſhould begin every day with a ſerious reflection, that he is born to die.
THE diſturbers of our happineſs, in this world, are our deſires, our griefs, and our fears, and to all theſe, the frequent conſideration of death is a certain and adequate remedy. Think, ſays Epictetus, frequently on poverty, baniſhment, and death, and thou wilt then never indulge any violent deſire, or give up thy heart to any mean ſentiment, [...].
THAT the maxim of Epictetus is founded on juſt obſervation will eaſily be granted, when we reflect, how that vehemence of eagerneſs after the common objects of perſuit is kindled in our minds. We repreſent to [Page 147] ourſelves the pleaſures of ſome future poſſeſſion, and ſuffer our thoughts to dwell attentively upon it, till it has wholly ingroſſed the imagination, and permits us not to conceive any other happineſs than its attainment, or any other miſery than its loſs; every other ſatisfaction which the bounty of providence has ſcattered over life is neglected as inconſiderable, in compariſon of the great object which we have placed before us, thrown from us as incumbering our activity, or trampled under foot as ſtanding in our way.
EVERY man has experienced, how much of this ardour has remitted, when a ſharp or tedious ſickneſs has ſet death before his eyes. The extenſive influence of greatneſs, the glitter of wealth, the praiſes of admirers, and the attendance of ſupplicants, have appeared vain and empty things, when the laſt hour has ſeemed to be approaching; and the ſame appearance they would always have, if the ſame thought was always predominant. We ſhould then find the abſurdity of ſtretching out our arms inceſſantly to graſp that which we cannot keep, and wearing out our lives in endeavours to add new turrets to the fabrick of ambition, when the foundation itſelf is ſhaking, and [Page 148] the ground on which it ſtands is mouldering away.
ALL envy is proportionate to deſire; we are uneaſy at the attainments of another, according as we think our own happineſs would be advanced by the addition of that which he witholds from us; and, therefore whatever depreſſes immoderate wiſhes, will, at the ſame time, ſet the heart free from the corroſion of envy, and exempt us from that vice, which is, above moſt others, tormenting to ourſelves, hateful to the world, and productive of mean artifices, and ſordid projects. He that conſiders how ſoon he muſt cloſe his life, will find nothing of ſo much importance as to cloſe it well; and will, therefore, look with indifference upon whatever is uſeleſs to that purpoſe. Whoever reflects frequently upon the uncertainty of his own duration, will eaſily find out, that the ſtate of others is not more permanent, and that what can confer nothing on himſelf very deſirable, cannot ſo much improve the condition of a rival, as to make him, in any great degree, ſuperior to thoſe from whom he has carried the prize, a prize too mean to excite a very obſtinate oppoſition.
[Page 149] EVEN grief, that paſſion, to which the virtuous and tender mind is more particularly ſubject, will be obviated, or alleviated, by the ſame reflection. It will be obviated, if all the bleſſings of our condition are enjoyed with a conſtant ſenſe of the uncertain tenure by which they are held: If we remember, that whatever we poſſeſs is to be in our hands but a very little time, and that the little, which our moſt lively hopes can promiſe us, may be made leſs, by ten thouſand accidents, we ſhall not much repine at a loſs, of which we cannot eſtimate the value, but of which, though we cannot tell the leaſt amount, we know, with ſufficient certainty, the greateſt, and are convinced that the greateſt is not much to be regretted.
BUT, if any paſſion has ſo much uſurped our underſtanding, as not to ſuffer us to enjoy our advantages with the moderation preſcribed by reaſon and by virtue, it is not too late to apply this remedy, when we find ourſelves ſinking under ſorrow, and inclined to pine for that which is irrecoverably vaniſhed. We may then uſefully revolve the uncertainty of our own condition, and the folly of lamenting [Page 150] that from which, if it had ſtayed little longer, we ſhould ourſelves have been taken away.
WITH regard to the ſharpeſt and moſt melting ſorrow, that which ariſes from the loſs of thoſe whom we have loved with tenderneſs, it may be obſerved, that friendſhip between mortals can be contracted on no other terms, than that one muſt ſometime mourn for the other's death: And this grief will always yield to the ſurviver one conſolation proportionate to his affliction; for the pain, whatever it be, that he himſelf feels, his friend has eſcaped.
NOR is fear, the moſt overbearing and reſiſtleſs of all our paſſions, leſs to be temperated by this univerſal medicine of the mind. The frequent contemplation of death, as it ſhows the vanity of all human good, diſcovers likewiſe the lightneſs of all terreſtrial evil, which, certainly, can laſt no longer than the ſubject upon which it acts, and, according to the old obſervation, muſt be ſhorter, as it is more violent. The moſt cruel calamity, which miſfortune can produce, muſt, by the neceſſity of nature, be quickly at an end. The ſoul cannot [Page 151] long be held in priſon, but will fly away, and leave a lifeleſs body to human malice. ‘—Ridetque ſui ludibria trunci.’
THE utmoſt that we can threaten to one another is that death, which, indeed, we may precipitate, but cannot retard, and from which, therefore, it cannot become a wiſe man to buy a reprieve at the expence of his virtue, ſince he knows not how ſmall a portion of time he can purchaſe, which, whether ſhort or long, will be made leſs valuable by the remembrance of the price by which it has been obtained. He is ſure that he deſtroys his happineſs, but is not ſure that he lengthens his life.
THE known ſhortneſs of life, as it ought to moderate our paſſions, may likewiſe, with equal propriety, contract our deſigns. There is not time for the moſt forcible genius, and moſt active induſtry, to extend its effects beyond a certain ſphere. To project the conqueſt of the world, is the madneſs of ſome mighty princes; to hope for excellence in every ſcience, has been the folly of ſome men of uncommon genius; and both have found, at laſt, that they have panted for a height of [Page 152] eminence denied to humanity, and have loſt many opportunities of making themſelves uſeful and happy, by a vain ambition of obtaining a ſpecies of honour, which the eternal laws of providence have placed beyond the reach of man.
THE miſcarriages of the great deſigns of princes are recorded in the hiſtories of the world, but when they are read, are of little uſe to the bulk of mankind, who ſeem very little intereſted in admonitions againſt errors which they cannot commit. But the fate of literary ambition is a proper ſubject for every ſcholar to conſider; for who has not had occaſion to regret the diſſipation of great abilities in a boundleſs multiplicity of perſuits, to lament the ſudden deſertion of many excellent deſigns, upon the offer of ſome other ſubject, made more inviting by its novelty, and to obſerve the inaccuracy and deficiencies of works left unfiniſhed by too great an extention of the plan?
IT is always pleaſing to obſerve, how much more our minds can conceive, than our bodies can perform; yet it is our duty, while we continue in this complicated ſtato, to regulato [Page 153] one part of our compoſition by ſome regard to the other. We are not to indulge our corporeal appetites with pleaſures that impair our intellectual vigour, nor gratify our minds with ſchemes which we know our lives muſt fail in attempting to execute. The uncertainty of our duration ought at once to ſet bounds to our deſigns, and add incitements to our induſtry; and when we find ourſelves inclined either to immenſity in our ſchemes, or ſluggiſhneſs in our endeavours, we may either check, or animate, ourſelves, by recollecting, with the father of phyſic, that art is long, and life is ſhort.
HOR.Illic matre carentibusPrivignis mulier temperat innocens,Nec dotata regit virumConjux, nec nitido fidit adultero;Dos eſt magna parentumVirtus, et metuens alterius toriCerto foedere caſtitas.
THERE is no obſervation more frequently made by ſuch as employ themſelves in ſurveying the conduct of mankind, than [Page 154] that marriage, though the dictate of nature, and the inſtitution of providence, is yet very often the cauſe of miſery, and that thoſe who enter into that ſtate can ſeldom forbear to expreſs their repentance of the folly, and their envy of thoſe whom either chance or caution has witheld from it.
THIS general unhappineſs has given occaſion to many ſage maxims among the ſerious, and ſmart remarks among the gay; the moraliſt and the writer of epigrams have equally ſhown their abilities upon it; ſome have lamented, and ſome have ridiculed it; but as the faculty of writing has been chiefly a maſculine endowment, the reproach of making the world miſerable has been always thrown upon the women, and the grave and the merry have equally thought themſelves at liberty to conclude either with declamatory complaints, or ſatirical cenſures of female folly or fickleneſs, ambition or cruelty, extravagance or luſt.
LED by ſuch a number of examples, and incited by my ſhare in the common intereſt, ſometimes venture to conſider this univerſal grievance, having endeavoured to diveſt my [Page 155] heart of all partiality, and place myſelf as a kind of neutral being between the ſexes, whoſe clamours, if we attend only to the world paſſing before us, being equally loud, and vented on both ſides with all the vehemence of diſtreſs, all the apparent confidence of juſtice, and all the indignation of injured virtue, ſeem therefore entitled to equal regard. The men have, indeed, by their ſuperiority of writing, been able to collect the evidence of many ages, and raiſe prejudices in their favour by the venerable teſtimonies of philoſophers, hiſtorians and poets. But the pleas of the ladies appeal to paſſions of more forcible operation than the reverence of antiquity; if they have not ſo great names on their ſide, they have ſtronger arguments; it is to little purpoſe that Socrates, or Euripides, are produced againſt the ſighs of ſoftneſs, and the tears of beauty. The moſt frigid and inexorable judge would, at leaſt, ſtand ſuſpended between equal powers, as Lucan was perplexed in the determination of the cauſe, where the deities were on one ſide, and Cato on the other.
BUT I, who have long ſtudied the ſevereſt and moſt abſtracted philoſophy, have now, in the cool maturity of life, arrived to ſuch command [Page 156] over my paſſions, that I can hear the vociferations of either ſex without catching any of the fire from thoſe that utter them. For I have found, by long experience, that a man will ſometimes rage at his wife, when in reality his miſtreſs has offended him; and a lady complain of the cruelty of her huſband, when ſhe has no other enemy than bad cards. I do not ſuffer myſelf now to be any longer impoſed upon by oaths on one ſide, or fits on the other; nor when the huſband haſtens to the tavern, and the lady retires to her cloſet, am I always confident that they are driven to to it by their miſeries; ſince I have ſometimes reaſon to believe, that they purpoſe not ſo much to ſooth their ſorrows, as to animate their fury. But how little credit ſoever may be given to particular accuſations, the general accumulation of the charge ſhews, with too much evidence, that married perſons are not very often advanced in felicity; and, therefore, it may be proper to examine at what avenues ſo many evils have made their way into the world. With this purpoſe, I have reviewed the lives of my friends, who have been leaſt ſucceſsful in connubial contracts, and attentively conſidered by what motives they were incited to marry, and by what principles they regulated their choice.
[Page 157] ONE of the firſt of my acquaintances that reſolved to quit the unſettled thoughtleſs condition of a batchelor was Prudentius, a man of ſlow parts, but not without knowledge or judgment in things which he had leiſure to conſider gradually before he determined them. Whenever we met at a tavern, it was his province to ſettle the ſcheme of our entertainment, contract with the cook, and inform us when we had called for wine to the ſum originally propoſed. This grave conſiderer found by deep meditation that a man was no loſer by marrying early, even though he contented himſelf with a leſs fortune; for eſtimating the exact worth of annuities, he found that, conſidering the conſtant diminution of the value of life, with the probable fall of the intereſt of money, it was not worſe to have ten thouſand pounds at the age of two and twenty years, than a much larger fortune at thirty; for many opportunities, ſays he, occur of improving money, which if a man miſſes, he may not afterwards recover.
FULL of theſe reflections he threw his eyes about him, not in ſearch of beauty, or elegance, or dignity, or underſtanding, but of a woman [Page 158] with ten thouſand pounds. Such a woman, in a wealthy part of the kingdom, it was not very difficult to find; and by artful management with her father, whoſe ambition was to make his daughter a gentlewoman, my friend got her, as he boaſted to us in confidence two days after his marriage, for a ſettlement of ſeventy three pounds a year leſs than her fortune might have claimed, and leſs than he would himſelf have given, if the fools had been but wiſe enough to delay the bargain.
THUS, at once delighted with the ſuperiority of his parts, and the augmentation of his fortune, he carried Furia to his own houſe, in which he never afterwards enjoyed one hour of happineſs. For Furia was a wretch of mean intellects, violent paſſions, a ſtrong voice, and low education, without any ſenſe of happineſs but that which conſiſted in eating, and counting money. Furia was a ſcold. They agreed in the deſire of wealth, but with this difference, that Prudentius was for growing rich by gain, Furia by parſimony. Prudentius would venture his money with chances very much in his favour; but Furia very wiſely obſerving that what they had was, while they had it, their own, thought all traſſick [Page 159] too great a hazard, and was for putting it out at low intereſt, upon good ſecurity. Prudentius ventured, however, to inſure a ſhip, at a very unreaſonable price, but happening to loſe his money, was ſo tormented with the clamours of his wife, that he never durſt try a ſecond experiment. He has now grovelled ſeven and forty years under Furia's direction, who has never mentioned him, ſince his bad luck, by any other name than that of the inſurer.
THE next that married from our ſociety was Florentius. He happened to ſee Zephyretta in a chariot at a horſe-race, danced with her at night, was confirmed in his firſt ardour, waited on her next morning, and declared himſelf her lover. Florentius had not knowledge enough of the world, to diſtinguiſh between the flutter of coquetry, and the ſprightlineſs of wit, or between the ſmile of allurement, and that of chearfulneſs. He was ſoon waked from his rapture by conviction that his pleaſure was but the pleaſure of a day. Zephyretta had in four and twenty hours ſpent her ſtock of repartee, gone round the circle of her airs, and had nothing remaining for him but childiſh inſipidity, or for herſelf, but the [Page 160] practice of the ſame artifices upon new men; by which ſhe is every day bringing contempt upon them both.
MELISSUS was a man of parts, capable of enjoying, and of improving life. He had paſſed through the various ſcenes of gayety with that indifference and poſſeſſion of himſelf, natural to men who have ſomething higher and nobler in their proſpect. Retiring to ſpend the ſummer in a village little frequented, he happened to lodge in the ſame houſe with Ianthe, and was unavoidably drawn to ſome acquaintance, which her wit and politeneſs ſoon invited him to improve. Having no opportunity of any other company, they were always together; and, as they owed their pleaſures to each other, they began to forget that any pleaſure was enjoyed before their meeting. Meliſſus from being delighted with her company, quickly began to be uneaſy in her abſence, and being ſufficiently convinced of the force of her underſtanding, and finding, as he imagined, ſuch a conformity of temper as declared them formed for each other, he addreſſed her as a lover, after no very long courtſhip obtained her for his wife, and brought her next winter to town in triumph.
[Page 161] Now began their inſelicity. Meliſſus had only ſeen her in one ſcene, where there was no variety of objects, to produce the proper excitements to contrary deſires. They had both loved ſolitude and reflection, where there was nothing but ſolitude and reflection to be loved, but when they came into publick life, Ianthe diſcovered thoſe paſſions which accident rather than hypocriſy had hitherto concealed. She was, indeed, not without the power of thinking, for that he would have detected, but was wholly without the exertion of that power, when either gayety, or ſplendour, played on her imagination. She was expenſive in her diverſions, vehement in her paſſions, inſatiate of pleaſure however dangerous to her reputation, and eager of applauſe by whomſoever it might be given. This was the wife which Meliſſus the philoſopher found in his retirement, and from whom he expected an aſſociate in his ſtudies, and an aſſiſtant to his virtues.
PROSAPIUS, upon the death of his younger brother, that the family might not be extinct, married his houſekeeper, and has ever ſince been complaining to his friends that mean [Page 162] notions are inſtilled into his children, that he is aſhamed to ſit at his own table, and that his houſe is uneaſy to him for want of ſuitable companions.
AVARO, maſter of a very large eſtate, took a woman of bad reputation, recommended to him by a rich uncle, who made that marriage the condition on which he ſhould be his heir. Avaro now wonders to perceive his own fortune, his wife's, and his uncle's, inſufficient to give him that happineſs which is to be found only with a woman of virtue.
I intend to treat in more papers on this important article of life, to relate the reaſons, which influenced not only others of my friends, but ſome ladies whom I have known, in the choice of an inſeparable companion, and give account of more cauſes which have diſappointed the hope of lovers. I ſhall, therefore, make no reflexion upon theſe hiſtories, except that all whom I have mentioned failed to obtain happineſs, for want of conſidering that marriage is the ſtricteſt tye of perpetual friendſhip; that there can be no friendſhip without confidence, and no confidence without integrity; and that he muſt expect [Page 163] to be wretched, who pays to beauty, riches, or politeneſs, that regard which only virtue and piety can claim.
MART.Dum te cauſidicum, dum te modo rhetora ſingis,Et non decernis, Taure, quid eſſe velis,Peleos & Priami tranſit, vel Neſtoris aetas,Et ſerum ſuerat jam tibi deſinere.—Eja, age, rumpe moras, quo te ſpectabimus uſque?Dum quid ſis dubitas, jam potes eſſe nihil.
IT is never without very melancholy reflexions, that we can obſerve the miſconduct, or miſcarriage, of thoſe men, who ſeem, by the force of underſtanding, or extent of knowledge, exempted from the general frailties of human nature, and privileged from the common infelicities of life. Though the world is crowded with ſcenes of calamity, we look, for the moſt part, upon the general maſs of wretchedneſs with very little regard, and fix our eyes upon the ſtate of particular perſons, whom the eminence of their qualities marks [Page 164] out from the multitude; as, in reading an account of a battle, we ſeldom reflect on the vulgar heaps of ſlaughter, but follow the hero, with our whole attention, through all the varieties of his fortune, without a thought of the thouſands that are falling round him.
WITH the ſame kind of anxious veneration I have for many years been making obſervations on the life of Polyfilus, a man whom all his acquaintances have, from his firſt appearance in the world, feared for the quickneſs of his diſcernment, and admired for the multiplicity of his attainments, but whoſe progreſs in life, and uſefulneſs to mankind has, perhaps, been hindered by the ſuperfluity of his knowledge, and the celerity of his mind.
POLYPHILUS was remarkable, at the ſchool, for ſurpaſſing all his companions, without any viſible application, and at the univerſity was diſtinguiſhed equally for his ſucceſsful progreſs as well through the rough and thorny mazes of ſcience, as the ſmooth and flowery path of politer literature, without any ſtrict confinement to hours of ſtudy, or any remarkable forbearance of the common amuſements of young men.
[Page 165] WHEN Polyphilus was at the age, in which men uſually chuſe their profeſſion, and prepare to enter into a public character, every academical eye was fixed upon him; all were curious to inquire, what this univerſal genius would fix upon for the employment of his life; and no doubt was made but that he would leave all his contemporaries behind him, and mount to the higheſt honours of that claſs, in which he ſhould inliſt himſelf, without thoſe delays and pauſes which muſt be always endured by meaner abilities.
