« AnteriorContinuar »
of the history of families or the factions of the country; so that when the first civilities are over, they usually talk to one another, and I ain left alone in the midst of the company. Though I cannot drink myself, I am obliged to encourage the circulation of the glass; their mirth grows inore lurbu. lent and obstreperous; and before their merriment is at an end, I am sick with disgust, and, perhaps, reproached with my sobriety, or by some fly insinua. tions insulted as a cit.
Such, Mr. Adventurer, is the life to which I am condemned by a foolish endeavour to be happy by imitation ; such is the happiness to which I pleased myself with approaching, and which I considered as the chief end of my cares and my labours. I toiled year after year with cheerfulness, in expectation of the happy hour in which I might be idle; the privilege of idleness is attained, but has not brought with it the blessing of tranquillity.
NUMB. 107, Tuesday, November 13,. 1753.
Sub judice lis eft.
It has been fometimes asked by those, who find
the appearance of wisdom more easily attained by questions than solutions, how it comes to pass, that the world is divided by such difference of opis nion; and why men, equally reasonable, and equally lovers of truth, do not always think in the same manner? .
With regard to fimple propositions, where the terms are understood, and the whole subject is comprehended at once, there is such an uniformity of sentiment among all human beings, that, for many ages, a very numerous set of notions were supposed to be innate, or necessarily co-existent with the faculty of reason: it being imagined, that universal agreement could proceed only from the invariable dictates of the universal parent.
In questions diffuse and compounded, this similarity of determination is no longer to be expected. At our first sally into the intellectual world, we all march together along one straight and open road; but as we proceed further, and wider prospects open to our view, every eye fixes upon a different scene; we divide into various paths, and, as we move forward, are still at a greater distance from each other. Vol. IX. H
As a question becomes more complicated and involved, and extends to a greater number of rela. tions, disagreement of opinion will always be multiplied; not because we are irrational, but because we are finite beings, furnished with different kinds of knowledge, exerting different degrees of attention, one discovering consequences which escape another, none taking in the whole concatenation of causes and effects, and most comprehending but a very small part, each comparing what he observes with a different criterion, and each referring it to a different purpose.
Where, then, is the wonder, that they who fee only a small part, should judge erroneously of the whole? or that they, who see different and dissimilar parts, should judge differently from each other?
Whatever has various respects, must have various appearances of good and evil, beauty or deformity; thus, the gardener tears up as a weed, the plant which the physician gathers as a medicine; and “ a “ general," says Sir Kenelm Digby, “ will look with rs pleasure over a plain, as a fit place on which the " fate of empires might be decided in battle, which " the fariner will defpise as bleak and barren, nei“ther fruitful of pasturage, nor fit for tillage.”
Two men examining the same question proceed cominonly like the physician and gardener in selecting lierbs, or the farmer and hero looking on the plain; they bring minds impressed with different non tions, and direct their inquiries to different ends; they form, therefore, contrary conclusions, and each wonders at the other's absurdity.
We have less reason to be surprised or offended When we find others differ from us in opinion, because we very often differ from ourselves. How often we alter our minds, we do not always remark ; because the change is sometimes made imperceptibly and gradually, and the last conviction effaces all memory of the former yet every man, accustomed from time to cime to take a survey of his own notions, will by a night retrospection be able to discover, that his mind has suffered many revolutions; that the fame things have in the several parts of his life been condemned and approved, pursued and shunned : and that on many occasions, even when his practice has been steady, his mind has been wayering, and he has persisted in a scheme of action, rather be. cause he feared the censure of inconftancy, than because he was always pleased with his own choice.
Of the different faces shewn by the same objects as they are viewed on opposite sides, and of the different inclinations which they must constantly raise in him that contemplates them, a more striking example cannot easily be found than two Greek epigrammacists will afford us in their accounts of hue man life, which I shall lay before the reader in Englis prose.
Pokdippus, a comick poet, utters this complaint: " Through which of the pachs of life is it eligible « to pass? In publick assemblies are debates and « troublesome affairs : domestic privacies are “haunted with anxieties; in the country is labour; “ on the sea is terror: in a foreign land, he that has « money must live in fear, he that wants it must “ pine in distress; are you married ? you are H2J50
those who cannot accommodate themselves to our sentiments : if they are deceived, we have no right to attribute their mistake to obftinacy or negligence, because we likewise have been mistaken; we may, perhaps, again change our own opinion; and what excuse shall we be able to find for averfion and malignity conceived against him, whom we Thall chen find to have committed no fault, and who offended us only by refusing to follow us into error?
It may likewise contribute to soften that relent. ment which pride naturally raises against opposition, if we consider, that he who differs from us, does not always contradict us; he has one view of an object, and we have another; each describes what he sees with equal fidelity, and each regulates his steps by his own eyes: one man, with Pofidippus, looks on celibacy as a state of gloomy solitude, without 4 partner in joy or a comforter in forrow; the other considers it, with Metrodorus, as a state free from incuinbrances, in which a man is at liberty to choole his own gratifications, to reinove from place to place in quest of pleasure, and to think of nothing but merriment and diverfion: full of these notions one haitens to choose a wife, and the other laughs at his rahness, or pitics his ignorance; yet it is posible that each is right, but that each is right only for hmielf. .
Life is not the object of science; we see a little, very little; and what is beyond we only can conjece ture. If we enquire of those who have gone before us, we receive finall satisfaction; some have travelled lite without obfervation, and some willingly midlead us. The only thought, therefore, on which we can