Page images

called upon to pay to each other. If this fad occasion which leads him there, has not done it already, take notice, to what a serious and devout frame of mind every man is reduced the moment he enters this gate of afiliction. The bnsy and Muttering spirits, which in the house of mirth were wont to transport him from one diverting object to another-lee how they are fallen ! how peaceably they are laid ! In this gloomy manfion, full of shades and uncomfortable damps to seize the foulfee, the light and easy heart, which never knew what it was to think before, how pensive it is now, how soft, how susceptible, how full of religious impressions, how deeply it is smitten with a sense and with a love of virtue ! Could we, in this crisis, whilst this empire of reafon and religion laits, and the heart is thus exercised with wisdom and buried with heavenly contemplations, could we see it naked as it is stripped of its passions, unspotted by the world, and regardless of its pleasures -we might then safeiy reit our cause upon this single evidence, and appeal to the most sensual, whether Solomon has not made a just deterinination here, in favour of the house of mourning! not for its own fake, but as it is fruitful in virtue, and becomes the occasion of so much good. Without this end, forrow, I own, has no use but to shorten a man's days_nor can gravity, with all its fudied folemnity of look and carriage, ferve any end but to make one half of the world merry, and impose upon the other.



I. The Honour and Advantage of a confiant Adherence

to Truth. PETRARCH, a celebrated Italian poet, who fourished

about four hundred years ago, recommended himself to the confidence and affection of Cardinal Colonna, in whose family he resided, by his candour and strict regard to truth. A violent quarrel occurred in the household of this nobleman; which was carried so far, that recourse was had to arms. The Cardinal wished to know the foundation of this affair ; and, that he might be able to decide with justice, he assembled all his people, and obliged them to bind themselves, by a most folemn oath on the Gospels, to declare the whole truth. Every one, without exception, submitted to this determination ; even the bishop of Luna, brother to the Cardinal, was not excused. Petrarch, in his turn, presenting himself to take the oath, the Cardinal closed the book, and said, As to you, Petrarch, your word is sufficient.

II. Impertinence in Discour,fe. THIS kind of imperiinence is a habit of talking much

without thinking. A man who has this distemper in his tongue shall en tertain you, ihough he never saw you before, with a long story in praise of his own wife ; give you the particulars of his last night's dream, or the description of a fix it he has been at, without letting a single dish escape him. When he is thus entered into conversation, he

grows very wise ; descants upon the corruption of the times and the degeneracy of the age we live in ; from which, as his'transitions are somewhat sudden, he falls upon the price of corn, and the number of strangers that are in town. He undertakes to prove, that it is better putting to sea in summer than in winter, and that rain is necel. fary to produce a good crop of corn ; telling you, in the fame breath, that he intends to plough up such a




part of his eítate next year, that the times are hard, and that a man has much ado to get through the world. His whole discourse is nothing but hurry and incoherence. He acquaints you, that Demippus had the lar. gest torch at the feast of Ceres; alks you,


you member how many pillars are in the music-theatre; tells you that he took physic yeiterday; and desires to know what day of the month it is. If you have patience to hear him, he will inform you what festivals are kept in August, what in October, and what in December.

When you see such a fellow as this coming towards you, run for your life. A man had much better be vifited by a fever; fo painful is it to be fastened upon by one of this make, who takes it for granted that you have nothing else to do but to give him a hearing.

III. Character of Addison as a Writer. Aşa describer of life and manners, Mr. Addison must

be allowed to stand perhaps the first in the first rank. His humour is peculiar to himself; and is so happily dif. fused, as to give the grace of novelty to domestic scenes and daily occurrences. He never c'erfleps the modeļiy of sjature, nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity, that he can hardly be said to invent ; yet his ex• hibitions have an air fo much original, that it is difficult to suppose them not merely the product of imagination.

As a teacher of wisdom, he may be confidently-followed. His religion has nothing in it enthufiastic or superstitious; he appears neither weakly credulous nor wantonly sceptical ; his morality is neither dangerously Jax, nor implacably rigid. All the enchantments of fancy, and all the cogency of argument, are employed to recommend to the reader his real interest, the care of pleasing the Author of his being. Truth is shown sometimes as the phantom of a vision, sometimes appears half-yeiled in an allegory, sometimes attracts regard in the robes of fancy, and sometimes steps forth in the confidence of reason. She wears a thousand dresses, and in all is plealing.

His prose is the model of the middle style ; on grave subjects not formal, on light occasions not groveling ; pure without scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration ; always equable, and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected fplendour. It seems to have been his principal endeavour to avoid all harshness and severity of diction ; he is therefore sometimes verbose in his transitions and connections, and sometimes defcends too much to the language of conversation ; yet, if his language had been less idiomatical, it might have lost somewhat of its genuine Anglicism. What he attempted he performed : he is never Feeble, and he did not wish to be energetic; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates. His sentences lrave neither ftudied amplitude nor affected brevity ; his periods, though not diligently rounded, are voluble and easy.--Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not oftentatious, muit give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.

IV. Pleasure and Fain.
There were two families, which, from the begin-

ning of the world, were as opposite to each other as light and darkness. The one of them lived in heaven, and the other in hell. The youngest descendant of the first family was Pleasure; who was the daughter of Happiness, who was the child of Virtue, wlio was the off. spring of the Gods. These, as I laid before, had their habitation in heaven. The youngest of the opposite family was Pain ; who was the son of misery, who was the child of Vice, who was the offspring of the Furies. The habitation of this race of beings was in hell.

The middle station of nature between these two opposite extremes was the earth, which was inhabited by creatures of a middle kind; neither so virtuous as the one, nor fo vicious as the other, but p:artaking of the good and bad qualities of these two oppolite families. , Jupiter, confidering thit this species, commonly called man, was too virtuous to be miserable, and too vicious to be happy, that he might make a distinction between the good and the bad, ordered the two youngest of the




above mentioned families (Pleasure, who was the daughter of Happiness; and Pain, who was the son of Milery) to meet one another upon this part of nature ; having promised to settle it upon them both, provided they could agree upon the division of it, so as to share mankind between them.

Pleasure and Pain were no sooner met in their new habitation, but they immediately agreed upon this point, That Pleasure should take poffeffion of the virtuous, and Pain of the vicious part of that species which was given up to them. But, upon examining to which of them any individual they met with belonged, they found each of them had a right to him; for that, contrary to what they had seen in their old places of residence, there was no person fo vicious who had not some good in him, nor any person fo virtuous who had not in him some evil, The truth of it is, they generally found, upon search, that in the most vicious man Pleasure might lay claim to an hundredth part, and that in the most virtuous man Pain might come in for at least two thirds. This they faw would occasion endless disputes between them, unless they could come to some accommodation. To this end, there was a marriage proposed between them, and at length concluded. Hence it is that we find Pleasure and Pain are such constant yoke-fellows, and that they either make their vilits together, or are never far asunder. If Pain comes into a heart, he is quickly followed by Pleasure ; and if Pleasure enters, you may be fure Pain is not far off. ... But notwithstanding this marriage was very convenient for the two parties, it did not seem to answer the intention of Jupiter in fending them among mankind. To remedy, therefore, this inconvenience, it was ftipu. lated between them by article, and confirmed by the consent of each family, that, notwithstanding they here poffeffed the species indifferently, upon the death of every person, if he were found to have in him a certain proportion of evil, he should be dispatched into the infernal regions by a passport from Pain, there to dwell with Mifery, Vice, and the Furies ; or, on the contrary, if he had in him a certain proportion of good, he should be

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »