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bility over the mind. When we destroy the nerves, we extinguish the sense of pleasure, together with that of pain.
It will be easy, by one glance of the eye, to find one or other of these defects in most of those philosophical reflections, so much celebrated both in ancient and modern times. Let not the injuries or violence of men, say the philosophers *, ever discompose you by anger or hatred. Would you be angry at the ape for its malice, or the tyger for its ferocity? This reflection leads us into a bad opinion of human nature, and must extinguish the social affections. It tends also to remove all remorse for a man's own crimes, when he considers, that vice is as natural to mankind, as the particular instinct to brute-creatures.
ÅL L ills arise from the order of the universe, which is absolutely perfeet. Would you wish to disturb fo divine an order for the sake of your own particular intereft? What if the ills i fuffcr arise from malice or oppression? But the vices and imperfeétions of men are also comprehended in the order of the universe.
If plagues and earthquakes break not heav'n's design,
Why then a BORGIA or a CATILINE?
To one who said, that none was happy, who was not above opinion, a SPARTAN replied, then none are happy but knaves and robbers t.
MAN is born to be miserable ; and is be surprizod at any particular misfortune? And can be give way to forrow and lamentation upon account of any disaster ? Yes: He very reasonably laments, that he should be born to be miserable. Your confolation presents a hundred ills for one, that you pretend to ease him of.
YOU mould always have before your eyes death, disease, poverty, blindness, exile, cao lumny, and infamy, as ills which are incident to human nature. When any one of these ills falls to your lot, you will bear it the better that you have laid your account with it. I answer, If we confine ourselves to a general and distant reflection on the ills of human life, that can have no effect to prepare us for them. If by close and intense meditation we render them present and intimate to us, that is the true secret to poison all our pleasures, and render us perpetually miserable.
YOUR forrow is fruitless, and will not change the course of destiny. Very true: And for that very reason I am sorry.
CICERO's consolation for deafness is somewhat curious. How many lan. guages are there, says he, which you do not understand? The Punic, SPANISH, GALLIC, ÆGYPTIAN, &c. With regard to all these, you are as if you were deaf, and yet you are indifferent about the matter. Is it then so great a misfortune to be deaf to one language more I?
I like better the repartee of ANTIPATER the CYRENIAC, when some women were condoling with him for his blindness? What! says he, Do you think there are no pleasures in the dark ?
NOTHING can be more destructive, says FONTENELLE, to ambition, and the pason for conquests, than the true fyftem of astronomy. What a poor thing is even the whole globe in comparison of the infinite extent of nature? This considera* Peut. de iræ cohibenda. Plut. Lacon. Apophtheg. Tusc. Quaf. Lib. V.
tion is evidently too distant ever to have any effect. And if it had any, would it not destroy patriotism as well as ambition? The same gallant author adds with some reason, that the bright eyes of the ladies are the only objects, which lose nothing of their lustre or value from the most extensive views of astronomy and philosophy, but stand proof against every system. Would philosophers advife us to limit our affection to them?
EXILE, says PLUTARCH to a friend in banishment, is no evil : Mathematicians tell us, that the whole earth is but as a point, compared to the heavens. To change one's couniry, then, is little more than to remove from one street to another. Man is not a plant, rooted to a certain spot of earth : All soils and all climates are alike suited to him *. These topics are admirable, could they fall only into the hands of banished persons. But what if they come also to the knowlege of those employed in public affairs, and destroy all their attachment to their native country? Or will they operate like the quack's medicine, which is equally good for a diabetes and a dropsy?
''Tis certain, were a superior being thrust into a human body, that the whole of life would to him appear fo mean, contemptible and puerile, that he never could be induced to take party in any thing, and would scarcely give attention to what passes around him. To engage him to such condescension as to play even the part of a Philip with zeal and alacrity, would be much more difficult than to constrain the same Philip, after having been a king and conqueror during fifty years, to mend old shoes with proper care and attention ; the occupation which Lucian assigns him in the infernal regions. Now all the same topics of disdain towards human affairs, which could operate on this supposed being, occur also to & philosopher ; but being, in some measure, disproportioned to human capacity, and not being fortified with the experience of any thing better, they make not a full impression on him. He sees, but he feels not sufficiently their truth; and is always a sublime philosopher, when he needs not ; that is, as long as nothing difturbs him, or rouzes his affections. While others play, he wonders at their keenness and ardor ; but he no sooner puts in his own stake, than he is commonly transported with the fame passions, which he had so much condemned while he remained a simple spectator.
