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• Amice, conscientia nostrorum factorum pectus meum deturbat : -Vivere non possum ; Mori non audeo-Insanus sum.-Si insurore meo mortem mihi non consciscam, certe factum nostrum vulgabor, igitur si tibi vita dulcis sit-fuge, et ne mecum peris.-Vale, si adhuc possis esse beatus, sis beatus—iterum vale, longe vale.”
Had this unfortunate being remained in society, his mind had, doubtless, recovered its tone, compass and authority.
Man, animated by the common impulses of his nature, can enjoy nothing to effect alone. Some one must lean upon his arm; listen to his observations; point out secret beauties ; and become, as it were, a partner in his feelings, or his impressions are comparatively dull and spiritless. Pleasures are increased in proportion as they are participated; as roses, inoculated with roses, grow double by the process. Were it to shower down gold, we should scarcely welcome the gift, had we no friend to congratulate us on our good fortune. All the colours and forms of the natural world would fade before our sight; and every gratification pall upon our senses. How beautifully is this triumph of social feeling depicted in that passage of the Paradise Lost, where Eve addresses Adam, in language, worthy, not only of the golden age, but of Paradise itself !
But neither breath of morn, when she ascends
Nor glistering star-light, without thee is sweet. Antisthenes, in reply to one of his scholars, who had inquired what philosophy had taught him, replied, “the art of living by myself.” Retirement, my Lelius, does indeed enable us to derive happiness from ourselves, in the same manner as the sun, shining from its own centre, is indebted to no other globe for its splendour or its heat. “Happiness,” said Spero Speroni to Francis Duke of Rovero, " is not to be measured by duration ; but by quality.” Beholding systems, unbeheld by common eyes ; preferring his own society to that of the weak, the ignorant, and the worthless; and thereby living in a world of his own creating, the lettered recluse (to whom a well-furnished library is “ a dukedom large enough”), indifferent even to the report of fame,“ that last infirmity of noble minds !” becomes almost invincible : for the world to him is a prison, and solitude a paradise. .
To sit on rocks, to muse o'er flood and fell,
To slowly trace the forest's shady scene,
And mortal foot hath ne'er or rarely been;.
With the wild flock, that never needs a fold;
THIS IS NOT SOLITUDE.
But 'midst the crowd, the hum, the shock of men,
To hear, to see, to feel, and to possess,
With none to bless us, none whom we can bless;
Such, also, were the sentiments of Epictetus : but solitude, with all its advantages, is only beneficial to the wise and the good; since schemes of rapine may be there engendered, as well as plans of beneficence. If Numa retired to one of the deepest recesses of Etruria, to digest his code of jurisprudence; Mahomet, in the silence and solitude of Mount Hara, shunning all intercourse with men, first formed the conception of deluding the manners and imaginations, of mankind. • To men of weak and unenlightened minds, too, retirement is productive of fatal results. That is,—to men, who, like the pholas, have a body in proportion to their house ; and whose minds have no power to stretch beyond the limit of their shells. To them retirement is but another name for obscurity: a condition, mortifying to those, who have never acquainted themselves with the world; and grateful only to
that rare order of men, who have early perceived how little substantial happiness that world is capable of affording. But to certain classes of mankind, nothing is so galling to their vanity, as the compelled necessity of remaining in obscurity! To beings of this inferior order, the bare idea of being undistinguished is the ne plus ultra of mortification. Rather than be unknown, they would celebrate their own deficiencies ; and rather than exercise no authority, they would tyrannize over —villagers! As St. Bernard said of the Romans, “ they are jealous of their neighbours ; they love nobody; and nobody loves them.” The natural cause of all this is ignorance; as the natural result is personal vanity, and that most offensive of all mental scrophulas,-family conceit. Hence it arises, that though nothing is more beautiful to the imagination than the idea of genius sheltering itself in retirement ; so nothing is more offensively ridiculous, than the pompous dulness, and the awkward consequence, of a vain country gentleman.
