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we might have chosen, than grow old without determining our choice, and go out of the world, asthe greatest part of mankind do, before we have resolved how to live in it. There is but one method of setting ourselves at rest in this particular, and that is by adhering stedfastly to one great end, as the chief and ultimate aim of all our pursuits. If we are firmly resolved to live up to the dictates of reason, without any regard to wealth, reputation, or the like considerations, any more than as they fall in with our principal design, we may go through life with steadiness and pleasure ; but it we act by several broken views, and will not only be virtuous, but wealthy, popular, and every thing that has a value set upon it by the world, we shall live and die in misery and repentance.
One would take more than ordinary care to guard one's self against this particular imperfection, because it is that which our nature very strongly in clines us to; for if we examine ourselves thoroughly, we shall find that we are the most changeable be. ings in the universe. la respect of our understanding, we often embrace and reject the very same opinions; whereas beings above and beneath us have probably no opinions at all, or at least no wavering and uncertainties in those they have. Our superiors are guided by intuition, and our inferiors .by instinct. In respect of our wills, we fall into : crimes and recover out of them, are.amiable or odi: ous in the
eyes of our great Judge, and pass our whole life in offending and asking pardon. On the contrary, the beings underneath us are not capable of sinning, nor those above us of repenting. The ! one is out of the possibilities of duty, and the other fixed in an eternal course of sin, or an eternal course of virtue.
There is scarce a state of life or stage in it which does not produce changes and revolutions in the mind of man. Our schemes of thought in infancy: are lost in those of youth; these too: take a diffe-rent turn in manhood, until old age often leads us.
back into our former infancy. A new title or an unexpected success throws us out of ourselves, and in a manner destroys our identity. A cloudy day, or a little sunshine, have as great an influence on many constitutions, as the most real blessings or misfortunes. A dream varies our being, and changes our condition while it lasts; and every passion, not to mention health and sickness, and the greater al
. terations in body and mind, makes us appear almost different creatures. If a man is so distinguished among other beings by this infirmity, what can we think of such as make themselves remarkable for it even among their own species ? It is a very trifling character to be one of the most variable beings of the most variable kind, especially if we consider that He who is the great standard of perfection has in him no shadow of change, but is the same yesterday, to-day and for ever.'
As this mutability of temper and inconsistency with ourselves is the greatest weakness of huinan nature, so it makes the person who is remarkable for it in a very particular manner more ridiculous than any other infirmity whatsoever, as it sets him in a greater variety of foolish lights, and distinguishes him from himself by an opposition of partycoloured characters. The most humorous character in Horace is founded upon this unevenness of temper and irregularity of conduct:
ducentos, Sæpe decem servos: modò reges atque tetrarchas, Omnia magna loquens: modò, Sit mihi mensu tripes, et Concha salis puri, et toga, quæ defendere frigus,
Qramvis crussa, quæat. Decies contena dedisses
HOR. I Sat. iji.
Instead of translating this passage in Horace, I shall entertain my English reader with the description of a parallel character, that is wonderfully well finished by Mr. Dryden *, and raised upon the same foundation:
• In the first rank of these did Zimrit stand:
With something new to wish, or to enjoy!
NO 163. THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 1711.
Si quid ego adfuero, curamde lerasso,
Enn, apud TULLIUM.
And ease the torture of your lab’ring breast? Enquiries after happiness, and rules for attaining it, are not so necessary and useful to mankind as the arts of consolation, and supporting one's self under affliction. The utmost we can hope for in this world is contentment; if we aim at any thing higher, we shall meet with nothing but grief and disappointment. A man should direct all his studies and endeavours at making himself easy now, and happy hereafter
* In his " Absalom and Achitophel.”
+ This character was designed for George Villiers, duke of Buckingham.
The truth of it is, if all the happiness that is dispersed through the whole race of mankind in this world were drawn together, and put into the pos. session of any single man, it would not make a very happy being. Though, on the contrary, if the miseries of the whole species were fixed in a single person, they would make a very miserable one.
I am engaged in this subject by the following letter, which, though subseribed by a fictitious name, I have reason to believe is not imaginary.
MR. SPECTATOR, "I AM one of your disciples, and endeavour to live up to your rules, which I hope will incline you to pity iny condition. I shall
I shall open it to you in a very few words. About three years since a gentleman, whom, I am sure, you yourself would have approved, made his addresses to me. He had every thing to recommend him but an estate; so that
my friends, who all of them applauded his person, would not for the sake of both of us favour his passion. For my own part, I resigned myself up entirely to the
I direction of those who knew the world niuch better than myself, but still lived in hopes that some juncture or other would make me happy in the man, whom, in my heart, I preferred to all the world; being determined, if I could not have him, to have nobody else. About three months ago I received a letter from him, acquainting me, that by the death of an uncle he had a considerable estate left him, which he said was welcome to him upon no other account, but as he hoped it would reinove all difficulties that lay in the way to our mutual happiness. You may well suppose, Šir, with how much joy !
I received this letter, which was followed by several others filled with those expressions of love and joy,
which I verily believe nobody felt more sincerely, nor knew better how to describe, than the gentleman I am speaking of. But, Sir, how shall I be able to tell you! by the last week's post I received a letter from an intimate friend of this unhappy gentleman, acquainting me, that as he had just settled his affairs, and was preparing for his journey, he fell sick of a fever and died. It is impossible to express to you the distress I am in
this occasion. I can only have recourse to my devotions ; ; and to the reading of good books for my consola- . tion; and as I always take a particular delight in those frequent advices and admonitions which you give the public, it would be a very great piece of charity in you to lend me your assistance in this conjuncture. If after the reading of this letter youfind yourself in a humour, rather to rally and ridicule, than to comfort me, I desire you would throw it into the fire, and think no more of it; but if you are touched with my misfortune, which is greater than I know how to bear, your counsels may very much support, and will infinitely oblige the afflicted
A disappointinent in love is more hard to get over than any other; the passion itself so softens and subdues the heart, that it disables it from struggling or bearing up against the woes and distresses which befal it. The mind meets with other misfortunes in her' whole strength ; she stands collected within herself, and, sustains the shock with all the force which is natural to her; but a heart in love has its foundation sapped, and immediately sinks under the weight of accidents that are disagreeable to its favourite passion.
In afflictions men generally draw their consolations out of books of morality, which indeed are of great use to fortify and strengthen the mind against the impressions of sorrow. Monsieur St. Evremont, who does not approve of this method, recommends
* Miss Shepbeard. Ć