Part 8 out of 9
was careful to conceal his bounties, lest the poverty of his family
should be suspected.
At length it happened that, by misconduct like our own, a large estate,
which had been purchased from us, was again exposed to the best bidder.
My uncle, delighted with an opportunity of reinstating the family in
their possessions, came down with treasures scarcely to be imagined in a
place where commerce has not made large sums familiar, and at once drove
all the competitors away, expedited the writings, and took possession.
He now considered himself as superior to trade, disposed of his stock,
and as soon as he had settled his economy, began to shew his rural
sovereignty, by breaking the hedges of his tenants in hunting, and
seizing the guns or nets of those whose fortunes did not qualify them
for sportsmen. He soon afterwards solicited the office of sheriff, from
which all his neighbours were glad to be reprieved, but which he
regarded as a resumption of ancestral claims, and a kind of restoration
to blood after the attainder of a trade.
My uncle, whose mind was so filled with this change of his condition,
that he found no want of domestick entertainment, declared himself too
old to marry, and resolved to let the newly-purchased estate fall into
the regular channel of inheritance. I was therefore considered as heir
apparent, and courted with officiousness and caresses, by the gentlemen
who had hitherto coldly allowed me that rank which they could not
refuse, depressed me with studied neglect, and irritated me with
I felt not much pleasure from the civilities for which I knew myself
indebted to my uncle's industry, till, by one of the invitations which
every day now brought me, I was induced to spend a week with Lucius,
whose daughter Flavilla I had often seen and admired like others,
without any thought of nearer approaches. The inequality which had
hitherto kept me at a distance being now levelled, I was received with
every evidence of respect: Lucius told me the fortune which he intended
for his favourite daughter; many odd accidents obliged us to be often
together without company, and I soon began to find that they were
spreading for me the nets of matrimony.
Flavilla was all softness and complaisance. I, who had been excluded by
a narrow fortune from much acquaintance with the world, and never been
honoured before with the notice of so fine a lady, was easily enamoured.
Lucius either perceived my passion, or Flavilla betrayed it; care was
taken, that our private meetings should be less frequent, and my charmer
confessed by her eyes how much pain she suffered from our restraint. I
renewed my visit upon every pretence, but was not allowed one interview
without witness; at last I declared my passion to Lucius, who received
me as a lover worthy of his daughter, and told me that nothing was
wanting to his consent, but that my uncle should settle his estate upon
me. I objected the indecency of encroaching on his life, and the danger
of provoking him by such an unseasonable demand. Lucius seemed not to
think decency of much importance, but admitted the danger of
displeasing, and concluded that as he was now old and sickly, we might,
without any inconvenience, wait for his death.
With this resolution I was better contented, as it procured me the
company of Flavilla, in which the days passed away amidst continual
rapture; but in time I began to be ashamed of sitting idle, in
expectation of growing rich by the death of my benefactor, and proposed
to Lucius many schemes of raising my own fortune by such assistance as I
knew my uncle willing to give me. Lucius, afraid lest I should change my
affection in absence, diverted me from my design by dissuasives to which
my passion easily listened. At last my uncle died, and considering
himself as neglected by me, from the time that Flavilla took possession
of my heart, left his estate to my younger brother, who was always
hovering about his bed, and relating stories of my pranks and
extravagance, my contempt of the commercial dialect, and my impatience
to be selling stock.
My condition was soon known, and I was no longer admitted by the father
of Flavilla. I repeated the protestations of regard, which had been
formerly returned with so much ardour, in a letter which she received
privately, but returned by her father's footman. Contempt has driven out
my love, and I am content to have purchased, by the loss of fortune, an
escape from a harpy, who has joined the artifices of age to the
allurements of youth. I am now going to pursue my former projects with a
legacy which my uncle bequeathed me, and if I succeed, shall expect to
hear of the repentance of Flavilla.
I am, Sir, Yours, &c.
No. 193. TUESDAY, JANUARY 21, 1752.
_Laudis amore tumes? sunt certa piacula, quoe te
Ter pure lecto poterunt recreare libello_. HOR. Lib. i. Ep. i. 36.
Or art thou vain? books yield a certain spell
To stop thy tumour; you shall cease to swell
When you have read them thrice, and studied well. CREECH.
Whatever is universally desired, will be sought by industry and
artifice, by merit and crimes, by means good and bad, rational and
absurd, according to the prevalence of virtue or vice, of wisdom or
folly. Some will always mistake the degree of their own desert, and some
will desire that others may mistake it. The cunning will have recourse
to stratagem, and the powerful to violence, for the attainment of their
wishes; some will stoop to theft, and others venture upon plunder.
Praise is so pleasing to the mind of man, that it is the original motive
of almost all our actions. The desire of commendation, as of every thing
else, is varied indeed by innumerable differences of temper, capacity,
and knowledge; some have no higher wish than for the applause of a club;
some expect the acclamations of a county; and some have hoped to fill
the mouths of all ages and nations with their names. Every man pants for
the highest eminence within his view; none, however mean, ever sinks
below the hope of being distinguished by his fellow-beings, and very few
have by magnanimity or piety been so raised above it, as to act wholly
without regard to censure or opinion.
To be praised, therefore, every man resolves; but resolutions will not
execute themselves. That which all think too parsimoniously distributed
to their own claims, they will not gratuitously squander upon others,
and some expedient must be tried, by which praise may be gained before
it can be enjoyed.
Among the innumerable bidders for praise, some are willing to purchase
at the highest rate, and offer ease and health, fortune and life. Yet
even of these only a small part have gained what they so earnestly
desired; the student wastes away in meditation, and the soldier perishes
on the ramparts, but unless some accidental advantage cooperates with
merit, neither perseverance nor adventure attracts attention, and
learning and bravery sink into the grave, without honour or remembrance.
But ambition and vanity generally expect to be gratified on easier
terms. It has been long observed, that what is procured by skill or
labour to the first possessor, may be afterwards transferred for money;
and that the man of wealth may partake all the acquisitions of courage
without hazard, and all the products of industry without fatigue. It was
easily discovered, that riches would obtain praise among other
conveniencies, and that he whose pride was unluckily associated with
laziness, ignorance, or cowardice, needed only to pay the hire of a
panegyrist, and he might be regaled with periodical eulogies; might
determine, at leisure, what virtue or science he would be pleased to
appropriate, and be lulled in the evening with soothing serenades, or
waked in the morning by sprightly gratulations.
The happiness which mortals receive from the celebration of beneficence
which never relieved, eloquence which never persuaded, or elegance which
never pleased, ought not to be envied or disturbed, when they are known
honestly to pay for their entertainment. But there are unmerciful
exactors of adulation, who withhold the wages of venality; retain their
encomiast from year to year by general promises and ambiguous
blandishments; and when he has run through the whole compass of
flattery, dismiss him with contempt, because his vein of fiction is
A continual feast of commendation is only to be obtained by merit or by
wealth; many are therefore obliged to content themselves with single
morsels, and recompense the infrequency of their enjoyment by excess and
riot, whenever fortune sets the banquet before them. Hunger is never
delicate; they who are seldom gorged to the full with praise, may be
safely fed with gross compliments; for the appetite must be satisfied
before it is disgusted.
It is easy to find the moment at which vanity is eager for sustenance,
and all that impudence or servility can offer will be well received.
When any one complains of the want of what he is known to possess in an
uncommon degree, he certainly waits with impatience to be contradicted.
When the trader pretends anxiety about the payment of his bills, or the
beauty remarks how frightfully she looks, then is the lucky moment to
talk of riches or of charms, of the death of lovers, or the honour of a
Others there are yet more open and artless, who, instead of suborning a
flatterer, are content to supply his place, and, as some animals
impregnate themselves, swell with the praises which they hear from their
own tongues. _Recte is dicitur laudare sese, cui nemo alius contigit
laudator_. "It is right," says Erasmus, "that he, whom no one else will
commend, should bestow commendations on himself." Of all the sons of
vanity, these are surely the happiest and greatest; for what is
greatness or happiness but independence on external influences,
exemption from hope or fear, and the power of supplying every want from
the common stores of nature, which can neither be exhausted nor
prohibited? Such is the wise man of the stoicks; such is the divinity of
the epicureans; and such is the flatterer of himself. Every other
enjoyment malice may destroy; every other panegyrick envy may withhold;
but no human power can deprive the boaster of his own encomiums. Infamy
may hiss, or contempt may growl, the hirelings of the great may follow
fortune, and the votaries of truth may attend on virtue; but his
pleasures still remain the same; he can always listen with rapture to
himself, and leave those who dare not repose upon their own attestation,
to be elated or depressed by chance, and toil on in the hopeless task of
fixing caprice, and propitiating malice.
This art of happiness has been long practised by periodical writers,
with little apparent violation of decency. When we think our
excellencies overlooked by the world, or desire to recall the attention
of the publick to some particular performance, we sit down with great
composure and write a letter to ourselves. The correspondent, whose
character we assume, always addresses us with the deference due to a
superior intelligence; proposes his doubts with a proper sense of his
own inability; offers an objection with trembling diffidence; and at
last has no other pretensions to our notice than his profundity of
respect, and sincerity of admiration, his submission to our dictates,
and zeal for our success. To such a reader, it is impossible to refuse
regard, nor can it easily be imagined with how much alacrity we snatch
up the pen which indignation or despair had condemned to inactivity,
when we find such candour and judgment yet remaining in the world.
A letter of this kind I had lately the honour of perusing, in which,
though some of the periods were negligently closed, and some expressions
of familiarity were used, which I thought might teach others to address
me with too little reverence, I was so much delighted with the passages
in which mention was made of universal learning--unbounded genius--soul
of Homer, Pythagoras, and Plato--solidity of thought--accuracy of
distinction--elegance of combination--vigour of fancy--strength of
reason--and regularity of composition--that I had once determined to lay
it before the publick. Three times I sent it to the printer, and three
times I fetched it back. My modesty was on the point of yielding, when
reflecting that I was about to waste panegyricks on myself, which might
be more profitably reserved for my patron, I locked it up for a better
hour, in compliance with the farmer's principle, who never eats at home
what he can carry to the market.
No. 194. SATURDAY, JANUARY 25, 1752.
_Si damnosa senem juvat alea, ludit et heres
Bullatus, parvoque eadem movet arma fritillo_. JUV. Sat. xiv. 4.
If gaming does an aged sire entice,
Then my young master swiftly learns the vice,
And shakes in hanging sleeves the little box and dice. J. DRYDEN, jun.
TO THE RAMBLER.
That vanity which keeps every man important in his own eyes, inclines me
to believe that neither you nor your readers have yet forgotten the name
of Eumathes, who sent you a few months ago an account of his arrival at
London, with a young nobleman his pupil. I shall therefore continue my
narrative without preface or recapitulation.
