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which my studies have enabled me to afford. To live according to nature, is to act always with due regard to the fitness arising from the relations and qualities of causes and effects; to concur with the great and unchangeable scheme of universal felicity; to cooperate with the general disposition and tendency of the present system of things."
The prince soon found that this was one of the sages whom he should understand less, as he heard him longer. He, therefore, bowed, and was silent, and the philosopher, supposing him satisfied, and the rest vanquished, rose up and departed, with the air of a man that had cooperated with the present system.
THE PRINCE AND HIS SISTER DIVIDE BETWEEN THEM THE WORK OF OBSERVATION.
RASSELAS returned home full of reflections, doubtful how to direct his future steps. Of the way to happiness, he found the learned and simple equally ignorant; but, as he was yet young, he flattered himself that he had time remaining for more experiments, and further inquiries. He communicated to Imlac his observations and his doubts, but was answered by him with new doubts, and remarks that gave him no comfort. He, therefore, discoursed more frequently and freely with his sister, who had yet the same hope with himself, and always assisted him to give some reason why, though he had been, hitherto, frustrated, he might succeed at last.
"We have, hitherto," said she, "known but little of the world: we have never yet been either great or mean. our own country, though we had royalty, we had no power; and, in this, we have not yet seen the private recesses of domestick peace. Imlac favours not our search, lest we should, in time, find him mistaken. We will divide the task between us: you shall try what is to be found in the splendour of courts, and I will range the shades of
humbler life. Perhaps command and authority may be the supreme blessings, as they afford most opportunities of doing good: or, perhaps, what this world can give may be found in the modest habitations of middle fortune, too low for great designs, and too high for penury and distress."
THE PRINCE EXAMINES THE HAPPINESS OF HIGH STATIONS.
RASSELAS applauded the design, and appeared, next day, with a splendid retinue at the court of the bassa. He was soon distinguished for his magnificence, and admitted as a prince, whose curiosity had brought him from distant countries, to an intimacy with the great officers, and frequent conversation with the bassa himself.
He was, at first, inclined to believe, that the man must be pleased with his own condition, whom all approached with reverence, and heard with obedience, and who had the power to extend his edicts to a whole kingdom. "There can be no pleasure," said he, "equal to that of feeling, at once, the joy of thousands, all made happy by wise administration. Yet, since by the law of subordination, this sublime delight can be in one nation but the lot of one, it is, surely, reasonable to think, that there is some satisfaction more popular and accessible; and that millions can hardly be subjected to the will of a single man, only to fill his particular breast with incommunicable content."
These thoughts were often in his mind, and he found no solution of the difficulty. But, as presents and civilities gained him more familiarity, he found that almost every man, who stood high in employment, hated all the rest, and was hated by them, and that their lives were a continual succession of plots and detections, stratagems and escapes, faction and treachery. Many of those, who surrounded the bassa, were sent only to watch and report his conduct; every tongue was muttering censure, and every eye was searching for a fault.
At last the letters of revocation arrived, the bassa was carried in chains to Constantinople, and his name was mentioned no more.
What are we now to think of the prerogatives of power?" said Rasselas to his sister: "is it without any efficacy to good? or, is the subordinate degree only dangerous, and the supreme safe and glorious? Is the sultan the only happy man in his dominions? or, is the sultan himself subject to the torments of suspicion, and the dread of enemies?"
In a short time the second bassa was deposed. The sultan, that had advanced him, was murdered by the janizaries, and his successour had other views, and different favourites.
THE PRINCESS PURSUES HER INQUIRY WITH
THE princess, in the mean time, insinuated herself into many families; for there are few doors, through which liberality, joined with good-humour, cannot find its way. The daughters of many houses were airy and cheerful, but Nekayah had been too long accustomed to the conversation of Imlac and her brother, to be much pleased with childish levity, and prattle, which had no meaning. She found their thoughts narrow, their wishes low, and their merriment often artificial. Their pleasures, poor as they were, could not be preserved pure, but were imbittered by petty competitions, and worthless emulation. They were always jealous of the beauty of each other; of a quality to which solicitude can add nothing, and from which detraction can take nothing away. Many were in love with triflers, like themselves, and many fancied that they were in love, when, in truth, they were only idle. Their affection was not fixed on sense or virtue, and, therefore, seldom ended but in vexation. Their grief, however, like their joy, was transient; every thing floated in their mind,
unconnected with the past or future; so that one desire easily gave way to another, as a second stone, cast into the water, effaces and confounds the circles of the first.
With these girls she played, as with inoffensive animals, and found them proud of her countenance, and weary of her company.
But her purpose was to examine more deeply, and her affability easily persuaded the hearts that were swelling with sorrow, to discharge their secrets in her ear: and those, whom hope flattered, or prosperity delighted, often courted her to partake their pleasures.
The princess and her brother commonly met in the evening in a private summer house, on the bank of the Nile, and related to each other the occurrences of the day. As they were sitting together, the princess cast her eyes upon the river that flowed before her. 'Answer," said she, "great father of waters, thou that rollest thy floods through eighty nations, to the invocations of the daughter of thy native king. Tell me, if thou waterest, through all thy course, a single habitation from which thou dost not hear the murmurs of complaint?"
"You are then," said Rasselas, "not more successful in private houses, than I have been in courts." "I have, since the last partition of our provinces," said the princess, "enabled myself to enter familiarly into many families, where there was the fairest show of prosperity and peace, and know not one house that is not haunted by some fury, that destroys their quiet.
“I did not seek ease among the poor, because I concluded that, there, it could not be found. But I saw many poor, whom I had supposed to live in affluence. Poverty has, in large cities, very different appearances; it is often concealed in splendour, and often in extravagance. It is the care of a very great part of mankind to conceal their indigence from the rest; they support themselves by temporary expedients, and every day is lost in contriving for the morrow.
This, however, was an evil, which, though frequent, I
saw with less pain, because I could relieve it. Yet some have refused my bounties; more offended with my quickness to detect their wants, than pleased with my readiness to succour them and others, whose exigencies compelled them to admit my kindness, have never been able to forgive their benefactress. Many, however, have been sincerely grateful, without the ostentation of gratitude, or the hope of other favours."
THE PRINCESS CONTINUES HER REMARKS UPON PRIVATE LIFE.
NEKAYAH, perceiving her brother's attention fixed, proceeded in her narrative.
"In families, where there is, or is not, poverty, there is commonly discord: if a kingdom be, as Imlac tells us, a great family, a family, likewise, is a little kingdom, torn with factions, and exposed to revolutions. An unpractised observer expects the love of parents and children to be constant and equal; but this kindness seldom continues beyond the years of infancy; in a short time the children become rivals to their parents. Benefits are allayed by reproaches, and gratitude debased by envy.
"Parents and children seldom act in concert: each child endeavours to appropriate the esteem, or fondness of the parents; and the parents, with yet less temptation, betray each other to their children; thus some place their confidence in the father, and some in the mother, and, by degrees, the house is filled with artifices and feuds.
"The opinions of children and parents, of the young and the old, are naturally opposite, by the contrary effects of hope and despondence, of expectation and experience, without crime or folly on either side. The colours of life, in youth and age, appear different, as the face of nature, in spring and winter. And how can children credit the assertions of parents, which their own eyes show them to be false?