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The Works of Samuel Johnson, LL.D, In Nine Volumes by Samuel Johnson

Part 9 out of 9

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whole court, and the emperour imagined that he had at last found the
secret of obtaining an interval of felicity. But as he was roving in
this careless assembly with equal carelessness, he overheard one of his
courtiers in a close arbour murmuring alone: "What merit has Seged above
us, that we should thus fear and obey him, a man, whom, whatever he may
have formerly performed, his luxury now shows to have the same weakness
with ourselves." This charge affected him the more, as it was uttered by
one whom he had always observed among the most abject of his flatterers.
At first his indignation prompted him to severity; but reflecting, that
what was spoken without intention to be heard, was to be considered as
only thought, and was perhaps but the sudden burst of casual and
temporary vexation, he invented some decent pretence to send him away,
that his retreat might not be tainted with the breath of envy, and,
after the struggle of deliberation was past, and all desire of revenge
utterly suppressed, passed the evening not only with tranquillity, but
triumph, though none but himself was conscious of the victory.

The remembrance of his clemency cheered the beginning of the seventh
day, and nothing happened to disturb the pleasure of Seged, till,
looking on the tree that shaded him, he recollected, that, under a tree
of the same kind he had passed the night after his defeat in the kingdom
of Goiama. The reflection on his loss, his dishonour, and the miseries
which his subjects suffered from the invader, filled him with sadness.
At last he shook off the weight of sorrow, and began to solace himself
with his usual pleasures, when his tranquillity was again disturbed by
jealousies which the late contest for the prizes had produced, and
which, having in vain tried to pacify them by persuasion, he was forced
to silence by command.

On the eighth morning Seged was awakened early by an unusual hurry in
the apartments, and inquiring the cause, was told that the princess
Balkis was seized with sickness. He rose, and calling the physicians,
found that they had little hope of her recovery. Here was an end of
jollity: all his thoughts were now upon his daughter, whose eyes he
closed on the tenth day.

Such were the days which Seged of Ethiopia had appropriated to a short
respiration from the fatigues of war and the cares of government. This
narrative he has bequeathed to future generations, that no man hereafter
may presume to say, "This day shall be a day of happiness."

No. 206. SATURDAY, MARCH 7, 1752.

_--Propositi nondum pudet, atque eadem est mens,
Ut bona summa putes, aliena vivere quadra_. JUV. Sat. v. 1.

But harden'd by affronts, and still the same,
Lost to all sense of honour and of fame,
Thou yet canst love to haunt the great man's board,
And think no supper good but with a lord. BOWLES.

When Diogenes was once asked, what kind of wine he liked best? he
answered, "That which is drunk at the cost of others."

Though the character of Diogenes has never excited any general zeal of
imitation, there are many who resemble him in his taste of wine; many
who are frugal, though not abstemious; whose appetites, though too
powerful for reason, are kept under restraint by avarice; and to whom
all delicacies lose their flavour, when they cannot be obtained but at
their own expense.

Nothing produces more singularity of manners and inconstancy of life,
than the conflict of opposite vices in the same mind. He that uniformly
pursues any purpose, whether good or bad, has a settled principle of
action; and as he may always find associates who are travelling the same
way, is countenanced by example, and sheltered in the multitude; but a
man, actuated at once by different desires, must move in a direction
peculiar to himself, and suffer that reproach which we are naturally
inclined to bestow on those who deviate from the rest of the world, even
without inquiring whether they are worse or better.