There are chiefly two considerations to be met with in books of philosophy, from which any considerable effect is to be expected, and that because these two considerations are drawn from common life, and occur upon the most superficial view of human affairs. When we reflect on the shortness and uncertainty of life, how despicable seem all our pursuits of happiness? And even, if we would extend our concern beyond our own life, how frivolous appear our most enlarged and most generous projects; when we consider the inceffant changes and revolutions of human affairs, by which laws and learning, books and governments are hurried away by time, as by a rapid stream, and are lost in the immense ocean of matter? Such a reflection certainly tends to mortify all our passions : But does it not thereby counterwork the artifice of nature, who has happily deceived us into an opinion, that human life is of some importance ? And may not such a reflection
be employed with success by voluptuous reasoners, in order to lead us from thie paths of action and virtue, into the flowery fields of indolence and pleasure ?
We are informed by THUCYDIDES, that, during the famous plague of ATHENS, when death seemed present to every one, a dissolute mirth and gaiety prevailed among the people, who exhorted one another to make the most of life as long as it endured. The same observation is made by Boccace with regard to the plague of FLORENCE. A like principle makes foldiers, during war, to be more addicted to riot and expence, than any other race of men. Present pleasure is always of importance; and whatever diminishes the importance of all other ob. jects must bestow on it an additional influence and value.
The second philosophical consideration, which may often have an influence on the affections, is derived from a comparison of our own condition with the condition of others. This comparison we are continually making, even in common life ; but the misfortune is, that we are apt rather to compare our situation with that of our superiors, than with that of our inferiors. A philosopher corrects this natural infirmity, by turning his view to the other side, in order to render himself easy in the situation in which fortune has placed him. There are few people, who are not susceptible of fome consolation from this reflection, tho' to a very good natured man, the view of human miseries should rather produce forrow than comfort, and add to his lamentations for his own misfortunes a deep compassion for those of others. Such is the imperfection, even of the best of these philosophi. cal topics of consolation *.:.
* The sceptic, perhaps, carries the matter too 7. Every good must be paid for : Fortune by far, when he limits all philosophical topics and re- labor, favor by flattery. Would I keep the price, flections to these two. There seem to be others, yet have the commodity? whose truth is undeniable, and whose natural ten. 8. Expect not too great happiness in life. Hudency is to tranquilize and soften all the passions. man nature admits it not. Philosophy greedily seizes thefe, ftudies them, 9. Propose not a happiness too complicated. But weighs them, commits them to the memory, and does that depend on me? Yes : The first choice familiarizes thein to the mind : and their influence does. Life is like a game: One may choose the on tempers, which are thoughtful, gentle, and game: And passion, by degrees, seizes the promoderate, may be considerable. But what is their per object. influence, you will say, if the temper be antecedently 10. Anticipate by your hopes and fancy future disposed after the same manner which they pre- consolation, which time infallibly brings to every tend to form it? They may, at least, fortify that affliction, temper, and furnish it with views, by which it 11. I desire to be rich ? Why? That I may may entertain and nourish itself. Here are a few possess many fine objects ; houses, gardens, equiexamples of such philosophical reflections. page, &6. How many fine objects does nature of
1. Is it not certain, that every condition has con- fer to every one without expence? If enjoyed, fufcealed ills? Then why envy any body ?
ficient. If not : See the effect of custom or of tem2. Every one has known ills; and there is a per, which would foon take off the relish of the compensation throughout. Why not be contented Fiches. with the present?
12. I desire fame. Let this occur : If I act well, 3. Custom deadens the sense both of the good I shall have the esteem of all my acquaintance. and the ill, and levels every thing.
And what is all the rest to me? 4. Health and humor all. The rest of little Thefe reflections are so obvious, that 'tis a wonconfequence, except these be affected.
der they occur not to every man: So convincing, 5. How many other goods have 1? Then why that 'tis a wonder they persuade not every man. be vexed for one ill ?
But perhaps they do occur to and persuade most 6. How many are happy in the condition of men ; when they consider human life, by a genewhich I complain ? How many envy me?
ral and calm survey: But where any real, affe&ting
I SHALL conclude this subject with observing, That tho'virtue be undoubtedly the best choice, when it is attainable; yet such is the disorder and confusion of human affairs, that no perfect oeconomy or regular distribution of happiness and mifery is ever, in this life, to be expected. Not only the goods of fortune, and the endowments of the body (both which are of great importance) not only these advantages, I say, are unequally divided betwixt the virtuous and vicious, but even the mind itself partakes, in some degree, of this disorder, and the most worthy character, by the very oeconomy of the passions, enjoys not always the highest
felicitacter, by, itreil pare unes (boch pected. "egular
'Tis observable, that tho' every bodily disease or pain proceeds from some diforder in the parts, yet the pain is not always proportioned to the disorder ; but is greater or less, according to the greater or less sensibility of the part, upon which the noxious humors exert their influence. A tooth-ach produces more violent convulsions of pain than a phthisis or a dropsy. In like manner, with regard to the constitution of the mind, we may observe, that all vice is indeed pernicious; but yet the disturbance or pain is not measured out by nature with exact proportion to the degrees of vice, nor is the man of highest virtue, even abstracting from external accidents, always the most happy. A gloomy and melancholy disposition is certainly, to our sentiments, a vice or in perfection ; but as it may be accompanied with great sense of honor and great integrity, it may be found in very worthy characters ; tho' 'tis sufficient alone to inbitter life, and render the person affected with it compleatly miserable. On the other hand, a selfish villain may possess a spring and alacrity of temper, a certain gaiety of heart, which is indeed a good quality, but which is rewarded much beyond its merit, and when attended with good fortune, will compensate' the uneasiness and remorse arising from all the other vices.
