Page images

NUMB. 85. TUESDAY, January 8, 1751.

Otia fi tollas periere Cupidinis arcus
Contemptaque jacent, et fine luce faces.

At bufy hearts in vain love's arrows fly;
Dim'd, fcorn'd, and impotent, his torches lie.


MANY writers of eminence in phyfick have laid out their diligence upon the confideration of those diftempers to which men are exposed by particular states of life, and very learned treatifes have been produced upon the maladies of the camp, the fea, and the mines. There are, indeed, few employments which a man accustomed to anatomical enquiries, and medical refinements, would not find reasons for declining as dangerous to health, did not his learning or experience inform him, that almost every occupation, however inconvenient or formidable, is happier and fafer than a life of floth.

The neceffity of action is not only demonftrable from the fabrick of the body, but evident from observation of the universal practice of mankind, who, for the prefervation of health, in those whofe rank or wealth exempts them from the neceffity of lucrative labour, have invented fports and diverfions, though not of equal ufe to the world with manual trades, yet of equal fatigue to thofe who practise them, and differing only from the drudgery of the hufbandman or manufacturer, as they are acts of choice, and therefore performed without the painful sense of com

[blocks in formation]

pulfion. The huntsman rifes early, pursues his game through all the dangers and obstructions of the chace, fwims rivers, and fcales precipices, till he returns home no lefs haraffed than the foldier, and has perhaps fometimes incurred as great hazard of wounds or death: yet he has no motive to incite his ardour; he is neither fubject to the commands of a general, nor dreads any penalties for neglect and disobedience; he has neither profit nor honour to expect from his perils and his conquefts, but toils without the hope of mural or civick garlands, and must content himself with the praise of his tenants and companions.

But fuch is the conftitution of man, that labour may be ftyled its own reward; nor will any external incitements be requifite, if it be confidered how much happiness is gained, and how much mifery escaped, by frequent and violent agitation of the body.

Eafe is the most that can be hoped from a fedentary and unactive habit; eafe, a neutral state between pain and pleasure. The dance of fpirits, the bound of vigour, readiness of enterprize, and defiance of fatigue, are reserved for him that braces his nerves, and hardens his fibres, that keeps his limbs pliant with motion, and by frequent exposure fortifies his frame against the common accidents of cold and heat.

[ocr errors]

With ease, however, if it could be fecured, many would be content; but nothing terreftrial can be kept at a stand. Eafe, if it is not rifing into pleafure, will be falling towards pain; and whatever hope the dreams of fpeculation may fuggeft of obferving the proportion between nutriment and labour, and keeping the body in a healthy state by fupplies exactly equal to its wafte, we know that, in ef

G 3


fect, the vital powers, unexcited by motion, grow gradually languid; that, as their vigour fails, ob. structions are generated; and that from obftructions proceed most of those pains which wear us away flowly with periodical tortures, and which, though they fometimes fuffer life to be long, condemn it to be useless, chain us down to the couch of misery, and mock us with the hopes of death.

Exercise cannot fecure us from that diffolution to which we are decreed; but, while the foul and body continue united, it can make the affociation pleasing, and give probable hopes that they fhall be disjoined by an easy separation. It was a principle among the ancients, that acute difeafes are from heaven, and chronical from ourselves; the dart of death indeed falls from heaven, but we poison it by our own misconduct to die is the fate of man, but to die with lingering anguifh is generally his folly *.

It is neceffary to that perfection of which our prefent ftate is capable, that the mind and body should both be kept in action; that neither the faculties of the one nor of the other be fuffered to grow lax or torpid for want of ufe; that neither health be purchafed by voluntary fubmiffion to ignorance, nor knowledge cultivated at the expence of that health, which must enable it either to give pleasure to its poffeffor, or affiftance to others. It is too frequently the pride of ftudents to defpife thofe amufements and recreations, which give to the reft of mankind strength

This paffage was once ftrangely fuppofed by fome readers to recommend fuicide, instead of exercise, which is furely the more obvious meaning. See, however, a letter from Dr. JOHNSON on the fubject, in BoswELL's Life, vol, iv. p. 162.

[ocr errors]

ftrength of limbs and cheerfulness of heart. Solitude and contemplation are indeed feldom confiftent with fuch skill in common exercises or fports as is necef fary to make them practifed with delight, and no man is willing to do that of which the neceffity is not preffing and immediate, when he knows that his awk wardness must make him ridiculous.

Ludere qui nefcit, campeftribus abftinet armis,
Indocufque pile, difcive, trochive quiefcit,
Ne fpiffe rifum tollant impunè corona.

He that's unfkilful will not tofs a ball,
Nor run, nor wrestle, for he fears the fall;
He justly fears to meet deferv'd difgrace,
And that the ring will hifs the baffled afs.



Thus the man of learning is often refigned, almost by his own confent, to languor and pain; and while in the prosecution of his ftudies he fuffers the weariness of labour, is fubject by his course of life to the maladies of idleness.

It was, perhaps, from the obfervation of this mifchievous omiffion in those who are employed about intellectual objects, that Locke has, in his Syftem of Education, urged the neceffity of a trade to men of all ranks and profeffions, that when the mind is weary with its proper task, it may be relaxed by a flighter attention to fome mechanical operation; and that while the vital functions are refufcitated and awakened by vigorous motion, the understanding may be reftrained from that vagrance and diffipation by which it relieves itself after a long intensenefs of thought, unless fome allurement be presented that may engage application without anxiety.

G 4


There is fo little reafon for expecting frequent conformity to Locke's precept, that it is not neceffary to enquire whether the practice of mechanical arts might not give occafion to petty emulation, and degenerate ambition; and whether, if our divines and phyficians were taught the lathe and the chifel, they would not think more of their tools than their books? as Nero neglected the care of his empire for his chariot and his fiddle. It is certainly dangerous to be too much pleased with little things; but what is there which may not be perverted? Let us remem, ber how much worse employment might have been found for thofe hours, which a manual occupation appears to engrofs; let us compute the profit with the lofs, and when we reflect how often a genius is allured from his ftudies, confider likewife that perhaps by the fame attractions he is fometimes withheld from debauchery, or recalled from malice, from ambition, from envy, and from luft.

I have always admired the wisdom of those by whom our female education was inftituted, for having contrived, that every woman, of whatever condition, fhould be taught fome arts of manufacture, by which the vacuities of reclufe and domeftick leifure may be filled up. Thefe arts are more neceffary, as the weakness of their fex and the general fyftem of life debar ladies from many employments which, by diverfifying the circumstances of men, preferve them from being cankered by the ruft of their own thoughts. I know not how much of the virtue and happiness of the world may be the confequence of this judicious regulation. Perhaps, the most powerful fancy might be unable to figure the confufion and flaughter that would

« PreviousContinue »