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Few parents act in such a manner, as much to enforce their maxims, by the credit of their lives. The old man trusts wholly to slow contrivance and gradual progression: the youth expects to force his way by genius, vigour, and precipitance. The old man pays regard to riches, and the youth reverences virtue. The old man deifies prudence: the youth commits himself to magnanimity and chance. The young man, who intends no ill, believes that none is intended, and, therefore, acts with openness and candour: but his father, having suffered the injuries of fraud, is impelled to suspect, and, too often, allured to practise it. Age looks with anger on the temerity of youth, and youth with contempt on the scrupulosity of age. Thus parents and children, for the greatest part, live on to love less and less and, if those whom nature has thus closely united. are the torments of each other, where shall we look for tenderness and consolation?"
Surely," said the prince, "you must have been unfortunate in your choice of acquaintance: I am unwilling to believe, that the most tender of all relations is thus impeded, in its effects, by natural necessity."
"Domestick discord," answered she, "is not inevitably and fatally necessary; but yet it is not easily avoided. We seldom see that a whole family is virtuous: the good and evil cannot well agree: and the evil can yet less agree with one another: even the virtuous fall, sometimes, to variance, when their virtues are of different kinds, and tending to extremes. In general, those parents have most reverence who most deserve it: for he that lives well cannot be despised.
"Many other evils infest private life. Some are the slaves of servants, whom they have trusted with their affairs. Some are kept in continual anxiety, by the caprice of rich relations, whom they cannot please, and dare not offend. Some husbands are imperious, and some wives perverse: and, as it is always more easy to do evil than good, though the wisdom or virtue of one can very rarely make many happy, the folly or vice of one may often make many miserable."
"If such be the general effect of marriage," said the prince, "I shall, for the future, think it dangerous to connect my interest with that of another, lest I should be unhappy by my partner's fault."
"I have met," said the princess," with many who live single for that reason; but I never found that their prudence ought to raise envy. They dream away their time without friendship, without fondness, and are driven to rid themselves of the day, for which they have no use, by childish amusements, or vitious delights. They act as beings under the constant sense of some known inferiority, that fills their minds with rancour, and their tongues with censure. They are peevish at home, and malevolent abroad; and, as the outlaws of human nature, make it their business and their pleasure to disturb that society, which debars them from its privileges. To live without feeling or exciting sympathy; to be fortunate without adding to the felicity of others, or afflicted without tasting the balm of pity, is a state more gloomy than solitude: it is not retreat, but exclusion from mankind. Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures."
"What then is to be done?" said Rasselas ; "the more we inquire, the less we can resolve. Surely he is most likely to please himself, that has no other inclination to regard."
DISQUISITION UPON GREATNESS.
THE conversation had a short pause. The prince, having considered his sister's observations, told her that she had surveyed life with prejudice, and supposed misery where she did not find it. "Your narrative," says he, "throws yet a darker gloom upon the prospects of futurity: the predictions of Imlac were but faint sketches of the evils painted by Nekayah. I have been lately convinced, that quiet is not the daughter of grandeur, or of power: that her presence is not to be bought by wealth, nor en
forced by conquest. It is evident, that as any man acts in a wider compass, he must be more exposed to opposition from enmity, or miscarriage from chance; whoever has many to please or to govern, must use the ministry of many agents, some of whom will be wicked, and some ignorant; by some he will be misled, and by others betrayed. If he gratifies one, he will offend another: those that are not favoured will think themselves injured; and, since favours can be conferred but upon few, the greater number will be always discontented."
"The discontent," said the princess, "which is thus unreasonable, I hope, that I shall always have spirit to despise, and you power to repress."
