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supportable monster, should he have the faults that are incident to his years, constitution, profession, family, religion, age, and country; and yet every man is in danger of them all. For this reason, as Ĩ am an old man, I take particular care to avoid being covetous, and telling long stories. As I am choleric, I forbear not only swearing, but all interjections of fretting, as pugh! or pish! and the like. As I am a layman, I resolve not to conceive an aversion for a wise and good man, because his coat is of a different colour from mine. As I am descended of the ancient family of the Bickerstaffs, I never call a man of merit an upstart. As a protestant, I do not suffer my zeal so far to transport me, as to name the Pope and the Devil together. As I am fallen into this degenerate age, I guard myself particularly against the folly I have now been speaking of. And as I am an Englishman, I am very cautious not to hate a stranger, or despise a poor Palatine.
N° 112. TUESDAY, DECEMBER 27, 1709.
Accedat suavitas quædum oportet sermonum, aique morum, haudquaquam mediocre condimentum amicitiæ: tristitia autem, et in omni re severitas absit. Habet illa quidem gravitatem, sed amicitia remissior esse debet, et liberior, et dulcior, et ad omnem comitatem facilitatemque proclivior.
CIC. De Amicitia.
There should be added a certain sweetness of discourse and manners, which is no inconsiderable sauce to friendship. But by all means throw out sadness and severity in every thing. There is something of gravity indeed in it; but friendship requires a greater remissness, freedom, and pleasantness, and an inclination to good temper and affability.
Sheer-lane, December 26.
As I was looking over my letters this morning, I chanced to cast my eye upon the following one, which came to my hands about two months ago from an old friend of mine, who, as I have since learned, was the person that writ the agreeable epistle inserted in my paper of the third of the last month. It is of the same turn with the other, and may be looked upon as a specimen of right country letters.
This sets out to you from my summer-house, upon the terrace, where I am enjoying a few hours sunshine, the scanty sweet remains of a fine autumn. The year is almost at the lowest; so that, in all appearance, the rest of my letters between this and spring will be dated from my parlour fire, where the little fond prattle of a wife and children will so often break in upon the connexion of my thoughts, that you will easily discover it in my style. If this
winter should prove as severe as the last, I can tell you beforehand, that I am likely to be a very miserable man, through the perverse temper of my eldest boy. When the frost was in its extremity, you must know that most of the blackbirds, robins, and finches of the parish, whose music has entertained me in the summer, took refuge under my roof. Upon this, my care was, to rise every morning before day, to set open my windows for the reception of the cold and hungry, whom at the same time I relieved with a very plentiful alms, by strewing corn and seeds upon the floors and shelves. But, Dicky, without any regard to the laws of hospitality, considered the casements as so many traps, and used every bird as a prisoner at discretion. Never did tyrant exercise more various cruelties. Some of the poor creatures he chased to death about the room; others he drove into the jaws of a blood-thirsty cat; and even in his greatest acts of mercy, either clipped the wings, or singed the tails, of his innocent captives. You will laugh, when I tell you I sympathized with every bird in its misfortunes; but I believe you would think me in the right for bewailing the child's unlucky humour. On the other hand, I am extremely pleased to see his younger brother carry a universal benevolence towards every thing that has life. When he was between four and five years old, I caught him weeping over a beautiful butterfly, which he chanced to kill as he was playing with it; and I am informed, that this morning he has given his brother three half-pence, which was his whole estate, to spare the life of a tom-tit. These are at present the matters of greatest moment within my observation, and I know are too trifling to be communicated to any but so wise a man as yourself, and from one who has the happiness to be
Your most faithful
And most obedient servant,'
N° 112. The best critic that ever wrote, speaking of some passages in Homer which appear extravagant or frivolous, says, indeed, that they are dreams, but the dreams of Jupiter. My friend's letter appears to me in the same light. One sees him in an idle hour;
but at the same time in the idle hour of a wise man. A great mind has something in it too severe and forbidding, that is not capable of giving itself such little relaxations, and of condescending to these agreeable ways of trifling. Tully, when he celebrates the friendship of Scipio and Lælius, who were the greatest as well as the politest men of their age, represents it as a beautiful passage in their retirement, that they used to gather up shells on the seashore, and amuse themselves with the variety of shape and colour which they met with in those little unregarded works of nature. The great Agesilaus could be a companion to his own children, and was surprised by the ambassadors of Sparta*, as he was riding among them upon a hobby-horse. Augustus, indeed, had no play-fellows of his own begetting; but he is said to have passed many of his hours with little Moorish boys at a game of marbles, not unlike our modern taw. There is, methinks, a pleasure in seeing great men thus fall into the rank of mankind, and entertain themselves with diversions and amusements that are agreeable to the very weakest of the species. I must frankly confess, that it is to me a beauty in Cato's character, that he would drink a cheerful bottle with his friend: and I cannot but own, that I have seen with great delight one of the most celebrated authors of the last age feeding the ducks in St. James's Park. By instances of this nature, the heroes, the statesmen, the philosophers, become as it were familiar with us, and grow the more amiable, the less they endeavour to appear awful. A man who always acts in the severity of
* Persia. A.
wisdom, or the haughtiness of quality, seems to move in a personated part. It looks too constrained and theatrical, for a man to be always in that character which distinguishes him from others; besides that the slackening and unbending our minds on some occasions makes them exert themselves with greater vigour and alacrity, when they return to their proper and natural state..
As this innocent way of passing a leisure hour is not only consistent with a great character, but very graceful in it; so there are two sorts of people to whom I would most earnestly recommend it. The first are those who are uneasy out of want of thought; the second are those who are so out of turbulence of spirit. The first are the impertinent, and the second the dangerous part of mankind.
It grieves me to the very heart, when I see several young gentlemen, descended of honest parents, run up and down, hurrying from one end of the town to the other, calling in at every place of resort, without being able to fix a quarter of an hour in any, and in a particular haste without knowing for what. It would, methinks, be some consolation, if I could persuade those precipitate young gentlemen to compose their restlessness of mind, and apply themselves to any amusement, how trivial soever, that might give them employment, and keep them out of harm's way. They cannot imagine how great a relief it would be to them, if they could grow sedate enough to play for two or three hours at a game of push-pin. But these busy, idle animals are only their own tormentors. The turbulent and dangerous are for embroiling councils, stirring up seditions, and subverting constitutions, out of a mere restlessness of temper, and an insensibility of all the pleasures of life that are calm and innocent, It is impossible for a man to be so much employed in any scene of