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The power, indeed, of every individual is fmall, and the confequence of his endeavours imperceptible in a general profpect of the world. Providence has given no man ability to do much, that fomething might be left for every man to do. The bufinefs of life is carried on by a general co-operation; in which the part of any single man can be no more distinguished, than the effect of a particular drop when the meadows are floated by a fummer fhower yet every drop increases the inundation, and every hand adds to the happiness or misery of mankind.

That a writer, however zealous or eloquent, feldom works a visible effect upon cities or nations, will readily be granted. The book which is read most, is read by few, compared with those that read it not; and of thofe few, the greater part peruse it with difpoitions that very little favour their own improvement.

It is difficult to enumerate the feveral motives which procure to books the honour of perufal: fpite, vanity, and curiofity, hope and fear, love and hatred, every paffion which incites to any other action, ferves at one time or other to ftimulate a reader.

Some are fond to take a celebrated volume into their hands, becaufe they hope to diftinguifh their penetration, by finding faults which have escaped the publick, others eagerly buy it in the first bloom of reputation, that they may join the chorus of praife, and not lag, as Falstaff terms it, in "the "rearward of the fashion."

Some read for ftyle, and fome for argument: one has little care about the fentiment, he obferves only how

how it is expreffed; another regards not the conclufion, but is diligent to mark how it is inferred: they read for other purposes than the attainment of practical knowledge; and are no more likely to grow wife by an examination of a treatife of moral prudence, than an architect to inflame his devotion by confidering attentively the proportions of a temple.

Some read that they may embellifh their converfation, or shine in difpute; fome that they may not be detected in ignorance, or want the reputation of literary accomplishments: but the most general and prevalent reason of ftudy is the impoffibility of finding another amusement equally cheap or conftant, equally dependent on the hour or the weather. He that wants money to follow the chafe of pleasure through her yearly circuit, and is left at home when the gay world rolls to Bath or Tunbridge; he whofe gout compels him to hear from his chamber the rattle of chariots tranfporting happier beings to plays and affemblies, will be forced to feek in books a refuge from himself.

The author is not wholly ufelefs, who provides innocent amufements for minds like thefe. There are in the present ftate of things fo many more inftigations to evil, than incitements to good, that he who keeps me in a neutral state, may be justly confidered as a benefactor to life.

But, perhaps, it feldom happens, that ftudy terminates in mere paftime. Books have always a fecret influence on the understanding; we cannot at pleafure obliterate ideas: he that reads books of science, though

though without any fixed defire of improvement, will grow more knowing; he that entertains himfelf with moral or religious treatifes, will imperceptibly advance in goodnefs; the ideas which are often offered to the mind, will at laft find a lucky moment when it is difpofed to receive them.

It is, therefore, urged without reafon, as a dif couragement to writers, that there are already books fufficient in the world; that all the topicks of perfuafion have been difcuffed, and every important queftion clearly stated and juftly decided; and that, therefore, there is no room to hope, that pigmies ihould conquer where heroes have been defeated, or that the petty copiers of the prefent time fhould advance the great work of reformation, which their predeceffors were forced to leave unfinished.

Whatever be the prefent extent of human knowledge, it is not only finite, and therefore in its own nature capable of increafe; but fo narrow, that almoft every understanding may, by a diligent application of its powers, hope to enlarge it. It is, however, not neceffary, that a man fhould forbear to write, till he has difcovered fome truth unknown before; he may be fufficiently ufeful, by only diverfifying the furface of knowledge, and luring the mind by a new appearance to a fecond view of thofe beauties which it had paffed over inattentively before. Every writer may find intellects correfpondent to his own, to whom his expreffions are familiar, and his thoughts congenial; and, perhaps, truth is often more fuccefsfully propagated by men of moderate abilities, who, adopting the opinions of

others,

others, have no care but to explain them clearly, than by fubtile fpeculatifts and curious fearchers, who exact from their readers powers equal to their own, and if their fabricks of fcience be ftrong, take no care to render them acceffible.

For my part, I do not regret the hours which I have laid out in thefe little compofitions. That the world has grown apparently better, fince the publication of the Adventurer, I have not observed; but am willing to think, that many have been affected by fingle fentiments, of which it is their bufinefs to renew the impreffion; that many have caught hints of truth, which it is now their duty to purfue; and that thofe who have received no improvement, have wanted not opportunity but intention to improve.

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NUME. 138. SATURDAY, March 2, 1754.

Quid purè tranquillet? honos, an dulce lucellum,
An fecretum iter, et fallentis femita vite?

Whether the tranquil mind and pure,
Honours or wealth our bliss insure ;
Or down through life unknown to stray,
Where lonely leads the filent way.

HOR.

FRANCIS.

H

AVING confidered the importance of authors to the welfare of the publick, I am led by a natural train of thought, to reflect on their condition with regard to themfelves; and to enquire what degree of happiness or vexation is annexed to the difficult and laborious employment of providing inftruction or entertainment for mankind.

In eftimating the pain or pleasure of any particular state, every man, indeed, draws his decisions from his own breaft, and cannot with certainty determine, whether other minds are affected by the fame causes in the fame manner. Yet by this criterion we must be content to judge, because no other can be obtained; and, indeed, we have no reafon to think it very fallacious, for excepting here and there an anomalous mind, which either does not feel like others, or diffembles its fenfibility, we find men unanimously concur in attributing happiness or mifery to particular conditions, as they agree in acknowledging the cold of winter and the heat of

autumn.

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