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If we are obliged to these arts for so great service, I could wish they were employed to give us a second turn ; that as they have brought us to dwell in society, (a blessing which no other creatures know) so they would persuade us, now they have settled us, to lay out all our thoughts in surpassing each other in those faculties in which only we excel other creatures. But it is at present so far otherwise, that the contention seems to be, who shall be most eminent in performances wherein beasts enjoy greater abilities than we have. I’ll undertake, were the butler and swineherd, at any true esquire's in Great Britain, to keep and compare accounts of what wash is drank up in so many hours in the parlour and the pig-stye, it would appear, the gentleman of the house gives much more to his friends than his hogs. This, with many other evils, arises from the error in men's judgments, and not making true distinctions between persons and things. It is usually thought, that a few sheets of parchment, made before a male and female of wealthy houses come together, give the heirs and descendants of that marriage, possession of lands and tenements; but the truth is, there is no man who can be said to be proprietor of an estate, but he who knows how to enjoy it. Nay, it shall never be allowed, that the land is not a waste, when the master is uncultivated. Therefore to avoid confusion, it is to be noted, that a peasant with a great estate is but an incumbent, and that he must be a gentleman to be a landlord. A landlord enjoys what he has with his heart, an incumbent with his stomach. Gluttony, drunkenness, and riot are the entertainments of an incumbent; 3enevolence, civility, social, and human virtues, the accomplishments of a landlord. Who, that has any passion for his native country, does not think it worse than conquered, when so large dimensions of it are in the hands of savages, that know no use of property but to be tyrants; or liberty, but to be unmannerly? A gentleV C L. III. Z
man in a country life enjoys paradise with a temper fit for it; a clown is cursed in it with all the cutting and
unruly passions man could be tormented with when,
he was expelled from it. There is no character more deservedly esteemed than that of a country gentleman, who understands the station in which heaven and nature have placed him. He is father to his tenants, and patron to his neighbours, and is more superior to those of lower fortune by his benevolence than his possessions. He justly divides his time between solitude and company, so as to use the one for the other. His life is spent in the good offices of an advocate, a referee, a companion, a mediator, and a friend. His counsel and knowledge are a guard to the simplicity and innocence of those of lower talents, and the entertainment and happiness of those of equal. When a man in a country life has this turn as it is to be hoped thousands have, he lives in a more happy condition than any is described in the pastoral description of poets, or the vain-glorious solitudes recorded by philosophers. To a thinking man it would seem prodigious, that the very situation in a country life does not incline men to a scorn of the mean gratifications some take in it. To stand by a stream naturally lulls the mind into composure and reverence; to walk in shades, diversifies that pleasure ; and a bright sunshine makes a man consider all nature in gladness, and himself the happiest being in it, as he is the most conscious of her gifts and enjoyments. It would be the most impertinent piece of pedantry imaginable to form our pleasures by imitation of others. I will not therefore mention Scipio and Laclius, who are generally produced on this subject tauthorities for the charms of a rural life. He that does not feel the force of agreeable views and situations in his own mind, will hardly arrive at the satisfactions they bring from the reflections of others. However, they who have a taste that way, are more particularly
inflamed with desire when they see others in the enjoyment of it, especially when men carry into a country a knowledge of the world as well as of nature. The leisure of such persons is endeared and refined by reflection upon cares and inquietudes. The absence of past labours doubles present pleasures, which is still augmented, if the person in solitude has the happiness of being addicted to letters. My cousin Frank Bickerstaff gives me a very good notion of this sort of felicity in the following letter.
“I WRITE this to communicate to you the “ happiness I have in the neighbourhood and conver“sation of the noble lord, whose health you enquired “ after in your last. I have bought that little hovel “which borders upon his royalty; but am so far from “being oppressed by his greatness, that I, who know “ no envy, and he, who is above pride, mutually recom“mend ourselves to each other by the difference of our “fortunes. He esteems me for being so well pleased “with a little, and I admire him for enjoying so hand“somely a great deal. He has not the least taste of observing the colour of a tulip, or the edging of a leaf of box, but rejoices in open views, the regularity of this plantation, and the wildness of another, as well as the fall of a river, the rising of a promontory, and all other objects fit to entertain a mind like his, that has been long versed in great and public amusements. The make of the soul is as much seen in leisure as in business. He has long lived in courts, and been admired in assemblies, so that he has added to experience a most charming eloquence, by which he communicates to me the ideas of my own mind upon the objects we meet with so agreeably, that with his company in the fields, I at once enjoy “ the country, and a landscape of it. He is now al“tering the course of canals and rivulets, in which
“he has an eye to his neighbour's satisfaction, as ‘well as his own. He often makes me presents, by “turning the water into my grounds, and sends me , “fish by their own streams. To avoid my thanks, he “ makes nature the instrument of his bounty, and does “all good offices so much with the air of a compa“nion, that his frankness hides his own condescen“sion, as well as my gratitude. Leave the world to “ itself, and come and see us. “Your affectionate cousin, “ FRANCIs BICKERSTAFF.”
No. CLXX. THURSDAY, MAY 1 1.
Fortuna saevolaeta negotio, &
From my own Afiartment, May 10.
HAVING this morning spent some time in reading on the subject of the vicissitude of human life, I laid aside my book, and began to ruminate on the discourse which raised in me those reflections. I believed it a very good office to the world, to sit down and shew others the road in which I am experienced by my wanderings and errors. This is Seneca's way of thinking, and he had half convinced me, how dangerous it is to our true happiness and tranquillity to fix tour minds upon any thing which is in the power of fortune. It is excusable only in animals who have not the use of reason, to be catched by hooks and baits. Wealth, glory, and power, which the ordinary people look up at with admiration, the learned and wise know
to be only so many snares laid to enslave them. There is nothing farther to be sought for with earnest. ness, than what will cloathe and feed us. If we pamper ourselves in our diet, or give our imaginations a loose in our desires, the body will no longer obey the mind. Let us think no farther than to defend ourselves against hunger, thirst, and cold. We are to remember, that every thing else is despicable, and not worth our care. To want little, is true grandeur, and Very few things are great to a great mind. Those who form their thoughts in this manner, and abstract themselves from the world, are out of the way of fortune, and can look with contempt both on her favours and her frowns. At the same time they who separate themselves from the immediate commerce with the busy part of mankind, are still beneficial to them, while by their studies and writings they recommend to them the small value which ought to be put upon what they pursue with so much labour and disquiet. While such men are thought the most idle, they are the most usefully employed. They have all things, both human and divine, under consideration. To be perfectly free from the insults of fortune, we should arm ourselves with their reflections. We should learn that none but intellectual possessions are what we can properly call our own. All things from without are but bortowed. What fortune gives us, is not ours; and whatever she gives, she can take away. It is a common imputation to Seneca, that though he declaimed with so much strength of reason, and a stoical contempt of riches and power, he was at the same time one of the richest and most powerful men in Rome. I know no instance of his being insolent in that fortune, and can therefore read his thoughts on those subjects with the more deference. I will not give philosophy so poor a look, as to say it cannot live in courts; but I am of opinion, that it is there in the greatest eminence, when amidst the affluence of all