Yet this conflict of desires sometimes produces wonderful efforts. To
riot in far-fetched dishes, or surfeit with unexhausted variety, and yet
practise the most rigid economy, is surely an art which may justly draw
the eyes of mankind upon them whose industry or judgment has enabled
them to attain it. To him, indeed, who is content to break open the
chests, or mortgage the manours, of his ancestors, that he may hire the
ministers of excess at the highest price, gluttony is an easy science;
yet we often hear the votaries of luxury boasting of the elegance which
they owe to the taste of others, relating with rapture the succession of
dishes with which their cooks and caterers supply them; and expecting
their share of praise with the discoverers of arts and the civilizers of
nations. But to shorten the way to convivial happiness, by eating
without cost, is a secret hitherto in few hands, but which certainly
deserves the curiosity of those whose principal enjoyment is their
dinner, and who see the sun rise with no other hope than that they shall
fill their bellies before it sets.

Of them that have within my knowledge attempted this scheme of
happiness, the greater part have been immediately obliged to desist; and
some, whom their first attempts flattered with success, were reduced by
degrees to a few tables, from which they were at last chased to make way
for others; and having long habituated themselves to superfluous plenty,
growled away their latter years in discontented competence.

None enter the regions of luxury with higher expectations than men of
wit, who imagine, that they shall never want a welcome to that company
whose ideas they can enlarge, or whose imaginations they can elevate,
and believe themselves able to pay for their wine with the mirth which
it qualifies them to produce. Full of this opinion, they crowd with
little invitation, wherever the smell of a feast allures them, but are
seldom encouraged to repeat their visits, being dreaded by the pert as
rivals, and hated by the dull as disturbers of the company.

No man has been so happy in gaining and keeping the privilege of living
at luxurious houses as Gulosulus, who, after thirty years of continual
revelry, has now established, by uncontroverted prescription, his claim
to partake of every entertainment, and whose presence they who aspire to
the praise of a sumptuous table are careful to procure on a day of
importance, by sending the invitation a fortnight before.

Gulosulus entered the world without any eminent degree of merit; but was
careful to frequent houses where persons of rank resorted. By being
often seen, he became in time known; and, from sitting in the same room,
was suffered to mix in idle conversation, or assisted to fill up a
vacant hour, when better amusement was not readily to be had. From the
coffee-house he was sometimes taken away to dinner; and as no man
refuses the acquaintance of him whom he sees admitted to familiarity by
others of equal dignity, when he had been met at a few tables, he with
less difficulty found the way to more, till at last he was regularly
expected to appear wherever preparations are made for a feast, within
the circuit of his acquaintance.

When he was thus by accident initiated in luxury, he felt in himself no
inclination to retire from a life of so much pleasure, and therefore
very seriously considered how he might continue it. Great qualities, or
uncommon accomplishments, he did not find necessary; for he had already
seen that merit rather enforces respect than attracts fondness; and as
he thought no folly greater than that of losing a dinner for any other
gratification, he often congratulated himself, that he had none of that
disgusting excellence which impresses awe upon greatness, and condemns
its possessors to the society of those who are wise or brave, and
indigent as themselves.

Gulosulus, having never allotted much of his time to books or
meditation, had no opinion in philosophy or politicks, and was not in
danger of injuring his interest by dogmatical positions or violent
contradiction. If a dispute arose, he took care to listen with earnest
attention; and, when either speaker grew vehement and loud, turned
towards him with eager quickness, and uttered a short phrase of
admiration, as if surprised by such cogency of argument as he had never
known before. By this silent concession, he generally preserved in
either controvertist such a conviction of his own superiority, as
inclined him rather to pity than irritate his adversary, and prevented
those outrages which are sometimes produced by the rage of defeat, or
petulance of triumph.

Gulosulus was never embarrassed but when he was required to declare his
sentiments before he had been able to discover to which side the master
of the house inclined, for it was his invariable rule to adopt the
notions of those that invited him.

It will sometimes happen that the insolence of wealth breaks into
contemptuousness, or the turbulence of wine requires a vent; and
Gulosulus seldom fails of being singled out on such emergencies, as one
on whom any experiment of ribaldry may be safely tried. Sometimes his
lordship finds himself inclined to exhibit a specimen of raillery for
the diversion of his guests, and Gulosulus always supplies him with a
subject of merriment. But he has learned to consider rudeness and
indignities as familiarities that entitle him to greater freedom: he
comforts himself, that those who treat and insult him pay for their
laughter, and that he keeps his money while they enjoy their jest.

