The Rambler.: [pt.3]
Nullius addictus jurare in verba magiſtri,Quo me cunque rapit tempeſtas, deferor hoſpes.HOR.
MART.Vivere quod propero pauper, rec inutilis annisDa veniam, properat vivere nemo ſatis.
MANY words and ſentences are ſo frequently heard in the mouths of men, that a ſuperficial obſerver is inclined to believe, that they muſt contain ſome primary principle, ſome great rule of action or maxim of prudence, which it is proper always to have preſent to the attention, and by which the uſe of every hour is to be adjuſted. Yet, if we conſider the conduct of thoſe ſententious philoſophers, it will often be found, that they repeat theſe aphoriſms, merely becauſe they have ſomewhere heard them, becauſe they have nothing elſe to ſay, or becauſe they conceive that ſome veneration is gained by ſuch appearances of wiſdom, but that no ideas are annexed to the words, and [Page 2] that, according to the old blunder of the followers of Ariſtotle, their ſouls are mere pipes or organs, which tranſmit ſounds, but do not underſtand them.
OF this kind is that well known and well atteſted poſition, that life is ſhort, which may be heard among mankind by an attentive auditor, many times a day, but which never yet within my reach of obſervation left any impreſſion upon the mind; and perhaps if my readers will turn their thoughts back upon their old friends, they will find it difficult to call a ſingle man to remembrance, who appeared to know that life was ſhort till he was about to loſe it.
IT is obſervable that Horace, in his account of the characters of men, as they are diverſified by the various influence of time, remarks, that the old man is dilator, ſpe longus, given to procraſtination, and inclined to extend his hopes to a great diſtance. So far are we, generally, from thinking what we often ſay of the ſhortneſs of life, that at the time when it is neceſſarily ſhorteſt, we form projects which we delay to execute, indulge ſuch [Page 3] expectations as nothing but a long train of events can gratify, and ſuffer thoſe paſſions to gain upon us, which are only excuſable in the prime of life.
THESE reflections were lately excited in my mind, by an evening's converſation with my friend Proſpero, who at the age of fiftyfive, has bought an eſtate, and is now contriving to diſpoſe and cultivate it with uncommon elegance. His great pleaſure is to walk among ſtately trees, and lye muſing in the heat of noon under their ſhade; he is therefore maturely conſidering how he ſhall diſpoſe his walks and his groves, and has at laſt determined to ſend for the beſt plans from Italy, and forbear planting till the next ſeaſon.
THUS is life trifled away in preparations to do what never can be done, if it be left unattempted till all the requiſites which imagination can ſuggeſt are gathered together. Where our deſign terminates only in our own ſatisfaction, the miſtake is of no great importance; for the pleaſure of expecting enjoyment, is often greater than that of obtaining it, and the completion of almoſt every [Page 4] wiſh is found a diſappointment; but when many others are intereſted in an undertaking, when any deſign is formed, in which the improvement or ſecurity of mankind is involved, nothing is more unworthy either of wiſdom or benevolence, than to delay it from time to time, or to forget how much every day that paſſes over us, take away from our power, and how ſoon an idle purpoſe to do an action, ſinks into a mournful wiſh that it had once been done.
WE are frequently importuned, by the bacchanalian writers, to lay hold on the preſent hour, to catch the pleaſures which are now within our reach, and remember that futurity is not at our command. ‘ [...] ’
BUT ſurely theſe exhortations may, with equal propriety, be applied to better purpoſes; it may be at leaſt inculcated, that pleaſures are more ſafely poſtponed than virtues, and that greater loſs is ſuffered by miſſing an opportunity [Page 5] of doing good, than an hour of giddy frolick and noiſy merriment.
WHEN Baxter had loſt a thouſand pounds, which he had laid up for the erection of a ſchool, he uſed frequently to mention the misfortune, as an incitement to be charitable while God gives the power of beſtowing, and conſidered himſelf as culpable in ſome degree, for having left a good action in the hands of chance, and ſuffered his benevolence to be defeated for want of quickneſs and diligence.
IT is lamented by Hearne, the learned antiquary of Oxford, that this general forgetfulneſs of the fragility of life, has remarkably infected the ſtudents of monuments and records; as their employment conſiſts firſt in collecting and afterwards in arranging, or abſlracting what libraries afford them, they ought to amaſs no more than they can digeſt; but when they have undertaken a work, they go on ſearching and tranſcribing, call for new ſupplies, when they are already over-burdened, and at laſt leave their work unfiniſhed. It is, ſays he, the buſineſs of a good antiquary, as of a good man, to have mortality always before him.
[Page 6] THUS, not only in the ſlumber of ſloth, but in the diſſipation of ill directed induſtry, is the ſhortneſs of life generally forgotten. As ſome men loſe their hours in lazineſs, becauſe they ſuppoſe, that there is time enough for the reparation of their negligence; others buſy themſelves in providing that no length of life may want employment; and it often happens, that ſluggiſhneſs and activity are equally ſurpriſed by the laſt ſummons, and periſh not more differently from each other, than the fowl that receives the ſhot in her flight, from her that is killed upon the buſh.
AMONG the many improvements, made by the laſt centuries in human knowledge, may be numbered the exact calculations of the value of life; but whatever may be their uſe in traffick, they ſeem very little to have advanced morality. They have hitherto been rather applied to the acquiſition of money, than of wiſdom; the computer refers none of his calculations to his own tenure, but perſiſts, in contempt of probability, to foretel long life to himſelf, and believes that he is marked out to reach the utmoſt verge of human [Page 7] exiſtence, and ſee thouſands and ten thouſands fall into the grave.
SO deeply is this ſallacy rooted in the heart, and ſo ſtrongly guarded by hope and fear againſt the approach of reaſon, that neither ſcience nor experience can ſhake it, and we act as if life were without end, though we ſee and confeſs its uncertainty and ſhortneſs.
DIVINES have, with great ſtrength and ardour, ſhewn the abſurdity of delaying reformation and repentance; a degree of folly indeed, which ſets eternity to hazard. It is the ſame weakneſs, in proportion to the importance of the neglect, to transfer any care, which now claims our attention, to a future time: we ſometimes ſubject ourſelves to needleſs dangers from accidents which early diligence would have obviated, and ſometimes perplex our minds by vain precautions, and make proviſion for the execution of deſigns, for which the opportunity once miſſed never will return.
AS he that lives longeſt lives but a little while, every man may be certain that he has no [Page 8] time to waſte. The duties of life are commenſurate to its duration, and every day brings its taſk, which if neglected, is doubled on the morrow. But he that has already trifled away thoſe months and years, in which he ſhould have laboured, muſt remember, that of what he has now only a part, the whole is little; and that ſince the few moments remaining are to be conſidered as the laſt truſt of heaven, not one is to be loſt.
HOR.Omnis Ariſtippum decuit ſtatus, et color, et res,Sectantem majora fere; preſentibus aequum.
To the RAMBLER.
THOSE who exalt themſelves into the chair of inſtruction, and venture upon the preſumptuous office of teaching others, very often without enquiring whether any will ſubmit to their authority, have, I think, not ſufficiently conſidered how much of human life paſſes in little incidents, curſory converſation, [Page 9] ſlight buſineſs, and caſual amuſements; and therefore they have endeavoured only to exhibit and inculcate the ſeverer, more difficult, and more awful virtues, without condeſcending to regard thoſe petty affections, or ſecondary qualities, which grow important only by their frequency, and which, though they are overlooked by the ſpeculatiſt becauſe they produce no ſingle acts of heroiſm, nor aſtoniſh us by great events, yet are every moment exerting their influence upon us, and make the draught of life ſweet or bitter by imperceptible inſtillations. They operate unſeen and unregarded, as change of air makes us ſick or healthy, though we breathe it without attention, and only know the particles that impregnate it by their ſalutary or malignant effects.
YOU have indeed ſhewn yourſelf not ignorant of the value and power of thoſe ſubaltern endowments, yet you have hitherto forgotten or neglected to recommend good humour to the world, though a little reflection will ſhew you that it may be properly termed the balm of being, the quality to which all that adorns or elevates mankind muſt owe its power of [Page 10] pleaſing. Without good humour, learning and bravery can to feeble minds be only formidable: It confers that ſuperiority which ſwells the heart of the lion in the deſart, where he roars without reply, and ravages without reſiſtance. Without good humour, virtue may indeed awe by its dignity, and amaze by its brightneſs; but muſt always be viewed at a diſtance, and will ſcarcely gain a friend or attract an imitator.
GOOD humour may be defined a habit of being pleaſed, a conſtant and perennial ſoftneſs of manner, eaſineſs of approach, and ſuavity of diſpoſition; like that which every man perceives in himſelf, when the firſt tranſports of new felicity have ſubſided, and his thoughts are only kept in motion by a ſlow ſucceſſion of ſoft impulſes. Good humour is a ſtate between gayety and unconcern; the act or emanation of a mind at leiſure to regard the gratification of another.
IT is imagined by many, that whenever they aſpire to pleaſe, they are required to be merry, to ſhew the gladneſs of their ſouls by ſlights of pleaſantry, and burſts of laughter, and to loſe all reſerve and reflection in overflowing [Page 11] jollity. But, though theſe Men may be courted for a time, and heard with applauſe and admiration, they ſeldom delight us long. We enjoy them a little, and then retire to eaſineſs and good humour, as the eye gazes a while on eminences glittering with the ſun, but ſoon turns aching away to verdure and to flowers.
GAYETY is to good humour as animal perſumes to vegetable fragrance; the one overpowers weak ſpirits, and the other recreates and revives them. Gayety ſeldom fails to give ſome pain; the hearers either ſtrain their faculties to accompany its towerings, or are left behind in envy and deſpair. Good humour boaſts no faculties which every one does not believe in his own power, and pleaſes principally by not offending.
IT is well known that the moſt certain way to give any man pleaſure, is to perſuade him that you receive pleaſure from him, to encourage him to freedom and confidence, and to avoid any ſuch appearance of ſuperiority as may overbear and depreſs him. We ſee many that by this art only, ſpend their days in the midſt [Page 12] of careſſes, invitations, and civilities; and without any great qualities or extraordinary attainments, are the univerſal favourites of both ſexes, and certainly find a friend in every place, becauſe they heighten every man's opinion of himſelf. The darlings of the world will, indeed, be generally found ſuch as excite neither jealouſy nor fear, and are not conſidered as candidates for any eminent degree of reputation, but content themſelves with common accompliſhments, and endeavour rather to ſolicit kindneſs than to raiſe eſteem; therefore in aſſemblies and places of reſort it ſeldom fails to happen, that though at the entrance of ſome particular perſon every face brightens with gladneſs, and every hand is extended in ſalutation, yet if you perſue him beyond the firſt exchange of civilities, you will find him of very ſmall importance, and only welcome to the company, as one by whom all conceive themſelves admired, and with whom any one is at liberty to amuſe himſelf when he can find no other auditor or companion, as one with whom all are at eaſe, who will hear a jeſt without criticiſm, and a narrative without contradiction, who laughs with every wit, and yields to every diſputer.
[Page 13] THERE are many whoſe vanity always inclines them to aſſociate with thoſe from whom they have no reaſon to fear mortification; and there are times in which the wiſe and the knowing are willing to receive praiſe without the labour of deſerving it, in which the moſt elevated mind is willing to deſcend, and the moſt active to be at reſt. All therefore are at ſome hour or another fond of companions whom they can entertain upon eaſy terms, and who will relieve them from ſolitude, without condemning them to vigilance and caution. We are moſt inclined to love when we have nothing to fear, and he that always indulges us in our preſent Diſpoſition, and encourages us to pleaſe ourſelves, will not be long without preference in our affection to thoſe whoſe learning holds us at the diſtance of pupils, or whoſe wit calls all attention from us, and leaves us without importance and without regard,
IT is remarked by prince Henry, when he ſees Falſtaff lying on the ground, that he could have better ſpared a better man. He was well acquainted with the vices and follies of him whom he lamented, but while his conviction [Page 14] compelled him to do juſtice to ſuperior qualities, his tenderneſs ſtill broke out at the remembrance of Falſtaff, of the chearful companion, the loud buffoon, with whom he had paſſed his time in all the luxury of idleneſs, who had gladded him with unenvied merriment, and whom he could at once enjoy and deſpiſe.
YOU may perhaps think this account of thoſe who are diſtinguiſhed for their good humour, not very conſiſtent with the praiſes which I have beſtowed upon it. But ſurely nothing can more evidently ſhew the value of this quality, than that it recommends thoſe who are deſtitute of all other excellencies, and procures regard to the trifling, friendſhip to the worthleſs, and affection to the dull.
GOOD humour is indeed generally degraded by the characters in which it is found; for being conſidered as a cheap and vulgar quality, we find it often neglected by thoſe that having excellencies of higher reputation and brighter ſplendor, perhaps imagine that they have ſome right to gratify themſelves at the expence of others, and are [Page 15] to demand compliance, rather than to practiſe it. It is by ſome unfortunate miſtake that almoſt all thoſe who have any claim to eſteem or love, preſs their pretenſions with too little conſideration of others. This miſtake my own intereſt as well as my zeal for general happineſs makes me deſirous to rectify, for I have a friend, who, becauſe he knows his own fidelity, knowledge, and uſefulneſs, is never willing to ſink into a companion, but is always grave, and ſolemn, and moroſe. I have a wife whoſe beauty firſt ſubdued me, and whoſe wit afterwards confirmed her conqueſt, but whoſe beauty ſerves no other purpoſe ſince our marriage, than to entitle her, in her own opinion, to tyranny, and whoſe wit is only uſed to juſtify perverſeneſs.
SURELY nothing can be more unreaſonable than to loſe the will to pleaſe, when we are conſcious of the power, or ſhow more tyranny of diſpoſition, than to chuſe any kind of influence before that of kindneſs. He that regards the welfare of others, ſhould endeavour to make his virtue [Page 16] approachable, that it may be loved and copied; and he that conſiders his own happineſs, and the wants which every man feels, or will feel of external aſſiſtance, will rather wiſh to be ſurrounded by thoſe that love him, than by thoſe that admire his excellencies, or ſollicit his favours; for admiration ceaſes with novelty, and intereſt gains its end and retires. A man whoſe great qualities want the ornament of ſuperficial attractions, is like a naked mountain with mines of gold, which will be frequented only till the treaſure is exhauſted.
I am, &c. PHILOMIDES.
OVID,Stulte quid heu votis fruſtra puerilibus optasQuae non ulla tulit, fertve, feretve dies.
To the RAMBLER.
IF you feel any of that Compaſſion, which you recommend to others, you will not diſregard a repreſentation of a caſe which I have reaſon from obſervation, to believe very common, and which I know by experience to be very miſerable. And though the querulous are ſeldom received with great ardour of kindneſs, I hope to eſcape the mortification of finding, that my lamentations ſpread the contagion of impatience, and produce Anger rather than tenderneſs. I write not merely to vent the ſwelling of my heart, but to enquire by what means I may recover my tranquillity, and ſhall endeavour at brevity in my narrative, having long known that complaint quickly tires, however elegant, or however juſt.
[Page 18] I WAS born in a remote county, of an antient family that boaſts of alliances with the greateſt names of the Engliſh hiſtory, and extends its claims of affinity to the Tudors and Plantagenets. My anceſtors had, by little and little, waſted their patrimony, till my father had not enough left for the ſupport o [...] a family, without deſcending to the cultivation of his own grounds, being condemned to pay three ſiſters the fortunes allotted them by my grandfather, who is ſuſpected to have made his will when he was incapable of adjuſting the claims of his children in due proportion, and who, perhaps, without deſign, enriched his daughters by beggaring his ſon. My aunts being at the death of their father, neither young nor beautiful, nor very eminent for ſoftneſs of behaviour, benevolence of temper, or extent of knowledge, were ſuffered, by the neighbours, to live unſolicited, and, by the accumulation of the intereſt of their portions, grew every day richer and prouder. My father pleaſed himſelf with foreſeeing that the poſſeſſions of thoſe ladies muſt revert at laſt to the hereditary eſtate, and, that his family might loſe none of its dignity, reſolved to keep me untainted [Page 19] with any profeſſion or lucrative employment; whenever therefore I diſcovered any inclination to the improvement of my condition, my mother never failed to put me in mind of my birth, and charged me to do nothing with which I might be reproached, when I ſhould come to my aunts eſtate.
IN all the perplexities or vexations which want of money brought upon us, it was our conſtant practice to have recourſe to futurity. If any of our neighbours ſurpaſſed us in appearance, we went home and contrived an equipage, with which the death of my aunts was to ſupply us. If any purſe-proud upſtart was deficient in reſpect, vengeance was referred to the time in which our eſtate was to be repaired. We regiſtered every act of civility and rudeneſs, enquired the number of diſhes at every feaſt, and minuted the furniture of every houſe, that we might, when the hour of affluence ſhould come, be able to eclipſe all their ſplendor, and ſurpaſs all their magnificence.
UPON plans of elegance and ſchemes of pleaſure the day roſe and ſet, and the year [Page 20] went round unregarded while we were buſied in laying out plantations on ground not yet our own, and deliberating whether the manor-houſe ſhould be rebuilt or repaired. This was all the amuſement of our leiſure, and all the ſolace of our exigencies; we met together only to contrive how our approaching fortune ſhould be enjoyed; for in this our converſation always ended, on whatever ſubject it began. We had none of the collateral intereſts which diverſify the life of others with joys and hopes, but had turned our whole attention on one event, which we could neither haſten nor retard, and had no other object of curioſity, than the health or ſickneſs of my aunts, of which we were careful to procure very exact and early intelligence.
THIS viſionary opulence for a while ſoothed our imagination, but afterwards fired our wiſhes, and exaſperated our neceſſities, and my father could not always reſtrain himſelf from exclaiming, that no creature had ſo many lives as a cat and an old maid. At laſt upon the recovery of his ſiſter from an age, which ſhe was ſuppoſed to have caught by ſparing fire, he began to loſe his ſtomach, [Page 21] and four months afterwards ſunk into the grave.
MY mother who loved her huſband, ſurvived him but a little while, and left me the ſole heir of their lands, their proſpects, their fchemes, and their wiſhes, As I had not enlarged my conceptions either by books or converſation, I differed only from my father by the freſhneſs of my cheeks, and the vigour of my ſtep; and, like him, gave way to no thoughts but of enjoying the wealth which my aunts were hoarding.
AT length the eldeſt fell ill. I paid the civilities and compliments which ſickneſs requires with the utmoſt punctuality. I dreamed every night of eſcutcheons and white gloves, and enquired every morning at an early hour, whether there were any news of my dear aunt. At laſt a meſſenger was ſent to inform me that I muſt come to her without the delay of a moment. I went and heard her laſt advice, but opening her will found that ſhe had left her fortune to her ſecond ſiſter,
[Page 22] I HUNG my head; the younger ſiſter threatened to be married, and every thing was diſappointment and diſcontent. I was in danger of loſing irreparably one third of my hopes, and was condemned ſtill to wait for an acceſſion to my fortune. Of part of my terror I was ſoon eaſed; for the youth, whom his relations would have compelled to marry the old lady, after innumerable ſtipulations, articles, and ſettlements, ran away with the daughter of his father's groom; and my aunt, upon this conviction of the perfidy of man, reſolved never to liſten more to amorous addreſſes.
TEN years longer I dragged the ſhackles of expectation, without ever ſuffering a day to paſs, in which I did not compute how much my chance was improved of being rich to-morrow. At laſt the ſecond lady died, after a ſhort illneſs, which yet was long enough to afford her time for the diſpoſal of her eſtate, which ſhe gave to me after the death of her ſiſter.
I WAS now relieved from part of my miſery; a larger fortune, though not in my [Page 23] power, was certain and unalienable; nor was there any longer danger, that I might at laſt be fruſtrated of my hopes by a fit of dotage, the flatteries of a chambermaid, the whiſpers of a tale-bearer, or the officiouſneſs of a nurſe. But my fortune was yet in reverſion, my aunt was to be buried before I could emerge to grandeur and to pleaſure; and there were yet, according to my father's obſervation, nine lives between me and happineſs.
BUT let no man from this time ſuffer his felicity to depend on the death of his aunt. The good gentlewoman was very regular in her hours, and ſimple in her diet, and in walking or ſitting ſtill, waking or ſleeping, had always in view the preſervation of her health. She was not ſubject to any diſorder but hypochondriac dejection; by which, without any intention, ſhe encreaſed my miſeries, for [Page 24] whenever the weather was cloudy, ſhe would take to her bed and ſend me notice that her time was come. I went with all the haſte of eagerneſs, and ſometimes received paſſionate injunctions to be kind to her maid, and directions how the laſt offices ſhould be performed; but if before my arrival the ſun happened to break out, or the wind to change, I met her at the door, or found her in the garden, buſtling and vigilant, with all the tokens of long life.
SOMETIMES however ſhe fell into diſtempers, and was thrice given over by the doctor, yet ſhe found means of ſlipping through the gripe of death, and after having tortured me three months at each time with violent alternations of hope and fear, came out of her chamber without any other hurt than the loſs of fleſh, which in a few weeks ſhe recovered by broths and jellies.
AS moſt have ſagacity ſufficient to gueſs at the deſires of an heir, it was the conſtant practice of thoſe who were hoping at ſecond hand, and endeavoured to ſecure my favour againſt the time when I ſhould be rich, to pay their court, by informing me that my aunt began [Page 25] to droop, that ſhe had lately a bad night, that ſhe coughed feebly, and that ſhe could never climb May hill; or at leaſt, that the autumn would carry her off. Thus was I flattered in the winter with the piercing Winds of March, and in ſummer, with the Fogs of September. But ſhe lived through ſpring and fall, and ſet heat and cold at defiance, till after near half a century, I buried her the fourteenth of laſt June, aged ninety-three years, five months, and ſix days.
FOR two months after her death I was rich, and was pleaſed with that obſequiouſneſs and reverence which wealth inſtantaneouſly procures. But this joy is now paſt, and I have returned again to my old habit of wiſhing. Being accuſtomed to give the future full power over my mind, and to ſtart away from the ſcene before me to ſome expected enjoyment, I deliver up myſelf to the tyranny of every deſire which fancy ſuggeſts, and long for a thouſand things which I am unable to procure. Money has much leſs power, than is aſcribed to it by thoſe that want it. I had formed ſchemes which I cannot execute, I had ſuppoſed events which do not come to paſs, [Page 26] and the reſt of my life muſt paſs in craving ſolicitude, unleſs you can find ſome remedy for a mind, corrupted with an inveterate diſeaſe of wiſhing, and unable to think on any thing but wants, which reaſon tells me will never be ſupplied.
I am, &c. CUPIDUS.
MEN are ſeldom able to give pleaſure, where they are not pleaſed themſelves; it is neceſſary, therefore, to cultivate an habitual alacrity and chearfulneſs of mind, for mankind are chiefly influenced by their affections, and in whatever ſtate we may be placed by providence, whether we are appointed to confer or receive benefits, to implore or to afford protection, we can proſecute our purpoſes with ſucceſs, only by ſecuring the love of thoſe with whom we tranſact. For though it [Page 27] is generally imagined, that he who grants favours, may ſpare any farther attention to his behaviour, and that uſefulneſs will procure friends; yet it has been found that there is an art of granting requeſts, an art very difficult of attainment; and that officiouſneſs and liberality may be ſo adulterated, as to loſe the greater part of their effect; compliance may provoke, relief may harraſs, and liberality diſtreſs.
No diſeaſe of the mind can more fatally diſable it from that intercourſe of benevolence, which is one of the chief duties of ſocial beings, than ill humour or peeviſhneſs; for tho' it breaks not out in paroxyſms of outrage, nor burſts into clamour, and turbulence, and bloodſhed, it yet ſupplies the deficiency of violence by its frequency, and wears out happineſs by ſlow corroſion, and ſmall injuries inceſſantly repeated. It may be conſidered as the canker of life, that deſtroys its vigour, and checks its improvement, that creeps on with hourly depredations, and taints and vitiates what it cannot conſume.
[Page 28] PEEVISHNESS, when it has been ſo far indulged, as to out-run the motions of the will, and diſcover itſelf without premeditation, is a ſpecies of depravity in the higheſt degree diſguſting and offenſive, becauſe no caution or regularity, no rectitude of intention, nor ſoftneſs of addreſs, can enſure a moment's exemption from affront and indignity. While we are courting the favour of a peeviſh man, while we are making the warmeſt offers of ſervice, or exerting ourſelves in the moſt diligent civility, an unlucky ſyllable diſpleaſes, an unheeded circumſtance ruffles and exaſperates; and in the moment when we congratulate ourſelves upon having gained a friend, we have the mortification of finding all our endeavours fruſtrated in a moment, and all our aſſiduity forgotten in the caſual tumult of ſome trifling irritation.
THIS troubleſome impatience is ſometimes nothing more than the ſymptom of ſome deeper malady. He that is angry without daring to confeſs his reſentment, or ſorrowful without the liberty of telling his grief, is too frequently inclined to give vent to the fermentations of his mind at the firſt paſſages that [Page 29] are opened, and to let his paſſions boil over upon thoſe whom accident throws in his way. A painful and tedious courſe of ſickneſs frequently produces ſuch a quick ſenſibility, ſuch an alarming apprehenſion of any increaſe of uneaſineſs, as keeps the ſoul perpetually on the watch, to prevent or repel any thing from which inconvenience is felt or feared, ſuch a reſtleſs and inceſſant ſolicitude, as no care, no tenderneſs can appeaſe, and can only be pacified by the cure of the diſtemper, and the removal of that pain by which it is excited.
NEARLY approaching to this weakneſs, is the captiouſneſs of old age: when the ſtrength is cruſhed, the ſenſes dulled, and the common pleaſures of life become inſipid by repetition, we are willing to impute the uneaſineſs of our condition to cauſes not wholly out of our power, and pleaſe ourſelves with fancying that we ſuffer by neglect, or unkindneſs, or want of ſkill, or any evil which admits a remedy, rather than by the decays of nature which cannot be prevented, delayed, or repaired. We therefore revenge our pains upon thoſe on whom we reſolve to charge them; and too often [Page 30] drive mankind away at the time we have the greateſt need of kindneſs and aſſiſtance.
BUT though peeviſhneſs may ſometimes claim our compaſſion, as the conſequence or concomitant of miſery, it is very often ſound, where nothing can juſtify or excuſe its admiſſion. It is often one of the attendants on proſperity, employed by inſolence in exacting homage, and by tyranny in harraſſing ſubjection. It is frequently the offspring of idleneſs and pride; of idleneſs anxious for trifles; and pride unwilling to endure the leaſt obſtruction of her wiſhes. Thoſe who have long lived in ſolitude, indeed, naturally contract this unſocial quality; becauſe, having long had only themſelves to pleaſe, they do not readily depart from their own inclinations; their ſingularities therefore are only blameable, when they have imprudently or moroſely withdrawn themſelves from the world; but there are others, who have, without any neceſſity, nurſed up this habit in their minds, by making implicit ſubmiſſiveneſs, the condition of their favour, and ſuffering none to approach them, but thoſe who watch their eyes, and obſerve [Page 31] their nods; who never ſpeak but to applaud, or move but to obey.
HE that gives himſelf up to his own fancy, and converſes with none but ſuch as he hires to lull him in the down of abſolute authority, to [...] him with obſequiouſneſs, and regale him with flattery, ſoon grows too [...]ful for the labour of conteſt, too tender for the aſperity of contradiction, and too delicate for the coarſeneſs of truth. A little oppoſition offends, a little reſtraint enrages, and a little difficulty perplexes him: for a man, who has been accuſtomed to ſee every thing give way to his humour and his choice, ſoon forgets his own littleneſs, and expects to find the world rolling at his beck, and all mankind employed to accommodate and delight him.
TETRICA had a very large fortune bequeathed to her by the ſondneſs of an aunt, which made her very early independent of her parents, and placed her in a ſtate of ſuperiority to all about her. She had naturally no ſuperfluity of underſtanding, and therefore was ſoon intoxicated by the flatteries of her maid, [Page 32] who informed her that ladies, ſuch as ſhe, had nothing to do but take pleaſure their own way; that ſhe wanted nothing from others, and had therefore no reaſon to value their opinion; that money was every thing; and that they who thought themſelves ill-treated, ſhould look for better uſage among their equals.
WARM with theſe generous ſentiments, Tetrica came forth into the world, in which ſhe endeavoured to diſtinguiſh herſelf by an overbearing haughtineſs of mien and contemptuous vehemence of language; but having neither birth, nor beauty, nor wit in any uncommon degree, the frequent mortifications which ſhe underwent from thoſe who thought themſelves at liberty to return her inſults, reduced her turbulence to more cool and ſecret malignity, and taught her to conſine her arts of vexation, to thoſe whom ſhe might hope to harraſs without controul. She continued from her twentieth to her fiftyfifth year to torment all her inferiors with ſo much diligence, that ſhe has contracted a ſettled principle of diſapprobation, and finds in every [Page 33] place ſomething to grate her mind, and diſturb her quiet.
