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often exclaimed, in the walk at Maudlin, planted by him who wrote it,
• O! lost to virtue! lost to manly thought
Who think it solitude to be alone!' But, if the truth were known, this was perhaps owing more to laziness, and thinking company too often annoying, than any sentimental finery elevating me above my fellows."
“I am certainly not one of those who think any company better than none," observed Mr. Manners. “Even in town, I have felt myself alone, only without the freedom and independence of being so; for I agree in the opinion of, I think, Seneca—Magna civitas, magna solitudo ;' and certainly incline to that of Bacon, Crowds are not company; faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love.'
“ It was because I had had too much of this gallery, and tinkling cymbal, without the love, that I thought I would try my fate here, where they would not interrupt me, nor I them. For I fully admit that an old man, who has lost his powers of amusing or interesting, has no right to be welcomed by the world; so you see I am not one of those coxcombs or affected hermits who retire because, as they say, the world has used them ill. I did not affect to be either Bolingbroke or Rousseau.”
“I think you are the very genius of good sense,” said I, “ which neither of those two were ; yet, if you will forgive me, with a spice of the melancholy Jacques.”
“ No,” said he; “ for though I love the forest of Ardennes, I do not, like him, love melancholy better than laughing, but rather laughing better than melancholy; and if I laugh at many for remaining in the world, I allow they have a perfect right to laugh at me for quitting it. On both sides I uphold the maxim, • let those laugh that win.””
“ Yet Horace, as it should seem,” said I, “ calls retirement the oblivion, not the enjoyment, of life; he dwells upon sleep and vacant hours as some of its best pleasures
Nunc somno et inertibus horis.' Yet I should think that to sleep away life, and have nothing to do, not only unworthy, but unhappy."
" And I think so too,” returned he, “and that most heartily; but your construction of the passage in Horace is not mine. For his sleep and leisure are but temporary relaxations after a life of trouble, and, as you ought to have added, the
• Solicitæ jocunda oblivia vitæ.' Besides, he numbers the veterum libros among his pleasures, which I take to make a considerable, nay, all the difference. As to the inertibus horis, except as
refreshment after toil, ease after pain,' never was there a greater mistake than to suppose that to have nothing to do is the necessary accompaniment of solitude. On the contrary, the saying of Cicero* may be proved by every man who embraces that life, if he pleases ; though I allow many do not please, and then, of all
* Nunquam minus solus quàm solus.
men, they are most miserable. What philosopher was it who, being told he had no soul because he could not bear company, replied, “ And have none, because you cannot bear being alone ?!”
“ The theory,” said I, “ is perfect, but pray enlighten me more as to the practice."
“ The whole,” returned he, “is summed up in the little word employment."
66 Of what sort ? ”
“But employment in solitude! What impetus can there be for it? How is it to be brought about ?"
“ Ask Cowper. I do not much like his poetry, but I have no objection to the sense and goodness of sentiment in what I call his numerous prose.
*How various his employments whom the world
Drest to his taste, inviting him abroad.' " “As you understand them so well,” said I, “ favour me with some of the details of these employments."
“Let us suppose fishing,"answered he,“ of all employments in the world, to those who are not fishers, seemingly the most melancholy, yet nothing, by those who are, is more stoutly denied. A great moral philosopher, who has just appeared,* calls it a cheerful solitude. Well, shut up a real lover of angling in his fishing-house; let him pass three parts of his day
light at his sport, and the fourth in mending or making his tackle, the man is happy.”
“But suppose he is not successful ? "
“ No matter; he is perpetually buoyed up by that irrepressible support of us all, Hope, and that alone is happiness, greater often than fruition itself.”
" But there is another source of interest to minds occupied with greater objects, seemingly more trifling than this, which yet produces more real satisfaction to private feelings than many which appear far more important."
“ I long to know it,” said I.
6 It is the correction of bad habits, even though so trifling to men struggling in the busy world, that they may despise any care about them. I see you are surprised,” added he, “but I do not mean what perhaps you think vices, or even very great faults, but merely such as concern what I would call the petite morale.''
Why, for example, take a man of an irritable habit, inclined naturally to be overset with little things. In the working-day world, brimful as it is of briers, how little chance is there of cure, when every thing that occurs, and every man almost he meets, annoys instead of soothes him. He has not time or leisure to philosophize and recover. Solitude, by exempting him from all extrinsic accession to his malady, gives him full liberty to reason himself out of it, and superintend his cure, till it is perfected. New habits are thus acquired, and the old ones extin
guished, during the process of which, how interesting the employment !”
“ Have you ever seen an instance of this ? " I inquired.
- I have both seen and felt it in my own person, and can safely say-Ecce signum ! How often, in the walks of the garden we have left, have I lectured myself on this and other defects, till the peaceful scene about
my own reason combined, have made me ashamed of myself, and at last I felt a perfect reform, and have bid defiance to spleen ever since. What, indeed, in the way of occupation, does not the man of solitude in every other respect owe to his garden? What interest so varying as well as so intense as what he finds there; insomuch, that the very words solitude, sameness, monotony, seem banished his vocabulary.
“ Hence the same philosopher I have just now quoted in praise of fishing, in his account of the various employments that may constitute happiness, enumerates among them the growing of a flower, or even the raising of a cucumber.' *
But let me ask, fond of music?” “ Fond of it, but not an artist.”
“ Then you lose one of the sweetest, and, next to books, the sweetest resource of in or out-of-door soli. tude. In doors, what did not his organ do for blind
He adds, however, the writing of a book, which (gaudeo referens) beguiles many an hour.