POLYPHILUS, though by no means inſolent or aſſuming, had been ſufficiently encouraged, by uninterrupted ſucceſs, to place great confidence in his own parts; and was not below his companions in the indulgence of his hopes, and expectation of the aſtoniſhment with which the world would be ſtruck, when firſt his luſtre ſhould break out upon it; nor could he forbear (for whom does not conſtant flattery intoxicate?) to join ſometimes in the mirth of his friends, at the ſudden diſappearance of thoſe, who, having ſhone awhile, and drawn the eyes of the public upon their feeble radiance, were now doomed to fade away before him.
[Page 166] IT is natural for a man to catch advantageous notions of the condition which thoſe, with whom he converſes, are ſtriving to attain. Polyphilus, in a ramble to London, fell accidentally among the phyſicians, and was ſo much pleaſed with the proſpect of turning philoſophy to profit, and ſo highly delighted with a new theory of fevers which darted into his imagination, and which, after having conſidered it a few hours, he found himſelf able to maintain againſt all the advocates for the ancient ſyſtem, that he reſolved to apply himſelf to anatomy, botany, and chemiſtry, and to leave no part unconquered either of the animal, mineral, or vegetable kingdoms.
HE therefore read authors, conſtructed ſyſtems, and tried experiments; but unhappily, as he was going to ſee a new plant in flower at Chelſea, he met, in croſſing Weſtminſter to take water, the chancellor's coach; he had the curioſity to follow him into the hall, where a remarkable cauſe happened to be tryed, and found himſelf able to produce ſo many arguments, which the lawyers had omitted on both ſides, that he determined to quit phyſic [Page 167] for a profeſſion, in which he found it would be ſo eaſy to excel, and which promiſed higher honours, and larger profits, without melancholy attendance upon miſery, mean ſubmiſſion to peeviſhneſs, and continual interruption of reſt and pleaſure.
HE immediately took chambers in the Temple, bought a common-place-book, and confined himſelf for ſome months to the peruſal of the ſtatutes, year-books, pleadings, and reports; he was a conſtant hearer of the proceedings in the courts, and began to put caſes with reaſonable accuracy. But he ſoon diſcovered, by conſidering the fortune of lawyers, that preferment was not to be got by acuteneſs, learning, and eloquence. He was perplexed by the abſurdities of attorneys, and miſrepreſentations made by his clients of their own cauſes, by the uſeleſs anxiety of one, and the inceſſant importunity of another; he began to repent of having devoted himſelf to a ſtudy, which was ſo narrow in its comprehenſion that it could never carry his name to any other country, and thought it unworthy of a man of parts to ſell his life only for money. The barrenneſs of his fellow-ſtudents forced him generally into other company at his hours [Page 168] of entertainment, and among the varieties of converſation, through which his curioſity was daily wandering, he, by chance, mingled at a tavern with ſome intelligent officers of the army. A man of letters was eaſily dazzled with the gaiety of their appearance, and ſoftened into kindneſs by the politeneſs of their addreſs; he, therefore, cultivated this new acquaintance, and when he ſaw how readily they found in every place admiſſion and regard, and how familiarly they mingled with every rank and order of men, he began to feel his heart beat for military honours, and wondered how the prejudices of the univerſity ſhould make him ſo long inſenſible of that ambition, which has fired ſo many hearts in every age, and negligent of that calling, which is, above all others, univerſally and invariably illuſtrious, and which gives, even to the exterior appearance of its profeſſors, a dignity and freedom unknown to the reſt of mankind.
THESE favourable impreſſions were made ſtill deeper by his converſation with ladies, whoſe regard for ſoldiers he could not obſerve, without wiſhing himſelf one of that happy fraternity, to which the female world ſeemed to have devoted their charms and their kindneſs. [Page 169] The love of knowledge, which was ſtill his predominant inclination, was gratified by the recital of adventures, and accounts of foreign countries; and, therefore, he thought there was no way of life, in which all his views could ſo compleatly concenter as in that of a ſoldier. In the art of war he thought it not difficult to excel, having obſerved his new friends not very much verſed in the principles of tacticks or fortification; and, therefore, he ſtudied all the military writers both antient and modern, and, in a ſhort time, could tell how to have gained every remarkable battle that had been loſt from the beginning of the world. He often ſhewed at table how Alexander ſhould have been checked in his conqueſts, what was the fatal error at Pharſalia, how Charles of Sweden might have eſcaped his ruin at Pultowa, and Marlborough might have been made to repent his temerity at Blenheim. He entrenched armies upon paper ſo that no ſuperiority of numbers could force them, and modelled in clay many impregnable fortreſſes, on which all the preſent arts of attack would be exhauſted without effect.
POLYPHILUS, in a ſhort time, obtained a commiſſion; but before he could rub off the [Page 170] ſolemnity of a ſcholar, and gain the true air of military vivacity, a war was declared, and forces ſent to the continent. Here Polyphilus unhappily found that ſtudy alone would not make a ſoldier; for being much accuſtomed to think, he let the ſenſe of danger ſink into his mind, and felt at the approach of any action that terror which a ſentence of death would have brought upon him. He ſaw that, inſtead of conquering their fears, the endeavour of his gay friends was only to eſcape them; but his philoſophy chained his mind to its object, and rather loaded him with ſhackles than furniſhed him with arms. He, however, ſuppreſſed his miſery in ſilence, and paſſed through the campaign with honour, but found himſelf utterly unable to ſupport another.
HE then had recourſe again to his books, and continued to range from one ſtudy to another. As I uſually viſit him once a month, and am admitted to him without previous notice, I have found him, within this laſt half year, decyphering the Chineſe language, making a farce, collecting a vocabulary of the obſolete terms of the Engliſh law, writing an inquiry concerning the ancient Corinthian [Page 171] braſs, and forming a new ſcheme of the variations of the needle.
THUS is this powerful genius, which might have extended the ſphere of any ſcienceor benefited the world in any profeſſion, diſſipated in a boundleſs variety, without any profit to others or himſelf. He makes ſudden irruptions into the regions of knowledge, and ſees all obſtacles give way before him; but he never ſtays long enough to compleat his conqueſt, to eſtabliſh laws, or bring away the ſpoils.
SUCH is often the folly of thoſe men, whom nature has enabled to obtain ſkill and knowledge, on terms ſo eaſy, that they have no ſenſe of the value of the acquiſition; who are qualified to make ſuch ſpeedy progreſs in learning, that they think themſelves at liberty to loiter in the way, and often, by turning aſide after every new object, like Atalanta, loſe the race to ſlower competitors, who preſs diligently forward, and whoſe force is directed to a ſingle point.
I HAVE often thought thoſe happy that have been fixed, from the firſt dawn of [Page 172] thought, in a determination to ſome ſtate of life, by the choice of one, whoſe authority may preclude caprice, and whoſe influence may prejudice them in favour of his opinion. The general precept of conſulting the genius is of little uſe, unleſs we are told, how the genius can be known. If it is to be diſcovered only by experiment, life will be loſt, before the reſolution can be fixed; if any other indications are to be found, they may, perhaps, be very early diſcerned. At leaſt, if to miſcarry in an attempt, be a proof of having miſtaken the direction of the genius, men appear not leſs frequently deceived with regard to themſelves than to others; and, therefore, no one has much reaſon to complain that his life was planned out by his friends, or to be confident that he ſhould have had either more honour, or happineſs, by being abandoned to the chance of his own fancy.
IT was ſaid of the learned biſhop Sanderſon, that, when he was preparing his lectures, he heſitated ſo much, and rejected ſo often, that, at the time of reading, he was often forced to produce, not what was beſt, but what happened to be at hand. This will be the ſtate of every man, who, in the choice [Page 173] of his employment, balances all the arguments on every ſide; the complication is ſo intricate, the motives and objections ſo numerous, there is ſo much play for the imagination, and ſo much remains in the power of others, that reaſon is forced at laſt to reſt in neutrality, the deciſion devolves into the hands of chance, and after a great part of life ſpent in inquiries which can never be reſolved, the reſt muſt often paſs in repenting the unneceſſary delay, and can be uſeful to few other purpoſes than to warn others, againſt the ſame folly, and to ſhow, that of two ſtates of life equally conſiſtent with religion and virtue, he who chuſes earlieſt chuſes beſt.
AMONG the numerous ſtratagems, by which pride endeavours to recommend folly to regard, there is ſcarcely one that meets with leſs ſucceſs than affectation, or a perpetual diſguiſe of the real character, by fictitious appearances: whether it be, that every [Page 174] man hates falſhood, from the natural congruity of truth to his faculties of reaſon, or that every man is jealous of the honour of his underſtanding, and thinks his diſcernment conſequentially called in queſtion, whenever any thing is exhibited under a borrowed form.
THIS averſion from all kinds of diſguiſe, whatever be its cauſe, is univerſally diffuſed, and inceſſantly in action; nor is it neceſſary, that, to exaſperate deteſtation, or excite contempt, any intereſt ſhould be invaded, or any competition attempted; it is ſufficient, that there is an intention to deceive, an intention which every heart ſwells to oppoſe, and every tongue is buſy to detect.
THIS reflexion was awakened in my mind by a very common practice among my correſpondents, of writing under characters which they cannot ſupport, which are of no uſe to the explanation of that which they deſcribe, or the enforcement of that which they recommend; and which, therefore, ſince they can be ſuppoſed to aſſume them only for the ſake of diſplaying their abilities, I will adviſe them for the future to forbear as laborious without advantage,
[Page 175] IT is almoſt a general ambition of thoſe, who favour me with their advice for the regulation of my conduct, or their contribution for the aſſiſtance of my underſtanding, to affect the ſtyle and the names of ladies. And I cannot always withold ſome expreſſion of anger, like Hugh in the comedy, when I happen to find that a woman has a beard. I muſt, therefore, warn the gentle Phyllis, that ſhe ſend me no more letters from the Horſe-Guards; and require of Belinda, that ſhe be content to reſign her pretention to female elegance, till ſhe has lived three weeks without hearing the politicks of Batſon's coffee-houſe. I muſt indulge myſelf in the liberty of obſerving, that there were ſome alluſions in Chloris's production, ſufficient to ſhew that Bracton and Plowden are her favourite authors; and that Euphelia has not been long enough at home, to wear out all the traces of the phraſeology which ſhe learned in the expedition to Carthagena.
AMONG all my female friends, there was none who gave me more trouble to decypher her true character, than Pentheſilea, whoſe letter lay upon my deſk three days, before I [Page 176] could fix upon the real writer. There was a confuſion of images, and medley of barbarity, which held me long in ſuſpenſe; till by perſeverance, I diſentangled the perplexity, and found, that Pentheſilea is the ſon of a wealthy ſtock-jobber, who ſpends his morning under his father's eye, in 'Change-Alley, dines at a tavern in Covent-Garden, paſſes his evening in the playhouſe, and part of the night at a gaming-table, and having learned the dialect of theſe various regions, has mingled them all in a ſtudied compoſition.
WHEN Lee was once told by a critic, that it was very eaſy to write like a madman, he anſwered, that it was difficult to write like a madman, but eaſy enough to write like a fool; and, I hope to be excuſed by my kind contributors, if, in imitation of this great author, I preſume to remind them, that it is much eaſier not to write like a man, than to write like a woman.
I HAVE, indeed, ſome ingenious well-wiſhers, who, without departing from their ſex, have found very wonderful diſtinctions. A very ſmart letter has been ſent me from a puny enſign, ſigned Ajax Telamonius; another, [Page 177] in recommendation of a new treatiſe upon cards, from a gameſter, who calls himſelf Seſoſtris; and another upon the improvements of the fiſhery, from Diocleſian: but as theſe ſeem only to have picked up their appellations by chance, without endeavouring at any particular impoſture, their improprieties are rather inſtances of blunder, than of affectation, and are, therefore, not equally fitted to inflame the hoſtile paſſions; for it is not folly but pride, not error but deceit, which the world means to perſecute, when it raiſes the full cry of nature to hunt down affectation.
THE hatred, which diſſimulation always draws upon itſelf, is ſo great, that if I did not know how much cunning differs from wiſdom, I ſhould wonder that any men have ſo little knowledge of their own intereſt, as to aſpire to wear a maſk for life; to try to impoſe upon the world a character, to which they feel themſelves void of any juſt claim; and to hazard their quiet, their fame, and even their profit, by expoſing themſelves to the danger of that reproach, malevolence, and neglect, which ſuch a diſcovery as they have always to fear will certainly bring upon them.
[Page 178] IT might be imagined, that the pleaſure of reputation ſhould conſiſt in the ſatisfaction of having our opinion of our own merit confirmed by the ſuffrage of the publick; and that, to be extolled for a quality, which a man knows himſelf to want, ſhould give him no other happineſs than to be miſtaken for the owner of an eſtate, over which he chances to be travelling. But he, who ſubſiſts upon affectation, knows nothing of this delicacy; like a deſperate adventurer in commerce, he takes up reputation upon truſt, mortgages poſſeſſions which he never had, and enjoys, to the fatal hour of bankrupcy, though with a thouſand terrors and anxieties, the unneceſſary ſplendour of borrowed riches.
AFFECTATION is to be always diſtinguiſhed from hypocriſy, as being the art of counterfeiting thoſe qualities, which we might, with innocence and ſafety, be known to want. Thus the man, who, to carry on any fraud, or to conceal any crime, pretends to rigours of devotion, and exactneſs of life, is guilty of hypocriſy; and his guilt is greater, as the end, for which he puts on the falſe appearance, is more pernicious. But he that, with an [Page 179] awkward addreſs, and unpleaſing countenance, boaſts of the conqueſts made by him among the ladies, and counts over the thouſands which he might have proſſeſſed if he would have ſubmitted to the yoke of matrimony, is chargeable only with affectation. Hypocriſy is the neceſſary burthen of villainy, affectation part of the choſen trappings of folly; the one completes a villain, the other only finiſhes a fop. Contempt is the proper puniſhment of affectation, and deteſtation the juſt conſequence of hypocriſy.
WITH the hypocrite it is not at preſent my intention to expoſtulate, though even he might be taught the excellency of virtue, by the neceſſity of ſeeming to be virtuous; but the man of affectation may, perhaps, be reclaimed, by finding how little he is likely to gain by perpetual conſtraint, and inceſſant vigilance, and how much more ſecurely he might make his way to eſteem, by cultivating real, than diſplaying counterfeit qualities.
EVERY thing future is to be eſtimated by a wiſe man, in proportion to the probability of attaining it, and its value when attained; and neither of theſe conſiderations will much contribute [Page 180] to the encouragement of affectation. For, if the pinacles of fame be, at beſt, ſlippery, how unſteady muſt his footing be who ſtands upon pinacles without foundation! If praiſe be made, by the inconſtancy and malice of thoſe who muſt confer it, a bleſſing which no man can promiſe himſelf from the moſt conſpicuous merit, and vigorous induſtry, how faint muſt be the hope of gaining it, when the uncertainty is multiplied by the weakneſs of the pretenſions! He that perſues fame with juſt claims, truſts his happineſs to the winds; but he that endeavours after it, by falſe merit, has to fear, not only the violence of the ſtorm, but the leaks of his veſſel. Though he ſhould happen to keep above water for a time, by the help of a ſoft breeze, and a calm ſea, at the firſt guſt he muſt inevitably founder, with this melancholy reflexion, that, if he would have been content with his natural ſtation, he might have eſcaped his calamity. Affectation my poſſibly ſucceed for a time, and a man may, by great attention, perſuade others, that he really has the qualities, which he preſumes to boaſt; but the hour will come when he ſhould exert them, and then whatever he enjoyed in praiſe, he muſt ſuffer in reproach.
[Page 181] APPLAUSE and admiration are by no means to be counted among the neceſſaries of life, and therefore any indirect arts to obtain them have very little claim to pardon or compaſſion. There is ſcarcely any man without ſome valuable or improvable qualities, by which he might always ſecure himſelf from contempt. And perhaps exemption from ignominy is the moſt eligible reputation, as freedom from pain is, among ſome philoſophers, the definition of happineſs.
IF we therefore compare the value of the praiſe obtained by fictitious excellence, even while the cheat is yet undiſcovered, with that kindneſs which every man may win by his virtue, and that eſteem which moſt men may gain by common underſtanding ſteadily and honeſtly applied, we ſhall find that when from the adſcititious happineſs all the deductions are made by fear and accident, there will remain nothing equiponderant to the ſecurity of truth. The ſtate of the poſſeſſor of humble virtues, to the affecter of great excellencies, is that of a ſmall well built cottage of ſtone, to the palace raiſed with ice by the empreſs of Ruſſia; it was for a time ſplendid and luminous, but the firſt ſhunſhine melted it to nothing.
OVID.Terra ſalutiferas herbas, eademque nocentes,Nutrit; & urticae proxima ſaepe roſa eſt.
EVERY man is prompted by the love of himſelf to imagine, that he poſſeſſes ſome peculiar qualities, ſuperior, either in kind or in degree, to thoſe which he ſees allotted to the reſt of the world; and, whatever apparent diſadvantages he may ſuffer in the compariſon with others, he has ſome inviſible diſtinctions, ſome latent reſerve of excellence, which he throws into the balance, and by which he generally fancies that it is turned in his favour.
THE ſtudious and ſpeculative part of mankind have always ſeemed to conſider their fraternity, as placed in a ſtate of oppoſition to thoſe who are engaged in the tumult of public buſineſs; and have pleaſed themſelves, from age to age, with celebrating the felicity of their own condition, and with recounting the perplexity of politics, the dangers of greatneſs, the anxieties of ambition, and the miſeries of riches.
[Page 183] AMONG the numerous topics of declamation, that their induſtry has diſcovered on this ſubject, there is none which they preſs with greater efforts, or on which they have more copiouſly laid out their reaſon and their imagination, than the inſtability of high ſtations, and the uncertainty with which their profits and honours are poſſeſſed, that muſt be acquired with ſo much hazard, vigilance and labour.
THIS they appear to conſider as an irrefragable argument againſt the choice of the ſtateſman and the warrior; to this weapon they have always recourſe in their rhetorical attacks; and ſwell with all the confidence of victory, thus furniſhed by the muſes with the arms which never can be blunted, and which no art or ſtrength of their adverſaries can elude or reſiſt.
IT was well known by experience to the nations which employed elephants in war, that, though by the terror of their bulk, and the violence of their impreſſion, they often threw the enemy into diſorder, yet there was always danger in the uſe of them, very nearly [Page 184] equivalent to the advantage; for, if their firſt charge could be ſupported, they were eaſily driven back upon their confederates, they then broke through the troops behind them, and made no leſs havock in the precipitation of their retreat, than in the fury of their onſet.