My pupil, in a very short time, by his mother's countenance and
direction, accomplished himself with all those qualifications which
constitute puerile politeness. He became in a few days a perfect master
of his hat, which with a careless nicety he could put off or on, without
any need to adjust it by a second motion. This was not attained but by
frequent consultations with his dancing-master, and constant practice
before the glass, for he had some rustick habits to overcome; but, what
will not time and industry perform? A fortnight more furnished him with
all the airs and forms of familiar and respectful salutation, from the
clap on the shoulder to the humble bow; he practises the stare of
strangeness, and the smile of condescension, the solemnity of promise,
and the graciousness of encouragement, as if he had been nursed at a
levee; and pronounces, with no less propriety than his father, the
monosyllables of coldness, and sonorous periods of respectful
He immediately lost the reserve and timidity which solitude and study
are apt to impress upon the most courtly genius; was able to enter a
crowded room with airy civility; to meet the glances of a hundred eyes
without perturbation; and address those whom he never saw before with
ease and confidence. In less than a month his mother declared her
satisfaction at his proficiency by a triumphant observation, that she
believed _nothing would make him blush_.
The silence with which I was contented to hear my pupil's praises, gave
the lady reason to suspect me not much delighted with his acquisitions;
but she attributed my discontent to the diminution of my influence, and
my fears of losing the patronage of the family; and though she thinks
favourably of my learning and morals, she considers me as wholly
unacquainted with the customs of the polite part of mankind; and
therefore not qualified to form the manners of a young nobleman, or
communicate the knowledge of the world. This knowledge she comprises in
the rules of visiting, the history of the present hour, an early
intelligence of the change of fashions, an extensive acquaintance with
the names and faces of persons of rank, and a frequent appearance in
places of resort.
All this my pupil pursues with great application. He is twice a day in
the Mall, where he studies the dress of every man splendid enough to
attract his notice, and never comes home without some observation upon
sleeves, button-holes, and embroidery. At his return from the theatre,
he can give an account of the gallantries, glances, whispers, smiles,
sighs, flirts, and blushes of every box, so much to his mother's
satisfaction, that when I attempted to resume my character, by inquiring
his opinion of the sentiments and diction of the tragedy, she at once
repressed my criticism, by telling me, "that she hoped he did not go to
lose his time in attending to the creatures on the stage."
But his acuteness was most eminently signalized at the masquerade, where
he discovered his acquaintance through their disguises, with such
wonderful facility, as has afforded the family an inexhaustible topick
of conversation. Every new visitor is informed how one was detected by
his gait, and another by the swinging of his arms, a third by the toss
of his head, and another by his favourite phrase; nor can you doubt but
these performances receive their just applause, and a genius thus
hastening to maturity is promoted by every art of cultivation.
Such have been his endeavours, and such his assistances, that every
trace of literature was soon obliterated. He has changed his language
with his dress, and instead of endeavouring at purity or propriety, has
no other care than to catch the reigning phrase and current exclamation,
till, by copying whatever is peculiar in the talk of all those whose
birth or fortune entitles them to imitation, he has collected every
fashionable barbarism of the present winter, and speaks a dialect not to
be understood among those who form their style by poring upon authors.
To this copiousness of ideas, and felicity of language, he has joined
such eagerness to lead the conversation, that he is celebrated among the
ladies as the prettiest gentleman that the age can boast of, except that
some who love to talk themselves, think him too forward, and others
lament that, with so much wit and knowledge, he is not taller.
His mother listens to his observations with her eyes sparkling and her
heart beating, and can scarcely contain, in the most numerous
assemblies, the expectations which she has formed for his future
eminence. Women, by whatever fate, always judge absurdly of the
intellects of boys. The vivacity and confidence which attract female
admiration, are seldom produced in the early part of life, but by
ignorance at least, if not by stupidity; for they proceed not from
confidence of right, but fearlessness of wrong. Whoever has a clear
apprehension, must have quick sensibility, and where he has no
sufficient reason to trust his own judgment, will proceed with doubt and
caution, because he perpetually dreads the disgrace of errour. The pain
of miscarriage is naturally proportionate to the desire of excellence;
and, therefore, till men are hardened by long familiarity with reproach,
or have attained, by frequent struggles, the art of suppressing their
emotions, diffidence is found the inseparable associate of
But so little distrust has my pupil of his own abilities, that he has
for some time professed himself a wit, and tortures his imagination on
all occasions for burlesque and jocularity. How he supports a character
which, perhaps, no man ever assumed without repentance, may be easily
conjectured. Wit, you know, is the unexpected copulation of ideas, the
discovery of some occult relation between images in appearance remote
from each other; an effusion of wit, therefore, presupposes an
accumulation of knowledge; a memory stored with notions, which the
imagination may cull out to compose, new assemblages. Whatever may be
the native vigour of the mind, she can never form many combinations from
few ideas, as many changes can never be rung upon a few bells. Accident
may indeed sometimes produce a lucky parallel or a striking contrast;
but these gifts of chance are not frequent, and he that has nothing of
his own, and yet condemns himself to needless expenses, must live upon
loans or theft.
The indulgence which his youth has hitherto obtained, and the respect
which his rank secures, have hitherto supplied the want of intellectual
qualifications; and he imagines that all admire who applaud, and that
all who laugh are pleased. He therefore returns every day to the charge
with increase of courage, though not of strength, and practises all the
tricks by which wit is counterfeited. He lays trains for a quibble; he
contrives blunders for his footman; he adapts old stories to present
characters; he mistakes the question, that he may return a smart answer;
he anticipates the argument, that he may plausibly object; when he has
nothing to reply, he repeats the last words of his antagonist, then
says, "your humble servant," and concludes with a laugh of triumph.
These mistakes I have honestly attempted to correct; but what can be
expected from reason unsupported by fashion, splendour, or authority? He
hears me, indeed, or appears to hear me, but is soon rescued from the
lecture by more pleasing avocations; and shows, diversions, and
caresses, drive my precepts from his remembrance.
He at last imagines himself qualified to enter the world, and has met
with adventures in his first sally, which I shall, by your paper,
communicate to the publick.
I am, &c.
No. 195. TUESDAY, JANUARY 28, 1752.
--_Nescit equo rudis
Haerere ingenuus puer,
Venarique timet; ludere doctior,
Seu Graeco jubeas trocho,
Seu malis vetita legibus alea_. HOR. Lib. iii. Ode xxiv. 54.
Nor knows our youth, of noblest race,
To mount the manag'd steed, or urge the chace;
More skill'd in the mean arts of vice,
The whirling troque, or law-forbidden dice. FRANCIS.
TO THE RAMBLER.
Favours of every kind are doubled when they are speedily conferred. This
is particularly true of the gratification of curiosity. He that long
delays a story, and suffers his auditor to torment himself with
expectation, will seldom be able to recompense the uneasiness, or equal
the hope which he suffers to be raised.
For this reason, I have already sent you the continuation of my pupil's
history, which, though it contains no events very uncommon, may be of
use to young men who are in too much haste to trust their own prudence,
and quit the wing of protection before they are able to shift for
When he first settled in London, he was so much bewildered in the
enormous extent of the town, so confounded by incessant noise, and
crowds, and hurry, and so terrified by rural narratives of the arts of
sharpers, the rudeness of the populace, malignity of porters, and
treachery of coachmen, that he was afraid to go beyond the door without
an attendant, and imagined his life in danger if he was obliged to pass
the streets at night in any vehicle but his mother's chair.
He was therefore contented, for a time, that I should accompany him in
all his excursions. But his fear abated as he grew more familiar with
its objects; and the contempt to which his rusticity exposed him from
such of his companions as had accidentally known the town longer,
obliged him to dissemble his remaining terrours.
His desire of liberty made him now willing to spare me the trouble of
observing his motions; but knowing how much his ignorance exposed him to
mischief, I thought it cruel to abandon him to the fortune of the town.
We went together every day to a coffee-house, where he met wits, heirs,
and fops, airy, ignorant, and thoughtless as himself, with whom he had
become acquainted at card-tables, and whom he considered as the only
beings to be envied or admired. What were their topicks of conversation,
I could never discover; for, so much was their vivacity repressed by my
intrusive seriousness, that they seldom proceeded beyond the exchange of
nods and shrugs, an arch grin, or a broken hint, except when they could
retire, while I was looking on the papers, to a corner of the room,
where they seemed to disburden their imaginations, and commonly vented
the superfluity of their sprightliness in a peal of laughter. When they
had tittered themselves into negligence, I could sometimes overhear a
few syllables, such as--solemn rascal--academical airs--smoke the tutor--
company for gentlemen!--and other broken phrases, by which I did not
suffer my quiet to be disturbed, for they never proceeded to avowed
indignities, but contented themselves to murmur in secret, and, whenever
I turned my eye upon them, shrunk into stillness.
He was, however, desirous of withdrawing from the subjection which he
could not venture to break, and made a secret appointment to assist his
companions in the persecution of a play. His footman privately procured
him a catcall, on which he practised in a back-garret for two hours in
the afternoon. At the proper time a chair was called; he pretended an
engagement at lady Flutter's, and hastened to the place where his
critical associates had assembled. They hurried away to the theatre,
full of malignity and denunciations against a man whose name they had
never heard, and a performance which they could not understand; for they
were resolved to judge for themselves, and would not suffer the town to
be imposed upon by scribblers. In the pit, they exerted themselves with
great spirit and vivacity; called out for the tunes of obscene songs,
talked loudly at intervals of Shakespeare and Jonson, played on their
catcalls a short prelude of terrour, clamoured vehemently for a
prologue, and clapped with great dexterity at the first entrance of the
Two scenes they heard without attempting interruption; but, being no
longer able to restrain their impatience, they then began to exert
themselves in groans and hisses, and plied their catcalls with incessant
diligence; so that they were soon considered by the audience as
disturbers of the house; and some who sat near them, either provoked at
the obstruction of their entertainment, or desirous to preserve the
author from the mortification of seeing his hopes destroyed by children,
snatched away their instruments of criticism, and, by the seasonable
vibration of a stick, subdued them instantaneously to decency and
To exhilarate themselves after this vexatious defeat, they posted to a
tavern, where they recovered their alacrity, and, after two hours of
obstreperous jollity, burst out big with enterprize, and panting for
some occasion to signalize their prowess. They proceeded vigorously
through two streets, and with very little opposition dispersed a rabble
of drunkards less daring than themselves, then rolled two watchmen in
the kennel, and broke the windows of a tavern in which the fugitives
took shelter. At last it was determined to march up to a row of chairs,
and demolish them for standing on the pavement; the chairmen formed a
line of battle, and blows were exchanged for a time with equal courage
on both sides. At last the assailants were overpowered, and the
chairmen, when they knew then-captives, brought them home by force.
The young gentleman, next morning, hung his head, and was so much
ashamed of his outrages and defeat, that perhaps he might have been
checked in his first follies, had not his mother, partly in pity of his
dejection, and partly in approbation of his spirit, relieved him from
his perplexity by paying the damages privately, and discouraging all
animadversion and reproof.
This indulgence could not wholly preserve him from the remembrance of
his disgrace, nor at once restore his confidence and elation. He was for
three days silent, modest, and compliant, and thought himself neither
too wise for instruction, nor too manly for restraint. But his levity
overcame this salutary sorrow; he began to talk with his former raptures
of masquerades, taverns, and frolicks; blustered when his wig was not
combed with exactness; and threatened destruction to a tailor who had
mistaken his directions about the pocket.