IF ſhe takes the air, ſhe is always offended with the heat or cold, the glare of the ſun, or the gloom of the clouds; if ſhe makes a viſit, the room in which ſhe is to be received, is too light, or too dark, or furniſhed with ſomething which ſhe cannot ſee without averſion. Her tea is never of the right ſort; the figures on the China give her diſguſt. Where there are children ſhe hates the gabble of brats; where there are none ſhe cannot bear a place without ſome chearfulneſs and rattle. If many ſervants are kept in a houſe, ſhe never fails to tell how lord Laviſh was ruined by a numerous retinue; if few, ſhe relates the ſtory of a miſer that made his company wait on themſelves. She quarrelled with one family, becauſe ſhe had an unpleaſant view from their windows; with another, becauſe the ſquirrel leaped within two yards of her; and with a third, becauſe ſhe could not bear the noiſe of the parrot.
[Page 34] OF milliners and mantua-makers ſhe is the proverbial torment. She compels them to alter their work, then to unmake it, and contrive it after another faſhion, then changes her mind, and likes it better as it was at firſt, then will have a ſmall improvement. Thus ſhe proceeds till no profit can recompenſe the vexation; they at laſt leave the work at her houſe, and refuſe to ſerve her at any price. Her maid, who is the only being that can endure her tyranny, profeſſes to take her own courſe, and hear her miſtreſs talk. Such is the conſequence of peeviſhneſs; it can be born only when it is deſpiſed.
IT ſometimes happens that too cloſe an attention to minute exactneſs, or too rigorous habits of examining every thing by the ſtandard of perfection, vitiates the temper, rather than improves the underſtanding, and teaches the mind to diſcern faults with unhappy penetration. It is incident likewiſe to men of vigorous imagination to pleaſe themſelves too much with ſuturities, and to fret becauſe thoſe expectations are diſappointed, which ought never to have been formed. Knowledge and genius are often enemies to [Page 35] quiet, by ſuggeſting ideas of excellence, which men and the performances of men cannot attain: But let no man raſhly determine, that his unwillingneſs to be pleaſed, is a proof of underſtanding, unleſs his ſuperiority appears from leſs doubtful evidence; for though peeviſhneſs may ſometimes juſtly boaſt its deſcent from learning or from wit, it is much oftener of baſe extraction, the child of vanity, and nurſling of ignorance.
OVID.Diligitur nemo, niſi cui Fortuna ſecunda eſt,Quae, ſimul intonuit, proxima quaeque fugat.
To the RAMBLER.
THE diligence with which you endeavour to cultivate the knowledge of nature, manners, and life, will perhaps incline you to pay ſome regard to the obſervations of one who has been taught to know mankind [Page 36] by unwelcome information, and whoſe opinions are the reſult, not of ſolitary conjectures, but of practice and experience.
I WAS born to a large fortune, and bred to the knowledge of thoſe arts which are ſuppoſed to accompliſh the mind, and adorn the perſon of a woman. To theſe attainments which cuſtom and education almoſt forced upon me, I added ſome voluntary acquiſitions by the uſe of books, and the converſation of that ſpecies of men whom the ladies generally mention with horror and averſion by the name of ſcholars, but whom I have found, for the moſt part, a harmleſs and inoffenſive order of beings, not ſo much wiſer than ourſelves, but that they may receive as well as communicate knowledge, and more inclined to degrade their own character by cowardly ſubmiſſion, than to overbear or oppreſs us with their learning or their wit.
FROM theſe men, however, if they are by kind treatment encouraged to talk, ſomething may be gained, which embelliſhed with elegance, and ſoftened by modeſty, will always add dignity and value to female converſation; [Page 37] and from my acquaintance with the bookiſh part of the world I derived many principles of judgment and maxims of prudence, by which I was enabled to excel all my competitors, and draw upon myſelf the general regard in every place of concourſe or pleaſure. My opinion was the great rule of approbation, my remarks were remembred by thoſe who deſired the ſecond degree of fame, my mien was ſtudied, my dreſs was imitated, my letters were handed from one family to another, and read by thoſe who copied them as ſent to themſelves, my viſits were ſolicited as honours, and multitudes boaſted of an intimacy with Meliſſa, who had only ſeen me by accident, and whoſe familiarity had never proceeded beyond the exchange of a compliment, or return of a courteſy.
I SHALL make no ſcruple of confeſſing that I was pleaſed with this univerſal veneration, becauſe I always conſidered it as paid to my intrinſic qualities and inſeparable merit, and very eaſily perſwaded myſelf, that fortune had no part in my ſuperiority. When I looked upon my glaſs I ſaw youth and beauty, with health that might give me reaſon [Page 38] to hope their continuance: when I examined my mind, I found ſome ſtrength of judgment, and fertility of fancy; and was told that every action was grace, and that every accent was perſwaſion.
IN this manner my life paſſed like a continual triumph amidſt acclamations, and envy, and courtſhip, and careſſes: to pleaſe Meliſſa was the general ambition, and every ſtratagem of artful flattery was practiſed upon me. To be flattered is grateful, even when we know that our praiſes are not believed by thoſe who pronounce them; for they prove, at leaſt, our general power, and ſhew that our favour is valued, ſince it is purchaſed by the meanneſs of falſhood. But, perhaps, the flatterer is not often detected, for an honeſt mind is not apt to ſuſpect, and no one exerts the powers of diſcernment with much vigour when ſelf-love favours the deceit.
THE number of adorers, and the perpetual diſtraction of my thoughts by new ſchemes of pleaſure, prevented me from liſtening to any of thoſe who croud in multitudes to give [Page 39] girls advice, and kept me unmarried and unengaged to my twenty-ſeventh year, when, as I was towering in all the pride of unconteſted excellency, with a face yet little impaired, and a mind hourly improving, the failure of a fund, in which my money was placed, reduced me to a frugal competency, which allowed little beyond neatneſs and independence.
I BORE the diminution of my riches without any outrages of ſorrow, or puſilanimity of dejection. Indeed I did not know how much I had loſt, for, having always heard and thought more of my wit and beauty, than of my fortune, it did not ſuddenly enter my imagination, that Meliſſa could ſink beneath her eſtabliſhed rank, while her form and her mind continued the ſame; that ſhe could ceaſe to raiſe admiration but by ceaſing to deſerve it, or feel any ſtroke but from the hand of time.
IT was in my power to have concealed the loſs, and to have married, by continuing the ſame appearance, with all the credit of my original fortune, but I was not [Page 40] ſo far ſunk in my own eſteem, as to ſubmit to the baſeneſs of fraud, or to deſire any other recommendation than ſenſe and virtue. I therefore diſmiſſed my equipage, ſold thoſe ornaments which were become unſuitable to my new condition, and appeared among thoſe with whom I uſed to converſe with leſs glitter, but with equal ſpirit.
I FOUND myſelf received at every viſit, with an appearance of ſorrow beyond what is naturally felt for calamities in which we have no part, and was entertained with condolence and conſolation ſo long continued, and ſo frequently repeated, that my friends plainly conſulted, rather their own gratification, than my relief. Some from that time refuſed my acquaintance, and forebore, without any provocation, to repay my viſits; ſome viſited me, but after a longer interval than uſual, and every return was ſtill with more delay; nor did any of my female acquaintances fail to introduce the mention of my misfortunes, to compare my preſent and former condition, to tell me how much it muſt trouble me to want the ſplendor which I became ſo well, to look at pleaſures, which [Page 41] I had formerly enjoyed, and to ſink to a level with thoſe by whom I had always been conſidered as moving in a higher ſphere, and had been hitherto approached with reverence and ſubmiſſion, which, as they inſinuated, I was now no longer to expect.
OBSERVATIONS like theſe, are commonly nothing b [...]er than covert inſults, which ſerve to giv [...] vent to the flatulence of pride, but they [...] and then imprudently uttered by [...] and benevolence, and inflict pain [...] kindneſs is intended; I will, therefore, ſo far maintain my antiquated claim to politeneſs, as to venture the eſtabliſhment of this rule, that no one ought to remind another of any misfortune of which the ſufferer does not complain, and which there are no means propoſed of alleviating. No one has a right to excite thoughts which neceſſarily give pain whenever they return, and which perhaps might not have revived but by abſurd and unſeaſonable compaſſion.
MY endleſs train of lovers immediately withdrew, without raiſing any emotions. The greater part had indeed always profeſſed to court, as it is termed, upon the ſquare, had [Page 42] enquired my fortune, and offered ſettlements; and theſe had undoubtedly a right to retire without cenſure, ſince they had openly treated for money, as neceſſary to their happineſs, and who can tell how little they wanted any other portion? I have always thought the clamours of women unreaſonable, who imagine themſelves injured becauſe the men who followed them upon the ſuppoſition of a greater fortune, reject them when they are diſcovered to have leſs. I have never known any lady, who did not think wealth a title to ſome ſtipulations in her favour; and ſurely what is claimed by the poſſeſſion of money is juſtly forfeited by its loſs. She that has once demanded a ſettlement has allowed the importance of fortune; and when ſhe cannot ſhew pecuniary merit, why ſhould ſhe think her cheapener obliged to purchaſe?
MY lovers were not all contented with ſilent deſertion. Some of them revenged the neglect which they had formerly endured by wanton and ſuperfluous inſults, and endeavoured to mortify me by paying in my preſence thoſe civilities to other ladies, which were once devoted only to me. But, as it [Page 43] had been my rule to treat men according to the rank of their intellect, I had never ſuffered any one to waſte his life in ſuſpenſe, who could have employed it to better purpoſe, and had therefore no enemies but coxcombs, whoſe reſentment and reſpect were equally below my conſideration.
THE only pain which I have felt from degradation, is the loſs of that influence which I had always exerted on the ſide of virtue, in the defence of innocence, and the aſſertion of truth. I now find my opinions ſlighted, my ſentiments criticiſed, and my arguments oppoſed by thoſe that uſed to liſten to me without reply, and ſtruggle to be firſt in expreſſing their conviction. The female diſputants have wholly thrown off my authority, and if I endeavour to enforce my reaſons by an appeal to the ſcholars that happen to be preſent, the wretches are certain to pay their court by ſacrificing me and my ſyſtem to a ſiner gown, and I am every hour inſulted with contradiction by cowards, who could never find till lately that Meliſſa was liable to error.
[Page 44] THERE are two perſons only whom I cannot charge with having changed their conduct with my change of fortune. One is an old curate that has paſſed his life in the duties of his profeſſion with great reputation for his knowledge and piety; the other is a licutenant of dragoons. The parſon made no difficulty in the height of my elevation to check me when I was pert, and inſtruct me when I blundered; and if there is any alteration, he is now more timorous leſt his freedom ſhould be thought rudeneſs. The ſoldier never paid me any particular addreſſes, but very rigidly obſerved all the rules of politeneſs, which he is now ſo far from relaxing, that whenever he ſerves the tea, he obſtinately carries me the firſt diſh, in defiance of the frowns and whiſpers of the whole table.
THIS, Mr. RAMBLER, is to ſee the World. It is impoſſible for thoſe that have only known affluence and proſperity, to judge rightly of themſelves or others. The rich and the powerful live in a perpetual maſquerade, in which all about them wear borrowed characters; and we only diſcover in what eſtimation we are [Page 45] held, when we can no longer give hopes or fears.
I am, &c. MELISSA.
HOR.—Silvis ubi paſſimPalantes error certo de tramite pellit,Ille ſiniſtrorſum, hic dextrorſum abit, unus utriqueError, ſed variis illudit partibus.
IT is always very eaſy for every man, whatever may be his character with others, to find reaſons for eſteeming himſelf, and therefore cenſure, contempt, or the indubitable conviction of crimes, ſeldom deprive him of his own favour. Thoſe, indeed, who can ſee only external facts and appearances, may look upon him with abhorrence, but when he calls himſelf to his own tribunal, he finds every fault, if not abſolutely effaced by the goodneſs of the intention, and the cogency of the motive, yet ſo much palliated by [Page 46] concomittant circumſtances, that very little guilt or turpitude remains; and when he takes a ſurvey of the whole complication of his character, he diſcovers ſo many latent excellencies, ſo many virtues, that want but an opportunity to exert themſelves in act, and ſo many kind wiſhes for general happineſs, that he cannot but look on himſelf as ſuffering unjuſtly under the infamy of ſingle failings, while the general temper of his mind is unknown or unregarded.
IT is natural to mean well, when only general ideas of virtue are propoſed to the mind, and when no particular paſſion or intereſt turns us aſide from rectitude; and ſo willing is every man to flatter himſelf, that the difference between approving laws, and obeying them, is frequently forgotten; he that acknowledges the obligations of morality, and pleaſes his vanity with enforcing them to others, concludes himſelf zealous in the cauſe of virtue, though he has no longer any regard to her precepts, than they conform to his own deſires; and counts himſelf among her warmeſt lovers, becauſe he praiſes her beauty, though every rival ſteals away his heart.
[Page 47] THERE are, however, great numbers who have little recourſe to the refinements of ſpeculation, but who yet live at peace with themſelves, by means which require leſs underſtanding, or leſs attention. When they find their hearts burthened with the conſciouſneſs of a crime, inſtead of ſeeking for ſome remedy within themſelves, they look round upon the reſt of mankind, to find others tainted with the ſame guilt, and oppreſſed with the ſame ignominy: they pleaſe themſelves with obſerving, that they have numbers on their ſide; that they do not bear any peculiar marks of depravity; and that though they are hunted out from the ſociety of good men, they are not likely to be condemned to ſolitude.
IT may be obſerved, perhaps without exception, that none are ſo induſtrious to detect wickedneſs, or ſo ready to impute it, as they whoſe crimes are apparent and confeſſed. They envy the happineſs of an unblemiſhed reputation, and what they envy they are buſy to deſtroy: they are unwilling to ſuppoſe themſelves meaner, and more corrupt than others, and therefore would willingly pull down from their elevations thoſe with whom they cannot [Page 48] riſe to an equality. No man yet was wicked without ſecret diſcontent, and according to the different degrees of remaining virtue, or unextinguiſhed reaſon, he either endeavours to reform himſelf, or corrupt others; either to regain the ſtation which he has quitted, or prevail on others to imitate his defection.
IT has been always conſidered as an alleviation of miſery not to ſuffer alone, even when union and ſociety can contribute nothing to reſiſtance or eſcape; ſome comfort of the ſame kind ſeems to incite wickedneſs to ſeek aſſociates, though indeed another reaſon may be given, for as guilt is propagated the power of reproach is at leaſt diminiſhed, and among numbers equally deteſtable every individual may be ſheltered from ſhame, though not from conſcience.
ANOTHER lenitive by which the throbs of the breaſt are ſometimes aſſuaged, is, the contemplation, not of the ſame, but of different crimes. He that cannot juſtify himſelf by his reſemblance to others, is ready to try ſome other expedient, and to enquire what will riſe to his advantage from oppoſition and diſſimilitude. He eaſily finds ſome fault or other in every human [Page 49] being, and when he weighs them againſt his own, eaſily makes them preponderate while he keeps the balance in his own hand, and throws in or takes out at his pleaſure circumſtances that make them heavier or lighter. He then triumphs in his comparative purity, and ſets himſelf at eaſe, not becauſe he can refute the charges that are advanced againſt him, but becauſe he can cenſure his accuſers with equal juſtice, and no longer fears the arrows of reproach, when he has ſtored his magazine of malice with weapons equally ſharp and equally envenomed.
THIS practice, though never reaſonable, or juſt, is yet ſpecious and artful, when the cenſure is directed againſt deviations to the contrary extreme. The man who is branded with cowardice, may, with ſome appearance of propriety, turn all his force of argument againſt a ſtupid contempt of Life, and raſh precipitation into unneceſſary danger. Every receſſion from temerity is an approach towards cowardice, and though it be confeſſed that bravery, like other virtues, ſtands between faults on either hand, yet the place of the middle point may always be diſputed; he may therefore often impoſe upon careleſs [Page 50] underſtandings, by turning the attention wholly from himſelf, and keeping it fixed invariably on the oppoſite fault; by ſhewing how many evils are avoided by his behaviour, he may conceal for a time thoſe which are incurred.
BUT vice has not always opportunities or addreſs for ſuch artful ſubterſuges; and we often find men extenuating their own guilt, only by vague and general charges upon others, or endeavouring to gain reſt to themſelves, by pointing ſome other prey to the purſuit of cenſure.
EVERY whiſper of infamy is induſtriouſly circulated, every hint of ſuſpicion eagerly improved, and every failure of conduct joyfully publiſhed, by thoſe whoſe intereſt it is, that the eye and voice of the publick ſhould be employed on any rather than on themſelves.
ALL theſe artifices, and a thouſand others equally vain and equally deſpicable, are incited by that conviction from which none can ſet himſelf free, by a view of the deformity of wickedneſs, and by an abſurd deſire to ſeparate [Page 51] the cauſe from the effects, and to enjoy the profit of crimes without ſuffering the ſhame. Men are willing to try all methods of reconciling guilt and quiet, and when their underſtandings are ſtubborn and uncomplying, raiſe their paſſions againſt them, and hope to overpower their own knowledge.
IT is generally not ſo much the deſire of men, oppreſſed with crimes, to deceive the world as themſelves, for when no particular circumſtances make them dependant on the kindneſs or favour of others, infamy will not much diſturb them but as it revives their remorſe, and is echoed to them from their own hearts. The ſentence which they moſt dread, is that of reaſon and conſcience, which they would engage on their ſide at any price but the labours of duty, and the ſorrows of repentance. For this purpoſe every ſeducement and fallacy is ſought, till life is too often at an end while the hopes reſt upon ſome new experiment, and the laſt hour ſteals on unperceived, while the faculties are engaged in counteracting providence, reſiſting the voice of reaſon, and repreſſing the ſenſe of the divine diſapprobation.
PRUDENT.Os dignum aeterno nitidum quod fulgeat Auro,Si mallet laudare Deum, cui ſordida MonſtraPraetulit, et liquidam temeravit Crimine Vocem.
AMONG thoſe, whoſe hopes of advancement, diſtinction, or riches, ariſe from an opinion of their intellectual attainments, it has been, from age to age, an eſtabliſhed cuſtom to complain of the neglect of learning, of the ingratitude of mankind to their inſtructors, and the diſcouragement which men of genius and ſtudy ſuffer from the avarice of the wealthy, the ignorance of the great, the prevalence of falſe taſte, and the encroachment of barbarity.
MEN are moſt powerfully affected by thoſe evils which themſelves feel, or which appear before their own eyes; and as there has never been a time of ſuch general felicity, [Page 53] but that many have miſcarried in their hopes, and failed to obtain the rewards to which they had, in their own judgment, a juſt claim, ſome offended writer has always declaim'd, in the rage of dliappointment, againſt the age, or nation, into which his fate has thrown him; nor is there one who has not fallen upon times more unfavourable to learning than any former century, or who does not wiſh, that he had been reſerved in the inſenſibility of non-exiſtence to ſome happier hour, when the ſons of ſcience ſhall regain their antient honours, when literary merit ſhall no longer be deſpis'd, and all the gifts and careſſes of mankind ſhall recompence the toils of ſtudy, and add luſtre to the charms of wit.
MANY of theſe clamours are undoubte to be conſidered only as the burſts of pride never to be ſatisfied, as the prattle of affectation mimicking diſtreſſes which are not felt, or as the common places of vanity ſolicitous for ſplendour of ſentences and acuteneſs of remark. Yet it cannot be denied that univerſal diſcontent muſt proceed from univerſal hardſhips, and though it is evident, that [Page 54] not more than one age or people can deſerve the cenſure of being more averſe from learning than any other, yet at all times knowledge has encountered impediments, and wit been mortified with contempt, or harraſſed with perſecution.
IT is not neceſſary, however, to join immediately in the general outcry, or to condemn mankind as pleaſed with ignorance, or always envious of ſuperior abilities. The miſeries of the learned have been related by themſelves, and ſince they have not been hitherto found exempted by their knowledge from that partiality with which men generally look upon their own actions and ſufferings, we may conclude that they have not forgotten to deck their cauſe with their brighteſt ornaments, and ſtrongeſt colours. The logician has doubtleſs collected all his ſubtilties when they are to be employed in his own defence; and the maſter of rhetoric exerted againſt his adverſary all the arts by which hatred is embittered. and indignation inflamed.
TO believe no man in his own cauſe, is the ſtanding and perpetual rule of diſtributive [Page 55] juſtice; and, therefore, ſince, in the controverſy between the learned and their enemies, we have only the pleas of one party, of the party more able to delude our underſtandings by falſe repreſentations, and engage our paſſions by pleaſing narratives, pathetic lamentations, and ſoft addreſſes, we muſt determine our opinion by facts which remain unconteſted, and evidences which are, on each ſide allowed to be genuine.
BY this procedure, which muſt be acknowledged unexceptionably juſt, I know not whether the learned will find their cauſe promoted, or the compaſſion which they ſeem to expect much increaſed: for when their conduct is impartially ſurveyed, when they are allowed no longer to direct attention at their pleaſure, by expatiating on their own deſerts, when neither the dignity of knowledge overawes the judgment, nor the graces of elegance ſeduce it, it will, perhaps, be found, that they have not been able to produce claims to kinder treatment, but have provoked the calamities which they ſuffered, and ſeldom wanted friends, but when they wanted virtue.
[Page 56] THAT few men, celebrated for theoretic wiſdom, live with conformity to their precepts, muſt be readily confeſſed; and we cannot wonder that the indignation of mankind riſes with great vehemence againſt thoſe, who neglect duties which they appear to know, with ſo ſtrong conviction, the neceſſity of performing. Yet ſince no man has the power of acting equal to that of thinking, I know not whether the ſpeculatiſt may not ſometimes incur cenſures too ſevere, and by thoſe, who form their ideas of his life from their knowledge of his books, be conſidered as worſe than others, only becauſe he was expected to be better.
HE, by whoſe writings the heart is rectified, the appetites counteracted, and the paſſions repreſſed, may be conſidered as not unprofitable to the great republick of humanity, even though his behaviour ſhould not always exemplify his rules. His inſtructions may diffuſe their influence to regions, in which it will not be enquired, whether the author be albus an ater, good or bad; to times, when all his faults and all his follies ſhall be loſt in forgetfulneſs, among things [Page 57] of no concern or importance to the world; and he may kindle in thouſands and ten thouſands that flame which burnt but dimly in himſelf, through the fumes of paſſion, or the damps of cowardice. The vicious moraliſt may be conſidered as a taper, by which we are lighted through the labyrinth of complicated paſſions, he extends his radiance farther than his heat, and guides all that are within view, but burns only thoſe who make too near approaches.
YET, ſince good or harm muſt be received, for the moſt part, from thoſe to whom we are familiarly known, he whoſe vices overpower his virtues, in the compaſs to which his vices can extend, has ſurely no reaſon to complain that he meets not with affection or veneration, among thoſe who are more corrupted by his practice than enlightened by his ideas; that admiration begins where acquaintance ceaſes; and that his favourers are diſtant, but his enemies at hand.
BUT many have dared to boaſt of neglected merit, and to challenge their age or country [Page 58] for cruelty and folly, of whom it cannot be alleged that they have endeavoured to increaſe the wiſdom or virtue of their readers. They have often been at once profligate in their lives, and licentious in their compoſitions; have not only forſaken the paths of virtue, but have attempted to lure others after them. They have ſmoothed the road of perdition, covered with flowers the thorns of guilt, and taught temptation ſweeter notes, ſofter blandiſhments, and ſtronger allurements.
IT has been apparently the ſettled purpoſe of many writers whoſe powers, induſtry, and acquiſitions, place them high in the ranks of literature, to ſet faſhion on the ſide of wickedneſs; to recommend debauchery, and lewdneſs, by aſſociating them with thoſe qualities, which are moſt likely to dazzle the diſcernment, and attract the affections; and to ſhow innocence and goodneſs with ſuch attendant weakneſſes and follies, as neceſſarily expoſe them to contempt and deriſion.
[Page 59] SUCH men naturally found intimates and companions among the corrupt, the thoughtleſs, and the intemperate; paſſed their lives amidſt the gay levities of ſportive idleneſs, or the warm profeſſions of drunken friendſhip; and fed their hopes with the promiſes of wretches, whom themſelves had taught to ſcoff at truth. But when fools had laughed away their ſprightlineſs, and the languors of exceſs could no longer be relieved, they ſaw their favourers hourly drop away, and wondered and ſtormed to find themſelves abandoned. Whether their companions perſiſted in wickedneſs, or returned to virtue, they were equally without aſſiſtance; for debauchery is ſelfiſh and negligent, and from virtue the virtuous only can expect regard.
IT is ſaid by Florus of Catiline, who died in the midſt of ſlaughtered enemies, that his death had been illuſtrious, had it been ſuffered for his country. Of the wits, who have languiſhed away life under the preſſures of poverty, or in the reſtleſsneſs of ſuſpenſe, who have been careſſed and rejected, flattered and deſpiſed, as they were of more or leſs uſe to thoſe who ſtiled themſelves their patrons, it might be obſerved, that [Page 60] their miſeries would enforce compaſſion, had they been brought upon them by honeſty and religion.
THE wickedneſs of a profane or libidinous writer is more atrocious and deteſtable than that of the giddy libertine, or drunken raviſher, not only becauſe it extends its effects wider; as a peſtilence that taints the air is more deſtructive than poiſon infuſed in a draught, but becauſe it is committed with cool deliberation. By the inſtantaneous violence of deſire, a good man may ſometimes be ſurpriſed before reflection can come to his reſcue; and when the appetites have ſtrengthened their influence by habit they are not eaſily reſiſted or ſuppreſs'd; But for the frigid villainy of ſtudious lewdneſs, for the calm and mediated malignity of laboured impiety, what plea can be invented? What puniſhment can be adequate to the crime of him who retires to ſolitudes for the refinement of debauchery, who tortures his fancy, and ranſacks his memory, only that he may leave the world leſs virtuous than he found it, that he may intercept the hopes of the riſing generation, and [Page 61] ſpread ſnares for the ſoul with more dexterity?
WHAT were their motives, or what their excuſes, is below the dignity of reaſon to examine. If they had extinguiſhed in themſelves the diſtinction of right and wrong, and were inſenſible of the miſchief which they promoted, they deſerved to be hunted down by general hatred, as apparent nuſances to ſocial beings; if they were influenced by the corruption of their patrons, or their readers, and ſacrificed their own convictions to vanity or intereſt, they were at leaſt to be abhorred with more acrimony than he that robs by profeſſion, or murders for pay, ſince they committed greater crimes without greater temptations.
Of him, to whom much is given, much ſhall be required. Thoſe, to whom God has granted ſuperior faculties, and more extenſive capacities, and made eminent for quickneſs of intuition, and accuracy of diſtinction, will certainly be regarded as culpable in his eye, for defects and deviations which, in ſouls leſs exalted and enlightened, may be guiltleſs.
[Page 62] But, ſurely, none can think without horror on that man's condition, who has been more wicked in proportion as he has had more means of excelling in virtue, and uſed the light imparted from heaven only to embelliſh folly, and to palliate crimes.
JUV.—Mors ſola ſateturQuantula ſint hominum corpuſcula.
CORPORAL ſenſation is known to depend ſo much upon novelty, that cuſtom takes away from many things their power of giving pleaſure or pain. Thus a new dreſs becomes eaſy by wearing it, and the Palate is reconciled by degrees to diſhes which at firſt diſguſted it. That by long habit of carrying a burden we loſe, at leaſt in a great part, our ſenſibility of its weight, any man may be convinced by putting on, for an hour, the armour of our anceſtors; for he will ſcarcely believe that men would have had much inclination to marches and battles, encumbered [Page 63] and oppreſſed, as he will find himſelf with the ancient panoply. Yet the heroes that over-run regions, and ſtormed towns in iron accoutrements, he knows not to have been bigger, and has no reaſon to imagine them ſtronger than the preſent race of men; he therefore muſt conclude, that their peculiar powers were conferred only by peculiar habits, and that their familiarity with the dreſs of war enabled them to move in it with eaſe, vigour and agility.
YET it ſeems to be the condition of our preſent ſtate, that pain ſhould be more fixed and permanent than pleaſure. Uneaſineſs gives way by ſlow degrees, and is long before it quits its poſſeſſion of the ſenſory; but all our gratifications are volatile, vagrant, and eaſily diſſipated. The fragrance of the jeſſamine bower is loſt after the enjoyment of a few moments, and the Indian wanders among his native odours without any ſenſe of their exhalations. It is, indeed, not neceſſary to ſhew by many inſtances what every change of place is ſufficient to prove, and what all mankind confeſs, by an inceſſant call for variety, and a reſtleſs [Page 64] purſuit of enjoyments, which they value only becauſe unpoſſeſſed.
SOMETHING ſimilar, or analogous, may be obſerved in thoſe effects which are produced immediately upon the mind; nothing can ſtrongly ſtrike or affect us, but what is rare or ſudden; the moſt important events, when they become familiar, are no longer conſidered with wonder or ſolicitude, and that which at firſt filled up our whole attention, and left no place for any other thought, is ſoon thruſt aſide into ſome remote repoſitory of the Mind, and lies among other lumber of the memory, over-looked and neglected.