I KNOW not whether thoſe, who have ſo vehemently urged the inconveniences and dangers of an active life, have not made uſe of arguments that may be retorted with equal force upon themſelves; and whether the happineſs of a candidate for literary fame be not ſubject to the ſame uncertainty with that of him who governs provinces, or commands armies, preſides in the ſenate, or dictates in the cabinet.
THAT eminence of learning is not to be gained without labour, at leaſt equal to that which any other kind of greatneſs can require, will ſcarcely be denied by thoſe who wiſh to elevate the character of a ſcholar; ſince they cannot but know, that every human acquiſition is valuable in proportion to the difficulty implied in its attainment. And that thoſe, who have gained the eſteem and veneration [Page 135] of the world, by their knowledge or their genius, are by no meanes exempt from the ſolicitude which any other kind of dignity produces, may be conjectured from the innumerable artifices which they make uſe of to degrade a ſuperior, to repreſs a rival, or obſtruct a follower; artifices ſo groſs and mean, as to be an evident proof, how eaſily a man may excel in learning, without being either more wiſe or more virtuous than thoſe whoſe ignorance he pities or deſpiſes.
NOTHING therefore remains, by which the ſtudent can gratify his deſire of appearing to have built his happineſs on a more firm baſis than his antagoniſt, except the certainty with which his honours are enjoyed. The garlands gained by the heroes of literature muſt be gathered from ſummits equally difficult to climb with thoſe that bear the civic or triumphal wreaths, they muſt be worn with equal envy, and guarded with equal care from thoſe hands that are always employed in efforts to tear them away; the only remaining hope is, that their verdure is more laſting, and that they are leſs likely to fade by time, or leſs obnoxious to the blaſts of accident.
[Page 186] EVEN this hope will receive very little encouragement from the examination of the hiſtory of learning, or obſervation of the fate of ſcholars in the preſent age. If we look back into paſt times, we find innumerable names of authors once in high reputation, read perhaps by the beautiful, quoted by the witty, and commented by the grave; but of whom we now know only that they once exiſted. If we conſider the diſtribution of literary fame in our own time, we ſhall find it a poſſeſſion of very uncertain tenure; ſometimes beſtowed by a ſudden caprice of the publick, and again transferred to a new favourite, for no other reaſon than that he is new; ſometimes refuſed to long labour and eminent deſert, and ſometimes granted to very ſlight pretenſions; loſt ſometimes by ſecurity and negligence, and ſometimes by too diligent endeavours to retain it.
A SUCCESSFUL author is equally in danger of the diminution of his fame, whether he continues or ceaſes to write. The regard of the publick is not to be kept but by tribute, and the remembrance of paſt ſervice will quickly languiſh unleſs ſucceſſive performances [Page 187] frequently revive it. Yet in every new attempt there is new hazard, and there are few who do not, at ſome unlucky time, injure their own characters by attempting to enlarge them.
THERE are many poſſible cauſes of that inequality which we may ſo frequently obſerve in the performances of the ſame man, from the influence of which no ability or induſtry is ſufficiently ſecured, and which have ſo often ſullied the ſplendour of genius, that the wit, as well as the conqueror, may be properly cautioned not to indulge his pride with too early triumphs, but to defer to the end of life his eſtimate of happineſs.
—Ultima ſemperExpectanda dies homini, dicique beatusAnte obitum nemo, ſupremaque funera debet.
AMONG the motives that urge an author to undertakings by which his reputation is impaired, one of the moſt frequent muſt be mentioned with tenderneſs, becauſe it is not to be counted among his follies, but his miſeries. It very often happens that the works of learning or of wit are performed at the direction of thoſe by whom they are to be rewarded; the [Page 188] writer has not always the choice of his ſubject, but is compelled to accept any taſk which is thrown before him, without much conſideration of his own convenience, and without time to prepare himſelf for the execution by previous ſtudies.
Miſcarriages of this kind are likewiſe frequently the conſequences of that acquaintance with the great, which is generally conſidered as one of the chief privileges of literature and genius. A man, who has once learned to think himſelf exalted by familiarity with thoſe, whom nothing but their birth, or their fortunes, or ſuch ſtations as are ſeldom gained by moral excellence, ſet above him, will not be long without ſubmitting his underſtanding to their conduct; he will ſuffer them to preſcribe the courſe of his ſtudies, and employ him for their own purpoſes either of diverſion or intereſt. His deſire of pleaſing thoſe whoſe favour he has weakly made neceſſary to himſelf, will not ſuffer him always to conſider how little he is qualified for the work impoſed. Either his vanity will tempt him to conceal his deficiences, or that cowardice, which always encroaches faſt upon ſuch as ſpend their lives in the company of perſons higher than themſelves, [Page 189] will not leave him reſolution to aſſert the liberty of choice.
BUT though we ſuppoſe that a man by his fortune can avoid the neceſſity of dependance, and by his ſpirit can repel the uſurpations of patronage, yet he may eaſily, by writing long, happen to write ill. There is a general ſucceſſion of effects, in which contraries are produced by periodical viciſſitudes; labour and care are rewarded with ſucceſs, ſucceſs produces confidence, confidence relaxes induſtry, and negligence ruins that reputation which accuracy had raiſed.
He that happens not to be lulled by praiſe into ſupineneſs, may be animated by it to undertakings above his ſtrength, or incited to fancy himſelf alike qualified for every kind of compoſition, and able to comply with the public taſte through all its variations. By ſome opinion like this, many men have been engaged at an advanced age, in attempts which they had not time to complete, and, after a few weak efforts, ſunk into the grave with vexation to ſee the riſing generation gain ground upon them. That judgment which appears ſo penetrating, when it is employed [Page 190] upon the works of others, very often fails in performances where intereſt or paſſion can exert their power. We are blinded in examining our own labours by innumerable prejudices. Our juvenile compoſitions pleaſe us, becauſe they bring to our minds the remembrance of youth; our later performances we are ready to eſteem, becauſe we are unwilling to think that we have made no improvement; what flows eaſily from the pen charms us, becauſe we read with pleaſure that which flatters our opinion of our own powers; what was compoſed with great ſtruggles of the mind we are unwilling to reject, becauſe we cannot bear that ſo much labour ſhould be fruitleſs. But the reader has none of theſe prepoſſeſſions, and wonders that the author is ſo unlike himſelf, without conſidering that the ſame ſoil will, with different culture, afford different products.
HOR.—Ego nec ſtudium ſine divite venâ,Nec rude quid proſit video ingenium, alterius ſicAltera poſcit opem res, & conjurat amicé.
WIT and LEARNING were the children of Apollo, by different mothers; WIT was the offspring of Euphroſyne, and reſembled her in chearfulneſs and vivacity; LEARNING was born of Sophia, and retained her ſeriouſneſs and caution. As their mothers were rivals, they were bred up by them, from their birth, in habitual oppoſition, and all means were ſo inceſſantly employed to impreſs upon them a hatred and contempt of each other, that though Apollo, who foreſaw the ill effects of their diſcord, endeavoured to ſoften them, by dividing his regard equally between them, yet his impartiality and kindneſs were without effect; the maternal animoſity was deeply rooted, having been intermingled with their firſt ideas, and was confirmed every hour, as freſh opportunities occurred of exerting it. No ſooner were they of age to be received into the apartments of [Page 192] the other celeſtials, than WIT began to entertain Venus at her toilet, by aping the ſolemnity of LEARNING, and LEARNING to divert Minerva at her loom, by expoſing the blunders and ignorance of WIT.
THUS they grew up, with malice perpetually increaſing, by the encouragement which each received from thoſe whom their mothers had perſuaded to patroniſe and ſupport them; and each longed to be admitted to the table of Jupiter, not ſo much for the hope of gaining honour, as of excluding a rival from all pretenſions to regard, and of putting an everlaſting ſtop to the progreſs of that influence which each believed the other obtained by mean arts and falſe appearances.
AT laſt the day came, when they were both, with the uſual ſolemnities, received into the claſs of ſuperior deities, and allowed to take nectar from the hand of Hebe. But from that hour Concord loſt her authority at the table of Jupiter. The rivals, animated by their new dignity, and incited by the alternate applauſes of the other powers, harraſſed each other by inceſſant conteſts, with ſuch a regular [Page 193] viciſſitude of victory, that neither was depreſſed.
IT was obſervable, that at the beginning of every debate, the advantage was on the ſide of WIT; and that, at the firſt ſallies, the whole aſſembly ſparkled, according to Homer's expreſſion, with unextinguiſhable merriment. But LEARNING would reſerve her ſtrength till the burſt of applauſe was over, and the languor, with which the violence of joy is alway ſucceeded, began to promiſe more calm and patient attention. She then attempted her defence, and, by comparing one part of her antagoniſt's objections with another, commonly made him confute himſelf; or, by ſhewing how ſmall a part of the queſtion he had taken into his view, proved that his opinion could have no weight. The audience began gradually to lay aſide their prepoſſeſſions, and roſe, at laſt, with great veneration for LEARNING, but with greater kindneſs for WIT.
THEIR conduct was, whenever they deſired to recommend themſelves to diſtinction, entirely oppoſite. WIT was daring and adventurous; LEARNING cautious and deliberate. [Page 149] WIT thought nothing reproachful but dulneſs; LEARNING was afraid of no imputation, but that of error. WIT anſwered before he underſtood, leſt his quickneſs of apprehenſion ſhould be queſtioned; LEARNING pauſed, where there was no difficulty, leſt any inſidious ſophiſm ſhould lie undiſcovered. WIT perplexed every debate by rapidity and confuſion; LEARNING tired the hearers with endleſs diſtinctions, and prolonged the diſpute without advantage, by proving that which never was denied. WIT, in hopes of ſhining, would venture to produce what he had not conſidered, and often ſucceeded beyond his own expectation, by following the train of a lucky thought; LEARNING would reject every new notion, for fear of being intangled in conſequences which ſhe could not foreſee, and was often hindered, by her caution, from preſſing her advantages, and ſubduing her opponent.
BOTH had prejudices, which in ſome degree hindered their progreſs towards perfection, and left them open to attacks. Novelty was the darling of WIT, and antiquity of LEARNING. TO WIT, all that was new, was ſpecious; to LEARNING, whatever was antient, was [Page 195] venerable. WIT, however, ſeldom failed to divert thoſe whom he could not convince, and to convince was not often his ambition; LEARNING always ſupported her opinion with ſo many collateral truths, that, when the cauſe was decided againſt her, her arguments were remembered with admiration.
NOTHING was more common, on either ſide, than to quit their proper characters, and to hope for a compleat conqueſt by the uſe of the weapons which had been employed againſt them. WIT would ſometimes labour a ſyllogiſm, and LEARNING diſtort her features with a jeſt; but they always ſuffered by the experiment, and betrayed themſelves to confutation or contempt. The ſeriouſneſs of WIT was without dignity, and the merriment of LEARNING without vivacity.
THEIR conteſts, by long continuance, grew at laſt important, and the divinities broke into parties. WIT was taken into the protection of the laughter-loving Venus, had a retinue allowed him of SMILES and JESTS, and was often permitted to dance among the GRACES. LEARNING ſtill continued the favourite of Minerva, and ſeldom went out of [Page 196] her palace, without a train of the ſeverer virtues, chaſtity, temperance, fortitude, and labour. WIT, cohabiting with malice, had a ſon named SATYR, who followed him, carrying a quiver filled with poiſoned arrows, which, where they once drew blood, could by no ſkill ever be extracted. Theſe arrows he frequently ſhot at LEARNING, when ſhe was moſt earneſtly or uſefully employed, engaged in abſtruſe inquiries, or giving inſtructions to her followers. Minerva, therefore, deputed CRITICISM to her aid, who generally broke the point of SATYR'S arrows, turned them aſide, or retorted them on himſelf.
JUPITER was at laſt angry, that the peace of the heavenly regions ſhould be in perpetual danger of violation, and reſolved to diſmiſs theſe troubleſome antagoniſts to the lower world. Hither therefore they came, and carried on their antient quarrel among mortals, nor was either long without zealous votaries. WIT, by his gaiety, captivated the young; and LEARNING, by her authority, influenced the old. Their power quickly appeared by very eminent effects, theatres were built for the reception of wit, and colleges endowed for the reſidence of LEARNING. Each party endeavoured [Page 197] to outvy the other in coſt and magnificence, and to propagate an opinion, that it was neceſſary, from the firſt entrance into life, to enliſt in one of the factions; and that none could hope for the regard of either divinity, who had once entered the temple of the rival power.
THERE were indeed a claſs of mortals, by whom WIT and LEARNING were equally diſregarded: Theſe were the devotees of Plutus, the god of riches; among theſe it ſeldom happened that the gaiety of WIT could raiſe a ſmile, or the eloquence of LEARNING procure attention. In revenge of this contempt, they agreed to incite their followers againſt them; but the forces that were ſent on thoſe expeditions frequently betrayed their truſt; and, in contempt of the orders which they had received, flattered the rich in public, while they ſcorned them in their hearts; and when, by this treachery, they had obtained the favour of Plutus, very frequently affected to look with an air of ſuperiority on thoſe who ſtill remained in the ſervice of WIT and LEARNING.
DISGUSTED with theſe deſertions, the two [Page 198] rivals, at the ſame time, petitioned Jupiter for re-admiſſion to their native habitations, Jupiter thundered on the right-hand, and they prepared to obey the happy ſummons. WIT readily ſpread his wings, and ſoared aloft, but not being able to ſee far, was be wildered in the pathleſs immenſity of the ethereal ſpaces. LEARNING, who knew the way, ſhook her pinions; but for want of natural vigour could only take ſhort flights: ſo, after many efforts, they both ſunk again to the ground, and learned, from their mutual diſtreſs, the neceſſity of union. They therefore joined their hands, and renewed their flight: LEARNING was borne up by the vigour of WIT, and WIT guided by the perſpicacity of LEARNING. They ſoon reached the dwellings of Jupiter, and were ſo endeared to each other, that they lived afterwards in perpetual concord. WIT perſuaded LEARNING to converſe with the GRACES, and LEARNING engaged WIT in the ſervice of the VIRTUES. They were now the favourites of all the powers of heaven, and gladdened every banquet by their preſence. They ſoon after married, at the command of Jupiter, and had a numerous progeny of ARTS and SCIENCES.
HOR.Tres mihi convivae prope diſſentire videntur;Poſcentur vario multum diverſa palato.
THAT every man ſhould regulate his actions by his own conſcience, without any regard to the opinions of the reſt of the world, is one of the firſt precepts of moral prudence; juſtified not only by the ſuffrage of reaſon, which declares that none of the gifts of heaven are to lie uſeleſs, but by the voice likewiſe of experience, which will ſoon inform us that, if we make the praiſe or blame of others the rule or motive of our conduct, we ſhall be diſtracted by a boundleſs variety of irreconcileable judgments; be held in perpetual ſuſpenſe between contrary impulſes, and conſult for ever without determination.
I KNOW not whether, for the ſame reaſon, it is not neceſſary for an author to place ſome confidence in his own ſkill, and to ſatisfy himſelf in the knowledge that he has not deviated from the eſtabliſhed rules of compoſition, without ſubmitting his works to frequent examinations before he gives them to the publick, [Page 200] or endeavouring to ſecure ſuccſes by a ſolicitous conformity to advice and criticiſm.
IT is, indeed, quickly diſcoverable, that conſultation and compliance can conduce very little to the perfection of any literary performance; for whoever is ſo doubtful of his own abilities as to encourage the advice and remarks of others, will find himſelf every day embarraſſed with new difficulties, and will harraſs his mind, in vain, with the hopeleſs labour of uniting heterogeneous ideas, digeſting independent hints, and collecting into one point the ſeveral rays of borrowed light, emitted often with contrary directions.
OF all authors, thoſe who retail their labours in periodical ſheets would be moſt unhappy, if they were much to regard the cenſures or the admonitions of their readers; for, as their works are not ſent into the world at once, but by ſmall parts in gradual ſucceſſion, it is always imagined, by thoſe who think themſelves qualified to give inſtructions, that they may yet redeem their former failings by hearkening to better judges, ſupply by new improvements the deficiencies of their plan, and make every day advances towards perfection, [Page 201] by the help of the criticiſms which are ſo liberally afforded.
I HAVE had occaſion to obſerve, ſometimes with vexation, and ſometimes with merriment, the different temper with which the ſame man reads a printed and manuſcript performance. When a book is once in the hands of the public, it is conſidered as permanent and unalterable; and the reader, if he be free from perſonal prejudices, takes it up with no other intention than of pleaſing or inſtructing himſelf; he, therefore, accomodates his mind to the author's deſign, and, having no intereſt in refuſing the amuſement that is offered him, never interrupts his own tranqullity by ſtudied cavils, or deſtroys his ſatisfaction in that which is already well, by an anxious enquiry how it might be better; but is often contented without pleaſure, and pleaſed without perfection.
BUT if the ſame man be called to conſider the merit of a production yet unpubliſhed, he brings an imagination heated with objections to paſſages, which he has yet never heard, he invokes all the powers of criticiſm, and ſtores his memory with Taſte, and Grace, and Purity, and [Page 202] Delicacy, and Manners, and Unities, ſounds which, having been once uttered by thoſe that underſtood them, have been ſince re-echoed without meaning, and kept up to the diſturbance of the world, by a conſtant repercuſſion from one coxcomb to another. He conſiders himſelf as obliged to ſhew, by ſome proof of his abilities, that he is not conſulted to no purpoſe, and, therefore, watches every opening for objection, and looks round for every opportunity to propoſe ſome ſpecious alteration. Such opportunities a very ſmall degre of ſagacity will enable him to find; for, in every work of imagination, the diſpoſition of parts, the inſertion of incidents, and uſe of decorations, may be varied a thouſand ways with equal propriety; and as, in things nearly equal, that will always ſeem beſt to every man which he himſelf produces, the critic, whoſe buſineſs is only to propoſe, without the care of execution, can never want the ſatisfaction of believing that he has ſuggeſted very important improvements, nor the power of enforcing his advice by arguments, which, as they appear convincing to himſelf, either his kindneſs, or his vanity, will preſs obſtinately and importunately, without ſuſpicion that he may poſſibly judge too haſtily in favour [Page 203] of his own advice, or inquiry whether the advantage of the new ſcheme be proportionate to the labour.
IT is obſerved, by the younger Pliny, that an orator ought not ſo much to ſelect the beſt and ſtrongeſt arguments which his cauſe admits, as to employ all which his imagination can afford; for, in pleading, thoſe reaſons are of moſt value, which will moſt affect the judges; and the judges, ſays he, will be always moſt touched with that which they had before conceived. Every man, who is called to give his opinion of a performance, decides upon the ſame principle; he firſt ſuffers himſelf to form expectations, and then is angry at his diſappointment. He lets his imagination rove at large, and wonders that another, equally unconfined in the boundleſs ocean of poſſibility, takes a different courſe.