Abject to his superiors, in the same proportion that he is tyrannous to his inferiors ; incapable of forming combinations of elegance or use : he hears, feels, sees, and tastes by one erroneous standard. Laboriously engaged in idleness, and totally unconscious of the nobility and capacities of his nature ; forgetting that pride confers no dignity; and that vanity engenders nothing but contempt; as unconscious of his folly, as he is ignorant of algebra; he frets throughout a long and useless life, to the open or secret ridicule of a whole neighbourhood. Possessing the external form of man, the feeling of a vegetable, and the intellect of a caterpillar, he slides into eternity, as he crept into existence, and is forgotten on the morrow.
Ye wear a lion's hide ;-Doff it, for shame;
And hang a calf's skin on those recreant limbs. How many creatures of this description, my Lelius, are observed, residing among scenes, more captivating to the imagination, than all the creations of Titian, Salvator Rosa, or of Claude! Scenes, so fortunately neglected by the hand of ornament, which create a mental blush for the folly and depravity of mankind; which disrobe every ingenious mind of all its natural vanity; and in which, if we remember the fanciful distinctions of polemics, and the obtuse arrogance of verbal theology, we do so with feelings of impatience and disgust. And yet,-though residing in such scenes as these, as well might we attempt to reconcile the writings of Aristotle with the doctrines of the Scriptures, after the example of Trapazund, Scholarius, and Eugenius, bishop of Ephesus ; as well might we endeavour to prove, with Marcilius Ficinus, that Plato acknowledged the mystery of the Trinity; and equally futile would be our attempt to unite the geological systems of Whiston and Burnet, Buffon, Kircher, and Le Luc, as to infuse into the minds of such recluses as these, that a knowledge of Nature is capable of administering to their pleasures or their virtues ! Nature speaks to them in a foreign language. Would you turn these zoophytes from their vanity and ignorance? Turn a wasp from its instinct. If their follies were proclaimed among mountains, echo would disdain to repeat them! No lessons of wisdom could ever teach them to be wise ; no satirist could taunt them out of their conceit; nor could all the splendid examples of greatness ever raise them from the dust, on which they are delighted to crawl.
Once travelling through *****shire, I called upon a gentleman, residing near one of the finest waterfalls in that country. As time was of some value, I could only partake of a slight repast, which my host prolonged by giving a history of the progress he had lately made in draining some meadows. An opportunity at length occurring, I ventured to hint, that I should wish to be directed to the waterfall. “Oh! the waterfall! ah ! true-there is a waterfall ;—but, my dear Sir, it is
almost at the bottom of the valley ; surely you would not at• tempt to go there among the long grass and briars. Never mind the waterfall ! take a walk with me, and I will show you something that is really worth seeing; and where you will be in no danger of falling over a precipice.” With that he led me into his-garden! “ There,” said he, “ there is a garden I planted and gravelled myself. There you may rove about as much as you please.” “ But, Sir, I have travelled several miles to see the waterfall; and unless”— “Oh! the waterfall !—any body can see the waterfall! The commonest fellow in the country can do that; but” (pausing with all the solemnity of dignified anger), “ I do assure you, Sir, very few can have an opportunity of seeing my garden!”
The imagination can select few objects, on which it more delights to repose, than the retirement of a man of talents and integrity from the vortex of public life. Surrounded by objects of the vast creation ;
All the distant din, the world can keep,
Such was the retirement of Scipioa; when, rich in an approving conscience, he retired from the malicious persecution of · his enemies, to philosophic ease and independence, at his villa of Liternum. There, charmed with the diversity of its landscapes, in a frequent perusal of Xenophon, and in the conversation of Terence, Lelius, and Lucilius, he cultivated his farm, and enjoyed an evening of life, truly enviable for its tranquillity, innocence, and glory. There it was, he outlived all his injuries, and all the calumnies, that had been propagated against him. There
-- Sick of glory, faction, power, and pride, Beneath his woods the happy chief repos’d, And life's great scene in quiet virtue closed.
* Maximus in magno Scipio notissimus orbe.
PETRARCA, Africe de Bello Punico, iii.