His chief policy consists in selecting some dish from every course, and
recommending it to the company, with an air so decisive, that no one
ventures to contradict him. By this practice he acquires at a feast a
kind of dictatorial authority; his taste becomes the standard of pickles
and seasoning, and he is venerated by the professors of epicurism, as
the only man who understands the niceties of cookery.

Whenever a new sauce is imported, or any innovation made in the culinary
system, he procures the earliest intelligence, and the most authentick
receipt; and, by communicating his knowledge under proper injunctions of
secrecy, gains a right of tasting his own dish whenever it is prepared,
that he may tell whether his directions have been fully understood.

By this method of life Gulosulus has so impressed on his imagination the
dignity of feasting, that he has no other topick of talk, or subject of
meditation. His calendar is a bill of fare; he measures the year by
successive dainties. The only common-places of his memory are his meals;
and if you ask him at what time an event happened, he considers whether
he heard it after a dinner of turbot or venison. He knows, indeed, that
those who value themselves upon sense, learning, or piety, speak of him
with contempt; but he considers them as wretches, envious or ignorant,
who do not know his happiness, or wish to supplant him; and declares to
his friends, that he is fully satisfied with his own conduct, since he
has fed every day on twenty dishes, and yet doubled his estate.

No. 207. TUESDAY, MARCH 10, 1752.

_Solve senescentem mature sanus equum, ne
Peccet ad extremum ridendus.--_ HOR. Lib. i. Ep. i. 8.

The voice of reason cries with winning force,
Loose from the rapid car your aged horse,
Lest, in the race derided, left behind,
He drag his jaded limbs, and burst his wind. FRANCIS.

Such is the emptiness of human enjoyment, that we are always impatient
of the present. Attainment is followed by neglect, and possession by
disgust; and the malicious remark of the Greek epigrammatist on marriage
may be applied to every other course of life, that its two days of
happiness are the first and the last.

Few moments are more pleasing than those in which the mind is concerting
measures for a new undertaking. From the first hint that wakens the
fancy, till the hour of actual execution, all is improvement and
progress, triumph and felicity. Every hour brings additions to the
original scheme, suggests some new expedient to secure success, or
discovers consequential advantages not hitherto foreseen. While
preparations are made, and materials accumulated, day glides after day
through elysian prospects, and the heart dances to the song of hope.

Such is the pleasure of projecting, that many content themselves with a
succession of visionary schemes, and wear out their allotted time in the
calm amusement of contriving what they never attempt or hope to execute.

Others, not able to feast their imagination with pure ideas, advance
somewhat nearer to the grossness of action, with great diligence collect
whatever is requisite to their design, and, after a thousand researches
and consultations, are snatched away by death, as they stand _in
procinctu_, waiting for a proper opportunity to begin.

If there were no other end of life, than to find some adequate solace
for every day, I know not whether any condition could be preferred to
that of the man who involves himself in his own thoughts, and never
suffers experience to show him the vanity of speculation; for no sooner
are notions reduced to practice, than tranquillity and confidence
forsake the breast; every day brings its task, and often without
bringing abilities to perform it: difficulties embarrass, uncertainty
perplexes, opposition retards, censure exasperates, or neglect
depresses. We proceed because we have begun; we complete our design,
that the labour already spent may not be vain; but as expectation
gradually dies away, the gay smile of alacrity disappears, we are
compelled to implore severer powers, and trust the event to patience and

When once our labour has begun, the comfort that enables us to endure it
is the prospect of its end; for though in every long work there are some
joyous intervals of self-applause, when the attention is recreated by
unexpected facility, and the imagination soothed by incidental
excellencies; yet the toil with which performance struggles after idea,
is so irksome and disgusting, and so frequent is the necessity of
resting below that perfection which we imagined within our reach, that
seldom any man obtains more from his endeavours than a painful
conviction of his defects, and a continual resuscitation of desires
which he feels himself unable to gratify.