BUT, though the rule of Pliny be judiciouſly laid down, it is not applicable to the writer's cauſe, becauſe there always lies an appeal from domeſtick criticiſm to a higher judicature, and the publick, which can never be corrupted, nor often deceived, is to paſs the laſt ſentence upon literary claims.
[Page 204] OF the great force of preconceived opinions I had many proofs, when I firſt entered upon this weekly labour. All my readers having, from the performances of my predeceſſors, eſtabliſhed an idea of unconnected eſſays, to which they believed all future authors under a neceſſity of conforming, were impatient of the leaſt deviation from their ſyſtem, and numerous remonſtrances were accordingly made by each, as he found his favourite topicks omitted or delayed. Some were angry that the RAMBLER did not, like the SPECTATOR, introduce himſelf to the acquaintance of the publick, by an account of his own birth and ſtudies, an enumeration of his adventures, and a deſcription of his phyſiognomy. Others ſoon began to remark that he was a ſolemn, ſerious, dictatorial writer, without ſprightlineſs or gaiety, and called out with vehemence for mirth and humour. Another admoniſhed him to have a ſpecial eye upon the various clubs of this great city, and informed him that much of the Spectator's vivacity was laid out upon ſuch aſſemblies. He has been likewiſe cenſured for not imitating the politeneſs of other writers of the ſame kind, for having hitherto neglected to take the ladies under his [Page 205] protection, and to give them rules for the juſt oppoſition of colours, and the proper dimenſions of ruffles and pinners. He has been required by another to fix a particular cenſure upon thoſe matrons who play at cards with ſpectacles. And another is very much offended whenever he meets with a ſpeculation, in which naked precepts are compriſed, without being enlivened by examples and characters.
I MAKE not the leaſt queſtion that all theſe monitors intend the promotion of my deſign, and the pleaſure and inſtruction of my readers; but they do not know, or do not reflect that an author has a rule of choice peculiar to himſelf; and ſelects thoſe ſubjects which he is beſt qualified to treat, by the courſe of his ſtudies, or the accidents of his life; that many topicks of amuſement are exhauſted, and are now improper, becauſe they have been already treated with too much art to invite a competition; and that he who endeavours to gain many readers, muſt try many arts of invitation, eſſay every avenue of pleaſure, and make frequent changes in his methods of approach.
I CANNOT but conſider myſelf amidſt this [Page 206] tumult of criticiſm, as a ſhip in a poetical tempeſt, impelled at the ſame time by oppoſite winds, and daſhed by the waves from every quarter, but held upright by the contrariety of the aſſailants, and ſecured, in ſome meaſure, by the multiplicity of diſtreſs. Had the opinion of my cenſurers been unanimous, it might, perhaps, have overſet my reſolution; but ſince I find them at variance with each other, I can, without ſcruple, neglect them, and endeavour to gain the favour of the publick, by following the direction of my own reaſon, and indulging the ſallies of my own imagination.
AMONG the precepts, or aphoriſms, admitted by general conſent, and inculcated by frequent repetition, there is none more famous among the maſters of antient wiſdom, than that compendious leſſon, [...], Be acquainted with thyſelf; aſcribed by ſome to an oracle, and by others to Chilo of Lacedemon.
[Page 207] THIS is, indeed, a dictate, which, in the whole extent of its meaning, may be ſaid to compriſe all the ſpeculation requiſite to a moral agent. For what more can be neceſſary to the regulation of life, than the knowledge of our original, our end, our duties, and our relation to other beings?
IT is however very improbable that the firſt author, whoever he was, intended to be underſtood in this unlimited and complicated ſenſe; for of the inquiries, which, in ſo large an acceptation, it would ſeem to recommend, ſome are too extenſive for the powers of man, and ſome require light from above, which was not yet indulged to the heathen world.
WE might have had more ſatisfaction concerning the original import of this celebrated ſentence, if hiſtory had informed us, whether it was uttered as a general inſtruction to mankind, or as a particular caution to ſome private inquirer; whether it was applied to ſome ſingle occaſion, or laid down as the univerſal rule of life.
THERE will occur, upon the ſlighteſt [Page 208] conſideration many poſſible circumſtances, in which this monition might very properly be inforced; for every error in human conduct muſt ariſe from ignorance in ourſelves, either perpetual, or temporary; and prevail either becauſe we do not know what is beſt and fitteſt, or becauſe knowledge is at the time of action not preſent to the mind.
WHEN a man employs himſelf upon remote and unneceſſary ſubjects, and waſtes his life upon queſtions, which cannot be reſolved, and of which the ſolution would conduce very little to the advancement of happineſs; when he bewilders his underſtanding in uncertain hypotheſes, and harraſſes his faculties with needleſs ſubtilties; when he laviſhes his hours in calculating the weight of the terraqueous globe, or in adjuſting ſucceſſive ſyſtems of worlds beyond the reach of the teleſcope; he may be very properly recalled from his excurſions by this precept, and reminded that there is a being with which it is his duty, and his intereſt to be more acquainted; and from which, though he cannot neglect it without the utmoſt danger, his attention has hitherto been withheld, by his regard to ſtudies, which he [Page 209] has no other motive to follow, than ſuch as either vanity or curioſity produce.
THE great praiſe of Socrates is, that he drew the wits of Greece, by his inſtruction and example, from the vain perſuit of natural philoſophy to moral inquiries, and turned their thoughts from ſtars and tides, and matter and motion, upon the various modes of virtue, and relations of life. All his lectures were but commentaries upon this ſaying; if we ſuppoſe the knowledge of ourſelves recommended by Chilo, in oppoſition to other inquiries leſs ſuitable to the ſtate of man.
THE great fault of men of learning is ſtill, that they offend againſt this rule, and appear willing to ſtudy any thing rather than themſelves; for which reaſon they are too often deſpiſed by thoſe, with whom they imagine themſelves above compariſon; deſpiſed, as uſeleſs to all the common purpoſes of life, as unable to conduct the moſt trivial affairs, and unqualified to perform thoſe offices by which the concatenation of ſociety is preſerved, and mutual tenderneſs excited and maintained.
GELIDUS is a man of great penetration, [Page 210] and deep reſearches. Having a mind naturally formed for the abſtruſer ſciences, he can comprehend intricate combinations without confuſion, and being of a temper naturally cool and equal, he is ſeldom interrupted by his paſſions in the perſuit of the longeſt chain of unexpected conſequences. He has, therefore, a long time indulged hopes, that the ſolution of ſome problems, by which the profeſſors of ſcience have been hitherto baffled, is reſerved for his genius and induſtry. He ſpends his time in the higheſt room of his houſe, into which none of his family are ſuffered to enter; and when he comes down to his dinner, or his reſt, he walks about like a ſtranger that is there only for a day, without any tokens of regard or tenderneſs. He has totally diveſted himſelf of all human ſenſations; he has neither eye for beauty, nor ear for complaint; he neither rejoices at the good fortune of his neareſt friend, nor mourns for any publick or private calamity. Having once received a letter which appeared to have been ſent by ſea, and given it his ſervant to read, he was informed, that it was written by his brother, who, being ſhip-wrecked, had ſwum naked to land, and was deſtitute of neceſſaries in a foreign country. Naked and deſtitute! ſays Gelidus, [Page 211] reach down the laſt volume of meteorological obſervations, extract from the letter an exact account of the wind, and note it carefully in the diary of the weather.
THE family of Gelidus once broke into his ſtudy, to ſhew him that a town at a ſmall diſtance was on fire, and in a few moments a ſervant came up to tell him, that the flame had caught ſo many houſes on both ſides, that the inhabitants were confounded, and began to think rather of eſcaping with their lives, than ſaving their dwellings. What you tell me, ſays Gelidus, is very probable, for fire naturally acts in a circle.
THUS lives this great philoſopher, inſenſible to every ſpectacle of diſtreſs, and unmoved by the loudeſt call of ſocial nature, for want of conſidering that men are deſigned for the ſuccour and comfort of each other; that, though there are hours which may be laudably ſpent upon knowledge not immediately uſeful, yet the firſt attention is due to practical virtue; and that he may be juſtly driven out from the commerce of mankind, who has ſo far abſtracted himſelf from the ſpecies, as to partake neither of the joys nor griefs of others, [Page 212] but neglects the endearments of his wife, and the careſſes of his children, to count the drops of rain, note the changes of the wind, and calculate the eclipſes of the moons of Jupiter.
I SHALL reſerve to ſome future paper the more religious and important meanings of this epitome of wiſdom, and only remark at preſent, that it may be applied to the gay and light, as well as to the grave and ſolemn parts of life; and that not only the philoſopher may forfeit his pretences to real learning by neglecting this neceſſary ſtudy, but that the wit, and the beauty, may miſcarry in their ſchemes, for want of this univerſal requiſite, the know ledge of themſelves.
IT is ſurely for no other reaſon, that we ſee ſuch numbers, in every order of mankind, reſolutely ſtruggling againſt nature, and contending for that which they never can attain, endeavouring to unite contradictions, and determined to excel in characters inconſiſtent with each other; that ſtock-jobbers affect dreſs, gaiety, and elegance, and that mathematicians labour to be wits; that the ſoldier teazes his acquaintance with queſtions in theology, and the academick hopes to divert the [Page 213] ladies by a recital of his gallantries. That abſurdity of pride could proceed only from ignorance of themſelves, by which Garth attempted criticiſm, and Congreve waved his title to dramatick reputation, and deſired to be conſidered only as a gentleman.
EUPHUES, with great parts, and extenſive knowledge, has a clouded aſpect, and ungracious form; yet it has been his ambition, from his firſt entrance into life, to diſtinguiſh himſelf by particularities in his dreſs, to outvie beaus in embroidery, to import new trimmings, and to be foremoſt in the faſhion. Euphues has turned on his exterior appearance, that attention, which would always have produced eſteem had it been fixed upon his mind; and, though his real virtues, and acknowledged abilities, have preſerved him from the contempt which he has ſo diligently ſolicited, he has, at leaſt, raiſed one impediment to his reputation; ſince all can judge of his dreſs, but few of his underſtanding; and many who diſcern that he is a fop, are unwilling to believe that he can be wiſe, or learned.
THERE is one inſtance in which the ladies are particularly unwilling to obſerve the rule [Page 214] of Chilo. They are deſirous to hide from themſelves the advances of age, and endeavour too frequently to ſupply the ſprightlineſs and bloom of youth by artificial beauty, and forced vivacity. They hope ſtill to inflame the heart by glances which have loſt their fire, or melt it by languor which is no longer delicate; they play over the airs which pleaſed at a time when they were expected only to pleaſe, and forget that airs ought in time to give place to virtues. They continue to trifle, becauſe they could once trifle agreeably, till thoſe who ſhared their early pleaſures are withdrawn to more ſerious engagements; and are ſcarcely awakened from their dream of perpetual youth, but by frequent experience of the ſcorn of thoſe whom they endeavour to rival.
THERE are ſome vices and errors, which, though often fatal to thoſe in whom they are found, have yet, by the univerſal conſent of mankind, been conſidered as entitled [Page 215] to ſome degree of reſpect, or have, at leaſt, been exempted from contemptuous infamy, and condemned by the ſevereſt moraliſts with pity rather than deteſtation.
A CONSTANT and invariable example of this general partiality will be found in the different regard which has always been ſhown to raſhneſs and cowardice, two vices, of which, though they may be conceived equally diſtant from the middle point, where true fortitude is placed, and may equally injure any publick or private intereſt, yet the one is never mentioned without ſome kind of veneration, and the other always conſidered as a topick of unlimited and licentious cenſure, on which all the virulence of reproach may be lawfully exerted.
THE ſame diſtinction is made, by the common ſuffrage, between profuſion and avarice, and, perhaps, between many other oppoſite vices: and, as I have found reaſon to pay great regard to the voice of the people, in moſt caſes where knowledge has been forced upon them by experience without long deductions or deep reſearches, I am inclined to believe that this diſtribution of reſpect, however [Page 216] unequal it may appear at firſt view, is not without ſome agreement with the nature of things; and that in the faults, which are thus inveſted with extraordinary privileges, there are generally ſome latent principles of merit, ſome poſſibilities of future virtue, which may, by degrees, break from obſtruction, and by time and opportunity be brought into act.
IT may be laid down, as an acknowledged axiom, that it is more eaſy to take away ſuperfluities than to ſupply defects; and, therefore, he that is culpable, becauſe he has paſſed the middle point of virtue, is always accounted a fairer object of hope, than he who fails by falling ſhort. The one has all that perfection requires and more, but the exceſs may be eaſily retrenched; the other wants the qualities requiſite to excellence, and who can tell how he ſhall obtain them? We are certain that the horſe may be taught to keep pace with his fellows, whoſe fault is that he leaves them behind. We know that a few ſtrokes of the axe will lop a cedar; but what arts of cultivation can elevate a ſhrub?
TO walk with circumſpection and ſteadineſs in the right path, at an equal diſtance between [Page 217] the extremes of error, ought to be the conſtant endeavour of every reaſonable being; nor can I think thoſe teachers of moral wiſdom much to be honoured as benefactors to mankind, who are always enlarging upon the difficulty of our duties, and providing rather excuſes for vice, than incentives to virtue.
BUT, ſince to moſt it will happen often, and to all ſometimes, that there will be a deviation towards one ſide or the other, we ought always to employ our vigilance, with moſt attention, on that enemy from which there is greateſt danger, and to ſtray, if we muſt ſtray, towards thoſe parts, from whence it is probable that we ſhall quickly and eaſily return.
AMONG other oppoſite qualities of the mind, which may become dangerous, though in different degrees, I have often had occaſion to conſider the contrary effects of preſumption and deſpondency; of heady confidence, which promiſes victory without conteſt, and heartleſs puſillanimity, which ſhrinks back from the thoughts of great undertakings, confounds difficulty with impoſſibility, and conſiders all advancement towards any new attainment as irreverſibly prohibited.
[Page 218] PRESUMPTION will be eaſily corrected. Every experiment will teach caution, and miſcarriages will hourly ſhew, that attempts are not always rewarded with ſucceſs. The moſt precipitate ardour will, in time, be taught the neceſſity of methodical gradation, and preparatory meaſures; and the moſt daring confidence be convinced that neither merit, nor abilities, can command events.
IT is the advantage of vehemence and activity, that they are always haſtening to their own reformation; becauſe they always incite us to try whether our expectations are well grounded, and therefore detect the deceits which they are apt to occaſion. But timidity is a diſeaſe of the mind more obſtinate and fatal; for he who is once perſuaded, that any impediment is inſuperable, has given it, with reſpect to himſelf, that ſtrength and weight which it had not before. He can ſcarcely ſtrive with vigour and perſeverance, when he has no hope of gaining the victory; and ſince he never will try his ſtrength, can never diſcover the unreaſonableneſs of his fears.
THERE is often to be found in men devoted [Page 219] to literature, a kind of intellectual cowardice, which whoever converſes much among them may obſerve frequently to depreſs the alacrity of enterpriſe, and, by conſequence, to retard the improvement of ſcience. They have annexed to every ſpecies of knowledge ſome chimerical character of terror and inhibition, which they tranſmit, without much reflection, from one to another, and with which they firſt fright themſelves, and then propagate the panic to their ſcholars and acquaintance. One ſtudy is inconſiſtent with a lively imagination, another with a ſolid judgment; one is improper in the early parts of life, another requires ſo much time, that it is not to be attempted at an advanced age; one is dry and contracts the ſentiments, another is diffuſe and overburdens the memory; one is inſufferable to taſte and delicacy, and another wears out life in the ſtudy of words, and is uſeleſs to a wiſe man, who deſires only the knowledge of things.
BUT of all the bugbears by which the Infantes barbati, boys both young and old, have been hitherto frighted from digreſſing into new tracts of learning, none has been more miſchievouſly efficacious than an opinion that every kind of knowledge requires a peculiar genius, [Page 220] or mental conſtitution, framed for the reception of ſome ideas, and the excluſion of others; and that to him whoſe genius is not adapted to the ſtudy which he proſecutes, all labour ſhall be vain and fruitleſs, vain as an endeavour to mingle oil and water, or, in the language of chemiſtry, to amalgamate bodies of heterogeneous principles.
THIS opinion we may reaſonably ſuſpect to have been propagated, by vanity, beyond the truth. It is natural for thoſe who have raiſed a reputation by any ſcience, to exalt themſelves as endowed by heaven with peculiar powers, or marked out by an extraordinary deſignation for their profeſſion; and to fright competitors away by repreſenting the difficulties with which they muſt contend, and the neceſſity of qualities which are ſuppoſed to be not generally conferred, and which no man can know, but by experience, whether he enjoys.
TO this diſcouragement it may be poſſibly anſwered, that ſince a genius, whatever it be, is like fire in the flint, only to be produced by colliſion with a proper ſubject, it is the buſineſs of every man to try whether his faculties may not happily co-operate with his deſires; and [Page 221] ſince they whoſe proficiency he admires, knew their own force only by the event, he needs but engage in the ſame undertaking, with equal ſpirit, and may reaſonably hope for equal ſucceſs.
THERE is another ſpecies of falſe intelligence, given by thoſe who profeſs to ſhew the way to the ſummit of knowledge, of equal tendency to depreſs the mind with falſe diſtruſt of itſelf, and weaken it by needleſs ſolicitude and dejection. When a ſcholar, whom they deſire to animate, conſults them at his entrance on ſome new ſtudy, it is common to make flattering repreſentations of its pleaſantneſs and facility. Thus they generally attain one of two ends almoſt equally deſirable; they either incite his induſtry by elevating his hopes, or produce a high opinion of their own abilities, ſince they are ſuppoſed to relate only what they have found, and to have proceeded with no leſs eaſe than they promiſe to their followers.
THE ſtudent inflamed by this encouragement ſets forward in the new path, and proceeds a few ſteps with great alacrity, but he ſoon finds aſperities and intricacies of which he has [Page 222] not been forewarned, and imagining that none ever were ſo entangled or fatigued before him, ſinks ſuddenly into deſpair, and deſiſts as from an expedition in which fate oppoſes him. Thus his terrors are multiplied by his hopes, and he is defeated without reſiſtance, becauſe he had no expectation of an enemy.
OF theſe treacherous inſtructors, the one deſtroys induſtry, by declaring that induſtry is vain, the other by repreſenting it as needleſs; the one cuts away the root of hope, the other raiſes it only to be blaſted. The one confines his pupil to the ſhore, by telling him that his wreck is certain, the other ſends him to ſea, without preparing him for tempeſts.
FALSE hopes and falſe terrors are equally to be avoided. Every man, who propoſes to grow eminent by learning, ſhould carry in his mind, at once, the difficulty of excellence and the force of induſtry; and remember that ſame is not conferred but as the recompenſe of labour, and that labour, vigorouſly continued, has not often failed of its reward.