THE manner in which external force acts upon the body is very little ſubject to the regulation of the will; no man can at pleaſure obtund, or invigorate his ſenſes, prolong the agency of any impulſe, or continue the preſence of any image traced upon the eye, or any ſound infuſed into the ear. But our ideas are more ſubjected to choice, we can call them before us, and command their ſtay, we can facilitate and promote their recurrence, we can either repreſs their intruſion, or [Page 65] haſten their retreat. It is therefore the buſineſs of wiſdom and virtue, to ſelect among the numberleſs objects which are every moment ſtriving for our notice, ſuch as may afford uſeful employment to the mind, by enabling us to exalt our reaſon, extend our views, and ſecure our happineſs. But this choice is to be made with very little regard to rareneſs or frequency; for nothing is valuable merely becauſe it is either rare or common, but becauſe it is adapted to ſome uſeful purpoſe, and enables us to ſupply ſome deficiency of our nature.
MILTON has very judiciouſly repreſented the father of mankind ſeized with horror and aſtoniſhment at the ſight of death, exhibited to him on the mount of viſion. For ſurely, nothing can ſo much diſturb the paſſions, or perplex the intellects of man, as the diſruption of his union with viſible nature; a ſeparation from all that has hitherto delighted or engaged him; a change, not only of the place, but the manner of his being; an entrance into a ſlate, not ſimply which he knows not, but which perhaps he has not faculties to know; an immediate and perceptible communication [Page 66] with the ſupreme being, and, what is above all diſtreſsful and alarming, the final ſentence, and unalterable allotment.
YET we to whom the ſhortneſs of life has given frequent occaſions of contemplating mortality, can, without emotion, ſee generations of men paſs away, and are at leiſure to eſtabliſh modes of ſorrow, and adjuſt the ceremonial of death. We can look upon funereal pomp as a common ſpectacle in which we have no concern, and turn away from it to trifles and amuſements, without dejection of look, or inquietude of heart.
IT is, indeed, apparent from the conſtitution of the world, that there muſt be a time for other thoughts; and a perpetual meditation upon the laſt hour, however it may become the ſolitude of a monaſtery, is inconſiſtent with many duties of common life. But ſurely the remembrance of death ought to predominate in our minds, as an habitual and ſettled principle, always operating, though not always perceived; and our attention ſhould ſeldom wander ſo far from [Page 67] our own condition, as not to be recalled and fixed by ſight of an event, which muſt ſoon, we know not how ſoon, happen likewiſe to ourſelves, and of which, tho' we cannot appoint the time, we may ſecure the conſequence.
YET, though every inſtance of death may juſtly awaken our fears, and quicken our vigilance, it ſeldom happens that we are much alarmed, unleſs ſome cloſe connexion is broken, ſome ſcheme fruſtrated, or ſome hope defeated. Many therefore ſeem to paſs on from youth to decrepitude without any reflection on the end of life, becauſe they are wholly involved within themſelves, and look on others only as inhabitants of the common earth, without any expectation of receiving good, or intention of beſtowing it.
IT is indeed impoſſible, without ſome mortification of that deſire which every man feels of being remembered and lamented, to remark how little concern is cauſed by the eternal departure even of thoſe who have paſſed their lives with publick honours, and been diſtinguiſhed by ſuperior qualities, or extraordinary [Page 68] performances. It is not poſſible to be regarded with tenderneſs except by a few. That merit which gives greatneſs and renown, diffuſes its influence to a wide compaſs, but acts weakly on every ſingle breaſt; it is placed at a diſtance from common ſpectators, and ſhines like one of the remote ſtars, of which the light reaches us, but not the heat. The wit, the hero, the philoſopher, whom either their tempers or their fortunes have hindered from intimate relations and tender intercourſes, die often without any other effect than that of adding a new Topic to the converſation of the day. They impreſs none with any freſh conviction of the fragility of our nature, becauſe none had any particular intereſt in their lives, or was united to them by a reciprocation of benefits and endearments.
THUS we find it often happens, that thoſe who in their lives have excited applauſe and admiration, are laid at laſt in the ground without the common honour of a ſtone; becauſe by thoſe excellencies with which many have been delighted, none have been obliged, and, though they had many to celebrate, they had none to love them.
[Page 69] CUSTOM ſo far regulates the ſentiments at leaſt of common minds, that I believe men may be generally obſerved to grow leſs tender as they advance in age. He, who, when life was new, melted at the loſs of every companion, can look in time without concern, upon the grave into which his laſt friend was thrown, and into which himſelf is ready to fall; not that he is more willing to die than formerly, but that he is more familiar to the death of others, and therefore is not alarmed ſo far as to conſider how much nearer he approaches to his end. But this is to ſubmit tamely to the tyranny of accident, and to ſuffer our reaſon to lie uſeleſs. Every funeral may juſtly be conſidered as a ſummons to prepare for that ſtate, into which it ſhews us that we muſt ſometime enter; and the ſummons is more loud and piercing, as the event of which it warns us is at leſs diſtance. To neglect at any time preparation for death, is to ſleep on our poſt at a ſiege, but to omit it in old age, is to ſleep at an attack.
IT has always appeared to me one of the moſt ſtriking paſſages in the viſions of Quevedo, which ſtigmatiſes thoſe as fools who complain [Page 70] that they failed of happineſs by ſudden death. "How, ſays he, can death be ſudden to a being who always knew that he muſt die, and that the time of his death was uncertain?"
SINCE buſineſs and gaiety are always drawing our attention away from a future ſtate, ſome admonition is frequently neceſſary to recall it to our minds, and what can more properly renew the impreſſion than the examples of mortality which every day ſupplies? The great incentive to virtue is the reflection that we muſt die, it will therefore be uſeful to accuſtom ourſelves, whenever we ſee a funeral, to conſider how ſoon we may be added to the number of thoſe whoſe probation is paſt, and whoſe happineſs or miſery ſhall endure for ever.
MART.Tam ſaepe noſtrum decipi Fabullum, quidMiraris, Aule? Semper bonus homo tiro eſt.
SUSPICION, however neceſſary it may be to our ſafe paſſage through ways beſet on all ſides by fraud and malice, has been always conſidered, when it exceeds the common meaſures of prudent caution, as a token of depravity and corruption; and an old Greek writer of ſententious precepts has laid down as a ſtanding maxim, that he who believes not another on his oath, knows himſelf to be perjured.
WE can form our opinions of that which we know not, only by placing it in compariſon with ſomething that we know: whoever therefore is over-run with ſuſpicion, and detects artifice and ſtratagem in every propoſal, muſt either have learned by experience the wickedneſs of mankind, and been taught to avoid fraud by having often been deceived; or he muſt derive his judgment [Page 72] from the conſciouſneſs of his own diſpoſition, and impute to others the ſame inclinations which he feels predominant in himſelf.
TO learn caution by turning our eyes upon life, and obſerving the arts by which negligence is ſurpriſed, timidity overborn, and credulity amuſed, requires either great latitude of converſe and long acquaintance with buſineſs, or uncommon activity of vigilance, and acuteneſs of penetration. When therefore a young man, not diſtinguiſhed by ſuperior vigour of intellect, comes into the world full of ſcruples apd diffidence; makes a bargain with many proviſional limitations; heſitates in his anſwer to a common queſtion, leſt more ſhould be intended than he can immediately diſcover; has a long reach in detecting the projects of his acquaintance; conſiders every careſs as an act of hypocriſy, and feels neither gratitude nor affection from the tenderneſs of his friends, becauſe he believes no one to have any real tenderneſs but for himſelf; whatever expectations this early ſagacity may raiſe of his future eminence or riches, I can ſeldom forbear to conſider him as a wretch incapable of generoſity or benevolence, [Page 73] as a villain early completed beyond the need of common opportunities and gradual temptations.
UPON men of this claſs inſtruction and admonition are generally thrown away, becauſe they conſider artifice and deceit as proofs of underſtanding; they are miſled at the ſame time by the two great ſeducers of the world, vanity and intereſt, and not only look upon thoſe, who act with openneſs and confidence, as condemned by their principles to obſcurity and want, but as contemptible for narrowneſs of comprehenſion, ſhortneſs of views, and ſlowneſs of contrivance.
THE world has been long amuſed with the mention of policy in publick tranſactions, and of art in private affairs; they have been conſidered as the effects of great qualities, and as unattainable by men of the common level: yet I have not found many performances either of art, or policy, that required ſuch ſtupendous efforts of intellect, [Page 74] or might not have been effected by falſhood and impudence, without the aſſiſtance of any other powers. To profeſs what he does not mean, to promiſe what he cannot perform, to flatter ambition with proſpects of promotion, and miſery with hopes of relief, to ſooth pride with appearances of ſubmiſſion, and appeaſe enmity by blandiſhments and bribes, can ſurely imply nothing more or greater than a mind devoted wholly to its own purpoſes, a face that cannot bluſh, and a heart that cannot feel.
THESE practices are ſo mean and baſe, that he who finds in himſelf no tendency to uſe them, cannot eaſily believe that they are conſidered by others with leſs deteſtation; he therefore ſuffers himſelf to ſlumber in falſe ſecurity, and becomes a prey to thoſe who applaud their own ſubtilty becauſe they know how to ſteal upon his ſleep, and exult in the ſucceſs which they could never have obtained had they not attempted a man better than themſelves, who [Page 75] was hindered from obviating their ſtratagems, not by folly, but by innocence.
SUSPICION is, indeed, a temper ſo uneaſy and reſtleſs, that it is very juſtly appointed the concomitant of guilt. It is ſaid, that no torture is equal to the inhibition of ſleep long continued; a pain, to which the ſtate of that man bears a very exact analogy, who dares never give reſt to his vigilance and circumſpection, but conſiders himſelf as ſurrounded by ſecret foes, and fears to entruſt his children, or his friend, the ſecret that throbs in his breaſt, and the anxieties that break into his face. To avoid, at this expence, thoſe evils to which eaſineſs and friendſhip might have expoſed him, is ſurely to buy ſafety at too dear a rate, to die leſt he ſhould be killed, and, in the language of the Roman ſatiriſt, to ſave life by loſing all for which a wiſe man would live.
IN the diet of the German empire, as we are told by Camerarius, the princes were once diſplaying their riches and felicity, and each boaſting the particular advantages of his own [Page 76] dominions. One of them who poſſeſſed a country not remarkable for the grandeur of its cities, or the fertility of its ſoil, roſe in his turn to ſpeak: the reſt liſtened between pity and contempt, till he declared, in honour of his territories, that he could travel through them without a guard, and if he was weary, ſleep in ſafety upon the lap of the firſt man whom he ſhould meet; a commendation which would have been ill exchanged for the boaſt of palaces, paſtures, or ſtreams.
SUSPICION is not leſs an enemy to virtue than to happineſs: he that is already corrupt is naturally ſuſpicious, and he that becomes ſuſpicious will quickly be corrupt. It is too common for men to learn the frauds by which themſelves have ſuffered, and when they are once perſuaded that deceit will be employed againſt them, they ſometimes think the ſame arts juſtified by the neceſſity of defence. Even they whoſe virtue is too well eſtabliſhed to give way to example, or be ſhaken by ſophiſtry, muſt yet find their love of mankind diminiſhed with their eſteem, and will grow leſs zealous for the ſafety and happineſs of [Page 77] thoſe by whom they ſuſpect their own ſafety or happineſs endangered.
THUS we find old age, upon which ſuſpicion has for the moſt part been ſtrongly impreſſed by long intercourſe with the world, inflexible and ſevere, not eaſily ſoftened by ſubmiſſion, melted by complaint, or ſubdued by ſupplication. Frequent experience of counterfeited miſeries, and diſſembled virtue, have in time overcome that diſpoſition to tenderneſs and ſympathy, which is ſo powerful in our younger years, and they that happen to petition late for compaſſion or aſſiſtance are doomed to languiſh without regard, and ſuffer for the crimes of men who have formerly been found undeſerving or ungrateful.
HISTORIANS are certainly chargeable with the depravation of mankind, when they relate without cenſure thoſe ſtratagems of war by which the virtues of an enemy are engaged to his deſtruction. A ſhip comes before a port, weather-beaten and ſhattered, and the crew implore the liberty of repairing [Page 78] their breaches, ſupplying themſelves with neceſſaries, or burying their dead. The humanity of the inhabitants inclines them to conſent, the ſtrangers enter the town with weapons concealed, fall ſuddenly upon their benefactors, deſtroy thoſe that make reſiſtance, and become maſters of the place; they return home rich with plunder, and their ſucceſs is recorded to encourage imitation.
BUT ſurely war has its laws, and ought to be conducted with ſome regard to the univerſal intereſt of Man. Thoſe may juſtly be purſued as enemies to the general community of the world, who ſuffer hoſtility to vacate the eternal and unalterable laws of right, and purſue their private advantages by means, which, if once eſtabliſhed and allowed, muſt deſtroy all benevolence, cut off from every man all hopes of aſſiſtance from another, and fill the world with implacable hoſtility. Whatever is thus gained ought to be reſtored, and thoſe who have conquered by ſuch treachery may be juſtly denied the protection of their native country.
[Page 79] WHOEVER commits a fraud is guilty not only of the particular injury to him whom he deceives, but of the diminution of that confidence which conſtitutes not only the eaſe but the exiſtence of ſociety. He that ſuffers by impoſture has too often his virtue more impaired than his fortune; but as it is neceſſary not to invite robbery by ſupineneſs, ſo it is our duty not to ſuppreſs tenderneſs by ſuſpicion; it is better to ſuffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be ſometimes cheated than not to truſt.
HOR.Vides ut altâ ſtet Nive candidumSoracte, ncc jam ſubſtineant OnusSilvae laborantes—
AS providence has made the human ſoul an active being, always impatient for novelty, and ſtruggling for ſomething yet unenjoyed with reſtleſs deſire and unwearied progreſſion, the world ſeems to have been eminently adapted to this diſpoſition of the mind: it is formed to raiſe new expectations by conſtant viciſſitudes, and to obviate ſatiety by perpetual change.
WHEREVER we turn our eyes, we find ſomething to revive our curioſity, and engage our attention. In the duſk of the morning we watch the riſing of the ſun, and ſee the day diverſify the clouds, and open new proſpects in its gradual advance. After a few hours, we ſee the ſhades lengthen, and the light decline, till the ſky is reſigned to a multitude [Page 81] of ſhining orbs different from each other in magnitude and ſplendour. The earth has a new appearance as we move upon it; the woods offer their ſhades, and the fields their harveſts; the hill flatters with an extenſive view, and the valley invites with ſhelter, fragrance and flowers.
THE poets have numbered among the felicities of the golden age, an exemption from the change of ſeaſons, and a perpetuity of ſpring; but I am not certain that in this ſtate of imaginary happineſs they have made ſufficient proviſion for that inſatiable demand of new gratifications, which ſeems particularly to characterize the nature of man. Our ſenſe of delight is in a great meaſure comparative, and ariſes at once from the ſenſations which we feel, and thoſe which we remember: Thus eaſe after torment is pleaſure for a time, and we are very agreeably recreated, when the body, chilled with the weather, is gradually recovering its natural tepidity; but the joy ceaſes when we have forgot the cold, we muſt fall below eaſe again, if we deſire to riſe above it, and purchaſe new ſelicity by voluntary [Page 82] pain. It is therefore not unlikely that however the fancy may be amuſed with the deſcription of regions in which no wind is heard but the gentle zephir, and no ſcenes are diſplayed, but vallies enamelled with unfading flowers, and woods waving their perennial verdure, we ſhould ſoon grow weary of uniformity, find our thoughts languiſh for want of other objects and employment, call on heaven for our wonted round of ſeaſon, and think ourſelves liberally recompenſed for the inconveniencies of ſummer and winter, by new perceptions of the calmneſs and mildneſs of the intermediate variations.
EVERY ſeaſon has its particular power of ſtriking the mind. The nakedneſs and aſperity of the wintry world always fills the beholder with penſive and profound aſtoniſhment; as the variety of the ſcene is leſſened, its grandeur is increaſed; and the mind is ſwelled at once by the mingled ideas of the preſent and the paſt, of the beauties which have vaniſhed from the eyes, and the waſte and deſolation that are now before them.
[Page 83] IT is obſerved by Milton, that he who neglects to viſit the country in ſpring, and rejects the pleaſures that are then in their firſt bloom and fragrance, is guilty of ſullenneſs againſt nature. If we allot different duties to different ſeaſons, he may be charged with equal diſobedience to the voice of nature, who looks on the bleak hills and leafleſs woods, without ſeriouſneſs and awe. Spring is the ſeaſon of gaiety, and winter of terror; in ſpring the heart of tranquillity dances to the melody of the groves, and the eye of benevolence ſparkles at the ſight of happineſs and plenty: In the winter, compaſſion melts at univerſal calamity, and the tear of ſoftneſs ſtarts at the wailings of hunger, and the cries of the creation in diſtreſs.
THERE is indeed in moſt minds very little inclination to indulge heavineſs and ſorrow, nor do I recommend them beyond the degree neceſſary to maintain in its full vigour that habitual ſympathy and tenderneſs, which, in a world of ſo much miſery, is neceſſary to the ready diſcharge of our moſt important duties. The winter therefore is generally celebrated [Page 84] as the proper ſeaſon for domeſtick merriment and gaiety. We are ſeldom invited by the votaries of pleaſure to look abroad for any other purpoſe, than that we may ſhrink back with more ſatisfaction to our coverts, and when we have heard the howl of the tempeſt, and felt the gripe of the froſt, congratulate each other with more gladneſs upon a cloſe room, an eaſy chair, a high piled fire, and a ſmoaking dinner.
THERE are indeed now natural incitements to jollity and converſation. Differences, we know, are never ſo effectually laid aſleep, as by ſome common calamity; an enemy unites all to whom he threatens danger. The rigour of winter brings generally to the ſame fire-ſide thoſe, who, by the oppoſition of their inclinations, or the difference of their employments, moved in various directions through the other parts of the year; and when they have met, and find it their mutual intereſt to remain together, they endear each other by mutual compliances, and often wiſh for the continuance of the ſocial ſeaſon with all its bleakneſs and all its ſeverities.
[Page 85] TO the men of ſtudy and imagination the winter is generally the chief time of labour. Gloom and ſilence produce compoſure of mind, and concentration of ideas; and the privation of external pleaſure naturally cauſes an effort to find entertainment within. This is the time in which thoſe, whom literature enables to find amuſements for themſelves, have more than common convictions of their own happineſs, When they are condemned by the elements to retirement, and debarred from moſt of the diverſions which are called in to aſſiſt the flight of time, they can always find new ſubjects of enquiry, engage their paſſions in new purſuits, and preſerve themſelves from that wearineſs which hangs always flagging upon the vacant mind.
IT cannot indeed be expected of all to be poets and philoſophers, deeply verſed in ſciences, or much engaged in reſearches into paſt or diſtant tranſactions; it is neceſſary that the greater part of mankind ſhould be employed in the trivial buſineſs of common life; trivial, indeed, not with reſpect to its influence upon our happineſs, but of the abilities [Page 86] requiſite to conduct it. Theſe muſt neceſſarily be more dependent on accident for the means of ſpending agreeably thoſe hours which their occupations leave unengaged, or which the imbecillity of nature obliges them to allow to relaxation and diverſion. Yet even on theſe I would willingly impreſs ſuch a ſenſe of the value of time, as may incline them to find out for their moſt careleſs hours ſome amuſement of more uſe and dignity than the common games, which not only weary the mind without improving it, but ſtrengthen the paſſions of envy and avarice, and often lead to fraud and to profuſion, to corruption and to ruin. It is unworthy of a reaſonble being to ſpend any of the little time allotted us, without ſome tendency, either direct or oblique, to the end of our exiſtence. And though every moment cannot be laid out on the formal and regular improvement of our knowledge, or in the ſtated practice of a moral or religious duty, yet none ſhould be ſo ſpent as to exclude wiſdom or virtue, or paſs without poſſibility of qualifying us more or leſs for the better employment of thoſe which are to come.
[Page 87] IT is ſcarcely poſſible to paſs an hour in honeſt converſation, without being able when we riſe from it, to pleaſe ourſelves with having given or received ſome advantages; but a man may ſhuffle cards, or rattle dice, from noon to midnight, without tracing any new idea in his mind, or being able to recollect the day by any other token than his gain or loſs, and a confuſed remembrance of agitated paſſions, and clamorous altercations.
HOWEVER, as experience is always of more weight than precept, any of my readers, who are contriving how to ſpend the dreary months before them, may conſider which of their paſt amuſements fill them now with greateſt ſatisfaction, and reſolve to repeat thoſe gratifications of which the pleaſure is moſt durable.
AMONG queſtions which have been long diſcuſſed in the world, without any approach to deciſion, may be numbered the precedency or ſuperior exeellence of one virtue to another, which has long furniſhed a ſubject of debate to men whoſe leiſure ſent them out into the intellectual world in ſearch of employment, and who have, perhaps, been ſometimes with-held from attending to the practice of their favourite duty, by their zeal for its advancement, and diligence in its celebration.
THE intricacy of this diſpute may be alledged as a proof of that tenderneſs for mankind which providence has, I think, univerſally diſplayed, by making attainments eaſy in proportion as they are neceſary. That all the duties of morality ought to be practiſed, is without difficulty diſcoverable, becauſe ignorance or uncertainty would immediately involve the world in confuſion and diſtreſs; but [Page 89] which duty ought to be moſt eſteemed or praiſed, we may continue to debate, without much inconvenience, ſo all be diligently performed as there is opportunity or need: for upon practice, not upon opinion, depends the happineſs of mankind; and controverſies, merely ſpeculative, are of ſmall importance in themſelves, however they may have ſometimes heated a diſputant, or provoked a faction.
OF the divine author of our religion it is impoſſible to peruſe the evangelical hiſtories, without obſerving how little he favoured the vanity of inquiſitiveneſs; how much more rarely he condeſcended to ſatisfy curioſity, than to relieve diſtreſs; and how much he deſired that his followers ſhould rather excel in goodneſs than in knowledge. His precepts tend immediately to the rectification of the moral principles, and the direction of daily conduct, without oſtentation, without art, at once irrefragable and plain, ſuch as well-meaning ſimplicity may readily conceive, and of which we cannot miſtake the meaning, but when we are afraid to find it.
[Page 90] THE meaſure of juſtice preſcribed to us, in our tranſactions with others, is remarkably clear and comprehenſive: Whatſoever ye would that men ſhould do unto you, even ſo do unto them. A law by which every claim of right may be immediately adjuſted, as far as the private conſcience requires to be informed; a law, of which every man may find the expoſition in his own breaſt, and which may always be obſerved without any other qualifications than honeſty of intention, and purity of will.
OVER this Law, indeed, ſome ſons of ſophiſtry have been ſubtile enough to throw miſts, which have darkened their own eyes. To find means of perplexing that univerſal principle upon which every queſtion of juſtice, between one man and another, is to be decided, they have enquired whether a man, conſcious to himſelf of unreaſonable wiſhes, be bound to gratify them in another. But ſurely there needed no long deliberation to conclude, that the deſires, which are to be conſidered by us as the meaſure of right, [Page 91] muſt be ſuch as we approve, and that we ought to pay no regard to thoſe expectations in others which we condemn in ourſelves, and which, however they may intrude upon our imagination, we know it our duty to reſiſt and ſuppreſs.
ONE of the moſt celebrated caſes which have been produced as requiring ſome ſkill in the direction of conſcience to adapt them to this great rule, is that of a criminal aſking mercy of his judge, who cannot but know that if he was in the ſtate of the ſupplicant, he ſhould deſire that pardon which he now denies. The difficulty of this ſophiſm will vaniſh, if we remember that the parties are in reality on one ſide criminal, and on the other the community of which the magiſtrate is only the miniſter, and by which he is intruſted with the publick ſafety. The magiſtrate therefore in pardoning a man unworthy of pardon, betrays the truſt with which he is inveſted, gives away what is not his own, and, apparently, does to others what he would not that others ſhould do to him. Even the community, whoſe right is ſtill greater to arbitrary grants of mercy, is bound [Page 92] by thoſe laws which regard the great republick of mankind, and cannot juſtify ſuch forbearance as may promote wickedneſs, and leſſen the general confidence and ſecurity in which all have an equal intereſt, and which all are therefore bound to maintain. For this reaſon the ſtate has not a right to erect a general ſanctuary for fugitives, or give protection to ſuch as have forfeited their lives by crimes againſt the laws of common morality equally acknowledged by all nations, becauſe no people can, without infraction of the univerſal league of ſocial beings, incite, by proſpects of impunity and ſafety, thoſe practices in another dominion, which they would themſelves puniſh in their own.
ONE occaſion of uncertainty and heſitation, in thoſe by whom this great rule has been commented and dilated, is the confuſion of what the caſuiſts are careful to diſtinguiſh, debts of juſtice and debts of charity. The immediate and primary intention of this precept, is to eſtabliſh a rule of juſtice for the tribunal of conſcience; and I know not whether invention, or ſophiſtry, can ſtart a ſingle difficulty to retard its application, when [Page 93] it is thus expreſſed and explained, let every man allow the claim of right in another which he ſhould think himſelf entitled to make in the like circumſtances.
THE diſcharge of the debts of charity, or duties which we owe to others not merely as required by juſtice, but as dictated by benevolence, admits in its own nature greater complication of circumſtances and greater latitude of choice. Juſtice is indiſpenſably and univerſally neceſſary, and what is neceſſary muſt always be limited, uniform, and diſtinct. But beneficence though in general equally enjoined by our religion, and equally needful to the conciliation of the divine favour, is yet, for the moſt part, with regard to its ſingle acts, elective and voluntary. We may certainly, without injury to our fellow beings, allow in the diſtribution of kindneſs ſomething to our affections, and change the meaſure of our liberality according to our opinions and proſpects, our hopes and fears. This rule therefore is not equally determinate and abſolute with reſpect to offices of kindneſs, and acts of liberality, becauſe liberality and kindneſs, abſolutely determined, would loſe their nature; for how could we be called tender, [Page 94] or charitable, for giving that which we are poſitively forbidden to withhold.
YET even in adjuſting the extent of our beneficence no other meaſure can be taken than this precept affords us, for we can only know what others ſuffer or want, by conſidering how we ſhould be affected in the ſame ſtate; nor can we proportion our aſſiſtance by any other rule than that of doing what we ſhould then expect from others. It indeed generally happens that the giver and receiver differ in their opinions of generoſity; the ſame partiality to his own intereſt inclines one to large expectations, and the other to ſparing diſtributions. Perhaps the infirmity of human nature will ſcarcely ſuffer a man groaning under the preſſure of diſtreſs, to judge rightly of the kindneſs of his friends, or to think they have done enough till his deliverance is compleated; it is therefore apparent that not what we might wiſh, but what we could demand from others, we are obliged to grant, ſince, though we can eaſily know how much we might claim, it is impoſſible to determine what we ſhould hope.
BUT in all enquiries concerning the practice of voluntary and occaſional virtues, it is [Page 95] ſafeſt for minds not oppreſſed with ſuperſtitious fears to determine againſt their own inclinations, and ſecure themſelves from deficiency by being more than they believe ſtrictly neceſſary. For of this every man may be certain that, if he were to exchange conditions with his dependent, he ſhould expect more than, with the utmoſt exertion of his ardour, he now will prevail upon himſelf to perform; and when our reaſon has no ſettled rule, and our paſſions are ſtriving to miſlead us, it is ſurely the part of a wiſe man to err on the ſide of ſafety.
To the RAMBLER.
I SUPPOSE it will not be neceſſary to ſolicit your good will by any formal preface or apology, when I have informed you, that I have long been known in the world of learning, as the moſt laborious and zealous virtuoſo that the preſent age has had the honour of producing, and that the inconveniencies which I now ſuffer, have been been brought upon me by an unextinguiſhable ardour of curioſity, and an unſhaken perſeverance in the acquiſition of all the productions of art and nature.
IT was obſerved, from my entrance into the world, that I had ſomething uncommon in my diſpoſition, and that there appeared in me very early tokens of genius, ſuperior to the bulk of mankind. I was always an enemy [Page 97] to trifles; the play things which my mother beſtowed upon me I immediately broke that I might diſcover the method of their ſtructure, and the cauſes of their motions; of all the toys with which children are dellghted I valued only my coral, and as ſoon as I could ſpeak, aſked, like Peireſc, innumerable queſtions which the maids about me could not reſolve. As I grew older I was more thoughtful and ſerious, and inſtead of amuſing myſelf with puerile diverſions, made collections of natural rarities, and never walked into the fields without bringing home ſtones of remarkable forms, or inſects of ſome uncommon ſpecies. I never entered an old houſe, from which I did not take away the painted glaſs, and often lamented that I was not one of that happy generation who demoliſhed the convents and monaſteries, and broke windows by law.
BEING thus early poſſeſſed by a taſte for folid knowledge, I paſſed my youth with very little diſturbance from paſſions and appetites, and having no pleaſure in the company of boys and girls, who talked of plays, [Page 98] politicks, faſhions, or love, I carried on my enquiries with inceſſant diligence, and had amaſſed more ſtones, moſſes, and ſhells, than are to be found in many celebrated collections, at an age in which the greateſt part of young men arc ſtudying under tutors, or endeavouring to recommend themſelves to notice by their dreſs, their air, and their levities.