I knew that he was now rising again above control, and that his
inflation of spirits would burst out into some mischievous absurdity. I
therefore watched him with great attention; but one evening, having
attended his mother at a visit, he withdrew himself, unsuspected, while
the company was engaged at cards. His vivacity and officiousness were
soon missed, and his return impatiently expected; supper was delayed,
and conversation suspended; every coach that rattled through the street
was expected to bring him, and every servant that entered the room was
examined concerning his departure. At last the lady returned home, and
was with great difficulty preserved from fits by spirits and cordials.
The family was despatched a thousand ways without success, and the house
was filled with distraction, till, as we were deliberating what further
measures to take, he returned from a petty gaming-table, with his coat
torn and his head broken; without his sword, snuff-box, sleeve-buttons,
Of this loss or robbery, he gave little account; but, instead of sinking
into his former shame, endeavoured to support himself by surliness and
asperity. "He was not the first that had played away a few trifles, and
of what use were birth and fortune if they would not admit some sallies
and expenses?" His mamma was so much provoked by the cost of this prank,
that she would neither palliate nor conceal it; and his father, after
some threats of rustication which his fondness would not suffer him to
execute, reduced the allowance of his pocket, that he might not be
tempted by plenty to profusion. This method would have succeeded in a
place where there are no panders to folly and extravagance, but was now
likely to have produced pernicious consequences; for we have discovered
a treaty with a broker, whose daughter he seems disposed to marry, on
condition that he shall be supplied with present money, for which he is
to repay thrice the value at the death of his father.
There was now no time to be lost. A domestick consultation was
immediately held, and he was doomed to pass two years in the country;
but his mother, touched with his tears, declared, that she thought him
too much of a man to be any longer confined to his book, and he
therefore begins his travels to-morrow under a French governour.
I am, &c.
No. 196. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 1752.
_Multa ferunt anni venientes commoda secum,
Multa recedentes adimunt.--_ HOR. De Ar. Poet. 175.
The blessings flowing in with life's full tide,
Down with our ebb of life decreasing glide. FRANCIS.
Baxter, in the narrative of his own life, has enumerated several
opinions, which, though he thought them evident and incontestable at his
first entrance into the world, time and experience disposed him to
Whoever reviews the state of his own mind from the dawn of manhood to
its decline, and considers what he pursued or dreaded, slighted or
esteemed, at different periods of his age, will have no reason to
imagine such changes of sentiment peculiar to any station or character.
Every man, however careless and inattentive, has conviction forced upon
him; the lectures of time obtrude themselves upon the most unwilling or
dissipated auditor; and, by comparing our past with our present
thoughts, we perceive that we have changed our minds, though perhaps we
cannot discover when the alteration happened, or by what causes it was
This revolution of sentiments occasions a perpetual contest between the
old and young. They who imagine themselves entitled to veneration by the
prerogative of longer life, are inclined to treat the notions of those
whose conduct they superintend with superciliousness and contempt, for
want of considering that the future and the past have different
appearances; that the disproportion will always be great between
expectation and enjoyment, between new possession and satiety; that the
truth of many maxims of age gives too little pleasure to be allowed till
it is felt; and that the miseries of life would be increased beyond all
human power of endurance, if we were to enter the world with the same
opinions as we carry from it.
We naturally indulge those ideas that please us. Hope will predominate
in every mind, till it has been suppressed by frequent disappointments.
The youth has not yet discovered how many evils are continually hovering
about us, and when he is set free from the shackles of discipline, looks
abroad into the world with rapture; he sees an elysian region open
before him, so variegated with beauty, and so stored with pleasure, that
his care is rather to accumulate good, than to shun evil; he stands
distracted by different forms of delight, and has no other doubt, than
which path to follow of those which all lead equally to the bowers of
He who has seen only the superficies of life believes every thing to be
what it appears, and rarely suspects that external splendour conceals
any latent sorrow or vexation. He never imagines that there may be
greatness without safety, affluence without content, jollity without
friendship, and solitude without peace. He fancies himself permitted to
cull the blessings of every condition, and to leave its inconveniencies
to the idle and the ignorant. He is inclined to believe no man miserable
but by his own fault, and seldom looks with much pity upon failings or
miscarriages, because he thinks them willingly admitted, or negligently
It is impossible, without pity and contempt, to hear a youth of generous
sentiments and warm imagination, declaring, in the moment of openness
and confidence, his designs and expectations; because long life is
possible, he considers it as certain, and therefore promises himself all
the changes of happiness, and provides gratifications for every desire.
He is, for a time, to give himself wholly to frolick and diversion, to
range the world in search of pleasure, to delight every eye, to gain
every heart, and to be celebrated equally for his pleasing levities and
solid attainments, his deep reflections and his sparkling repartees. He
then elevates his views to nobler enjoyments, and finds all the
scattered excellencies of the female world united in a woman, who
prefers his addresses to wealth and titles; he is afterwards to engage
in business, to dissipate difficulty, and overpower opposition: to
climb, by the mere force of merit, to fame and greatness; and reward all
those who countenanced his rise, or paid due regard to his early
excellence. At last he will retire in peace and honour; contract his
views to domestick pleasures; form the manners of children like himself;
observe how every year expands the beauty of his daughters, and how his
sons catch ardour from their father's history; he will give laws to the
neighbourhood; dictate axioms to posterity; and leave the world an
example of wisdom and of happiness.
With hopes like these, he sallies jocund into life; to little purpose is
he told, that the condition of humanity admits no pure and unmingled
happiness; that the exuberant gaiety of youth ends in poverty or
disease; that uncommon qualifications and contrarieties of excellence,
produce envy equally with applause; that whatever admiration and
fondness may promise him, he must marry a wife like the wives of others,
with some virtues and some faults, and be as often disgusted by her
vices, as delighted by her elegance; that if he adventures into the
circle of action, he must expect to encounter men as artful, as daring,
as resolute as himself; that of his children, some may be deformed, and
others vicious; some may disgrace him by their follies, some offend him
by their insolence, and some exhaust him by their profusion. He hears
all this with obstinate incredulity, and wonders by what malignity old
age is influenced, that it cannot forbear to fill his ears with
predictions of misery.
Among other pleasing errours of young minds, is the opinion of their own
importance. He that has not yet remarked, how little attention his
contemporaries can spare from their own affairs, conceives all eyes
turned upon himself, and imagines every one that approaches him to be an
enemy or a follower, an admirer or a spy. He therefore considers his
fame as involved in the event of every action. Many of the virtues and
vices of youth proceed from this quick sense of reputation. This it is
that gives firmness and constancy, fidelity, and disinterestedness, and
it is this that kindles resentment for slight injuries, and dictates all
the principles of sanguinary honour.
But as time brings him forward into the world, he soon discovers that he
only shares fame or reproach with innumerable partners; that he is left
unmarked in the obscurity of the crowd; and that what he does, whether
good or bad, soon gives way to new objects of regard. He then easily
sets himself free from the anxieties of reputation, and considers praise
or censure as a transient breath, which, while he hears it, is passing
away, without any lasting mischief or advantage.
In youth, it is common to measure right and wrong by the opinion of the
world, and, in age, to act without any measure but interest, and to lose
shame without substituting virtue.
Such is the condition of life, that something is always wanting to
happiness. In youth, we have warm hopes, which are soon blasted by
rashness and negligence, and great designs, which are defeated by
inexperience. In age, we have knowledge and prudence without spirit to
exert, or motives to prompt them; we are able to plan schemes and
regulate measures, but have not time remaining to bring them to
No. 197. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 1752.
_Cujus vulturis hoc erit cadaver_? MART. Lib. vi. Ep. lxii. 4.
Say, to what vulture's share this carcase falls? F. LEWIS
TO THE RAMBLER.
I belong to an order of mankind, considerable at least for their number,
to which your notice has never been formally extended, though equally
entitled to regard with those triflers, who have hitherto supplied you
with topicks of amusement or instruction. I am, Mr. Rambler, a
legacy-hunter; and, as every man is willing to think well of the tribe
in which his name is registered, you will forgive my vanity, if I remind
you that the legacy-hunter, however degraded by an ill-compounded
appellation in our barbarous language, was known, as I am told, in
ancient Rome, by the sonorous titles of Captator and Haeredipeta.
My father was an attorney in the country, who married his master's
daughter in hopes of a fortune which he did not obtain, having been, as
he afterwards discovered, chosen by her only because she had no better
offer, and was afraid of service. I was the first offspring of a
marriage, thus reciprocally fraudulent, and therefore could not be
expected to inherit much dignity or generosity, and if I had them not
from nature, was not likely ever to attain them; for, in the years which
I spent at home, I never heard any reason for action or forbearance, but
that we should gain money or lose it; nor was taught any other style of
commendation, than that Mr. Sneaker is a warm man, Mr. Gripe has done
his business, and needs care for nobody.
My parents, though otherwise not great philosophers, knew the force of
early education, and took care that the blank of my understanding should
be filled with impressions of the value of money. My mother used, upon
all occasions, to inculcate some salutary axioms, such as might incite
me _to keep what I had, and get what I could_; she informed me that we
were in a world, where _all must catch that catch can_; and as I grew
up, stored my memory with deeper observations; restrained me from the
usual puerile expenses, by remarking that _many a little made a mickle_;
and, when I envied the finery of my neighbours, told me that _brag was a
good dog, but hold-fast was a better_.
I was soon sagacious enough to discover that I was not born to great
wealth; and having heard no other name for happiness, was sometimes
inclined to repine at my condition. But my mother always relieved me, by
saying, that there was money enough in the family, that _it was good to
be of kin to means_, that I had nothing to do but to please my friends,
and I might come to hold up my head with the best squire in the country.
These splendid expectations arose from our alliance to three persons of
considerable fortune. My mother's aunt had attended on a lady, who, when
she died, rewarded her officiousness and fidelity with a large legacy.
My father had two relations, of whom one had broken his indentures and
run to sea, from whence, after an absence of thirty years, he returned
with ten thousand pounds; and the other had lured an heiress out of a
window, who, dying of her first child, had left him her estate, on which
he lived, without any other care than to collect his rents, and preserve
from poachers that game which he could not kill himself.
These hoarders of money were visited and courted by all who had any
pretence to approach them, and received presents and compliments from
cousins who could scarcely tell the degree of their relation. But we had
peculiar advantages, which encouraged us to hope, that we should by
degrees supplant our competitors. My father, by his profession, made
himself necessary in their affairs; for the sailor and the chambermaid,
he inquired out mortgages and securities, and wrote bonds and contracts;
and had endeared himself to the old woman, who once rashly lent an
hundred pounds without consulting him, by informing her, that her
debtor, was on the point of bankruptcy, and posting so expeditiously
with an execution, that all the other creditors were defrauded.
To the squire he was a kind of steward, and had distinguished himself in
his office by his address in raising the rents, his inflexibility in
distressing the tardy tenants, and his acuteness in setting the parish
free from burdensome inhabitants, by shifting them off to some other
Business made frequent attendance necessary; trust soon produced
intimacy; and success gave a claim to kindness; so that we had
opportunity to practise all the arts of flattery and endearment. My
mother, who could not support the thoughts of losing any thing,
determined, that all their fortunes should centre in me; and, in the
prosecution of her schemes, took care to inform me that _nothing cost
less than good words_, and that it is comfortable to leap into an estate
which another has got.