SENECA.Ingentes dominos, et clarae nomina famae,Illuſtrique graves nobilitate domosDevita, et longè cautus fuge; contrahe vela,Et te littoribus cymba propinqua vehat.
IT is uſual for men, engaged in the ſame perſuits, to be inquiſitive after the conduct and fortune of each other; and, therefore, I ſuppoſe it will not be unpleaſing to you, to read an account of the various changes which have happened in part of a life devoted to literature. My narrative will not exhibit any great variety of events, or extraordinary revolutions; but may, perhaps, be not leſs uſeful, becauſe I ſhall relate nothing which is not likely to happen to a thouſand others.
I WAS born heir to a very ſmall fortune, and left by my father, whom I cannot remember, to the care of an uncle, who, having no children, always treated me as his ſon, and finding in me thoſe qualities which old men eaſily diſcover in ſprightly children, when they happen to love them, declared that a genius like [Page 224] mine ſhould never be loſt for want of cultivation. He therefore placed me, for the uſual time, at a great ſchool, and then ſent me to the univerſity, with a larger allowance than my own patrimony would have afforded, that I might not keep mean company, but learn to become my dignity when I ſhould be made lord chancellor, which he often lamented, that the increaſe of his infirmities was very likely to preclude him from ſeeing.
THIS exuberance of money naturally diſplayed itſelf in gayety of appearance, and wantonneſs of expence, and introduced me to the acquaintance of thoſe whom the ſame ſuperfluity of fortune betrayed to the ſame licence and oſtentation: Young heirs, who pleaſed themſelves with a remark very frequent in their mouths, that though they were ſent by their fathers to the univerſity, they were not under the neceſſity of living by their learning.
AMONG men of this claſs I eaſily obtained the reputation of a great genius, and was perſuaded that, with ſuch livelineſs of imagination, and delicacy of ſentiment, I ſhould never be able to ſubmit to the drudgery of the [Page 225] law. I therefore gave myſelf wholly to the more airy and elegant parts of learning, and was often ſo much elated with my ſuperiority to the youths with whom I converſed, that I began to liſten, with great attention, to thoſe that recommended to me a wider and more conſpicuous theatre; and was particularly touched with an obſervation, made by one of my friends; That it was not by lingering in the univerſity, that Prior became ambaſſador, or Addiſon ſecretary of ſtate.
THIS deſire was hourly increaſed by the ſolicitation of my companions, who removing one by one to London as the caprice of their relations allowed them, or as their legal diſmiſſion from the hands of their guardians put it in their power, never failed to ſend an account of the beauty and felicity of the new world, and to remonſtrate how much was loſt by every hour's continuance in a place of retirement and conſtraint.
My uncle in the mean time frequently harraſſed me with monitory letters, which I ſometimes neglected to open for a week after I received them, and generally read in a tavern with ſuch comments as might ſhew how much [Page 226] I was ſuperior to inſtruction or advice. I could not but wonder, how a man confined to the country, and unacquainted with the preſent ſyſtem of things, ſhould imagine himſelf qualified to inſtruct a riſing genius, born to give laws to the age, refine its taſte, and multiply its pleaſures.
THE poſtman, however, ſtill continued to bring me new remonſtrances; for my uncle was very little depreſſed by the ridicule and reproach which he never heard. But men of parts have quick reſentments; it was impoſſible to bear his uſurpations for ever; and I reſolved, once for all, to make him an example to thoſe who imagine themſelves wiſe becauſe they are old, and to teach young men, who are too tame under repreſentation, in what manner grey-bearded inſolence ought to be treated. I, therefore, one evening took my pen in hand, and, after having animated myſelf with a catch, wrote a general anſwer to all his precepts, with ſuch vivacity of turn, ſuch elegance of irony, and ſuch aſperity of ſarcaſm, that I convulſed a large company with univerſal laughter, diſturbed the neighbourhood with vociſerations of applauſe, and [Page 227] five days afterwards was anſwered, that I muſt be content to live upon my own eſtate.
THIS contraction of my income gave me no diſturbance, for a genius like mine was out of the reach of want. I had friends that would be proud to open their purſes at my call, and proſpects of ſuch advancement as would ſoon reconcile my uncle, whom, upon mature deliberation, I reſolved to receive into favour, without inſiſting on any acknowledgment of his offence, when the ſplendour of my condition ſhould induce him to wiſh for my countenance. I, therefore, went up to London, before I had ſhewn the alteration of my condition by any abatement of my way of living, and was received by all my academical acquaintance with triumph and congratulation. I was immediately introduced among the wits and men of ſpirit; and, in a ſhort time, had diveſted myſelf of all my ſcholar's gravity, and obtained the reputation of a pretty fellow.
YOU will eaſily believe that I had no great knowledge of the world; yet I had been hindered, by the general diſinclination every man feels to confeſs poverty, from telling to any [Page 228] one the reſolution of my uncle, and for ſome time ſubſiſted upon the ſtock of money which I had brought with me, and contributed my ſhare as before to all our entertainments. But my pocket was ſoon emptied, and I was obliged to aſk my friends for a ſmall ſum. This was a favour, which we had often reciprocally received from one another; they ſuppoſed my wants only accidental, and therefore willingly ſupplied them. In a ſhort time, I found a neceſſity of aſking again, and was again treated with the ſame civility; but the third time they began to wonder what that old rogue my uncle could mean by ſending a gentleman to town without money; and when they gave me what I aſked for, adviſed me to ſtipulate for more regular remittances.
THIS ſomewhat diſturbed my dream of conſtant affluence, but I was three days after completely awaked; for entering the tavern, where we met every evening, I found the waiters remitted their complaiſance, and, inſtead of contending to light me up ſtairs, ſuffered me to wait for ſome minutes by the bar. When I came to my company I found them unuſually grave and formal, and one of them took a hint to turn the converſation upon the [Page 229] miſconduct of young men, and enlarged upon the folly of frequenting the company of men of fortune, without being able to ſupport the expence, an obſervation which the reſt contributed either to enforce by repetition, or to illuſtrate by examples. Only one of them tried to divert the diſcourſe, and endeavoured to direct my attention to remote queſtions, and common topicks.
A MAN guilty of poverty eaſily believes himſelf ſuſpected, I went, however, next morning to breakfaſt with him who appeared ignorant of the drift of the converſation, and by a ſeries of enquiries, drawing ſtill nearer to the point, prevailed on him, not, perhaps, much againſt his will, to inform me, that Mr Daſh, whoſe father was a wealthy attorney near my native place, had, the morning before, received an account of my uncle's reſentment, and communicated his intelligence with the utmoſt induſtry of groveling inſolence.
IT was now no longer practicable to conſort with my former friends, unleſs I would be content to be uſed as an inferior gueſt, who was to pay for his wine by mirth and flattery; a character, which, if I could not eſcape it, I [Page 230] reſolved to endure only among thoſe who had never known me in the pride of plenty. I therefore changed my lodgings, and frequented the coffee-houſes in a different region of the town; where I was very quickly diſtinguiſhed by ſeveral young gentlemen of high birth, and large eſtates, and began again to amuſe my imagination with hopes of preferment, though not quite ſo confidently as when I had leſs experience.
THE firſt great conqueſt which this new ſcene enabled me to gain over myſelf, was, when I ſubmitted to confeſs to a party, who invited me to an expenſive diverſion, that my revenues were not equal to ſuch golden pleaſures; they would not ſuffer me, however, to ſtay behind, and with great reluctance I yielded to be treated. I took that opportunity of recommending myſelf to ſome office, or employment, which they unanimouſly promiſed to procure me by their joint intereſt.
I HAD now entered into a ſtate of dependence, and had hopes, or fears, from almoſt every man whom I ſaw. If it be unhappy to have one patron, what is his miſery who has many? I was obliged to comply with a thouſand [Page 231] caprices, to concur in a thouſand follies, and to countenance a thouſand errors. I endured innumerable mortifications, if not from cruelty, at leaſt from negligence, which will creep in upon the kindeſt and moſt delicate minds, when they converſe without the mutual awe of equal circumſtances. I found the ſpirit and vigour of liberty every moment ſinking in me, and a ſervile fear of diſpleaſing, ſtealing by degrees upon all my behaviour, till no word, or look, or action, was my own. As the ſolicitude to pleaſe increaſed, the power of pleaſing grew leſs, and I was always clouded with diffidence where it was moſt my intereſt and wiſh to ſhine.
MY patrons, conſidering me as belonging to the community, and, therefore, not the charge of any particular perſon, made no ſcruple of neglecting any opportunity of promoting me, ſince every one thought it more properly the buſineſs of another. An account of my expectations and diſappointments, and the ſucceeding viciſſitudes of my life, I ſhall give you in my following letter, which will be, I hope, of uſe to ſhew how ill he forms his ſchemes, who expects happineſs without freedom.
I am, &c.
HOR.—Pauperiem metuens potiore metallisLibertate caret.—
AS it is natural for every man to think himſelf of importance, your knowledge of the world will incline you to forgive me, if I imagine your curioſity ſo much excited, by the former part of my narration, as to make you deſire that I ſhould proceed without any unneceſſary arts of connection. I ſhall, therefore, not keep you longer in ſuch ſuſpenſe, as, perhaps, my performance may not compenſate.
IN the gay company with which I was now united, I found thoſe allurements and delights, which the friendſhip of young men always affords; there was that openneſs which naturally produced confidence, that affability which, in ſome meaſure, ſoftened dependence, and that ardour of proſeſſion which incited hope. When our hearts were dilated with merriment, promiſes were poured out with [Page 233] unlimited profuſion, and life and fortune were but a ſcanty ſacrifice to friendſhip; but when the hour came, at which any effort was to be made, I had generally the vexation to find, that my intereſt weighed nothing againſt the ſlighteſt amuſement, and that every petty avocation was ſound a ſufficient plea for continuing me in uncertainty and want. Their kindneſs was, indeed, ſincere; when they promiſed they had no intention to deceive, but the ſame juvenile warmth which kindled their benevolence, gave force in the ſame proportion to every other paſſion, and I was forgotten as ſoon as any new pleaſure ſeized on their attention.
VAGARIO told me one evening, that all my perplexities ſhould be ſoon at an end, and deſired me, from that inſtant, to throw upon him all care of my fortune, for a poſt of conſiderable value was that day become vacant, and he knew his intereſt ſufficient to procure it in the morning. He deſired me, therefore, to call on him early, that he might be dreſſed ſoon enough to wait on the miniſter before any other application ſhould be made. I came as he appointed, with all the flame of gratitude, and was told by his ſervant, that [Page 234] having found at his lodgings, when he came home, an acquaintance, who was going to travel, he had been perſuaded to accompany him to Dover, and that they had taken poſthorſes two hours before day.
I WAS once very near to preferment, by the kindneſs of Charinus, who, at my requeſt, went to beg a place, which he thought me likely to fill with great reputation, and in which I ſhould have many opportunities of promoting his intereſt in return; and he pleaſed himſelf with imagining the mutual benefits that we ſhould confer, and the advances that we ſhould make by our united ſtrength. Away therefore he went, equally warm with friendſhip and ambition, and left me to prepare acknowledgments againſt his return. At length he came, and told me that he had met in his way a party going to breakfaſt in the country, that the ladies importuned him too much to be refuſed, and that having paſſed the morning with them, he was come back to dreſs himſelf for a ball, to which he was invited for the evening.
I HAVE ſuffered ſeveral diſappointments from taylors and perriwig-makers, who by [Page 235] neglecting to perform their work withheld my patrons from court; and once failed of an eſtabliſhment for life by the delay of a ſervant, ſent to a neighbouring ſhop to repleniſh a ſnuff-box.
AT laſt I thought my ſolicitude at an end, for an office fell into the gift of Hippodamus's father, who being then in the country, could not very ſpeedily fill it, and whoſe fondneſs would not have ſuffered him to refuſe his ſon a leſs reaſonable requeſt. Hippodamus therefore ſet forward with great expedition, and I expected every hour an account of his ſucceſs. A long time I waited without any intelligence, but at laſt received a letter from Newmarket, by which I was informed, that, as he had heard on the road, the races were begun, and I knew the vehemence of his paſſions too well to imagine that he could refuſe himſelf his favourite amuſement.
YOU will not wonder that I was at laſt weary of the patronage of young men, eſpecially as I found them not generally to promiſe much greater fidelity as they advanced in life; for I obſerved that what they gained in ſteadineſs they loſt in benevolence, and [Page 236] grew colder to my intereſt as they became more diligent to promote their own. I was convinced that their liberality was only profuſeneſs, that, as chance directed, they were equally generous to vice and virtue, that they were warm but becauſe they were thoughtleſs, and counted the ſupport of a friend only amongſt other gratifications of paſſion.
MY reſolution was now to ingratiate myſelf with men whoſe reputation was eſtabliſhed, whoſe high ſtations enabled them to prefer me, and whoſe age exempted them from ſudden changes of inclination. I was conſidered as a man of parts, and therefore eaſily found admiſſion to the table of Hilarius, the celebrated orator renowned equally for the extent of his knowledge, the elegance of his diction, and the acuteneſs of his wit. Hilarius received me with an appearance of great ſatisfaction, produced to me all his friends, and directed to me that part of his diſcourſe in which he moſt endeavoured to diſplay his imagination. I had now learned my own intereſt enough to ſupply him opportunities for ſmart remarks and gay ſallies, which I never failed to ocho and applaud. Thus I was gaining every hour on his affections, till unfortunately, when the aſſembly [Page 237] was more ſplendid than uſual, his deſire of admiration prompted him to turn his raillery upon me. I bore it for ſome time with great ſubmiſſion, and his ſucceſs encouraged him to redouble his attacks; at laſt my vanity prevailed over my prudence, I retorted his irony with ſuch ſucceſs, that Hilarius, unaccuſtomed to reſiſtance, was diſconcerted, and ſoon found means of convincing me that his purpoſe was not to encourage a rival, but to foſter a paraſite.
I WAS then taken into the familiarity of Argutio, a nobleman eminent for judgment and criticiſm. He had contributed to my reputation, by the praiſes which he had often beſtowed upon my writings, in which he always owned that there were proofs of a genius that might riſe to high degrees of excellence, when time, or information, had reduced its exuberance. He therefore always required me to conſult him before the publication of any new performance, and commonly propoſed innumerable alterations, without ſufficient attention to the general deſign, and without any regard to my form of ſtyle, or mode of imagination. But theſe corrections he never failed to preſs as indiſpenſably neceſſary, and thought the leaſt delay of compliance an act of rebellion. [Page 238] The pride of an author made this treatment inſufferable, and I thought any tyranny eaſier to be born than that which took from me the uſe of my underſtanding.
MY next patron was Eutyches the ſtateſman, who was wholly engaged in publick affairs, and ſeemed to have no ambition but to be powerful and rich. I found his favour more permanent than that of the others, for there was always a certain price at which it might be bought; he allowed nothing to humour, or to affection, but was always ready to pay liberally for the ſervice that he required. His demands were, indeed, very often ſuch as virtue could not eaſily conſent to gratify; but virtue is not to be conſulted when men are to raiſe their fortunes by the favour of the great. His meaſures were cenſured; I wrote in his defence, and was rewarded with a place, of which the profits were never received by me without the pangs of remembering that they were the reward of wickedneſs, a reward which nothing but that neceſſity, which the conſumption of my little eſtate in theſe wild perſuits had brought upon me, hindered me from throwing back in the face of my corruptor.
[Page 239] AT this time my uncle died without a will, and I became heir to a ſmall fortune. I had reſolution to throw off the ſplendour which reproached me to myſelf, and retire to an humbler ſtate, in which I am now endeavouring to recover the dignity of virtue, and hope to make ſome reparation for my crime and follies, by informing others, who may be led after the ſame pageants, that they are about to engage in a courſe of life, in which they are to purchaſe, by a thouſand miſeries, the privilege of repentance.
I am, &c. EUBULUS.
SENECA.Illi mors gravis incubat,Qui notus nimis omnibus,Ignotus moritur ſibi.
I HAVE endeavoured, in a late eſſay, to ſhew into what errors men are hourly betrayed by a miſtaken opinion of their own powers, and a negligent inſpection of their own character. But as I then confined my [Page 240] obſervations to common occurrences, and familiar ſcenes, I think it proper to enquire how far a nearer acquaintance with ourſelves is neceſſary to our preſervation from crimes as well as follies, and how much the attentive ſtudy of our own minds may contribute to ſecure to us the approbation of that being, to whom we are accountable both for our thoughts and our actions, and whoſe favour muſt finally conſtitute our total happineſs.
IF it be reaſonable to eſtimate the difficulty of any enterpriſe by the frequent miſcarriages of thoſe who undertake it, it may juſtly be concluded that it is not eaſy for a man to know himſelf; for whereſoever we turn our view, we ſhall find almoſt all with whom we converſe ſo nearly as to know their ſentiments, indulging more favourable conceptions of their own virtue than they have been able to impreſs upon others, and congratulating themſelves upon degrees of excellence, which their fondeſt admirers cannot allow them to have attained.
THOSE repreſentations of imaginary virtue are, generally conſidered as arts of [Page 241] hypocriſy, and as ſnares laid for confidence and praiſe. But, I believe, that this ſuſpicion is often unjuſt, and that thoſe who thus propagate their own reputation, only extend the fraud by which they have been themſelves deceived; for this failing is incident to numbers, who ſeem to live without deſigns, competitions, or perſuits; it appears on occaſions which promiſe no acceſſion of honour or of profit, and to perſons from whom very little is to be hoped or feared. It is, indeed, not eaſy to tell how far we may be blinded by the love of ourſelves, when we reflect how much a ſecondary paſſion can cloud our judgment, and how few faults a man, in the firſt raptures of love, can diſcover in the perſon or conduct of his miſtreſs.
TO lay open all the ſources from which error flows in upon him who contemplates his own character, would require more exact knowledge of the human heart, than, perhaps, the moſt acute and laborious obſervers have acquired. And, ſince falſehood may be diverſified without end, it is not unlikely that every man admits an impoſture in ſome reſpect peculiar to himſelf, as his views have been accidentally directed, or his ideas particularly combined.
[Page 242] SOME fallacies, however, there are more frequently inſidious, which it may, perhaps, not be uſeleſs to detect, becauſe though they are groſs they may be fatal, and becauſe nothing but attention is neceſſary to defeat them.
ONE ſophiſm by which men perſuade themſelves that they have thoſe virtues which they really want, is formed by the ſubſtitution of ſingle acts for habits. A miſer who once relieved a friend from the danger of a priſon, ſuffers his imagination to dwell for ever upon his own heroick generoſity; he yields his heart up to indignation at thoſe who are blind to merit, or inſenſible to miſery, and who can pleaſe themſelves with the enjoyment of that wealth, which they never permit others to partake. From any cenſures of the world, or reproaches of his conſcience, he has an appeal to action and to knowledge; and though his whole life is a courſe of rapacity and avarice, he concludes himſelf to be tender and liberal, becauſe he has once performed an act of liberality and tenderneſs.