WHEN I was two and twenty years old, I became, by the death of my father, poſſeſſed of a ſmall eſtate in land, with a very large ſum of money in the public funds, and muſt confeſs that I did not much lament him, for he was a man of mean parts, bent rather upon growing rich than wiſe. He once fretted at the expence of only ten ſhillings, which he happened to overhear me offering for the ſting of a hornet, though it was a cold moiſt ſummer, in which very few hornets had been ſeen. He often recommended to me the ſtudy of phyſick, in which, ſaid he, you may at once gratify your curioſity after natural hiſtory, and encreaſe your fortune by benefiting mankind. I heard him, Mr. Rambler, with pity, and as there [Page 99] was no proſpect of elevating a mind formed to grovel, ſuffered him to pleaſe himſelf with hoping that I ſhould ſometime follow his advice. For you know that there are men, with whom, when they have once ſettled a notion in their heads, it is to very little purpoſe to diſpute.
BEING now left wholly to my own inclinations, I very ſoon enlarged the bounds of my curioſity, and contented myſelf no longer with ſuch rarities as required only judgment and induſtry, and when once found, might be had for nothing. I now turned my thoughts to Exoticks and Antiques, and became ſo well known for my generous patronage of ingenious men, that my levee was crowded with viſitants, ſome to ſee my muſeum, and others to encreaſe its treaſures, by ſelling me whatever they had brought from other countries.
I HAD always a contempt of that narrowneſs of conception, which contents itſelf with cultivating ſome ſingle corner of the field of ſcience; I took the whole region into my view, and wiſhed it of yet greater extent. But no man's power can be equal to his will. [Page 100] I was forced to proceed by ſlow degrees, and to purchaſe what chance, or kindneſs happened to preſent. I did not, however, proceed without ſome deſign, or imitate the indiſcretion of thoſe, who begin a thouſand collections, and finiſh none. Having been always a lover of geography, I determined to collect the maps drawn in the rude and barbarous times, before any regular ſurveys, or juſt obſervations; and have, at a great expence, brought together a volume, in which, perhaps, not a ſingle country is laid down according to its true ſituation, and by which, he that deſires to know the errors of the antient geographers, may be amply informed.
I DID not ſuffer myſelf, however, to neglect the products of our own country; but as Alfred received the tribute of the Welch in Wolves heads, I allowed my tenants to pay their rents in butterflies, till I had exhauſted the papilionaceous tribe. I then directed them to the purſuit of other animals, and obtained, by this eaſy method, moſt of the grubs and inſects, which land, air, or water can ſupply. [Page 101] I have three ſpecies of earthworms not known to the naturaliſts, have diſcovered a new ephemera, and can ſhew four waſps that were taken torpid in their winter quarters. I have, from my own ground, the longeſt blade of graſs upon record, and once accepted, as a half year's rent for a field of wheat, an ear containing more grains than had been ſeen before upon a ſingle ſtem.
ONE of my tenants ſo much neglected his own intereſt, as to ſupply me, in a whole ſummer, with only two horſe-flies, and thoſe of little more than the common ſize; and I was upon the brink of ſeizing for arrears, when his good fortune threw a white mole in his way, for which he was not only forgiven, but rewarded.
THESE, however, were petty acquiſitions and made at ſmall expence, nor ſhould I have ventured to rank myſelf among the virtuoſi without better claims. I have ſuffered nothing worthy the regard of a wiſe man to eſcape my notice: I have ranſacked the old [Page 102] and the new world, and been equally attentive to paſt ages and the preſent. For the illuſtration of antient hiſtory, I can ſhew a marble, of which the inſcription, though it is not now legible, appears from ſome broken remains of the letters, to have been Tuſcan, and therefore probably engraved before the foundation of Rome. I have two pieces of porphyry found among the ruins of Epheſus, and three letters broken off by a learned traveller from the monuments at Perſepolis; a piece of ſtone which paved the Areopagus of Athens, and a plate without figures or characters, which was found at Corinth, and which I therefore believe to be that metal, which was once valued before gold. I have ſand gathered out of the Granicus; a fragment of Trajan's bridge over the Danube; ſome of the mortar which cemented the watercourſe of Tarquin; a horſe ſhoe broken on the Flaminian way; and a turf with five daiſies dug from the field of Pharſalia.
I DO not wiſh to raiſe the envy of unſucceſsful collectors, by too pompous a diſplay [Page 103] of my ſcientifick wealth, but cannot forbear to obſerve, that there are few regions of the globe which are not honoured with ſome memorial in my cabinets. The Perſian monarchs are ſaid to have boaſted the greatneſs of their empire, by being ſerved at their tables with drink from the Ganges and the Danule: I can ſhew one vial, of which the water was formerly an icicle on the crags of Caucaſus, and another that contains what once was a ſnow on the top of Atlas; in a third is dew bruſhed from a Banana in the gardens of Iſpahan; and, in another brine that once rolled in the pacific ocean. I flatter myſelf that I am writing to a man who will rejoice at the honour which my labours have procured to my country, and therefore, I ſhall tell you that Britain can by my care boaſt of a ſnail that has crawled upon the wall of China; a humming bird which an American princeſs wore in her ear; the tooth of an elephant who carried the queen of Siam; the ſkin of an ape that was kept in the palace of the great mogul; a ribbon that adorned one of the maids of a Turkiſh ſultana; and a ſymeter once wielded by a ſoldier of Alas the great.
[Page 104] IN collecting antiquities of every country, I have been careful to chuſe only by intrinſick worth, and real uſefulneſs without regard to party or opinions. I have therefore a lock of Cromwell's hair in a box turned from a piece of the royal oak; and keep, in the ſame drawers, ſand ſcraped from the coffin of king Richard, and a commiſſion ſigned by Henry VII. I have equal veneration for the ruff of Elizabeth and the ſhoe of Mary of Scotland; and ſhould loſe, with like regret, a tobaccopipe of Raleigh, and a ſtirrup of king James. I have paid the ſame price for a glove of Lewis, and a thimble of queen Mary; for a fur cap of the Czar, and a boot of Charles of Sweden.
YOU will eaſily imagine that theſe accumulations were not made without ſome diminution of my fortune, for I was ſo well known to ſpare no coſt, that at every ſale ſome bid againſt me for hire, ſome for ſport, and ſome for malice; and, if I aſked the price of any thing it was ſufficient to double the demand. For curioſity, trafficking thus with avarice, the wealth of India had not been enough; and I, by little and little, transferred all my [Page 105] money from the funds to my cloſet: here I was inclined to ſtop, and live upon my eſtate in literary leiſure, but the ſale of the Harleian collection ſhook my reſolution; I mortgaged my land, and purchaſed thirty medals, which I could never find before. I have at length bought till I can buy no longer, and the cruelty of my creditors has ſeized my repoſitory; I am therefore condemned to diſperſe what the labour of an age will not reaſſemble. I ſubmit to that which cannot be oppoſed, and ſhall, in a ſhort time, declare a ſale. I have, while it is yet in my power, ſent you a pebble, pick'd up by Tavernier on the banks of the Ganges; for which I deſire no other recompence than that you will recommend my catalogue to the public,
THE publication of the letter in my laſt paper has naturally led me to the conſideration [Page 106] of that thirſt after curioſities, which often draws contempt and ridicule upon itſelf, but which is perhaps no otherwiſe blameable, than as it wants thoſe circumſtantial recommendations which have long been obſerved to add luſtre even to moral excellencies, and are abſolutely neceſſary to the grace and beauty of indifferent actions.
LEARNING confers ſo much ſuperiority on thoſe who poſſeſs it, that they might probably have eſcaped all cenſure, had they been able to agree among themſelves: but as envy and competition have divided the republick of letters into factions, they have neglected the common intereſt; each has called in foreign aid, and endeavoured to ſtrengthen his own cauſe by the frown of power, the hiſs of ignorance, and the clamour of popularity. They have all been ſo much engaged in deſtruction, that they have neglected defence, till by mutual hoſtilities they demoliſhed thoſe outworks which veneration had raiſed for their ſecurity, and laid themſelves open to invaders, by whom every region of ſcience is equally laid waſte.
[Page 107] THERE paſſes between men of different ſtudies and profeſſions a conſtant reciprocation of reproaches. The collector of ſhells and ſtones, wonders at the folly of him who paſtes leaves and flowers upon paper, pleaſes himſelf with colours that are perpetually fading, and amaſſes with care what cannot be preſerved. The hunter of inſects ſtands amazed that any man can waſte much of his ſhort time upon lifeleſs matter, while many tribes of animals are yet neglected. Every one is inclined not only to promote his own ſtudy, but to exclude all others from regard, and having heated his imagination with ſome favourite purſuit, wonders that the reſt of mankind are not ſeized with the ſame paſſion.
THERE are, indeed, many ſubjects of ſtudy which ſeem but remotely allied to uſeful knowledge, and are of little importance to happineſs or virtue; nor is it eaſy to forbear ſome ſallies of merriment, or expreſſions of pity, when we ſee a man wrinkled with attention, and emaciated with ſolicitude in the inveſtigation of queſtions never to be reſolved, and of which, without any [Page 108] viſible harm, the world may expire in ignorance. Yet it is dangerous to diſcourage any well intended labours, or ſuppreſs any innocent curioſity; for he who is employed in ſearches, which by any deduction of conſequences tend to the benefit of life, is ſurely laudable, in compariſon of thoſe who ſpend their time in counteracting happineſs, and filling the world with wrong and danger, confuſion and remorſe. No man can perform ſo little, as not to have reaſon to congratulate himſelf on his merits, when he beholds the multitudes that live in total idleneſs, and have never yet endeavoured to be uſeful.
IT is impoſſible to determine the limits of any enquiry, or to foreſee what conſequences a new diſcovery may produce. He who ſuffers not his faculties to lie torpid, has a chance, whatever be his employment, of doing good to his fellow-creatures. There are probably in every part of nature powers and qualities yet undiſcovered, which might be applied to the advantage of mankind, but which can never be known without the labour of experiment. He who firſt ranged the woods in ſearch of medicinal ſprings, or climbed the mountains for ſalutary [Page 109] plants, has undoubtedly merited the gratitude of poſterity, how much ſoever his frequent miſcarriages might excite the ſcorn of his contemporaries. If what appears little be univerſally deſpiſed, nothing greater can be attained, for whatever is great was at firſt little, and roſe to its preſent bulk by gradual acceſſions, ſucceſſive improvements, and accumulated labours.
THOSE who lay out their time or their money in aſſembling matter for contemplation, and forming repoſitories of natural or artificial rarities, are ſurely entitled to ſome degree of reſpect, though in a flight of gaiety it be eaſy to ridicule their treaſure, or in a fit of fullenneſs to deſpiſe it. A man goes not away much illuminated by having enjoyed the privilege of handling the tooth of a ſhark, or the paw of a white bear; yet though ſome particular curioſities may be rated by their owners beyond their value, there is nothing more worthy of admiration to a philoſophical eye than the ſtructure of animals, by which they are qualified to ſupport life in the particular elements or climates to which they are appropriated; and [Page 110] of all natural productions it muſt be confeſſed, that they exhibit evidences of infinite wiſdom, bear their teſtimony to the ſupreme reaſon, and excite in the mind new raptures of admiration, and new incentives to piety.
TO collect the productions of art and examples of mechanical ſcience or manual ability is unqueſtionably uſeful, even when the things themſelves are of ſmall importance, becauſe it is always advantageous to know how far the human powers have proceeded, and how much experience has ſhewn to be within the reach of diligence. It is natural for idleneſs and timidity to deſpair without being overcome, and to forbear attempts for fear of being defeated; and we may promote the invigoration of faint endeavours, by being able to prove what has been already performed; for though it may ſometimes happen that the greateſt inſtances of ingenuity have been exerted in trifles, yet the ſame principles and the ſame expedients may be applied to more important purpoſes, and the movements which put into action machines of no other uſe but to raiſe the [Page 111] wonder of ignorance, may be employed to drain fens, or manufacture metals, to aſſiſt the architect, or preſerve the ſailor.
FOR the utenſils, arms, or dreſſes of foreign nations, which make the greateſt part of many collections, I have no great regard when they are valuable only becauſe they are foreign, and can ſuggeſt no improvement of our own practice. Yet they are not all equally uſeleſs, nor can it be always ſafely determined, which ſhould be rejected or retained, for they may ſometimes unexpectedly contribute to the illuſtration of hiſtory, to the knowledge of the natural commodities of the country, or of the genius and cuſtoms of its inhabitants.
THERE IS one ſort of rarities of a yet lower rank, which owe their value merely to accident, and which can convey no information, nor ſatisfy any rational deſire. Such are many fragments of antiquity, as urns and pieces of pavement; and things which are held in veneration only for having been once the property of ſome eminent perſon, as the armour of king Henry; or for having been uſed on ſome remarkable occaſion, [Page 112] as the lanthorn of Guy Faux. The loſs or preſervation of theſe ſeems to be a thing indifferent, nor can I perceive why the poſſeſſion of them ſhould be coveted. Yet, perhaps, even this curioſity is implanted by nature; and when I find Tully confeſſing of himſelf, that he could not forbear at Athens to viſit the walks and houſes which the old philoſophers had frequented or inhabited, and recollect the reverence which every nation, civil and barbarous, has paid to the ground where merit has been buried, I am afraid to declare againſt the general voice of mankind, and am inclined to believe, that this regard, which we involuntarily pay to the meaneſt relique of a man great and illuſtrious, is intended as an incitement to labour, and an encouragement to expect the ſame renown, if it be ſought by the ſame virtues.
THE virtuoſo therefore cannot be cenſured, as contributing nothing to the encreaſe of knowledge, but perhaps he may be ſometimes juſtly culpable for conſining himſelf to buſineſs below his genius, for loſing in trifling amuſements and petty ſpeculations, thoſe hours which he might have ſpent in nobler ſtudies, and in which he might have given [Page 113] new light to the intellectual world. It is indeed never without grief, that I find a man capable of ratiocination or invention enliſting himſelf in this ſecondary claſs of learning; for when he has once diſcovered a method of gratifying his deſire of eminence by expence rather than by labour, and known the ſweets of a life bleſt at once with the eaſe of idleneſs, and the reputation of knowledge, he will not eaſily be brought to undergo again the toil of thinking, or leave his toys and his trinkets for arguments and ideas, arguments which require circumſpection and vigilance, and ideas which cannot be obtained but by the drudgery of meditation. He will gladly ſhut himſelf up forever with his ſhells and medals, like the companions of Ulyſſes, who having taſted the fruit of Lotos, would not even by the hope of ſeeing their own country, be tempted again to the dangers of the ſea. ‘ [...] ’
COLLECTIONS of this kind are of uſe to the learned, as heaps of ſtone and piles of timber are neceſſary to the architect. But to dig the quarry or to ſearch the field, requires [Page 114] not much of any quality, beyond ſtubborn perſeverance; and though genius muſt often lye inactive without this humble and neglected aſſiſtance, yet this can claim little praiſe becauſe every man can afford it.
TO mean underſtandings, it is indeed ſufficient honour to be numbered amongſt the loweſt labourers of learning; but ſurely different abilities muſt find different taſks. To hew ſtone would have been unworthy of Palladio, and to have rambled in ſearch of ſhells and flowers, had but ill ſuited with the capacity of Newton.
MART.Cunarum fueras motor, CHARIDEME, mearum,Et pueri cuſtos, aſſiduuſque comes.Jam mihi nigreſcunt tonſa ſudaria barba,—Sed tibi non crevi: te noſter villicus horret:Te diſpenſator, te donus ipſa pavet.Corripis, obſervas, quereris, ſuſpiria ducis,Et vix a ferulis abſtinet ira manum.
To the RAMBLER.
YOU ſeem in all your papers to be an enemy to tyranny and oppreſſion, and to look with indifference and impartiality upon the world; I ſhall therefore lay my caſe before you with great confidence, and hope by your deciſion to be ſet free from the unreaſonable reſtraints which I now ſuffer, and enabled to juſtify myſelf againſt the accuſations which ſpite and peeviſhneſs produce againſt me.
AT the age of five years I loſt my mother, and my father being a man in public employment, [Page 116] and neither by his ſituation or temper very well qualified to ſuperintend the education of a girl, committed me to the care of his ſiſter, a woman of virtue and diſcretion, who inſtructed me with the authority, and, not to deny her what ſhe may juſtly claim, with the affection of a parent. She had not indeed very elevated ſentiments or extenſive views, but her principles were good, and her intentions pure, and though ſome may practiſe more virtues, ſcarce any commit fewer faults.
UNDER this good lady I learned all the common rules of decent behaviour, and all the ſtanding maxims of domeſtick prudence; and might have grown up by degrees to a country gentlewoman, without any thoughts of ranging beyond the neighbourhood, had not Flavia come down, laſt ſummer, to viſit her relations in the next village. I was taken, of courſe, to compliment the ſtranger, and was, at the firſt ſight, ſurprized at the unconcern with which ſhe ſaw herſelf gazed at by company whom ſhe had never known before; at the careleſneſs with which ſhe received [Page 117] compliments, and the readineſs with which ſhe returned them. I found ſhe had ſomething which I perceived myſelf to want, and could not but wiſh to be like her, at once eaſy and officious, attentive and unembarraſſed. I went home, and for four days could think and talk of nothing but miſs Flavia; though my aunt told me, that ſhe was a forward flirt, and thought herſelf wiſe before her time.
IN a little time ſhe repaid my viſit, and raiſed im my heart a new confuſion of love, eſteem, and admiration. I ſoon ſaw her again, and ſtill found new charms in her air, behaviour, and converſation. You who have known the world may, perhaps, have obſerved, that formality ſoon ceaſes between young perſons. I know not, indeed, how others are affected on ſuch occaſions, but I found myſelf irreſiſtibly allured to friendſhip and intimacy, by the familiar complaiſance and airy gaiety of Flavia, ſo that in a few weeks I became her favourite, and all the time was paſſed with me, that ſhe could gain from ceremony and cards.
[Page 118] AS ſhe came often to me, ſhe neceſſarily ſpent ſome hours with my aunt, to whom ſhe paid great reſpect, by low courteſies, ſubmiſive compliance, and ſoft acquieſcence; but as I became gradually more accuſtomed to her manners, I diſcovered that her civility was general; that there was a certain degree of deference ſhewn by her to circumſtances and appearances; that many went away flattered by her humility, whom ſhe deſpiſed in her heart; that the influence of far the greateſt part of thoſe with whom ſhe converſed, ceaſed with their preſence; and that ſometimes ſhe did not remember the names of them whom, without any intentional inſincerity or falſe commendation, her habitual civility had ſent away with very high thoughts of their own importance.
IT was not long before I perceived, that my aunt's opinion was not of much weight in Flavia's deliberations, and that ſhe was looked upon by her as a woman of narrow ſentiments, without knowledge of books, or obſervations on mankind. I had hitherto conſidered my aunt, as entitled by her wiſdom and experience to the higheſt reverence, and could not forbear to wonder that any one [Page 119] ſo much younger ſhould venture to ſuſpect her of error, or of ignorance; but my ſurprize was without uneaſineſs, and being now accuſtomed to think Flavia always in the right, I very readily learned from her to truſt my own reaſon, to conſider every queſtion for myſelf, and to believe it poſſible, that they who had lived longer might be miſtaken.
FLAVIA had read much, and uſed ſo often to converſe on ſubjects of learning, that ſhe put all the men in the county to flight, except the old parſon, who declared himſelf much delighted with her company, becauſe ſhe gave him opportunity to recollect the ſtudies of his younger years, and had made him rub the duſt off his Homer which had [...]ain unregarded in his cloſet. With Homer and a thouſand other names familiar to Flavia, I had no acquaintance, but began by comparing her accompliſhments with my own, to repine at my education, and wiſh that I had not been ſo long confined to the company of thoſe from whom nothing but houſewifery was to be learned. I then [Page 118] ſet myſelf to peruſe ſuch books as Flavia recommended, and heard her opinion of their beauties and defects. I ſaw new worlds hourly burſting upon my mind, and was enraptured at the proſpect of diverſifying life with endleſs entertainment.
THE old lady finding that a large ſcreen, which I had undertaken to adorn with turkey-work againſt winter, made very ſlow advances and that I had added in two months but three leaves to a flowered apron then in the frame, ſoon took the alarm, and with all the zeal of honeſt folly exclaimed againſt my new acquaintance, who had filled me with idle notions, and turned my head with books. But ſhe had now loſt her authority, for I began to find innumerable miſtakes in her opinions, and improprieties in her language; and therefore thought myſelf no longer bound to pay much regard to one who knew little beyond her needle and her dairy, and who profeſſed to think that nothing more is required of a woman than to ſee that the houſe is clean, and that the maids go to bed and riſe at a certain hour.
[Page 121] SHE ſeemed however to look upon Flavia as ſeducing me, and to imagine that when her influence was withdrawn, I ſhould return to my allegiance; ſhe therefore contented herſelf with remote hints, and gentle admonitions, intermixed with ſage hiſtories of the miſcarriages of wit, and diſappointments of pride. But ſince ſhe has found, that, tho' Flavia is departed, I ſtill perſiſt in my new ſcheme, ſhe has at length loſt her patience; ſhe ſnatches my book out of my hand, tears my paper if ſhe finds me writing, burns Flavia's letters before my face if ſhe can ſeize them, and threatens to lock me up, and to complain to my father of my perverſeneſs. If women, ſhe ſays, would but know their duty and their intereſt, they would be careful to acquaint themſelves with family affairs, and many a penny might be ſaved; for while the miſtreſs of the houſe is ſcribbling and reading, ſervants are junketing, and linnen is wearing out. She then takes me round the rooms, ſhews me the worked hangings, and chairs of tent-ſtich, and aſks whether all this was done with a pen and a book.
[Page 122] I CANNOT deny that I ſometimes laugh, and ſometimes am ſullen, but ſhe has not delicacy enough to be much moved either with my mirth or my gloom, if ſhe did not think the intereſt of the family endangered by this change of my manners. She had for ſome years marked out young Mr. Surly, an heir in the neighbourhood, remarkable for his love of fighting-cocks, as an advantageous match, and was extremely pleaſed with the civilities which he uſed to pay me, till under Flavia's tuition I learned to talk of ſubjects which he could not underſtand. This, ſhe ſays, is the conſequence of female ſtudy; girls grow too wiſe to be adviſed, and too ſtubborn to be commanded; but ſhe is reſolved to try who ſhall govern, and will thwart my humour till ſhe breaks my ſpirit.
THESE menaces, Mr. Rambler, ſometimes make me quite angry; for I have been ſixteen, theſe ten weeks, and think myſelf exempted from the dominion of a governeſs, who has no pretenſions to more ſenſe or knowledge than myſelf: I am reſolved, ſince I am as tall and as wiſe as other women, to be no longer treated like a girl. Miſs Flavia has often told me, that ladies of my age go [Page 123] to aſſemblies and routs, without their mothers and their aunts; I ſhall therefore, from this time, leave aſking advice, and refuſe to give accounts. I hope you will publiſh ſomething in defence of my conduct, and ſtate the time at which young ladies may judge for themſelves, which I am ſure you cannot but think ought to begin before ſixteen; if you are inclined to delay it longer, I ſhall have very little regard to your underſtanding or opinion.
MY aunt often tells me of the advantages of experience, and of the deference due to ſeniority; and both ſhe and all the antiquated part of the world talk of the unreſerved obedience which they paid to the commands of their parents, and the undoubting confidence with which they liſtened to their precepts; of the terrors which they felt at a frown, and the humility with which they ſupplicated forgiveneſs whenever they had offended. I cannot but fancy that this boaſt is too general to be true, and that the young and the old were always at variance. I have, however, told my aunt that I will mend whatever ſhe will prove to be wrong; but ſhe replies that ſhe has reaſons of her own, and that ſhe is ſorry [Page 124] to live in an age when girls have the impudence to aſk for proofs.
I BEG once again, Mr. Rambler, to know whether I am not as wiſe as my aunt, and whether when ſhe preſumes to check me as a baby, I may not pluck up a ſpirit and return her inſolence. I ſhall not proceed to extremities without your advice, which is therefore impatiently expected by
OVID.Otia ſi tollas periere Cupidinis arcusContemptaeque jacent, et ſine luce faces.
MANY writers of eminence in phyſick have laid out their diligence upon the conſideration of thoſe diſtempers to which men are more remarkably expoſed by particular ſtates of life, and very learned treatiſes have been produced upon the maladies of the camp, the ſea, and the mines. There is, indeed, ſcarcely any employment which a man accuſtomed to anatomical enquiries, and medical refinements, would not find reaſons for declining as dangerous to health, did not his learning or experience inform him, that almoſt every occupation, however inconvenient or formidable, is happier and ſafer than a life of ſloth.
THE neceſſity of action is not only demonſtrable from the fabrick of the body, but evident from obſervation of the univerſal practice of mankind, who for the preſervation [Page 126] of health, in thoſe whoſe rank or wealth exempts them from the neceſſity of lucrative labour, have invented ſports and diverſions, though not of equal uſe to the world with manual trades, yet of equal fatigue to thoſe that practiſe them, and differing only from the drudgery of the huſbandman or manufacturer, as they are acts of choice, and therefore performed without the painful ſenſe of compulſion. The huntſman riſes early, perſues his game through all the dangers and obſtructions of the chaſe, ſwims rivers, and ſcales precipices, till he returns home no leſs harraſſed than the ſoldier, and has, perhaps, ſometimes incurred as great hazard of wounds or death: Yet he has no motive to incite his ardour; he is neither ſubject to the commands of a general, nor dreads any penalties for neglect and diſobedience; he has neither profit or honour to expect from his perils and his conqueſts, but toils without the hope either of mutal or civick garlands, and muſt content himſelf with the praiſe of his tenants and companions.
BUT ſuch indeed is the conſtitution of man, that labour may be with great juſtice [Page 127] ſtiled its own reward; nor will any external incitements be requiſite, if it be conſidered how much happineſs is gained, and how much miſery eſcaped by frequent and violent agitation of the body.
EASE is the utmoſt that can be hoped from a ſedentary and unactive habit; eaſe a neutral ſtate between pain and pleaſure. The dance of ſpirits, the bound of vigour, readineſs of enterprize, and defiance of fatigue, are reſerved for him that braces his nerves, and hardens his fibres, that keeps his limbs pliant with motion, and by frequent expoſure fortifies his frame againſt the common accidents of cold and heat.
WITH eaſe, however, if it could be ſecured, many would be content; but nothing terreſtrial can be kept at a ſtand. Eaſe, if it is not riſing into pleaſure, will be falling towards pain, and whatever hope the dreams of ſpeculation may ſuggeſt of obſerving the proportion between nutriment and labour, and keeping the body in a healthy ſtate by ſupplies exactly equal to its waſte, we know that, in effect, the vital powers unexcited by motion, grow gradually languid; that as [Page 128] their vigour fails obſtructions are generated; and that from obſtructions proceed moſt of thoſe pains which wear us away ſlowly with periodical tortures, and which though they ſometimes ſuffer life to be long, condemn it to be uſeleſs, chain us down on the couch of miſery, and mock us with the hopes of death.
EXERCISE, indeed, cannot ſecure us from that diſſolution to which we are decreed; but while the ſoul and body continue united, it can make the aſſociation pleaſing, and can give probable hopes that they ſhall be disjoined by an eaſy ſeparation. It was a principle among the ancients, that acute diſeaſes are from heaven, and chronical from ourſelves; the dart of death indeed falls from heaven, but we poiſon it by our own miſconduct; to dye is the fate of man, but to dye with lingering anguiſh is generally his folly.
IT is neceſſary to that perfection of which our preſent ſtate is capable, that the mind and body ſhould both be kept in action; that neither the faculties of the one nor of the other be ſuffered to grow lax or torpid [Page 129] for want of uſe; that neither health be purchaſed by voluntary ſubmiſſion to ignorance, nor knowledge cultivated at the expence of that health, which muſt enable it either to give pleaſure to its poſſeſſor or aſſiſtance to others. It is too frequently the pride of ſtudents to deſpiſe thoſe amuſements and recreations which give to the reſt of mankind ſtrength of limbs and cheerfulneſs of heart. Solitude and contemplation are indeed ſeldom conſiſtent with ſuch ſkill in common exerciſes or ſports as is neceſſary to make them practiſed with delight, and no man is willing to do that of which the neceſſity is not preſſing and immediate, when he knows that his aukwardneſs muſt make him ridiculous.
Ludere qui neſcit, campeſtribus abſtinet armis,Indoctuſque Pilae, Diſcive, Trochive quieſcit,Ne ſpiſſae Riſum tollant impunè Coronae.
THUS the man of learning is often reſigned, almoſt by his own conſent, to languor and to pain; and while in the proſecution of his ſtudies he ſuffers the wearineſs of labour, is ſubject by his courſe of life to the maladies of idleneſs.
[Page 130] IT was, perhaps, from the obſervation of this miſchievous omiſſion in thoſe who are employed about intellectual objects, that Locke has, in his Syſtem of Education, ſo warmly urged the neceſſity of a manual trade to men of all ranks and profeſſions, that when the mind is weary with its proper taſk, it may be relaxed by a ſlighter attention to ſome mechanical operation; and that while the vital functions are reſuſcitated and awakened by vigorous motion, the underſtanding may be reſtrained from that vagrance and diſſipation by which it too often relieves itſelf after a long intenſeneſs of thought, unleſs ſome allurement be preſented that may engage application without anxiety.
