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On the back of this letter is written in the hand of the deceased, the following piece of history:
"Mem. Having waited a whole week for an answer to this letter, I hurried to town, where I found the perfidious creature married to my rival. I will bear it as becomes a man, and endeavour to find out happiness for myself in that retirement which I had prepared in vain for a false ungrateful woman."
'I am, &c.'
No. 628. FRIDAY, DECEMBER 3, 1714.
Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis ævum.
THERE are none of your speculations which please me more than those upon infinitude and eternity *. You have already considered that part of eternity which is past, and I wish you would give us your thoughts upon that which is to come.
Your readers will perhaps receive greater pleasure from this view of eternity than the former, since we have every one of us a concern in that which is to come: whereas a speculation on that which is past is rather curious than useful.
Besides, we can easily conceive it possible for successive duration never to have an end; though, as you have justly observed, that eternity which never had a beginning is altogether incomprehensible; that is, we can conceive an eternal duration which may be, though we cannot an eternal duration which hath been; or, if I may ase the philosophical terms, we may apprehend a potential, though not an actual eternity.
This notion of a future eternity, which is natural to the mind of man, is an unanswerable argument that he is
*See Nos. 565, 571, 580, and 590.
a being designed for it; especially if we consider that he is capable of being virtuous or vicious here: that he hath faculties improveable to all eternity; and, by a proper or wrong employment of them, may be happy or miserable throughout that infinite duration. Our idea indeed of this eternity is not of an adequate or fixed nature, but is perpetually growing and enlarging itself toward the object, which is too big for human comprehension. As we are now in the beginnings of existence, so shall we always appear to ourselves as if we were for ever entering upon it. After a million or two of centuries, some considerable things already past, may slip out of our memory; which, if it be not strengthened in a wonderful manner, may possibly forget that ever there was a sun or planets; and yet, notwithstanding the long race that we shall then have run, we shall still imagine ourselves just starting from the goal, and find no proportion between that space which we know had a beginning, and what we are sure will never have an end.
But I shall leave this subject entirely to your own management, and question not but you will throw it into such lights as shall at once improve and entertain your reader.
'I have, inclosed, sent you a translation* of the speech of Cato on this occasion, which hath accidentally fallen into my hands, and which, for conciseness, purity, and elegance of phrase, cannot be sufficiently admired.
ACT V. SCENE I.
CATO solus, &c.
6 Sic, sic se habere rem necesse prorsus est, Ratione vincis, do lubens manus, Plato.
*This was done by Mr. (afterwards Dr.) Bland, formerly head master of Eton-school, then provost of the college there, and dean of Durham.
Cato (says Dr. Johnson) was translated by Salvini into Italian, and acted at Florence; and by the Jesuits of St. Omer's into Latin, and played by their pupils. Of this version a copy was sent to Mr. Addison: it is to be wished that it could be found, for the sake of comparing their version of the soliloquy with that of Bland.' Dr. Johnson's Lives of English Poets, vol. ii. p. 341, 8vo. edit. 1794.
Quid enim dedisset, quæ dedit frustra nihil,
Quæ demigrabitur alia hinc in corpora Quæ terra mox incognita? Quis orbis novus Manet incolendus? Quanta erit mutatio? Hæc intuenti spatia mihi quaqua patent Immensa: sed caliginosa nox premit ; Nec luce clara vult videri singula. Figendus hic pes; certa sunt hæc hactenus; Si quod gubernet numen humanum genus, (At, quod gubernet, esse clamant omnia) Virtute non gaudere certe non potest : Nec esse non beata, qua gaudet, potest. Sed qua beata sede? Quove in tempore? Hæc quanta terra, tota est Cæsaris. Quid dubius hæret animus usque adeo? Brevi Hic nodum hic omnem expediet. Arma en induor, [Ensi manum admovems.
In utramque partem facta; quæque vim inferant,
Tu permanebis sola semper integra,
Tu cuncta rerum quassa, cuncta naufraga,
ACT V. SCENE I.
CATO alone, &c.
'It must be so
-Plato, thou reason'st well-
Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror,
Through what variety of untry'd being, Thro' what new scenes and changes must we pass ! The wide, th' unbounded prospect lies before me ; But shadows, clouds, and darkness, rest upon it. Here will I hold. If there's a Power above us, (And that there is all Nature cries aloud Through all her works) he must delight in virtue ; And that which he delights in must be happy. But when or where!-This world was made for Cæsar, I'm weary of conjectures-This must end them. [Laying his hand on his sword.
Thus am I doubly arm'd; my death and life,
The wreck of matter, and the crush of worlds.'
No. 629. MONDAY, DECEMBER 6, 1714.
-Experiar quid concedatur in illos,
Since none the living dare implead,
EXT to the people who want a place, there are none to be pitied more than those who are solicited for one. A plain answer, with a denial in it, is looked upon as pride, and a civil answer as a promise.
Nothing is more ridiculous than the pretensions of people upon these occasions. Every thing a man hath suffered, while his enemies were in play, was certainly brought about by the malice of the opposite party. A bad cause would not have been lost, if such an one had not been upon the bench; nor a profligate youth disinherited, if he had not got drunk every night by toasting an outed ministry. I remember a tory, who, having been fined in a court of justice for a prank that deserved the pillory, desired upon the merit of it to be made a justice of peace when his friends came into power; and shall never forget a whig criminal, who, upon being indicted for a rape, told his friends, You see what a man suffers for sticking to his principles.'
The truth of it is, the sufferings of a man in a party are of a very doubtful nature. When they are such as have promoted a good cause, and fallen upon a man undeservedly, they have a right to be heard and recompensed beyond any other pretensions. But when they rise out of rashness or indiscretion, and the pursuit of such measures as have rather ruined than promoted the interest they aim at, which hath always been the case of many great sufferers, they only serve to recommend them to the children of violence or folly.
I have by me a bundle of memorials presented by several cavaliers upon the restoration of King Charles II. which may serve as so many instances to our present purpose.