She trained me by these precepts to the utmost ductility of obedience,
and the closest attention to profit. At an age when other boys are
sporting in the fields or murmuring in the school, I was contriving some
new method of paying my court; inquiring the age of my future
benefactors; or considering how I should employ their legacies.
If our eagerness of money could have been satisfied with the possessions
of any one of my relations, they might perhaps have been obtained; but
as it was impossible to be always present with all three, our
competitors were busy to efface any trace of affection which we might
have left behind; and since there was not, on any part, such superiority
of merit as could enforce a constant and unshaken preference, whoever
was the last that flattered or obliged, had, for a time, the ascendant.
My relations maintained a regular exchange of courtesy, took care to
miss no occasion of condolence or congratulation, and sent presents at
stated times, but had in their hearts not much esteem for one another.
The seaman looked with contempt upon the squire as a milksop and a
landman, who had lived without knowing the points of the compass, or
seeing any part of the world beyond the county-town; and whenever they
met, would talk of longitude and latitude, and circles and tropicks,
would scarcely tell him the hour without some mention of the horizon and
meridian, nor shew him the news without detecting his ignorance of the
situation of other countries.
The squire considered the sailor as a rude uncultivated savage, with
little more of human than his form, and diverted himself with his
ignorance of all common objects and affairs; when he could persuade him
to go into the field, he always exposed him to the sportsmen, by sending
him to look for game in improper places; and once prevailed upon him to
be present at the races, only that he might shew the gentlemen how a
sailor sat upon a horse.
The old gentlewoman thought herself wiser than both, for she lived with
no servant but a maid, and saved her money. The others were indeed
sufficiently frugal; but the squire could not live without dogs and
horses, and the sailor never suffered the day to pass but over a bowl of
punch, to which, as he was not critical in the choice of his company,
every man was welcome that could roar out a catch, or tell a story.
All these, however, I was to please; an arduous task; but what will not
youth and avarice undertake? I had an unresisting suppleness of temper,
and an insatiable wish for riches; I was perpetually instigated by the
ambition of my parents, and assisted occasionally by their instructions.
What these advantages enabled me to perform, shall be told in the next
No. 198. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 1752.
_Nil mihi das vivus: dicis, post fata daturum.
Si non es stultus, scis, Maro, quid cupiam_. MART. Lib. xi. 67.
You've told me, Maro, whilst you live,
You'd not a single penny give,
But that whene'er you chance to die,
You'd leave a handsome legacy:
You must be mad beyond redress,
If my next wish you cannot guess. F. LEWIS.
You, who must have observed the inclination which almost every man,
however unactive or insignificant, discovers of representing his life as
distinguished by extraordinary events, will not wonder that Captator
thinks his narrative important enough to be continued. Nothing is more
common than for those to tease their companions with their history, who
have neither done nor suffered any thing that can excite curiosity, or
As I was taught to flatter with the first essays of speech, and had very
early lost every other passion in the desire of money, I began my
pursuit with omens of success; for I divided my officiousness so
judiciously among my relations, that I was equally the favourite of all.
When any of them entered the door, I went to welcome him with raptures;
when he went away, I hung down my head, and sometimes entreated to go
with him with so much importunity, that I very narrowly escaped a
consent which I dreaded in my heart. When at an annual entertainment
they were altogether, I had a harder task; but plied them so impartially
with caresses, that none could charge me with neglect; and when they
were wearied with my fondness and civilities, I was always dismissed
with money to buy playthings.
Life cannot be kept at a stand: the years of innocence and prattle were
soon at an end, and other qualifications were necessary to recommend me
to continuance of kindness. It luckily happened that none of my friends
had high notions of book-learning. The sailor hated to see tall boys
shut up in a school, when they might more properly be seeing the world,
and making their fortunes; and was of opinion, that when the first rules
of arithmetick were known, all that was necessary to make a man complete
might be learned on ship-board. The squire only insisted, that so much
scholarship was indispensably necessary, as might confer ability to draw
a lease and read the court hands; and the old chambermaid declared
loudly her contempt of books, and her opinion that they only took the
head off the main chance.
To unite, as well as we could, all their systems, I was bred at home.
Each was taught to believe, that I followed his directions, and I gained
likewise, as my mother observed, this advantage, that I was always in
the way; for she had known many favourite children sent to schools or
academies, and forgotten.
As I grew fitter to be trusted to my own discretion, I was often
despatched upon various pretences to visit my relations, with directions
from my parents how to ingratiate myself, and drive away competitors.
I was, from my infancy, considered by the sailor as a promising genius,
because I liked punch better than wine; and I took care to improve this
prepossession by continual inquiries about the art of navigation, the
degree of heat and cold in different climates, the profits of trade, and
the dangers of shipwreck. I admired the courage of the seamen, and
gained his heart by importuning him for a recital of his adventures, and
a sight of his foreign curiosities. I listened with an appearance of
close attention to stories which I could already repeat, and at the
close never failed to express my resolution to visit distant countries,
and my contempt of the cowards and drones that spend all their lives in
their native parish; though I had in reality no desire of any thing but
money, nor ever felt the stimulations of curiosity or ardour of
adventure, but would contentedly have passed the years of Nestor in
receiving rents, and lending upon mortgages.
The squire I was able to please with less hypocrisy, for I really
thought it pleasant enough to kill the game and eat it. Some arts of
falsehood, however, the hunger of gold persuaded me to practise, by
which, though no other mischief was produced, the purity of my thoughts
was vitiated, and the reverence for truth gradually destroyed. I
sometimes purchased fish, and pretended to have caught them; I hired the
countrymen to shew me partridges, and then gave my uncle intelligence of
their haunt; I learned the seats of hares at night, and discovered them
in the morning with a sagacity that raised the wonder and envy of old
sportsmen. One only obstruction to the advancement of my reputation I
could never fully surmount; I was naturally a coward, and was therefore
always left shamefully behind, when there was a necessity to leap a
hedge, to swim a river, or force the horses to the utmost speed; but as
these exigencies did not frequently happen, I maintained my honour with
sufficient success, and was never left out of a hunting party.
The old chambermaid was not so certainly, nor so easily pleased, for she
had no predominant passion but avarice, and was therefore cold and
inaccessible. She had no conception of any virtue in a young man but
that of saving his money. When she heard of my exploits in the field,
she would shake her head, inquire how much I should be the richer for
all my performances, and lament that such sums should be spent upon dogs
and horses. If the sailor told her of my inclination to travel, she was
sure there was no place like England, and could not imagine why any man
that can live in his own country should leave it. This sullen and frigid
being I found means, however, to propitiate by frequent commendations of
frugality, and perpetual care to avoid expense.
From the sailor was our first and most considerable expectation; for he
was richer than the chambermaid, and older than the squire. He was so
awkward and bashful among women, that we concluded him secure from
matrimony; and the noisy fondness with which he used to welcome me to
his house, made us imagine that he would look out for no other heir, and
that we had nothing to do but wait patiently for his death. But in the
midst of our triumph, my uncle saluted us one morning with a cry of
transport, and, clapping his hand hard on my shoulder, told me, I was a
happy fellow to have a friend like him in the world, for he came to fit
me out for a voyage with one of his old acquaintances. I turned pale,
and trembled; my father told him, that he believed my constitution not
fitted to the sea; and my mother, bursting into tears, cried out, that
her heart would break if she lost me. All this had no effect; the sailor
was wholly insusceptive of the softer passions, and, without regard to
tears or arguments, persisted in his resolution to make me a man. We
were obliged to comply in appearance, and preparations were accordingly
made. I took leave of my friends with great alacrity, proclaimed the
beneficence of my uncle with the highest strains of gratitude, and
rejoiced at the opportunity now put into my hands of gratifying my
thirst of knowledge. But, a week before the day appointed for my
departure, I fell sick by my mother's direction, and refused all food
but what she privately brought me; whenever my uncle visited me I was
lethargick or delirious, but took care in my raving fits to talk
incessantly of travel and merchandize. The room was kept dark; the table
was filled with vials and gallipots; my mother was with difficulty
persuaded not to endanger her life with nocturnal attendance; my father
lamented the loss of the profits of the voyage; and such superfluity of
artifices was employed, as perhaps might have discovered the cheat to a
man of penetration. But the sailor, unacquainted with subtilties and
stratagems, was easily deluded; and as the ship could not stay for my
recovery, sold the cargo, and left me to re-establish my health at
I was sent to regain my flesh in a purer air, lest it should appear
never to have been wasted, and in two months returned to deplore my
disappointment. My uncle pitied my dejection, and bid me prepare myself
against next year, for no land-lubber should touch his money.
A reprieve however was obtained, and perhaps some new stratagem might
have succeeded another spring; but my uncle unhappily made amorous
advances to my mother's maid, who, to promote so advantageous a match,
discovered the secret with which only she had been entrusted. He
stormed, and raved, and declaring that he would have heirs of his own,
and not give his substance to cheats and cowards, married the girl in
two days, and has now four children.
Cowardice is always scorned, and deceit universally detested. I found my
friends, if not wholly alienated, at least cooled in their affection;
the squire, though he did not wholly discard me, was less fond, and
often inquired when I would go to sea. I was obliged to bear his
insults, and endeavoured to rekindle his kindness by assiduity and
respect; but all my care was vain; he died without a will, and the
estate devolved to the legal heir.
Thus has the folly of my parents condemned me to spend in flattery and
attendance those years in which I might have been qualified to place
myself above hope or fear. I am arrived at manhood without any useful
art, or generous sentiment; and, if the old woman should likewise at
last deceive me, am in danger at once of beggary and ignorance.
I am, &c.
No. 199. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 1752.
_Decolor, obscurus, cilis. Non ille repexam
Caesariem Regum, nec Candida virginis ornat
Colla, nec insigni splendet per cingula morsu:
Sed nova si nigri videas miracula suai,
Tum pulcros superat cultus, et quldquid Evis
Indus litoribus rubra scrutatur in alga_. CLAUDIANUS, xlviii. 10.
Obscure, unpris'd, and dark, the magnet lies,
Nor lures the search of avaricious eyes,
Nor binds the neck, nor sparkles in the hair,
Nor dignifies the great, nor decks the fair.
But search the wonders of the dusky stone,
And own all glories of the mine outdone,
Each grace of form, each ornament of state,
That decks the fair, or dignifies the great.
TO THE RAMBLER.
Though you have seldom digressed from moral subjects, I suppose you are
not so rigorous or cynical as to deny the value or usefulness of natural
philosophy; or to have lived in this age of inquiry and experiment,
without any attention to the wonders every day produced by the pokers of
magnetism and the wheels of electricity. At least, I may be allowed to
hope that, since nothing is more contrary to moral excellence than envy,
you will not refuse to promote the happiness of others, merely because
you cannot partake of their enjoyments.
In confidence, therefore, that your ignorance has not made you an enemy
to knowledge, I offer you the honour of introducing to the notice of the
publick, an adept, who, having long laboured for the benefit of mankind,
is not willing, like too many of his predecessors, to conceal his
secrets in the grave.
