« AnteriorContinuar »
told me of a wash that would smooth the skin; and another offered me her chair that I might not front the light. Some soothed me with the observation that none can tell how soon my case may be her own; and some thought it proper to receive me with mournful tenderness, formal condolence, and consolatory blandishments.
Thus was I every day harassed with all the stratagems of well-bred malignity; yet insolence was inore tolerable than solitude, and I therefore persisted to keep my time at the doors of my acquaintance, without gratifying them with any appearance of resentment or depression. I expected that their exultation would in time vapour away; that the joy of their superiority would end with its novelty; and that I should be suffered to glide along in my present form among the nameless multitude, whom nature never intended to excite cnyy or admiration, nor enabled to delight the eye or inflame the heart.
This was naturally to be expected, and this I began to experience. But when I was no longer agitated by the perpetual ardour of resistance, and effort of perseverance, I found more sensibly the want of those entertainments which had formerly delighted me; the day rose upon me without an engagement; and the evening closed in its natural gloom, without summoning me to a concert or a ball.
None had any care to find amusements for me, and I had no power of amusing myself. Idleness exposed me to melancholy, and life began to languish in motionless indifference.
Misery and shame are nearly allied. It was not without many struggles that I prevailed on myself to confess my uneasiness to Euphenia, the only friend who
had never pained me with comfort or with pity. I at last laid my calamities before her, rather to ease my heart than receive assistance. “We must distinguisha,” said she,“ my Victoria, those evils which are imposed
by Providence, froin those to which we ourselves give the power of hurting us. Of
your calamity, a " small part is the infliction of Heaven, the rest is " little more than the corrosion of idle discontent. You “ have lost that which may indeed sometimes con“ tribute to happiness, but to which happiness is by
no means inseparably annexed. You have lost what “ the greater number of the human race never have
possessed; what those on whom it is bestowed for “ the most part possess in vain ; and what you, while “ it was yours, knew not how to use: you have only “ lost early what the laws of nature forbid you to keep long, and have lost it while your mind is
mind is yet flexi“ble, and while you have time to substitute more “ valuable and more durable excellencies. Consider “ yourself, my Victoria, as a being born to know, to
reason, and to act; rise at once from your dream of
melancholy to wisdom and to piety; you will find “that there are other charms than those of beauty, " and other joys than the praise of fools.'
I am, SIR, &c.
NUMB. 134. SATURDAY, June 29, 1751.
Quis scit, an adjiciant hodiernæ crastina summa
Who knows if Heav'n, with ever-bounteous pow's,
SAT yesterday morning employed in deliberating
on which, among the various subjects that occurred to my imagination, I should bestow the paper of today. After a short effort of meditation by which nothing was determined, I grew every moment more irresolute, my ideas wandered from the first intention, and I rather wished to think, than thought upon any settled subject; till at last I was awakened from this dream of study by a summons from the press : the time was come for which I had been thus negligently purposing to provide, and, however dubious or sluggish, I was now necessitated to write.
Though to a writer whose design is so prehensive 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 sudden composition ; yet I could not forbear to reproach myself for having so long neglected what was unavoidably to be done, and of which every moment's idleness increased the difficulty. There was however some pleasure in reflecting that I, who had only trifled till diligence was neces13
sary, might still congratulate myself upon my superiority to multitudes, who have trifled till diligence is vain ; who can by no degree of activity or resolution recover the opportunities which have slipped away; and who are condemned by their own carelesness to hopeless calamity and barren sorrow.
The folly of allowing ourselves to delay what we know cannot be finally escaped, is one of the general weaknesses, which, in spite of the instruction of moralists, and the remonstrances of reason, prevail to a greater or less degree in every mind; even they who most steadily withstand it, find it, if not the most violent, the most pertinacious of their passions, 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 solicitous for that which is by its nearness enabled to make the strongest impressions. When therefore any sharp pain is to be suffered, or any formidable danger to be incuri ed, we can scarcely exempt ourselves wholly from the seducements of imagination ; we readily believe that another day will bring some support or advantage which we now want; and are easily persuaded, that the moment of necessity, which we desire never to arrive, is at a great distance from us.
Thus life is languished away in the gloom of anxiety, and consumed in collecting resolutions which the next morning dissipates; in forming purposes which we scarcely hope to keep, and reconciling ourselves to our own cowardice by excuses, which, while we admit them, we know to be absurd. Our firmness is, by Vol. V. D D
the continual contemplation of misery, hourly impaired; every submission to our fear enlarges its dominion; we not only waste that time in which the evil we dread might have been suffered and surmounted, but even where procrastination produces no absolute increase of our difficulties, make them less superable to ourselves by habitual terrours. When evils cannot be avoided, it is wise to contract the interval of expectation; to meet the mischiefs which will overtake us if we fly; and suffer only their rcal malignity, without the conflicts of doubt, and anguish of anticipation.
To act is far easier than to suffer ; yet we every day see the progress of life retarded by the vis inertia, 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 claiined by those who, though perhaps they suffer 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 uneasiness which only vacancy and suspicion expose thein to feel, and complaints of distresses which it is in their own power to remove.
Laziness is commonly associated with timidity. Either fear originally prohibits endeavours by infusing despair of success; or the frequent failure of irresolute struggles, and the constant desire of avoiding labour, impress by degrees false terrours on the mind. But fear,