I SHALL add, as an observation to the same purpose, that if a man be liable to a vice or imperfection, it may often happen, that a good quality, which he poffesfes with it, will render him more miserable, than if he were compleatly vi. cious. A person of such imbecillity of temper, as to be easily broke by asiction, is more unhappy for being endowed with a generous and friendly disposition, which gives him a lively concern for others, and exposes him the more to fortune and accidents. A sense of shame, in an imperfect character, is certainly a virtue, but produces great uneasiness and remorse, from which the abandoned villain is entirely free. A very amorous complexion, with a heart incapable of friendship, is happier than the same excess in love, with a generosity of temper,
incident happens ; when passion is awakened, fan- ed, strike deep, and fortify the mind against the cy agitated, example draws, and counsel urges; illusions of passion. But trust not altogether to the philosopher is lost in the man, and he searches external aid : By habit and study acquire that phiin vain for that persuasion, which before seemed lofophic temper, which both gives force to reflecfo firm and unshaken. What remedy for this in- tion, and by rendering a great part of your hapconvenience ? Allist yourself by a frequent perasal pinefs independent, takes off the edge from all of the entertaining mcralists: Have recourse to disorderly passions, and tranquilizes the mind. De. the learning of PLUTARCH, the imagination of spise not these helps ; but confide not too much in LUCLAN, the eloquence of CICERO, the wit of them neither; unless nature has been favorable in SENECA, the gaiety of MONTAIGNE, the sublin the temper, with which she has endowed you. mity of SHAFTSBURY. Moral precepts, so couch
'ESS AY XXI. which transports a man beyond himself, and renders him a total Nave to the obj-ct of his passion. .
In a word, human life is more governed by fortune than by reason ; is to be . regarded more as a dull paftime than as a serious occupation; and is more influenced by particular humor than by general principles. Shall we engage ourselves in it with passion and anxiety? It is not worthy of so much concern. Shall we be indifferent about what happens ? We lose all the pleasure of the game by our phlegm and carelessness. While we are reasoning concerning life, life is gone; and death, tho' perhaps they receive him differently, yet treats alike the fool and the philosopher. To reduce life to exact rule and method, is commonly a painful, oft a fruitless occupation : And is it not also a proof, that we overvalue the prize for which we contend? Even to reason so carefully concerning it, and to fix with accuracy its just idea, would be over-valuing it, were it not that, to some tempers, this occupation is one of the most amusing, in which life could possibly be employed.
E S S A Y XXII.
S marriage is an engagement entered into by mutual consent, and has for
| its end the propagation of the species, 'tis evident, that it must be susceptible of all the variety of conditions, which consent establishes, provided they be not contrary to this end.
A man, in conjoining himself to a woman, is bound to her according to the terms of his engagement : In begetting children, he is bound, by all the ties of nature and humanity, to provide for their subsistence and education. When he has performed these two parts of duty, no being can reproach him with injustice or injury. And as the terms of his engagement, as well as the methods of subfifting his offspring, may be very various; 'tis mere superstition to imagine, that marriage can be entirely uniform, and will admit only of one mode or form. Did not human laws restrain the natural liberty of men, every particular marriage would be as different, as contracts or bargains of any other kind or species.
As circumstances vary, and the laws propose different advantages, we find, that, in different times and places, they impose different conditions on this important contract. In TONQUIN 'tis usual for the failors, when the ships come into the harbor, to marry for the season; and, notwithstanding this precarious engagement, they are assured, 'tis faid, of the strictest fidelity to their bed, as well as in the whole management of their affairs, from those temporary spouses.
I CANNOT, at present, recollect my authorities; but I have somewhere read, That the republic of Athens having loft many of its citizens by war and pestilence, allowed every man to marry two wives, in order the sooner to repair the waste which had been made by these calamities. The poet Euripides happened to be coupled to two noisy Vixons, who fo plagued him with their jealousies and