صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

parterre; who hover like vultures round the owner of a foffil, in hopes to plunder his cabinet at his death; and who would not much regret to see a street in Aames, if a box of medals might be scattered in the tumult.

He chat imagines me to speak of these sages in terms exaggerated and hyperbolical, has conversed but little with the race of virtuosos. A Night acquaintance with their studies, and a few visits to neir assemblies, would inform him, that nothing is so worthless, but that prejudice and caprice can give it value ; nor any thing of so little use, but that by indulging an idle competition or unreasonable pride, a man may make it to himself one of the necessaries of life.

Desires like these, I may surely, without incurring the censure of moroseness, advise every man to repel when they invade his mind; or if he admits them, never to allow them any greater influence, than is necessary to give petty employments the power of pleasing, and diverlify the day with Night amusements.

An ardent wish, whatever be its object, will always be able to interrupt tranquillity. What we believe ourselves to want, torments us not in proportion to its real value, but according to the estimation by which we have rated it in our own minds: in some diseases, the patient has been observed to long for food, which scarce any extre:nity of hunger would in health have compelled him to swallow; but while his organs were thus depraved the cravi:g was irresit:ble, nor could any reit be obtained till it was appeased by compliance. O: the une nature are


[ocr errors]

the irregular appetites of the mind; though they are often excited by trifles, they are equally disquieting with real wants: the Roman, who wept at the death of his lamprey, felt the same degree of sorrow that extorts tears on other occasions.

Inordinate defires, of whatever kind, ought to be repressed upon yet a higher consideration; they muit be considered as enemies not only to happiness but to virtue. There are men among those commonly reckoned the learned and the wife, who spare no ftratagems to remove a competitor at an auction, who will sink the price of a rarity at the expence of truth, and whom it is not safe to trust alone in a library or cabinet. These are faults, which the fraternity seem to look upon as jocular mischiefs, or to think excused by the violence of the temptation: but I shall always fear that he, who accustoms himfelf to fraud in little things, wants only opportunity to practise it in greater; “ he that has hardened himself by killing a sheep,” says Pythagoras, “ will " with less reluctance shed the blood of a man."

To prize every thing according to its real usc, ought to be the aim of a rational being. There are few things which can much conduce to happiness, and, therefore, few things to be ardentiy desired. He that looks upon the business and buille of the world, with the philosophy with which Socrates furveyed the fair at Athens, will turn away at lait with his exclamation, “How many things are here which « I do not want!"

NUMB. 120. SATURDAY, December 29, 1753.

Ultima femper
Expectanda dies komini, dicique beatus
Ante obitum nemo fupremaque funera debet.
But no frail man, however great or high,
Can be concluded blest before he die.




HE numerous miseries of human life have ex.

torted in all ages an universal complaint. The tisest of men terininated all his experiments in search of happiness, by the mournful confession, that “ all is vanity;" and the antient patriarchs lamented, that “ the days of their pilgrimage were « few and evil.”

There is, indeed, no topick on which it is more superfluous to accumulate authorites, nor any affertion of which our own eyes will more easily discover, or our sensations more frequently impress the truth, than, that misery is the lot of man, that our present ftate is a state of danger and infelicity.

When we take the most distant prospect of life, what does it present us but a chaos of unhappiness, a confused and tumultuous scene of labour and contest, disappointment and defeat ? If we view past ages in the reflection of history, what do they offer to our meditation but crimes and calamities? One year is distinguished by a famine, another by an earthquake; Vol. IX.


kingdoms kingdoms are made desolate, sometimes by wars, and sometimes by pestilence; the peace of the world is interrupted at one time by the caprices of a tyrant, at another by the rage of a conqueror. The memory is stored only with vicissitudes of evil; and the happiness, such as it is, of one part of mankind, is found to arise commonly from sanguinary fuccess, from victories which confer upon them the power, not so much of improving life by any new enjoyment, as of inflicting misery on others, and gratifying their own pride by comparative greatnets.

: But by him that examines life with a more close attention, the happiness of the world will be found still less than it appears. In some intervals of publick prosperity, or to use terms more proper, in some intermissions of calamity, a general diffusion of happiness may seein to overspread a people; all is triumph and exultation, jollity and plenty; there are no publick fears and dangers, and “no complain« “ ings in the streets.” But the condition of individuals is very little mended by this general calm: pain and malice and discontent still continue their havock; the filent depredation goes incelantly forward; and the grave continues to be filled by the victims of sorrow.

He that enters a gay assembly, beholds the cheerfulnefs displayed in every countenance, and finds all fitting vacant and disengaged, with no other atten. tion than to give or to receive pleasure; would naturally imagine, that he had reached at last the metropolis of felicity, the place sacred to gladness of


[ocr errors]

heart, from whence all fear and anxiety were irreversibly excluded. Such, indeed, we may often find to be the opinion of those, who from a lower station look up to the pomp and gaiety which they cannot reach: but who is there of those who frequent these luxurious assemblies, that will not confess his own uneasiness, or cannot recount the vexations and distresses that prey upon the lives of his ĝay companions?

The world, in its best state, is nothing more than a larger assembly of beings, combining to counterfeit happiness which they do not feel, employing every art and contrivance to embellish life, and to hide their real condition from the eyes of one another.

The species of happiness most obvious to the ob. fervation of others, is that which depends upon the goods of fortune; yet even this is often fictitious. There is in the world more poverty than is generally imagined; not only because many whose possessions are large have desires still larger, and many measure their wants by the gratifications which others enjoy; but great numbers are pressed by real necessities which it is their chief ambition to conceal, and are forced to purchase the appearance of competence and cheerfulness at the expence of many comforts and con veniencies of life.

Many, however, are confessedly rich, and many more are sufficiently removed from all danger of real poverty : but it has been long ago remarked, that money cannot purchase quiet; the highest of mankind can promise themselves no exemption from



« السابقةمتابعة »