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two gladiators be matched to fight without my presence; and at the fame time shall I be ashamed to attend the lectures of a philosopher? No; a man must still be learning somewhat, as long as there is any thing to be learned; that is, according to the proverb, as long as he lives (c). Nor is this more applicable to any other purpose than to the following, you must be learning as long as you live, how to live. But know also, that I teach at the same time: do
ask what? why, that old
age hath always somewhat still to learn : and indeed in this respect, I am alhamed of the folly of mankind. You know the way to the house of Metronactes, is by the Neapolitan theatre; this I find always full; and it is debated with great earnestness, who is the best piper. Nay, a Grecian fidler or the common cryer shall gather around them a vast concourse of people : but the place where a man is taught sound morality, very few attend (d) ; and such as are pleased to attend, are thought by many to have no extraordinary business there ; nay are even called ille blockheads. They may laugh at ms too if they please ; the opprobrious language of the rude and illiterate is easily to be borne: and their contempt to be despised by those, whose endeavours aim at what is right and fit.
Go on, my Lucilius, and make all the speed you can, that it may not be your case as it was mine, to be obliged to learn in your
old hasten so much the more ; because you have undertaken that which
you can scarce be master of, live you ever so long. What improvement fhall I make ? as much as you endeavour after. (e). What do you expect? wisdom is not an accidental accomplishment. Riches will sometimes come of themselves, honour will be offered you ; favour and dignity, will haply be your portion; but virtue is not to be obtained but by great and incessant labour; but it is worth while so much the more to labour, as this will confer all good whatever : for this indeed is the only good. There is no truth, no certainty, in those things, so highly extolled by common fame. But I will now Thew you, the boneftum, or virtue, is the only good: because you seem to think that in my former epistle I have not executed the said purpose ; and that I have exhibited virtue rather as recommended, than proved; and to contract all in a few words,
I do not
:- Know, that all things have their proper good. Fertility recommends the vine, as a fine flavour does the juice of the grape; the excellency in a stag is swiftness; in beasts of burthen, a strong back: an exquisite quickness of scent distinguishes the hound; fpeed the greyhound; fierceness and courage the bull-dog, or such as are ordained to attack wild beasts (f): and what is the excellency in man? reason. It is this; wherein man excells the bruté création, and draws near to the gods (). Perfect reason therefore is the proper good of men. Other qualities he hath in common with plants and animals: is he strong? so are lions. Is he beautiful? so are peacocks. Is he swift? so are horses. say how far he may excell, or be excelled in any of these points; for I am not enquiring after what is greatest in him, but what is his own. Has he a body? so has a tree. Has he internal power of felf-motion! so have beasts, and even worms. Hath he a voice ? some dogs have a louder; more shrill is that of the eagle, more deep that of the bull; and more sweet and voluble is the voice of the nightingale. What then is proper only to man? reason. This when right and perfect, completes the happiness of man. If therefore every thing that hath accomplished its own proper good, is praise-worthy, and hath reached the end of nature's designation; reason being the proper good of man, if he hath perfected the same, he is then praise worthy, and hath attained the end of being. Now, this reason when perfect, is called virtue, or what is right and fit in all circumstances. That therefore is the one good in man, which is his proper good : for we are not now enquiring after what is good, but what is the peculiar good of man.
If there is no other good peculiar to man, then this is the one good, in which is comprehended all other.
Further, is any one a bad man, I doubt not but he will be condemned; and if good he will be approved of: that therefore is, the proper and only good in man, according to which he is blamed, or praised. But perhaps you doubt not whether this be a good, but whether it be the only good. Surely, if a man hath all other enjoyments of life, as health, riches, statues of his ancestors, and a large leveé of his own, but is confessedly a bad man, you will condemn him. Again, if;a
man hath none of these things, if he wants money; hath no clients, is not noble: nor can boast a long line of ancestors, yet is a good man; you cannot but commend him. Therefore that is the only good of man, which if he possesses, tho’ destitute of all other things, he is very respectable, and praise-worthy; and he that hath it not, tho’ in full porsession of all other enjoyments, is condemned and despised. As the condition of other things; such is that of man. It is called a good thip, not because it is painted with the most brilliant colours; and hath its decks of silver or gold; and its prow decorated with ivory (b); nor because it is freighted with royal treasures; but because it is not crank,, but firm and steady; well caulked, so as to admit no leak, and with such strong sides, as to defy the violence of the waves ;: ever obedient. to the rudder ; and swift and easy to tack about with every wind.. You will not call a sword good for hanging at a golden belt, and having the hilt adorn'd with jewels: but because it carries a fine edge for cutting, and a point able to pierce an armour of steel.
