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No. 163. THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6.
-Si quid ego adjuero, curamve levasso,
Quæ nunc te coquit, et versat sub pectore fixa,
ENN. AP. TULLIUM.
INQUIRIES after happiness, and rules for attaining it, are not so necessary and useful to mankind as the arts of consolation, and supporting oneself under affliction. The utmost we can hope for in this world is contentment; if we aim at anything higher, we shall meet with nothing but grief and disappointments. A man should direct all his studies and endeavours at making himself easy now, and happy hereafter.
The truth of it is, if all the happiness that is dispersed through the whole race of mankind in this world were drawn together, and put into the possession of any single man, it would not make a very happy being. Though, on the contrary, if the miseries of the whole species were fixed in a single person, they would make a very miserable one.
I am engaged in this subject by the following letter, which, though subscribed by a fictitious name, I have reason to believe is not imaginary.
I am one of your disciples, and endeavour to live up to your rules, which I hope will incline you to pity my condition; I shall open it to you in a very few words. About three years since a gentleman, whom, I am sure, you yourself would have approved, made his addresses to me. He had everything to recommend him but an estate, so that my friends, who all of them applauded his person, would not for the sake of both of us favour his passion. For my own part, I resigned myself up entirely to the direction of those who knew the world much better than myself, but still lived in hopes that some juncture or other would make me happy in the man whom, in my heart, I preferred to all the world; being determined, if I could not have him, to have nobody else. About three months ago I received a letter from him, acquainting me, that by the death of an uncle he had a con
We may say,-the arts of consolation, and the arts of supporting oneself, but not both together. It had been better thus: the arts of consolation and directions for supporting oneself.
siderable estate left him, which he said was welcome to him upon no other account, but as he hoped it would remove all difficulties that lay in the way to our mutual happiness. You may well suppose, sir, with how much joy I received this letter, which was followed by several others filled with those expressions of love and joy, which I verily believe nobody felt more sincerely, nor knew better how to describe, than the gentleman I am speaking of. But, sir, how shall I be able to tell it you! By the last week's post I received a letter from an intimate friend of this unhappy gentleman, acquainting me, that as he had just settled his affairs, and was preparing for his journey, he fell sick of a fever and died. It is impossible to express to you the distress I am in upon this occasion. I can only have recourse to my devotions, and to the reading of good books, for my consolation; and as I always take a particular delight in those frequent advices and admonitions which you give the public, it would be a very great piece of charity in you to lend me your assistance in this conjuncture. If, after the reading of this letter, you find yourself in a humour rather to rally and ridicule, than to comfort me, I desire you would throw it into the fire, and think no more of it; but if you are touched with my misfortune, which is greater than I know how to bear, your counsels may very much support, and will infinitely oblige, the afflicted LEONORA."
A disappointment in love is more hard to get over than any other; the passion itself so softens and subdues the heart, that it disables it from struggling or bearing up against the woes and distresses which befall it. The mind meets with other misfortunes in her whole strength; she stands collected within herself, and sustains the shock with all the force which is natural to her; but a heart in love has its foundations sapped, and immediately sinks under the weight of accidents that are disagreeable to its favourite passion.
In afflictions, men generally draw their consolations out of books of morality, which, indeed, are of great use to fortify and strengthen the mind against the impressions of sorrow. Monsieur St. Evremont, who does not approve of this method, recommends authors who are apt to stir up mirth in the mind of the readers, and fancies Don Quixote can give more relief to an heavy heart, than Plutarch or Seneca, as it
is much easier to divert grief than to conquer it. This doubtless may have its effects on some tempers. I should rather have recourse to authors of a quite contrary kind, that give us instances of calamities and misfortunes, and show human nature in its greatest distresses.
If the affliction we groan under be very heavy, we shall find some consolation in the society of as great sufferers as ourselves, especially when we find our companions men of virtue and merit. If our afflictions are light, we shall be comforted by the comparisons we make between ourselves and our fellow-sufferers. A loss at sea, a fit of sickness, or the death of a friend, are such trifles when we consider whole kingdoms laid in ashes, families put to the sword, wretches shut up in dungeons, and the like calamities of mankind, that we are out of countenance for our own weakness, if we sink under such little strokes of fortune.
