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121 ambition, and ambition will be sure to taint his future happiness, either with jealousy, disappointment, or fa. tigue.
But of all the arts of distress found out by man for his own torment, perhaps that of a 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 barbarity, he shall grieve for the inhabitants .. of the moon, if the situation of her imaginary mountains
happens to alter; and dread the extinction of the sun, if the spots on his surface happen to increase : one should imagine that philosophy was introduced to make men happy, but here it serves to make hundreds miserable.
My landlady, some days ago, brought me a diary of a philosopher of this desponding fort, 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. A single week will serve as a specimen of the whole.
Monday. ' In what a transient decaying situation are we placed, and what various reasons does philosophy fur. nish 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-feed 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 be. come so irregular as to need repairing, when the moon shall fall into frightful paroxisms of alteration, when the
earth, deviating from its ancient tract, and with every other planet forgetting its circular revolutions, fhall be. come so eccentric, that, unconfined by the laws of system, it shall fly off into boundless space, to knock against some diftant world, or fall in upon the sun, either extinguishing his light, or burned up by its flames in a moment. Perhaps while I write, this dreadful change is begun. Shield me from universal ruin! Yet ideot man laughs, fings, and rejoices in the very face of the sun, and seems no way touched with his situation.
Tuesday. Went to bed in great distress, awaked and was comforted, by considering that this change was to happen at some indefinite time, and therefore like death, the thoughts of it might easily be borne. But there is a revolution, a fixed determined revolution, which must certainly come to pass; yet which, by good fortune, I shall never feel, except in my pofterity. 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 fix thousand the obliquity will be still less by a 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 grand-children 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 fay, 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 fun, 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 dif. appear? 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 left the sun should want fuel; thirdly, sorry left 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 eagers 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 now thing but a tail to fit it out completely for terreftial ad. miration.
Saturday. The moon is, I find, at her old pranks. Her appulses, librations, and other irregularities, in. deed, 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 infi, delity, and proves me a desolate and abandoned lover, Adieu,
TO THE SAME.
IT is surprising what an influence titles shall have upon the mind, even though these titles be of our own making. Like children we dress up the puppets in fi. nery, 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 rat-catcher 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 advantages 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 press.
A man here who should write, and honestly confess that he wrote for bread, might as well send his manu. script 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 wrote for bread themselves, would combine to worry him, perfectly sensible, that his attempts only served to take the bread out of their mouths.
And yet' this filly prepossession the more amazes me, when I consider, that almost all the excellent productions in wit that have appeared here, were purely the offspring of necessity; their Drydens, Butlers, Otways, and Farquhars, were all writers for bread. Believe me, my friend, hunger has a most amazing faculty of sharpening the genius; and he who, with a full belly, can think like a hero, after a course of fafting, shall rise to the sublimity of a demi-god.
But what will most amaze is, that this very set of men, who are now so much depreciated by fools, are, how. ever, the very best writers they have among them at present. For my own part, were I to buy a hat, I. would not have it from a stocking-maker, but a hatter ; were I to buy shoes, I should not go to the taylor for that purpose. It is just so with regard to wit: did I, for my life, desire to be well served, I would apply only to those who made it their trade, and lived by it. You