So certainly is weariness the concomitant of our undertakings, that
every man, in whatever he is engaged, consoles himself with the hope of
change; if he has made his way by assiduity to publick employment, he
talks among his friends of the delight of retreat; if by the necessity
of solitary application he is secluded from the world, he listens with a
beating heart to distant noises, longs to mingle with living beings, and
resolves to take hereafter his fill of diversions, or display his
abilities on the universal theatre, and enjoy the pleasure of
distinction and applause.

Every desire, however innocent, grows dangerous, as by long indulgence
it becomes ascendant in the mind. When we have been much accustomed to
consider any thing as capable of giving happiness, it is not easy to
restrain our ardour, or to forbear some precipitation in our advances,
and irregularity in our pursuits. He that has cultivated the tree,
watched the swelling bud and opening blossom, and pleased himself with
computing how much every sun and shower add to its growth, scarcely
stays till the fruit has obtained its maturity, but defeats his own
cares by eagerness to reward them. When we have diligently laboured for
any purpose, we are willing to believe that we have attained it, and,
because we have already done much, too suddenly conclude that no more is
to be done.

All attraction is increased by the approach of the attracting body. We
never find ourselves so desirous to finish as in the latter part of our
work, or so impatient of delay, as when we know that delay cannot be
long. This unseasonable importunity of discontent may be partly imputed
to languor and weariness, which must always oppress those more whose
toil has been longer continued; but the greater part usually proceeds
from frequent contemplation of that ease which is now considered as
within reach, and which, when it has once flattered our hopes, we cannot
suffer to be withheld.

In some of the noblest compositions of wit, the conclusion falls below
the vigour and spirit of the first books; and as a genius is not to be
degraded by the imputation of human failings, the cause of this
declension is commonly sought in the structure of the work, and
plausible reasons are given why, in the defective part, less ornament
was necessary, or less could be admitted. But, perhaps, the author would
have confessed, that his fancy was tired, and his perseverance broken;
that he knew his design to be unfinished, but that, when he saw the end
so near, he could no longer refuse to be at rest.

Against the instillations of this frigid opiate, the heart should be
secured by all the considerations which once concurred to kindle the
ardour of enterprise. Whatever motive first incited action, has still
greater force to stimulate perseverance; since he that might have lain
still at first in blameless obscurity, cannot afterwards desist but with
infamy and reproach. He, whom a doubtful promise of distant good could
encourage to set difficulties at defiance, ought not to remit his
vigour, when he has almost obtained his recompense. To faint or loiter,
when only the last efforts are required, is to steer the ship through
tempests, and abandon it to the winds in sight of land; it is to break
the ground and scatter the seed, and at last to neglect the harvest.

The masters of rhetorick direct, that the most forcible arguments be
produced in the latter part of an oration, lest they should be effaced
or perplexed by supervenient images. This precept may be justly extended
to the series of life: nothing is ended with honour, which does not
conclude better than it began. It is not sufficient to maintain the
first vigour; for excellence loses its effect upon the mind by custom,
as light after a time ceases to dazzle. Admiration must be continued by
that novelty which first produced it, and how much soever is given,
there must always be reason to imagine that more remains.

We not only are most sensible of the last impressions, but such is the
unwillingness of mankind to admit transcendant merit, that, though it be
difficult to obliterate the reproach of miscarriages by any subsequent
achievement, however illustrious, yet the reputation raised by a long
train of success may be finally ruined by a single failure; for weakness
or errour will be always remembered by that malice and envy which it

For the prevention of that disgrace, which lassitude and negligence may
bring at last upon the greatest performances, it is necessary to
proportion carefully our labour to our strength. If the design comprises
many parts, equally essential, and, therefore, not to be separated, the
only time for caution is before we engage; the powers of the mind must
be then impartially estimated, and it must be remembered that, not to
complete the plan, is not to have begun it; and that nothing is done
while any thing is omitted.