THERE is ſo little reaſon for expecting any frequent conformity to Locke's precept, that it is not neceſſary to enquire whether the practice of manual arts might not give occaſion to petty emulation, and trivial ambition; and whether, if our divines and phyſicians were taught the lathe and the chizzel, they would not think more of their tools than their books; as Nero neglected the care of his empire for his chariot and his fiddle. It is certainly dangerous to be too much pleaſed [Page 131] with little things; but what is there which may not be perverted? let us, remember how much worſe employment might have been found for thoſe hours, which a manual occupation appears to engroſs; let us compute the profit with the loſs, and when we reflect how often a genius is allured from his ſtudies, conſider likewiſe that perhaps by the ſame attractions he is ſometimes withheld from debauchery, or recalled from malice, from ambition, from envy, and from luſt.
I HAVE always admired the wiſdom of thoſe by whom our female education was inſtituted, for having contrived, that every woman of whatever condition ſhould be taught ſome arts of manufacture, by which the vacuities of recluſe and domeſtick leiſure may always be filled up. Theſe arts are more neceſſary as the weakneſs of their ſex and the general ſyſtem of life debar ladies from many employments which by diverſifying the circumſtances of men, preſerve them from being cankered by the ruſt of their own thoughts. I know not how much of the virtue and happineſs of the world may be the conſequence of this judicious regulation. Perhaps, the moſt powerful fancy might be [Page 132] unable to figure the confuſion and ſlaughter that would be produced by ſo many piercing eyes and vivid underſtandings, turned looſe at once upon mankind, with no other buſineſs than to ſparkle and intrigue, to perplex and to deſtroy.
FOR my part, whenever chance brings within my obſervation a knot of miſſes buſy at their needles, I conſider myſelf as in the ſchool of virtue; and though I have no extraordinary ſkill in plain work or embroidery, look upon their operations with, at leaſt, as much ſatisfaction as their governeſs, becauſe I regard them as providing a ſecurity againſt the moſt dangerous enſnarers of the ſoul, by enabling themſelves to exclude idleneſs from their ſolitary moments, and with idleneſs her attendant train of paſſions, fancies, and chimeras, fears, ſorrows and deſires. Ovid and Cervantes will inform them that love has no power but over thoſe whom he catches unemployed; and Hector, in the Iliad, when he ſees Andromache overwhelmed with terrors, ſends her for conſolation to the loom and the diſtaff.
[Page 133] IT is certain that any wild wiſh or vain imagination never takes ſuch firm poſſeſſion of the mind, as when it is found empty and unoccupied; for the old peripatetick principle, that Nature abhors a Vacuum, may be properly applied to the intellect, which will embrace any thing however abſurd or criminal rather than be wholly without an object. Perhaps every man may date the predominance of thoſe deſires that diſturb his life and contaminate his conſcience, from ſome unhappy hour when too much leiſure expoſed him to their incurſions; for he has lived with little obſervation either on himſelf or others, who does not know that to be idle is to be vicious.
IT has been obſerved by one of the ancients, that the burthen of government is encreaſed upon princes by the virtues of their immediate predeceſſors. It is, indeed, always dangerous to be placed in a ſtate of unavoidable compariſon with excellence, and the danger is ſtill greater when that excellence is conſecrated by death, when envy and intereſt ceaſe to act againſt it, and thoſe paſſions by which it was at firſt vilified and oppoſed, now ſtand in its defence, and turn their vehemence againſt honeſt emulation.
HE that ſucceeds a celebrated writer, has the ſame difficulties to encounter; he ſtands under the ſhade of exalted merit, and is hindered from riſing to his natural height, by the interception of thoſe beams which ſhould invigorate and quicken him. He applies to that attention which is already engaged, [Page 135] and unwilling to be drawn off from certain ſatisfaction; or perhaps to an attention already wearied, and not to be recalled to the ſame object. One of the old poets congratulates himſelf that he has the untrodden regions of Parnaſſus before him, and that his garland will be gathered from plantations which no writer had yet culled. But the imitator treads a beaten walk, and with all his diligence can only hope to find a few flowers or branches untouched by his predeceſſor, the refuſe of contempt, or the omiſſions of negligence. The Macedonian conqueror, when he was once invited to hear a man that ſung like a nightingale, replied with contempt, "that he had heard the nightingale herſelf;" and the ſame treatment muſt every man expect, whoſe praiſe is, that he imitates another.
YET, in the midſt of theſe diſcouraging reflections, I am about to offer to my reader ſome obſervations upon Paradiſe Loſt, and hope, that however I may fall below the illuſtrious writer who ſo long dictated to the commonwealth of learning, my attempt may not be wholly uſeleſs. There are in every [Page 136] age, new errors to be rectify'd, and new prejudices to be oppoſed. Falſe taſte is always buſy to miſlead thoſe that are entering upon the regions of learning; and the traveller, uncertain of his way, and forſaken by the ſun, will be pleaſed to ſee a fainter orb ariſe on the horizon, that may reſcue him from total darkneſs, though with weak and borrowed luſtre.
ADDISON, though he has conſidered this poem under moſt of the general topicks of criticiſm, has barely touched upon the verſification; not probably becauſe he thought the art of numbers unworthy of his notice, for he knew with how minute attention the ancient criticks conſidered the diſpoſition of ſyllables, and had himſelf given hopes of ſome metrical obſervations upon that great Roman poet; but being the firſt who undertook to diſplay the beauties, and point out the defects of Milton, he had many objects at once before him, and paſſed willingly over thoſe which were moſt barren of ideas, and required labour, rather than genius.
[Page 137] YET verſification, or the art of modulating his Numbers, is indiſpenſably neceſſary to a poet. Every other power by which the attention is fixed, the underſtanding enlightened, or the imagination enchanted, may be exerciſed in proſe. But the poet has this peculiar ſuperiority, that to all the powers which the perfection of every other compoſition can require, he adds the faculty of joining muſick with reaſon, and of acting at once upon the ſenſes and the paſſions. I ſuppoſe there are few who do not feel themſelves touched by poetical melody, and who will not confeſs that they are more or leſs moved by the ſame thoughts, as they are conveyed by different ſounds, and more affected by the ſame words in one order, than in another. The perception of harmony is indeed conſerred upon men in degrees very unequal, but there are none who do not perceive it, or to whom a regular ſeries of proportionate ſounds cannot give delight.
IN treating on the verſification of Milton I am deſirous to be generally underſtood, and ſhall therefore ſtudiouſly decline the dialect of grammarians; though, indeed, it is [Page 138] always difficult and ſometimes ſcarcely poſſible to deliver the precepts of an art without the terms by which the peculiar ideas of that art are expreſſed, and which had not been invented but becauſe the language already in uſe, was inſufficient. If therefore I ſhall ſometimes ſeem obſcure, may it be imputed to this voluntary interdiction, and to a deſire of avoiding that offence which is always given by unuſual words.
Courage uncertain dangers may abate,But whó can beár th' appróach of cértain fáte.DRYDEN.
[Page 139] The accent may be obſerved in the ſecond line of Dryden, and the ſecond and fourth of Milton, to repoſe upon every ſecond ſyllable.Here love his golden ſhafts employs, here lightsHis cónſtant lámp, and wáves his púrple wings,Reigns here, and revels; not in the bought ſmileOf hárlots, lóveleſs, jóyleſs, únendéar'd.MILTON.
THE repetition of this ſound or percuſſion at equal times is the moſt complete harmony of which a ſingle verſe is capable, and ſhould therefore be exactly kept in diſtichs, and generally in the laſt line of a paragraph, that the ear may reſt without any ſenſe of imperfection.
BUT, to preſerve the ſeries of ſounds untranſpoſed in a long compoſition, is not only very difficult but tireſome and diſguſting; for we are ſoon wearied with the perpetual recurrence of the ſame cadence. Neceſſity has therefore enforced the mixed meaſure, in which ſome variation of the accents is allowed; this, though it always injures the harmony of the line conſidered by itſelf, yet compenſates the loſs by relieving us from the continual tyranny of the ſame ſound, and makes us more ſenſible of the harmony of the pure meaſure.
OF theſe mixed numbers every poet affords us innumerable inſtances, and Milton ſeldom [Page 140] has two pure lines together, as will appear if any of his paragraphs be read with attention merely to the muſick.
In this paſſage it will be at firſt obſerved, that all the lines are not equally harmonious, and upon a nearer examination it will be found that only the fifth and ninth lines are regular, and the reſt are more or leſs licentious with [Page 141] reſpect to the accent. In ſome the accent is equally upon two ſyllables together, and in both ſtrong. AsThus at their ſhady lodge arriv'd both ſtood,Both turn'd and under open ſky adorn'dThe God that made both ſky, air, earth, and heav'n,Which they beheld; the moon's reſplendent globe,And ſtarry pole: thou alſo mad'ſt the night,Maker omnipotent! and thou the day,Which we in our appointed work employ'dHave finiſh'd, happy in our mutual help,And mutual love, the crown of all our bliſsOrdain'd by thee; and this delicious place,For us too large; where thy abundance wantsPartakers, and uncrop'd falls to the ground,But thou haſt promis'd from us two a raceTo fill the earth, who ſhall with us extolThy goodneſs infinite, both when we awake,And when we ſeek, as now, thy gift of ſleep.
In others the accent is equally upon two ſyllables, but upon both weak.Thus at their ſhady lodge arriv'd, both ſtood,Both turn'd, and under open ſky ador'dThe God that made both ſky, air, earth, and heav'n.
In the firſt pair of ſyllables the accent may deviate from the rigour of exactneſs without any unpleaſing diminution of harmony, as may be obſerved in the lines already cited, and more remarkably in this—a raceTo fill the earth, who ſhall with us extolThy goodneſs infinite, both when we wake,And when we ſeek, as now, thy gift of ſleep.
But, excepting in the firſt pair of ſyllables, which may be conſidered as arbitrary, a poet who, not having the invention or knowledge of Milton, has more need to allure his audience by muſical cadences, ſhould ſeldom ſuffer more than one aberration from the rule in any ſingle verſe.—Thou alſo mad'ſt the night,Maker omnipotent! and thou the day.
Here the third pair of ſyllables in the firſt, and fourth pair in the ſecond verſe, have their accents retrograde or inverted; the firſt ſyllable being ſtrong or acute, and the ſecond weak. The detriment which the meaſure ſuffers by this inverſion of the accents is ſometimes leſs perceptible, when the verſes are carried one into another, but is remarkably ſtriking in this place, where the vicious verſe concludes a period; and is yet more offenſive in rhyme, when we regularly attend to the flow of every ſingle line. This will appear by reading a couplet in which Cowley, an author not ſufficiently ſtudious of harmony, has committed the ſame fault.—This delicious place,For us too large; where thy abundance wantsPartakers, and uncrop'd falls to the ground.
In theſe the law of metre is very groſsly violated by mingling combinations of ſound directly oppoſite to each other, as Milton expreſſes it in his ſonnet, by committing ſhort [Page 143] and long, and ſetting one part of the meaſure as variance with the reſt. The ancients, who had a language more capable of variety than ours, had two kinds of verſe, the lambick, conſiſting of ſhort and long ſyllables alternately, from which our heroick meaſure is derived, and the Trochaick, conſiſting in a like alternation of long and ſhort. Theſe were conſidered as oppoſites, and conveyed the contrary images of ſpeed and ſlowneſs; to confound them, therefore, as in theſe lines, is to deviate from the eſtabliſhed practice. But where the ſenſes are to judge, authority is not neceſſary, the ear is ſufficient to detect diſſonance, nor ſhould I have ſought auxiliaries on ſuch an occaſion againſt any name but that of Milton.—His harmleſs lifeDoes with ſubſtantial bleſſedneſs abound,And the ſoft wings of peace cover him round.
HOR,Invidus, iracundus, iners, vinoſus, amator,Nemo adeo ferus eſt, ut non miteſcere poſſitSi modo culturae patientem commodet aurem.
THAT few things are ſo liberally beſtowed, or ſquandered with ſo little effect, as good advice, has been generally obſerved; and many ſage poſitions have been advanced concerning the reaſons of this complaint, and the means of removing it. It is, indeed, an important and noble enquiry, for little would be wanting to the happineſs of life, if every man could conform to the right as ſoon as he was ſhown it.
THIS perverſe neglect of the moſt ſalutary precepts, and ſtubborn reſiſtance of the moſt pathetic perſuaſion, is uſually imputed to him by whom the counſel is received, and we therefore often hear it mentioned as a ſign of hopeleſs and abandoned depravity, that tho' good advice was given, it has wrought no reformation.
[Page 145] OTHERS who imagine themſelves to have quicker ſagacity and deeper penetration, have found out, that the inefficacy of advice is uſually the fault of the counſellor, and rules have therefore been laid down, by which this important duty may be ſucceſsfully performed: We are directed by what tokens to diſcover the favourable moment at which the heart is diſpoſed for the operation of truth and reaſon, with what addreſs to adminiſter and with what vehicles to diſguiſe the catharticks of the ſoul.
BUT, notwithſtanding this ſpecious expedient, we find the world yet in the ſame ſtate; advice is ſtill given, but ſtill received with diſguſt; nor has it appeared that the bitterneſs of the medicine has been yet abated, or its power encreaſed by any methods of preparing it.
IF we conſider the manner in which thoſe who aſſume the office of directing the conduct of others execute their undertaking, it will not be very wonderful that their labours, however zealous or affectionate, are frequently uſeleſs. For what is the advice that is commonly given? A few general maxims, [Page 146] enforced with vehemence and inculcated with importunity, but failing for want of particular reference, and immediate application.
IT is not often that any man can have ſo much knowledge of another, as is neceſſary to make inſtruction uſeful. We are ſometimes not ourſelves conſcious of the original motives of our actions, and when we know them, our firſt care is to hide them from the ſight of others, and often from thoſe moſt diligently, whoſe ſuperiority either of power or underſtanding may intitle them to inſpect our lives; it is therefore very probable that he who endeavours the cure of our intellectual maladies, miſtakes their cauſe; and that his preſcriptions avail nothing, becauſe he knows not which of the paſſions or deſires is vitiated.
ADVICE, as it always gives a temporary appearance of ſuperiority, can never be very grateful, even when it is moſt neceſſary or moſt judicious. But for the ſame reaſon every one is eager to inſtruct his neighbours. To be wiſe or to be virtuous, is to buy dignity [Page 147] and importance at a high price; but when nothing is neceſſary to elevation but detection of the follies or the faults of others, no man is ſo inſenſible to the voice of fame as to linger on the ground.
—Tentanda via eſt qua me quoque poſſimTollere humo, victorque virûm valitare per ora.
VANITY is ſo frequently the apparent motive of advice, that we, for the moſt part, ſummon our powers to oppoſe it without any very accurate enquiry whether it is right. It is ſufficient that another is growing great in his own eyes at our expence, and that he aſſumes an authority over us without our permiſſion; for many would be contented to ſuffer the conſequences of their own miſtakes, rather than the inſolence of him who triumphs as their deliverer.
IT is, indeed, ſeldom found that any advantages are enjoyed with that moderation which the uncertainty of all human good ſo powerfully enforces; and therefore the adviſer may juſtly ſuſpect, that he has inflamed [Page 148] the oppoſition which he laments by arrogance and ſuperciliouſneſs, though, indeed, he can rarely be certain, that the ſofteſt language or moſt humble diffidence would have eſcaped reſentment; for ſcarcely any degree of circumſpection can prevent or obviate the rage with which the ſlothful, the impotent, and the unſucceſsful, vent their diſcontent upon thoſe that excel them, endeavour to eclipſe the beauties which they cannot outſhine, and to retard the ſpeed which they cannot overtake. Modeſty itſelf, if it is praiſed, will be envied; and there are minds ſo impatient of inferiority, that their gratitude is a ſpecies of revenge, and they return benefits, not becauſe recompence is a pleaſure, but becauſe obligation is a pain.
THE number of thoſe whom the love of themſelves has thus far corrupted, is perhaps not great; but there are few ſo free from vanity as not to dictate to thoſe who will hear their inſtructions with a viſible ſenſe of their own beneficence; and few to whom it is not unpleaſing to receive documents, however tenderly and cautiouſly delivered, or who are [Page 149] not willing to raiſe themſelves from pupillage, by diſputing the propoſitions of their teacher.
IT was the maxim, I think, of Alphonſus of Arragon, that dead counſellors are ſafeſt. The grave puts an end to flattery and artifice, and the information that we receive from books is pure from intereſt, fear, or ambition. Dead counſellors are likewiſe moſt inſtructive; becauſe they are heard with patience and with reverence. We are not unwilling to believe that man wiſer than ourſelves, from whoſe abilities we may receive advantage, without any danger of rivalry or oppoſition, and who affords us the light of his experience, without hurting our eyes by flaſhes of inſolence,
BY the conſultation of books, whether of dead or living authors, many temptations to petulance and oppoſition, which occur in oral conferences, are avoided. An author cannot obtrude his advice unaſked, nor can be often ſuſpected of any malignant intention to inſult his readers with his knowledge or his wit. Yet ſo prevalent is the habit of comparing [Page 150] ourſelves with others, while they remain within the reach of our paſſions, that books are ſeldom read with complete impartiality, but by thoſe from whom the writer is placed at ſuch a diſtance that his life or death is indifferent.
WE ſee that volumes may be peruſed, and peruſed with attention, to little effect; and that maxims of prudence, or principles of virtue, may be treaſured in the memory without influencing the conduct. Of the numbers that paſs their lives among books, very few read to be made wiſer or better, apply any general reproof of vice to themſelves, or try their own manners by axioms of juſtice. They purpoſe either to conſume thoſe hours for which they can find no other amuſement; to gain or preſerve that reſpect which the learned have always obtained; or to gratify their curioſity with knowledge, which, like treaſure buried and forgotten, is of no uſe to others or themſelves.
"THE preacher, (ſays a French author) may ſpend an hour in explaining and enforcing a precept of religion, without feeling [Page 151] any impreſſion from his own performance, becauſe he may have no further deſign than to fill up his hour." A ſtudent may eaſily exhauſt his life in comparing divines and moraliſts, without any practical regard to morality or religion; he may be learning not to live but to reaſon; he may regard only the elegance of ſtile, juſtneſs of argument, and accuracy of method; and may enable himſelf to criticiſe with judgment, and diſpute with ſubtilty, while the chief uſe of his volumes is unthought of, his mind is unaffected, and his life is unreformed.
BUT though truth and virtue are thus frequently defeated by pride, obſtinacy, or folly, we are not allowed to deſert them, for whoever can furniſh arms which they have not hitherto employed, may enable them to gain ſome hearts which would have reſiſted any other method of attack. Every man of genius has ſome arts of fixing the attention peculiar to himſelf, by which, honeſtly exerted, he may benefit mankind; for the arguments for purity of life fail of their due influence, not becauſe they have been conſidered and confuted, but becauſe they have [Page 152] been paſſed over without conſideration. To the poſition of Tully, that if Virtue could be ſeen ſhe muſt be loved, may be added, that if Truth could be heard, ſhe muſt be obeyed.
HOR.Cum Tabulis animum Cenſoris ſumet honeſti,Audebit quaecunque minus ſplendoris habebunt,Aut ſine pondere erunt, et honore indigna ferenturVerba movere loco, quamvis invita recedantEt verſentur adhuc intra penctralia Veſtae.
[Page] CONFIRMED and animated by this illuſtrious precedent, I ſhall continue my inquiries into Milton's art of verſification. Since, however minute and trivial the employment may appear, of analyſing lines into ſyllables, and whatever ridicule may be incurred by a ſolemn deliberation upon accents and pauſes, it is certain that without this petty knowledge no man can be a poet; and that from the proper diſpoſition of ſingle ſounds reſults that harmony that adds force to reaſon, and gives grace to ſublimity; that ſhackles attention, and governs paſſion.
THAT verſe may be melodious and pleaſing, it is neceſſary, not only that the words be ſo ranged as that the accent may fall on its proper place, but that the ſyllables themſelves be ſo choſen as to flow ſmoothly into one another. This is to be effected by a proportionate mixture of vowels and conſonants, and by tempering the mute conſonants with liquids and ſemivowels. The Hebrew grammarians have obſerv'd, that it is impoſſible to pronounce two conſonants without the intervention of a vowel, or without ſome emiſſion of the breath between one and the other; this is longer and more perceptible, as the ſounds of the [Page 154] conſonants are leſs harmonically conjoined, and, by conſequence, the flow of the verſe is longer interrupted.
IT is pronounced by Dryden, that a line of monoſyllables is almoſt always harſh. This, with regard to our language, is evidently true, not becauſe monoſyllables cannot compoſe harmony, but becauſe our monoſyllables being of Teutonic original, or formed by contraction, commonly begin and end with conſonants, as,
—Every lower facultyOf ſenſe, whereby they hear, ſee, ſmell, touch, taſte.
Immortal Amarant—there growsAnd flow'rs aloft, ſhading the fount of life,And where the river of bliſs thro' midſt of heav'nRolls o'er Elyſian flow'rs her amber ſtream;With theſe that never fade, the ſpirits elect
MILTON, whoſe ear had been accuſtomed, not only to the muſick of the antient tongues, which, however vitiated by our pronunciation, excel all that are now in uſe, but to the ſoftneſs of the Italian, the moſt mellifluous of all modern poetry, ſeems fully convinced of the unfitneſs of our language for ſmooth verſification, and is therefore [Page 156] pleaſed with an opportunity of calling in a ſofter word to his aſſiſtance; for this reaſon, and I believe for this only, he ſometimes indulges himſelf in a long ſeries of proper names, and introduces them where they add little but muſick to his poem.
HE has indeed, been more attentive to his ſyllables than to his accents, and does not often offend by colliſions of conſonants, or openings of vowels upon each other, at leaſt not more often than other writers who have had leſs important or complicated ſubjects to take off their care ftom the cadence of their lines.
THE great peculiarity of Milton's verſification, compared with that of later poets, is [Page 157] the eliſion of one vowel before another, or the ſuppreſſion of the laſt ſyllable of a word ending with a vowel, when a vowel begins the following word. As
Knowledge—Oppreſſes elſe with ſurfeit, and ſoon turnsWiſdom to folly, as nouriſhment to wind.
THIS licence, though now diſuſed in Engliſh poetry, is yet allowed in many other languages antient and modern, and therefore the critics on Paradiſe Loſt have, without much deliberation, commended Milton for continuing it. But one language cannot communicate its rules to another. We have already tried and rejected the hexameter of the antients, the double cloſe of the Italians, and the Alexandrine of the French; and therefore the eliſion of vowels, however graceful it may ſeem to other nations, is not conſequently ſuitable to the genius of the Engliſh Tongue.
THERE is, indeed, reaſon to believe that we have negligently loſt part of our vowels, and that the ſilent e which our anceſtors added to moſt of our monoſyllables, was once vocal. By this detruncation of our ſyllables, our [Page 158] language is over-ſtocked with conſonants, and it is more neceſſary to add vowels to the beginning of words, than to cut them off from the end.
MILTON therefore ſeems to have ſomewhat miſtaken the nature of our language, of which the chief defect is ruggedneſs and aſperity, and has left our harſh cadences yet harſher. But his eliſions are not all equally to be cenſured; in ſome ſyllables they may be allowed, and perhaps in a few days may be ſafely imitated. The abſciſion of a vowel is undoubtedly vicious when it is ſtrongly ſounded, and makes, with its aſſociate conſonant, a full and audible ſyllable.
I BELIEVE every reader will agree that in all thoſe paſſages, though not equally in all, the muſic is injured, and in ſome the meaning obſcured. There are other lines in which the vowel is cut off, but it is ſo faintly pronounced in common ſpeech, that the loſs of it in poetry is ſcarcely perceived; and therefore ſuch compliance with the meaſure may be allowed.
VERSES of this kind occur almoſt in every page; but though they are not unpleaſing or diſſonant, they ought not to be admitted into heroic poetry, ſince the narrow limits of our language allow us no other diſtinction of epic and tragic meaſures, than is afforded by the liberty of changing at will the terminiation [Page 161] of the dramatic lines, and bringing them by that relaxation of metrical rigour nearer to proſe.
LOCKE, whom there is no reaſon to ſuſpect of being a favourer of idleneſs or libertiniſm, has advanced, that whoever hopes to employ any part of his time with efficacy and vigour, muſt allow ſome of it to paſs in trifles. It is beyond the powers of humanity to ſpend a whole life in profound ſtudy and intenſe meditation, and the moſt rigorous exacters of induſtry and ſeriouſneſs, have appointed hours for relaxation and amuſement.
IT is certain, that, with or without our conſent, many of the few moments allotted us will ſlide imperceptibly away, and that the mind will break, from confinement to it; ſtated taſk, into ſudden excurſions. Severe and connected [Page 162] attention is preſerved but for a ſhort time, and when a man ſhuts himſelf up in his cloſet, and bends his thoughts to the diſcuſſion of any abſtruſe queſtion, he will find his faculties continually ſtealing away to more pleaſing entertainments. He often perceives himſelf tranſported, he knows not how, to diſtant tracts of thought, and return to his firſt object as from a dream, without knowing when he forſook it, or how long he has been abſtracted from it.
IT has been obſerved that the moſt ſtudious are not always the moſt learned. There is, indeed, no great difficulty in diſcovering that this difference of proficiency may ariſe from the difference of intellectual powers, of the choice of books, or the convenience of information. But I believe it likewiſe frequently happens that the moſt recluſe are not the moſt vigorous proſecutors of ſtudy. Many impoſe upon the world, and many upon themſelves, by an appearance of ſevere and exemplary diligence, when they, in reality, give themſelves up to the luxury of fancy, pleaſe their minds with regulating the paſt, or planning out the future; place themſelves at will in varied ſituations of happineſs, and ſlumber away their [Page 163] days in voluntary viſions. In the journey of life ſome are left behind, becauſe they are naturally feeble and ſlow; ſome becauſe they miſs the way, and many becauſe they leave it by choice, and inſtead of preſſing onward with a ſteady pace, delight themſelves with momentary deviations, turn aſide to pluck every flower, and repoſe in every ſhade.
THERE is nothing more fatal to a man whoſe buſineſs is to think, than to have learned the art of regaling his mind with thoſe airy gratifications. Other vices or follies are reſtrained by fear, reformed by admonition, or rejected by the conviction which the compariſon of our conduct with that of others, may in time produce. But this inviſible riot of the mind, this ſecret prodigality of being is ſecure from detection, and fearleſs of reproach. The dreamer retires to his apartments, ſhuts out the cares and interruptions of mankind, and abandons himſelf to his own fancy; new worlds riſe up before him, one image is followed by another, and a long ſucceſſion of delights dances round him. He is at laſt called back to life by nature, or by cuſtom, and enters peeviſh into ſociety, becauſe he [Page 164] cannot model it to his own will. He returns from his idle excurſions with the aſperity, tho' not with the knowledge, of a ſtudent, and haſtens again to the ſame felicity with the eagerneſs of a man bent upon the advancement of ſome favourite ſcience. The inſatuation ſtrengthens by degrees, and, like the poiſon of opiates, weakens his powers without any external ſymptom of malignity.
IT happens, indeed, that theſe hypocrites of learning are in time detected, and convinced by diſgrace and diſappointment of the difference between the labour of thought, and the ſport of muſing. But this diſcovery is often not made till it is too late to recover the time that has been fooled away. A thouſand accidents may, indeed, awaken drones to a more early ſenſe of their danger and their ſhame. But they who are convinced of the neceſſity of breaking from this habitual drowſineſs, too often relapſe in ſpite of their reſolution; for theſe ideal ſeducers are always near, and neither any particularity of time nor place is neceſſary to their influence; they invade the ſoul without warning, and have often charmed down reſiſtance before their approach is perceived or ſuſpected.
[Page 165] THIS captivity, however, it is neceſſary for every man to break, who has any deſire to be wiſe or uſeful, to paſs his life with the eſteem of others, or to look back with ſatisfaction from his old age upon his earlier years. In order to regain liberty, he muſt find the means of flying from himſelf; he muſt, in oppoſition to the Stoick precept, teach his deſires to fix upon external things; he muſt adopt the joys and the pains of others, and excite in his mind the want of ſocial pleaſures and amicable communication.
IT is perhaps, not impoſſible to promote the cure of this mental malady, by cloſe application to ſome new ſtudy, which may pour in freſh ideas, and keep curioſity in perpetual motion. But ſtudy requires ſolitude, and ſolitude is a ſtate dangerous to thoſe who are too much accuſtomed to ſink into themſelves. Active employment, or publick pleaſure, is generally a neceſſary part of this intellectual regimen, without which, though ſome remiſſion may be obtained, a compleat cure will ſcarcely be effected.
[Page 166] THIS is a formidable and obſtinate diſeaſe of the intellect, of which, when it has once become radicated by time, the remedy is one of the hardeſt taſks of reaſon and of virtue. Its ſlighteſt attacks, therefore, ſhould be watchfully oppoſed; and he that finds the frigid and narcotick infection beginning to ſeize him, ſhould turn his whole attention againſt it, and check it at the firſt diſcovery by proper counteraction.
THE great reſolution to be formed, when happineſs and virtue are thus formidably invaded, is, that no part of life be ſpent in a ſtate of neutrality or indifference; but that ſome pleaſure be found for every moment that is not devoted to labour; and that, whenever the neceſſary buſineſs of life grows irkſome, or diſguſting, an immediate tranſition be made to diverſion and gaiety.