Many have signalized themselves by melting their estates in crucibles. I
was born to no fortune, and therefore had only my mind and body to
devote to knowledge, and the gratitude of posterity will attest, that
neither mind nor body have been spared. I have sat whole weeks without
sleep by the side of an athanor, to watch the moment of projection; I
have made the first experiment in nineteen diving engines of new
construction; I have fallen eleven times speechless under the shock of
electricity; I have twice dislocated my limbs, and once fractured my
skull, in essaying to fly[l]; and four times endangered my life by
submitting to the transfusion of blood.
In the first period of my studies, I exerted the powers of my body more
than those of my mind, and was not without hopes that fame might be
purchased by a few broken bones without the toil of thinking; but having
been shattered by some violent experiments, and constrained to confine
myself to my books, I passed six-and-thirty years in searching the
treasures of ancient wisdom, but am at last amply recompensed for all my
The curiosity of the present race of philosophers, having been long
exercised upon electricity, has been lately transferred to magnetism;
the qualities of the loadstone have been investigated, if not with much
advantage, yet with great applause; and as the highest praise of art is
to imitate nature, I hope no man will think the makers of artificial
magnets celebrated or reverenced above their deserts.
I have, for some time, employed myself in the same practice, but with
deeper knowledge and more extensive views. While my contemporaries were
touching needles and raising weights, or busying themselves with
inclination and variation, I have been examining those qualities of
magnetism which may be applied to the accommodation and happiness of
common life. I have left to inferior understandings the care of
conducting the sailor through the hazards of the ocean, and reserved to
myself the more difficult and illustrious province of preserving the
connubial compact from violation, and setting mankind free for ever from
the danger of supposititious children, and the torments of fruitless
vigilance and anxious suspicion.
To defraud any man of his due praise is unworthy of a philosopher; I
shall, therefore, openly confess that I owe the first hint of this
inestimable secret to the rabbi Abraham Ben Hannase, who, in his
treatise of precious stones, has left this account of the magnet:
[Hebrew: chkalamta],&c. "The calamita, or loadstone that attracts iron,
produces many bad fantasies in man. Women fly from this stone. If,
therefore, any husband be disturbed with jealousy, and fear lest his
wife converses with other men, let him lay this stone upon her while she
is asleep. If she be pure, she will, when she wakes, clasp her husband
fondly in her arms; but if she be guilty, she will fall out of bed, and
When I first read this wonderful passage, I could not easily conceive
why it had remained hitherto unregarded in such a zealous competition
for magnetical fame. It would surely be unjust to suspect that any of
the candidates are strangers to the name or works of rabbi Abraham, or
to conclude, from a late edict of the Royal Society in favour of the
English language, that philosophy and literature are no longer to act in
concert. Yet, how should a quality so useful escape promulgation, but by
the obscurity of the language in which it was delivered? Why are footmen
and chambermaids paid on every side for keeping secrets, which no
caution nor expense could secure from the all-penetrating magnet? Or,
why are so many witnesses summoned, and so many artifices practised, to
discover what so easy an experiment would infallibly reveal?
Full of this perplexity, I read the lines of Abraham to a friend, who
advised me not to expose my life by a mad indulgence of the love of
fame: he warned me by the fate of Orpheus, that knowledge or genius
could give no protection to the invader of female prerogatives; assured
me that neither the armour of Achilles, nor the antidote of Mithridates,
would be able to preserve me; and counselled me, if I could not live
without renown, to attempt the acquisition of universal empire, in which
the honour would perhaps be equal, and the danger certainly be less.
I, a solitary student, pretend not to much knowledge of the world, but
am unwilling to think it so generally corrupt, as that a scheme for the
detection of incontinence should bring any danger upon its inventor. My
friend has indeed told me that all the women will be my enemies, and
that, however I flatter myself with hopes of defence from the men, I
shall certainly find myself deserted in the hour of danger. Of the young
men, said he, some will be afraid of sharing the disgrace of their
mothers, and some the danger of their mistresses; of those who are
married, part are already convinced of the falsehood of their wives, and
part shut their eyes to avoid conviction; few ever sought for virtue in
marriage, and therefore few will try whether they have found it. Almost
every man is careless or timorous, and to trust is easier and safer than
These observations discouraged me, till I began to consider what
reception I was likely to find among the ladies, whom I have reviewed
under the three classes of maids, wives, and widows, and cannot but hope
that I may obtain some countenance among them. The single ladies I
suppose universally ready to patronise my method, by which connubial
wickedness may be detected, since no woman marries with a previous
design to be unfaithful to her husband. And to keep them steady in my
cause, I promise never to sell one of my magnets to a man who steals a
girl from school; marries a woman of forty years younger than himself;
or employs the authority of parents to obtain a wife without her own
Among the married ladies, notwithstanding the insinuations of slander,
yet I resolve to believe, that the greater part are my friends, and am
at least convinced, that they who demand the test, and appear on my
side, will supply, by their spirit, the deficiency of their numbers, and
that their enemies will shrink and quake at the sight of a magnet, as
the slaves of Scythia fled from the scourge.
The widows will be confederated in my favour by their curiosity, if not
by their virtue; for it may be observed, that women who have outlived
their husbands, always think themselves entitled to superintend the
conduct of young wives; and as they are themselves in no danger from
this magnetick trial, I shall expect them to be eminently and
unanimously zealous in recommending it.
With these hopes I shall, in a short time, offer to sale magnets armed
with a particular metallick composition, which concentrates their
virtue, and determines their agency. It is known that the efficacy of
the magnet, in common operations, depends much upon its armature, and it
cannot be imagined, that a stone, naked, or cased only in a common
manner, will discover the virtues ascribed to it by Rabbi Abraham. The
secret of this metal I shall carefully conceal, and, therefore, am not
afraid of imitators, nor shall trouble the offices with solicitations
for a patent.
I shall sell them of different sizes, and various degrees of strength. I
have some of a bulk proper to be hung at the bed's head, as scare-crows,
and some so small that they may be easily concealed. Some I have ground
into oval forms to be hung at watches; and some, for the curious, I have
set in wedding rings, that ladies may never want an attestation of their
innocence. Some I can produce so sluggish and inert, that they will not
act before the third failure; and others so vigorous and animated, that
they exert their influence against unlawful wishes, if they have been
willingly and deliberately indulged. As it is my practice honestly to
tell my customers the properties of my magnets, I can judge, by their
choice, of the delicacy of their sentiments. Many have been content to
spare cost by purchasing only the lowest degree of efficacy, and all
have started with terrour from those which operate upon the thoughts.
One young lady only fitted on a ring of the strongest energy, and
declared that she scorned to separate her wishes from her acts, or allow
herself to think what she was forbidden to practise.
I am, &c.
[Footnote l: In the sixth chapter of Rasselas we have an excellent story
of an experimentalist in the art of flying. Dr. Johnson sketched perhaps
from life, for we are informed that he once lodged in the same house
with a man who broke his legs in the daring attempt.]
No. 200. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 1752.
_Nemo petit, modicis quae mittebantur amicis
A Seneca, quae Piso bonus, quae Cotta solebut
Largiri; namque et titulis, et fascibus olim
Major habebatur donandi gloria: solum
Poscimus, ut caenes civiliter. Hoc face, el esto,
Esto, ut nunc multi, dives tibi, pauper amicis_. JUV. Sat. v. 108.
No man expects (for who so much a sot
Who has the times he lives in so forgot?)
What Seneca, what Piso us'd to send,
To raise or to support a sinking friend.
Those godlike men, to wanting virtue kind,
Bounty well plac'd, preferr'd, and well design'd,
To all their titles, all that height of pow'r,
Which turns the brains of fools, and fools alone adore.
When your poor client is condemn'd t' attend,
'Tis all we ask, receive him as a friend:
Descend to this, and then we ask no more;
Rich to yourself, to all beside be poor. BOWLES.
TO THE RAMBLER.
Such is the tenderness or infirmity of many minds, that when any
affliction oppresses them, they have immediate recourse to lamentation
and complaint, which, though it can only be allowed reasonable when
evils admit of remedy, and then only when addressed to those from whom
the remedy is expected, yet seems even in hopeless and incurable
distresses to be natural, since those by whom it is not indulged,
imagine that they give a proof of extraordinary fortitude by suppressing
I am one of those who, with the Sancho of Cervantes, leave to higher
characters the merit of suffering in silence, and give vent without
scruple to any sorrow that swells in my heart. It is therefore to me a
severe aggravation of a calamity, when it is such as in the common
opinion will not justify the acerbity of exclamation, or support the
solemnity of vocal grief. Yet many pains are incident to a man of
delicacy, which the unfeeling world cannot be persuaded to pity, and
which, when they are separated from their peculiar and personal
circumstances, will never be considered as important enough to claim
attention, or deserve redress.
Of this kind will appear to gross and vulgar apprehensions, the miseries
which I endured in a morning visit to Prospero, a man lately raised to
wealth by a lucky project, and too much intoxicated by sudden elevation,
or too little polished by thought and conversation, to enjoy his present
fortune with elegance and decency.
We set out in the world together; and for a long time mutually assisted
each other in our exigencies, as either happened to have money or
influence beyond his immediate necessities. You know that nothing
generally endears men so much as participation of dangers and
misfortunes; I therefore always considered Prospero as united with me in
the strongest league of kindness, and imagined that our friendship was
only to be broken by the hand of death. I felt at his sudden shoot of
success an honest and disinterested joy; but as I want no part of his
superfluities, am not willing to descend from that equality in which we
hitherto have lived.
Our intimacy was regarded by me as a dispensation from ceremonial
visits; and it was so long before I saw him at his new house, that he
gently complained of my neglect, and obliged me to come on a day
appointed. I kept my promise, but found that the impatience of my friend
arose not from any desire to communicate his happiness, but to enjoy his
When I told my name at the door, the footman went to see if his master
was at home, and, by the tardiness of his return, gave me reason to
suspect that time was taken to deliberate. He then informed me, that
Prospero desired my company, and shewed the staircase carefully secured
by mats from the pollution of my feet. The best apartments were
ostentatiously set open, that I might have a distant view of the
magnificence which I was not permitted to approach; and my old friend
receiving me with all the insolence of condescension at the top of the
stairs, conducted me to a back room, where he told me he always
breakfasted when he had not great company.
On the floor where we sat lay a carpet covered with a cloth, of which
Prospero ordered his servant to lift up a corner, that I might
contemplate the brightness of the colours, and the elegance of the
texture, and asked me whether I had ever seen any thing so fine before?
I did not gratify his folly with any outcries of admiration, but coldly
bade the footman let down the cloth.
We then sat down, and I began to hope that pride was glutted with
persecution, when Prospero desired that I would give the servant leave
to adjust the cover of my chair, which was slipt a little aside, to shew
the damask; he informed me that he had bespoke ordinary chairs for
common use, but had been disappointed by his tradesman. I put the chair
aside with my foot, and drew another so hastily, that I was entreated
not to rumple the carpet.
Breakfast was at last set, and as I was not willing to indulge the
peevishness that began to seize me, I commended the tea: Prospero then
told me, that another time I should taste his finest sort, but that he
had only a very small quantity remaining, and reserved it for those whom
he thought himself obliged to treat with particular respect.
