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If he that finds himself uneasy may reasonably make efforts to rid himself from vexation, all man. kind have a sufficient plea for some degree of restlessness, and the fault seems to be little more than too much temerity of conclusion in favour of something not yet experienced, and too much readiness to believe, that the misery which our own passions and appetites produce, is brought upon us by accidental causes and external efficients.
It is indeed, frequently discovered by us, that we complained too hastily of peculiar hardships, and imagined ourselves distinguished by embarrassments in which other classes of men are equally intangled. We often change a lighter for a greater evil, and wish ourselves restored again to the state from which we thought it desirable to be delivered. But this knowledge, though it is easily gained by the trial, is is not always attainable any other
way ; and that error cannot justly be reproached, which reason could not obviate, nor prudence avoid.
To take a view at once distinct and comprehensive of human life, with all its intricacies of combination and varieties of connexion, is beyond the power of mortal intelligences. Of the state with which practice has not acquainted us, we snatch a glimpse, we discern a point, and regulate the rest by passion, and by fancy. In this inquiry every favourite prejudice, every innate desire, is busy to
We are unhappy, at least less happy than our nature seems to admit; we necessarily desire the melioration of our lot; what we desire we very reasonable seek, and what we seek we are naturally eager to believe that we have found. Our confidence is often disappointed, but our. reason is not convinced, and there is no man who does not hope for something which he has not, though perhaps his wishes lie unactive, because he foresees the difficulty of attainment ; as among the numerous students of Hermetic philosophy, not one appears to have desisted from the task of transmutation from conviction of its impossibility, but from weariness of toil, or impatience of delay, a broken body, or exhausted fortune.
Irresolution and mutability are often the faults of men, whose views are wide, and whose imagination is vigorous and excursive, because they cannot con, fine their thoughts within their own boundaries of action, but are continually ranging over all the scenes of human existence, and consequently are often apt to conceive that they fall upon new re, gions of pleasure, and start new possibilities of happiness. Thus they are busied with a perpetual succession ofschemes, and pass theirlivesin alternate elation and sorrow, for want of that calm and im. movable acquiescence in their condition, by which men of slower understanding are fixed for ever to a certain point, or led on in the plain beaten track, which their fathers and grand-sires have trod before them.
Of two conditions of life equally inviting to the prospect, that will always have the disadvantage which we have already tried ; because the evils which we have felt we cannot extenuate ; and though we have, perhaps from nature, the power as well of aggravating the calamity which we fear, as of heightening the blessing we expect, yet in those meditations which we indulge by choice, and which are not forced upon the mind by new
cessity, we have always the art of fixing our regard upon the more pleasing images, and suffer hope to dispose the lights by which we look upon futurity.
The good and ill of different modes of life are sometimes so equally opposed, that perhaps no man ever yet made his choice between them upon a full conviction and adequate knowledge; and therefore fluctuation of will is not more wonderful, when they are opposed to the election, than oscillations of a beam charged with equal weights. The mind no sooner imagines itself determined by some prevalent advantage, than some convenience of equal weight is discovered on the other side, and the resolutions which are suggested by the nicest examination, are often repented as soon as they are taken.
Eumenes, a young man of great abilities, inherited a large estate from a father, long eminent in conspicuous employments. His father, harassed with competitions, and perplexed with multiplicity of business, recommended the quiet of a private station with so much force, that Eumenes for some years resisted every motion of ambitious wishes ; but being once provoked by the sight of oppression, which he could not redress, he began to think it the duty of an honest man to enable himself to protect others, and gradually felt a desire of greatness, excited by a thousand projects of advantage to his country. His fortune placed him in the senate, his knowledge and eloquence advanced him at court, and he possessed that authority and influence which he had resolved to exert for the happiness of mankind.
He now became acquainted with greatness, and was in a short time convinced, that in proportion as the power of doing well is enlarged, the tempt. ations to do ill are multiplied and enforced. He felt himself every moment in danger of being either seduced or driven from his honest purposes. Sometimes a friend was to be gratified, and sometimes a rival to be crushed, by means which his conscience could not approve. Sometimes he was forced to comply with the prejudices of the publick, and sometimes with the schemes of the ministry. He was by degrees wearied with perpetual struggles to unite policy and virtue, and went back to retirement as the shelter of innocence, persuaded, that he could only hope to benefit mankind by a blameless example of private virtue. Here he spent some years in tranquillity and beneficence ; but finding that corruption increased, and false opinions in government prevailed, he thought himself again summoned to posts of publick trust, from which new evidence of his own weakness again determined him to retire.
Thus men may be made inconstant by virtue and by vice, by too much or too little thought ; yet inconstancy, howeverdignified by its motives, is always to be avoided, because life allows us but a small time forinquiry and experiment, and he that steadily endeavours at excellence, in whatever employment, will more benefit mankind than he that hesitates in chusing his part till he is called to the performance. The traveller that resolutely follows a rough and winding path, will sooner reach the end of his journey, than he that is always changing his direction, and wastes the hours of day-light in looking for smoother ground and shorter pas. sages,
N° 64. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27, 1750.
Idem velle, et idem nolle, ea demum firma amicitia est.
To live in friendship is to have the same desires and the
WHEN Socrates was building himself a house at Athens, being asked by one that observed the littleness of the design, why a man so eminent would not have an abode more suitable to his dignity ? he replied, that he should think himself sufficiently accommodated, if he could see that narrow habitation filled with real friends. Such was the opinion of this great master of human life, concerning the infrequency of such an union of minds as might deserve the name of friendship, that among the multitudes whom vanity or curiosity, civility or veneration, crowded about him, he did not expect, that very spacious apartments would be necessary to contain all that should regard him with sincere kindness, or adhere to him with steady fidelity
So many qualities are indeed requisite to the possibility of friendship, and so many accidents must concur to its rise and its continuance, that the greatest part of mankind content themselves withVol. II.