AFTER the exerciſes which the health of the body requires, and which have themſelves a natural tendency to actuate and invigorate the mind, the moſt eligible amuſement of a rational being ſeems to be that interchange of thoughts which is practiſed in free and [Page 167] eaſy converſation; where ſuſpicion is baniſhed by experience, and emulation by benevolence; where every man ſpeaks with no other reſtraint than unwillingneſs to offend, and hears with no other diſpoſition than deſire to be pleaſed.
THERE muſt be a time in which every man trifles; and the only choice that nature offers us, is, to trifle in company or alone. To join profit with pleaſure, has been an old precept among men who have had very different conceptions of profit. All have agreed that our amuſements ſhould not terminate wholly in the preſent moment, but contribute more or leſs to future advantage. He that amuſes himſelf among well choſen companions, can ſcarcely fail to receive, from the moſt careleſs and obſtreperous merriment which virtue can allow ſome uſeful hints; nor can converſe on the moſt familiar topics, without ſome caſual information. The looſe ſparkles of thoughtleſs wit may give new light to the mind, and the gay contention for paradoxical poſitions rectify the opinions.
[Page 168] THIS is the time in which thoſe friendſhips that give happineſs or conſolation, relief or ſecurity, are generally formed. A wiſe and good man is never ſo amiable as in his unbended and familiar intervals. Heroic generoſity, or philoſophical diſcoveries may compel veneration and reſpect, but love always implies ſome kind of natural or voluntary equality, and is only to be excited by that levity and chearfulneſs which diſencumbers all minds from awe and ſolicitude, invites the modeſt to freedom, and exalts the timorous to confidence. This eaſe and frankneſs is certain to pleaſe, whatever be the character of him that exerts it; if our ſuperiors deſcend from their elevation, we love them for leſſening the diſtance at which we are placed below them; and inferiors, from whom we can receive no laſting advantage, will always keep our affections while their ſprightlineſs and mirth contributes to our pleaſure.
EVERY man finds himſelf differently affected by the ſight of fortreſſes of war, and palaces of pleaſure; we look on the height and ſtrength of the bulwarks with a kind of [Page 169] gloomy ſatisfaction, for we cannot think of defence without admitting images of danger; but we range delighted and jocund through the gay apartments of the palace, becauſe nothing is impreſſed by them on the mind but joy and feſtivity. Such is the difference between great and amiable characters; with protectors we are ſafe, with companions we are happy.
IT is very difficult to write on the minuter parts of literature without failing either to pleaſe or inſtruct. Too much nicety of detail diſguſts the greateſt part of readers, and to throw a multitude of particulars under general heads, and lay down rules of extenſive comprehenſion, is to common underſtandings of little uſe. They who undertake theſe ſubjects are therefore always in danger, as one or other inconvenience ariſes to their imagination, of frighting us with rugged ſcience, or amuſing us with empty ſound.
IN criticiſing the work of Milton, there is, indeed, opportunity to interſperſe paſſages that can hardly fail to relieve the langours of attention; and ſince, in examining the variety and choice of the pauſes with which he has diverſified his numbers, it will be neceſſary to exhibit the lines in which they are to be found, perhaps the remarks may be well [Page 171] compenſated by the examples, and the irkſomeneſs of grammatical diſquiſitions ſomewhat alleviated.
MILTON formed his ſcheme of verſification by the poets of Greece and Rome, whom he propoſed to himſelf for his models ſo far as the difference of his language from theirs would permit the imitation. There are indeed many inconveniencies inſeparable from our heroick meaſure compared with that of Homer and Virgil; inconveniencies, which, it is no reproach to Milton not to have overcome, becauſe they are in their own nature inſuperable; but againſt which he has ſtruggled with ſo much art and diligence, that he may at leaſt be ſaid to have deſerved ſucceſs.
THE hexameter of the ancients may be conſidered as conſiſting of fifteen ſyllables, ſo melodiouſly diſpoſed, that, as every one knows who has examined the poetical authors, very pleaſing and ſonorous lyrick meaſures are formed from the fragments of the heroick. It is, indeed, ſcarce poſſible to break them in ſuch a manner but that invenias [Page 172] etiam disjecti membra poetae, ſome harmony will ſtill remain, and the due proportions of ſound will always be diſcovered. This meaſure therefore allowed great variety of pauſes, and great liberties of connecting one verſe with another, becauſe wherever the line was interrupted, either part ſingly was muſical. But the ancients ſeem to have confined this privilege to hexameters; for in their other meaſures, though frequently longer than the Engliſh heroick, thoſe who wrote after the refinements of verſification venture ſo ſeldom to change their pauſes, that every variation may be ſuppoſed rather a compliance with neceſſity than the choice of judgment.
MILTON, was conſtrained within the narrow limits of a meaſure not very harmonious in the utmoſt perfection; the ſingle parts, therefore, into which it was to be ſometime; broken by pauſes, were in danger of loſing the very form of verſe. This has, perhaps, notwithſtanding all his care, ſometimes happened.
AS harmony is the end of poetical meaſures, no part of a verſe ought to be ſo ſeparated from the reſt as not to remain ſtill [Page 173] more harmonious than proſe, or to ſhew, by the diſpoſition of the tones, that it is part of a verſe. This rule in the old hexameter might be eaſily obſerved, but in Engliſh will very frequently be in danger of violation; for the order and regularity of accents cannot well be perceived in a ſucceſſion of fewer than three ſyllables, which will confine the Engliſh poet to only five pauſes; it being ſuppoſed, that, when he connects one line with another, he ſhould never make a full pauſe at leſs diſtance than that of three ſyllables from the beginning or end of a verſe.
THAT this rule ſhould be univerſally and indiſpenſably eſtabliſhed, perhaps cannot be granted; ſomething may be allowed to variety, and ſomething to the adaptation of the numbers to the ſubject; but it will be found generally neceſſary, and the ear will ſeldom fail to ſuffer by its neglect.
THUS when a ſingle ſyllable is cut off from the reſt, it muſt either be united to the line with which the ſenſe connects it, or be ſounded alone. If it be united to the other line, it corrupts its harmony; if disjoined, [Page 174] it muſt, with regard to muſick, be ſuperfluous; for there is no harmony in a ſingle ſound, becauſe it has no proportion to another.
Hypocrites auſterely talkDefaming as impure what God declaresPure; and commands to ſome, leaves free to all.
The raceOf that wild rout that tore the Thracian bardIn Rhodope, where woods and rocks, had ears,To rapture, 'till the ſavage clamour drown'dBoth harp and voice; nor could the muſe defendHer ſon. So fail not thou, who thee implores.
WHEN the pauſe falls upon the third ſyllable or the ſeventh, the harmony is better preſerved, but as the third and ſeventh are weak ſyllables, the period leaves the ear unſatisfied, and in expectation of the remaining part of the verſe. [Page 176]
IT may be, I think, eſtabliſhed as a rule, that a pauſe which concludes a period ſhould be made for the moſt part upon a ſtrong ſyllable, as the fourth and ſixth; but thoſe pauſes which only ſuſpend the Senſe may be placed upon the weaker. Thus the reſt in the third line of the firſt paſſage ſatisfies the ear better than in the fourth, and the cloſe of the ſecond quotation better than of the third.
Beaſt now with beaſt 'gan war, and fowl with fowl,And fiſh with fiſh, to graze the herb all leaving,Devour'd each other: Nor ſtood much in aweGlar'd on him paſsing.
THE nobleſt and moſt majeſtic pauſes which our verſification admits, are upon the fourth and ſixth ſyllables, which are both ſtrongly ſounded in a pure and regular verſe, and at either of which the line is ſo divided, that both members participate of harmony.
But now at laſt the ſacred influenceOf light appears, and from the walls of heav'nShoots far into the boſom of dim nightA glimmering dawn: here nature firſt beginsHer fartheſt verge and chaos to retire.
BUT far above all others, if I can give any credit to my own ear, is the reſt upon the ſixth ſyllable, which taking in a complete compaſs of ſound, ſuch as is ſufficient to conſtitute one of our lyrick meaſures, makes a full and ſolemn cloſe. Some paſſages which conclude at this ſtop, I could never read without [Page 179] ſome ſtrong emotions of delight or admiration.
[Page 180] IF the poetry of Milton be examined, with regard to the pauſes and flow of his verſes into each other, it will appear, that he has performed all that our language would admit; and the compariſon of his numbers with thoſe who have cultivated the ſame manner of writing, will ſhow that he excelled as much in the lower as the higher parts of his art, and that his ſkill in harmony was not leſs than his invention or his learning.
HOR.Dulcis inexpertis cultura potentis amici,Expertus metuit.
THE SCIENCES having long ſeen their votaries labouring for the benefit of mankind without reward, put up their petition to Jupiter for a more equitable diſtribution of riches and honours. Jupiter was moved at their complaints, and touched with the approaching miſeries of Men, whom the SCIENCES, wearied with perpetual ingratitude, were now threatening to forſake, and who would have been reduced by their departure to feed in dens upon the maſt of trees, to hunt their prey in deſarts, and to periſh under the paws of animals ſtronger and fiercer than themſelves.
A SYNOD of the celeſtials was therefore convened, in which it was reſolved, that PATRONAGE ſhould deſcend to the aſſiſtance of the SCIENCES. PATRONAGE was the Daughter of ASTREA, by a mortal father, and had been educated in the ſchool of TRUTH, by the Goddeſſes, whom ſhe was now appointed to protect. She had from her [Page 182] mother that dignity of aſpect, which ſtruck terror into falſe merit, and from her miſtreſs that reſerve, which made her only acceſſible to thoſe whom the SCIENCES brought into her preſence.
SHE came down, with the general acclamation of all the powers that favour learning. HOPE danced before her, and LIBERALITY ſtood at her ſide, ready to ſcatter by her direction the gifts which FORTUNE, who followed her, was commanded to ſupply. As ſhe advanced towards Parnaſſus, the cloud which had long hung over it, was immediately diſpelled. The ſhades, before withered with drought, ſpread their original verdure, and the flowers that had languiſhed with chilneſs brightened their colours, and invigorated their ſcents; the Muſes tuned their harps and exerted their voices; and all the conceit of nature welcomed her arrival.
ON Parnaſſus ſhe fixed her reſidence, in a palace raiſed by the SCIENCES, and adorned with whatever could delight the eye, elevate the imagination, or enlarge the underſtanding. Here ſhe diſperſed the gifts of FORTUNE, with the impartiality of JUSTICE, [Page 183] and the diſcernment of TRUTH. Her gate ſtood always open, and HOPE ſat at the portal, inviting to entrance all whom the SCIENCES numbered in their train. The court was therefore thronged with innumerable multitudes, of whom, though many returned diſappointed, ſeldom any had confidence to complain; for PATRONAGE was univerſally known to neglect few, but for want of the due claims to her regard. Thoſe, therefore, who had ſolicited her favour without ſucceſs, generally withdrew from publick notice, and either diverted their attention to meaner employments, or endeavoured to ſupply their deficiencies by cloſer application.
IN time, however, the number of thoſe who had miſcarried in their pretenſions grew ſo great, that they became leſs aſhamed of their repulſes; and inſtead of hiding their diſgrace in retirement, began to beſiege the gates of the palace, and obſtruct the entrance of ſuch as they thought likely to be more ſucceſsful. The deciſions of PATRONAGE, who was but half a Goddeſs, had been ſometimes erroneous; and though ſhe always made haſte to rectify her miſtakes, a few inſtances of her fallibility encouraged [Page 184] every one to appeal from her judgment to his own and that of his companions, who were always ready to clamour in the common cauſe, and elate each other with reciprocal applauſe.
HOPE was a ſteady friend to the diſappointed, and IMPUDENCE incited them to accept a ſecond invitation, and lay their claim again before PATRONAGE. They were again, for the moſt part, ſent back with ignominy, but found HOPE not alienated, and IMPUDENCE more reſolutely zealous; they therefore, contrived new expedients, and hoped at laſt to prevail by their multitudes which were always encreaſing, and their perſeverance which HOPE and IMPUDENCE forbad them to relax.
PATRONAGE having been long a ſtranger to the heavenly aſſemblies, began to degenerate towards terreſtrial nature, and forget the precepts of JUSTICE and TRUTH. Inſtead of confining her friendſhip to the SCIENCES, ſhe ſuffered herſelf, by little and little, to contract an acquaintance with PRIDE, the ſon of FALSEHOOD, by whoſe embraces ſhe had two daughters, FLATTERY and CAPRICE. FLATTERY was nurſed by LIBERALITY, and CAPRICE by FORTUNE, [Page 185] without any aſſiſtance from the leſſons of the SCIENCES.
PATRONAGE began openly to adopt the ſentiments and imitate the manners of her huſband, by whoſe opinion ſhe now directed her deciſions with very little heed to the precepts of TRUTH; and, as her daughters continually gained upon her affections, the SCIENCES loſt their influence, till none found much reaſon to boaſt of their reception, but thoſe whom CAPRICE or FLATTERY conducted to her throne.
THE throngs who had ſo long waited, and ſo often been diſmiſſed for want of recommendation from the SCIENCES, were delighted to ſee the power of thoſe rigorous Goddeſſes, tending to its extinction. Their patroneſſes now renewed their encouragements. HOPE ſmiled at the approach of CAPRICE, and IMPUDENCE was always at hand to introduce her clients to FLATTERY.
PATRONAGE had now learned to procure herſelf reverence by ceremonies and formalities, and inſtead of admitting her petitioners to an immediate audience, ordered [Page 184] [...] [Page 185] [...] [Page 186] the antichamber to be erected, called among mortals, the Hall of Expectation. Into this hall the entrance was eaſy to thoſe whom IMPUDENCE had conſigned to FLATTERY, and it was therefore crouded with a promiſcuous throng, aſſembled from every corner of the earth, preſſing forward with the utmoſt eagerneſs of deſire, and agitated with all the anxieties of competition.
THEY entered this general receptacle with ardour and alacrity, and made no doubt of ſpeedy acceſs under the conduct of FLATTERY to the preſence of PATRONAGE. But it generally happened that they were here left to their deſtiny, for the inner doors were committed to CAPRICE, who opened and ſhut them, as it ſeemed, by chance, and rejected or admitted without any ſettled rule of diſtinction. In the mean time, the miſerable attendants, were left to wear out their lives in alternate exultation and dejection, delivered up to the ſport of SUSPICION who was always whiſpering into their ear deſigns againſt them which were never formed, and of ENVY who diligently pointed out the good fortune of one or other of their competitors. [Page 187] INFAMY flew round the hall, and ſcattered mildews from her wings, with which every one was ſtained; REFUTATION followed her with ſlower flight, and endeavoured to hide the blemiſhes with paint, which was immediately bruſhed away, or ſeparated of itſelf, and left the ſtains more viſible; nor were the ſpots of INFAMY ever effaced, but with limpid water effuſed by the hand of TIME from the well of TRUTH.
IT frequently happened that SCIENCE, unwilling to loſe the antient prerogative of recommending to PATRONAGE, would lead her followers into the Hall of Expectation; but they were ſoon diſcouraged from attending, for not only ENVY and SUSPICION inceſſantly tormented them, but IMPUDENCE conſidered them as intruders, and incited INFAMY to blacken them. They therefore quickly retired, but ſeldom without ſome ſpots which they could never waſh away, and which ſhewed that they had once waited in the Hall of Expectation.
THE reſt continued to expect the happy moment, at which CAPRICE ſhould beckon them to approach; and endeavoured to propitiate [Page 188] her not with Homerical harmony, the repreſentation of great actions, or the recital of noble ſentiments, but with ſoft and voluptuous melody, intermingled with the praiſes of PATRONAGE and PRIDE, by whom they were heard at once with pleaſure and contempt.
SOME were indeed admitted by CAPRICE, when they leaſt expected it, and heaped by PATRONAGE with the gifts of FORTUNE, but they were from that time chained to her foot-ſtool, end condemned to regulate their lives by her glances and her nods; they ſeemed proud of their manacles, and ſeldom complained of any drudgery, however ſervile, or any affront, however contemptuous; yet they were often, notwithſtanding their obedience, ſeized on a ſudden by CAPRICE, diveſted of their ornaments, and thruſt back into the Hall of Expectation.
HERE they mingled again with the tumult, and all, except a few whom experience had taught to ſeek happineſs in the regions of liberty, continued to ſpend hours, and days, and years, courting the ſmile of CAPRICE with the arts of FLATTERY; till at length [Page 189] new crouds preſſed in upon them, and drove them forth at different outlets into the habitations of DISEASE, and SHAME, and POVERTY, and DESPAIR, where they paſſed the reſt of their lives in narratives of promiſes and breaches of faith, of joys and ſorrows, of hopes and diſappointments.
THE SCIENCES, after a thouſand indignities, retired from the palace of PATRONAGE, and having long wandered over the world in grief and diſtreſs, were led at laſt to the cottage of INDEPENDANCE, the daughter of FORTITUDE; where they were taught by PRUDENCE and PARSIMONY to ſupport themſelves in dignity and quiet.
HOR.Jam nunc minaci murmure cornuumPerſtringis aures, jam litui ſtrepunt.
IT has been long obſerved that the idea of beauty is vague and undefined, different in different minds, and diverſified by time or place. It has been a term hitherto uſed to ſignify that which pleaſes us we know not why, and in our approbation of which we can juſtify ourſelves only by the concurrence of numbers, without much power of enforcing our opinion upon others by any argument, but example and authority. It is, indeed, ſo little ſubject to the examinations of reaſon, that Paſchal ſuppoſes it to end where demonſtration begins, and maintains that without incongruity and abſurdity we cannot ſpeak of geometrical beauty
TO trace all the ſources of that various pleaſure which we aſcribe to the agency of beauty, or to diſentangle all the perceptions involved in its idea, would, perhaps, require [Page 191] a very great part of the life of Ariſtotle or Plato. It is, however, in many caſes, apparent that this quality is merely relative and comparative; that we pronounce things beautiful, becauſe they have ſomething which we agree, for whatever reaſon, to call beauty, in a greater degree than we have been accuſtomed to find it in other things of the ſame kind; and that we transfer the epithet as our knowledge encreaſes, and appropriate it to higher excellence, when higher excellence comes within our view.
MUCH of the beauty of writing is of this kind; and therefore Boileau juſtly remarks, that the books which have ſtood the teſt of time, and been admired through all the changes which the mind of man has ſuffered from the various revolutions of knowledge, and the prevalence of contrary cuſtoms, have a better claim to our regard than any modern can boaſt, becauſe the long continuance of their reputation proves that they are adequate to our faculties, and agreeable to nature.
IT is, however, the taſk of criticiſm to eſtabliſh principles; to improve opinion into [Page 192] knowledge; and to diſtinguiſh thoſe means of pleaſing which depend upon known cauſes and rational deduction, from the nameleſs and inexplicable elegancies which appeal wholly to the fancy, from which we feel delight but know not how they produce it, and which may well be termed the enchantreſſes of the ſoul. Criticiſm reduces thoſe regions of literature under the dominion of ſcience, which have hitherto known only the anarchy of ignorance, the caprices of fancy, and the tyranny of preſcription.
THERE is nothing in the art of verſifying ſo much expoſed to the power of imagination as the accommodation of the ſound to the ſenſe, or the repreſentation of particular images, by the flow of the verſe in which they are expreſſed. Every ſtudent has innumerable paſſages, in which he, and perhaps he alone, diſcovers ſuch reſemblances; and ſince the attention of the preſent race of poetical readers ſeems particularly turned upon this ſpecies of elegance, I ſhall endeavour to examine how much theſe in conformity have been obſerved by the poets, or directed by the criticks, how far they can be eſtabliſhed upon [Page 193] nature and reaſon, and on what occaſions they have been practiſed by Milton.
HOMER, the father of all poetical beauty, has been particularly celebrated by Dionyſius of Halicarnaſſus, as he that, of all the poets, exhibited the greateſt variety of ſound; for there are, ſays he, innumerable paſſages, in which length of time, bulk of body, extremity of paſſion, and ſtillneſs of repoſe; or, in which, on the contrary, brevity, ſpeed, and eagerneſs, are evidently marked out by the ſound of the ſyllables. Thus the anguiſh and ſlow pace with which the blind Polypheme groped out with his hands the entrance of his cave, are perceived in the cadence of the verſes which deſcribe it. ‘ [...] ’
THUS the efforts of Achilles ſtruggling in his armour againſt the current of a river, ſometimes reſiſting and ſometimes yielding, may be perceived in the eliſions of the ſyllables, the ſlow ſucceſſion of the feet, and the ſtrength of the conſonants. ‘ [Page 194] [...] ’
MANY other examples Dionyſius produces, but theſe will ſufficiently ſhew that either he was fanciful, or we have loſt the genuine pronunciation; for I know not whether in any one of theſe inſtances ſuch ſimilitude can be diſcovered. It ſeems, indeed, probable, that the veneration with which Homer was read, produced many ſuppoſitious beauties; for though it is certain, that the ſound of many of his verſes very juſtly correſponds with the [Page 195] things expreſſed, yet when the force of his imagination, which gave him full poſſeſſion of every object, is conſidered together with the flexibility of his language, of which the ſyllables might be often contracted or dilated at pleaſure, it will ſeem unlikely that ſuch conformity ſhould happen leſs frequently even without deſign.
IT is not however to be doubted, that Virgil who wrote amidſt the light of criticiſm, and who owed ſo much of his ſucceſs to art and labour, endeavoured among other excellencies to exhibit this ſimilitude; nor has he been leſs happy in this than in the other graces of verſification. This felicity of his numbers was at the revival of learning diſplayed with great elegance by Vida in his art of poetry.
Haud ſatis eſt illis utcunque claudere verſum.—Omnia ſed numeris vocum concordibus aptant,Atque ſono quaecunque canunt imitantur, & aptaVerborum facie, & quaeſito carminis ore.Nam diverſa opus eſt veluti dare verſibus ora,—Molle viam tacito lapſu per levia radit:Ille autem membris, ac mole ignavius ingensIncedit tardo molimine ſubſidendo.Ecce aliquis ſubit egregio pulcherrimus ore,Cui laetum membris Venus omnibus afflat honorem.Contra alius iudis, informes oſtendit & artus,Hirſutumque ſupercilium, ac caudam ſinuoſam,Ingratus viſu, ſonitu illaetabilis ipſo.—Ergo ubi jam nautae ſpumas ſalis aere ruentesIncubuere mari, videas ſpumare reductisConvulſum remis, roſtriſque ſtridentibus aequor.Tunc longe ſale ſaxa ſonant, tunc & freta ventisIncipiunt agitata tumeſcere: littore fluctusIllidunt rauco, atque refracta remurmurat undaAd ſcopulos, cumulo inſequitur praeruptus aquae mons.—Leniit in morem ſtagni, placidaeque paludis,Labitur uncta vadis abies, natat uncta carina.—Verba etiam res exiguas anguſta ſequuntur,Ingenteſque juvant ingentia: cuncta gigantemVaſta decent, vultus imanes, pectora lata,Et magni membrorum artus, magna oſſa lacertique.Atque adeo, ſiquid geritur molimine magno,Adde moram, & pariter tecum quoque verba laborentSegnia: ſeu quando vi multa gleba coactisAeternum frangenda bidentibus, aequore ſeu cumCornua velatarum obvertimus antennarum.At mora ſi fuerit damno, properare jubebo.Si ſe ſorte cava extulerit mala vipera terra,Tolle moras, cape ſaxa manu, cape robora, paſtor;Ferte citi flammas, date tela, repellite peſtem.Immenſo cum praecipitans ruit Oceano nox,Aut cum perculſus gravitur procumbit humi bos.Cumque etiam requies rebus datur, ipſa quoque ultroCarmina pauliſper curſu ceſſare videbisIn medio interrupta: quiêrunt cum freta ponti,Poſtquam aurae poſuere, quieſcere protinus ipſumCernere erit, mediiſque incoeptis ſiſtere verſum.Quid dicam, ſenior cum telum imbelle ſine ictuInvalidus jacit, & defectis viribus aeger?Nam quoque tum verſus ſegni pariter pede languet:Sanguis hebet, frigent effoetae in corpore vires.Fortem autem juvenem deceat prorumpere in arces,Evertiſſe domos, praefractaque quadrupedantumPectora pectoribus perrumpere, ſternere turres
Soft is the ſtrain when Zephyr gently blows,And the ſmooth ſtream in ſmoother numbers flows;But when loud billows laſh the ſounding ſhore,The hoarſe rough verſe ſhould like the torrent roar.When Ajax ſtrives ſome rock's vaſt weight to throw,The line too labours, and the words move ſlow;Not ſo when ſwift Camilla ſcours the plain,Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and ſkims along the main.
FROM theſe lines laboured with great attention, and celebrated by a rival wit, may be judged what can be expected from the [Page 200] moſt diligent endeavours after this imagery of ſound. The verſe intended to repreſent the whiſper of the vernal breeze, muſt be confeſſed not much to excel in ſoftneſs or volubility; and the ſmooth ſtream, runs with a perpetual claſh of jarring conſonants. The noiſe and turbulence of the torrent, is, indeed, diſtinctly imaged, for it requires very little ſkill to make our language rough; but in theſe lines, which mention the effort of Ajax, there is no particular heavineſs, obſtruction, or delay. The ſwiftneſs of Camilla is rather contraſted than exemplified; why the verſe ſhould be lengthened to expreſs ſpeed, will not eaſily be diſcovered. In the dactyls uſed for that purpoſe by the ancients, two ſhort ſyllables were pronounced with ſuch rapidity, as to be equal only to one long; they, therefore, naturally exhibit the act of paſſing through a long ſpace in a ſhort time. But the Alexandrine, by its pauſe in the midſt, is a tardy and ſtately meaſure; and the word unbending, one of the moſt ſluggiſh and ſlow which our language affords, cannot much accelerate its motion.
[Page 201] THESE rules and theſe examples have taught our preſent criticks to enquire very ſtudiouſly and minutely into ſounds and cadences. It is, therefore, uſeful to examine with what ſkill they have proceeded; what diſcoveries they have made; and whether any rules can be eſtabliſhed, which may guide us hereafter in ſuch reſearches.
JUV.—Experiar quid concedatur in illosQuorum Flaminiâ tegitur cinis atque Latinâ.
THERE are few books on which more time is ſpent by young ſtudents, than on treatiſes which deliver the characters of authors; nor any which oftener deceive the expectation of the reader, or fill his mind with more opinions which the progreſs of his ſtudies and the encreaſe of his knowledge oblige him to reſign.
BAILLET has introduced his collection of the deciſions of the learned, by an enumeration of the prejudices which miſlead the critick, and raiſe the paſſions in rebellion againſt the judgment. His catalogue, though large, is imperfect; and who can hope to complete it? The beauties of writing have been obſerved to be often ſuch as cannot in the preſent ſtate of human knowledge be evinced by evidence, or drawn out into demonſtrations; they are therefore wholly ſubject to the imagination, and do not force their effects [Page 203] upon a mind preoccupied by unfavourable ſentiments, nor overcome the counteraction of a falſe principle or of ſtubborn partiality.
TO convince any man againſt his will is hard, but to pleaſe him againſt his will is juſtly pronounced by Dryden to be above the reach of human abilities. Intereſt and paſſion will hold out long againſt the cloſeſt ſiege of diagrams and ſyllogiſms, but they are abſolutely impregnable to imagery and ſentiment; and will for ever bid defiance to the moſt powerful ſtrains of Virgil or Homer, though they may give way in time to the batteries of Euclid or Archimedes.
IN truſting therefore to the ſentence of a critick, we are in danger not only from that vanity which exalts writers too often to the dignity of teaching what they are yet to learn, from that negligence which ſometimes ſteals upon the moſt vigilant caution, and that fallibility to which the condition of nature has ſubjected every human underſtanding; but from a thouſand extrinſick and accidental cauſes, from every thing which can excite kindneſs or malevolence, veneration or contempt.
without much knowledge of the cauſe before them; for it will not eaſily be imagined of Langbaine, Borrichitus or Rapin, that they had very accurately peruſed all the books which they praiſe or cenſure; or that, even if nature and learning had qualified them for judges, they could read for ever with the attention neceſſary to juſt criticiſm. Such performances, however, are not wholly without their uſe; for they are commonly juſt echoes to the voice of fame, and tranſmit the general ſuffrage of mankind when they have no particular motives to ſuppreſs it.Una tantum Parte audita,Saepe et nulla,
CRITICKS, like all the reſt of mankind, are very frequently miſled by intereſt. The bigotry with which editors regard the authors whom they illuſtrate or correct, has been generally remarked. Dryden was known to have written [Page 205] moſt of his critical diſſertations only to recommend the works, upon which he then happened to be employed; and Addiſon is ſuſpected to have denied the expediency of poetical juſtice, becauſe his own Cata was condemned to periſh in a good cauſe.
THERE are prejudices which authors, not otherwiſe weak or corrupt, have indulged without ſcruple; and perhaps ſome of them are ſo complicated with our natural affections, that they cannot eaſily be diſintangled from the heart. Scarce any can hear with impartiality a compariſon between the writers of his own and another country; and though it cannot, I think, be charged equally on all nations, that they are blinded with this literary patriotiſm, yet there are none that do not look upon their authors with the fondneſs of affinity, and eſteem them as well for the place of their birth, as for their knowledge or their wit. There is, therefore, ſeldom much reſpect due to comparative criticiſm, when the competitors are of different countries, unleſs the judge is of a nation equally indifferent to both. The Italians could not for a long time believe, that there was any learning beyond the mountains; and [Page 206] the French ſeem generally perſuaded, that there are no wits or reaſoners equal to their own. I can ſcarcely believe that if Scaliger had not conſidered himſelf as allied to Virgil, by being born in the ſame country, he would have found his works ſo much ſuperior to thoſe of Homer, or have thought the controverſy worthy of ſo much zeal, vehemence, and acrimony.
