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of diction, and familiarized them by long habits of attentive practice.
No man is a rhetorician or philofopher by chance. He who knows that he undertakes to write on queftions which he has never ftudied, may without hefitation determine, that he is about to wafte his own time and that of his reader, and expofe himself to the derifion of thofe whom he afpires to inftruct: he that without forming his ftyle by the study of the beft models, haftens to obtrude his compofitions on the publick, may be certain, that whatever hope or flattery may fuggeft, he fhall fhock the learned ear with barbarifins, and contribute, wherever his work fhall be received, to the depravation of tafte and the corruption of language.
NUMB. 119. TUESDAY, December 25, 1753
Latiùs regnes, avidum domando
By virtue's precepts to controul
HEN Socrates was afked, was asked, " which of "mortal men was to be accounted nearest to "the gods in happiness?" he answered, "that man, "who is in want of the feweft things."
In this anfwer, Socrates left it to be gueffed by his auditors, whether, by the exemption from want which was to constitute happiness, he meant amplitude of poffeffions or contraction of defire. And, indeed, there is fo little difference between them, that Alexander the Great confeffed the inhabitant of a tub the next man to the mafter of the world; and left a declaration to future ages, that if he was not Alexander he fhould wish to be Diogenes.
These two states, however, though they resemble each other in their confequence, differ widely with respect to the facility with which they may be attained. To make great acquifitions can happen to
very few; and in the uncertainty of human affairs, to many it will be incident to labour without reward, and to lofe what they already poffefs by endeavours to make it more; fome will always want abilities, and others opportunities to accumulate wealth. It is therefore happy, that nature has allowed us a more certain and eafy road to plenty; every man may grow rich by contracting his wifhes, and by quiet acquiefcence in what has been given him fupply the abfence of more.
Yet fo far is almost every man from emulating the happiness of the gods, by any other means than that it feems to be the great grafping at their power; bufinefs of life to create wants as faft as they are fatisfied. It has been long obferved by moralifts, that every man fquanders or lofes a great part of that life, of which every man knows and deplores the fhortnefs: and it may be remarked with equal justnefs, that though every man laments his own infufficiency to his happinefs, and knows himself a neceffitous and precarious being, inceffantly foliciting the affiftance of others, and feeling wants which his own art or ftrength cannot fupply; yet there is no man, who does not, by the fuperaddition of unnatural cares, render himself ftill more dependent; who does not create an artificial poverty, and fuffer himfelf to feel pain for the want of that, of which, when it is gained, he can have no enjoyment.
It muft, indeed, be allowed, that as we lofe part of our time because it fteals away filent and invifible, and many an hour is paffed before we recollect that it is paffing; fo unnatural defires infinuate themfelves unobferved into the mind, and we do not perceive
that they are gaining upon us, till the pain which they give us awakens us to notice. No man is fufficiently vigilant to take account of every minute of his life, or to watch every motion of his heart. Much of our time likewife is facrificed to custom; we trifle, becaufe we fee others trifle: in the fame manner we catch from example the contagion of defire; we see all about us bufied in purfuit of imaginary good, and begin to buftle in the fame chace, left greater activity fhould triumph over us.
It is true, that to man, as a member of fociety, many things become neceffary, which, perhaps, in a ftate of nature are fuperfluous; and that many things, not abfolutely neceffary, are yet fo useful and convenient, that they cannot eafily be fpared. I will make yet a more ample and liberal conceffion In opulent states and regular governments, the temptations to wealth and rank, and to the diftinctions that follow them, are fuch as no force of understanding finds it eafy to refift.
If, therefore, I faw the quiet of life disturbed only by endeavours after wealth and honour; by folicitude, which the world, whether juftly or not, confidered as important; I fhould scarcely have had ⚫ courage to inculcate any precepts of moderation and forbearance. He that is engaged in a purfuit, in which all mankind profefs to be his rivals, is supported by the authority of all mankind in the profecution of his defign, and will, therefore, fcarcely ftop to hear the lectures of a folitary philofopher. Nor am I certain, that the accumulation of honeft gain ought to be hindered, or the ambition of just honours always to be repreffed. Whatever can en
able the poffeffor to confer any benefit upon others, may be defired upon virtuous principles; and we ought not too rafhly to accufe any man of intending to confine the influence of his acquifitions to himfelf.
But if we look round upon mankind, whom fhall we find among thofe that fortune permits to form their own manners, that is not tormenting himself witl. a wifh for fomething, of which all the pleasure and all the benefit will ceafe at the moment of attainment? One man is beggaring his pofterity to build a houfe, which when finifhed he never will inhabit, another is levelling mountains to open a profpcct, which, when he has once enjoyed it, he can enjoy no more; another is painting cielings, carving wainfcot, and filling his apartments with coftly furniture, only that fome neighbouring house may not be richer or finer than his own.
That fplendor and elegance are not defirable, I am not fo abftracted from life as to inculcate; but if we inquire clofely into the reafon for which they are cfleemed, we shall find them valued principally as evidences of wealth. Nothing, therefore, can fhew greater depravity of understanding, than to delight in the fhew when the reality is wanting; or voluntarily to become poor, that strangers may for a time imagine us to be rich.
But there are yet minuter objects and more trifling anxieties. Men may be found, who are kept from fleep by the want of a fhell particularly variegated! who are wafting their lives, in ftratagems to obtain a book in a language which they do not understand; who pine with envy at the flowers of another man's parterre;