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JAQUES, in AS-YOU-LIKE-IT, is
exhibited to us in extraordinary circumftances, and in a fituation very romantic.
Lord. To-day my Lord of Amiens, and myself,
Under an oak, whose antique root peeps out
That from the hunters' aim had ta'en a hurt,
Duke. But what faid Jaques ?
Did he not moralize this fpectacle?
Lord. O yes, into a thousand fimilies.
As worldlings do, giving thy fum of more,
To that which bad too much. Then, being alone,
'Tis right, quoth he;
Full of the pasture, jumps along by him,
And never stays to greet him. Ay, quoth Jaques,
'Tis just the fashion wherefore do you look
The most striking character in the mind of Jacques, according to this description,
is extreme fenfibility. He difcovers a heart ftrongly difpofed to compaffion, and fufceptible of the most tender impreffions of friendship: for he who can fo feelingly deplore the abfence of kindness and humanity, must be capable of relishing the delight annexed to their exercise. But fenfibility is the foil where nature has planted focial and sweet affections: By fenfibility they are cherished, and grow mature. Social difpofitions produce all thofe amiable and endearing connections that alleviate the forrows of human life, adorn our nature, and render us happy. Now Jaques, avoiding society, and burying himself in the lonely foreft, feems to act inconfiftently with his conftitution. He poffeffes fenfibility; fenfibility begets affection; and affection begets the love of fociety. But Jaques is unfocial. Can these inconfiftent qualities be reconciled? Or has Shakespeare exhibited a character of which the parts are incongruous, and
difcordant? In other words, how happens it that a temper difpofed to beneficence, and addicted to focial enjoyment, becomes folitary and morofe? Changes of this kind are not unfrequent: And, if researches into the origin or caufe of a diftemper can direct us in the difcovery of an antidote or of a remedy, our present inquiry is of importance. Perhaps, the excess and luxuriancy of benevolent difpofitions blighted by unkindness or ingratitude, is the cause that, instead of yielding us fruits of complacency and friendship, they fhed bitter drops of mifanthropy.
Averfion from fociety proceeds from diflike to mankind, and from an opinion of the inefficacy, and uncertainty of external pleasure. Let us confider each of thefe apart: Let us trace the progrefs by which they established themselves in the mind of Jaques, and gave his temper an unnatural colour.
I. The gratification of our focial affections fuppofes friendship and esteem for others; and these difpofitions suppose in their object virtues of a corresponding character: For every one values his own opinion, and fancies the person to whom he teftifies esteem actually deferves it. If beneficent affections, ardent and undifciplined, predominate in our conftitution, and govern our opinions, we enter into life ftrongly prepoffeffed in favour of mankind, and endeavour, by a generous and difinterested conduct, to render ourfelves worthy of their regard. That fpirit of diffufive goodness, which eloquent and benign philofophy recommends, but without fuccefs, to men engaged in the commerce of the world, operates uncontrouled. The heart throbs with aftonishment and indignation at every act of injustice, and our bowels yearn to relieve the afflicted. Our beneficence is unlimited: We are free from fufpicion: Our friendhips