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N° 375. SATURDAY, MAY 10, 1712.
Non possidentem multa, tocaveris
Muneribus supienter uli,
JIOR. 4 Od. ix. 43.
More truly happy those who can
Govern that little empire man;
Smile at the doubtful tide of Fate,
Who poison less than falschood fear,
Í have more than once had occasion to mention a noble saying of Seneca the philosopher, that a virtuous person struggling with misfortunes, and rising above them, is an object on which the gods themselves
may look down with delight. I shall there. fore set before my reader a scene of this kind of distress in private life, for the speculation of this day.
An eminent citizen, who had lived in good fashion and credit, was, by a train of accidents, and by an unavoidable perplexity in his atlairs, reduced to a low condition. There is a modesty usually attend. ing faultless poverty, which made him rather choose to reduce his manner of living to his present circumstances, than solicit his friends in order to support the show of an estate when the substance was gone. His wife, who was a woman of sense and virtue, behaved herself on this occasion with uncommon decency, and never appeared so amiable in his eyes as now. Instead of upbraiding him with the ample fortune she had brought, or the many great offers she had refused for his sake, she redoubled all the instances of her affection, while her husband was continually pouring out his heart to her in complaints that he had ruined the best woman in the world: He sometimes came home at a time when she did not expect him, and surprized her in tears, which she endeavoured to conceal, and always put on an air of cheerfulness to receive him. To lessen their expense, their eldest daughter (whom I shall call Amanda) was sent into the country, to the house of an honest farmer, who had married a servant of the family. This young woman was apprehensive of the ruin which was approaching, and had privately engaged a friend in the neighbourhood to give her an account of what passed from time to time in her father's affairs. Amanda was in the bloom of her youth and beauty; when the lord of the manor, who often called in at the farmer's house as he followed his country sports, fell passionately, in love with her. He was a man of great generosity, but, from a loose education, had contracted a hearty aversion to marriage.
He therefore entertained a design upon Amanda's virtue, which at present he thought fit to keep private. The innocent creature, who never suspected his intentions, was pleased with his person; and, having observed his growing passion for her, hoped by so advantageous a match she might quickly be in a capacity of supporting her impoverished relations. One day, as he called to see her, he found her in
N° 374. FRIDAY, MAY 9,1712.
Nil actum reputans si quid superesset agendum.
LUCAN ii. 57.
There is a fault, which, though common, wants a name. It is the very contrary to procrastination. As we lose the present hour by delaying from day to day to execute what we ought to do immediately, so most of us take occasion to sit still and throw away the time in our possession, by retrospect on what is past, imagining we have already acquitted ourselves, and established our characters in the sight of mankind. But when we thus put a value upon ourselves for what we have already done, any farther than to explain ourselves in order to assist our future conduct, that will give us an over-weening opinion of our merit, to the prejudice of our present industry. The great rule, methinks, should he, to manage the instant in which we stand, with fortitude, equanimity, and moderation, according to men's respective circumstances. If our past actions proach us, they cannot be atoned for by our own severe reflexions so effectually as by a contrary behaviour, If they are praise-worthy, the memory of them is of no use but to act suitably to them. Thus a good present behaviour is an implicit repentance for any miscarriage in what is past ; but present slackness will not make up for past activity. Time has swallowed up all that we contemporaries did yesterday, as irrevocably as it has the actions of the antede
luvians. But we are again awake, and what shall we do to-day-to-day which passes while we are yet speaking ? Shall we remember the folly of last night, or resolve upon the exercise of virtue tomorrow? Last night is certainly gone, and to-morrow may never arrive. This instant make use of. Can you oblige any man of honour and virtue? Do it immediately. Can you visit a sick friend? Will it revive him to see you enter, and suspend your own ease and pleasure to comfort his weakness, and hear the impertinences of a wretch in pain? Do not stay to take coach, but be gone. Your mistress will bring sorrow, and your bottle madness.
Go to neither Such virtues and diversions as these, are mentioned because they occur to all men.
But every man is sufficiently convinced, that to suspend the use of the present moment, and resolve better for the future only, is an unpardonable folly. What I attempted to consider, was the mischief of setting such a value
upon what is past, as to think we have done enough. Let a man have filled all the offices of life with the highest dignity till yesterday, and begin to live only to himself to-day, he must expect he will, in the effects upon his reputation, be considered as the man who died yesterday. The man who distinguishes himself from the rest, stands in a press of people: those before him intercept his progress; and those behind him, if he does not urge on, will tread him down. Cæsar, of whom it was said that he thought nothing done while there was left any thing for him to do, went on in performing the greatest exploits, without assuming to himselt a privilege of taking rest upon the foundation of the merit of his former actions. It was the manner of that glorious captain to write down what scenes he had passed through ; but it was rather to
keep his affairs in method, and capable of a clear review, in case they should be examined by others, than that he built a renown upon any thing that was past. I shall produce two fragments of his, to demonstrate that it was his rule of life to support himself rather by what he should perform, than what he had done already. In the tablet which he wore about him the same year in which he obtained the battle of Pharsalia, there were found these loose notes of his own conduct. It is supposed, by the circumstances they alluded to, that they might be set down the evening of the same night.
• My part is now but begun, and my glory must be sustained by the use I make of this victory; otherwise my loss will be greater than that of Pompey. Our personal reputation will rise or fall as we bear our respective fortunes. All my private enemies among the prisoners shall be spared. I will forget this, in order to obtain such another day. Trebutius is ashamed to see me: I will go to his tent, and be reconciled in private. Give all the men of honour, who take part with me, the terms I offered before the battle. Let them owe this to their friends who have been long in my interests. Power is weakened by the full use of it, but extended by moderation. Galbinius is proud, and will be servile in his present fortune: let him wait. Send for Stertinius : he is modest, and his virtue is worth gaining. I have cooled my heart with reflexion, and am fit to rejoice with the army to-morrow. He is a popular general, who can expose himself like a private man during a battle; but he is more popular who can rejoice but like a private man after a victory.'
What is particularly proper for the example of all who pretend to industry in the pursuit of ho