Page images
PDF
EPUB

Gods either hear us not, or have mercy upon us! But, for my part, , I shall have no mercy on you, Lucilius, intending to discharge my duty, and to trouble you with another long Epistle; which if you read and cannot relish it, fay, Ego mihi hoc contraxi, I have brought this zpon myself; and reckon yourself among those whom a costly wife, gained by afiiduous courtship, is continually tormenting ; among those who enjoy not the wealth, amassed with great toil and labour—among those, whom honours, obtained by all that art or industry can do, rack with disquiet-or other coiners of their own wretchedness. But omitting any further preamble, I now come to the point in hand.

An happy life, they say, confifts in fit and just actions; therefore precepts are sufficient to make life happy. I deny the minor proposition : precepts do not always incite fit actions; unless attended to with an obsequious disposition of the mind. Sometimes they are applied in vain; when the understanding is prejudiced by false opinions. And again, if men happen to do right, they do not always know it (6): for it is not every one, unless they are tutored from the beginning, and fashioned in all points of reason, that can be perfect in every rule of decency; knowing what they ought to do, how much, in what relation, and in what manner; wherefore they cannot in every

action

pursue virtue, at least not constantly, nor designedly: they will often look back and hesitate.

If fit and just actions, it is said, spring from precepts, then are precepts sufficient to make life happy: but the one is true, consequently the other. To this we answer, just and fit actions arise from maxims and general rules, and not from precepts only.

Again it is said, if other arts are contented with precepts, so is wisdom, or the art of life. But a man is made a pilot, by such instructions as these : thus you must steer; thus strike fail; thus use a favourable wind; thus a contrary one; thus make a doubtful or cross wind serve your turn: and so in other arts are men tutored by precepts; cannot then such as teach the art of living, pursue the same method with the like effect ? No; all these arts are employed in, or relate only to, the means of life, and not to the whole life: and therefore many things from without may restrain and impede them, as hope, desire, fear, and the like: but wisdom, which professeth the art of life, cannot be prevented from exercising herself at all times: for the shakes off all impediments, and manageth all opposition.

these

Would you

know wherein the condition of this differs from all other arts (c)? Know, that in these it is more excuseable to err by choice than accidentally ; but in this there cannot be a greater crime than to fin voluntarily. I will explain what I mean: a grammarian is not alhamed of a solecism, when he commits it knowingly; but would blush at one committed through ignorance, or careleTress : a physician, if he perceives not that his patient grows worse, is more in fault with regard to his art, than one who perceives the defect, yet pretends not to know it. But in that art of life a wilful error is the more criminal.

Add now, that most of these arts, I might say all that are truly liberal, have their general maxims, and not precepts only. As in physic, for instance, there is one sect that follows Hippocrates, another sect Asclepeiades, another Themison. Besides, there is no contemplative art . but what hath its decrees, which the Greeks, call @oylara, and we decrees, maxims, or axioms; such as you will find in geometry or astronomy. But philosophy is both contemplative and active. She meditates, and also sets her hand to work. You are mistaken, if

you

think she is only engaged in terrestrial affairs. She aspireth much higher. I range,

faith she, the universe; nor am satisfied with the conversation of mortals, in order either to persuade or dissuade them; sublime matters, far above your reach, invite me :

Nam tibi de summa tali ratione Deumque,
Differere incipiam, et rerum primordia pandem
Unde omnis natura creet res, auctet, alatque,
Quoque eadem rursus natura perempta resolvat. . 1

I treat of things abstruse, the Deity,
The vast and steady motions of the sky;
Z 2

The

}

The rise of things; bow curisus Nature joins
The various feeds, and in one mass combines
The jarring principles; what new supplies
Bring nourishment and firength; how yle unties?

The Gordian knot, and the poor compound dies. Creech. As faith Lucretius: it follows therefore that being contemplative, she hath also her maxims and decrees. Besides that no one can do what he ought to do, unless a reason be pointed out to him, whereby he may punctualiy discharge every office in life; which it is impossible for him to do, who hath received nothing but mere precepts; the precepts being distributed in parcels are but weak in themselves, and if I may fo speak, without root, and a solid foundation : decrees and certain maxims are what must protect us, and maintain our security and peace; and which comprehend all life, and all nature. There is the fame difference between the decrees and precepts of philosophy, as there is between letters and whole sentences ; these depend upon the former which gave rise both to them, and to every thing of the like kind.

