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THE PROGRESS OF INDOLENCE-HISTORY OF SIR
Ten thousand harms more than the ills I know,
SHAKSPEARE.-Antony & Cleopatra. It must be owned that I have passed quickly over the ground in this part of my history ; but as the life of a student is little interesting to any one but himself, I have nothing to do, in this part of it, but to report progress, and ask leave to sit again. Nevertheless, there was one interval, of sadness indeed, but which at least occasioned a variety; so I am bound to record it.
The conquest over my affections was not accomplished either soon, or without considerable interruptions in my efforts to succeed. At one time, it not only cost me a severe illness, which fell in the shape of a fever on my spirits, but went far towards a seemingly total change in my character. For whether the perpetual effort and struggle which I had to endure relaxed my energies, so that they could not recover
their elasticity, or that my loss of hope in love made ... me despair of every other hope, there were times when no object seemed worth pursuing, and the vision with which Fothergill had dazzled me was sometimes obscured in
“ Cloud instead, and ever-during dark.”
At one time, after a long, most laborious, and exhausting fit of study, which perhaps caused much consequent weakness, I fell as it were into helplessness, and not only became dead to all power of exertion, but an actual sloth, both in body and mind. I shirked all the discipline of the college, on the score of illness; if I opened a book, I could not proceed with it; I postponed all business; made promises, only to break them; procrastinated in every thing, succeeded in nothing. In short, for near two months, exertion seemed to kill me; I was even ingenious in excuses to avoid it; and though Fothergill became bitter in his reproaches, and even threatened to abandon me, my indolence seemed insuperable. He, however, took a way peculiar to himself to cure me of it.
While real disease seemed to consume me, he made no effort to reason on these its dangerous effects, but called in the aid of medicine and kindness to restore me. But when this had in a great measure succeeded, and he observed me a willing prey to mental bitterness, rather than bodily weakness, he changed his battery, and as soon as he found I was capable of being reasoned with, did not fail to set before me the disgrace and misery I was preparing for myself in all time to come.
At first I only felt annoyed, and allowed him to
preach ; but by degrees I began to argue with him, which he sagaciously hailed as an omen of improvement in my condition. He was, as the reader knows, keenly observant of manners and intellectual habits ; a man of maxims and illustrations, and always ready with examples, drawn from real life, in support of his theories. Of these I have already given not a few instances, extracted from what (as I have related) he called his book of human nature; and I, perhaps, have been thus particular, in order that I may record another not unamusing picture, which he had long before drawn, of the mischiefs of indolence.
This, by way of practical support to his argument, finding I could bear it, he desired to set before me. The impression it made was deep and beneficial, and in fact went further to restore me than a whole volume of sermons.
It was after having given some indication of a power and disposition to enter into his reasoning upon the mischiefs which my new character, as he called it, was brewing for myself, that Fothergill produced the sketch he had some years before made, of an old friend, then no more, by name Sir Simeon Saunter. They had been under graduates together at Queen's, and the picture which he had drawn of him was dramatic.
Their friendship began by a convenient prompt, which Fothergill gave Sir Simeon at lecture. Not that his scholarship was mean ; though how he came to be a scholar at all, who scarcely ever would open a book till forced, moved everybody's wonder. If he read, it was in bed in a morning, from which no col
lege punishment could ever move him, till eleven or twelve o'clock; so that he generally passed his time as a prisoner, under an arrear of impositions. No man deserved his name so well, for he spent the whole day in sauntering from one room to another, as if in search of what he could never find; “ reminding us in this,” said Fothergill, “ of what was observed of the old Duke of Newcastle, who, having lost an hour in the morning, seemed to be running after it all the rest of the day.” With all this he was so good-natured and well-principled that everybody liked him, though esteem was often withheld, from the consequences of this his besetting sin.
“ It was several years," said Fothergill in his manuscript, “after Sir Simeon had done with college, or rather college with him (for in truth he was rusticated for indolence, and never returned to us), before I saw him again; though he once did muster up exertion enough to write me a letter, telling me that to avoid the bustle of the world, for which at thirty he found he was unfit, he had retired to what he called a Sabine farm he had in the county of Surry.
When I did see him it was under most appropriate circumstances. It had been my custom, after having been a long time together engaged in tuition, to give myself little relaxations, by excursions to London or elsewhere, as humour or the season prompted. In one of these to the metropolis, after having made the tour of the theatres, concerts, and all other exhibitions, I had pretty nearly taken my fill of them, and began again to think of more serious employments, when one
morning, or rather afternoon, walking in the park, I beheld a man more than half asleep on one of the benches. By his dress he appeared a gentleman, and from his features, in which there was a remarkable quietness, though his eyes were closed, I thought I knew him ; but when he waked and rose soon afterwards, the slouch in his walk assured me he could be no other than my old college acquaintance, Sir Simeon.
When I made myself known to him, he shewed as much pleasure as a man of his habitual immoveableness could do, and after mutual greetings and inquiries, I found he had as usual got tired of himself, and was under great difficulty to know how to dispose of his enemy, time.
“ And yet,” said I, “ there is no want of means in this plaguy pleasant place, London ; though the advance of the summer might beckon you to your Sabine farm - "
“O! name it not,” said he,“ or if you do, call it by its right name, Monotony Hall. I fled from it for variety's sake, but am sorry to say the extreme of variety here is worse than the absence of it there."
- What think you,” asked I,“ of a good long tour, at home or abroad, and afterwards publishing your journal ? You might disport yourself in first visiting, and then describing, either cities or deserts ; things animate or inanimate; emperors, ministers, and beautiful duchesses; or rocks, rivers, and forests. This would force exertion—which is all you