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Fortune seemed willing to promote her unjust intentions; the circumstances of Sabinus had been long embarrassed by a tedious lawsuit, and the court determining the cause unexpectedly in favour of his opponent, it sunk his fortune to the lowest pitch of penury from the highest affluence. From the nearness of relationship Sabinus expected from Ariana those assistances his present situation required; but she was insensible to all his intreaties, and the justice of every remonstrance, unless he first separated from Olinda, whom she regarded with detestation. Upon a compliance with her desires in this respect, she promised that her fortune, her interest, and her all, should be at his command. Sabinus was shocked at the proposal; he loved his wife with inexpressible tenderness, and refused those offers with indignation, which were to be purchased at so high a price. Ariana was no less displeased to find her offers rejected, and gave a loose to all that warmth which she had long endeavoured to suppress. Reproach generally produces recrimination; the quarrel rose to such a height, that Sabinus was marked for destruction; and the very next day, upon the strength of an old family debt, he was sent to gaol, with none but Olinda to comfort him in his miseries. In this mansion of distress they lived together with resignation and even with comfort. She provided the frugal meal; and he read to her while employed in the little offices of domestic concern. Their fellow prisoners admired their contentment, and whenever they had a desire of relaxing into mirth, and enjoying those little comforts that a prison affords, Sabinus and Olinda were sure to be of the party. Instead of reproaching each other for their mutual wretchedness, they both lightened it, by bearing each a share of the load imposed by Providence. Whenever Sabinus shewed the least concern on his dear
partner's account, she conjured him by the love he bore her, by those tender ties which now united them for ever, not to discompose himself; that so long as his affection lasted, she defied all the ills of fortune, ⚫ and every loss of fame or friendship; that nothing could make her miserable but his seeming to want happiness, nothing pleased but his sympathising with her pleasure. A continuance in prison soon robbed them of the little they had left, and famine began to make its horrid appearance; yet still was neither found to murmur; they both looked upon their little boy, who, insensible of their or his own distress, was playing about the room, with inexpressible yet silent anguish, when a messenger came to inform them that Ariana was dead, and that her will in favour of a very distant relation, who was now in another country, might easily be procured and burnt, in which case all her large fortune would revert to him as being the next heir at law.
A proposal of so base a nature filled our unhappy couple with horror; they ordered the messenger immediately out of the room, and falling upon each other's neck indulged an agony of sorrow; for now even all hopes of relief were banished. The messenger who made the proposal, however, was only a spy sent by Ariana to sound the dispositions of a man she loved at once and persecuted. This lady, though warped by wrong passions, was naturally kind, judicious, and friendly. She found that all her attempts to shake the constancy or the integrity of Sabinus were ineffectual; she had therefore begun to reflect, and to wonder how she could so long and so unprovoked injure such uncommon fortitude and affection.
She had from the next room herself heard the reception given to the messenger, and could not avoid feeling all the force of superior virtue; she
therefore re-assumed her former goodness of heart; she came into the room with tears in her eyes, and acknowledged the severity of her former treatment. She bestowed her first care in providing them all the necessary supplies, and acknowledged them as the most deserving heirs of her fortune. From this moment Sabinus enjoyed an uninterrupted happiness with Olinda, and both were happy in the friendship and assistance of Ariana, who, dying soon after, left them in possession of a large estate, and in her last moments confessed that virtue was the only path to true glory; and that, however innocence may for a time be depressed, a steady perseverance will in time lead it to a certain victory.
THE SENTIMENTS OF A FRENCHMAN
TEMPER OF THE ENGLISH.
NOTHING is so uncommon among the English as that easy affability, that instant method of acquaintance, or that cheerfulness of disposition, which make in France the charm of every society. Yet in this gloomy reserve they seem to pride themselves, and think themselves less happy, if obliged to be more social. One may assert, without wronging them, that they do not study the method of going through life with pleasure and tranquillity like the French. Might not this be a proof that they are not so much philosophers as they imagine? Philosophy is no more than the art of making ourselves happy; that is, of seeking pleasure in regularity, and reconciling what we owe to society with what is due to ourselves.
This cheerfulness, which is the characteristic of our nation in the eye of an Englishman, passes almost for folly. But is their gloominess a greater mark of their wisdom? and, folly against folly, is not the most cheerful sort the best? If our gaiety makes them sad, they ought not to find it strange, if their seriousness makes us laugh.
As this disposition to levity is not familiar to them, and as they look on every thing as a fault which they do not find at home, the English, who live among us, are hurt by it. Several of their authors reproach us with it as a vice, or at least as a ridicule.
Mr. Addison styles us a comic nation. In my opinion it is not acting the philosopher on this point, to regard as a fault that quality which contributes most to the pleasure of society and happiness of life. Plato, convinced that whatever makes men happier, makes them better, advises to neglect nothing that may excite and convert to an early habit this sense of joy in children. Seneca places it in the first rank of good things. Certain it is at least, that gaiety may be a concomitant of all sorts of virtue, but that there are some vices with which it is incompatible.
As to him who laughs at every thing, and him who laughs at nothing, neither of them has sound judgment. All the difference I find between them is, that the last is constantly the most unhappy. Those who speak against cheerfulness, prove ve nothing else, but that they were born melancholic, and that in their hearts they rather envy than condemn that levity they affect to despise.
The Spectator, whose constant object was the good of mankind in general, and of his own nation in particular, should according to his own principles place cheerfulness among the most desirable qualities; and probably, whenever he contradicts himself in this particular, it is only to conform to
the tempers of the people whom he addresses. He asserts that gaiety is one great obstacle to the prudent conduct of women. But are those of a melancholic temper, as the English women generally are, less subject to the foibles of love? I am acquainted with some doctors in this science, to whose judgment I would more willingly refer than to his. And perhaps, in reality, persons naturally of a gay temper are too easily taken off by different objects, to give themselves up to all the excesses of this passion.
Mr. Hobbes, a celebrated philosopher of his nation, maintains that laughing proceeds from our pride alone. This is only a paradox if asserted of laughing in general, and only argues that misanthropical disposition for which he was remarkable.
To bring the causes he assigns for laughing under suspicion, it is sufficient to remark that proud people are commonly those who laugh least. Gravity is the inseparable companion of pride. To say that a man is vain, because the humour of a writer or the buffooneries of an harlequin excite his laughter, would be advancing a great absurdity. We should distinguish between laughter inspired by joy, and that which arises from mockery. The malicious sneer is improperly called laughter. It must be owned that pride is the parent of such laughter as this: but this is in itself vicious; whereas, the other sort has nothing in its principles or effects that deserves condemnation. We find this amiable in others, and is it unhappiness to feel a disposition towards it in ourselves?
When I see an Englishman laugh, I fancy I rather see him hunting after joy, than having caught it; and this is more particularly remarkable in their women, whose tempers are inclined to melancholy. A laugh leaves no more traces on their countenance than a flash of lightning on the face of the heavens.