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ambition, and ambition will be fure to taint his future. happiness, either with jealousy, disappointment, or fatigue.
But of all the arts of distress found out by man for his own torment, perhaps that of a philofophic mifery is most truly ridiculous, a paffion no where carried to fo extravagant an excess, as in the country where I now refide. It is not enough to engage all the compassion of a philofopher here, that his own globe is haraffed with wars, peftilence, or barbarity, he shall grieve for the inhabitants of the moon, if the fituation of her imaginary mountains happens to alter; and dread the extinction of the fun, if the spots on his surface happen to increase: one should imagine that philofophy was introduced to make men happy, but here it ferves to make hundreds miferable.
My landlady, fome days ago, brought me a diary of a philofopher of this defponding fort, who had lodged in the apartment before me. It contains the history of a life, which feems to be one continued tiffue of forrow, apprehenfion, and diftrefs. A fingle week will ferve as a fpecimen of the whole.
Monday. In what a tranfient decaying fituation are we placed, and what various reasons does philosophy furnish to make mankind unhappy. A fingle grain of muftard fhall continue to produce its fimilitude through numberless fucceffions; yet what has been granted to this little feed has been denied to our planetary fyftem; the muftard-feed is ftill unaltered, but the fyftem is growing old, and muft quickly fall to decay. How terrible will it be, when the motions of all the planets have at last become so irregular as to need repairing, when the moon fhall fall into frightful paroxifms of alteration, when the
earth, deviating from its ancient tract, and with every other planet forgetting its circular revolutions, fhall become fo eccentric, that, unconfined by the laws of system, it fhall fly off into boundless space, to knock against fome diftant world, or fall in upon the fun, either extinguishing his light, or burned up by its flames in a moment. Perhaps while I write, this dreadful change is begun. Shield me from univerfal ruin! Yet ideot man laughs, fings, and rejoices in the very face of the fun, and feems no way touched with his fituation.
Tuesday. Went to bed in great diftrefs, awaked and was comforted, by confidering that this change was to happen at fome indefinite time, and therefore like death, the thoughts of it might eafily be borne. But there is a revolution, a fixed determined revolution, which muft certainly come to pass; yet which, by good fortune, I fhall never feel, except in my pofterity. The obliquity of the equator with the ecliptic, is now twenty minutes lefs than when it was observed two thousand years ago by Piteas. If this be the case, in fix thousand the obliquity will be ftill lefs by a whole degree. This being fuppofed, it is evident, that our earth, as Louville has clearly proved, has a motion, by which the climates must neceffarily change place, and, in the space of about one million of years, England fhall actually travel to the Antarctic pole. I fhudder at the change! How fhall our unhappy grand-children endure the hideous climate! A million of years, will foon be accomplished; they are but a moment when compared to eternity, then shall our charming country, as I may fay, in a moment of time, refemble the hideous wilderness of Nova Zembla,
Wednesday. To-night, by my calculation, the long predicted comet is to make its firft appearance. Heavens, what terrors are impending over our little dim fpeck of earth! Dreadful vifitation! Are we to be fcorched in its fires, or only smothered in the vapour of its tail? That is the question! Thoughtless mortals go build houses, plant orchards, purchase eftates, for to-morrow you die. But what if the comet fhould not come? That would be equally fatal. Comets are fervants, which periodically return to supply the fun with fuel. If our fun, therefore, fhould be disappointed of the expected fupply, and all his fuel be in the mean time burnt out, he must expire like an exhausted taper. What a miferable fituation muft our earth be in without his enlivening ray? Have we not seen several neighbouring funs entirely dif appear? Has not a fixed star, near the tail of the ram, lately been quite extinguished?
Thursday. The comet has not yet appeared; I am forry for it; first, sorry because my calculation is false; fecondly, forry left the fun fhould want fuel; thirdly, forry left the wits fhould laugh at our erroneous predictions; and fourthly, forry because if it appears to-night, it must neceffarily come within the sphere of the earth's attraction; and Heaven help the unhappy country on which it happens to fall.
Friday, Our whole fociety have been out all eager in fearch of the comet. We have feen not lefs than fixteen comets in different parts of the heavens. However, we are unanimoufly refolved to fix upon one only to be the comet expected. That near Virgo wants nothing but a tail to fit it out completely for terreftial admiration.
Saturday. The moon is, I find, at her old pranks. Her appulfes, librations, and other irregularities, indeed, amaze me. My daughter too is this morning gone off with a grenadier. No way furprising, I was never able to give her a relifh for wisdom. She ever promised to be a mere expletive in the creation. But the moon, the moon gives me real uneafinefs; I fondly fancied I had fixed her. I had thought her conftant, and conftant only to me; but every night difcovers her infidelity, and proves me a defolate and abandoned lover, Adieu,
TO THE SAME.
It is furprising what an influence titles shall have up
on the mind, even though these titles be of our Own making. Like children we drefs up the puppets in finery, and then stand in astonishment at the plastic wonder. I have been told of a rat-catcher here, who ftrolled for a long time about the villages near town, without finding any employment; at last, however, he thought proper to take the title of his majesty's rat-catcher in ordinary, and this fucceeded beyond his expectations: when it was known that he caught rats at court, all were ready to give him countenance and employment.
But of all the people, they who make books feem most perfectly fenfible of the advantages of titular dignity. All seem convinced that a book written by vulgar hands can neither instruct nor improve; none but Kings,
Chams, and Mandarines, can write with any probability of fuccefs. If the titles inform me right, not only kings and courtiers, but emperors themselves in this country, periodically fupply the press.
A man here who fhould write, and honestly confess that he wrote for bread, might as well fend his manuscript to fire the baker's oven; not one creature will read him; all must be court-bred poets, or pretend, at least, to be court-bred, who can expect to please. Should the caitiff fairly avow a defign of emptying our pockets and filling his own, every reader would inftantly forsake him; even those who wrote for bread themselves, would combine to worry him, perfectly fenfible, that his attempts only ferved to take the bread out of their mouths.
And yet this filly prepoffeffion the more amazes me, when I confider, that almost all the excellent productions in wit that have appeared here, were purely the offspring of neceffity; their Drydens, Butlers, Otways, and Farquhars, were all writers for bread. Believe me, my friend, hunger has a most amazing faculty of sharpening the genius; and he who, with a full belly, can think like a hero, after a course of fafting, fhall rife to the fublimity of a demi-god.
But what will most amaze is, that this very fet of men, who are now fo much depreciated by fools, are, however, the very best writers they have among them at prefent. For my own part, were I to buy a hat, I would not have it from a stocking-maker, but a hatter ; were I to buy fhoes, I fhould not go to the taylor for that purpose. It is just so with regard to wit: did I, for my life, defire to be well ferved, I would apply only to those who made it their trade, and lived by it. You