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condition, are without power to extricate them. selves from the inchantments of custom, avoid thought because they know it will be painful, and continue, from day to day and from month to month, to anticipate their revenues, and sink every hour deeper in the gulphs of usury and extortion.
This folly has less claim to pity, because it can. not be imputed to the vehemence of sudden passion ; nor can the mischief which it produces be extenuated as the effect of any single act, which rage or desire might execute before there could be time for an appeal to reason.
These men are ad. vancing towards misery by soft approaches, and destroying themselves not by the violence of a blow, which, when once given, can never be recalled, but by a slow poison, hourly repeated and obstinately continued.
This conduct is so absurd when it is examined by the unprejudiced eye of rational judgment, that nothing but experience could evince its possibility; yet, absurd as it is, the sudden fall of some families, and the sudden rise of others, prove it to be common; and every year sees many wretches reduced to contempt and want, by their costly sacrifices to pleasure and vanity.
It is the fate of almost every passion, when it has passed the bounds which nature prescribes, to counteract its own purpose. Too much rage hinders the warrior from circumspection, too much eagerness of profit hurts the credit of the trader, too much ardour takes away from the lover that easiness of address with which ladies are delighted. Thus extravagance, though dictated by vanity aud incited by voluptuousness, seldom procures ultimately either applause or pleasure.
If praise be justly estimated by the character of those from whom it is received, little satisfaction will be given to the spendthrift by the encomiums which he purchases. For who are they that animate him in his pursuits, but young men thoughtless and abandoned like himself, unacquainted with all on which the wisdom of nations has impressed the stamp of excellence, and devoid alike of knowledge and of virtue ? By whom is this profusion praised, but by wretches who consider him as subservient to their purposes, Sirens that entice him to shipwreck, and Cyclops that are gaping to devour him?
Every man whose knowledge, or whose virtue, can give value to his opinions, looks with scorn, or pity, neither of which can afford much gratification to pride, on him whom the panders of luxury have drawn into the circle of their influence, and whom he sees parcelled out among the different ministers of folly, and about to be torn to pieces by tailors and jockeys, vintners and attorneys, who at once rob and ridicule him, and who are secretly triumphing over his weakness, when they present new incitements to his appetite, and heighten his desires by counterfeited applause.
Such is the praise that is purchased by prodigality. Even when it is yet not discovered to be false, it is the praise only of those whom it is reproachful to please, and whose sincerityis corrupted by their interest : men who live by the riots which they encourage, and who know that whenever their pupil grows wise, they shall lose their power. Yet with such flatteries, ifthey couldlast, might the crayings of vanity, which are seldom very delicate, be
satisfied; but the time is always hastening forward when this triumph, poor as it is, shall vanish, and when those who now surround him with obsequiousness and compliments, fawn among his equipage, and animate his riots, shall turn upon him with insolence, and reproach him with the vices prompted by themselves.
And as little pretensions has the man who squanders his estate by vain or vicious expences, to greater degrees of pleasure than are obtained by others. To make any happiness sincere, it is necessary that we believe it to be lasting; since whatever we suppose ourselves in danger of losing, must be enjoyed with solicitude and uneasiness, and the more value we set upon it, the more must the present possession be imbittered. How can he then be envied for his felicity, who knows that its continuance cannot be expected, and who is conscious that a very short time will give him up to the gripe of poverty, which will be harder to be borne, as he has given way to more excesses, wantoned in greater abundance, and indulged his appetites with more profuseness?
It appears evident that frugality is necessary even to complete the pleasure of expence; for it may be generally remarked of those who squander what they know their fortune not sufficient to allow, that in their most jovial expence, there always breaks out some proof of discontent and impatience ; they either scatter with a kind of wild desperation and affected lavishness, as criminals brave the gallows when they cannot escape it, or pay their money with a peevish anxiety, and endeavour at once to spend idly and to save meanly ; having neither firmness to deny their passions, nor courage to gratify them, they murmur at their own enjoyments, & poison the bowlof pleasure by reflection
on the cost. Among these men there is often the vociferation of merriment, but very seldom the tranquillity of cheerfulness; they inflame their imaginations to a kind of momentary jollity, by the help of wine and riot, and consider it as the first business of the night to stupify recollection, and lay that reason asleep with disturbs their gaiety, and calls upon them to retreat from ruin.
But this poor broken satisfaction is of short continuance, and must be expiated by a long series of misery and regret. In a short time the creditor grows impatient, the last acre is sold, the passions and appetites still continue their tyranny, with incessant calls for their usual gratifications, and the remainder of life passes away in vain repentance or impotent desire.
N° 51. SATURDAY SEPT. 22, 1750.
Truditur dies die,
Tu secanda marmora
Immemor struis domos.
TO THE RAMBLER.
I have lately been called, from a mingled life of business and amusement, to attend the last hours of an old friend ; an office which has filled me, if not with melancholy, at least with serious reflections, and turned my thoughts towards the contemplation of those subjects, which, though of the utmost importance, and of indubitable certainty, are generally secluded from our regard, by the jollity of health, the hurry of employment, and even by the calmer diversions of study and speculation ; or if they become accidental topicks of conversation and argument, yet rarely sink deep into the heart, but give occasion only to some subtilties of reaoning, or elegancies of declamation, which are heard, applauded, and forgotten.
It is, indeed, not hard to conceive how a man accustomed to extend his views through a long concatenation of causes and effects, to trace things from their origin to thcir period, and compare means with ends, may discover the weakness of human schemes ; detect the fallacies by which mortals are deluded ; shew the insufficiency of wealth, honours, and power, to real happiness ; and please himself, and his auditors, with learned lectures on the vanity of life.
But though the speculatist may see and shew the folly of terrestrial hopes, fears, and desires, every hour will give proofs that he never felt it. Trace him through the day or year, and you will find him acting upon principles which he has in common with the illiterate and unenlightened, angry and pleased like the lowest of the vulgar, pursuing with the same ardour, the same designs, grasping, with all the eagerness of transport, those riches which he knows he cannot keep, and swelling with the applause which he has gained by proving that applause is of no value. VOL. II.