While we were conversing upon such subjects as imagination happened to
suggest, he frequently digressed into directions to the servant that
waited, or made a slight inquiry after the jeweller or silversmith; and
once, as I was pursuing an argument with some degree of earnestness, he
started from his posture of attention, and ordered, that if lord Lofty
called on him that morning, he should be shown into the best parlour.
My patience was yet not wholly subdued. I was willing to promote his
satisfaction, and therefore observed that the figures on the china were
eminently pretty. Prospero had now an opportunity of calling for his
Dresden china, which, says he, I always associate with my chased
teakettle. The cups were brought; I once resolved not to have looked
upon them, but my curiosity prevailed. When I had examined them a
little, Prospero desired me to set them down, for they who were
accustomed only to common dishes, seldom handled china with much care.
You will, I hope, commend my philosophy, when I tell you that I did not
dash his baubles to the ground.
He was now so much elevated with his own greatness, that he thought some
humility necessary to avert the glance of envy, and therefore told me,
with an air of soft composure, that I was not to estimate life by
external appearance, that all these shining acquisitions had added
little to his happiness, that he still remembered with pleasure the days
in which he and I were upon the level, and had often, in the moment of
reflection, been doubtful, whether he should lose much by changing his
condition for mine.
I began now to be afraid lest his pride should, by silence and
submission be emboldened to insults that could not easily be borne, and
therefore coolly considered, how I should repress it without such
bitterness of reproof as I was yet unwilling to use. But he interrupted
my meditation, by asking leave to be dressed, and told me, that he had
promised to attend some ladies in the park, and, if I was going the same
way, would take me in his chariot. I had no inclination to any other
favours, and therefore left him without any intention of seeing him
again, unless some misfortune should restore his understanding.
I am, &c.
Though I am not wholly insensible of the provocations which my
correspondent has received, I cannot altogether commend the keenness of
his resentment, nor encourage him to persist in his resolution of
breaking off all commerce with his old acquaintance. One of the golden
precepts of Pythagoras directs, that _a friend should not be hated for
little faults_; and surely he, upon whom nothing worse can be charged,
than that he mats his stairs, and covers his carpet, and sets out his
finery to show before those whom he does not admit to use it, has yet
committed nothing that should exclude him from common degrees of
kindness. Such improprieties often proceed rather from stupidity than
malice. Those who thus shine only to dazzle, are influenced merely by
custom and example, and neither examine, nor are qualified to examine,
the motives of their own practice, or to state the nice limits between
elegance and ostentation. They are often innocent of the pain which
their vanity produces, and insult others when they have no worse purpose
than to please themselves.
He that too much refines his delicacy will always endanger his quiet. Of
those with whom nature and virtue oblige us to converse, some are
ignorant of the art of pleasing, and offend when they design to caress;
some are negligent, and gratify themselves without regard to the quiet
of another; some, perhaps, are malicious, and feel no greater
satisfaction in prosperity, than that of raising envy and trampling
inferiority. But, whatever be the motive of insult, it is always best to
overlook it, for folly scarcely can deserve resentment, and malice is
punished by neglect[m].
[Footnote m: Garrick's little vanities are recognized by all in the
character of Prospero. Mr. Boswell informs us, that he never forgave its
pointed satire. On the same authority we are assured, that though
Johnson so dearly loved to ridicule his pupil, yet he so habitually
considered him as his own property, that he would permit no one beside
to hold up his weaknesses to derision.]
No. 201. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 1752.
Justitiaeque tenat factis dictisque mereris,
Adnosco procerem_. JUV. Sat. Lib. viii. 24.
Convince the world that you're devout and true;
Be just in all you say, and all you do;
Whatever be your birth, you're sure to be
A peer of the first magnitude to me. STEPNEY.
Boyle has observed, that the excellency of manufactures, and the
facility of labour, would be much promoted, if the various expedients
and contrivances which lie concealed in private hands, were by
reciprocal communications made generally known; for there are few
operations that are not performed by one or other with some peculiar
advantages, which, though singly of little importance, would, by
conjunction and concurrence, open new inlets to knowledge, and give new
powers to diligence.
There are, in like manner, several moral excellencies distributed among
the different classes of a community. It was said by Cujacius, that he
never read more than one book by which he was not instructed; and he
that shall inquire after virtue with ardour and attention, will seldom
find a man by whose example or sentiments he may not be improved.
Every profession has some essential and appropriate virtue, without
which there can be no hope of honour or success, and which, as it is
more or less cultivated, confers within its sphere of activity different
degrees of merit and reputation. As the astrologers range the
subdivisions of mankind under the planets which they suppose to
influence their lives, the moralist may distribute them according to the
virtues which they necessarily practise, and consider them as
distinguished by prudence or fortitude, diligence or patience.
So much are the modes of excellence settled by time and place, that men
may be heard boasting in one street of that which they would anxiously
conceal in another. The grounds of scorn and esteem, the topicks of
praise and satire, are varied according to the several virtues or vices
which the course of life has disposed men to admire or abhor; but he who
is solicitous for his own improvement, must not be limited by local
reputation, but select from every tribe of mortals their
characteristical virtues, and constellate in himself the scattered
graces which shine single in other men.
The chief praise to which a trader aspires is that of punctuality, or an
exact and rigorous observance of commercial engagements; nor is there
any vice of which he so much dreads the imputation, as of negligence and
instability. This is a quality which the interest of mankind requires to
be diffused through all the ranks of life, but which many seem to
consider as a vulgar and ignoble virtue, below the ambition of greatness
or attention of wit, scarcely requisite among men of gaiety and spirit,
and sold at its highest rate when it is sacrificed to a frolick or a
Every man has daily occasion to remark what vexations arise from this
privilege of deceiving one another. The active and vivacious have so
long disdained the restraints of truth, that promises and appointments
have lost their cogency, and both parties neglect their stipulations,
because each concludes that they will be broken by the other.
Negligence is first admitted in small affairs, and strengthened by petty
indulgences. He that is not yet hardened by custom, ventures not on the
violation of important engagements, but thinks himself bound by his word
in cases of property or danger, though he allows himself to forget at
what time he is to meet ladies in the park, or at what tavern his
friends are expecting him.
This laxity of honour would be more tolerable, if it could be restrained
to the play-house, the ball-room, or the card-table; yet even there it
is sufficiently troublesome, and darkens those moments with expectation,
suspense, and resentment, which are set aside for pleasure, and from
which we naturally hope for unmingled enjoyment, and total relaxation.
But he that suffers the slightest breach in his morality, can seldom
tell what shall enter it, or how wide it shall be made; when a passage
is open, the influx of corruption is every moment wearing down
opposition, and by slow degrees deluges the heart.
Aliger entered the world a youth of lively imagination, extensive views,
and untainted principles. His curiosity incited him to range from place
to place, and try all the varieties of conversation; his elegance of
address and fertility of ideas gained him friends wherever he appeared;
or at least he found the general kindness of reception always shown to a
young man whose birth and fortune give him a claim to notice, and who
has neither by vice nor folly destroyed his privileges. Aliger was
pleased with this general smile of mankind, and was industrious to
preserve it by compliance and officiousness, but did not suffer his
desire of pleasing to vitiate his integrity. It was his established
maxim, that a promise is never to be broken; nor was it without long
reluctance that he once suffered himself to be drawn away from a festal
engagement by the importunity of another company.
He spent the evening, as is usual in the rudiments of vice, in
perturbation and imperfect enjoyment, and met his disappointed friends
in the morning with confusion and excuses. His companions, not
accustomed to such scrupulous anxiety, laughed at his uneasiness,
compounded the offence for a bottle, gave him courage to break his word
again, and again levied the penalty. He ventured the same experiment
upon another society, and found them equally ready to consider it as a
venial fault, always incident to a man of quickness and gaiety; till, by
degrees, he began to think himself at liberty to follow the last
invitation, and was no longer shocked at the turpitude of falsehood. He
made no difficulty to promise his presence at distant places, and if
listlessness happened to creep upon him, would sit at home with great
tranquillity, and has often sunk to sleep in a chair, while he held ten
tables in continual expectations of his entrance.
It was so pleasant to live in perpetual vacancy, that he soon dismissed
his attention as an useless incumbrance, and resigned himself to
carelessness and dissipation, without any regard to the future or the
past, or any other motive of action than the impulse of a sudden desire,
or the attraction of immediate pleasure. The absent were immediately
forgotten, and the hopes or fears felt by others, had no influence upon
his conduct. He was in speculation completely just, but never kept his
promise to a creditor; he was benevolent, but always deceived those
friends whom he undertook to patronise or assist; he was prudent, but
suffered his affairs to be embarrassed for want of regulating his
accounts at stated times. He courted a young lady, and when the
settlements were drawn, took a ramble into the country on the day
appointed to sign them. He resolved to travel, and sent his chests on
shipboard, but delayed to follow them till he lost his passage. He was
summoned as an evidence in a cause of great importance, and loitered on
the way till the trial was past. It is said that when he had, with great
expense, formed an interest in a borough, his opponent contrived, by
some agents who knew his temper, to lure him away on the day of
His benevolence draws him into the commission of a thousand crimes,
which others less kind or civil would escape. His courtesy invites
application; his promises produce dependence; he has his pockets filled
with petitions, which he intends some time to deliver and enforce, and
his table covered with letters of request, with which he purposes to
comply; but time slips imperceptibly away, while he is either idle or
busy; his friends lose their opportunities, and charge upon him their
miscarriages and calamities.
This character, however contemptible, is not peculiar to Aliger. They
whose activity of imagination is often shifting the scenes of
expectation, are frequently subject to such sallies of caprice as make
all their actions fortuitous, destroy the value of their friendship,
obstruct the efficacy of their virtues, and set them below the meanest
of those that persist in their resolutions, execute what they design,
and perform what they have promised.
No. 202. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 1752.
[Greek: Pros apanta deilos estin o penaes pragmata,
Kai pantas autou kataphronein upolambanei
O de metrios pratton periskegesteron
Apanta t aniara, dampria, phepei.] CALLIMACHUS.
From no affliction is the poor exempt,
He thinks each eye surveys him with contempt;
Unmanly poverty subdues the heart,
Cankers each wound, and sharpen's ev'ry dart. F. LEWIS.
 Transcriber's note: sic.
Among those who have endeavoured to promote learning, and rectify
judgment, it has been long customary to complain of the abuse of words,
which are often admitted to signify things so different, that, instead
of assisting the understanding as vehicles of knowledge, they produce
errour, dissention, and perplexity, because what is affirmed in one
sense, is received in another.
If this ambiguity sometimes embarrasses the most solemn controversies,
and obscures the demonstrations of science, it may well be expected to
infest the pompous periods of declaimers, whose purpose is often only to
amuse with fallacies, and change the colours of truth and falsehood; or
the musical compositions of poets, whose style is professedly
figurative, and whose art is imagined to consist in distorting words
from their original meaning.
There are few words of which the reader believes himself better to know
the import, than of _poverty_; yet, whoever studies either the poets or
philosophers, will find such an account of the condition expressed by
that term as his experience or observation will not easily discover to
be true. Instead of the meanness, distress, complaint, anxiety, and
dependance, which have hitherto been combined in his ideas of poverty,
he will read of content, innocence, and cheerfulness, of health and
safety, tranquillity and freedom; of pleasures not known but to men
unencumbered with possessions; and of sleep that sheds his balsamick
anodynes only on the cottage. Such are the blessings to be obtained by
the resignation of riches, that kings might descend from their thrones,
and generals retire from a triumph, only to slumber undisturbed in the
elysium of poverty.
