Page images
PDF
EPUB

distinct. But beneficence, though in general equally enjoined by our religion, and equally needful to the conciliation of the divine favour, is yet, for the most part, with regard to its single acts, elective and voluntary. We may certainly, without injury to our fellow-beings, allow in the distribution of kindness something to our affections, and change the measure of our liberality according to our opinions and prospects, our hopes and fears. This rule therefore is not equally determinate and absolute with respect to offices of kindness, and acts of liberality, because liberality and kindness, absolutely determined, would lose their nature ; for how could we be called tender or charitable, for giving that which we are positively forbidden to withhold ?

Yet even in adjusting the extent of our beneficence, no other measure can be taken than this precept affords us, for we can only know what others suffer or want, by considering how we should be affected in the same state ; nor can we proportion our assistance by any other rule than that of doing what we should then expect from others. It indeed generally happens that the giver and receiver differ in their opinions of generosity; the same patiality to his own interest inclines one to large expectations, and the other to sparing distributions. Perhaps the infirmity of human nature will scarcely suffer a man groaning under the pressure of distress, to judge rightly of the kindness of his friends, or think they have done enough, till his deliverance is completed; not therefore what we might wish, but what we could demand from others, we are obliged to grant, since,

though we can easily know how much we might claim, it is impossible to determine what we should hope.

But in all inquiries concerning the practice of voluntary and occasional virtues, it is safest for minds not oppressed with superstitious fears to determine against their own inclinations, and secure themselves from deficiency, by doing more than they believe strictly necessary. For of this every man may be certain, that, if he were to exchange conditions with his dependant, he should expect more than, without the exertion of his ardour, he now will prevail upon himself to perform ; and when reason has no settled rule, and our passions are striving to mislead us, it is surely the part of a wise man to err on the side of safety.

N°82. SATURDAY, DEC. 29, 1750.

Omnia Castor emit, sic fiet ut omnia vendat.

MART.

Who buys without discretion, buys to sell.

TO THE RAMBLER.

SIR, It will not be necessary to solicit your good-will by any formal preface, when I have informed you, that I have long been known as the most laborious and zealous virtuoso that the present age has had the honour of producing, and that inconveniencies have been brought upon me by an unextinguishable ardour of curiosity, and an unskaken perseverance in the acquisition of the productions of art and nature.

It was observed, from my entrance into the world, that I had something uncommon in my disposition, and that there appeared in me very early tokens of superior genius. I was always an enemy to trifies; the playthings which my mother be. stowed upon me I immediately broke, that I might discover the method of their structure and the causes of their motions ; of all the toys with which children are delighted I valued only my coral, and as soon as I could speak, asked, like Pieresc, innumerable questions which the maids about me could not resolve. As I grew older I was more thoughtful and serious, and instead of amusing myself with puerile diversions, made collections of naa tural rarities, and never walked into the fields without bringing home stones of remarkeble forms, or insects of some uncommon species. I never entered an old house, from which I did not take away the painted glass, and often lamented that I was not one of that happy generation who demolished the convents and monasteries, and broke windows by law.

Being thus early possessed by a taste for solid knowledge, I passed my youth with very little disturbance from passions and appetites, and having no pleasure in the company of boys or girls, who talked of plays, politicks, fashions, or love, I carried on my inquiries with incessant diligence, and bed amassed more stones, mosses, and shells, than are to be found in many celebrated collections, at an age in which the greatest part of young men are studying under tutors; or endeavouring to recommend themselves to notice by their dress, their air, and their levities.

When I was two and twenty years old, 1 became, by the death of my father, possessed of a small estate in land, with a very large sum of money in the publick funds, and must confess that I did not much lament him, for he was a man of mean parts, bent rather upon growing rich than wise. He once fretted at the expence of only ten shillings, which he happened to overhear me offering for the sting of a hornet, though it was a cold moist summer, in which very few hornets had been seen. He often recommended to me the study of physick, in which, said he, you may at once gratify your curiosity after natural history, and increase your fortune by benefiting mankind. I heard him, Mr. · Rambler, with pity, and as there was no prospect of elevating a mind formed to grovel, suffered him to please himself with hoping that I should some time follow his advice. For you know that there are men, with whom, when they have once settled a notion in their heads, it is to very

little

purpose to dispute.

Being now left wholly to my own inclinations, I very soon enlarged the bounds of my curiosity, and contented myself no longer with such rarities as required only judgment and industry, and when once found, might be had for nothing. I now turned my thoughts to exoticks and antiques, and became so well known for my generous patronage of ingenious men, that my levee was crowded with visitants,

some to see my museum, and others to increase its treasures, by selling me whatever they had brought from other countries.

I had always a contempt for the narrowness of conception, which contents itself with cultivating some single corner of the field of science ; I took the whole region into my view, and wished it of yet greater extent.

But no man's power can be equal to his will. I was forced to proceed by slow degrees, and to purchase what chance or kindness happened to present. I did not however proceed without son e design, or imitate the indiscretion of those who begin a thousand collections, and finish none. Having been always a lover of geography, I determined to collect the maps drawn in the rudo and barbarous times, before any regular surveys or just observations ; and have, at a great expence, brought together a volume, in which, perhaps, not a single country is laid down according to its true situation, and by which, he that desires to know the errors of the ancient geographers may be amply informed.

But my ruling passion is patriotism ; my chief care has been to procure the products of our own country ; and as Alfred received the tribute of the Welch in wolves heads, I allowed my tenants to pay their rents in butterflies, till I had exhausted the papilionaceous tribe. I then directed them to the pursuit of other animals, and obtained by this easy method, most of the grubs and insects, which land, air, or water can supply. I have three species of earthworms not known to the naturalists, have discovered a new ephemera, and can shew four wasps that were taken torpid in their winter

« PreviousContinue »