"Discontent," answered Rasselas, "will not always be without reason under the most just and vigilant administration of publick affairs. None, however attentive, can always discover that merit, which indigence or faction may happen to obscure; and none, however powerful, can always reward it. Yet, he that sees inferiour desert advanced above him, will naturally impute that preference to partiality or caprice; and, indeed, it can scarcely be hoped that any man, however magnanimous by nature, or exalted by condition, will be able to persist, for ever, in the fixed and inexorable justice of distribution; he will sometimes indulge his own affections, and sometimes those of his favourites; he will permit some to please him who can never serve him; he will discover in those whom he loves, qualities which, in reality, they do not possess; and to those, from whom he receives pleasure, he will, in his turn, endeavour to give it. Thus will recommendations sometimes prevail, which were purchased by money, or by the more destructive bribery of flattery and servility.
"He that has much to do will do something wrong, and, of that wrong must suffer the consequences; and, if it were possible that he should always act rightly, yet, when such numbers are to judge of his conduct, the bad will censure and obstruct him by malevolence, and the good sometimes by mistake.
"The highest stations cannot, therefore, hope to be the abodes of happiness, which I would willingly believe to have fled from thrones and palaces to seats of humble privacy, and placid obscurity. For what can hinder the satisfaction, or intercept the expectations of him, whose abilities are adequate to his employments; who sees, with his own eyes, the whole circuit of his influence; who chooses, by his own knowledge, all whom he trusts; and whom none are tempted to deceive by hope or fear? Surely he has nothing to do, but to love and to be loved, to be virtuous and to be happy."
"Whether perfect happiness would be procured by perfect goodness," said Nekayah, "this world will never afford an opportunity of deciding. But this, at least, may be maintained, that we do not always find visible happiness, in proportion to visible virtue. All natural, and almost all political evils, are incident alike to the bad and good; they are confounded in the misery of a famine, and not much distinguished in the fury of a faction; they sink together in a tempest, and are driven together from their country by invaders. All that virtue can afford is quietness of conscience, a steady prospect of a happier state; this may enable us to endure calamity with patience; but remember, that patience must suppose pain.
RASSELAS AND NEKAYAH CONTINUE THEIR CON- .
"DEAR princess," said Rasselas, "you fall into the common errours of exaggeratory declamation, by producing, in a familiar disquisition, examples of national calamities, and scenes of extensive misery, which are found in books, rather than in the world, and which, as they are horrid, are ordained to be rare. Let us not imagine evils which we do not feel, nor injure life by misrepresentations; I cannot bear that querulous eloquence, which threatens every city with a siege, like that of Jerusalem, that makes famine attend on every flight of locusts, and suspends pes
tilence on the wing of every blast that issues from the south.
"On necessary and inevitable evils, which overwhelm kingdoms at once, all disputation is vain: when they happen they must be endured. But it is evident, that these bursts of universal distress are more dreaded than felt; thousands, and ten thousands, flourish in youth, and wither in age, without the knowledge of any other than domestick evils, and share the same pleasures and vexations, whether their kings are mild or cruel, whether the armies of their country pursue their enemies, or retreat before them. While courts are disturbed with intestine competitions, and ambassadours are negotiating in foreign countries, the smith still plies his anvil, and the husbandman drives his plough forward; the necessaries of life are required and obtained; and the successive business of the seasons continues to make its wonted revolutions.
"Let us cease to consider what, perhaps, may never happen, and what, when it shall happen, will laugh at human speculation. We will not endeavour to modify the motions of the elements, or to fix the destiny of kingdoms. It is our business to consider what beings, like us, may perform; each labouring for his own happiness, by promoting, within his circle, however narrow, the happiness of others.
"Marriage is evidently the dictate of nature; men and women are made to be companions of each other; and, therefore, I cannot be persuaded, but that marriage is one of the means of happiness."
"I know not," said the princess, "whether marriage be more than one of the innumerable modes of human misery. When I see, and reckon, the various forms of connubial infelicity, the unexpected causes of lasting discord, the diversities of temper, the oppositions of opinion, the rude collisions of contrary desire, where both are urged by violent impulses, the obstinate contests of disagreeable virtues, where both are supported by consciousness of good intention, I am, sometimes, disposed to think, with the severer casuists of most nations, that marriage is rather