AS a glaſs which magnifies objects by the approach of one end to the eye, leſſens them [Page 243] by the application of the other, ſo vices are extenuated by the inverſion of that fallacy, by which virtues are augmented. Thoſe faults which we cannot conceal from our own notice, are conſidered, however frequent, not as habitual corruptions, or ſettled practices, but as caſual failures, and ſingle lapſes. A man who has, from year to year, ſet his country to ſale, either for the gratification of his ambition or reſentment, confeſſes that the heat of party now and then betrays the ſevereſt virtue to meaſures that cannot be ſeriouſly defended. He that ſpends his days and nights in riot and debauchery, owns that his paſſions oftentimes overpower his reſolution. But each comforts himſelf that his faults are not without precedent, for the beſt and the wiſeſt men have given way to the violence of ſudden temptations.
THERE are men who always confound the praiſe of goodneſs with the practice, and who believe themſelves mild and moderate, charitable and faithful, becauſe they have exerted their eloquence in commendation of mildneſs, fidelity, and other virtues. This is an error almoſt univerſal among thoſe that converſe much with dependents, with ſuch whoſe fear [Page 244] or intereſt diſpoſes them to a ſeeming reverence for any declamation, however enthuſiaſtick, and ſubmiſſion to any boaſt, however arrogant. Having none to recall their attention to their lives, they rate themſelves by the goodneſs of their opinions, and forget how much more eaſily men may ſhew their virtue in their talk than in their actions.
THE tribe is likewiſe very numerous of thoſe who regulate their lives, not by the ſtandard of religion, but the meaſure of other men's virtue; who lull their own remorſe with the remembrance of crimes more atrocious than their own, and ſeem to believe that they are not bad while another can be ſound worſe.
FOR eſcaping theſe and a thouſand other deceits, many expedients have been propoſed. Some have recommended the frequent conſultation of a wiſe friend, admitted to intimacy, and encouraged to ſincerity. But this appears a remedy by no means adapted to general uſe: for in order to ſecure the virtue of one, it preſuppoſes more virtue in two than will generally be found. In the firſt, ſuch a deſire of rectitude and amendment, as may incline him [Page 245] to hear his own accuſation from the mouth of him whom he eſteems, and by whom, therefore, he will always hope that his faults are not diſcovered; and in the ſecond ſuch zeal and honeſty, as will make him content for his friend's advantage to loſe his kindneſs.
A LONG life may be paſſed without finding a friend in whoſe underſtanding and virtue we can equally conſide, and whoſe opinion we can value at once for its juſtneſs and ſincerity. A weak man, however honeſt, is not qualified to judge. A man of the world, however penetrating, is not fit to counſel. Friends are often choſen for ſimilitude of manners, and therefore each paliiates the other's ſailings, becauſe they are his own. Friends are tender and unwilling to give pain, or they are intereſted, and fearful to offend.
THESE objections have inclined others to adviſe, that he who would know [...] ſhould conſult his enemies, [...] the [...] proaches that are vented to his [...] for the cenſures that are uttered [...] For his great buſineſs is to know [...] and thoſe malignity will diſcover, and reſentment will reveal. But this precept may be often fruſtrated; for it ſeldom [...] [Page 246] rivals or opponents are ſuffered to come near enough to know our conduct with ſo much exactneſs as that conſcience ſhould allow and reflect the accuſation. The charge of an enemy is ſometimes falſe, and commonly ſo mingled with falſehood, that the mind takes advantage from the failure of one part to diſcredit the reſt, and never ſuffers any diſturbance afterward from ſuch partial reports.
YET it ſeems that enemies have been always found by experience the moſt faithful monitors; for adverſity has ever been conſidered as the ſtate in which a man moſt eaſily becomes acquainted with himſelf, and this effect it muſt produce by withdrawing flatterers and dependents, whoſe buſineſs it is to hide our weakneſſes and our errors from us, and by giving looſe to malice, and licence to reproach; or at leaſt by cutting off thoſe pleaſures which called us away from meditation on our conduct, and repreſſing that pride which too eaſily perſuades us, that we merit whatever we enjoy.
PART of theſe benefits it is in every man's power to procure to himſelf, by aſſigning proper portions of his life to the recollection and [Page 247] examination of the reſt, and by putting himſelf frequently in ſuch a ſituation by retirement and abſtraction, as may weaken the influence of external objects. By this practice he may obtain the ſolitude of adverſity without its melancholy, its inſtructions without its cenſures, and its ſenſibility without its perturbations.
The apparent neceſſity of ſetting the would at a diſtance from us, when we are reſolved to take a nearer ſurvey of ourſelves, has [...] many from high ſtations to the ſeverities of a monaſtick life; and, indeed, every man deeply engaged in buſineſs, if all regard to another ſtate be not extinguiſhed, muſt have the conviction, tho', perhaps, not the reſolution of Valdeſſo, who, when he ſolicited Charles the fifth to diſmiſs him, being aſked, whether he retired upon diſguſt, anſwered that he laid down his commiſſion, for no other reaſon but becauſe there ought to be ſome time for ſober reflection between the life of a ſoldier and his death.
THERE are, certainly, few conditions which do not entangle us with ſublunary hopes and fears; from theſe it is neceſſary to diſencumber [Page 248] ourſelves, by intervals of ſolitude, in which we may place ourſelves in his preſence who views effects in their cauſes, and actions in their motives; in which we may, as Chillingworth expreſſes it, conſider things as if there were no other beings in the world but God and ourſelves; or, to uſe language yet more awful, may [...] with our [...], and be ſtill.
DEATH, ſays Seneca, falls heavy upon him who is too much known to others, and too little to himſelf; and Pontanus, a man celebrated among the early reſtorers of literature, thought the ſtudy of our own hearts of ſo much importance, that he has recommended it from his tomb. Sum Joann [...] Jovianus Pontanus, quem amaverunt bonae muſae, ſuſpexerunt viri probi, honeſtavent reges domini; jam ſcis qui ſim, vel qui potius [...]; ego [...]. "I [...] Pontanus, beloved by the powers of literature, admired by men of worth, and dignified by the monarchs of the world. Th [...] knoweſt now who I am, or more properly who I was. For thee, ſtranger, I who am in darkneſs cannot know thee, but I intreat thee to know thyſelf."
[Page 249] I HOPE every reader of this paper will conſider himſelf as engaged to the obſervation of a precept, which the wiſdom and virtue of all ages have concurred to enforce, a precept dictated by philoſophers, inculcated by poets, and ratified by ſaints.
HOR.Prudens futuri temporis exitumCaliginoſa nocto premit deus,Ridetque ſi mortalis ultraFas trepidet—
THERE is nothing recommended with greater frequency among the gave-poets of antiquity, than the ſecure poſſeſſion of the preſent hour, and the diſmiſſion of all the cares which intrude upon our quiet, or hinder, by importunate perturbations, the enjoyment of thoſe delights which our condition happens to ſet before us.
THE ancient poets are, indeed, by no means unexceptionable teachers of morality; [Page 250] their precepts are to be always conſidered as the ſallies of a genius, intent rather upon giving pleaſure than inſtruction, eager to take every advantage of inſinuation, and, provided the paſſions can be engaged on its ſide, very little ſolicitous about the ſuffrage of reaſon.
THE darkneſs and uncertainty through which the heathens were compelled to wander in the perſuit of happineſs, may, indeed, be alleged as an excuſe for many of their ſeducing invitations to immediate enjoyment, which the moderns, by whom they have been imitated, have not to plead. It is no wonder that ſuch as had no promiſe of another ſtate ſhould eagerly turn their thoughts upon the improvement of that which was before them; but ſurely thoſe who are acquainted with the hopes and fears of eternity, might think it neceſſary to put ſome reſtraint upon their imagination, and reflect that by echoing the ſongs of the ancient bacchanals, and tranſmitting the maxims of paſt debauchery, they not only prove that they want invention, but virtue, and ſubmit to the ſervility of imitation only to copy that of which the writer, if he was to live now, would often be aſhamed.
[Page 251] YET as the errors and follies of a great genius are ſeldom without ſome radiations of underſtanding, by which meaner minds may be enlightened, the incitements to pleaſure are, in theſe authors, generally mingled with ſuch reflections upon life, as well deſerve to be conſidered diſtinctly from the purpoſes for which they are produced, and to be treaſured up as the ſettled concluſions of extenſive obſervation, acute ſagacity, and mature experience.
IT is certainly not without juſt reflection that on theſe occaſions they often warn their readers againſt enquiries into futurity, and ſolicitude about events which lie hid in cauſes yet unactive, and which time has not brought forward into the view of reaſon. For as an idle and thoughtleſs reſignation to chance, without any ſtruggle againſt calamity, or endeavour after advantage, is below the dignity of a reaſonable being, in whoſe power providence has put a great part even of his preſent happineſs, ſo it ſhews an equal ignorance of our proper ſphere, to harraſs our thoughts with conjectures about things not yet in being. How can we regulate events, of which we [Page 252] yet know not whether they will ever happen. And why ſhould we think, with painful anxiety, about that on which our thoughts can have no influence?
IT is a maxim commonly received, that a wiſe man is never ſurpriſed; and, perhaps, this exemption from aſtoniſhment may be imagined to proceed from ſuch a proſpect into futurity, as gave previous intimation of thoſe evils which often fall unexpected upon others that have leſs foreſight. But the truth is, that things to come, except when they approach very nearly, are equally hidden from men of all degrees of underſtanding; and if a wiſe man is not amazed at ſudden occurrences, it is not that he has thought more, but leſs upon futurity. He never conſidered things not yet exiſting as the proper objects of his attention; he never indulged dreams till he was deceived by their phantoms, nor ever realized non-entities to his mind. He is not ſurpriſed becauſe he is not diſappointed, and he eſcapes diſappointment becauſe he never forms any expectations.
THE concern about things to come, that is to juſtly cenſured, is not the reſult of thoſe general [Page 253] reflections, on the variableneſs of fortune, the uncertainty of life, and the univerſal inſecurity of all human acquiſitions, which muſt always be ſuggeſted by the view of the world; but ſuch a deſponding anticipation of misfortune, as fixes the mind upon ſcenes of gloom and melancholy, and makes fear predominate in every imagination.
ANXIETY of this kind is nearly of the ſame nature with jealouſy in love, and ſuſpicion in the general commerce of life; a temper which keeps the man always in alarms, diſpoſes him to judge of every thing in a manner that leaſt favours his own quiet, fills him with perpetual ſtratagems of counteraction, wears him out in ſchemes to obviate evils which never threatened him, and at length, perhaps, contributes to the production of thoſe miſchiefs of which it had raiſed ſuch dreadful apprehenſions.
IT has been uſual in all ages for moraliſts to repreſs the ſwellings of vain hope by repreſentations of the innumerable caſualties to which life is ſubject, and by inſtances of the unexpected defeat of the wiſeſt ſchemes of policy, and ſudden ſubverſions of the higheſt eminences [Page 254] of greatneſs. It has, perhaps, not been equally obſerved, that all theſe examples afford the proper antidote to fear as well as to hope, and may be applied with no leſs efficacy as conſolations to the timorous, than as reſtraints to the proud.
EVIL is uncertain in the ſame degree as good, and for the reaſon that we ought not to hope too ſecurely, we ought not to fear with too much dejection. The ſtate of the world is continually changing, and none can tell the reſult of the next viciſſitude. Whatever is afloat in the ſtream of time, may, when it is very near us, be driven away by an accidental blaſt, which ſhall happen to croſs the general courſe of the current. The ſudden accidents by which the powerful are depreſſed, may fall upon thoſe whoſe malice we fear; and the greatneſs by which we expect to be overborn, may become another proof of the falſe flatteries of fortune. Our enemies may become weaker, or we grow ſtrong before our encounter, or we may advance againſt each other without ever meeting. There are, indeed, natural evils which we can flatter ourſelves with no hopes of eſcaping, and with little of delaying; but of the ills which are [Page 255] apprehended from human malignity, or the oppoſition of rival intereſts, we may always alleviate the terror by conſidering that our perſecutors are weak and ignorant, and mortal like ourſelves. The misfortunes which ariſe from the concurrence of unhappy circumſtances ſhould never be ſuffered to diſturb us before they happen; becauſe, if the breaſt be once laid open to the dread of mere poſſibilities of miſery, life muſt be given a prey to diſmal ſolicitude, and quiet muſt be loſt for ever.
IT is remarked by old Cornaro, that it is abſurd to be afraid of the natural diſſolution of the body; becauſe it muſt certainly happen, and can, by no caution, or artifice, be avoided. Whether this ſentiment be entirely juſt, I ſhall not examine; but certainly, if it be improper to fear events which muſt happen, it is yet more evidently contrary to right reaſon to fear thoſe which may never happen, and which, if they ſhould come upon us, we cannot reſiſt.
AS we ought not to give way to fear any more than indulgence to hope, becauſe the objects both of fear and hope are yet uncertain, ſo we ought not to truſt the repreſentations of one more than of the other, becauſe [Page 256] they are both equally fallacious; as hope enlarges happineſs, fear aggravates calamity. It is generally allowed, that no man ever found the happineſs of poſſeſſion proportionate to that expectation which incited his deſire, and invigorated his perſuit; nor has any man found the evils of life ſo formidable in reality, as they were deſcribed to him by his own imagination; every ſpecies of diſtreſs brings with it ſome peculiar ſupports, ſome unforeſeen means of reſiſting, or power of enduring. For this reaſon, Taylor juſtly blames ſome pious perſons, who indulged their own fancies too much, ſet themſelves, by the force of imagination, in the place of the ancient martyrs and confeſſors, and queſtion the validity of their own faith becauſe they ſhrink at the thoughts of flames and tortures. It is, ſays he, ſufficient that you are able to encounter the temptations which now aſſault you; when God ſends trials, he may ſend ſtrength.
ALL fear is in itſelf painful, and when it conduces not to ſafety is painful without uſe. Every conſideration, therefore, by which groundleſs terrors may be removed, adds ſomething to human happineſs. It is likewiſe not unworthy of remark, that in proportion as [Page 257] our cares are imployed upon the future, they are abſtracted from the preſent, from the only time which we can call our own, and of which if we neglect the apparent duties, to make vain proviſion againſt viſionary attacks, we ſhall certainly counteract our own purpoſe; for he, doubtleſs, miſtakes his true intereſt, who thinks that he can increaſe his ſafety, when he impairs his virtue.
HOR.—Vultus ubi tuusAſſulſit populo, gratior it dies,Et ſoles melius nitent.
THERE are few taſks more ungrateful, than for perſons of modeſty to ſpeak their own praiſes. In ſome caſes, however, this muſt be done for the general good, and a generous ſpirit will on ſuch occaſions aſſert its merit, and vindicate itſelf with becoming warmth.
[Page 258] My circumſtances, ſir, are very hard and peculiar. Could the world be brought to treat me as I deſerve, it would be a publick benefit. This makes me apply to you, that my caſe being fairly ſtated in a paper ſo generally eſteemed, I may ſuffer no longer from ignorant and childiſh prejudices.
MY elder brother was a Jew. A very reſpectable perſon, but ſomewhat auſtere in his manner: highly and deſervedly valued by his near relations and intimates, but utterly unfit for mixing in a larger ſociety, or gaining a general acquaintance among mankind. In a venerable old age he retired from the world, and I in the bloom of youth came into it, ſucceeding him in all his dignities, and formed, as I might reaſonably flatter myſelf, to be the object of univerſal love and eſteem. Joy and gladneſs were born with me; chearfulneſs, good humour and benevolence always attended and endeared my infancy. That time is long paſt. So long that idle imaginations are apt to fancy me wrinkled, old, and diſagreeable; but, unleſs my looking-glaſs deceives me, I have not yet loſt one charm, one beauty of my earlieſt years. However, thus far is too certain, I [Page 259] am to every body juſt what they chuſe to think me; ſo that to very few I appear in my right ſhape; and though naturally I am the friend of human-kind, to few, very few comparatively, am I uſeful or agreeable.
THIS is the more grievous, as it is utterly impoſſible for me to avoid being in all ſorts of places and companies; and I am therefore liable to meet with perpetual affronts and injuries. Though I have as natural an antipathy to cards and dice, as ſome people have to a cat, many and many an aſſembly am I forced to endure; and though reſt and compoſure are my peculiar joy, am worn out, and harraſſed to death with journies by men and women of quality, who never take one, but when I can be of the party. Some, on a contrary extreme, will never receive me but in bed, where they ſpend at leaſt half of the time I have to ſtay with them; and others are ſo monſtrouſly illbred as to take phyſick on purpoſe when they have reaſon to expect me. Thoſe who keep upon terms of more politeneſs with me, are generally ſo cold and conſtrained in their behaviour, that I cannot but perceive myſelf an unwelcome gueſt; and even among perſons deſerving of eſteem, and who certainly have [Page 260] a value for me, it is too evident that generally whenever I come I throw a dulneſs over the whole company, that I am entertained with a formal ſtiff civility, and that they are glad when I am fairly gone.
I WAS bred up among a ſet of excellent people, who affectionately loved me, and treated me with the utmoſt honour and reſpect. It would be tedious to relate the variety of my adventures, and ſtrange viciſſitudes of my fortune in many different countries. Here in England there was a time when I lived according to my heart's deſire. Whenever I appeared, publick aſſemblies appointed for my reception were crowded with perſons of quality and faſhion, early dreſt as for a court, to pay me their devoirs. Chearful hoſpitality every where crowned my board, and I was looked upon in every country pariſh as a kind of ſocial bond between the 'ſquire' the parſon, and the tenants. The laborious [Page 261] poor every where bleſt my appearance: they do ſo ſtill, and keep their beſt clothes to do me honour; though as much as I delight in the honeſt country folks, they do now and then throw a pot of ale at my head, and ſometimes an unlucky boy will drive his cricket-ball full in my face.
EVEN in theſe my beſt days there were perſons who thought me too demure and grave. I muſt forſooth by all means be inſtructed by foreign maſters, and taught to dance and play. This method of education was ſo contrary to my genius, formed for much nobler entertainments, that it did not ſucceed at all.
I FELL next into the hands of a very different ſet. They were ſo exceſſively ſcandalized at the gayety of my appearance, as not only to deſpoil me of the foreign fopperies, the paint and the patches that I had been tricked out with by my laſt misjudging tutors, but they robbed me of every innocent ornament I had from my infancy been uſed to gather in the fields and gardens; nay they blacked my face, and covered me all over with a habit of mourning, and that too very coarſe and aukward. I was now obliged to [Page 262] ſpend my whole life in hearing ſermons; nor permitted ſo much as to ſmile upon any occaſion.