A ruler or square is not required to be beautiful, but strait and true. Every thing is excellent when adapted to its proper use (i). Therefore in man. also, it is of little avail, how many acres he ploughs, how much money he hath out at interest; how
many salute him by the way; how rich his bed; or how transparent and costly his cup; but how good a man he is; now, he is a good man, whose reason is explicit and right; in all respects adapted to the will of nature. This is all called virtue; this is the Honestum, and only good of man.
For since reason alone perfects the man; perfect reason alone hath made him happy; and that is the only good of man, by which only he is made happy,
We likewise call all those things good, which proceed from or are: in contact with virtue; they are all her works.. But, therefore is vir-tuc only good, because there cannot be any good without her. And if all good, be in the mind, whatever strengthens, exalts, and enlarges. the mind, is good. Now virtue makes the mind stronger, nobler, more extensive. Wirereas all other things, which provoke our appetites and desires depress and weaken the mind; and when they seem to raise, they only puff it up, and delude it with much vanity. Therefore that is the only
good, good, which improves the mind. All the actions of the whole life of man are measured by the moral sense of good and evil, from whence reason takes her directions for doing, or not doing such and such things. I shall further explain this.
A good man will always do what is right and fit, whatever pains it costs him. Again, he will not do any thing, that is base and vile, were he to gain thereby riches, or pleasure or power. He will not abstain from what is right, for any terror; nor, by any hopes whatever, be drawn in to a base action. Therefore as he will follow what is just and fit, he will always eschew what is unjust and vile; and in every action in life, he will have these two principles in view; that there is no good but what is right and fit, nor any evil but what is vile and scandalous. If then virtue alone is pure, and ever of the same tenour; virtue is the only good; nor is it possible it should be otherwise than good. Wisdom is not subject to the danger of a change; as it is not to be taken from us forcibly, nor will ever revert into folly (*). I told you,
you remember, that many by a sudden transport of zeal, have contemn'd and trodden under foot things soindiscreetly coveted or dreaded by the vulgar : there have been found those, who would thrust their hand into the flames (k); whose smiles no torture could interrupt (1), who have not shed a tear at the loss of their children: and have themselves met death with intrepidity. Love, anger, desire, have defied all manner of danger. And if a sort obstinacy of the mind, inspired by fome sudden impulse could do this; how much more can virtue, which is strong, not by fits, or on a sudden, but with ever-equal steadiness; and whose strength never faileth? It follows then, that such things, as are despised, sometimes by the rash and inconliderate, and always by the wise, are in themselves neither good nor evil. The only good therefore is virtue, who proudly marches between good and bad fortune, and treats them both alike with contempt. If you fancy, there is any good, but such as consists in what is right and fit, there is no virtue but what will prove defective: for none can be obtained, if it has regard to any thing without, or beyond itself. And were it so, it would be repugnant
to reason, from whence proceed all virtues; and also to truth, which subsists in reason: now whatever opinion is repugnant to truth, is false.
Further, you must grant it necessary for a good man to be truly pious, and to have the highest veneration for the gods; consequently whatever happens to him, he will bear it with a patient and even mind, being persuaded that it proceeds from the Divine Law, which governs the universe. And if so, that will be the only good to him, which is right and fit: forasmuch as it consists in this, to obey the gods, not to fall into sudden passions, nor to bewail his lot, but раtiently to abide his fate, and willingly perform what is enjoined by the powers above. Besides, was there any other good than what is right and fit, we should be perfecuted with the defire of life, and an insan tiable hankering after all the requisites thereto, which is intolerable, infinite, vague: therefore what is right and fit, is the only good, because it hath its certain measure and end.
I have before faid, if those things of which the gods make no use, such as riches and honours, were really good, the life of man would be much more happy than that of the gods: add now, that if souls, when set free from the body, still exist, they are in a much happier state than when detained in the body (m). But if those things be good, which are made use of while in the body, it would then be worse for them to have been set free; but it is not credible that being imprisoned and confined they should be happier than when at liberty to range the universe. I said also, if those things be good, which happen to dumb animals as well as to man, that then even dumb animals live an happy life: which by no means can be admitted. All things are to be endured for the sake of virtue, or doing that which is right and fit; but this would be unreasonable, if there was any other real good but virtue.
Thus, Lucilius; have I contracted and run through the several points, which I explained more at large in my former Epistle. But you
will - never approve of this my opinion or think it true, unless you