Графични страници
PDF файл

our feeble organ of sight could endure it scarcely for a moment. For what if the whole sky, the whole earth, and every object above and around us, shone with the unmingled brightness of uncoloured light ? In that case the light itself would become darkness, since every eye must instantly be blinded by it.

And as with light, so with hearing. A sound that is too strong and forcible, deafens the ear. Nay even the most sweet and harmonious sounds, when long continued, or very often repeated, become indifferent to the ear, if not tiresome.

In like manner the smell is sickened with perpetual fragrance, and the palate surfeited by overmuch sweet


Even the joy, of mere animal nature, when it exceeds the just bounds, becomes a disturber. Overmuch joy of this sort, is inquietude ; it banishes quiet sleep as effectually as pungent grief.

Hence it falls out, agreeably to the established constitution of our nature, that scarcely any persons lead more unpleasant lives than those who pursue after pleasure with the most eagerness. And so it must needs be, because their over-eagerness of desire, by spurring them on to perpetual excess, turns their pleasures to pains, and their very recreations to scenes of wearisome drudgery,

If Solomon had not told us from his own experience, that such a course of life is not only vanity, but vexation of spirit; yet the world abounds with instances to prove

and illustrate it :-and of these I will now cite two eminent ones of the last age.

Richard Nash, Esq.--commonly called Beau Nashwho died, 1781, aged 87, was Master of the Ceremonies, or King of Bath, for the space of nearly half a century. His body was athletic, his constitution strong

and healthy, and his ruling passions were vanity, and keenness of desire for fashionable dissipation. To his darling wishes the means of indulgence exactly and altogether corresponded. Presiding over the amusements of the courtiers and nobility and gentry of Eng. land, he gratified his vanity with the finery and costliness of his apparel, and the implicit obedience paid to his orders; and whilst employed in providing banquets of pleasure for his voluptuous guests, he seldom neg. lected his opportunities of carving plenteously for himself.-Beau Nash, enjoyed what is called pleasure, for a greater length of time, and refined upon it more exquisitely, than perhaps any man else that is now among the living or the dead. Yet, setting aside all the awful considerations of futurity, no one that reads the story of his life with any degree of sound reflection, will be led to think that he had more real enjoyment of it, or even near so much, as falls to the ordinary lot of mankind. A biographer of Nash, in speaking of the latter stages of his life, observes: “ He was now past the period of giving or receiving pleasure, for he was poor, old and peevish; yet still he was incapable of turning from his forner manner of life to pursue happiness. The old man endeavoured to practise the follies of the boy; and he seemed willing to find lost appetite among the scenes where he was once young."

A remarkable counterpart to the life of Mr. Nash, is that of Mademoiselle de Lespenasse ; which clearly shows that the most unhappy of women are those who have no taste for simple domestic comforts.

It is related of this most accomplished French lady, who had been the unrivalled leader of the fashion in France, during a part of the last century, “ That she not only lived, but almost died, in public; that while she was tortured with diesease, and her heart so torn with agonizing passions as frequently to turn her thoughts on suicide, she dined out and made visits every day; and that, when she was visibly within a few weeks of her end, and was wasted with coughs and with spasms, she still had her saloon filled twice a day with company, and dragged herself out to supper with all the Countesses of her acquaintance."

To be Temperate in all things, is as really a matter of interest as of duty. If there were even no unlawfulness in excess, nor any punishment following it in the coming world, yet it ever brings with it a punishment here; a punishment that more than countervails the enjoyment. And, on the other hand, if there were neither virtue nor duty in the moderation of enjoying the pleasures of sense, yet it carries along with it its own reward, as it is the only way of deriving from those pleasures all the satisfaction which it is of their nature to give. So that, to enjoy innocently and in strict conformity to the rules of reason and of our holy religion, terminates ordinarily in a greater amount of real pleas, ure than is to be found by the epicure or the voluptuary.


Of the difference between ignorance as respects learn

ing, and a natural weakness of understanding.

Although ignorance and foolishness are near akin; there is, nevertheless, a material difference between them : the former consisting in the destitution of what is called learning ; and the latter in narrowness or weakness of the understanding.

Some ignorant men, or in other words, some men of little or no learning, manifest strength of memory, clearness of conception, and soundness of judgment; and, within the narrow compass of their own observation, their remarks are just, and sometimes profound. Though not capable of reasoning exactly according to the rules of logic, yet they do reason conclusively, and, not unfrequently, by a native plainness and directness of understanding, they reach the point the shortest way. In defiance of bad grammar and uncouth phraseology, there is discoverable in them a mine of intellectual ore, which, had it been properly worked and refined, might have enriched and adorned society.

On the other hand, some learned men are foolish after all. When a strong memory is coupled with a weak understanding, (which is a union neither impossible nor quite uncommon,)-in such a case, though a great deal of learning is attainable, the possessor is not much the wiser for it; and as to the unfortunate wights who are constrained to keep him company, they are rather plagued than profited by his learning. He is incessantly throwing it in their faces, and gorging them with it even to surfeiting. The garner of his memory is ample, and it is full ; every thing is there, but nothing in its right place : and having no faculty of discrimination, he more often brings out of his treasury, for use or for show, the wrong thing than the right. If you want of him only a string of tape, he measures you off whole yards of brocade. He must needs pour forth a flood of learning upon every thing, and to every body; and he lectures upon literature and science, and quotes scrap after scrap from the ancients, without any regard to time, or place, or company.

In the course of the last age, one of this sort, name

66 For

ly, Dr. George, of London, a most eminent Greek scholar, who knew little else but Greek, expressed his wonder at the fame of Frederick of Prussia. my part," quoth the Doctor, “ I cannot regard Frederick as a truly great man, for I doubt his being able so much as to conjugate one of the Greek verbs :"_and the learned Grecian proceeded to name to the company a particular verb, which he thought would be more than a match for his Majesty's head.

This species of pedantry, which was more prevalent by many degrees, at some former times than at the present, is keenly satirized in the following lines of Winne's translation of Boileau.

“ Brim-full of learning see that pedant stride,
• Bristling with horrid Greek, and puff'd with pride !
" A thousand authors he in vain has read,
“ And with their maxims stuff'd bis empty head ;
" And thinks that, without Aristotle's rule,

" Reason is blind, and common sense a fool." Learned foolishness, is more egregiously foolish than the folly of ignorance. It is wayward, positive, and imperious ; too conceited and indocile to be informed, and too obstinate to forsake error. Men distempered with this kind of foolishness, imagine themselves wise overmuch, because they have read a great many books, and can repeat, in more than one language perhaps, what others have said and written : whereas they are like a gormand, whose digestive faculties bear no proportion to the largeness of his swallow. They task and load the memory without exercising the judgment. They lay up in the memory, facts heaped upon facts, without order and without distinction ;-and these are in the memory onlythe nobler powers of the understanding being not at all, or very little, occupied about them. Learning, in itself, is not wisdom.



66 We

« ПредишнаНапред »