IN this melancholy diſguiſe I became a perfect bugbear to all children and young folks. Wherever I came there was a general huſh, an immediate ſtop to all pleaſantneſs of look or diſcourſe; and not being permitted to talk with them in my own language at that time, they took ſuch a diſguſt to me in thoſe tedious hours of yawning, that having tranſmitted it to their children, I cannot now be heard, though 'tis long ſince I have recovered my natural form, and pleaſing tone of voice. Would they but receive my viſits kindly, and liſten to what I could tell them—let me ſay it without vanity—how charming a companion ſhould I be! to every one could I talk on the ſubjects moſt intereſting and moſt pleaſing. With the great and ambitious, I would diſcourſe of honours and advancements, of diſtinctions to which the whole world ſhould be witneſs, of unenvied dignities and durable preferments. To the rich I would tell of inexhauſtible treaſures, and the ſure method to attain them. I would teach them to put out their money on the beſt intereſt, and inſtruct [Page 263] the lovers of pleaſure how to ſecure and improve it to the higheſt degree. The beauty ſhould learn of me how to preſerve an everlaſting bloom. To the afflicted I would adminiſter comfort, and relaxation to the buſy.
AS I dare promiſe myſelf you will atteſt the truth of all I have advanced, there is no doubt but many will be deſirous of improving their acquaintance with me; and that I may not be thought too difficult, I will tell you, in ſhort, how I wiſh to be received.
YOU muſt know I equally hate lazy idleneſs and hurry. I would every where be welcomed at a tolerably early hour with decent good-humour and gratitude. I muſt be attended in the great halls peculiarly appropriated to me with reſpect; but I do not inſiſt upon finery: propriety of appearance, and perfect neatneſs is all I require. I muſt at dinner be treated with a temperate, but a chearful ſocial meal; both the neighbours, and the poor ſhould be the better for me. Some time I muſt have tete a tete with my kind entertainers, and the reſt of my viſit ſhould be ſpent in pleaſant walks and airings among ſets of agreeable [Page 264] people, in ſuch diſcourſe as I ſhall naturally dictate, or in reading ſome few ſelected out of thoſe numberleſs books that are dedicated to me, and go by my name. A name that, alas! as the world ſtands at preſent, makes them oftener thrown aſide than taken up. As thoſe converſations and books ſhould be both well choſen, to give ſome advice on that head may poſſibly furniſh you with a future paper, and any thing you ſhall offer on my behalf will be of great ſervice to,
Good Mr RAMBLER,
Your Faithful Friend and Servant, SUNDAY.
OVID.Non ego mendoſos auſim defendere mores,Falſaque pro vitiis arma tenere meis.
THOUGH the fallibility of man's reaſon, and the narrowneſs of his knowledge, are very generally and liberally confeſſed, yet if an enquiry be made into the conduct of thoſe who ſo willingly admit the weakneſs of human nature, there will appear ſome reaſon for imagining that this acknowledgment is not altogether ſincere, at leaſt, that moſt make it with a tacit reſerve in favour of themſelves, and that with whatever eaſe they give up the [Page 265] claims of their neighbours, they are deſirous of being thought exempt from faults in their own conduct, and from error in their opinions.
THE certain and obſtinate oppoſition, which we may obſerve made to confutation, however clear, and to reproof however tender, is an undoubted argument, that ſome dormant privilege is thought to be attacked; for as no man can loſe what he neither poſſeſſes, nor imagines himſelf to poſſeſs, nor be defrauded of that to which he has no right, it is reaſonable to ſuppoſe that thoſe who break out into fury at the firſt attacks of contradiction, or the ſlighteſt touches of cenſure, ſince they apparently conclude themſelves injured, muſt fancy their honour impaired, ſome antient immunity violated, or ſome natural prerogative invaded; to be miſtaken, if they thought themſelves liable to miſtake, could not be conſidered by them as either ſhameful or wonderful, and they would not ſurely receive with ſo much emotion intelligence which only informed them of that which they knew before, nor ſtruggle with ſo much earneſtneſs againſt an attack that deprived them of nothing to which they held themſelves entitled.
[Page 266] IT is related of one of the philoſophers, that when an account was brought him of his ſon's death, he received it only with this reflection, I knew that my ſon was mortal. He that is convinced of an error, if he had the ſame knowledge of his own weakneſs, would, inſtead of kindling with reſentment, ſtraining for artifices, and brooding malignity, only regard ſuch overſights as the appendages of humanity, and pacify himſelf with conſidering that he had always known man to be a fallible being.
IF it be true that moſt of our paſſions are excited by the novelty of objects, there is little reaſon for doubting that to be conſidered as ſubject to fallacies of ratiocination, or imperfection of knowledge, is to a very great part of mankind entirely new; for it is impoſſible to enter any place of general reſort, or fall into any company where there is not ſome regular and eſtabliſhed ſubordination, without finding rage and vehemence produced only by difference of ſentiments about things very trifling, in which neither of the diſputants have any other intereſt than what proceeds from their mutual unwillingneſs to give way to any opinion [Page 267] that may bring upon them the diſgrace of being wrong.
I HAVE heard of men that, having advanced ſome erroneous doctrines in philoſophy, have refuſed to ſee the experiments by which they were confuted: and the obſervation of every day will give new proofs with how much induſtry ſubterfuges and evaſions are ſought to decline the preſſure of reſiſtleſs arguments, how often the ſtate of the queſtion is altered, how often the antagoniſt is wilfully miſrepreſented, and in how much perplexity the cleareſt poſitions are involved by thoſe whom they happen to obſtruct in the extenſion or propagation of a pleaſing hypotheſis.
OF all mortals none ſeem to have been more infected with this ſpecies of vanity, than the race of writers, whoſe reputation ariſing ſolely from their underſtanding, has given them a very delicate ſenſibility of any violence attempted on their literary honour. It is not unpleaſing to remark with what ſolicitude men of acknowledged abilities will endeavour to palliate abſurdities and reconcile contradictions, only to obviate criticiſms to which all human performances muſt ever be expoſed, and from [Page 268] which they can never ſuffer, but when they teach the world by a vain and ridiculous impatience to think them of importance.
DRYDEN, whoſe warmth of fancy, and haſte of compoſition very frequently hurried him into inaccuracres, heard himſelf ſometimes expoſed to ridicule for having ſaid in one of his tragedies, ‘I follow fate, which does too faſt perſue.’ That no man could at once follow and be followed was, it may be thought, too plain to be long diſputed; and the truth is, that DRYDEN was apparently betrayed into the blunder by the double meaning of the word FATE, to which in the former part of the verſe he had annexed the idea of FORTUNE, and in the latter that of DEATH; ſo that the ſenſe only was, though perſued by DEATH, I will not reſign myſelf to deſpair, but will follow FORTUNE, and do and ſuffer what is appointed. This however was not completely expreſſed, and DRYDEN being determined not to give way to his critics, never confeſſed that he had been ſurpriſed by an ambiguity; but finding luckily in Virgil an account of a man moving in a circle, with this expreſſion, Et ſe ſequiturque fugitque, "Here, ſays he, is the paſſage in [Page 269] imitation of which I wrote the line that my critics were pleaſed to condemn as nonſenſe; not but I may ſometimes write nonſenſe, though they have not the fortune to find it."
EVERY one ſees the folly of ſuch mean doublings to eſcape the perſuit of criticiſm; nor is there a ſingle reader of this poet, who would not have paid him greater veneration, had he ſhewn conſciouſneſs enough of his own ſuperiority to ſet ſuch cavils at defiance, and owned that he ſometimes ſlipped into errors by the tumult of his imagination, and the multitude of his ideas.
IT is however happy when this temper diſcovers itſelf only in little things, which may be right or wrong without any influence on the virtue or happineſs of mankind. We may, with very little inquietude, ſee a man perſiſt in a project, which he has found to be impracticable, live in an inconvenient houſe becauſe it was contrived by himſelf, or wear a coat of a particular cut, in hopes by perſeverance to bring it into faſhion. Theſe are indeed follies, but they are only follies, and, however [Page 270] wild or ridiculous, can very little affect others.
BUT ſuch pride, once indulged, too frequently operates upon more important objects, and inclines men not only to vindicate their errors, but their vices; to perſiſt in practices which their own hearts condemn, only leſt they ſhould ſeem to feel reproaches, or be made wiſer by the advice of others; or to ſearch for ſophiſms tending to the confuſion of all principles, and the evacuation of all duties, that they may not appear to act what they are not able to defend.
LET every man, who finds vanity ſo far predominant, as to betray him to the danger of this laſt degree of corruption, pauſe a moment to conſider what will be the conſequences of the plea which he is about to offer for a practice to which he knows himſelf not led at firſt by reaſon, but to which he was impelled by the violence of deſire, ſurprized by the ſuddenneſs of paſſion, or ſeduced by the ſoft approaches of temptation, and by imperceptible gradations of guilt. Let him conſider what he is going to commit by forcing his underſtanding to patroniſe [Page 271] thoſe appetites, which it is its chief buſineſs to hinder and reform.
THE cauſe of virtue requires ſo little art to defend it, and good and evil, when they have been once ſhewn, are ſo eaſily diſtinguiſhed, that ſuch apologiſts ſeldom gain proſelytes to their party, nor have their fallacies power to deceives any but thoſe whoſe deſires have clouded their diſcernment. All that the beſt faculties thus employed can perform is, to perſuade the hearers that the man is hopeleſs whom they only thought vitious, that corruption has paſſed from his manners to his principles, that all endeavours for his recovery are without proſpect of ſucceſs, and that nothing remains but to avoid him as infectious, or hunt him down as deſtructive.
BUT if it be ſuppoſed that he may impoſe on his audience by partial repreſentations of conſequences, intricate deductions of remote cauſes, or perplexed combinations of ideas, which having various relations appear different as viewed on different ſides; that he may ſometimes puzzle the weak and well-meaning, and now and then ſeduce, by the admiration of his abilities, a young mind ſtill fluctuating [Page 272] in unſettled notions, and neither fortified by inſtruction nor enlightened by experience; yet what muſt be the event of ſuch a triumph? A man cannot ſpend all this life in frolick: age, or diſeaſe, or ſolitude will bring ſome hours of ſerious conſideration, and it will then afford no comfort to think, that he has extended the dominion of vice, that he has loaded himſelf with the crimes of others, and can never know the extent of his own wickedneſs, or make reparation for the miſchief that he has cauſed. There is not perhaps in all the ſtories of ideal anguiſh, a thought more painful, than the conſciouſneſs of having propagated corruption by vitiating principles, of having not only drawn others from the paths of virtue, but blocked up the way by which they ſhould return, of having blinded them to every beauty but the paint of pleaſure, and deafened them to every call but the alluring voice of the ſyrens of deſtruction.
THERE is yet another danger in this practice: men who cannot deceive others, are very often ſucceſsful in deceiving themſelves; they weave their ſophiſtry till their own reaſon is entangled, and repeat their poſitions till they are credited by themſelves; by often contending [Page 273] they grow ſincere in the cauſe, and by long wiſhing for demonſtrative arguments they at laſt bring themſelves to fancy that they have found them. They are then at the uttermoſt verge of wickedneſs, and may die without having that light rekindled in their minds, which their own pride and contumacy have extinguiſhed.
THE men who can be charged with feweſt failings, either with reſpect to abilities or virtue, are generally moſt ready to allow them; for not to dwell on things of ſolemn and awful conſideration, the humility of confeſſors, the tears of ſaints, and the dying terrors of perſons eminent for piety and innocence, it is well known that Caeſar wrote an account of the errors committed by him in his wars of Gaul, and that Hippocrates a name perhaps in rational eſtimation greater than Caeſar's, warned poſterity againſt a miſtake into which he had fallen. So much, ſays Celſus, does the open and artleſs confeſſion of an error become a man conſcious that he has enough remaining to ſupport his character.
AS all error is meanneſs, it is incumbent on every man who conſults his own dignity, to [Page 274] retract it as ſoon as he diſcovers it, without fearing any cenſure ſo much as that of his own mind. As juſtice requires that all injuries ſhould be repaired, it is the duty of him who has ſeduced others by bad practices, or falſe notions, to endeavour that ſuch as have adopted his errors ſhould know his retraction, and that thoſe who have learned vice by his example, ſhould by his example be taught amendment.
SO large a part of human life paſſes in a ſtate contrary to our natural deſires, that one of the principal topics of moral inſtruction is the art of bearing calamities. And ſuch is the certainty of evil, that it is the duty of every man to furniſh his mind with thoſe principles that may enable him to act under it with decency and propriety.
THE ſect of antient philoſophers, that boaſted to have carried this neceſſary ſcience to [Page 275] the higheſt perfection, were the ſtoics, or ſcholars of Zeno, whoſe wild enthuſiaſtick virtue pretended to an exemption from the ſenſibilities of unenlightened mortals, and who proclaimed themſelves exalted, by the doctrines of their ſect, above the reach of thoſe miſeries, which embitter life to the reſt of the world. They therefore removed pain, poverty, loſs of friends, exile, and violent death, from the catalogue of evils; and paſſed, in their haughty ſtile, a kind of irreverſible decree, by which they forbad them to be counted any longer among the objects of terror or anxiety, or to give any diſturbance to the tranquillity of a wiſe man.
THIS edict indeed was, I think, not univerſally obſerved, for though one of the more reſolute, when he was tortured by a violent diſeaſe cried out, that let pain harraſs him to its utmoſt power, it ſhould never force him to retract the doctrines of his ſect, or to conſider it as other than indifferent and neutral; yet all had not ſtubbornneſs to hold out againſt their ſenſes: for one of Zeno's pupils is recorded to have confeſſed in the anguiſh of the gout, that he now found pain to be an evil.
[Page 276] IT may however be queſtioned, whether theſe philoſophers can be very properly numbered among the teachers of patience; for if pain be not an evil there ſeems no inſtruction requiſite how it may be born, and therefore when they endeavour to arm their followers with arguments againſt it, they may be thought to have given up their firſt poſition. But ſuch inconſiſtencies are to be expected from the greateſt underſtandings, when they endeavour to grow eminent by ſingularity, and employ their ſtrength in eſtabliſhing opinions oppoſite to nature.
THE controverſy about the reality of external evils is now at an end. That life has many miſeries, and that thoſe miſeries are, ſometimes at leaſt, equal to all the powers of fortitude which can be raiſed againſt them, is now univerſally confeſſed; and therefore it is uſeful to conſider not only how we may eſcape them, but by what means thoſe which either the accidents of affairs, or the infirmities of nature muſt bring upon us, may be mitigated and lightened; and how we may make thoſe hours leſs wretched, which the condition of our preſent exiſtence will not allow to be very happy.
[Page 277] THE cure for the greateſt part of human miſeries is not radical, but palliative. Infelicity is involved in corporeal nature, and interwoven with our being; all attempts therefore to decline it wholly are uſeleſs and vain: the armies of pain ſend their arrows againſt us on every ſide, the choice is only between thoſe which are more or leſs ſharp, or tinged with poiſon of greater or leſs malignity; and the ſtrongeſt armour which reaſon can ſupply, will only blunt their points, but cannot repel them.
THE great remedy which heaven has put in our hands is patience, by which, though we cannot leſſen the torments of the body, we can in a great meaſure preſerve the peace of the mind, and ſhall ſuffer only the natural and genuine force of an evil, without heightening its acrimony, or prolonging its effects.
THERE is indeed nothing more unſuitable to the nature of man in any calamity than rage and turbulence, which, without examining whether they are not ſometimes impious, are at leaſt always offenſive, and incline others rather to hate and deſpiſe than to pity and aſſiſt [Page 278] us. If what we ſuffer has been brought upon us by ourſelves, it is obſerved by an antient poet, that patience is eminently our duty, ſince no one ſhould be angry at feeling that which he has deſerved. ‘Leniter ex merito quicquid patiare ferendum eſt.’ And, ſurely, if we are not conſcious that we have contributed to our own ſufferings, if puniſhment fall upon innocence, or diſappointment happens to induſtry and prudence, patience, whether more neceſſary or not, is much eaſier, ſince our pain is then without aggravation, and we have not the bitterneſs of remorſe to add to the aſperity of misfortune.
IN thoſe evils which are allotted to us by providence, ſuch as deformity, privation of any of the ſenſes, or old age, it is always to be remembred that impatience can have no preſent effect, but to deprive us of the conſolations which our condition admits, by driving away from us thoſe by whoſe converſation or advice we might be amuſed or helped; and that with regard to futurity it is yet leſs to be juſtified, ſince, without leſſening the pain, it cuts off the hope of that reward, which he by [Page 279] whom it is inflicted will confer upon them that bear it well.
IN all evils which admit a remedy, impatience is to be avoided, becauſe it waſtes that time and attention in complaints, that, if properly applied, might remove the cauſe. Turenne, among the acknowledgements which he uſed to pay in converſation to the memory of thoſe by whom he had been inſtructed in the art of war, mentioned one with honour, who taught him not to ſpend his time in regretting any miſtake which he had made, but to ſet himſelf immediately and vigorouſly to repair it.
PATIENCE and ſubmiſſion are very carefully to be diſtinguiſhed from cowardice and indolence. We are not to repine, but we may lawfully ſtruggle; for the calamities of life, like the neceſſities of nature, are calls to labour, and exerciſes of diligence. When we feel any preſſure of diſtreſs, we are not to conclude that we can only obey the will of heaven by languiſhing under it, any more than when we perceive the pain of thirſt we are to imagine that water is prohibited. Of misfortune it never can be certainly known whether, as proceeding from the hand of GOD, it is an act [Page 280] of favour, or of puniſhment: but ſince all the ordinary diſpenſations of providence are to be interpreted according to the general analogy of things, we may conclude, that we have a right to remove one inconvenience as well as another; that we are only to take care leſt we purchaſe eaſe with guilt; and that our maker's purpoſe, whether of reward or ſeverity, will be anſwered by the labours which he lays us under the neceſſity of performing.
THIS duty is not more difficult in any ſtate, than in diſeaſes intenſely painful, which may indeed admit of ſuch exacerbations as ſeem to ſtrain the powers of life to their utmoſt ſtretch, and leave very little of the attention vacant to precept or reproof. In this ſtate the nature of man requires ſome indulgence, and every extravagance but impiety may be eaſily forgiven him. Yet, leſt we ſhould think ourſelves too ſoon entitled to the mournful privileges of irreſiſtible miſery, it is proper to reflect that the utmoſt anguiſh which human wit can contrive, or human malice can inflict, has been born with conſtancy; and that if the pains of diſeaſe be, as I believe they are, ſometimes greater than thoſe of artificial torture, they are therefore in their [Page 281] own nature ſhorter, the vital frame is quickly broken, the union between ſoul and body is for a time ſuſpended, and we ſoon ceaſe to feel our maladies when they once become too violent to be born. I think there is ſome reaſon for queſtioning whether the body and mind are not ſo proportioned, that the one can bear all which can be inflicted on the other, whether virtue cannot ſtand its ground as long as life, and whether a ſoul well principled will not be ſeparated ſooner than ſubdued.
