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competition; and that his defires take wing by inftantaneous impulfe, though their flight may be invigorated, or their efforts renewed, by fubfequent confiderations. The gratification of curiofity rather frees us from uneafinefs than confers pleasure; we are more pained by ignorance than delighted by inftruction. Curiofity is the thirst of the foul; it inflames and torments us, and makes us tafte every thing with joy, however otherwise infipid, by which may be quenched.
It is evident that the earlieft fearchers after know. ledge must have propofed knowledge only as their reward; and that fcience, though perhaps the nurfling of intereft, was the daughter of curiofity: for who can believe that they who first watched the course of the stars, forefaw the ufe of their difcoveries to the facilitation of commerce, or the menfuration of time? They were delighted with the fplendour of the nocturnal fkies, they found that the lights changed their places; what they admired they were anxious to understand, and in time traced their revolutions.
There are, indeed, beings in the form of men, who appear fatisfied with their intellectual poffeffions, and feem to live without defire of enlarging their conceptions; before whom the world paffes without notice, and who are equally unmoved by nature or by art.
This negligence is fometimes only the temporary effect of a predominant paffion; a lover finds no inclination to travel any path, but that which leads to the habitation of his mistress; a trader can spare
little attention to common occurrences, when his fortune is endangered by a ftorm. It is frequently the confequence of a total immerfion in fenfuality: corporeal pleasures may be indulged till the memory of every other kind of happiness is obliterated; the mind, long habituated to a lethargick and quiefcent ftate, is unwilling to wake to the toil of thinking; and though fhe may fometimes be disturbed by the obtrusion of new ideas, fhrinks back again to ignorance and rest.
But, indeed, if we except them to whom the continual task of procuring the supports of life, denies all opportunities of deviation from their own narrow track, the number of fuch as live without the ardour of inquiry is very fmall, though many content themfelves with cheap amusements, and waste their lives in researches of no importance.
There is no fare more dangerous to bufy and excurfive minds, than the cobwebs of petty inquifitiveness, which entangle them in trivial employments and minute ftudies, and detain them in a middle state, between the tediousness of total inactivity, and the fatigue of laborious efforts, enchant them at once with ease and novelty, and vitiate them with the luxury of learning. The neceffity of doing fomething, and the fear of undertaking much, finks the hiftorian to a genealogist, the philofopher to a journalist of the weather, and the mathematician to a conftructer of dials.
It is happy when those who cannot content themselves to be idle, nor refolve to be industrious, are at least employed without injury to others; but it feldom happens that we can contain ourfelves long
in a neutral state, or forbear to fink into vice, when we are no longer foaring towards virtue.
Nugaculus was diflinguifhed in his earlier years by an uncommon liveliness of imagination, quicknefs of fagacity, and extent of knowledge. When he entered into life, he applied himfelf with particular inquifitivenefs to examine the various motives of human actions, the complicated influence of mingled affections, the different modifications of intereft and ambition, and the various causes of mifcarriage and fuccefs both in publick and private affairs.
Though his friends did not difcover to what purpose all these obfervations were collected, or how Nugaculus would much improve his virtue or his fortune by an inceffant attention to changes of countenance, bursts of inconfideration, fallies of paffion, and all the other casualties by which he used to trace a character, yet they could not deny the study of human nature to be worthy of a wife man ; they therefore flattered his vanity, applauded his discoveries, and liftened with fubmiffive modefty to his lectures on the uncertainty of inclination, the weakness of refolves, and the inftability of temper, to his account of the various motives which agitate the mind, and his ridicule of the modern dream of a ruling paffion.
Such was the firft incitement of Nugaculus to a clofe inspection into the conduct of mankind. He had no intereft in view, and therefore no defign of fupplantation; he had no malevolence, and therefore detected faults without any intention to expofe them; but having once found the art of engaging
his attention upon others, he had no inclination to call it back to himself, but has paffed his time in keeping a watchful eye upon every rifing character, and lived upon a small eftate without any thought of increasing it.
He is, by continual application, become a general master of fecret history, and can give an account of the intrigues, private marriages, competitions, and ftratagems, of half a century. He knows the mortgages upon every man's eftate, the terms upon which every spendthrift raises his money, the real and reputed fortune of every lady, the jointure ftipulated by every contract, and the expectations of every family from maiden aunts and childlefs acquaintances. He can relate the economy of every houfe, knows how much one man's cellar is robbed by his butler, and the land of another underlet by his steward; he can tell where the manor-house is falling, though large fums are yearly paid for repairs; and where the tenants are felling woods without the confent of the owner.
To obtain all this intelligence he is inadvertently guilty of a thousand acts of treachery. He fees no man's fervant without draining him of his truft; he enters no family without flattering the children into discoveries; he is a perpetual spy upon the doors of his neighbours; and knows by long experience, at whatever distance, the looks of a creditor, a borrower, a lover, and a pimp.
Nugaculus is not ill-natured, and therefore his industry has not hitherto been very mifchievous to others, or dangerous to himself; but fince he can
not enjoy this knowledge but by discovering it, and, if he had no other motive to loquacity, is obliged to traffick like the chymifts, and purchase one secret with another; he is every day more hated as he is more known; for he is confidered by great numbers as one that has their fame and their happiness in his power, and no man can much love him of whom he lives in fear.
Thus has an intention, innocent at firft, if not laudable, the intention of regulating his own behaviour by the experience of others, by an accidental declenfion of minutenefs, betrayed Nugaculus, not only to a foolish, but vicious waste of a life which might have been honourably paffed in publick fervices, or domeftick virtues. He has loft his original intention, and given up his mind to employments that engross, but do not improve it.