THERE is, indeed, one prejudice, and only one, by which it may be doubted whether it is any diſhonour to be ſometimes miſguided. Criticiſm has ſo often given occaſion to the envious and ill-natured of gratifying their malignity, that ſome have thought it neceſſary to recommend the virtue of candour without limits or reſtriction, and to preclude all future ages from the liberty of cenſure. Writers poſſeſſed with this opinion are continually enforcing the duties of civility and decency, recommending to criticks the proper diffidence of themſelves, and inculcating the veneration due to celebrated names.
I AM not of opinion that theſe profeſſed enemies of arrogance and ſeverity, have much [Page 207] more benevolence or modeſty than the reſt of mankind; or that they feel in their own hearts, any other intention than to diſtinguiſh themſelves by their ſoftneſs and delicacy. Some are modeſt becauſe they are timorous, and ſome are laviſh of praiſe becauſe they hope to be repaid.
THERE is indeed ſome tenderneſs due to living writers, when they attack none of thoſe truths which are of importance to the happineſs of mankind, and have committed no other offence than that of betraying their own ignorance or dulneſs. I ſhould think it cruelty to cruſh an inſect who had provoked me only by buzzing in my ear; and would not willingly interrupt the dream of harmleſs ſtupidity, or deſtroy the jeſt which makes its author laugh. Yet I am far from thinking this tenderneſs univerſally neceſſary; for he that writes may be conſidered as a kind of general challenger, whom every one has a right to attack; ſince he quits the common rank of life, ſteps forward beyond the liſts, and offers his merit to the publick judgment. To commence author is to claim praiſe, and no man can juſtly [Page 208] aſpire to honour, but at the hazard of diſgrace.
BUT whatever be decided concerning contemporaries, whom he that knows the treachery of the human heart, and conſiders how often we gratify our own pride or envy under the appearance of contending for elegance and propriety, will find himſelf not much inclined to diſturb; there can ſurely be no exemptions pleaded to ſecure them from criticiſm, who can no longer ſuffer by reproach, and of whom nothing now remains but their writings and their names. Upon theſe authors the critick is, undoubtedly, at full liberty to exerciſe the ſtricteſt ſeverity, ſince he endangers only his own fame, and, like Aeneas when he drew his ſword in the infernal regions, encounters phantoms which cannot be wounded. He may indeed pay ſome regard to eſtabliſhed reputation; but he can by that ſhew of reverence conſult only his own ſecurity, for all other motives are now at an end.
THE faults of a writer of acknowledged excellence are more dangerous, becauſe the influence of his example is more extenſive; [Page 209] and the intereſt of learning requires that they ſhould be diſcovered and ſtigmatized, before they have the ſanction of antiquity conferred upon them, and become precedents of indiſputable authority.
IT has, indeed, been advanced by Addiſon, as one of the characteriſticks of a true critick, that he points out beauties rather than faults. But it is rather natural to a man of learning and genius, to apply himſelf chiefly to the ſtudy of writers who have more beauties than faults to be diſplayed; for the duty of criticiſm is neither to depreciate, nor dignify by partial repreſentations; but to hold out the light of reaſon, whatever it may diſcover; and to promulgate the determinations of truth, whatever ſhe ſhall dictate.
HOR.—Bonus atque fidusJudex—per obſtantes catervasExplicuit ſua victor arma.
THE reſemblance of poetick numbers to the ſubject which they mention or deſcribe, may be conſidered as general or particular; as conſiſting in the flow and ſtructure of a whole paſſage taken together, or as compriſed in the ſound of ſome emphatical and deſcriptive words, or in the cadence and harmony of ſingle verſes.
THE general reſemblance of the ſound to the ſenſe is to be found in every language which admits of poetry, in every author whoſe force of fancy enables him to impreſs images ſtrongly on his own mind, and whoſe choice and variety of language readily ſupplies him with juſt repreſentations. To ſuch a writer it is natural to change his meaſures with his ſubject, even without any effort of [Page 211] the underſtanding, or intervention of the judgment. To revolve jollity and mirth neceſſarily tunes the voice of a poet to gay and ſprightly notes, as it fires his eye with vivacity; and reflection on gloomy ſituations and diſaſtrous events, will ſadden his numbers, as it will cloud his countenance. But in ſuch paſſages there is only the ſimilitude of pleaſure to pleaſure, and of grief to grief, without any immediate application to particular images. The ſame flow of joyous verſification will celebrate the jollity of marriage, and the exultation of triumph; and the ſame languor of melody will ſuit the complaints of an abſent lover, as of a conquered king.
IT is ſcarcely to be doubted, that on many occaſions we make the muſick which we imagine ourſelves to hear; that we modulate the poem by our own diſpoſition, and aſcribe to the numbers the effects of the ſenſe. We may obſerve in life, that it is not eaſy to deliver a pleaſing meſſage in an unpleaſing manner, and that we readily aſſociate beauty and deformity with thoſe whom for any reaſon we love or hate. Yet it would be too daring to declare that all the celebrated [Page 212] adaptations of harmony are chimerical; that Homer had no extraordinary attention to the melody of his verſe when he deſcribed a nuptial feſtivity; ‘ [...] ’ that Vida was merely fanciful, when he ſuppoſed Virgil endeavouring to repreſent by uncommon ſweetneſs of numbers the adventitious beauty of Aeneas;
or that Milton did not intend to exemplify the harmony which he mentions:Os, humeroſque Deo ſimilis: namque ipſa decoramCaeſariem nato genetrix, lumenque juventaePurpureum, et laetos oculis afflarat honores;
Fountains! and ye that warble, as ye flow,Melodious murmurs! warbling tune his praiſe.
[Page 213] THAT Milton underſtood the force of ſounds well adjuſted, and knew the compaſs and variety of the ancient meaſures, cannot be doubted, ſince he was both a muſician and a critick; but he ſeems to have conſidered theſe conformities of cadence, as either not often attainable in our language, or as petty excellencies unworthy of his ambition; for it will not be found that he has always aſſigned the ſame caſt of numbers to the ſame ſubjects. He has given in two paſſages very minute deſcriptions of angelick beauty; but though the images are nearly the ſame, the numbers will be found upon compariſon very different.
[Page 214] Some of the lines of this deſcription are remarkably defective in harmony, and therefore by no means correſpondent with that ſymmetrical elegance and eaſy grace which they are intended to exhibit. The failure, however, is fully compenſated by the repreſentation of Raphael which equally delights the ear and imagination.And now a ſtripling cherub he appears,Not of the prime, yet ſuch as in his faceYouth ſmil'd caeleſtial, and to ev'ry limbSuitable grace diffus'd, ſo well be feign'd;Under a coronet his flowing hairIn curls on either cheek play'd; wings he woreOf many a colour'd plume, ſprinkled with gold.
A ſeraph wing'd: ſix wings he wore to ſhadeHis lineaments divine; the pair that cladEach ſhoulder broad, came mantling o'er his breaſtWith regal ornament: the middle pairGirt like a ſtarry zone his waiſt, and roundSkirted his loins and thighs, with downy gold,And colours dipp'd in heav'n: the third his feetShadow'd from either heel with feather'd mail,Sky-tinctur'd grain! like Maia's ſon he ſtood,And ſhook his plumes, that heav'nly fragrance fill'dThe circuit wide—
[Page 215] THE adumbration of particular and diſtinct images by an exact and perceptible reſemblance of ſound, is ſometimes ſtudied, and ſometimes caſual. Every language has many words formed in imitation of the noiſes which they ſignify. Such are Stridor, Balo, and Boatus, in Latin; and in Engliſh to growl, to buzz, to hiſs, and to jarr. Words of this kind give to a verſe the proper ſimilitude of ſound without much labour of the writer, and ſuch happineſs is therefore to be attributed rather to fortune than ſkill; yet they are ſometimes combined with great propriety, and undeniably contribute to enforce the impreſſion of the idea. We hear the paſſing arrow in this line of Virgil; ‘Et fugit horrendum ſtridens elapſa ſagitta;’ and the creaking of hell gates, in the deſcription by Milton;
Open flyWith impetuous recoil, and jarring ſoundTh' infernal doors; and on their hinges grateHarſh thunder.
[Page 216] BUT many beauties of this kind, which the moderns, and perhaps the ancients have obſerved, ſeem to be the product of blind reverence acting upon fancy. Dionyſius himſelf tells us, that the ſound of Homer's verſes ſometimes exhibits the idea of corporeal bulk: is not this a diſcovery nearly approaching to that of the blind man, who after long enquiry into the nature of the ſcarlet colour, found that it repreſented nothing ſo much as the clangor of a trumpet? the repreſentative power of poetick harmony conſiſts of ſound and meaſure; of the force of the ſyllables ſingly conſidered, and of the time in which they are pronounced. Sound can reſemble nothing but ſound, and time can meaſure nothing but motion and duration.
THE criticks, however, have ſtruck out other ſimilitudes; nor is there any irregularity of numbers which credulous admiration cannot diſcover to be eminently beautiful. Thus the propriety of each of theſe lines has been celebrated by writers whoſe opinion the world has reaſon to regard,
If all theſe obſervations are juſt, there muſt be ſome remarkable conformity between the ſudden ſucceſſion of night to day, the fall of an ox under a blow, and the birth of a mouſe from a mountain; ſince we are told of all theſe images, that they are very ſtrongly impreſſed by the ſame form and termination of the verſe.Vertitur interea coelum, & ruit oceano nox.—Parturiunt, montes, naſcetur ridiculus mus.—
WE may, however, without giving way to enthuſiaſm, admit that ſome beauties of this kind may be produced. A ſudden ſtop at an unuſual ſyllable may image the ceſſation of action, or the pauſe of diſcourſe; and Milton has very happily imitated the repetitions of an echo,
I fled, and cried out death;Hell trembled at the hideous name, and ſigh'dFrom all her caves, and back reſounded death.
[Page 218] THE meaſure or time of pronouncing may be varied ſo as very ſtrongly to repreſent, not only the modes of external motion, but the quick or ſlow ſucceſſion of ideas, and conſequently the paſſions of the mind. This at leaſt was the power of the ſpondaick and dactylick harmony, but our language can reach no eminent diverſities of ſound. We can indeed ſometimes, by encumbering and retarding the line, ſhew the difficulty of a progreſs made by ſtrong efforts and with frequent interruptions, or mark a ſlow and heavy motion. Thus Milton has imaged the toil of Satan ſtruggling through chaos,
thus he has deſcribed the leviathans or whales. ‘Wallowing, unweildy, enormous in their gait.’ But he has at other times neglected ſuch repreſentations, as may be obſerved in the volubility and levity of theſe lines, which expreſs an action tardy and reluctant.So he with difficulty and labour hardMov'd on: with difficulty and labour he—
[Page 219]Deſcent and fallTo us is adverſe. Who but felt of late,When the fierce foe hung on our broken rearInſulting, and purſu'd us through the deep,With what confuſion and laborious flightWe ſunk thus low? Th' aſcent is eaſy then.
Tripping ebb; that ſtoleWith ſoft foot tow'rds the deep who now had ſtopp'dHis ſluices.
IT is not indeed to be expected, that the ſound ſhould always aſſiſt the meaning, but it ought never to counteract it; and therefore Milton has here certainly committed a fault like that of the player, who looked on the earth when he implored the heavens, and to the heavens when he addreſſed the earth.
THOSE who are determined to find in Milton an aſſemblage of all the excellencies [Page 220] which have enobled all other poets, will perhaps be offended that I do not celebrate his verſification in higher terms; for there are readers who diſcover that in this paſſage, ‘So ſtretch'd out huge in length the archfiend lay,’ a long form is deſcribed in a long line; but the truth is, that length of body is only mentioned in a ſlow line, to which it has only the reſemblance of time to ſpace, of an hour to a maypole.
In theſe lines the poet apparently deſigns to fix the attention upon bulk; but this is effected by the enumeration, not by the meaſure; for what analogy can there be between modulations of ſound, and corporeal dimenſions.Then from the mountains hewing timber tallBegan to build a veſſel of huge bulk;Meaſur'd by cubit, length, breadth, and height.
[Page 221] MILTON, indeed, ſeems only to have regarded this ſpecies of embelliſhment ſo far as not to reject it when it came unſought; which would often happen to a mind ſo vigorous, employed upon a ſubject ſo various and extenſive. He had, indeed, a greater and a nobler work to perform; a ſingle ſentiment of moral or religious truth, a ſingle image of life or nature, would have been cheaply loſt for a thouſand echoes of the cadence to the ſenſe; and he who had undertaken to vindicate the ways of God to man, might have been accuſed of neglecting his cauſe, had he laviſhed much of his attention upon ſyllables and ſounds.
HOR.Parcus Decorum Cultor, et infrequens,Inſanientis dum ſapientiaeConſultus erro, nune retrorſumVela dare, atque iterare CurſusCogor relictos.
To the RAMBLER.
THERE are many diſeaſes both of the body and mind, which it is far eaſier to prevent than to cure, and therefore I hope you will think me employed in an office not uſeleſs either to learning or virtue, if I deſcribe the ſymptoms of an intellectual malady, which, though at firſt it ſeizes only the paſſions, will, if not ſpeedily remedied, infect the reaſon, and, from blaſting the bloſſoms of knowledge, proceed in time to canker the root.
I WAS born in the houſe of diſcord. My parents were of unſuitable ages, conrary [Page 223] tempers, and different religions, and therefore employed the ſpirit and acuteneſs which nature had very liberally beſtowed upon both, in hourly diſputes, and inceſſant contrivances to detect each other in the wrong; ſo that from the firſt exertions of reaſon I was bred a diſputant, trained up in all the arts of domeſtick ſophiſtry, initiated in a thouſand low ſtratagems, nimble ſhifts, and ſly concealments; verſed in all the turns of altercation, and acquainted with the whole diſcipline of fending and proving.
IT was neceſſarily my care to preſerve the kindneſs of both the controvertiſts, and therefore I had very early formed the habit of ſuſpending my judgment, of hearing arguments with indifference, inclining as occaſion required to either ſide, and of holding myſelf undetermined between them till I knew for what opinion I might conveniently declare.
THUS, Sir, I acquired very early the ſkill of diſputation, and, as we naturally love the arts in which we believe ourſelves to excel, I did not let my abilities lie uſeleſs, nor ſuffer my dexterity to be loſt for want of practice. [Page 224] I engaged in perpetual wrangles with my ſchool-fellows, and was never to be convinced or repreſſed by any other arguments than blows, by which my antagoniſts commonly determined the controverſy, as I was, like the Roman orator, much more eminent for eloquence than courage.
AT the univerſity I found my predominant ambition completely gratified by the ſtudy of logick. I empreſſed upon my memory a thouſand axioms, and ten thouſand diſtinctions, practiſed every form of ſyllogiſm, paſſed all my Days in the ſchools of diſputation, and ſlept every night with Smiglecius on my pillow.
YOU will not doubt but ſuch a genius was ſoon raiſed to eminence by ſuch application: I was celebrated in my third year for the moſt artful opponent that the univerſity could boaſt, and became the terror and the envy of all the candidates for philoſophical reputation.
MY renown, indeed, was not purchaſed but at the price of all my time and all my [Page 225] ſtudies. I never ſpoke but to contradict, nor declaimed but in defence of a poſition univerſally acknowledged to be falſe, and therefore worthy, in my opinion, to beadorned with all the colours of falſe repreſentation, and ſtrengthened with all the arts of fallacious ſubtilty.
MY father, who had no other wiſh than to ſee his ſon richer than himſelf, eaſily concluded that I ſhould diſtinguiſh myſelf among the profeſſors of the law; and therefore, when I had with great honour taken my firſt degree, diſpatched me to the temple with a paternal admonition, that I ſhould never ſuffer myſelf to feel ſhame, for nothing but modeſty could retard my fortune.
VITIATED, ignorant, and heady as I was I had not yet loſt my reverence for virtue, and therefore could not receive ſuch dictates without horror; but however was pleaſed with his determination of my courſe of life, becauſe he placed me in the way that leads ſooneſt from the preſcribed walks of diſcipline and education, to the open fields of liberty and choice.
[Page 226] I WAS now in the place where every one catches the contagion of vanity, and ſoon began to diſtinguiſh myſelf by ſophiſms and paradoxes. I declared war againſt all received opinions and eſtabliſhed rules, and levelled my batteries particularly againſt thoſe univerſal principles which have ſtood unſhaken in all the viciſſitudes of literature, and are conſidered as the inviolable temples of truth, or the impregnable bulwarks of ſcience.
I APPLIED myſelf chiefly to thoſe parts of learning which have filled the world with doubt and perplexity, and could readily produce all the arguments relating to matter and motion, time and ſpace, identity and infinity.
I WAS equally able and equally willing to maintain the ſyſtem of Newton or Deſcartes, and favoured occaſionally the hypotheſis of Ptolomy, or that of Copernicus. I ſometimes exalted vegetables to ſenſe, and ſometimes degraded animals to mechaniſm.
AMONG the zealots of liberty, I could harangue with great copiouſneſs upon the advantages of abſolute monarchy, the ſecreſy of its counſels, and the expedition of its meaſures; and often celebrated the bleſſings produced by the extinction of parties, and precluſion of debates.
AMONG the aſſertors of regal authority, I never failed to declaim with republican warmth upon the original charter of univerſal liberty, the corruption of courts, and the folly of voluntary ſubmiſſion to thoſe whom nature has levelled with ourſelves.
I KNEW the defects of every ſcheme of government, and the inconveniencies of every law. I ſometimes ſhewed how much the condition of mankind would be improved by breaking the world into petty ſovereignties, and ſometimes diſplayed the felicity and peace which univerſal monarchy would diffuſe over the earth.
[Page 228] TO every acknowledged fact I found innumerable objections; for it was my rule to judge of hiſtory only by reaſon, and therefore I made no ſcruple of bidding defiance to teſtimony. I have more than once queſtioned the exiſtence of Alexander the Great; and having demonſtrated the folly of erecting edifices like the pyramids of Egypt, I frequently hinted my ſuſpicion that the world had been long deceived, and that they were to be found only in the narratives of travellers.
IT had been happy for me could I have confined my ſcepticiſm to hiſtorical controverſies, and philoſophical diſquiſitions, but having now violated my reaſon, and accuſtomed myſelf to enquire not after proofs, but objections, I had perplexed truth with falſehood till my ideas were confuſed, my judgment embarraſſed, and my intellects diſtorted. The habit of conſidering every propoſition as alike uncertain, left me no teſt by which any tenet could be tried; every opinion preſented both ſides with equal evidence, and my fallacies began to operate upon my own mind in more important enquiries. It was at laſt the ſport of my vanity to weaken the obligations of moral duty, and efface the diſtinctions of good [Page 229] and evil, till I had deadened the ſenſe of conviction, and abandoned my heart to the fluctuations of uncertainty, without anchor and without compaſs, without ſatisfaction of curioſity or peace of conſcience without principles of reaſon or motives of action.
THE diſproportions of abſurdity grow leſs and leſs viſible, as we are reconciled by degrees to the deformity of a miſtreſs; and falſehood, by long uſe, is aſſimilated to the mind, as poiſon to the body.
I HAD ſoon the mortification of ſeeing my converſation courted only by the ignorant or wicked, by either boys who were enchanted by novelty, or wretches who having long diſobeyed virtue and reaſon, were now deſirous of my aſſiſtance to dethrone them.
THUS alarmed, I ſhuddered at my own corruption, and that pride by which I had [Page 230] been ſeduced, contributed to reclaim me. I was weary of continual irreſolution, and a perpetual equipoiſe of the mind; and aſhamed of being the favourite of thoſe who were ſcorned and ſhunned by the reſt of mankind.
I THEREFORE retired from all temptations to diſpute, preſcribed a new regimen to my underſtanding, and reſolved, inſtead of rejecting all eſtabliſhed opinions which I could not prove, to admit all which I could not confute. I forbore to heat my imagination with needleſs controverſies, to diſcuſs queſtions confeſſedly uncertain, and refrained ſteadily from gratifying my vanity by the ſupport of falſehood.
BY this method I am at length recovered from my argumental delirium, and find myſelf in the ſtate of one awakened from the confuſion and tumult of a feveriſh dream. I rejoice in the new poſſeſſion of evidence and reality, and ſtep on from truth to truth with confidence and quiet.
I am, Sir, &c. PERTINAX.
BOETIUS.Quod ſi Platonis muſa perſonat verum,Quod quiſque diſcit, immemor recordatur.
THE bow and the horſe were eaſily maſtered, but it would have been happy if we had been informed by what arts veracity was cultivated, and by what preſervatives a Perſian mind was ſecured againſt the temptations to falſehood.
THERE are, indeed, in the preſent corruption of mankind, many incitements to forſake truth; the need of palliating our own faults, and the convenience of impoſing on the ignorance or credulty of others ſo frequently occur, ſo many immediate evils are to be avoided, and ſo many preſent gratifications obtained by craft and deluſion, that very [Page 232] few of thoſe who are much entangled in life, have ſpirit and conſtancy ſufficient to ſupport them in the ſteady practice of open veracity.
IN order that all men may be taught to ſpeak truth, it is neceſſary that all likewiſe ſhould learn to hear it; for no ſpecies of falſehood is more frequent than flattery, to which the coward is betrayed by fear, the dependent by intereſt, and the friend by tenderneſs: Thoſe who are neither ſervile nor timorous, are yet deſirous to beſtow pleaſure; and while unjuſt demands of praiſe continue to be made, there will always be ſome whom hope, fear or kindneſs will diſpoſe to pay them.
THE guilt of falſehood is very widely extended, and many whom their conſcience can ſcarcely charge with ſtooping to a lye, have vitiated the morals of others by their vanity, and patronized the vice which they believe themſelves to abhor.
TRUTH is, indeed, not often welcome for its own ſake; it is generally unpleaſing becauſe contrary to our wiſhes and oppoſite to our practice; and as our attention naturally [Page 233] follows our intereſt, we very unwillingly hear what we are afraid to know, and very ſoon forget what we have no inclination to impreſs upon our memories.
FOR this reaſon many arts of inſtruction have been invented, by which the reluctance againſt Truth may be overcome, and as phyſick is given to children in confections, precepts have been hidden under a thouſand appearances, that mankind may be bribed by pleaſure to eſcape deſtruction.
WHILE the world was yet in its infancy TRUTH came among mortals from above, and FALSEHOOD from below. TRUTH was the daughter of JUPITER and WISDOM; FALSEHOOD was the progeny of FOLLY impregnated by the wind. They advanced with equal confidence to ſeize the dominion of the new creation, and as their enmity and their force were well known to the celeſtials, all the eyes of heaven were turned upon the conteſt.
TRUTH ſeemed conſcious of ſuperior power and juſter claim, and therefore came on towering and majeſtick, unaſſiſted and [Page 234] alone; REASON indeed always attended her, but appeared her follower, rather than companion. Her march was ſlow and ſtately, but her motion was perpetually progreſſive, and when once ſhe had grounded her foot, neither gods nor men could force her to retire.
FALSEHOOD always endeavoured to copy the mien and attitudes of TRUTH, and was very ſucceſsful in the arts of mimickry. She was ſurrounded, animated, and ſupported by innumerable legions of appetites and paſſions, but, like other ſeeble commanders, was obliged often to receive law from her allies. Her motions were ſudden, irregular, and violent; for ſhe had no ſteadineſs nor conſtancy. She often gained conqueſts by haſty incurſions, which ſhe never hoped to keep by her own ſtrength, but maintained by the help of the paſſions, whom ſhe generally found reſolute and faithful.
IT ſometimes happened that the antagoniſts met in full oppoſition. In theſe encounters, FALSEHOOD always inveſted her head with clouds, and commanded FRAUD to place ambuſhes about her. In her left hand ſhe [Page 235] bore the ſhield of IMPUDENCE, and the quiver of SOPHISTRY rattled on her ſhoulder. All the paſſions attended at her call; VANITY clapped her wings before, and OBSTINACY ſupported her behind. Thus guarded and aſſiſted, ſhe ſometimes advanced againſt TRUTH, and ſometimes waited the attack; but always endeavoured to ſkirmiſh at a diſtance, perpetually ſhifted her ground, and let fly her arrows in different directions; for ſhe certainly found that her ſtrength failed, whenever the eye of TRUTH darted full upon her.
TRUTH had the awful aſpect though not the thunder of her father, and when the long continuance of the conteſt brought them near to one another, FALSEHOOD let the arms of SOPHISTRY fall from her graſp, and, holding up the ſhield of IMPUDENCE with both her hands, ſheltered herſelf amongſt the paſſions.
TRUTH, though ſhe was often wounded, always recovered in a ſhort time; but it was common for the ſlighteſt hurt, received by FALSEHOOD, to ſpread its malignity to the [Page 236] neighbouring parts, and to burſt open again when it ſeemed to have been cured.
FALSEHOOD, in a ſhort time, found by experience that her ſuperiority conſiſted only in the celerity of her courſe, and the changes of her poſture. She therefore ordered SUSPICION to beat the ground before her, and avoided with great care to croſs the way of TRUTH, who, as ſhe never varied her point, but moved conſtantly upon the ſame line, was eaſily eſcaped by the oblique and deſultory movements, the quick retreats and active doubles which FALSEHOOD always practiſed, when the enemy began to raiſe terror by her approach.
BY this procedure FALSEHOOD every hour encroached upon the world, and extended her empire through all climes and regions. Wherever ſhe carried her victories ſhe left the PASSIONS in full authority behind her; who were ſo well pleaſed with command, that they held out with great obſtinacy when TRUTH came to ſeize their poſts, and never failed to retard her progreſs though they could not always ſtop it: They yielded at [Page 237] laſt with great reluctance, frequent rallies, and ſullen ſubmiſſion; and always inclined to revolt when TRUTH ceaſed to awe them by her immediate preſence.
TRUTH who, when ſhe firſt deſcended from the heavenly palaces, expected to have been received by univerſal acclamation, cheriſhed with kindneſs, heard with obedience, and invited to ſpread her influence from province to province, now found that, wherever ſhe came, ſhe muſt force her paſſage. Every intellect was precluded by PREJUDICE, and every heart preoccupied by PASSION. She indeed advanced, but ſhe advanced ſlowly, and often loſt the conqueſts which ſhe left behind her, by ſudden inſurrections of the appetites, that ſhook off their allegiance, and ranged themſelves again under the banner of her enemy.
TRUTH, however, did not grow weaker by the ſtruggle, for her vigour was unconquerable, yet ſhe was provoked to ſee herſelf thus baffled and impeded by an enemy, whom ſhe looked on with contempt, and who had no advantage but ſuch as ſhe owed to inconſtancy, [Page 238] weakneſs, and artifice. She therefore, in the anger of diſappointment, called upon her father JUPITER to re-eſtabliſh her in the ſkies, and leave mankind to the diſorder and miſery which they deſerved by ſubmitting willingly to the uſurpation of FALSEHOOD.
JUPITER compaſſionated the world too much to grant her requeſt, yet was willing to eaſe her labours and mitigate her vexation. He commanded her to conſult the muſes by what methods ſhe might obtain an eaſier reception, and reign without the toil of inceſſant war. It was then diſcovered, that ſhe obſtructed her own progreſs by the ſeverity of her aſpect, and the ſolemnity of her dictates; and that men would never willingly admit her, till they ceaſed to fear her, ſince by giving themſelves up to FALSEHOOD they ſeldom made any ſacrifice of their eaſe or pleaſure, becauſe ſhe took the ſhape that was moſt engaging, and always ſuffered herſelf to be dreſſed and painted by DESIRE. The muſes wove in the loom of Pallas, a looſe and changeable robe, like that in which FALSEHOOD captivated her admirers; with this they inveſted TRUTH, and named her [Page 239] FICTION. She now went out again to conquer with more ſucceſs; for when ſhe demanded entrance of the PASSIONS, they often miſtook her for FALSEHOOD, and delivered up their charge; but when ſhe had once taken poſſeſſion, ſhe was ſoon diſrobed by REASON, and ſhone out, in her original form, with native effulgence and reſiſtleſs dignity.
HOR.Foecunda culpae Secula NuptiasPrimum inquinavere, & genus, & domos,Hoc Fonte derivata cladesIn Patriam Populumque fluxit.
THE reader is indebted for this day's entertainment, to an author from whom the age has received greater favours, who has enlarged the knowledge of human nature, and taught the paſſions to move at the command of virtue.
To the RAMBLER.
WHEN the SPECTATOR was firſt publiſhed in ſingle papers, it gave me ſo much pleaſure, that it is one of the favourite amuſements of my age to recollect it; and when I reflect on the ſoibles of thoſe times as deſcribed in that uſeful work, and compare them with the vices now reigning among us, I cannot but wiſh that you would oftener take [Page 241] cognizance of the manners of the better half of the human ſpecies, that if your precepts and obſervations be carried down to poſterity, the SPECTATORS may ſhew to the riſing generation what were the faſhionable follies of their grandmothers, the RAMBLER of their mothers, and that from both they may draw inſtruction and warning.