In calamities which operate chiefly on our paſſions, ſuch as diminution of fortune, loſs of friends, or declenſion of character, the chief danger of impatience is upon the firſt attack, and many expedients have been contrived, by which the blow may be broken. Of theſe the moſt general precept is, not to take pleaſure in any thing, of which it is not in our power to ſecure the poſſeſſion to ourſelves.—This counſel, when we conſider the enjoyment of any terreſtrial advantage, as oppoſite to a conſtant and habitual ſolicitude for future felicity, is undoubtedly juſt, and delivered by that authority which cannot be diſputed; but in any other ſenſe, is it not like advice, not to walk leſt we ſhould ſtumble, or not to ſee [Page 282] leſt our eyes ſhould light upon deformity? It ſeems to me reaſonable to enjoy bleſſings with confidence, as well as to loſe them with ſubmiſſion, and to hope for the continuance of good which we poſſeſs without inſolence or voluptuouſneſs, as for the reſtitution of that which we loſe without deſpondency or murmurs.
The chief ſecurity againſt the fruitleſs anguiſh of impatience, muſt ariſe from the frequent reflection on the wiſdom and goodneſs of the GOD of nature, in whoſe hands are riches and poverty, honour and diſgrace, pleaſure and pain, and life and death. A ſettled conviction of the tendency of every thing to our good, and of the poſſibility of turning miſeries into happineſs, by receiving them rightly, will incline us to bleſs the name of the Lord, whether he gives or takes away.
IN the early ages of the world, as is well known to thoſe who are verſed in antient traditions, when innocence was yet untainted, and ſimplicity unadulterated, mankind was happy in the enjoyment of continual pleaſure, and conſtant plenty, under the protection of REST; a gentle divinity, who required of her worſhippers neither altars nor ſacrifices, and whoſe rites were only performed by proſtrations upon tufts of flowers in ſhades of jaſmine and myrtle, or by dances on the banks of rivers flowing with milk and nectar.
UNDER this eaſy government the firſt generations breathed the fragrance of perpetual ſpring, eat the fruits, which, without culture, fell ripe into their hands, and ſlept under bowers arched by nature, with the birds ſinging over their heads, and the beaſts ſporting about them. But by degrees they began to loſe their original integrity; each, though [Page 284] there was more than enough for all, was deſirous of appropriating part to himſelf. Then entered violence and fraud, and theft and rapine. Soon after pride and envy broke into the world, and brought with them a new ſtandard of wealth; for men, who till then thought themſelves rich when they wanted nothing, now rated their demands, not by the calls of nature, but by the plenty of others; and began to conſider themſelves as poor when they beheld their own poſſeſſions exceeded by thoſe of their neighbours. Now only one could be happy, becauſe only one could have moſt, and that one was always in danger, leſt the ſame arts by which he had ſupplanted others ſhould be practiſed upon himſelf.
AMIDST the prevalence of this corruption, the ſtate of the earth was changed; the year was divided into ſeaſons; part of the ground became barren, and the reſt yielded only berries, acorns, and herbs. The ſummer and autumn indeed furniſhed a coarſe and inelegant ſufficiency, but winter was without any relief; FAMINE, with a thouſand diſeaſes, which the inclemency of the air invited into the upper regions, made havock among men, and there [Page 285] appeared to be danger leſt they ſhould be deſtroyed before they were reformed.
TO oppoſe the devaſtations of FAMINE, who ſcattered the ground every where with carcaſes, LABOUR came down upon earth. LABOUR was the ſon of NECESSITY, the nurſeling of HOPE, and the pupil of ART; he had the ſtrength of his mother, the ſpirit of his nurſe, and the dexterity of his governeſs. His face was wrinkled with the wind, and ſwarthy with the ſun; he had the implements of huſbandry in one hand, with which he turned up the earth; in the other he had the tools of architecture, and raiſed walls and towers at his pleaſure. He called out, with a rough voice, "Mortals! ſee here the power to whom you are conſigned, and from whom you are to hope for all your pleaſures, and all your ſafety. You have long languiſhed under the dominion of REST, an impotent and deceitful goddeſs, who can neither protect nor relieve you, but reſigns you to the firſt attacks of either FAMINE or DISEASE, and ſuffers her ſhades to be invaded by every enemy, and deſtroyed by every accident."
"AWAKE therefore to the call of LABOUR. [Page 286] I will teach you to remedy the ſterility of the earth, and the ſeverity of the ſky; I will compel ſummer to find proviſions for the winter; I will force the waters to give you their fiſh, the air its fowls, and the foreſt its beaſts; I will teach you to pierce the bowels of the earth, and bring out from the caverns of the mountains metals which ſhall give ſtrength to your hands, and ſecurity to your bodies, by which you may be covered from the aſſaults of the fierceſt beaſts, and with which you ſhall fell the oak, and divide rocks, and ſubject all nature to your uſe and pleaſure."
ENCOURAGED by this magnificent invitation, the inhabitants of the globe conſidered LABOUR as their only friend, and haſted to his command. He led them out to the fields and mountains, and ſhewed them how to open mines, to level hills, to drain marſhes, and change the courſe of rivers. The face of things was immediately transformed; the land was covered with towns and villages, encompaſſed with fields of corn, and plantations of fruit-trees; and nothing was ſeen but heaps of grain, and baſkets of fruit, full tables, and crouded ſtorehouſes.
[Page 287] THUS LABOUR and his followers added every hour new acquiſitions to their conqueſts, and ſaw FAMINE gradually diſpoſſeſſed of his dominions; till at laſt, amidſt their jollity and triumphs, they were depreſſed and amazed by the approach of LASSITUDE, who was known by her ſunk eyes, and dejected countenance. She came forward trembling and groaning: at every groan the hearts of all thoſe that beheld her loſt their courage, their nerves ſlackened, their hands ſhook, and the inſtruments of labour fell from their graſp.
SHOCKED with this horrid phantom they reflected with regret on their eaſy compliance with the ſolicitations of LABOUR, and began to wiſh again for the golden hours which they remembered to have paſſed under the reign of REST, whom they reſolved again to viſit, and to whom they intended to dedicate the remaining part of their lives. REST had not left the world; they quickly found her, and to atone for their former deſertion, invited her to the enjoyment of thoſe acquiſitions which LABOUR had procured them.
REST therefore took leave of the groves and [Page 288] vallies, which ſhe had hitherto inhabited, and entered into palaces, repoſed herſelf in alcoves, and ſlumbered away the winter upon beds of down, and the ſummer in artificial grottos with caſcades playing before her. There was indeed always ſomething wanting to complete her felicity, and ſhe could never lull her returning fugitives to that ſerenity, which they knew before their engagements with LABOUR: Nor was her dominion entirely without controul, for ſhe was obliged to ſhare it with LUXURY, though ſhe always looked upon her as a falſe friend, by whom her influence was in reality deſtroyed, while it ſeemed to be promoted.
THE two ſoft aſſociates, however, reigned for ſome time without viſible diſagreement, till at laſt LUXURY betrayed her charge, and let in DISEASE to ſeize upon her worſhippers. REST then flew away, and left the place to the uſurpers; who employed all their arts to fortify themſelves in their poſſeſſion, and to ſtrengthen the intereſt of each other.
REST had not always the ſame enemy: in ſome places ſhe eſcaped the incurſions of DISEASE; but had her residence invaded by a [Page 289] more ſlow and ſubtle intruder, for very frequently when every thing was compoſed and quiet, when there was neither pain within, nor danger without, when every flower was in bloom, and every gale freighted with perfumes, SATIETY would enter with a languiſhing and repining look, and throw herſelf upon the couch placed and adorned for the accommodation of REST. No ſooner was ſhe ſeated than a general gloom ſpread itſelf on every ſide, the groves immediately loſt their verdure, and their inhabitants deſiſted from their melody, the breeze ſunk in ſighs, and the flowers contracted their leaves and ſhut up their odours. Nothing was ſeen on every ſide but multitudes wandering about they knew not whither, in queſt they knew not of what; no voice was heard but of complaints that mentioned no pain, and murmurs that could tell of no miſfortune.
REST had now loſt her authority. Her followers again began to treat her with contempt; ſome of them united themſelves more cloſely to LUXURY, who promiſed by her arts to drive SATIETY away, and others, that were more wiſe or had more fortitude, went back again to LABOUR, by whom they were [Page 290] indeed protected from SATIETY, but delivered up in time to LASSITUDE, and forced by her to the bowers of REST.
THUS REST and LABOUR equally perceived their reign of ſhort duration and uncertain tenure, and their empire liable to inrodes from thoſe who were alike enemies to both. They each ſound their ſubjects unfaithful, and ready to deſert them upon every opportunity. LABOUR ſaw the riches which he had given always carried away as an offering to REST, and REST found her votaries in every exigence flying from her to beg help of LABOUR. They, therefore, at laſt determined upon an interview, in which they agreed to divide the world between them, and govern it alternately, allotting the dominion of the day to one, and that of the night to the other, and promiſed to guard the frontiers of each other, ſo that, whenever hoſtilities were attempted, SATIETY ſhould be intercepted by LABOUR, and LASSITUDE expelled by REST. Thus the antient quarrel was appeaſed, and as hatred is often ſucceeded by its contrary, REST afterwards became pregnant by LABOUR, and was delivered of HEALTH, a benevolent goddeſs, who conſolidated the union of her [Page 291] parents, and contributed to the regular viciſſitudes of their reign, by diſpenſing her gifts to thoſe only who ſhared their lives in juſt proportions between REST and LABOUR.
HOR—Non ſine vanoAur arum et ſiluae meut.—
I HAVE been cenſured for having hitherto dedicated ſo few of my ſpeculations to the ladies; and indeed the moraliſt, whoſe inſtructions are accommodated only to one half of the human ſpecies, muſt be confeſſed not ſufficiently to have extended his views. Yet it is to be conſidered, that maſculine duties afford more room for counſels and obſervations, as they are leſs uniform, and connected with things more ſubject to viciſſitude and accident; we therefore find that in philoſophical diſcourſes which teach by precept, or hiſtorical narratives that inſtruct by example, the peculiar virtues or faults of women fill but a ſmall part; perhaps generally too ſmall, for ſo much of our domeſtic happineſs is in their hands, and their [Page 292] influence is ſo great upon our earlieſt years, that the univerſal intereſt of the world requires them to be well inſtructed in their province; nor can it be thought proper that the qualities by which ſo much pain or pleaſure may be given, ſhould be left to the direction of chance.
I HAVE, therefore, willingly given a place in my paper to a letter, which perhaps may not be wholly uſeleſs to them whoſe chief ambition is to pleaſe, as it ſhews how certainly the end is miſſed by abſurd and injudicious endeavours at diſtinction.
To the RAMBLER.
I AM a young gentleman at my own diſpoſal, with a conſiderableeſtate; and having paſſed through the common forms of education, ſpent ſome time in foreign countries, and made myſelf diſtinguiſhed ſince my return in the politeſt company, I am now arrived at that part of life in which every man is expected to ſettle, and provide for the continuation of his lineage. I withſtood for ſome time the ſolicitations and remonſtrances of my aunts [Page 293] and uncles, but at laſt was perſuaded to viſit Anthea, an heireſs, whoſe land lies contiguous to mine, and whoſe birth and beauty are without objection. Our friends declared that we were born for each other, all thoſe on both ſides who had no intereſt in hindering our union, contributed to promote it, and were conſpiring to hurry us into matrimony, before we had any opportunity of knowing one another. I was, however, too old to be given away without my own conſent, and having happened to pick up an opinion, which to many of my relations ſeemed extremely odd, that a man might be unhappy with a large eſtate, determined to obtain a nearer knowledge of the perſon with whom I was to paſs the remainder of my time. To protract the courtſhip was by no means difficult, for Anthea had a wonderful facility of evading queſtions which I ſeldom repeated, and of barring approaches which I had no great eagerneſs to preſs.
THUS the time paſſed away in viſits and civilities, without any ardent profeſſions of love, or formal offers of ſettlements. I often attended her to publick places, in which, as is well known, all behaviour is ſo much regulated [Page 294] by cuſtom, that very little inſight can be gained into the private character, and therefore I was not yet able to inform myſelf of her humour and inclinations.
AT laſt I ventured to propoſe to her to make one of a ſmall party, and ſpend a day in viewing a ſeat and gardens a few miles diſtant; and having, upon her compliance, collected the reſt of the company, I brought, at the hour, a coach which I had borrowed from an acquaintance, having delayed to buy one myſelf, till I ſhould have an opportunity of taking the lady's opinion for whoſe uſe it was intended. Anthea came down, but as ſhe was going to ſtep into the coach, ſtarted back with great appearance of terror, and told us that ſhe durſt not enter, for the ſhocking colour of the lining had ſo much the air of the mourning coach, in which ſhe followed her aunt's funeral three years before, that ſhe ſhould never have her poor dear aunt out of her head.
I KNEW that it was not for lovers to argue with their miſtreſſes; I therefore ſent back the coach, and got another more gay. Into this we all entered, the coachman began to drive, and we were amuſing ourſelves with the [Page 295] expectation of what we ſhould ſee, when, upon a ſmall inclination of the carriage, Anthea ſcreamed out, that we were overthrown. We were obliged to fix all our attention upon her, which ſhe took care to keep up by renewing her outcries, at every corner where we had occaſion to turn: at intervals ſhe entertained us with fretful complaints of the uneaſineſs of the coach, and obliged me to call ſeveral times on the coachman to take care and drive without jolting. The poor fellow endeavoured to pleaſe us, and therefore moved very ſlowly, 'till Anthea found out that this pace would only keep us longer on the ſtones, and deſired that I would order him to make more ſpeed. He whipped his horſes, the coach jolted again, and Anthea very complaiſantly told us how much ſhe repented that ſhe made one of our company.
AT laſt we got into the ſmooth road, and began to think our difficulties at an end, when, on a ſudden, Anthea ſaw a brook before us, which ſhe could not venture to paſs. We were, therefore, obliged to alight, that we might walk over the bridge; but when we came to it, we found it ſo narrow, that Anthea durſt not ſet her foot upon it, and was [Page 296] content, after long conſultation, to call the coach back, and with innumerable precautions, terrors, and lamentations, croſſed the brook.
IT was neceſſary, after this delay, to mend our pace, and directions were accordingly given to the coachman, when Anthea informed us, that it was common for the axle to catch fire with a quick motion, and begged of me to look out every minute, leſt we ſhould all be conſumed. I was forced to obey, and give her from time to time the moſt ſolemn declarations that all was ſafe, and that I hoped we ſhould reach the place without loſing our lives either by fire or water.
THUS we paſſed on, over ways ſoft and hard, with more or with leſs ſpeed, but always with new viciſſitudes of anxiety. If the ground was hard, we were jolted, if ſoft, we were ſinking. If we went faſt, we ſhould be overturned, if ſlowly, we ſhould never reach the place. At length ſhe ſaw ſomething which ſhe called a cloud, and began to conſider that at that time of the year it frequently thundered. This ſeemed to be the capital terrour, for after that the coach was ſuffered to [Page 297] move on; and no danger was thought too dreadful to be encountered, provided ſhe could get into a houſe before the thunder.
THUS our whole converſation paſſed in dangers, and cares, and fears, and conſolations, and ſtories of ladies dragged in the mire, forced to ſpend all the night on a heath, drowned in rivers, or burnt with lightening; and no ſooner had a hairbreadth eſcape ſet us free from one calamity, but we were threatened with another.
AT length we reached the houſe where we intended to regale ourſelves, and I propoſed to Anthea the choice of a great number of diſhes, which the place, being well provided for entertainment, happened to afford. She made ſome objection to every thing that was offered; one thing ſhe hated at that time of the year, another ſhe could not bear ſince ſhe had ſeen it ſpoiled at lady Feedwell's table; another ſhe was ſure they could not dreſs at this houſe, and another ſhe could not touch without French ſauce. At laſt ſhe fixed her mind upon ſalmon, but there was no ſalmon in the houſe. It was however procured with great expedition, and when it came to the table, [Page 298] ſhe found that her fright had taken away her ſtomach, which indeed ſhe thought no great loſs, for ſhe could never believe that any thing at an inn could be cleanly got.
DINNER was now over, and the company propoſed, for I was now paſt the condition of making overtures, that we ſhould perſue our original deſign of viſiting the gardens. Anthea declared that ſhe could not imagine what pleaſure we expected from the ſight of a few green trees and a little gravel, and two or three pits of clear water; that for her part ſhe hated walking till the cool of the evening, and thought it very likely to rain, and again wiſhed that ſhe had ſtaid at home. We then reconciled ourſelves to our diſappointment, and began to talk on common ſubjects, when Anthea told us that ſince we came to ſee gardens, ſhe would not hinder our ſatisfaction. We all roſe and walked through the encloſures for ſome time, with no other trouble than the neceſſity of watching leſt a frog ſhould hop acroſs the way, which Anthea told us would certainly kill her, if ſhe ſhould happen to ſee him.
FROGS, as it fell out, there were none, but [Page 299] when we were within an acre of the gardens, Anthea ſaw ſome ſheep, and heard the wether clink his bell, which ſhe was certain was not hung upon him for nothing, and therefore no aſſurances nor intreaties ſhould prevail upon her to go a ſtep farther; ſhe was ſorry to diſappoint the company, but her life was dearer to her than ceremony.
WE came back to the inn, and Anthea now diſcovered that there was no time to be loſt in returning, for the night would come upon us, and a thouſand misfortunes might happen in the dark. The horſes were immediately harneſſed, and Anthea having wondered what could ſeduce her to ſtay ſo long was eager to ſet out. But we had now a new ſcene of terrour, every man we ſaw was a robber, and we were ordered ſometimes to drive hard leſt a traveller whom we ſaw behind ſhould overtake us, and ſometimes to ſtop, leſt we ſhould come up to him who was paſſing before us. She alarmed many an honeſt man by begging him to ſpare her life as he paſſed by the coach, and drew me into fifteen quarrels with perſons who encreaſed her fright by kindly ſtopping to enquire whether they could aſſiſt us. At laſt [Page 300] we came home, and ſhe told hercompany next day what a pleaſant ride ſhe had been taking.
I SUPPOSE, Sir, I need not enquire of you what deductions may be made from this narrative, nor what happineſs can ariſe from the ſociety of that woman, who miſtakes cowardice for elegance, and imagines all delicacy to conſiſt in refuſing to be pleaſed.
I am, &c.