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which grows upon us with our years; whence comes it, that we thus make greater efforts to preserve our existence, at a period when it becomes scarcely worth the keeping? Is it that Nature, attentive to the preservation of mankind, increases our wishes to live, while she lessens our enjoyments; and as she robs the senses of every pleasure, equips imagination in the spoil? Life would be insupportable to an old man who, loaded with infirmities, feared death no more than when in the vigour of manhood; the numberless calamities of decaying nature, and the consciousness of surviving every pleasure would at once induce him with his own hand to terminate the scene of misery ; but happily the contempt of death forsakes him at a time when it could be only prejudicial ; and life acquires an imaginary value, in proportion as its real value is no more.
Our attachment to every object around us increases, in general, from the length of our acquaintance with it. I would not choose, says a French philosopher, to see an old post pulled up, with which I had been long acquainted. A mind long habituated to a certain set of objects, insensibly becomes fond of seeing them ; visits them from habit, and parts from them with reluctance: hence proceeds the avarice of the old in every kind of possession. They love the world and all that it produces; they love life and all its advantages; not because it gives them pleasure, but because they have known it long.
Chinvang the Chaste, ascending the throne of China, commanded that all who were unjustly detained in prison, during the preceding reigns, should be set free. Among the number who came to thank their deliverer on this occasion, there appeared a majestic old man, who, falling at the emperor's feet, addressed him as follows: “Great father of China, behold a " wretch, now eighty-five years old, who was shut up “ in a dungeon, at the age of twenty-two. I was im“ prisoned, though a stranger to crime, or without “ being even confronted by my accusers. I have now “ lived in solitude and in darkness for more than fifty “ years, and am grown familiar with distress. As yet “ dazzled with the splendour of that sun to which you “ have restored me, I have been wandering the streets " to find some friend that would assist, or relieve, or “ remember me ; but my friends, my family, and re" lations are all dead, and I am forgotten. Permit me ( then, O Chinvang, to wear out the wretched remains “ of life in my former prison ; the walls of my dun“ geon are to me more pleasing than the most splen“ did palace : I have not long to live, and shall be un“ happy except I spend the rest of my days where “ my youth was passed ; in that prison from which admiration : these the names that fame will be employed in holding up for the astonishment of succeeding ages. Let me see-forty-six great men in half a year amount just to ninety-two in a year. I wonder how posterity will be able to remember them all, or whether the people in future times, will have any other business to mind, but that of getting the catalogue by heart
you were pleased to release me.”
The old man's passion for confinement is similar to that we all have for life. We are habituated to the prison, we look round with discontent, are displeased with the abode, and yet the length of our captivity only increases our fondness for the cell. The trees we have planted, the houses we have built, or the posterity we have begotten, all serve to bind us closer to earth, and embitter our parting. Life sues the young like a new acquaintance ; the companion as yet unexhausted, is at once instructive and amusing; it is company pleases, yet for all this it is but little regarded Το ms, who are declined in years, life appears like an old friend ; its jests have been anticipated in former conversation ; it has no new story to make us smile, no new improvement with which to surprise, yet still we
love it; destitute of every enjoyment still we love it : husband the wasting treasure with increased frugality, and feel all the poignancy of anguish in the fatal separation.
Sir Philip Mordaunt was young, beautiful, sincere, brave, an Englishman. He had a complete fortune of his own, and the love of the king his master, which was equivalent to riches. Life opened all her treasure before him, and promised a long succession of future happiness. He came, tasted of the entertainment, but was disgusted even in the beginning. He professed an aversion to living, was tired of walking round the same circle; had tried every enjoyment, and found them all grow weaker at every 'repetition. “ If life be in youth so displeasing," cried he to himself, what will it
appear when age comes on ; if it be at present indif“ ferent, sure it will then be execrable.” This thought embittered every reflection ; till, at last, with all the serenity of perverted reason, he ended the debate with a pistol! Had this self-deluded man been apprized that existence grows more desirable to us the longer we exist, he would have then faced old age without shrinking, he would have boldly dared to live, and served that society, by his future assiduity, which he basely injured by his desertion.
Does the mayor of a corporation make a speech? he is instantly set down for a great man.
Does a pedant digest his common place-book into a folio ? he quickly becomes great. Does a poet string up trite sentiments in rhyme ? he also becomes the great man of the hour. How diminutive soever the object of admiration, each is followed by a crowd of still more diminutive admirers. The shout begins in his train, onward he marches toward immortality, looks back, at the pursuing crowd with self-satisfaction ; Catching all the oddities, the whimsies, the absurdities, and the littlenesses of conscious greatness, by the way.
I was yesterday invited by a gentleman to dinner, who promised that our entertainment should consist of an haunch of venison, a turtle, and a great man. I came according to appointment. The venison was fine, the turtle good, but the great man insupportable. The moment I ventured to speak, I was at once contradicted with a snap. I attempted, by a second and a third assault, to retrieve my lost reputation, but was still beat back with confusion. I was resolved to attack him once more from entrenchment, and turned the conversation upon the government of China: but even here he asserted, snapped, and contradicted as before. Heavens, thought I, this man pretends to know China, even better than myself! I looked round to see who was on my side, but every eye was fixed in admiration on the great man ; I therefore at last thought proper to sit silent, and act the pretty gentleman during the ensuing conversation.
When a man has once secured a circle of admirers, he may
be as ridiculous here as he thinks proper; and it all passes for elevation of sentiment, or learned absence. If he transgresses the common forms of breeding, mistakes even a tea-pot for a tobacco-box, it is said, that his thoughts are fixed on more important objects: to speak and act like the rest of mankind is to be no greater than they. There is something of oddity in the very idea of greatness: for we are seldom astonished at a thing very much resembling ourselves.
When the Tartars make a Lama, their first care is to place him in a dark corner of the temple; here he is to sit half concealed from view, to regulate the motion of his hands, lips, and eyes; but, above all, he is enjoined gravity and silence. This, however, is but the prelude to his apotheosis ; a set of emissaries are dispatched among the people to cry up his piety, gravity, and love of raw flesh; the people take them at their word, approach the Lama, now become an idol, with the most humble prostration ; he receives their addresses without motion, commences a god, and is ever after fed by his priests with the spoon of immor. tality. The same receipt in this country serves to make a great man. The idol only keeps close, sends out his little emissaries to be hearty in his praise; and straight, whether statesman or author, he is set down in the list of fame, continuing to be praised while it is fashionable to praise, or while he prudently keeps his minuteness concealed from the public.
I have visited many countries, and have been in cities without number, yet never did I enter a town which could not produce ten or twelve of those little