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anxieties and embarrassments, will be happily stifled and suppressed in a round of perpetual delights ; and all serious thoughts, but particularly that of bereafter, be banished out of the world; a most perplexing apprehesion, but luckily a most groundless one too, as it is so very clear a case, that nobody ever dies.
I am, &c.
N° 101. TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 1751. .
Mella jubes Hyblæa tibi vel Hymettia nasci,
Alas! dear Sir, you try in vain,
TO THE RAMBLER.
Having by several years of continual study treasured in my mind a great number of principles and ideas, and obtained, by frequent exercise the power of applying them with propriety, and combining them with readiness, I resolved to quit the university, where I considered myself as a gem hidden in the mine, and to mingle in the crowd of publick life. I was naturally attracted
by the company of those who were of the same age with myself, and finding that my academical gravity contributed very little to my reputation, applied my faculties to jocularity and burlesque. Thus, in a short time, I had heated my imagination to such a state of activity and ebullition, that upon every occasion it fumed away in bursts of wit, and evaporations of gaiety. I became on a sudden the idol of the coffee-house, was in one winter solicited to accept the presidentship of five clubs, was dragged by violence to every new play, and quoted in every controversy upon theatrical merit; was in every publick place surrounded by a multitude of humble auditors, who retailed in other places of resort my maxims and my jests, and was boasted as their intimate and companion by many, who had no other pretensions to my acquaintance, than that they had drank chocolate in the same room.
You will not wonder, Mr. Rambler, that I mention my success with some appearance of triumph and elevation. Perhaps no kind of superiority is more flattering or alluring than that which is conferred by the powers of conversation, by extemporaneous sprightliness of fancy, copiousness of language, and fertility of sentiment. In other exertions of genius, the greater part of the praise is unknown and unenjoyed; the writer, indeed, spreads his reputation to a wider extent, but receives little pleasure or advantage from the diffusion of his name, and only obtains a kind of nominal sovereignty over regions which pay no tribute.
The colloquial wit has always his own radiance reflected on himself, and enjoys all the pleasure
which it bestows ; he finds his power confessed by every one that approaches him, sees friendship kindling with rapture, and attention swelling into praise.
The desire which every man feels of importance and esteem, is so much gratified by finding an assembly, at his entrance, brightened with gladness and hushed with expectation, that the recollection of such distinctions can scarcely fail to be pleased whensoever it is innocent. And my conscience does not reproach me with any mean or criminal effects of vanity ; since I always employed my influence on the side of virtue, and never sacrificed my understanding or my religion to the pleasure of applause.
There were many whom either the desire of enjoying my pleasantry, or the pride of being thought to enjoy it, brought often into my company ; but I was caressed in a particular manner by Demochares, a gentleman of a large estate, and a liberal disposition. My fortune being by no means exuberant, inclined me to be pleased with a friend who was willing to be entertained at his own charge. I became by daily invitations habituated to his table, and as he believed my acquaintance necessary to the character of elegance, which he was desirous of establishing, I lived in all the luxury of affluence, without expence or dependence, and passed my life in a perpetual reciprocation of pleasure, with men brought together by similitude of accomplishments, or desire of improvement.
But all power has its sphere of activity, beyond which it produces no effect. Demochares being Vol. II.
called by his affairs into the country, imagined that he should increase his popularity by coming among his neighbours accompanied by a man whose ablities were so generally allowed. The report presently spread through half the country that Demochares was arrived, and had brought with him the celebrated Hilarius, by whom such merriment would be excited, as had never been enjoyed or conceived before. I knew, indeed,
for which. I was invited, and as men do not look diligently out for possible miscarriages, was pleased to find myself courted upon principles of interest, and considered as capable of reconciling factions, composing feuds, and uniting a while province in social happiness.
After a few days spent in adjusting his domestick regulations, Demochares invited all the gentlemen of his neighbourhood to dinner, and did not forget to hint how much my presence was expected to heighten the pleasure of the feast. He informed me what prejudices my reputation had raised in my favour, and represented the satisfaction with which he should see me kindle up the blaze of merriment, and should remark the varions effects that my fire would have upon such diversity of matter.
This declaration, by which he intended to quicken my vivacity, filled me with solicitude. I felt an ambition of shining, which I never knew before ; and was therefore embarrassed with an unsual fear of disgrace. I passed the night in planning out to myself the conversation of the coming day ; recollected all my topicks of railery, proposed proper subjects of ridicule, prepared
smart replies to a thousand questions, acommodated answers to imaginary repartees, and formed a magazine of remarks, apophthegms, tales and illustrations.
Ths morning broke at last in the midst of these busy meditations. I rose with the palpitations of a champion on the day of combat ; and notwithstanding all my efforts, found my spirits sunk under the weight of expectation. The company soon after began to drop in, and every one, at his entrance, was introduced to Hilarius. What conception the inhabitants of this region had formed of a wit, I cannot yet discover ; but observed that they all seemed, after the regular exchange of compliments, to turn away disappointed; and that while we waited for dinner, they cast their eyes first
upon me, and then upon each other, like a theatrical assembly waiting for a show.
From the uneasiness of this situation, I was relieved by the dinner; and as every attention was taken up by the business of the hour, I sunk quietly to a level with the rest of the company. But no sooner were the dishes removed, than, ina stead of cheerful confidence and familiar prattle, an universal silence again shewed their expectation of some unusual performance. My friend endeavoured to rouse them by healths and questions, but they answered him with great brevity, and imme. diately relapsed into their former taciturnity.
I had waited in hope of some opportunity to divert them, but could find no pass opened for a single sally ; aud who can be merry without an object of mirth? After a few faint efforts, which produced neither applause nor opposition, I was