« PreviousContinue »
mother had no vanity nor expences to hinder her from concurring with his inclinations.
Thus, Mr. Rambler, I lived without much desire after any thing beyond the circle of our visits; and here I should have quietly continued to portion out my time among my books, and my needle, and my company, had not my curiosity been every moment excited by the conversation of my parents, who, whenever they sit down to familiar prattle, and endeavour the entertainment of each other, immediately transport themselves to London, and relate some adventure in a hackneycoach, some frolick at a masquerade, some conversation in the Park, or some quarrel at an assembly, display the magnificence of a birthnight, relate the conquests of maids of honour, or give a history of diversions, shows, and entertainments, which I had ever known but from their accounts.
I am so well versed in the history of the gay world, that I can relate, with great punctuality, the lives of all the last race of wits and beauties; can enumerate, with exact chronology, the whole succession of celebrated singers, musicians, tragedians, comedians, and harlequins ; can tell to the last twenty years all the changes of fashions; and am, indeed, a complete antiquary with respect to head-dresses, dances, and operas.
You will easily imagine, Mr. Rambler, that I eould not hear these narratives for sixteen years together, without suffering some impression, and wishing myself nearer to those places where
every hour brings some new pleasure, and life is deversifood with an unexhausted succession of felicity.
I indeed often asked my mother, why she left a place which she recollected with so much delight, and why she did not visit London once a-year, like some other ladies, and initiate me in the world by shewing meits amusements, its grandeur, and its variety. But she always told me that the days which she had seen were such as would never come again; that all diversion is now degenerated ; that the conversation of the present age is insipid ; that their fashionsare unbecoming, their customs absurd and their morals corrupt ; that there is no ray left of the genius which enlightened the times that she remembers ; that no one who had seen or heard the ancient performers, would be able to bear the bunglers of this despicable age ; and that there is now neither politeness, nor pleasure, nor virtue in the world. She therefore assures me, that she consults my happiness by keeping me at home, for I should now find nothing but vexation and disgust, and she should be ashamed to see me pleased with such fopperies and trifles, as take up the thoughts of the present set of young people.
With this answer I was kept quiet for several years, and thought it no great inconvenience to be confined to the country, till last summer a young gentleman and his sister came down to pass a few months with one of our neighbours. They had generally no great regard for the country ladies, but distinguished me by a particular complaisance, and as we grew intimate, gave me such a detail of the elegance, the splendour, the mirth, the happiness of the town, that I am resolved to be no longer buried in ignorance and obscurity, but to share with the other wits the joy of being admired, and divide with others beauties the empire of the world.
I do not find, Mr. Rambler, upon a deliberate and impartial comparison, that I am excelled by Belinda in beauty, in wit, in judgment, in knot. ledge, or in any thing but a kind of gay, lively familiarity, by which she mingles with strangers as with persons long acquainted, and which enables her to display her powers without any obstruction hesitation, or confusion. Yet she can relate a thousand civilities paid to her in publick, can produce, from a hundred lovers, letters filled with praises, protestations, extasies, and despair ; has been handed by dukes to her chair ; has been the occasion of innumerable quarrels; has paid twenty visits in an afternoon ; been invited to six balls in an evening, and been forced to retire to lodgings in the country from the importunity of courtship and the fatigue of pleasure.
1 tell you, Mr. Rambler, I will stay here no longer. I have at last prevailed upon my mother to send me to town, and shall set out in three weeks on the grand expedition. I intend to live in publick, and to crowd into the winter every pleasure which money can purchase, and every honour which beauty can obtain. But this tedious interval how shall I endure ?
alleviate the misery of delay by some pleasing description of the entertainments of the town? I can read, 1 can talk, I can think of nothing else ; if you will not soothe my impatience, heighten my ideas, and animate my hopes, you may write for those who have more leisure, but are not to expect any longer the honour of being read
by those eyes which are now intent only on conquest and destruction.
No 63. TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 1750.
-Habebat sæpe ducentis,
It has been remarked, perhaps, hy every writer, who has left behind him observations upon life, that no man is pleased with his present state, which proves equally unsatisfactory, says Horace, whether fallen upon by chance, or chosen with deliberation ; we are always disgusted with some circumstance or other of our situation, and imagine the condition of others more abundant in blessings, or less exposed to calamities.
This universal discontent has been generally mentioned with great severity of censure, as unreasonable ir itself, since of two, equally envious of each other, both cannot have the larger share of happiness, and as tending to darken life with unnecessary gloom, by withdrawing our minds from the contemplation and enjoyment of that happiness which our state affords us, and fixing our attention upon foreign objects, which we only behold to depress ourselves, and increase our misery by injurious comparisons.
When this opinion of the felicity of others predominatcs in the heart, so as to excite resolutions of obtaining, at whatever price, the condition to which such transcendent privileges are supposed to be annexed; when it bursts into action, and produces fraud, violence, and injustice, it is to be pursued with all the rigour of legal punishments. But while operating only upon the thoughts, it disturbs none but him who has happened to admit it, and, however it may interrupt content, makes no attack on piety or virtue, I cannot think it so far criminal or ridiculous, but that it may deserve some pity, and admit some excuse.
That all are equally happy or miserable, I suppose none is sufficiently enthusiastical to maintain; because though we cannot judge of the condition of others, yet every man has found frequent vicissitudes in his own state, and must therefore be convinced that life is susceptible of more or less felicity. What then shall forbid us to endeavour the alteration of that which is capable of being improved, and to grasp at augmentations of good, when we know it possible to be increased, and believe that any particular change of situation will increase it?