If these authors do not deceive us, nothing can be more absurd than that
perpetual contest for wealth which keeps the world in commotion; nor any
complaints more justly censured than those which proceed from want of
the gifts of fortune, which we are taught by the great masters of moral
wisdom to consider as golden shackles, by which the wearer is at once
disabled and adorned; as luscious poisons which may for a time please
the palate, but soon betray their malignity by languor and by pain. It
is the great privilege of poverty to be happy unenvied, to be healthful
without physick, and secure without a guard; to obtain from the bounty
of nature, what the great and wealthy are compelled to procure by the
help of artists and attendants, of flatterers and spies.
But it will be found upon a nearer view, that they who extol the
happiness of poverty, do not mean the same state with those who deplore
its miseries. Poets have their imaginations filled with ideas of
magnificence; and being accustomed to contemplate the downfall of
empires, or to contrive forms of lamentations, for monarchs in distress,
rank all the classes of mankind in a state of poverty, who make no
approaches to the dignity of crowns. To be poor, in the epick language,
is only not to command the wealth of nations, nor to have fleets and
armies in pay.
Vanity has perhaps contributed to this impropriety of style. He that
wishes to become a philosopher at a cheap rate, easily gratifies his
ambition by submitting to poverty when he does not feel it, and by
boasting his contempt of riches when he has already more than he enjoys.
He who would shew the extent of his views, and grandeur of his
conceptions, or discover his acquaintance with splendour and
magnificence, may talk like Cowley, of an humble station and quiet
obscurity, of the paucity of nature's wants, and the inconveniencies of
superfluity, and at last, like him, limit his desires to five hundred
pounds a year; a fortune, indeed, not exuberant, when we compare it with
the expenses of pride and luxury, but to which it little becomes a
philosopher to affix the name of poverty, since no man can, with any
propriety, be termed poor, who does not see the greater part of mankind
richer than himself.
As little is the general condition of human life understood by the
panegyrists and historians, who amuse us with accounts of the poverty of
heroes and sages. Riches are of no value in themselves, their use is
discovered only in that which they procure. They are not coveted, unless
by narrow understandings, which confound the means with the end, but for
the sake of power, influence, and esteem; or, by some of less elevated
and refined sentiments, as necessary to sensual enjoyment.
The pleasures of luxury, many have, without uncommon virtue, been able
to despise, even when affluence and idleness have concurred to tempt
them; and therefore he who feels nothing from indigence but the want of
gratifications which he could not in any other condition make consistent
with innocence, has given no proof of eminent patience. Esteem and
influence every man desires, but they are equally pleasing, and equally
valuable, by whatever means they are obtained; and whoever has found the
art of securing them without the help of money, ought, in reality, to be
accounted rich, since he has all that riches can purchase to a wise man.
Cincinnatus, though he lived upon a few acres cultivated by his own
hand, was sufficiently removed from all the evils generally comprehended
under the name of poverty, when his reputation was such, that the voice
of his country called him from his farm to take absolute command into
his hand; nor was Diogenes much mortified by his residence in a tub,
where he was honoured with the visit of Alexander the Great.
The same fallacy has conciliated veneration to the religious orders.
When we behold a man abdicating the hope of terrestrial possessions, and
precluding himself, by an irrevocable vow, from the pursuit and
acquisition of all that his fellow-beings consider as worthy of wishes
and endeavours, we are immediately struck with the purity, abstraction,
and firmness of his mind, and regard him as wholly employed in securing
the interests of futurity, and devoid of any other care than to gain, at
whatever price, the surest passage to eternal rest.
Yet, what can the votary be justly said to have lost of his present
happiness? If he resides in a convent, he converses only with men whose
condition is the same with his own; he has, from the munificence of the
founder, all the necessaries of life, and is safe from that destitution,
which Hooker declares to be "such an impediment to virtue, as, till it
be removed, suffereth not the mind of man to admit any other care." All
temptations to envy and competition are shut out from his retreat; he is
not pained with the sight of unattainable dignity, nor insulted with the
bluster of insolence, or the smile of forced familiarity. If he wanders
abroad, the sanctity of his character amply compensates all other
distinctions; he is seldom seen but with reverence, nor heard but with
It has been remarked, that death, though often defied in the field,
seldom fails to terrify when it approaches the bed of sickness in its
natural horrour; so poverty may easily be endured, while associated with
dignity and reputation, but will always be shunned and dreaded, when it
is accompanied with ignominy and contempt.
No. 203. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 1752.
_Cum volet illa dies, quae nil nisi corporis hujus
Jus habet, incerti spatium mihi finiat avi_. OVID. Met. xv. 873.
Come, soon or late, death's undetermin'd day,
This mortal being only can decay. WELSTED.
It seems to be the fate of man to seek all his consolations in futurity.
The time present is seldom able to fill desire or imagination with
immediate enjoyment, and we are forced to supply its deficiencies by
recollection or anticipation.
Every one has so often detected the fallaciousness of hope, and the
inconvenience of teaching himself to expect what a thousand accidents
may preclude, that, when time has abated the confidence with which youth
rushes out to take possession of the world, we endeavour, or wish, to
find entertainment in the review of life, and to repose upon real facts,
and certain experience. This is perhaps one reason, among many, why age
delights in narratives.
But so full is the world of calamity, that every source of pleasure is
polluted, and every retirement of tranquillity disturbed. When time has
supplied us with events sufficient to employ our thoughts, it has
mingled them with so many disasters, that we shrink from their
remembrance, dread their intrusion upon our minds, and fly from them as
from enemies that pursue us with torture.
No man past the middle point of life can sit down to feast upon the
pleasures of youth without finding the banquet embittered by the cup of
sorrow; he may revive lucky accidents, and pleasing extravagancies; many
days of harmless frolick, or nights of honest festivity, will perhaps
recur; or, if he has been engaged in scenes of action, and acquainted
with affairs of difficulty and vicissitudes of fortune, he may enjoy the
nobler pleasure of looking back upon distress firmly supported, dangers
resolutely encountered, and opposition artfully defeated. Aeneas
properly comforts his companions, when, after the horrours of a storm,
they have landed on an unknown and desolate country, with the hope that
their miseries will be at some distant time recounted with delight.
There are few higher gratifications, than that of reflection on
surmounted evils, when they are not incurred nor protracted by our
fault, and neither reproach us with cowardice nor guilt.
But this felicity is almost always abated by the reflection that they
with whom we should be most pleased to share it are now in the grave. A
few years make such havock in human generations, that we soon see
ourselves deprived of those with whom we entered the world, and whom the
participation of pleasures or fatigues had endeared to our remembrance.
The man of enterprise recounts his adventures and expedients, but is
forced, at the close of the relation, to pay a sigh to the names of
those that contributed to his success; he that passes his life among the
gayer part of mankind, has his remembrance stored with remarks and
repartees of wits, whose sprightliness and merriment are now lost in
perpetual silence; the trader, whose industry has supplied the want of
inheritance, repines in solitary plenty at the absence of companions,
with whom he had planned out amusements for his latter years; and the
scholar, whose merit, after a long series of efforts, raises him from
obscurity, looks round in vain from his exaltation for his old friends
or enemies, whose applause or mortification would heighten his triumph.
Among Martial's requisites to happiness is, _Res non parta labore, sed
relicta_, "an estate not gained by industry, but left by inheritance."
It is necessary to the completion of every good, that it be timely
obtained; for whatever comes at the close of life will come too late to
give much delight; yet all human happiness has its defects. Of what we
do not gain for ourselves we have only a faint and imperfect fruition,
because we cannot compare the difference between want and possession, or
at least can derive from it no conviction of our own abilities, nor any
increase of self-esteem; what we acquire by bravery or science, by
mental or corporeal diligence, comes at last when we cannot communicate,
and, therefore, cannot enjoy it.
Thus every period of life is obliged to borrow its happiness from the
time to come. In youth we have nothing past to entertain us, and in age,
we derive little from retrospect but hopeless sorrow. Yet the future
likewise has its limits, which the imagination dreads to approach, but
which we see to be not far distant. The loss of our friends and
companions impresses hourly upon us the necessity of our own departure;
we know that the schemes of man are quickly at an end, that we must soon
lie down in the grave with the forgotten multitudes of former ages, and
yield our place to others, who, like us, shall be driven awhile by hope
or fear about the surface of the earth, and then like us be lost in the
shades of death.
Beyond this termination of our material existence, we are therefore
obliged to extend our hopes; and almost every man indulges his
imagination with something, which is not to happen till he has changed
his manner of being: some amuse themselves with entails and settlements,
provide for the perpetuation of families and honours, or contrive to
obviate the dissipation of the fortunes, which it has been their
business to accumulate; others, more refined or exalted, congratulate
their own hearts upon the future extent of their reputation, the
reverence of distant nations, and the gratitude of unprejudiced
They whose souls are so chained down to coffers and tenements, that they
cannot conceive a state in which they shall look upon them with less
solicitude, are seldom attentive or flexible to arguments; but the
votaries of fame are capable of reflection, and therefore may be called
to reconsider the probability of their expectations.
Whether to be remembered in remote times be worthy of a wise man's wish,
has not yet been satisfactorily decided; and, indeed, to be long
remembered, can happen to so small a number, that the bulk of mankind
has very little interest in the question. There is never room in the
world for more than a certain quantity or measure of renown. The
necessary business of life, the immediate pleasures or pains of every
condition, leave us not leisure beyond a fixed proportion for
contemplations which do not forcibly influence our present welfare. When
this vacuity is filled, no characters can be admitted into the
circulation of fame, but by occupying the place of some that must be
thrust into oblivion. The eye of the mind, like that of the body, can
only extend its view to new objects, by losing sight of those which are
now before it.
Reputation is therefore a meteor, which blazes a while and disappears
for ever; and, if we except a few transcendent and invincible names,
which no revolutions of opinion or length of time is able to suppress;
all those that engage our thoughts, or diversify our conversation, are
every moment hasting to obscurity, as new favourites are adopted by
It is not therefore from this world, that any ray of comfort can
proceed, to cheer the gloom of the last hour. But futurity has still its
prospects; there is yet happiness in reserve, which, if we transfer our
attention to it, will support us in the pains of disease, and the
languor of decay. This happiness we may expect with confidence, because
it is out of the power of chance, and may be attained by all that
sincerely desire and earnestly pursue it. On this therefore every mind
ought finally to rest. Hope is the chief blessing of man, and that hope
only is rational, of which we are certain that it cannot deceive us.
No. 204. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 1752
_Nemo tam divos habuit faventes,
Crastinum ut possit sibi polliceit_. SENECA.
Of heaven's protection who can be
So confident to utter this?--
To-morrow I will spend in bliss. F. LEWIS.
Seged, lord of Ethiopia, to the inhabitants of the world: To the sons of
_Presumption_, humility and fear; and to the daughters of _Sorrow_,
content and acquiescence.
