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ignorance; yet afterwards, in his meridian, and when too much occupied with the world to give his inquiries fair play, a gloom came over him in the shape of scepticism, for which, as he had always viewed it unhurt before, he could not account.
“I had read Hume, Bolingbroke, and Voltaire,” said he, “at twenty, and, as I thought, had triumphed over their sophisms, and was invulnerable to their
Most strange it was, that at forty I myself suggested doubts to my own mind, which I did not answer, because I was too much plunged in dissipation. There were points, too, of belief demanded of me by divines and commentators, about which it had never occurred to me to hesitate, because, as you say, I took all upon authority, and, coursing gaily down the stream of life, I had neither leisure nor inclination to criticise their soundness. And far happier was I in this unlimited confidence, than when, from an eagerness for still more light, my vision became indistinct. For I began to impose upon myself the impossible task of reconciling contending divines upon articles of faith, which I had formerly believed necessary for our safety, but which I found were deemed so on grounds which to me appeared any thing but firm. To settle when to follow and when to leave these instructors of ours; to separate enthusiasm from rational piety, cool sense from effervescing zeal, has formed much of the business of this retreat ; and I trust I may say my efforts have been successful, for they have left me happy and confiding, not now upon authority, but conviction. It is best not to doubt; but
if you do, how much better to believe upon cool examination and sincere persuasion. To retirement do I owe this happiness. Can I give a stronger reason for loving it?”
“ You would make any one love it,” observed I, as I am sure you have me; though, if ambition be honourable, which we are told it is, the ambitious man can never be a votary; there is not room for him in solitude.”
“For mere worldly ambition,” said he, “ by which I mean a struggle after power, preferment, or riches, certainly not. All this must be laid aside, or the recluse is a gone man.
For what does the wise man Ambition is like choler, which is an humour, that maketh men active, earnest, full of alacrity, and stirring, if it be not stopt. But if it be stopt, and cannot have its way, it becometh adust, and thereby maligne and venomous.'
“Now if a man continues ambitious in solitude, the humour is stopt, and then, the wise man, adds he, becomes secretly discontent, looks upon men and matters with an evil eye, and is best pleased when things go backward.* Bacon, however, neglects a corollary which he might have added to this, that public men, when out of office, if they have the least hankering left, should never betake themselves to solitude for consolation, for they will certainly then become adust, and best pleased when things go backward.'”
“ But what, may I ask,” said I, “ is to secure them from the hankering you have mentioned ?”
* Bacon's Essays. Art. ' Ambition.'
He answered, “ The objects for which alone they ought to retire. If their seclusion be adopted in a pet, as it often is; if from caprice, if without sufficient stores, heaven help the hermit, for he cannot help himself, but will sink down into a gross and unworthy sensualist ; or, at very best, a listless burthen to himself and all about him."
“ I should like, however, to hear more," said I, “ of those worthier and higher pursuits in solitude, which, according to its admirers, so ennoble it.”
“ Look around you,” he answered, “ and if you cannot there find both employment and interest for a hundred lives, I have thrown away my pains and money on my library to no purpose. You must, however, often impose upon yourself the subjects you see around you, as duties, not as mere amusement. Science and philosophy must be your substantials ; light summer reading only the garnish. If you adopt this plan, perhaps, you would wish the day longer than it is, even in solitude. But, woe to that day, if you confine your reading to trifles: for I need not
* * Unless you light your early lamp to find
A moral book; unless you form your mind
FRANCIS' Hor. Ep. 1, 2, 3, 7.
Horace. Loquor de docto homine et erudito, cui vivere est cogitare.'* So says
Cicero. ' But the first and noblest occupation of solitude is also its happiest, being no less than nature, and nature's God.'
“ On this part of the subject Zimmerman shines ; and one who wrote before him, and quite as well, if not better."
With this, Mr. Manners took Hervey's Meditations from one of the shelves.
“ Start not,” said he, “at my introducing this quaint old author to you, whom, perhaps, you young Oxonians never read, or despise if you do. Rest assured, however, that in this fanciful, but most devoted Christian, there is more, both of genius and poetry, than in any of the correct and smooth, but soul-less gentry of the present age.”
Mr. Manners then turned to the Contemplation on Night, and read :-" The world is a troubled ocean, and who can erect stable purposes on its troubled waves ? The world is a school of wrong, and who does not feel himself warping to its pernicious influences ? On this sea of glass, how insensibly we slide from our own stedfastness ? Some sacred truth, which was struck in lively characters on our souls, is obscured, if not obliterated. Some worthy resolution, which heaven had wrought in our breasts, is shaken, if not overthrown. Some enticing vanity, which we had
'I speak of a learned, well-instructed man, with whom to think is to live.'
solemnly renounced, again practises its wiles. How often has an angry glance kindled a fever in our hearts? How often has a word of applause dropt luscious poison in our ears, or some disrespectful expression raised a gust of passion in our bosom? Our innocence is of so tender a constitution, that it suffers in the crowd ; our purity of so delicate a complexion, that it scarce touches on the world without contracting a stain. We see, we hear with peril."
“ To me,” said I, on Mr. Manners pausing, “however forcible and eloquent, this is new; and I shall begin to think myself like the bourgeois gentilhomme, who had talked prose all his life without knowing it; for I find I have been living amid danger and corruption with equal ignorance."
“ Your age,” replied Mr. Manners gravely, "exempts you, I trust, from that suspicion. You have, in fact, been scarcely in the world we are talking of; but to me the picture is no more than just, both as to men and women. How many are there of either, who ever seriously reflect upon what they are about, or what they are pursuing, except that it is pleasure, or business, or an object of ambition? They seem all meteors, streaming on the troubled air, without knowing where they are to rest, and, provided they shine, perfectly content. Who of all who meet daily at White's, or Brooks's, or at the levée, or at dinners, or the Opera, or the House, ever think of what their nature, their hearts, or their God require of them ; satisfied if they shock not the customs of society by very gross faults, which would drive them from it,