WHEN I read thoſe SPECTATORS which took notice of the miſbehaviour of young women at church by which they vainly hope to attract admirers, I uſed to pronounce ſuch forward young women SEEKERS, in order to diſtinguiſh them by a mark of infamy from thoſe who had patience and decency to ſtay till they were ſought.
BUT I have lived to ſee ſuch a change in the manners of women, that I would now be willing to compound with them for that name, although I then thought it diſgraceful enough, if they would deſerve no worſe; ſince now they are too generally given up to negligence of domeſtick buſineſs, to idle amuſements, and to wicked rackets, without any ſettled view at all but of ſquandering time.
[Page 242] IN the time of the SPECTATOR, excepting ſometimes an appearance in the ring, ſometimes at a good and choſen play, ſometimes on a viſit at the houſe of a grave relation, the young ladies contented themſelves to be found employed in domeſtick duties; for then routs, drums, balls, aſſemblies, and ſuch like markets for women were not known.
MODESTY and diffidence, gentleneſs and meekneſs, were looked upon as the appropriate virtues and characteriſtick graces of the ſex. And if a forward ſpirit puſhed itſelf into notice, it was expoſed in print as it deſerved.
BUT ſome good often reſulted, however improper was their motive. Both ſexes were in the way of their duty. The man muſt be abandoned indeed, who loves not goodneſs in another; nor were the young fellows of [Page 243] that age ſo wholly loſt to a ſenſe of right, as pride and conceit has ſince made them affect to be. When therefore they ſaw a fair-one whoſe decent behaviour and chearful piety ſhewed her earneſt in her firſt duties, they had the leſs doubt, judging politically only, that ſhe would have a conſcientious regard to her ſecond.
THE men were often the better for what they heard. Even a Saul was once found propheſying among the prophets whom he had ſet out to deſtroy. To a man thus put into good humour by a pleaſing object, religion itſelf looked more amiably. The MEN SEEKERS of the SPECTATOR'S time loved the holy place for the object's ſake, and loved the object for her ſuitable behaviour in it.
REVERENCE mingled with their love, and they thought that a young lady of ſuch good principles muſt be addreſſed only by the man, who at leaſt made a ſhew of good [Page 244] principles, whether his heart was yet quite right or not.
NOR did the young lady's behaviour, at any time of the ſervice, leſſen this reverence. Her eyes were her own, her ears the preacher's. Women are always moſt obſerved, when they ſeem themſelves leaſt to obſerve, or to lay out for obſervation. The eye of a reſpectful lover loves rather to receive confidence from the withdrawn eye of the fairone, than to find itſelf obliged to retreat.
WHEN a young gentleman's affection was thus laudably engaged, he purſued its natural dictates; keeping then was a rare, at leaſt a ſecret and ſcandalous vice, and a wife was the ſummit of his wiſhes. Rejection was now dreaded, and pre-engagement apprehended. A woman whom he loved, he was ready to think muſt be admired by all the world. His fears, his uncertainties, increaſed his love.
EVERY enquiry he made into the lady's domeſtick excellence, which, when a wife is to be choſen, will ſurely not be neglected, confirmed him in his choice. He opens his [Page 245] heart to a common friend, and honeſtly diſcovers the ſtate of his fortune. His friend applies to thoſe of the young lady, whoſe parents, if they approve his propoſals, diſcloſe them to their daughter.
SHE perhaps is not an abſolute ſtranger to the paſſion of the young gentleman. His eyes, his aſſiduities, his conſtant attendance at a church, whither till of late, he uſed ſeldom to come, and a thouſand little obſervances that he paid her, had very probably firſt forced her to regard, and then inclined her to favour him.
THAT a young lady ſhould be in love, and the love of the young gentleman undeclared, is an heterodoxy which prudence, and even policy, muſt not allow. But thus applied to, ſhe is all reſignation to her parents. Charming reſignation, which inclination oppoſes not.
HER relations applaud her for her duty; friends meet; points are adjuſted; delightful perturbations, and hopes, and a few lover's fears, fill up the tedious ſpace, till an [Page 246] interview is granted; for the young lady had not made her cheap at publick places.
THE time of interview arrives. She is modeſtly reſerved; he is not confident. He declares his paſſion; the conſciouſneſs of her own worth, and his application to her parents, take from her any doubt of his ſincerity; and ſhe owns herſelf obliged to him for his good opinion. The enquiries of her friends into his character, have taught her that his good opinion deſerves to be valued.
SHE tacitly allows of his future viſits; he renews them; the regard of each for the other is confirmed; and when he preſſes for the favour of her hand, he receives a declaration of an entire acquieſcence with her duty, and a modeſt acknowledgement of eſteem for him.
WITH this proſpect of future happineſs, the marriage is celebrated. Gratulations pour [Page 247] in from every quarter. Parents and relations on both ſides, brought acquainted in the courſe of the courtſhip, can receive the happy couple with countenances illumined, and joyful hearts.
OH Mr. RAMBLER! forgive the talkativeneſs of an old man! when I courted and married my Laetitia, than a blooming beauty, every thing paſſed juſt ſo! But how is the caſe now? The ladies, maidens, wives and widows are engroſſed by places of open reſort, and general entertainment which fill every quarter of the metropolis, and being conſtantly frequented, make home irkſome. Breakfaſting-places, [Page 248] dining-places; routs, drums, concerts, balls, plays, operas, maſquerades for the evening, and even for all night, and lately, publick ſales of the goods of broken houſekeepers, which the general diſſoluteneſs of manners has contributed to make very frequent, come in as another ſeaſonable relief to theſe modern time-killers.
IN the ſummer there are in every country town aſſemblies; Tunbridge, Bath, Cheltenham, Scarborough! What expence of dreſs and equipage is required to qualify the frequenters for ſuch emulous appearance?
BY the natural infection of example, the loweſt people have places of ſix-penny reſort, and gaming tables for pence. Thus ſervants are now induced to fraud and diſhoneſty, to ſupport extravagance, and ſupply their loſſes.
AS to the ladies who frequent thoſe publick places, they are not aſhamed to ſhew their faces wherever men dare go, nor bluſh to try who ſhall ſtare moſt impudently, or who ſhall laugh loudeſt on the publick walks.
[Page 249] THE men who would make good huſbands, if they viſit thoſe places, are frighted at wedlock, and reſolve to live ſingle, except they are bought at a very high price. They can be ſpectators of all that paſſes, and, if they pleaſe, more than ſpectators, at the expence of others. The companion of an evening, and the companion for life, require very different qualifications.
TWO thouſand pounds in the laſt age, with a domeſtick wife, would go farther than ten thouſand in this. Yet ſettlements are expected, that often, to a mercantile man eſpecially, ſink a fortune into uſeleſſneſs; and pin-money is ſtipulated for, which makes a wife independent, and deſtroys love, by putting it out of a man's power to lay any obligation upon her, that might engage gratitude, and kindle affection: When to all this the card-tables are added, how can a prudent man think of marrying?
AND when the worthy men know not where to find wives, muſt not the ſex be left to the foplings, the coxcombs, the libertines of the age, whom they help to make ſuch? [Page 250] And need even theſe wretches marry to enjoy the converſation of thoſe who render their company ſo cheap?
AND what, after all, is the benefit which the gay coquet obtains by her flutters? As ſhe is approachable by every man without requiring, I will not ſay incenſe or adoration, but even common complaiſance, every fop treats her as upon the level, looks upon her light airs as invitations, and is on the watch to take the advantage: ſhe has companions indeed, but no lovers; for love is reſpectful, and timorous; and where among all her followers will ſhe find a huſband?
SET, dear Sir, before the youthful, the gay, the inconſiderate, the contempt as well as the danger to which they are expoſed. At one time or other, women, not utterly thoughtleſs, will be convinced of the juſtice of your cenſure, and the charity of your inſtruction.
BUT ſhould your expoſtulations and reproofs have no effect upon thoſe who are far gone in faſhionable folly, they may be retailed [Page 251] from their mouths to their nieces, marriage will not often have intitled theſe to daughters, when they, the meteors of a day, find themſelves elbowed off the ſtage of vanity by other flutterers; for the moſt admired women cannot have many Tunbridge, many Bath ſeaſons to blaze in; ſince even fine faces, often ſeen, are leſs regarded than new faces, the proper puniſhment of ſhowy girls, for rendering themſelves ſo impolitickly cheap.
I am, SIR, Your ſincere admirer, &c.
JUV.Quae nec Sarmentus iniquasCaeſaris ad Menſas, nec vilis Gabba tuliſſet.
To the AUTHOR of the RAMBLER.
YOU have often endeavoured to impreſs upon your readers an obſervation of more truth than novelty, that life paſſes, for the moſt part, in petty tranſactions; that our hours glide away in trifling amuſements and ſlight gratifications; and that there very ſeldom emerges any occaſion that can call forth great virtue or great abilities.
IT very commonly hapens that ſpeculation has no influence on conduct. Juſt concluſions, and cogent arguments, formed by laborious ſtudy, and diligent enquiry, are often repoſited in the treaſuries of memory, as [Page 253] gold in the miſer's cheſt uſeleſs alike to others and himſelf. As ſome are not richer for the extent of their poſſeſſions, others are not wiſer for the multitude of their ideas.
YOU have very truly deſcribed the ſtate of human beings, but it may be doubted whether you have ſufficiently accommodated your precepts to your deſcription; whether you have not generally conſidered your readers as influenced wholly by the more violent and tragick paſſions, engaged always in deep deſigns and important purſuits, and ſuſceptible of pain or pleaſure only from powerful agents and from great events.
TO an author who writes not for the elucidation or improvement of any ſingle art, the eſtabliſhment of any controverted doctrine, or the promotion of any particular purpoſe, but equally intends the advantage, and equally courts the peruſal of all the claſſes of mankind, nothing can juſtly ſeem unworthy of regard, by which the pleaſure of converſation may be increaſed, and the daily ſatisfactions of familiar life ſecured from interruption and diſguſt.
[Page 254] FOR this reaſon you would not have injured your reputation, if you had ſometimes deſcended to the minuter duties of ſocial beings, and enforced the obſervance of thoſe little civilities and ceremonious delicacies, which, inconſiderable as they may appear to the man of ſcience, and difficult as they may prove to be detailed with the dignity of a philoſopher, yet contribute to the regulation of the world, by facilitating the intercourſe between one man and another, and of which the French have ſufficiently teſtified their eſteem by terming the knowledge and practice of them Sçavoir vivre, the art of living.
POLITENESS is one of thoſe advantages which we never eſtimate rightly but by the inconvenience of its loſs. Its influence upon the manners is conſtant and uniform, ſo that, like an equal motion, it eſcapes perception. The circumſtances of every action are ſo adjuſted to each other, that we do not ſee where any error could have been committed, and rather acquiefce in its propriety, than admire its exactneſs.
BUT as ſickneſs ſhews us the value of eaſe, a little familiarity with thoſe who were never [Page 255] taught to endeavour the gratification of others, but regulate their behaviour merely by their own will, will ſoon evince the neceſſity of eſtabliſhed modes and formalities to the happineſs and quiet of common life.
WISDOM and virtue are by no means ſufficient without the ſupplemental laws of good-breeding to ſecure freedom from degenerating to rudeneſs, or ſelf-eſteem from ſwelling into inſolence; and a thouſand offences may be committed, and a thouſand offices neglected without any remorſe of conſcience, or reproach from reaſon.
THE true effect of genuine politeneſs ſeems to be rather eaſe than pleaſure. The power of delighting muſt be conferred by nature, and cannot be delivered by precept, or obtained by imitation; but though it be the privilege of a very ſmall number to raviſh and to charm, every man may hope by rules and caution not to give pain, and may, therefore, by the help of good-breeding enjoy the kindneſs of mankind, though he ſhould have no claim to higher diſtinctions.
[Page 256] THE univerſal axiom in which all complaiſance is included, and from which flow all the formalities which cuſtom has eſtabliſhed in civiliſed nations, is, That no man ſhould give any preference to himſelf. A rule ſo comprehenſive and certain, that, perhaps, it is not eaſy for the mind to image an incivility, without ſuppoſing it to be broken.
THERE are, indeed, in every place ſome particular modes of the ceremonial part of good-breeding, which, being arbitrary and accidental, can be learned only by habitude and converſation; ſuch are the forms of ſalutation, the different gradations of reverence, and all the adjuſtments of place and precedence. Theſe, however, may be often violated without offence, if it be be ſufficiently evident, that neither malice nor pride contributed to the failure, but will not atone, however rigidly obſerved, for the tumour of inſolence, or petulance of contempt.
I HAVE, indeed, not found among any part of mankind, leſs real and rational complaiſance, than among thoſe who have paſſed their time in paying and receiving viſits, in [Page 257] frequenting publick entertainments, in ſtudying the exact meaſures of ceremony, and in watching all the variations of faſhionable courteſy.
THEY know, indeed, at what hour they may beat the door of an acquaintance, how many ſteps they muſt attend him towards the gate, and what interval ſhould paſs before his viſit is returned, but ſeldom extend their care beyond the exterior and uneſſential parts of civility, nor refuſe their own vanity any gratification, however expenſive to the quiet of another.
TRYPHERUS is a man remarkable for elegance and expence; a man, that having been originally placed by his fortune and rank in the firſt claſs of the community, has acquired that air of dignity, and that readineſs in the exchange of compliments which courts balls and levees eaſily confer.
BUT Trypherus, without any ſettled purpoſes of malignity, partly by his ignorance of human nature, and partly by the habit of contemplating with great ſatisfaction his own [Page 258] grandeur and riches, is hourly giving diſguſt to thoſe whom chance or expectation ſubject to his vanity.
TO a man whoſe fortune confines him to a ſmall houſe, he declaims upon the pleaſure of ſpacious apartments, and the convenience of changing his lodging room in different parts of the year; tells him that he hates confinement; and concludes, that if his chamber was leſs, he ſhould never wake without thinking of a priſon.
TO Eucrates, a man of birth equal to himſelf, but of much leſs eſtate, he ſhewed his ſervices of plate, and remarked that ſuch things were, indeed, nothing better than coſtly trifles, but that no man muſt pretend to the rank of a gentleman without them; and that for his part, if his eſtate was ſmaller, he ſhould not think of enjoying but encreaſing it, and would enquire out a trade for his eldeſt ſon.
HE has, in imitation of ſome more acute obſerver than himſelf, collected a great many ſhifts and artifices by which poverty is concealed, and among ladies of ſmall [Page 259] fortune, never fails to talk of frippery and ſlight ſilks, and the convenience of a general mourning.
I HAVE been inſulted a thouſand times with a catalogue of his pictures, his jewels, and his rarities, which, though he knows the humble neatneſs of my habitation, he ſeldom fails to conclude by a declaration, that wherever he ſees a houſe meanly furniſhed, he deſpiſes the owner's taſte or pities his poverty.
THIS, Mr. Rambler, is the practice of Trypherus, by which he is become the terror of all who are leſs wealthy than himſelf, and has raiſed innumerable enemies without rivalry, and without malevolence.
YET though all are not equally culpable with Trypherus, it is ſcarcely poſſible to find any man who does not frequently, like him, indulge his own pride by forcing others into a compariſon with himſelf, when he knows the advantage is on his ſide, without conſidering that unneceſſarily to obtrude unpleaſing ideas is a ſpecies of oppreſſion, and that it is little more criminal to deprive [Page 260] another of ſome real advantage, than to interrupt that forgetfulneſs of its abſence which is the next happineſs to actual poſſeſſion.
I am, &c. EUTROPIUS.
OVID.Scilicet ingeniis aliqua eſt concordia junctis,Et ſervat ſtudii foedera quiſque ſui,Ruſticus agricolam, miles fera bella gerentem,Rectorem dubiae navita puppis amat.
IT has been ordained by providence, for the conſervation of order in the immenſe variety of created nature, and for the regular propagation of the ſeveral claſſes of life with which the elements are peopled, that every creature ſhould be drawn by ſome ſecret attraction to thoſe of his own kind; and that not only the gentle and domeſtick animals which naturally unite into companies or cohabit by pairs, ſhould continue faithful to their ſpecies, but even thoſe ravenous and ferocious ſavages which Ariſtotle obſerves never to be gregarious, ſhould range mountains and deſarts in ſearch of one another, rather than pollute the world with a monſtrous birth.
[Page 262] As the perpetuity and diſtinction of the lower tribes of the creation require that they ſhould be determined to proper mates by ſome uniform motive of choice, or ſome cogent principle of inſtinct; it is neceſſary likewiſe, that man whoſe wider capacity demands more gratifications, and who feels in himſelf innumerable wants, which a life of ſolitude cannot ſupply, and innumerable powers to which it cannot give employment, ſhould be led to ſuitable companions by particular influence; that among many beings of the ſame nature with himſelf, he may ſelect ſome for intimacy and tenderneſs, and improve the condition of his exiſtence, by ſuperadding friendſhip to humanity, and the love of individuals to that of the ſpecies.
OTHER animals are ſo formed, that they ſeem to contribute very little to the happineſs of each other, and know neither joy, nor grief, nor love, nor hatred, but as they are urged by ſome deſire immediately ſubſervient either to the ſupport of their own lives, or to the continuation of their race; they therefore ſeldom appear to regard any of the minuter diſcriminations which diſtinguiſh [Page 263] creatures of the ſame kind from one another.
BUT if man were to feel no incentives to kindneſs, more than his general tendency to congenial nature, Babylon or London, with all their multitudes, would have to him the deſolation of a wilderneſs; his affections, not compreſſed into a narrower compaſs, would vaniſh like elemental fire, in boundleſs evaporation, he would languiſh in perpetual inſenſibility, ſuſpended between different impulſes; and though he might, perhaps, in the firſt vigour of youth, amuſe himſelf with the freſh enjoyments of life, yet, when curioſity ſhould ceaſe, and alacrity ſubſide, he would abandon himſelf to the fluctuations of chance, without expecting help againſt any calamity, or feeling any wiſh for the happineſs of others.
TO love all men is our duty, ſo far as it includes a general habit of benevolence, and readineſs of occaſional kindneſs; but to love all equally is impoſſible, at leaſt impoſſible without the extinction of thoſe paſſions which now produce all our pains and all our pleaſures, without the diſuſe, if not the abolition [Page 264] of ſome of our faculties, and the ſuppreſſion of all our hopes and fears in apathy and indifference.
THE neceſſities of our condition require a thouſand offices of tenderneſs, which mere regard for the ſpecies will never dictate. Every man has frequent grievances which only the ſolicitude of friendſhip will diſcover and remedy, and which would remain for ever unheeded in the mighty heap of human calamity, were it only ſurveyed by the eye of general benevolence equally attentive to every miſery.
THE great community of mankind is therefore, neceſſarily broken into ſmaller independent ſocieties; theſe form diſtinct intereſts, which are too frequently oppoſed to each other, and which they who have entered into the league of particular governments falſely think it virtue to promote, however deſtructive to the happineſs of the reſt of the world.
SUCH unions are again ſeparated into ſubordinate claſſes and combinations, and ſocial [Page 265] life is perpetually branched out into minuter ſubdiviſions, till it terminates in the laſt ramifications of private friendſhip.
THAT friendſhip may at once be fond and laſting, it has been already obſerved in theſe papers, that a conformity of inclinations is neceſſary. No man can have much kindneſs for him by whom he does not believe himſelf eſteemed, and nothing ſo evidently proves eſteem as imitation.
THAT benevolence is always ſtrongeſt which ariſes from participation of the ſame pleaſures, ſince we are naturally moſt willing to revive in our minds the memory of perſons, with whom the idea of enjoyment is connected.
IT is commonly, therefore, to little purpoſe that any one endeavours to ingratiate himſelf with ſuch as he cannot accompany in their amuſements and diverſions. Men have been known to riſe to favour and to fortune, only by being ſkilful in the ſports with which their patron happened to be delighted, by concurring with his taſte for ſome particular ſpecies of curioſities, by reliſhing [Page 266] the ſame wine, or applauding the ſame cookery.
EVEN thoſe whom their wiſdom or their virtue have placed above regard to ſuch petty recommendations, muſt nevertheleſs be gained by ſimilitude of manners. The higheſt and nobleſt enjoyment of familiar life, the communication of knowledge and reciprocation of ſentiments, muſt always preſuppoſe a diſpoſition to the ſame inquiry, and delight in the ſame diſcoveries.
WITH what ſatisfaction could the politician lay his ſchemes for the reformation of laws, or his compariſons of different forms of government, before the chemiſt, who has never accuſtomed his thoughts to any other object than ſalt and ſulphur; or how could the aſtronomer, in explaining his calculations and conjectures, endure the coldneſs of a grammarian, who would loſe ſight of Jupiter and all his ſatellites, for a happy etymology of an obſcure word, or a better explication of a controverted line.
EVERY man loves merit of the ſame kind with his own, when it is not likely to hinder [Page 267] his advancement or his reputation; for he not only beſt underſtands the worth of thoſe qualities which he labours to cultivate, or the uſefulneſs of the art which he practiſes with ſucceſs, but always feels a reflected pleaſure from the praiſes, which, though given to another, belong equally to himſelf.
THERE is indeed no need of reſearch and refinement to diſcover that men muſt generally ſelect their companions from their own ſtate of life, ſince there are not many minds furniſhed for great variety of converſation, or adapted to multiplicity of intellectual entertainments.
THE ſailor, the academick, the lawyer, the mechanick, and the courtier, have all a caſt of talk peculiar to their own fraternity, have fixed their attention upon the ſame events, have been engaged in affairs of the ſame ſort, and make uſe of alluſions and illuſtrations which themſelves only can underſtand.
TO be infected with the jargon of a particular profeſſion, and to know only the language of a ſingle rank of mortals, is indeed ſufficiently deſpicable. But as limits muſt be always ſet to the excurſions of the human [Page 268] mind, there will be ſome ſtudy which every man more zealouſly proſecutes, ſome darling ſubject on which he is principally pleaſed to converſe, and he that can moſt inform or beſt underſtand him, will certainly be welcomed with particular regard.
SUCH partiality is not wholly to be avoided, nor is it culpable unleſs ſuffered ſo far to predominate as to produce averſion from every other kind of excellence, and to ſhade the luſtre of diſſimilar virtues. Thoſe, therefore, whom the lot of life has conjoined, ſhould endeavour conſtantly to approach towards the inclination of each other, invigorate every motion of concurrent deſire, and fan every ſpark of kindred curioſity.
IT has been juſtly obſerved, that diſcord generally operates in little things; it is inflamed to its utmoſt vehemence by contrariety of taſte, oftener than of principles; and might therefore commonly be avoided by innocent conformity, which, if it was not at firſt the motive, ought always to be the conſequence of indiſſoluble union.
PERSIUS.Omne vafer vitium ridenti Flaccus amicoTangit, et admiſſus circum praecordia ludit.
To the RAMBLER.
AS very many well-diſpoſed perſons by the unavoidable neceſſity of their affairs, are ſo unfortunate as to be totally buried in the country, where they labour under the moſt deplorable ignorance of what is tranſacting among the polite part of mankind, I cannot help thinking, that, as a publick writer, you ſhould take the caſe of theſe truly compaſſionable objects under your conſideration.
THESE unhappy languiſhers in obſcurity ſhould be furniſhed with ſuch accounts of the employments of people of the world, as may engage them in their ſeveral remote corners to a laudable imitation; or, at leaſt ſo far inform and prepare them, that if by any joyful change of ſituation they ſhould be ſuddenly tranſported into the gay ſcene, they may not gape, and wonder, and ſtare, and be [Page 270] utterly at a loſs how to behave and make a proper appearance in it.
IT is inconceivable how much the welfare of all the country towns in the kingdom might be promoted, if you would uſe your charitable endeavours to raiſe in them a noble emulation of the manners and cuſtoms of higher life.
FOR this purpoſe you ſhould give a very clear and ample deſcription of the whole ſet of polite acquirements; a compleat hiſtory of forms, faſhions, frolicks, of routs, drums, hurricanes, balls, aſſemblies, ridottos, maſquerades, auctions, plays, operas, puppetſhows, and bear-gardens: of all thoſe delights which profitably engage the attention of the moſt ſublime characters, and by which they have brought to ſuch amazing perfection the whole art and myſtery of paſſing day after day, week after week, and year after year, without the heavy aſſiſtance of any one thing that formal creatures are pleaſed to call uſeful and neceſſary.
IN giving due inſtructions through what ſteps to attain this ſummit of human excellence, [Page 271] you may add ſuch irreſiſtible arguments in its favour, as muſt convince numbers, who in other inſtances do not ſeem to want natural underſtanding, of the unaccountable error of ſuppoſing they were ſent into the world for any other purpoſe but to flutter, ſport, and ſhine. For, after all, nothing can be clearer than that an everlaſting round of diverſion, and the more lively and hurrying the better, is the moſt important end of human life.
IT is really prodigious, ſo much as the world is improved, that there ſhould in theſe days be perſons ſo ignorant and ſtupid as to think it neceſſary to miſpend their time, and trouble their heads about any thing elſe than purſuing the preſent fancy; for what elſe is worth living for?
It is time enough ſurely to think of conſequences when they come; and as for the antiquated notions of duty, they are not to be met with in any French novel, or any book one ever looks into, but derived almoſt wholly from the writings of authors, who lived a vaſt many ages ago, and who, as they totally without any idea of thoſe accompilſhments [Page 272] which now characteriſe people of diſtinction, have been for ſome time ſinking apace into utter contempt. It does not appear that even their moſt zealous admirers, for ſome partiſans of his own ſort every writer will have, can pretend to ſay they were ever at one ridotto.
IN the important article of diverſions, the ceremonial of viſits, the extatick delight of unfriendly intimacies and unmeaning civilities, they are abſolutely ſilent. Blunt truth, and downright honeſty, plain clothes, ſtaying at home, hard work, few words, and thoſe unenlivened with cenſure or double meaning, are what they recommend as the ornaments and pleaſures of life. Little oaths, polite diſſimulation, tea-table ſcandal, delightful indolence, the glitter of finery, the triumph of precedence, the enchantments of flattery, they ſeem to have had no notion of, and I cannot but laugh to think what a figure they would have made in a drawing-room, and how frighted they would have looked at a gaming-table.
INDEED one cannot but diſcover any one thing they pretend to teach people, but to be wiſe, and good; acquirements infinitely below the conſideration of perſons of taſte and ſpirit, who know how to ſpend their time to ſo much better purpoſe.
AMONG other admirable improvements, pray, Mr. Rambier, do not forget to enlarge on the very extenſive benefit of playing at cards on Sundays, a practice of ſuch infinite uſe, that we may modeſtly expect to ſee it prevail univerſally in all parts of this kingdom.
TO perſons of faſhion, the advantage is obvious, becauſe as for ſome ſtrange reaſon or other, which no fine gentleman or fine lady has yet been able to penetrate, there is neither play, nor maſquerade, nor bottled conjuror, nor any other thing worth living for, to be had on a Sunday, if it were not for the charitable aſſiſtance of whiſt or bragg, the genteel part of mankind muſt one day in ſeven, [Page 274] neceſſarily ſuffer a total extinction of being.
NOR are the perſons of high rank the only gainers by ſo ſalutary a cuſtom, which extends its good influence, in ſome degree, to the lower orders of people; but were it quite general how much better and happier would the world be than it is even now!
'TIS hard upon poor creatures, be they ever ſo mean, to deny them thoſe enjoyments and liberties which are equally open for all. Yet if ſervants were taught to go to church on this day, ſpend ſome part of it in reading or receiving inſtruction in a family way, and the reſt in mere friendly converſation, the poor wretches would infallibly take it into their heads, that they were obliged to be ſober, modeſt, diligent, and faithful to their maſters and miſtreſſes.
NOW ſurely no one of common prudence or humanity would wiſh their domeſticks infected with ſuch ſtrange and primitive notions, or laid under ſuch unmerciful reſtraints: All which may, in a great meaſure, be prevented [Page 275] by the prevalence of the good-humoured faſhion that I would have you recommend, For when the lower kind of people ſee their betters with a truly laudable ſpirit, inſulting and flying in the face of thoſe rude, ill-bred dictators, piety and the laws, they are thereby excited and admoniſhed, as far as actions can admoniſh and excite, and taught that they too have an equal right of ſetting them at defiance in ſuch inſtances as their particular neceſſities and inclinations may require; and thus is the liberty of the whole human ſpecies mightily improved and enlarged.
IN ſhort, Mr. Rambler, by a faithful repreſentation of the numberleſs benefits of a modiſh life, you will have done your part in promoting what every body ſeems to confeſs the true purpoſe of human exiſtence, perpetual diſſipation.
ALL the ſoft feelings of humanity, the ſympathies of friendſhip, all natural temptations [Page 276] to the care of a family, and ſolicitude about the good or ill of others, with the whole train of domeſtick and ſocial affections, which create ſuch daily anxieties and embarraſments, will be happily ſtifled and ſuppreſſed in a round of perpetual delights; and all ſerious thoughts, but particularly that of hereafter, be baniſhed out of the world; a moſt perplexing apprehenſion, but luckily a moſt groundleſs one too, as it is ſo very clear a caſe, that nobody ever dies.
I am, &c. CHARIESSA.