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ON THE ENDEARMENTS OF LIFE.
AGE, that lessens the enjoyment of life, increases
our desire of living. Those dangers which, in the vigour of youth, we had learned to despise, assume new terrors as we grow old. Our caution increasing as our years increase, fear becomes at last the prevailing passion of the mind; and the small remainder of life is taken up in useless efforts to keep off our end, or provide for a continued existence.
Strange contradiction in our nature, and to which even the wise are liable! If I should judge of that part of life which lies before me, by that which I have already seen, the prospect is hideous. Experience tells me, that my past enjoyments have brought no real felicity; and sensation assures me, that those I have felt, are stronger than those which are yet to come. Yet experience and sensation in vain persuade; hope more powerful than either, dresses out the distant prospect in fancied beauty; some happiness, in long perspective, still beckons me to pursue; and, like a losing gamester, every new disappointment increases my ardour to continue the game.
Whence then is this increased love of life, which grows upon us with our years? whence comes it, that we thus make greater efforts to preserve our existence, at a period when it becomes scarce worth the keeping? Is it that Nature, attentive to the preservation of mankind, increases our wishes to live, while she lessens our enjoyments? and, as she robs the senses of every pleasure, equips imagination in the spoils ? Life would be insupportable to an old man, who, loaded with infirmities, feared death no more than when in the vigour of manhood: the numberless calamities
of decaying Nature, and the consciousness of surviving every pleasure, would at once induce him, with his own hand, to terminate the scene of misery; but, happily, the contempt of death forsakes him at a time when it could only be prejudicial; and life acquires an imaginary value, in proportion as its real value is no
Our attachment to every object around us increases, in general, from the length of our acquaintance with it. "I would not chuse," says a French Philosopher, "to see an old post pulled up with which I had been "long acquainted." A mind long habituated to a certain set of objects, insensibly becomes fond of seeing them; visits them from habit, and parts from them with reluctance: from thence proceeds the avarice of the old in every kind of possession; they love the world and all that it produces; they love life and all its advantages; not because it gives them pleasurè, but because they have known it long.
Chinvang the Chaste, ascending the throne of China, commanded that all who were unjustly detained in prison, during the preceding reigns, should be set free. Among the number who came to thank their deliverer on this occasion, there appeared a majestic old man, who, falling at the emperor's feet, addressed him as follows: "Great Father of China! behold a wretch, now eighty-five years old, who was shut up in a dungeon at the age of twenty-two. I was imprisoned, though a stranger to crime, or without being even confronted by my accusers. I have now lived in solitude and darkness for more than fifty years, and am grown familiar with distress. As yet, dazzled with the splendour of that sun to which you have restored me, I have been wandering the streets to find out some friend that would assist or relieve, or remember me; but my friends, my family, and relations, are all dead, and I am forgotten. Permit me then, O Chinvang, to wear out the wretched remains of life in my former
prison; the walls of my dungeon are to me more pleasing than the most splendid palace: I have not long to live, and shall be unhappy except I spend the rest of my days where my youth was passed; in that prison from whence you were pleased to relieve me."
The old man's passion for confinement is similar to that we all have for life. We are habituated to the prison, we look round with discontent, are displeased with the abode, and yet the length of our captivity only increases our fondness for the cell. The trees we have planted, the houses we have built, or the posterity we have begotten, all serve to bind us closer to the earth, and embitter our parting. Life sues the young like a new acquaintance: the companion, as yet unexhausted, is at once instructive and amusing; its company pleases; yet, for all this, it is but little regarded. To us, who are declined in years, life appears like an old friend; its jests have been anticipated in former conversation; it has no new story to make us smile, no new improvement with which to surprize, yet still we love it: destitute of every enjoyment, still we love it; husband the wasting treasure with increasing frugality, and feel all the poignancy of anguish in the fatal separation.
Sir Philip Mordaunt was young, beautiful, sincere, brave-an Englishman. He had a complete fortune of his own, and the love of the king his master, which was equivalent to riches. Life opened all her treasures before him, and promised a long succession of happiness. He came, tasted of the entertainment, but was disgusted even at the beginning. He professed an aversion to living; was tired of walking round the same circle; had tried every enjoyment, and found them all grow weaker at every repetition. "If life be in youth, so displeasing," cries he to himself, "what will it appear when age comes on? If it be at present indifferent, sure it will then be execrable."
This thought embittered every reflection; till at last, with all the serenity of perverted reason, he ended the debate with a pistol! Had this self-deluded man been apprized, that existence grows more desirable to us the longer we exist, he would have then faced old age without shrinking he would have boldly dared to live; and served that society by his future assiduity, which he basely injured by his desertion.
Old Woman." The Lord above he only knows. He is no relation of mine-I never saw him in my life, till this here blessed day, when I received him from the overseers of the work-house, to take him to my own house in the country. They told me he was brought there, when he was only a few months old, by a poor woman, who said she was not his mother: who was his mother, is difficult to tell, and still more who was his real father, as your ladyship well knows, for they have never been found out; but it stands to reason, that he must have had both, for I never heard of any body who had neither father nor mother, except Michael Hisendeck, of whom the parson of our parish preached last Sunday; but Michael lived in the Bible days, which is different from these here times : so this boy's parents must be persons unknown; but be who they will, I suspect they were no better than they should be; in which case it is pretty clear that this here boy, saving your ladyship's presence, is nei
ther more nor less than an unnatural child; for if he had been born in a natural way of marriage, it stands to reason, that his parents would have owned him long ago."
affected with the condition of this boy, who began life under such unfavourable auspices, said: Are you not sorry, my dear, to leave home?"
66 No," answered he, “I don't care.”
"Is there not somebody at home whom you are sorry to leave?" resumed she.
"No," replied the boy," I am not sorry to leave any body."
What, not those who are good to you?" rejoined she..
Nobody was ever good to me," said the boy. was touched with the child's answers, which strongly painted his helpless lot, and the cruel indifference of the world. The tear stood in her eye. My poor little fellow," said she, after a short pause, was nobody ever good to you! have you no friend, my dear?"
"No, for old Robin the soot-man died last week." "Was he your friend?"
"Yes, that he was," replied the boy;
gave me a piece of ginger-bread."
" he once
ARGUMENTS AGAINST DESPAIR.
HAT! because a favourite object you doated upon is withheld from you, are you tamely to resign yourself to despair? Is every other bliss withheld?-Foolish man! thus to disregard nature's