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I would travel to by way of amusement; but the first for instruction. I would choose to have others for my acquaintance, but Englishmen for my friends.
TO THE SAME.
THE mind is ever ingenious in making its own dis
The wandering beggar, who has none to protect, to feed, or to shelter him, fancies complete happiness in labour and a full meal; take him from rags and want, feed, clothe, and employ him, his wishes now rise one step above his station; he could be happy were he possessed of raiment, food, and ease. Suppose his wishes gratified even in these, his prospects widen as he ascends; he finds himself in affluence and tranquillity indeed, but indolence soon breeds anxiety, and he desires not only to be freed from pain, but to be possessed of pleasure; pleasure is granted him, and this but opens his soul to ambition, and ambition will be sure to taint his future happiness, either with jealousy, disappointment, or fatigue.
But of all the arts of distress found out by man for his own torment, perhaps, that of philosophic misery is most truly ridiculous, a passion no where carried to so extravagant an excess as in the country where I now reside. It is not enough to engage all the compassion of a philosopher here, that his own globe is harassed with wars, pestilence, or babarity, he shall grieve for the inhabitants of the moon, if the situation of her imaginary mountains happen to alter; and dread the extinction of the sun, if the spots on his surface happen to increase: one should imagine, that philoso
phy was introduced to make men happy; but here it serves to make hundreds miserable.
My landlady some days ago brought me the diary of a philosopher of this desponding sort, who had lodged in the apartment before me. It contains the history of a life, which seems to be one continued tissue of sorrow, apprehension, and distress. will serve as a specimen of the whole.
A single week
Monday. In what a transient decaying situation are we placed, and what various reasons does philosophy furnish to make mankind unhappy! A single grain of mustard shall continue to produce its similitude through numberless successions; yet what has been granted to this little seed, has been denied to our planetary system; the mustard-seed is still unaltered, but the system is growing old, and must quickly fall to decay. How terrible will it be, when the motions of all the planets have at last become so irregular, as to need repairing, when the moon shall fall into frightful paroxysms of alteration, when the earth, deviating from its ancient track, and with every other planet forgetting its circular revolutions, shall become so eccentric, that unconfined by the laws of system, it shall fly off into boundless space, to knock against some distant world, or fall in upon the sun, either extinguishing his light, or burned up by his flames in a moment. Perhaps while I write, this dreadful change is begun. Shield me from universal ruin! Yet ideot man laughs, sings, and rejoices in the very face of the sun, and scems no way touched with his situation.
by good fortune, I shall never feel, except in my posterity. The obliquity of the equator with the ecliptic, is now twenty minutes less than when it was observed two thousand years ago by Piteas. If this be the case, in six thousand the obliquity will be still less by an whole degree. This being supposed, it is evident, that our earth, as Louville has clearly proved, has a motion, by which the climates must necessarily change place, and in the space of about one million of years, England shall actually travel to the Antarctic pole. I shudder at the change! How shall our unhappy grandchildren endure the hideous climate! A million of years will soon be accomplished: they are but a moment when compared to eternity; then shall our charming country, as I may say, in a moment of time, resemble the hideous wilderness of Nova Zembla.
Wednesday. To-night by my calculation, the long predicted comet is to make its first appearance. Heavens! what terrors are impending over our little dim speck of earth! Dreadful visitation! Are we to be scorched in its fires, or only smothered in the vapour of its tail? That is the question! Thoughtless mortals, go build houses, plant orchards, purchase estates, for to-morrow you die. But what if the comet should not come? That would be equally fatal. Comets are servants which periodically return to supply the sun with fuel. If our sun therefore should be disappointed of the expected supply, and all his fuel be in the mean time burnt out, he must expire like an exhausted taper. What a miserable situation must our earth be in without his enlivening ray! Have we not seen several neighbouring suns entirely disappear? Has not a fixed star near the tail of the Ram lately been quite extinguished?
Thursday. The comet has not yet appeared; I am sorry for it: first, sorry because my calculation is false secondly, sorry lest the sun should want fuel: thirdly, sorry lest the wits should laugh at our erroneous predictions: and fourthly, sorry because if it appears to-night, it must necessarily come within the sphere of the earth's attraction; and Heaven help the unhappy country on which it happens to fall.
Friday. Our whole society have been out all eager in search of the comet. We have seen not less than sixteen comets in different parts of the heavens. However, we are unanimously resolved to fix upon one only to be the comet expected. That near Virgo wants nothing but a tail to fit it out completely for terrestrial admiration.
Saturday. The moon is I find at her old pranks. Her appulses, librations, and other irregularities indeed amaze me. My daughter too is this morning gone off with a grenadier. No way surprising. I was never able to give her a relish for wisdom. She ever promised to be a mere expletive in the creation. But the moon, the moon gives me real uneasiness; I fondly fancied I had fixed her I had thought her constant, and constant only to me; but every night discovers her infidelity, and proves me a desolate and abandoned lover. Adieu.
finery, and then stand in astonishment at the plastic wonder. I have been told of a rat-catcher here, who strolled for a long time about the villages near town, without finding any employment; at last, however, he thought proper to take the title of his Majesty's ratcatcher in ordinary, and this succeeded beyond his expectations; when it was known that he caught rats at court, all were ready to give him countenance and employment.
But of all the people, they who make books seem most perfectly sensible of the advantage of titular dignity. All seem convinced, that a book written by vulgar hands, can neither instruct nor improve; none but Kings, Chams, and Mandarines, can write with any probability of success. If the titles inform me right, not only Kings and Courtiers, but Emperors themselves in this country periodically supply the
A man here who should write, and honestly confess that he wrote for bread, might as well send his manuscript to fire the baker's oven; not one creature will read him; all must be court-bred poets, or pretend at least to be court-bred, who can expect to please. Should the caitiff fairly avow a design of emptying our pockets and filling his own, every reader would instantly forsake him; even those who write for bread themselves, would combine to worry him, perfectly sensible, that his attempts only served to take the bread out of their mouths.