The antient wisdom, it is said, taught by precept nothing more than what was to be done and what was to be avoided; and yet men were far better in those days than they are now : as soon as learning began to flourish, good men grew scarce. For that fimple and open virtue is now turned into obscure and

subtle science. IVe learn rather to difpicte, than to live. Un doubtedly, as. you fay, that antient wisdom was in the beginning rude and single, no less than other arts, that in process of time grew more refined and polished. But there was no need of such choice remedies as are now presented: wickedness was not grown to such a height, nor had it spread so wide: simple remedies were applied to simple vices. But now there is a necessity for stronger battlements, and more laboured fortifications, as the mischiefs that assault us are grown so much stronger and more powerful.

Physic formerly was nothing more than skill in the virtues of some few herbs whereby the flowing blood might be staunched, and wounds closed by degrees; but now it is become an extensive study, and consists in a surprising multiplicity of prescriptions. No wonder it had so little to do in those ancient times, when the bouies of men were hale and robust, and their diet plain and easy, uncorrupted by art and delicacies; which in aftertimes began to be fought for, not in order to satisfy hunger, but to provoke it; and a thousand high-seasoned fauces were invented to raise an appetite; so that meats which before sustained, and proved wholesome nourishment to those who wanted them, serve now only to overload the full stomach. . Hence proceed paleness, and trembling of the nerves relaxed by wine; and a more miserable leanness, caused rather by crudities than hunger; hence such a tottering gait, and perpetual stumbling, as if men were always drunk; hence the {mail vessels of the cuticle are filled with water, and the belly distended, being accustomed to be crammed with more than it can well hold; hence the black jaundice; the wan countenance of such as are in a deep consumption; the crooked fingers from the stiffness of the joints; the unfeeling apoplexy, and the evershaking pally. What need I mention the swimming of the head; the torment both of the

eyes

and the acute pains of the raging brain; the passages of the body afflicted with ulcers ; besides numberless forts of fevers, some high and violent, others creeping on by flow degrees; others seizing us with horror and great shaking of the limbs; with a thousand other distempers, the just plagues of luxury and intemperance?

ears;

The antients were free from these dreadful evils; who had not as yet debauched themselves with the most delicate viands; who were their own masters, and their own servants: they harden’d their bodies with toil and useful labour; and when tired with running, or hunting, or tilling the ground, they sate down to such a repast, as would not have been relished, had they not been hungry. There was no need therefore in those days of shops full of drugs, nor of so many

instruments, gallipots and boxes. Simple was their health, from a simple cause; but variety of dishes introduced a variety of diseases (d). Only observe what a strange mixture of things, luxury, having ravaged both the land and sea, hath provided for the swallow of one gormandizing throat. Things of such different qualities can never agree, in, or with

the

the stomach : it is impoflible they should digest, as one thing prevents another. No wonder then that uncertain and various diseases should arise from such discordant meats; and that humours, collected from such oppofite parts of nature, and now conjoined in one, should redound as they do; for as we live by no rule, we ficken by none.

The greatest physician, and founder of the profession, observed, that women never shed their hair, xor were ever lame with the gout : but now are they both gouty and bald. The nature of women however is not changed, but the manner of life: for by taking the fame liberties with men, they have subjected themselves to the same disorders; they keep as bad hours (e); they drink as deep; and challenge them as well in the use of oyl, as of strong wine; they alike eat without an appetite; and are not ashamed of discharging an overloaded ftomach by the mouth (f); they likewise make their teeth chatter with ice, by way of cooling and refreshing the overheated liver ; nor in any lustful action will they suffer men to surpass them; may all the God's and Goddesses confound them for their abominable practices! What wonder is it then that the greatest physician and most experienced naturalist, should be liable to a mistake, since we now fee women afflicted both with the gout and baldness ? They have lost the privilege of their sex by their vices, and, having thrown aside the woman, subjected themselves to the diseases of debaucheés.

The antient physicians knew not to prescribe frequent eating, or to drench the fagging veins with wine; they knew not the art of cupping or scarifying; or to ease a chronic disorder by bathing or sweating; they knew not, by binding the legs and arms to recall the vital heat from the central parts to the extreme. There was no need of consultations, or to hunt after various kinds of remedies, when the dangers of their patients were few, and in a narrow compass. But now, alas! to what a degree are disorders multiplied! Such is the interest we pay for the irrational and inordinate pleasures that we indulge ourselves in !

But

« PreviousContinue »