Let the disconsolate Leonora consider, that at the very time in which she languishes for the loss of her deceased lover, there are persons in several parts of the world just perishing in a shipwreck; others crying out for mercy in the terrors of a death-bed repentance; others lying under the tortures of an infamous execution, or the like dreadful calamities; and she will find her sorrows vanish at the appearance of those which are so much greater and more astonishing.
I would further propose to the consideration of my afflicted disciple, that possibly what she now looks upon as the greatest misfortune, is not really such in itself. For my own part, I question not but our souls, in a separate state, will look back on their lives in quite another view, than what they had of them in the body; and that what they now consider as misfortunes and disappointments, will very often appear to have been escapes and blessings.
The mind that hath any cast towards devotion, naturally flies to it in its afflictions.
When I was in France, I heard a very remarkable story of two lovers, which I shall relate at length in my to-morrow's paper, not only because the circumstances of it are extraordinary, but because it may serve as an illustration to all that can be said on this last head, and show the power of religion in abating that particular anguish which seems to lie so heavy on Leonora. The story was told me by a priest, as I travelled with him in a stage-coach. I shall give it my
reader, as well as I can remember, in his own words, after having premised, that if consolations may be drawn from a wrong religion and a misguided devotion, they cannot but flow much more naturally from those which are founded upon reason, and established in good sense.
No. 164. FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7.
Illa; quis et me, inquit, miseram, et te perdidit, Orpheu?
Invalidasque tibi tendens, heu! non tua, palmas. VIRG. CONSTANTIA was a woman of extraordinary wit and beauty, but very unhappy in a father, who having arrived at great riches by his own industry, took delight in nothing but his money. Theodosius was the younger son of a decayed family, of great parts and learning, improved by a genteel and virtuous education. When he was in the twentieth year of his age, he became acquainted with Constantia, who had not then passed her fifteenth. As he lived but a few miles' distance from her father's house, he had frequent opportunities of seeing her; and by the advantages of a good person, and a pleasing conversation, made such an impression in her heart as it was impossible for time to efface: he was himself no less smitten with Constantia. A long acquaintance made them still discover new beauties in each other, and by degrees raised in them that mutual passion which had an influence on their following lives. It unfortunately happened, that in the midst of this intercourse of love and friendship between Theodosius and Constantia, there broke out an irreparable quarrel between their parents, the one valuing himself too much upon his birth, and the other upon his possessions. The father of Constantia was so incensed at the father of Theodosius, that he contracted an unreasonable aversion towards his son, insomuch that he forbad him his house, and charged his daughter upon her duty never to see him more. In the mean time, to break off all communications between the two lovers, who he knew entertained secret hopes of some favourable opportunity that should bring them together, he found out a young gentleman of a good fortune and an agree able person, whom he pitched upon as a husband for his daughter. He soon concerted this affair so well, that he told
Constantia it was his design to marry her to such a gentleman, and that her wedding should be celebrated on such a day. Constantia, who was overawed with the authority of her father, and unable to object anything against so advantageous a match, received the proposal with a profound silence, which her father commended in her, as the most decent manner of a virgin's giving her consent to an overture of that kind. The noise of this intended marriage soon reached Theodosius, who after a long tumult of passions, which naturally rise in a lover's heart on such an occasion, writ the following letter to Constantia.
"THE thought of my Constantia, which for some years has been my only happiness, is now become a greater torment to me than I am able to bear. Must I then live to see you another's? The streams, the fields, and meadows, where we have so often talked together, grow painful to me; life itself is become a burden. May you long be happy in the world, but forget that there was ever such a man in it as
This letter was conveyed to Constantia that very evening, who fainted at the reading of it; and the next morning she was much more alarmed by two or three messengers, that came to her father's house one after another, to inquire if they had heard anything of Theodosius, who it seems had left his chamber about midnight, and could nowhere be found. The deep melancholy which had hung upon his mind some time before, made them apprehend the worst that could befall him. Constantia, who knew that nothing but the report of her marriage could have driven him to such extremities, was not to be comforted: she now accused herself for having so tamely given an ear to the proposal of a husband, and looked upon the new lover as the murderer of Theodosius: in short, she resolved to suffer the utmost effects of her father's displeasure, rather than comply with a marriage which appeared to her so full of guilt and horror. The father seeing himself entirely rid of Theodosius, and likely to keep a considerable portion in his family, was not very much concerned at the obstinate refusal of his daughter; and did not find it very difficult to excuse himself upon that account to his intended son-in-law, who had all along regarded this alliance rather as a marriage of convenience than of love.