But, if the task consists in the repetition of single acts, no one of
which derives its efficacy from the rest, it may be attempted with less
scruple, because there is always opportunity to retreat with honour. The
danger is only, lest we expect from the world the indulgence with which
most are disposed to treat themselves; and in the hour of listlessness
imagine, that the diligence of one day will atone for the idleness of
another, and that applause begun by approbation will be continued by

He that is himself weary will soon weary the publick. Let him therefore
lay down his employment, whatever it be, who can no longer exert his
former activity or attention; let him not endeavour to struggle with
censure, or obstinately infest the stage till a general hiss commands
him to depart.

No. 208. SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 1752.

[Greek: Aerakleitos ego ti me o kato helket amousoi,
Ouch hymin eponoun, tois de m' episgamenoi;
Eis emoi anthropos trismurioi; oi d' anarithmoi
Oudeis; taut audo kai para Persephonae] DIOG. LAERT.

Begone, ye blockheads, Heraclitus cries,
And leave my labours to the learn'd and wise;
By wit, by knowledge, studious to be read,
I scorn the multitude, alive and dead.

Time, which puts an end to all human pleasures and sorrows, has
likewise concluded the labours of the Rambler. Having supported, for two
years, the anxious employment of a periodical writer, and multiplied my
essays to upwards of two hundred, I have now determined to desist.

The reasons of this resolution it is of little importance to declare,
since justification is unnecessary when no objection is made. I am far
from supposing, that the cessation of my performances will raise any
inquiry, for I have never been much a favourite of the publick, nor can
boast that, in the progress of my undertaking, I have been animated by
the rewards of the liberal, the caresses of the great, or the praises of
the eminent.

But I have no design to gratify pride by submission, or malice by
lamentation; nor think it reasonable to complain of neglect from those
whose regard I never solicited. If I have not been distinguished by the
distributors of literary honours, I have seldom descended to the arts by
which favour is obtained. I have seen the meteors of fashions rise and
fall, without any attempt to add a moment to their duration. I have
never complied with temporary curiosity, nor enabled my readers to
discuss the topick of the day; I have rarely exemplified my assertions
by living characters; in my papers, no man could look for censures of
his enemies, or praises of himself; and they only were expected to
peruse them, whose passions left them leisure for abstracted truth, and
whom virtue could please by its naked dignity.

To some, however, I am indebted for encouragement, and to others for
assistance. The number of my friends was never great, but they have been
such as would not suffer me to think that I was writing in vain, and I
did not feel much dejection from the want of popularity.

My obligations having not been frequent, my acknowledgments may be soon
despatched. I can restore to all my correspondents their productions,
with little diminution of the bulk of my volumes, though not without the
loss of some pieces to which particular honours have been paid.

The parts from which I claim no other praise than that of having given
them an opportunity of appearing, are the four billets in the tenth
paper, the second letter in the fifteenth, the thirtieth, the
forty-fourth, the ninety-seventh, and the hundredth papers, and the
second letter in the hundred and seventh.

Having thus deprived myself of many excuses which candour might have
admitted for the inequality of my compositions, being no longer able to
allege the necessity of gratifying correspondents, the importunity with
which publication was solicited, or obstinacy with which correction was
rejected, I must remain accountable for all my faults, and submit,
without subterfuge, to the censures of criticism, which, however, I
shall not endeavour to soften by a formal deprecation, or to overbear by
the influence of a patron. The supplications of an author never yet
reprieved him a moment from oblivion; and, though greatness has
sometimes sheltered guilt, it can afford no protection to ignorance or
dulness. Having hitherto attempted only the propagation of truth, I will
not at last violate it by the confession of terrours which I do not
feel; having laboured to maintain the dignity of virtue, I will not now
degrade it by the meanness of dedication.