Thus, in the twenty-seventh year of his reign, spoke Seged, the monarch
of forty nations, the distributor of the waters of the Nile: "At length,
Seged, thy toils are at an end; thou hast reconciled disaffection, thou
hast suppressed rebellion, thou hast pacified the jealousies of thy
courtiers, thou hast chased war from thy confines, and erected
fortresses in the lands of thine enemies. All who have offended thee
tremble in thy presence, and wherever thy voice is heard, it is obeyed.
Thy throne is surrounded by armies, numerous as the locusts of the
summer, and resistless as the blasts of pestilence. Thy magazines are
stored with ammunition, thy treasures overflow with the tribute of
conquered kingdoms. Plenty waves upon thy fields, and opulence glitters
in thy cities. Thy nod is as the earthquake that shakes the mountains,
and thy smile as the dawn of the vernal day. In thy hand is the strength
of thousands, and thy health is the health of millions. Thy palace is
gladdened by the song of praise, and thy path perfumed by the breath of
benediction. Thy subjects gaze upon thy greatness, and think of danger
or misery no more. Why, Seged, wilt not thou partake the blessings thou
bestowest? Why shouldst thou only forbear to rejoice in this general
felicity? Why should thy face be clouded with anxiety, when the meanest
of those who call thee sovereign, gives the day to festivity, and the
night to peace? At length, Seged, reflect and be wise. What is the gift
of conquest but safety? Why are riches collected but to purchase
Seged then ordered the house of pleasure, built in an island of the lake
of Dambea, to be prepared for his reception. "I will retire," says he,
"for ten days from tumult and care, from counsels and decrees. Long
quiet is not the lot of the governours of nations, but a cessation of
ten days cannot be denied me. This short interval of happiness may
surely be secured from the interruption of fear or perplexity, sorrow or
disappointment. I will exclude all trouble from my abode, and remove
from my thoughts whatever may confuse the harmony of the concert, or
abate the sweetness of the banquet. I will fill the whole capacity of my
soul with enjoyment, and try what it is to live without a wish
In a few days the orders were performed, and Seged hasted to the palace
of Dambea, which stood in an island cultivated only for pleasure,
planted with every flower that spreads its colours to the sun, and every
shrub that sheds fragrance in the air. In one part of this extensive
garden, were open walks for excursions in the morning; in another, thick
groves, and silent arbours, and bubbling fountains for repose at noon.
All that could solace the sense, or flatter the fancy, all that industry
could extort from nature, or wealth furnish to art, all that conquest
could seize, or beneficence attract, was collected together, and every
perception of delight was excited and gratified.
Into this delicious region Seged summoned all the persons of his court,
who seemed eminently qualified to receive or communicate pleasure. His
call was readily obeyed; the young, the fair, the vivacious, and the
witty, were all in haste to be sated with felicity. They sailed jocund
over the lake, which seemed to smooth its surface before them: their
passage was cheered with musick, and their hearts dilated with
Seged, landing here with his band of pleasure, determined from that hour
to break off all acquaintance with discontent, to give his heart for ten
days to ease and jollity, and then fall back to the common state of man,
and suffer his life to be diversified, as before, with joy and sorrow.
He immediately entered his chamber, to consider where he should begin
his circle of happiness. He had all the artists of delight before him,
but knew not whom to call, since he could not enjoy one, but by delaying
the performance of another. He chose and rejected, he resolved and
changed his resolution, till his faculties were harassed, and his
thoughts confused; then returned to the apartment where his presence was
expected, with languid eyes and clouded countenance, and spread the
infection of uneasiness over the whole assembly. He observed their
depression, and was offended, for he found his vexation increased by
those whom he expected to dissipate and relieve it. He retired again to
his private chamber, and sought for consolation in his own mind; one
thought flowed in upon another; a long succession of images seized his
attention; the moments crept imperceptibly away through the gloom of
pensiveness, till, having recovered his tranquillity, he lifted his
head, and saw the lake brightened by the setting sun. "Such," said
Seged, sighing, "is the longest day of human existence: before we have
learned to use it, we find it at, an end."
The regret which he felt for the loss of so great a part of his first
day, took from him all disposition to enjoy the evening; and, after
having endeavoured, for the sake of his attendants, to force an air of
gaiety, and excite that mirth which he could not share, he resolved to
refer his hopes to the next morning, and lay down to partake with the
slaves of labour and poverty the blessing of sleep.
He rose early the second morning, and resolved now to be happy. He
therefore fixed upon the gate of the palace an edict, importing, that
whoever, during nine days, should appear in the presence of the king
with a dejected countenance, or utter any expression of discontent or
sorrow, should be driven for ever from the palace of Dambea.
This edict was immediately made known in every chamber of the court, and
bower of the gardens. Mirth was frighted away, and they who were before
dancing in the lawns, or singing in the shades, were at once engaged in
the care of regulating their looks, that Seged might find his will
punctually obeyed, and see none among them liable to banishment.
Seged now met every face settled in a smile; but a smile that betrayed
solicitude, timidity, and constraint. He accosted his favourites with
familiarity and softness; but they durst not speak without
premeditation, lest they should be convicted of discontent or sorrow. He
proposed diversions, to which no objection was made, because objection
would have implied uneasiness; but they were regarded with indifference
by the courtiers, who had no other desire than to signalize themselves
by clamorous exultation. He offered various topicks of conversation, but
obtained only forced jests, and laborious laughter; and after many
attempts to animate his train to confidence and alacrity, was obliged to
confess to himself the impotence of command, and resign another day to
grief and disappointment.
He at last relieved his companions from their terrours, and shut himself
up in his chamber to ascertain, by different measures, the felicity of
the succeeding days. At length he threw himself on the bed, and closed
his eyes, but imagined, in his sleep, that his palace and gardens were
overwhelmed by an inundation, and waked with all the terrours of a man
struggling in the water. He composed himself again to rest, but was
affrighted by an imaginary irruption into his kingdom; and striving, as
is usual in dreams, without ability to move, fancied himself betrayed to
his enemies, and again started up with horrour and indignation.
It was now day, and fear was so strongly impressed on his mind, that he
could sleep no more. He rose, but his thoughts were filled with the
deluge and invasion, nor was he able to disengage his attention, or
mingle with vacancy and ease in any amusement. At length his
perturbation gave way to reason, and he resolved no longer to be
harassed by visionary miseries; but, before this resolution could be
completed, half the day had elapsed: he felt a new conviction of the
uncertainty of human schemes, and could not forbear to bewail the
weakness of that being whose quiet was to be interrupted by vapours of
the fancy. Having been first disturbed by a dream, he afterwards grieved
that a dream could disturb him. He at last discovered, that his terrours
and grief were equally vain, and that to lose the present in lamenting
the past, was voluntarily to protract a melancholy vision. The third day
was now declining, and Seged again resolved to be happy on the morrow.
No. 205. TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 1752.
Mobilis alis hora, nec ulli
Praestat velox Fortuna fidem_. SENECA. Hippol. 1141.
On fickle wings the minutes haste,
And fortune's favours never last. F. LEWIS.
On the fourth morning Seged rose early, refreshed with sleep, vigorous
with health, and eager with expectation. He entered the garden, attended
by the princes and ladies of his court, and seeing nothing about him but
airy cheerfulness, began to say to his heart, "This day shall be a day
of pleasure." The sun played upon the water, the birds warbled in the
groves, and the gales quivered among the branches. He roved from walk to
walk as chance directed him, and sometimes listened to the songs,
sometimes mingled with the dancers, sometimes let loose his imagination
in flights of merriment; and sometimes uttered grave reflections, and
sententious maxims, and feasted on the admiration with which they were
Thus the day rolled on, without any accident of vexation, or intrusion
of melancholy thoughts. All that beheld him caught gladness from his
looks, and the sight of happiness conferred by himself filled his heart
with satisfaction: but having passed three hours in this harmless
luxury, he was alarmed on a sudden by an universal scream among the
women, and turning back saw the whole assembly flying in confusion. A
young crocodile had risen out of the lake, and was ranging the garden in
wantonness or hunger. Seged beheld him with indignation, as a disturber
of his felicity, and chased him back into the lake, but could not
persuade his retinue to stay, or free their hearts from the terrour
which had seized upon them. The princesses inclosed themselves in the
palace, and could yet scarcely believe themselves in safety. Every
attention was fixed upon the late danger and escape, and no mind was any
longer at leisure for gay sallies or careless prattle.
Seged had now no other employment than to contemplate the innumerable
casualties which lie in ambush on every side to intercept the happiness
of man, and break in upon the hour of delight and tranquillity. He had,
however, the consolation of thinking, that he had not been now
disappointed by his own fault, and that the accident which had blasted
the hopes of the day, might easily be prevented by future caution.
That he might provide for the pleasure of the next morning, he resolved
to repeal his penal edict, since he had already found that discontent
and melancholy were not to be frighted away by the threats of authority,
and that pleasure would only reside where she was exempted from control.
He therefore invited all the companions of his retreat to unbounded
pleasantry, by proposing prizes for those who should, on the following
day, distinguish themselves by any festive performances; the tables of
the antechamber were covered with gold and pearls, and robes and
garlands decreed the rewards of those who could refine elegance or
At this display of riches every eye immediately sparkled, and every
tongue was busied in celebrating the bounty and magnificence of the
emperour. But when Seged entered, in hopes of uncommon entertainment
from universal emulation, he found that any passion too strongly
agitated, puts an end to that tranquillity which is necessary to mirth,
and that the mind, that is to be moved by the gentle ventilations of
gaiety, must be first smoothed by a total calm. Whatever we ardently
wish to gain, we must in the same degree be afraid to lose, and fear and
pleasure cannot dwell together.
All was now care and solicitude. Nothing was done or spoken, but with so
visible an endeavour at perfection, as always failed to delight, though
it sometimes forced admiration: and Seged could not but observe with
sorrow, that his prizes had more influence than himself. As the evening
approached, the contest grew more earnest, and those who were forced to
allow themselves excelled, began to discover the malignity of defeat,
first by angry glances, and at last by contemptuous murmurs. Seged
likewise shared the anxiety of the day, for considering himself as
obliged to distribute with exact justice the prizes which had been so
zealously sought, he durst never remit his attention, but passed his
time upon the rack of doubt, in balancing different kinds of merit, and
adjusting the claims of all the competitors.
At last, knowing that no exactness could satisfy those whose hopes he
should disappoint, and thinking that on a day set apart for happiness,
it would be cruel to oppress any heart with sorrow, he declared that all
had pleased him alike, and dismissed all with presents of equal value.
Seged soon saw that his caution had not been able to avoid offence. They
who had believed themselves secure of the highest prizes, were not
pleased to be levelled with the crowd: and though, by the liberality of
the king, they received more than his promise had entitled them to
expect, they departed unsatisfied, because they were honoured with no
distinction, and wanted an opportunity to triumph in the mortification
of their opponents. "Behold here," said Seged, "the condition of him who
places his happiness in the happiness of others." He then retired to
meditate, and, while the courtiers were repining at his distributions,
saw the fifth sun go down in discontent.
The next dawn renewed his resolution to be happy. But having learned how
little he could effect by settled schemes or preparatory measures, he
thought it best to give up one day entirely to chance, and left every
one to please and be pleased his own way.
This relaxation of regularity diffused a general complacence through the