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NUMB. 124. SATURDAY, May 25, 1751.
-Tacitum fylvas inter reptare falubres,
Curantem quicquid dignum fapiente bonoque ef. HoR.
THE 'HE feason of the year is now come, in which the theatres are fhut, and the card-tables for faken; the regions of luxury are for a while unpeopled, and pleasure leads out her votaries to groves and gardens, to ftill fcenes and erratick gratifications. Those who have passed many months in a continual tumult of diverfion; who have never opened their eyes in the morning, but upon fome new appointment; nor flept at night without a dream of dances, musick, and good hands, or of soft sighs and humble fupplications; must now retire to distant provinces, where the fyrens of flattery are fcarcely to be heard, where beauty sparkles without praise or envy, and wit is repeated only by the echo.
As think it one of the most important duties of focial benevolence to give warning of the approach of calamity, when by timely prevention it may be turned afide, or by preparatory measures be more eafily endured, I cannot feel the increafing warmth, or obferve the lengthening days, without confidering the condition of my fair readers, who are now preparing to leave all that has fo long filled. up their hours, all from which they have been accustomed to Z2 hope
hope for delight; and who, till fashion proclaims the liberty of returning to the feats of mirth and elegance, muft endure the rugged 'fquire, the fober housewife, the loud huntsman, or the formal parfon, the roar of obftreperous jollity, or the dulnefs of prudential inftruction; without any retreat, but to the gloom of folitude, where they will yet find greater inconveniencies, and muft learn, however unwillingly, to endure themselves.
In winter, the life of the polite and gay may be faid to roll on with a strong and rapid current; they float along from pleasure to pleasure, without the trouble of regulating their own motions, and pursue the course of the stream in all the felicity of inatten, tion ; content that they find themselves in progref fion, and careless whither they are going. But the months of fummer are a kind of fleeping ftagnation without wind or tide, where they are left to force themselves forward by their own labour, and to direct their paffage by their own skill; and where, if they have not fome internal principle of activity, they must be ftranded upon fhallows, or lie torpid in a perpetual calm.
There are, indeed, fome to whom this univerfal dif folution of gay focieties affords a welcome opportunity of quitting, without difgrace, the poft which they have found thernfelves unable to maintain; and of seeming to retreat only at the call of nature, from affemblies where, after a fhort triumph of uncontested fuperiority, they are overpowered by fome new intruder of fofter elegance or fprightlier vivacity. By thefe, hopeless of victory, and yet afhamed to confefs a conqueft, the fummer is regarded as a release from
the fatiguing service of celebrity, a difmiffion to more certain joys and a fafer empire. They now folace themselves with the influence which they fhall obtain, where they have no rival to fear; and with the luftre which they fhall effufe, when nothing can be seen of brighter fplendour. They imagine, while they are preparing for their journey, the admiration with which the rusticks will crowd about them; plan the laws of a new affembly; or contrive to delude provincial ignorance with a fictitious mode. A thoufand pleasing expectations fwarm in the fancy; and all the approaching weeks are filled with distinctions, honours, and authority.
But others, who have lately entered the world, or have yet had no proofs of its inconftancy and defertion, are cut off, by this cruel interruption, from the enjoyment of their prerogatives, and doomed to lofe four months in inactive obfcurity. Many complaints do vexation and defire extort from thofe exiled tyrants of the town, against the inexorable fun, who pursues his courfe without any regard to love or beauty; and visits either tropick at the ftated time, whether fhunned or courted, deprecated or implored.
To them who leave the places of publick refort in the full bloom of reputation, and withdraw from admiration, courtship, fubmiffion, and applaufe, a rural triumph can give nothing equivalent. The praise of ignorance, and the fubjection of weakness, are little regarded by beauties who have been accuftomed to more important conquefts, and more valuable panegyricks. Nor indeed fhould the powers which have made havock in the theatres, or borne down rivalry in courts, be degraded to a mean attack upon
the untravelled heir, or ignoble contest with the ruddy milkmaid.
How then must four long months be worn away Four months, in which there will be no routes, no fhews, no ridottos; in which vifits must be regulated by the weather, and affemblies will depend upon the moon! The Platonifts imagine, that the future punishment of those who have in this life debased their reafon by fubjection to their senses, and have preferred the grofs gratifications of lewdnefs and luxury, to the pure and fublime felicity of virtue and contemplation, will arife from the predominance and folicitations of the fame appetites, in a state which can furnish no means of appeafing them. I cannot but fufpect that this month, bright with funfhine, and fragrant with perfumes; this month, which covers the meadow with verdure, and decks the gardens with all the mixtures of colorifick radiance; this month, from which the man of fancy expects new infufions of imagery, and the naturalift new scenes of obfervation; this month will chain down multitudes to the Platonick penance of defire without enjoyment, and hurry them from the highest fatisfactions, which they have yet learned to conceive, into a state of hopeless wifhes and pining recollection, where the eye of vanity will look round for admiration to no purpose, and the hand of avarice fhuffle cards in a bower with ineffectual dexterity.
From the tedioufnefs of this melancholy fufpenfion of life, I would willingly prefèrve those who are exposed to it, only by inexperience; who want not in. clination to wisdom or virtue, though they have been diffipated by negligence, or mifled by example; and who
who would gladly find the way to rational happiness, though it should be neceffary to struggle with habit, and abandon fafhion. To these many arts of spending time might be recommended, which would neither fadden the present hour with weariness, nor the future with repentance.
It would feem impoffible to a folitary fpeculatift; that a human being can want employment. To be born in ignorance with a capacity of knowledge, and to be placed in the midst of a world filled with variety, perpetually preffing upon the fenfes and irritating curiofity, is furely a fufficient security against the languishment of inattention. Novelty is indeed neceffary to preferve eagerness and alacrity; but art and nature have ftores inexhauftible by human intellects and every moment produces fomething new to him, who has quickened his faculties by diligent obfervation.
Some studies, for which the country and the fummer afford peculiar opportunities, I fhall perhaps endeavour to recommend in a future effay; but if there be any apprehenfion not apt to admit unaccustomed ideas, or any attention fo ftubborn and inflexible, as not easily to comply with new directions, even these obftructions cannot exclude the pleasure of application; for there is a higher and nobler employment, to which all faculties are adapted by him who gave them. The duties of religion, fincerely and regularly performed, will always be fufficient to exalt the meanest, and to exercise the highest understanding. That mind will never be vacant, which is frequently recalled by ftated duties to meditations on eternal interefts; nor can any hour be long, which is spent in obtaining fome new qualification for celestial happiness.