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sustenance, and yet still continue to grow larger, so às every day to double their former size. As they grow old, however, they do not still continue to increase, but their legs only continue to grow longer; and when a spider becomes entirely stiff with age, and unable to seize its prey, it dies at length of hunger.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GREATNESS.
In every duty, in every science in which we would wish to arrive at perfection, we should propose for the object of our pursuit some certain station even beyond our abilities: some imaginary excellence, which may amuse and serve to animate our inquiry. In deviating from others, in following an unbeaten road, though we perhaps may never arrive at the wished-for object; yet it is possible we may meet several discoveries by the way; and the certainty of small advantages, even while we travel with security, is not so amusing as the hopes of great rewards, which inspire the adventurer. Evenit nonnunquam says Quintilian, ut aliquid grande inveniat qui semper quærit quod nimium est.
This enterprising spirit is, however, by no means the character of the present age; every person who should now leave received opinions, who should attempt to be more than a commentator upon philosophy, or an imitator in polite learning, might be regarded as a chimerical projector. Hundreds would be ready not only to point out his errors, but
to load him with reproach. Our probable opinions are now regarded as certainties; the difficulties hitherto undiscovered as utterly inscrutable; and the writers of the last age inimitable, and therefore the properest models of imitation.
One might be almost induced to deplore the philosophic spirit of the age, which in proportion as it enlightens the mind, increases its timidity, and represses the vigour of every undertaking. Men are now content with being prudently in the right; which, though not the way to make new acquisitions, it must be owned, is the best method of securing what we have. Yet this is certain, that the writer who never deviates, who never hazards a new thought, or a new expression, though his friends may compliment him upon his sagacity, though criticism lifts her feeble voice in his praise, will seldom arrive at any degree of perfection. The way to acquire lasting esteem, is not by the fewness of a writer's faults, but the greatness of his beauties, and our noblest works are generally most replete with both.
An author, who would be sublime, often runs his thought into burlesque; yet I can readily pardon his mistaking ten times for once succeeding. True genius walks along a line, and perhaps our greatest pleasure is in seeing it so often near falling, without being ever actually down.
Every science has its hitherto undiscovered mysteries, after which men should travel undiscouraged by the failure of former adventurers. Every new attempt serves perhaps to facilitate its future invention. We may not find the philosopher's stone, but we shall probably hit upon new inventions in pur
suing it. We shall perhaps never be able to discover the longitude, yet perhaps we may arrive at new truths in the investigation.
Were any of those sagacious minds among us, (and surely no nation, or no period, could ever compare with us in this particular) were any of those minds, I say, who now sit down contented with exploring the intricacies of another's system, bravely to shake off admiration, and, undazzled with the splendour of another's reputation, to chalk out a path to fame for themselves, and boldly cultivate untried experiment, what might not be the result of their inquiries, should the same study that has made them wise, make them enterprising also? What could not such qualities united produce? But such is not the character of the English; while our neighbours of the continent launch out into the ocean of science, without proper store for the voyage, we fear shipwreck in every breeze, and consume in port those powers which might probably have weathered every storm.
Projectors in a state are generally rewarded above their deserts; projectors in the republic of letters, never. If wrong, every inferior dunce thinks himself entitled to laugh at their disappointment; if right, men of superior talents think their honour engaged to oppose, since every new discovery is a tacit diminution of their own pre-eminence.
To aini at excellence, our reputation, our friends, and our all must be ventured; by aiming only at mediocrity, we run no risque, and we do little service. Prudence and greatness are ever persuading us to contrary pursuits. The one instructs us to be content with our station, and to find happiness in
bounding every wish. The other impels us to superiority, and calls nothing happiness but rapture. The one directs to follow mankind, and to act and think with the rest of the world. The other drives us from the crowd, and exposes us as a mark to all the shafts of envy or ignorance.
Nec minus periculum ex magnâ famâ quam ex malâ. Tacit.
The rewards of mediocrity are immediately paid, those attending excellence generally paid in reversion. In a word, the little mind who loves itself, will write and think with the vulgar, but the great mind will be bravely eccentric, and scorn the beaten road, from universal benevolence.
A CITY NIGHT-PIECE.
THE clock just struck two, the expiring taper rises and sinks in the socket; the watchman forgets the hour in slumber; the laborious and the happy are at rest, and nothing wakes but meditation, guilt, revelry, and despair. The drunkard once more fills the destroying bowl; the robber walks his midnight round; and the suicide lifts his guilty arm against his own sacred person.
Let me no longer waste the night over the page of antiquity, or the sallies of contemporary genius; but pursue the solitary walk, where vanity, ever changing, but a few hours past walked before me, where she kept up the pageant, and now, like a
froward child, seems hushed with her own importunities.
What a gloom hangs all around! the dying lamp feebly emits a yellow gleam; no sound is heard but of the chiming clock, or the distant watch-dog. All the bustle of human pride is forgotten: an hour like this may well display the emptiness of human vanity.
There will come a time when this temporary solitude may be made continual, and the city itself, like its inhabitants, fade away, and leave a desert in its room.
What cities as great as this have once triumphed in existence, had their victories as great, joy as just and as unbounded, and with short-sighted presumption promised themselves immortality. Posterity can hardly trace the situation of some. The sorrowful traveller wanders over the awful ruins of others; and as he beholds he learns wisdom, and feels the transience of every sublunary possession.
Here, he cries, stood their citadel, now grown over with weeds; there their senate-house, but now the haunt of every noxious reptile; temples and theatres stood here, now only an undistinguished heap of ruin. They are fallen, for luxury and avarice first made them feeble. The rewards of the state were conferred on amusing, and not on useful members of society. Their riches and opulence invited the invaders, who, though at first repulsed, returned again, conquered by perseverance, and at last swept the defendants into undistinguished de
How few appear in those streets which but some few hours ago were crowded; and those who