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ments, to turn away disappointed; and that while we waited for dinner, they cast their eyes first upon me, and then upon each other, like a theatrical assembly waiting for a show.
From the uneasiness of this situation I was relieved by the dinner; and as 'every attention was taken up by the business of the hour, I sunk quietly to a level with the rest of the coinpany. sooner were the dishes removed, than, instead of cheerful confidence and familiar prattle, an universal silence again showed their expectation of some unusual performance. My friend endeavoured to rouse them by healths and questions, but they answered him with great brevity, and immediately relapsed into their former taciturnity.
I had waited in hope of some opportunity to divert them, but could find no pass opened for a single sally; and who can be merry without an object of mirth ? After a few faint efforts, which produced neither applause nor opposition, I was content to mingle with the
mass, to put round the glass in silence, and solace myself with my own contemplations.
My friend looked round him ; the guests stared at one another; and if now, and then a few syllables were uttered with timidity and hesitation, there was none ready to make any reply. All our faculties were frozen, and every minute took away from our capacity of pleasing, and disposition to be pleased. Thus passed the hours to which so much happiness was decreed ; the hours which had, by a kind of open proclamation, been devoted to wit, to mirth, and to Hilarius.
At last the night came on, and the necessity of parting freed us from the persecutions of each other. I heard them, as they walked along the court, murmuring at the loss of the day, and inquiring whether any man would pay a second visit to a house haunted by a wit ?
Demochares, whose benevolence is greater than his penetration, having flattered his hopes with the secondary honour which he was to gain by my sprightliness and elegance, and the affection with which he should be followed for a perpetual banquet of gayety, was not able to conceal his vexation and resentment, nor would easily be convinced, that I had not sacrificed his interest to sullenness and caprice, and studiously cndeavoured to disgust his guests, and suppressed my powers of delighting, in obstinate and premeditated silence. I am informed that the reproach of their ill reception is divided by the gentlemen of the country between us; soine being of opinion, that my friend is deluded by an impostor, who, though he has found some art of gaining his favour, is afraid to speak before men of more penetration ; and others concluding, that I think only London the proper theatre of my abilities, and disdain to exert my genius for the praise of rusticks.
I believe, Mr. RAMBLER, that it has sometimes happened to others, who have the good or ill fortune to be celebrated for wits, to fall under the same censures upon the like occasions. I hope therefore that you will prevent any misrepresentations of such failures, by remarking that invention is not wholly at the command of its possessor; that the power of pleasing is very often obstructed by the desire; that all 14
expectation expectation lessens surprise, yet some surprise is necessary to gayety; and that those who desire to partake of the pleasure of wit must contribute to its production, since the mind stagnates without external ventilation, and that effervescence of the fancy, which flashes into transport, can be raised only by the infusion of dissimilar ideas.
NUMB. 102. SATURDAY, March 9, 1751.
Ipsa quoque assiduo labuntur tempora motu
With constant motion as the moments glide,
gress of which we are perpetually changing our scenes : we first leave childhood behind us, " then youth, then the years of ripened manhood, “ then the better and more pleasing part of old age.” The perusal of this passage having incited in me a train of reflections on the state of man, the incessant fluctuation of his wishes, the gradual change of his
disposition to all external objects, and the thoughtlessness with which he floats along the stream of time, I sunk into a slumber amidst my meditations, and, on a sudden, found my ears filled with the tuinult of labour, the shouts of alacrity, the shrieks of alarm, the whistle of winds, and the dash of waters.
My astonishment for a time repressed my curiosity; but soon recovering myself so far as to inquire whither we were going, and what was the cause of such clamour and confusion, I was told that we were launching out into the ocean of life ; that we had already passed the straits of infancy, in which multitudes had perished, some by the weakness and fragility of their vessels, and more by the folly, perverseness, or negligence, of those who undertook to steer them; and that we were now on the main sea, abandoned to the winds and billows, without any other means of security than the care of the pilot, whom it was always in our power to choose among great numbers that offered their direction and assist
I then looked round with anxious eagerness; and first turning my eyes behind me, saw a stream flowing through flowery islands, which every one that sailed along seemed to behold with pleasure ; but no sooner touched, than the current, which, though not noisy or turbulent, was yet irresistible, bore him away. Beyond these islands all was darkness, nor could any of the passengers describe the shore at which he first embarked.
Before me, and on each side, was an expanse of waters violently agitated, and covered with so thick a mist, that the most perspicacious eye could see but
a little way. It appeared to be full of rocks and whirlpools, for many sunk unexpectedly while they were courting the gale with full sails, and insulting those whom they had left behind. So numerous, indeed, were the dangers, and so thick the darkness, that no caution could confer security. Yet there were many, who, by false intelligence, betrayed their followers into whirlpools, or by violence pushed those whom they found in their way against the rocks.
The current was invariable and insurmountable ; but though it was impossible to sail against it, or to return to the place that was once passed, yet it was not so violent as to allow no opportunities for dexterity or courage, since, though none could retreat back from danger, yet they might often avoid it by oblique direction,
It was, however, not very common to steer with much care or prudence ; for by some universal infatuation, every man appeared to think himself safe, though he saw his consorts every moment sinking round him; and no sooner had the waves closed over them, than their fate and their misconduct were forgotten ; the voyage was pursued with the same jocund confidence; every man congratulated himself upon the soundness of his vessel, and believed himself able to stem the whirlpool in which his friend was swallowed, or glide over the rocks on which he was dashed : nor was it often observed that the sight of a wreck made any man change hiş course : if he turned aside for a moment, he soon forgot the rudder, and left himself again to the disposal of chance.