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have been taught other lessons of correction equally extensive.
Whether my opinions of the virtues, or the talents, or the splendors of public life, have been exalted or debased, I am unwilling at this moment to explain. To speak with candid precision, to shift the hues as truth would direct, to throw the light where I had hitherto shaded the picture with dark tints, and to shade what had once seemed more brilliant, would require a steadier hand, and greater leisure than I yet possess.
Life, even amidst the more frequent recurrence of tremendous clouds, has at intervals lost, with me, no ray of its enchantment! The face of Nature shines with equal glory to my eye; and the buman character, when elevated by virtue and intellect, or illumined by beauty, has been reft of none of my admiration! But, perhaps, added knowledge has still increased my desire for the retreat of the deepest woods!
I am not sure that my wounded spirits could long bear its uninterrupted stillness; which might invite those vultures of the human heart, Care and Sorrow, to a fiercer feast upon their prey! But how desirable are space and leisure, to muse upon the busy scenes and the busy actors, that have been hurrying cross the mind with a feverish indistinctness!
All those nice distinctions, all that exquisite taste, which are nursed in Solitude, are obliterated or suppressed in the hourly pressure of worldly inter
course. They revive again in the loneliness of groves and forests, where the wind just whispering among the boughs calls forth the train of long-buried ideas.
Would that, content with a sufficiency, the master of myself, and untorn with the anxieties and burdens of ambition, I had dedicated my life in innocent obscurity to the world of my own thoughts! The dawn of day would then have opened my eyes to salute and enjoy its glories; and not to meet the thorns of contest, and insult, and disappointment, and disgust! To seize the pen with a palsied hand; to collect the ideas of an agitated head, and trembling heart; and thus to perform the task of literary composition, how hopeless is the success of the work, compared with the efforts of those who give to it their unbroken powers, in the virtuous calmness of a constant life amid woods and trees!
Still we may be reminded, how were principally passed the days of the most eloquent, the most enlightened, the most multifariously-endowed, and the wisest writer of modern times, Edmund Burke! Were they not principally spent in the noisy metropolis; in the heat of party-rage; in the turmoil of political squabbles ?
But perhaps this difficulty is well illustrated in the beautiful and plaintively-moral lines of the late Major Mercer, a who having observed that
Lyric Poems, by the late James Mercer, Esq. 3d edit. 1806, small octavo: edited by Lord Glenbervie.
........" in the busy walks of life,
Th' unsettled mind no comfort knows;
And live in sweet repose;"
thus closes his poem:
“But you, my friend, deride my strain;
And I myself confess, 'tis vain;
Life rolls in a tempestuous stream;
And rest, an idle dream.”
If we court Solitude for the indulgence of idleness, it cannot be doubted, that it will grow wearisome, tasteless, and unhappy. . Exercise and labour only give a zest to leisure and quiet: undisturbed Indolence is the nurse of all the most frightful diseases of the mind.
Cowley's Praise of Solitude, with a Defence of his sincerity in that
Praise, against the Attacks of Dr. Johnson.
“ God made the country, and man the town."
July 17, 1815. In looking back on these Essays, I am quite astonished to find that I have not introduced the authority of my greatest and earliest favourite, Cowley. Hear this eloquent pleader for Solitude.
“The truth of the matter is,” says he, “ that neither he who is a fop in the world, is a fit man to be alone; nor he who has set his heart much upon the world, though he have never so much understanding; so that Solitude can be well fitted and set right, but upon a very few persons. They must have enough knowledge of the world to see the vanity of it, and enough virtue to despise all vanity. If the mind be possessed with any lust or passion, a man had better be in a Fair, than in a wood alone: they may, like petty thieves, cheat us perhaps, and pick our pockets in the midst of company; but, like robbers, they use to strip and bind, or murder us when they catch us alone. This is but to retreat from men, and fall into the hands of devils. 'Tis like the punishment of parricides among the Romans, to be sowed into a bag with an ape, a dog, and a serpent. The first work therefore that a man must do to make himself capable of the good of Solitude, is, the very eradication of all lusts: for how is it possible for a man to enjoy himself, while his affections are tied to things without himself? In the second place, he must learn the art, and get the habit of thinking; for this too, no less than well speaking, depends upon much practice, and cogitation is the thing which distinguishes the Solitude of a God from a wild beast. Now because the soul of man is not by its own nature or observation furnished with sufficient materials to work upon, it is necessary for it to have continual recourse to learning and books for fresh supplies, so that the solitary life will grow indigent, and be ready to starve without them; but if once we be thoroughly engaged in the love of letters, instead of being wearied with the length of any day, we shall only complain of the shortness of our whole life.
• O Vita, Stulto longa, Sapienti brevis !"
“ The first Minister of State has not so much business in public, as a wise man has in private; if the one have little leisure to be alone, the other has less leisure to be in company; the one has but part of the affairs of one nation, the other all the works of God and Nature under his consideration. There is no saying shocks me so much, as that which I hear very often, that a man does not know how to pass his time. "Twould have been ill spoken by Methusalem in the nine hundred sixty-ninth year of his life; so far it is from us, who have not time enough to attain to the utmost perfection of any part of any science, to have cause to complain that we are forced to be idle for want of work. But this you'll say is work only for the learned; others are not capable either of the employments or divertisements that arrive from letters: I know they are not, and therefore cannot much recommend Solitude to a man totally illiterate. But if any man be so unlearned as to want entertainment of the little intervals of accidental Solitude, which frequently occur in almost all conditions (except the very meanest of the people, who have business enough in the necessary provisions for life,) it is truly a great shame both to his parents and himself; for a very small portion of any ingenious art will stop up all those gaps of our time; either music, or painting, or designing, or chymistry, or history, or gardening, or twenty other things, will do it usefully and pleasantly; and if he happen to set his affections on poetry, (which I do not advise him too immoderately,) that will over do it; no wood will be