Page images
PDF
EPUB

Mifery and shame are nearly allied. It was not without many struggles that I prevailed on myself to confefs my uneafinefs to Euphemia, the only friend who had never pained me with comfort or with pity. I at laft laid my calamities before her, rather to ease my heart than receive affiftance. "We must dif"tinguish," said she, "my Victoria, thofe evils which 66 are imposed by Providence, from thofe to which "we ourselves give the power of hurting us. Of "your calamity, a fmall part is the infliction of "Heaven, the reft is little more than the corrosion ❝of idle discontent. You have lost that which may "indeed fometimes contribute to happiness, but to "which happiness is by no means infeparably an "nexed. You have loft what the greater number of "the human race never have poffeffed; what those "on whom it is bestowed for the most part poffefs "in vain; and what you, while it was yours, knew "not how to use: you have only loft early what "the laws of nature forbid you to keep long, and "have loft it while your mind is yet flexible, and "while you have time to substitute more valuable " and more durable excellencies. Confider yourself, "my Victoria, as a being born to know, to reafon, "and to act; rife at once from your dream of melancholy to wifdom and to piety; you will find "that there are other charms than those of beauty, "and other joys than the praise of fools."

66

I am, SIR, &c.

VICTORIA.

NUMBU 134. SATURDAY, June 29, 1751.

Quis feit, an adjiciant bodierne craftina fumme
Tempora Di fuperi!

Who knows if Heav'n, with ever-bounteous pow'r,
Shall add to-morrow to the present hour?

HOR.

FRANCIS.

I' SAT yesterday morning employed in deliberat'ing on which, among the various fubjects that occurred to my imagination, I should bestow the paper of to-day. After a fhort effort of meditation by which nothing was determined, I grew every moment more irrefolute, my ideas wandered from the first intention, and I rather wished to think, than thought, upon any fettled fubject; till at laft I was awakened from this dream of study by a fummons from the prefs: the time was come for which I had been thus negligently purpofing to provide, and, however dubious or fluggish, I was now neceffitated

to write.

Though to a writer whose design is fo comprehenfive and miscellaneous, that he may accommodate himself with a topick from every scene of life, or view of nature, it is no great aggravation of his task to be obliged to a fudden compofition; yet I could not forbear to reproach myself for having fo long neglected what was unavoidably to be done, and of which every moment's idlenefs increafed the difficulty. There was however fome pleasure in reflecting that I, who had only trifled till diligence was neceffary,

fary, might ftill congratulate myself upon my fuperiority to multitudes, who have trifled till diligence is vain; who can by no degree of activity or refolution recover the opportunities which have flipped away; and who are condemned by their own careleffnefs to hopeless calamity and barren forrow.

The folly of allowing ourselves to delay what we know cannot be finally escaped, is one of the general weakneffes, which, in fpite of the inftruction of moralifts, and the remonftrances of reafon, prevail to a greater or lefs degree in every mind; even they who most steadily withstand it, find it, if not the most violent, the most pertinacious of their paffions, always renewing its attacks, and, though often vanquished, never destroyed.

It is indeed natural to have particular regard to the time present, and to be most folicitous for that which is by its nearness enabled to make the strongest impreffions. When therefore any fharp pain is to be suffered, or any formidable danger to be incurred, we can scarcely exempt ourfelves wholly from the feducements of imagination; we readily believe that another day will bring fome fupport or advantage which we now want; and are easily perfuaded, that the moment of neceffity, which we defire never to arrive, is at a great distance from us.

Thus life is languished away in the gloom of anxiety, and confumed in collecting refolutions which the next morning diffipates; in forming purpofes which we scarcely hope to keep, and reconciling ourfelves to our own cowardice by excufes, which, while we admit them, we know to be abfurd. Our VOL. V. Dd firmness

firmness is, by the continual contemplation of mifery, hourly impaired; every fubmiffion to our fear enlarges its dominion; we not only wafte that time in which the evil we dread might have been fuffered and furmounted, but even where procrastination produces no abfolute increafe of our difficulties, make them lefs fuperable to ourselves by habitual terrors. When evils cannot be avoided, it is wife to contract the interval of expectation; to meet the mischiefs which will overtake us if we fly; and suffer only their real malignity, without the conflicts of doubt, and anguish of anticipation.

To act is far easier than to fuffer; yet we every day see the progrefs of life retarded by the vis incr tia, the mere repugnance to motion, and find multitudes repining at the want of that which nothing but idleness hinders them from enjoying. The case of Tantalus, in the region of poetick punishment, was somewhat to be pitied, because the fruits that hung about him retired from his hand; but what tenderness can be claimed by those who, though perhaps they fuffer the pains of Tantalus, will never lift their hands for their own relief?

There is nothing more common among this torpid generation than murmurs and complaints; murmurs at uneafiness which only vacancy and fufpicion expose them to feel, and complaints of diftreffes which it is in their own power to remove. Laziness is commonly affociated with timidity. Either fear originally prohibits endeavours by infufing defpair of fuccefs; or the frequent failure of irrefolute ftruggles, and the conftant defire of avoiding labour, impress by

by degrees falle terrors on the mind. But fear, whether natural or acquired, when once it has full poffeffion of the fancy, never fails to employ it upon vifions of calamity, fuch as, if they are not diffipated by useful employment, will foon overcaft it with horrors, and embitter life not only with thofe miferies by which all earthly beings are really more or less tormented, but with those which do not yet exist, and which can only be difcerned by the perfpicacity of cowardice.

Among all who facrifice future advantage to prefent inclination, scarcely any gain fo little as those that fuffer themselves to freeze in idlenefs. Others are corrupted by fome enjoyment of more or lefs power to gratify the paffions; but to neglect our duties merely to avoid the labour of performing them, a labour which is always punctually rewarded, is furely to fink under weak temptations. Idleness never can fecure tranquillity; the call of reafon and of conscience will pierce the closest pavilion of the fluggard, and though it may not have force to drive him from his down, will be loud enough to hinder him from fleep. Thofe moments which he cannot refolve to make ufeful by devoting them to the great business of his being, will ftill be ufurped by powers that will not leave them to his difpofal; remorfe and vexation will feize upon them, and forbid him to enjoy what he is fo defirous to appropriate.

There are other caufes of inactivity incident to more active faculties and more acute difcernment. He to whom many objects, of pursuit arise at the fame time, will frequently hefitate between different defires

Dd 2

« PreviousContinue »