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Men are fo frequently cut off in the midft of their projections, that fudden death caufes little emotion in them that behold it, unless it be impreffed upon the attention by uncommon circumftances. I, like every other man, haye outlived multitudes, have feen ambition fink in its triumphs, and beauty perish in its bloom; but have been feldom fo much affected as by the fate of Euryalus, whom I lately loft as I began to love him.
Euryalus had for fome time flourished in a lucrative profession; but having fuffered his imagination to be fired by an unextinguishable curiofity, he grew weary of the fame dull round of life, refolved to harafs himself no longer with the drudgery of getting money, but to quit his bufinefs and his profit, and enjoy for a few years the pleasures of travel. His friends heard him proclaim his refolution without suspecting that he intended to pursue it; but he was conftant to his purpofe, and with great expedition closed his accounts and fold his moveables, paffed a few days in bidding farewel to his companions, and with all the eagerness of romantick chivalry crossed the sea in search of happiness. Whatever place was renowned in ancient or modern hiftory, whatever region art or nature had diftinguished, he determined to vifit: full of defign and hope he landed on the continent; his friends expected accounts from him of the new scenes that opened in his progrefs, but were informed in a few days that Euryalus was dead.
Such was the end of Euryalus. He is entered that ftate, whence none ever fhall return; and can now only benefit his friends, by remaining in their me
mories a permanent and efficacious inftance of the blindness of defire, and the uncertainty of all terreftrial good. But, perhaps, every man has like me loft an Euryalus, has known a friend die with happiness in his grafp; and yet every man continues to think himself fecure of life, and defers to fome future time of leifure what he knows it will be fatal to have finally omitted.
It is, indeed, with this as with other frailties inherent in our nature; the defire of deferring to another time, what cannot be done without endurance of fome pain, or forbearance of fome pleasure, will, perhaps, never be totally overcome or fuppreffed; there will always be fomething that we fhall wish to have finished, and be neverthelefs unwilling to begin but againft this unwillingness it is our duty to ftruggle, and every conqueft over our paffions will make way for an eafier conqueft; cuftom is equally forcible to bad and good; nature will always be at variance with reafon, but will rebel more feebly as fhe is oftener fubdued.
The common neglect of the prefent hour is more fhameful and criminal, as no man is betrayed to it by error, but admits it by negligence. Of the inftability of life, the weakest understanding never thinks wrong, though the ftrongeft often omits to think justly reafon and experience are always ready to inform us of our real ftate; but we refufe to liften to their fuggeftions, becaufe we feel our hearts unwilling to obey them: but, furely, nothing is more unworthy of a reafonable being, than to fhut his eyes, when he fees the road which he is commanded to travel, that he may deviate with fewer reproaches
from himfelf; nor could any motive to tenderness, except the consciousness that we have all been guilty of the fame fault, difpofe us to pity thofe who thus confign themselves to voluntary ruin.
NUMB. III. TUESDAY, November 27, 1753
-Quæ non fecimus ipfi,
The deeds of long defcended ancestors
HE evils infeparably annexed to the present condition of man, are fo numerous and afAictive, that it has been, from age to age, the task of fome to bewail, and of others to folace them; and he, therefore, will be in danger of feeing a common enemy, who fhall attempt to depreciate the few pleasures and felicities which nature has allowed us.
Yet I will confefs, that I have fometimes employed my thoughts in examining the pretensions that are made to happiness, by the fplendid and envied condition of life; and have not thought the hour unprofitably spent, when I have detected the imposture of counterfeit advantages, and found difquiet lurking under falfe appearances of gaiety and greatness.
It is afferted by a tragic poet, that est mifer "nemo nifi comparatus," " no man is miferable, "but as he is compared with others happier than "himfelf:" this position is not strictly and philofophically true. He might have faid, with rigorous propriety, that no man is happy but as he is compared with the miferable; for fuch is the ftate of this world, that we find in it abfolute mifery, but happinefs only comparative; we may incur as much pain as we can poffibly endure, though we can never obtain as much happinefs as we might poffibly enjoy.
Yet it is certain likewife, that many of our miferies are merely comparative: we are often made unhappy, not by the prefence of any real evil, but by the abfence of fome fictitious good; of fomething which is not required by any real want of nature, which has not in itself any power of gratification, and which neither reafon nor fancy would have prompted us to wifh, did we not fee it in the poffeffion of others.
For a mind difeafed with vain longings after unattainable advantages, no medicine can be prefcribed, but an impartial enquiry into the real worth of that which is fo ardently defired. It is well known, how much the mind, as well as the eye, is deceived by distance; and, perhaps, it will be found, that of many imagined bleffings it may be doubted, whether he that wants or poffeffes them has more reafon to be fatisfied with his lot.
The dignity of high birth and long extraction, no man, to whom nature has denied it, can confer upon himfelf; and, therefore, it deferves to be confidered, whether
whether the want of that which can never be gained, may not easily be endured. It is true, that if we confider the triumph and delight with which moft of thofe recount their ancestors who have ancestors to recount, and the artifices by which fome who have rifen to unexpected fortune endeavour to infert themfelves into an honourable stem, we fhall be inclined to fancy that wisdom or virtue may be had by inheritance, or that all the excellencies of a line of progenitors are accumulated on their defcendant. Reafon, indeed, will foon inform us, that our estimation of birth is arbitrary and capricious, and that dead ancestors can have no influence but upon imagination let it then be examined, whether one dream may not operate in the place of another; whether he that owes nothing to forefathers, may not receive equal pleasure from the consciousness of owing all to himself; whether he may not, with a little meditation, find it more honourable to found than to continue a family, and to gain dignity than tranfmit it; whether, if he receives no dignity from the virtues of his family, he does not likewise escape the danger of being difgraced by their crimes; and whether he that brings a new name into the world, has not the convenience of playing the game of life without a ftake, and opportunity of winning much though he has nothing to lofe.
There is another opinion concerning happiness, which approaches much more nearly to univerfality, but which may, perhaps, with equal reafon be difputed. The pretenfions to ancestral honours many of the fons of earth easily fee to be ill-grounded, but all agree to celebrate the advantage of hereditary riches,