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watch; or the triumph of a new fuit may be interrupted on the first day of its enjoyment, and all diftinctions of dress unexpectedly obliterated by a general mourning.

Such is the state of every age, every fex, and every condition: all have their cares, either from nature or from folly: and whoever therefore finds himself inclined to envy another, fhould remember that he knows not the real condition which he defires to obtain, but is certain that, by indulging a vicious paffion, he must leffen that happiness which he thinks already too fparingly bestowed.

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NUMB. 129. TUESDAY, June 11, 1751.

Nunc, o nunc, Dadale, dixit,
Materiam, qua fis ingeniofus, habes.
Poffidet terras, et poffidet aquora, Minos:
Nec tellus noftra, nec patet unda fuga.
Reftat iter cælo: cælo tentabimus ire.

Da veniam capto, Jupiter alte, meo.

Now, Dedalus, behold, by fate affign'd,
A task proportion'd to thy mighty mind!
Unconquer'd bars on earth and fea withstand;
Thine, Minos, is the main, and thine the land.
The skies are open-let us try the skies:
Forgive, great Jove, the daring enterprise.

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1

MORALISTS, like other writers, inftead of

cafting their eyes abroad in the living world, and endeavouring to form maxims of practice and new hints of theory, content their curiofity with that fecondary knowledge which books afford, and think themselves entitled to reverence by a new arrangement of an ancient fyftem, or new illustration of established principles. The fage precepts of the first inftructors of the world are tranfmitted from age to age with little variation, and echoed from one author to another, not perhaps without fome lofs of their original force at every repercuffion.

I know not whether any other reason than this idleness of imitation can be affigned for that uniform and constant partiality, by which fome vices have hitherto escaped cenfure, and fome virtues wanted

wanted recommendation; nor can I discover why else we have been warned only against part of our enemies, while the reft have been fuffered to steal upon us without notice; why the heart has on one fide been doubly fortified, and laid open on the other to the incurfions of errour, and the ravages of vice.

Among the favourite topicks of moral declamation, may be numbered the miscarriages of imprudent boldness, and the folly of attempts beyond our power. Every page of every philofopher is crowded with examples of temerity that funk under burdens which fhe laid upon herself, and called out enemies to battle by whom she was destroyed.

Their remarks are too just to be disputed, and too falutary to be rejected; but there is likewife, fome danger left timorous prudence fhould be inculcated, till courage and enterprise are wholly repreffed, and the mind congealed in perpetual inactivity by the fatal influence of frigorifick wisdom.

Every man fhould, indeed, carefully compare his force with his undertaking; for though we ought not to live only for our own fakes, and though therefore danger or difficulty fhould not be avoided merely because we may expose ourselves to mifery or dif. grace; yet it may be juftly required of us, not to throw away our lives upon inadequate and hopeless defigns, fince we might, by a just estimate of our abilities, become more useful to mankind.

There is an irrational contempt of danger, which approaches nearly to the folly, if not the guilt, of fuicide; there is a ridiculous perfeverance in impracticable schemes, which is justly punished Bb 2 with

with ignominy and reproach. But in the wide regions of probability, which are the proper province of prudence and election, there is always room to deviate on either fide of rectitude without rufhing against apparent abfurdity; and, according to the inclinations of nature, or the impreffions of precept, the daring and the cautious may move in different directions without touching upon rafhness or cowardice.

That there is a middle path which it is every man's duty to find, and to keep, is unanimoufly confeffed but it is likewife acknowledged that this middle path is fo narrow, that it cannot eafily be discovered, and fo little beaten, that there are no certain marks by which it can be followed: the care therefore of all those who conduct others has been, that whenever they decline into obliquities, they fhould tend towards the fide of safety.

It can, indeed, raise no wonder that temerity has been generally cenfured; for it is one of the vices with which few can be charged, and which therefore great numbers are ready to condemn. It is the vice of noble and generous minds, the exuberance of magnanimity, and the ebullition of genius; and is therefore not regarded with much tenderness, because it never flatters us by that appearance of foftnefs and imbecility which is commonly neceffary to concilitate compaffion. But if the fame attention had been applied to the fearch of arguments against the folly of prefuppofing impoffibilities and anticipating fruftration, I know not whether many would not have been roused to usefulness, who, having been taught to confound prudence with temerity, never ventured

ventured to excel, left they should unfortunately fail.

It is neceffary to distinguish our own interest from that of others, and that diftinction will perhaps affift us in fixing the juft limits of caution and adventurousness. In an undertaking that involves the happiness or the fafety of many, we have certainly no right to hazard more than is allowed by those who partake the danger; but where only ourfelves can fuffer by miscarriage, we are not confined within fuch narrow limits; and ftill lefs is the reproach of temerity, when numbers will receive advantage by fuccefs, and only one be incommoded by failure.

Men are generally willing to hear precepts by which ease is favoured; and as no refentment is raised by general reprefentations of human folly, even in those who are most eminently jealous of comparative reputation, we confefs, without reluctance, that vain man is ignorant of his own weakness, and therefore, frequently prefumes to attempt what he can never accomplish; but it ought likewife to be remembered, that man is no lefs ignorant of his own powers, and might perhaps have accomplished a thousand defigns, which the prejudices of cowardice reftrained him from attempting.

It is obferved in the golden verfes of Pythagoras, that Power is never far from neceffity. The vigour of the human mind quickly appears, when there is no longer any place for doubt and hesitation, when diffidence is abforbed in the fenfe of danger, or Bb 3

over.

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