The seeming vanity with which I have sometimes spoken of myself, would
perhaps require an apology, were it not extenuated by the example of
those who have published essays before me, and by the privilege which
every nameless writer has been hitherto allowed. "A mask," says
Castiglione, "confers a right of acting and speaking with less
restraint, even when the wearer happens to be known." He that is
discovered without his own consent, may claim some indulgence, and
cannot be rigorously called to justify those sallies or frolicks which
his disguise must prove him desirous to conceal.

But I have been cautious lest this offence should be frequently or
grossly committed; for, as one of the philosophers directs us to live
with a friend, as with one that is some time to become an enemy, I have
always thought it the duty of an anonymous author to write, as if he
expected to be hereafter known.

I am willing to flatter myself with hopes, that, by collecting these
papers, I am not preparing, for my future life, either shame or
repentance. That all are happily imagined, or accurately polished, that
the same sentiments have not sometimes recurred, or the same expressions
been too frequently repeated, I have not confidence in my abilities
sufficient to warrant. He that condemns himself to compose on a stated
day, will often bring to his task an attention dissipated, a memory
embarrassed, an imagination overwhelmed, a mind distracted with
anxieties, a body languishing with disease: he will labour on a barren
topick, till it is too late to change it; or, in the ardour of
invention, diffuse his thoughts into wild exuberance, which the pressing
hour of publication cannot suffer judgment to examine or reduce.

Whatever shall be the final sentence of mankind, I have at least
endeavoured to deserve their kindness. I have laboured to refine our
language to grammatical purity, and to clear it from colloquial
barbarisms, licentious idioms, and irregular combinations. Something,
perhaps, I have added to the elegance of its construction, and something
to the harmony of its cadence. When common words were less pleasing to
the ear, or less distinct in their signification, I have familiarized
the terms of philosophy, by applying them to popular ideas, but have
rarely admitted any words not authorized by former writers; for I
believe that whoever knows the English tongue in its present extent,
will be able to express his thoughts without further help from other

As it has been my principal design to inculcate wisdom or piety, I have
allotted few papers to the idle sports of imagination. Some, perhaps,
may be found, of which the highest excellence is harmless merriment; but
scarcely any man is so steadily serious as not to complain, that the
severity of dictatorial instruction has been too seldom relieved, and
that he is driven by the sternness of the Rambler's philosophy to more
cheerful and airy companions.

Next to the excursions of fancy are the disquisitions of criticism,
which, in my opinion, is only to be ranked among the subordinate and
instrumental arts. Arbitrary decision and general exclamation I have
carefully avoided, by asserting nothing without a reason, and
establishing all my principles of judgment on unalterable and evident

In the pictures of life I have never been so studious of novelty or
surprise, as to depart wholly from all resemblance; a fault which
writers deservedly celebrated frequently commit, that they may raise, as
the occasion requires, either mirth or abhorrence. Some enlargement may
be allowed to declamation, and some exaggeration to burlesque; but as
they deviate farther from reality, they become less useful, because
their lessons will fail of application. The mind of the reader is
carried away from the contemplation of his own manners; he finds in
himself no likeness to the phantom before him; and though he laughs or
rages, is not reformed.

The essays professedly serious, if I have been able to execute my own
intentions, will be found exactly conformable to the precepts of
Christianity, without any accommodation to the licentiousness and levity
of the present age. I therefore look back on this part of my work with
pleasure, which no blame or praise of man shall diminish or augment. I
shall never envy the honours which wit and learning obtain in any other
cause, if I can be numbered among the writers who have given ardour to
virtue, and confidence to truth.

[Greek: Auton ek makaron autaxios eiae amoibae.]

Celestial pow'rs! that piety regard,
From you my labours wait their last reward.


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