Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

and foot, and thrown into the water. If she swam, then she was instantly carried off to be burnt for a witch; if she sunk, then indeed she was acquitted of the charge, but drowned in the experiment. In the same manner, a crowd gather round a dog suspected of madness, and they begin by teasing the devoted animal on every side ; if he attempts to stand upon the defensive, and bite, then he is unanimously found guilty, for a mad dog always snaps at every thing ; if, on the contrary, he strives to escape by running away, then he can expect no compassion, for mad dogs always run straight forward before them.

41. Money and time are the heaviest burdens of life, and the unhappiest of all mortals are those who have more of either than they know how to use. To set himself free from these incumbrances, one hurries to Newmarket; another travels over Europe ; one pulls down his house and calls architects about him ; another buys a seat in the country, and follows his hounds over hedges and through rivers; one makes collections of shells; and another searches the world for tulips and carnations.

42. It has been said in praise of some men, that they could talk whole hours together upon any thing; but it must be owned to the honour of the other sex, that there are many among them who can talk whole hours together upon nothing. I have known a woman branch out into a long extempore dissertation upon the edging of a petticoat, and chide lier servant for breaking a china cup, in all the figures of rhetoric.

43. There is nothing that has more startled our English audience, than the Italian recitativo at its first entrance upon the stage. People were wonderfully surprised to hear generals singing the word of command, and ladies delivering messages in music. Our countrymen could not forbear laughing when they heard a lover chaunting out a billetdoux, and even the superscription of a letter set to a tune. The famous blunder in an old play of “Enter a king and

two fiddlers solus," was now no longer an absurdity, when it was impossible for a hero in a desert, or a princess in her closet, to speak any thing unaccompanied with musical instruments.

44. Whatever may be the multiplicity or contrariety of opinions upon the subject of sleep, Nature has taken sufficient care that theory shall have little influence on practice. The most diligent inquirer is not able long to keep his eyes open ; the most eager disputant will begin about midnight to desert his argument; and once in four and twenty hours the gay and the gloomy, the witty and the dull, the clamorous and the silent, the busy and the idle, are all overpowered by the gentle tyrant, and all lie down in equality of sleep.

45. When man has looked about him as far as he can, he concludes there is no more to be seen; when he is at the end of his line, he is at the bottom of the ocean; when he has shot his best, he is sure none ever did nor ever can shoot better or beyond it; his own reason is the certain measure of truth; his own knowledge, of what is possible in nature; though his mind and his thoughts change every seven years, as well as his strength and his features ; nay, though his opinions change every week or every day, yet he is sure, or at least confident, that his present thoughts and conclusions are just and true, and cannot be deceived.

46. It ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative, to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and, above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But, his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

47. Among those whom I never could persuade to rank themselves with Idlers, and who speak with indignation of my morning sleeps and nocturnal rambles, one passes the day in catching spiders, that he may count their eyes with a microscope; another erects his head, and exhibits the dust of a marigold separated from the flower with a dexterity worthy of Leuwenhoeck himself. Some turn the wheel of electricity; some suspend rings to a loadstone, and find that what they did yesterday they can do again to-day. Some register the changes of the wind, and die fully convinced that the wind is changeable. There are men yet more profound, who have heard that two colourless liquors may produce a colour by union, and that two cold bodies will

grow hot if they are mingled; they mingle them, and produce the effect expected, say it is strange, and mingle them again.

48. He that would please in company, must be attentive to what style is most proper. The scholastic should never be used but in a select company of learned men. The didactic should seldom be used, and then only by judicious aged persons, or those who are eminent for piety or wisdom. No style is more extensively acceptable than the narrative, because this does not carry an air of superiority over the rest of the company, and therefore is most likely to please them; for this purpose we should store our memory with short anecdotes and entertaining pieces of history. Almost every one listens with eagerness to extemporary history, Vanity often co-operates with curiosity, for he that is a hearer in one place, wishes to qualify himself to be a principal speaker in some inferior company, and therefore more attention is given to narrations than any thing else in conversation. It is true indeed, that sallies of wit and quick

replies are very pleasing in conversation, but they frequently tend to raise envy in some of the company; but the narrative way neither raises this, nor any other evil passion, but keeps all the company nearly upon an equality, and if judiciously managed, will at once entertain and improve them all.

49. Every man is rich or poor, according to the proportion between his desires and enjoyments. Of riches as of every thing else, the hope is more than the enjoyment; while we consider them as the means to be used at some future time for the attainment of felicity, ardour after them secures us from weariness of ourselves, but no sooner do we sit down to enjoy our acquisitions than we find them insufficient to fill up the vacuities of life. Nature makes us poor only when we want necessaries, but custom gives the name of poverty to the want of superfluities. It is the great privilege of poverty to be happy unenvied, to be healthy without physic, secure without a guard, and to obtain from the bounty of nature what the great and wealthy are compelled to procure by the help of art. Adversity has ever been considered as the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, particularly being free from flatterers. Prosperity is too apt to prevent us from examining our conduct, but as adversity leads us to think properly of our state, it is most beneficial to us.

50. A man who has been brought up among books, and is able to talk of nothing else, is a very indifferent companion, and what we call a pedant. But we should enlarge the title, and give it to every one that does not know how to think out of his profession and particular way of life. Who is a greater pedant than a mere man of the town ? Bar him the play-houses, a catalogue of the reigning beauties, and you strike him dumb. The military pedant always talks in a camp, and is storming towns, making lodgments, and fighting battles from one end of the year to the other. Every thing he speaks smells of gunpowder; if you take

his artillery from him, he has not a word to say for himself.

away

The law pedant is perpetually putting cases, repeating the transactions of Westminster-hall, wrangling with you upon the most indifferent circumstances of life, and not to be convinced of the distance of a place, or of the most trivial point in conversation, but by dint of argument. The state pedant is wrapt up in news, and lost in politics. If you mention any of the sovereigns of Europe, he talks very notably; but if you go out of the gazette, you drop him. In short, a mere courtier, a mere soldier, a mere scholar, a mere any thing, is an insipid, pedantic character, and equally ridiculous.

51. The most sure way to make any proficiency in a virtuous life is, to set out betimes. It is then, when our inclinations are trained up in the way that they should lead us, that custom soon makes the best habits the most agreeable ; the ways of wisdom become the ways of pleasantness, and every step we advance, they grow more easy and more delightful. But, on the contrary, when vicious headstrong appetites are to be reclaimed, and inveterate habits to be corrected, what security can we give ourselves, that we shall have either inclination, resolution, or power to stop and turn back, and recover the right way, from which we have so long and so widely wandered, and enter upon a new life, when perhaps our strength now faileth us, and we know not how near we may be to our journey's end ?

52. I have known an old lady make an unhappy marriage the subject of a month's conversation. She blamed the bride in one place; pitied her in another; laughed at her in a third; wondered at her in a fourth ; was angry with her in a fifth ; and, in short, wore out a pair of coach horses in expressing her concern for her. At length, after having quite exhausted the subject on that side, she made a visit to the new-married pair ; praised the wife for the prudent choice she had made; told her the unreasonable reflections which some malicious people had cast upon her; and desired that they might be better acquainted.

53. True critics inquire, “ Does the work relate to the

« ПредишнаНапред »