« FöregåendeFortsätt »
it carries consternation in the bite of a mad dog. The people, when once infected, lose their relish for happiness, sauoter about with looks of despondence, ask after the calamities of the day, and receive no comfort but in heightening each other's distress. It is insignificant how remote or near, how weak or powerful, the object of terror may be, when once they resolve to fright and be frighted; the merest trittes sow consternation and dismay; each proportious his fears, not to the object, but to the dread he discovers in the countenance of others; for, when once the fermentation is begun, it goes on of itself, though the original cause be discontinued which first set it in motion.
A dread of mad dogs is the epidemic terror which now prevails, and the whole nation is at present actually groaning under the malignity of its in. fuence. The people sally from their houses with that circumspection which is prudent in such as expect a mad dog at every turning. The physician publishes his prescription, the beadle prepares his halter, and a few of unusual bravery arm them. selves with boots and buff gloves, in order to face the enemy, if he should offer to attack them. In short, the whole people stand bravely upon their defence, and seem, by their present spirit, to show a resolution of being tamely bit by mad dogs no longer.
Their manner of knowing whether a dog be mad or no, somewhat resembles the ancient Gothic cus. tom of trying witches. The old woman suspected was tied hand and foot, and thrown into the water. If she swam, then she was instantly carried off to be burnt for a witch ; if she sunk, then indeed she was acquitted of the charge, but drowned in the experiment. In the same manner a crowd gather round a dog suspected of madness, and they begin by teasing the devoted animal on every side. If he attempts to stand upon the defensive, and bite, theu he is unanimously found guilty, for 'a mad dog
always snaps at every thing.' If, on the contrary, be strives to escape by running away, then he can expect no compassion, formad dogs always run straight forward before them.'
It is pleasant enough for a neutral being like me, who have no share in those ideal calamities. to mark the stages of this national disease. The terror at first feebly enters with a disregarded story of a little dog, that had gone through a neighbouring village, which was thought to be mad by several who had seen him. The next account comes, that a mastiff ran through a certain town, and had bit five geese, which immediately ran mad, foamed at the bill, and died in great agonies soon after. Then comes an affecting story of a little boy bit in the leg, and gone down to be dipped in the salt water. When the people have sufficiently shuddered at that, they are next congealed with a frightful account of a man who was said lately to have died from a bite he had received some years before. This relation only prepares tbe way for another, still more hideous; as how the master of a family, with seven small children, were all bit by a mad lap-dog; and how the poor father first perceived the infec. tion, by calling for a draught of water, where he saw the lap-dog swimming in the cup.
When epidemic terror is thus once excited, every morning comes loaded with some new disaster: as in stories of ghosts each loves to hear the account, though it only serves to make him uneasy ; so here each listens with eagerness, and adds to the tidings with new circumstances of peculiar horror. A lady, for instance, in the country, of very weak perves, has been frighted by the barking of a dog ; and this, alas! too frequently happens. The story soon is improved and spreads, that a mad dog had frighted a lady of distinction. These circumstances begin to grow terrible before they have reached the deigbbouring village ; and there the report is, that • Judy of quality was bit by a mad mastiff. This account every moment gathers new strength, and grows more dismal as it approaches the capital ; and by the time it has arrived in town, the lady is described, with wild eyes, foaming mouth, running mad upon all four, barking like a dog, biting her servants, and at last smothered between two beds by the advice of her doctors; while the mad mastiff, is, in the mean time, ranging the whole coun. try over, slavering at the mouth, and seeking whom he may devour.
My landlady, a good natured woman, but a little credulous, waked me some mornings ago before the usual hour, with horror and astonishment in her looks. She desired me, if I had any regard for my safety, to keep within ; for a few days ago, so dismal an accideut had happened, as to put all the world upon their guard. A mad dog down in the country, she assured me, had bit a farmer, who soon becoming mad, ran into bis own yard and bit a fine brindled cow; the cow quickly became as mad as the man, began to foam at the mouth, and raising herself up, walked about ou her hind legs, sometimes barking like a dog, and sometimes at. tempting to talk like the farmer. Upon examining the grounds of this story, I found my landlady had it from one neighbour, who had it from another neighbour, who heard it from very good authority. · Were most stories of this nature well examined, it would be found that numbers of such as have been said to suffer were no way injured; and that of those who have been actually bitter, not one in a hundred was bit by a mad dog. Such accounts, in general, therefore, only serve to make the people miserable by false terrors; and sometimes fright the patient into actual phrensy, by creating those very symptoms they pretended to deplore. · But even allowing three or four to die in a season of this terrible death (and four is probably too large -a concession), yet still it is not considered, how
inany are preserved in their health and in their pro. perty by this devoted animal's services. The mid. night robber is kept at a distance; the insidious thief is often detected; the healthful chase repairs
any a word constitution : and the poor man finds ip his dog a willing assistant, eager to lessen his toil, and content with the smallest retribution.
• A dog,' says ove of the English poets,' is an ho. sest creature, and I am a friend to dogs.' Of all the beasts that graze the lawn, or hunt the forest, a dog is the only animal that, leaving his fellows, attempts to cultivate the friendship of man : to man he looks, in all his necessities, with speaking tye for assistance; exerts for him all the little service in his power with cheerfulness and pleasure ; for him bears famine aud fatigue with patience and resignation ; vo injuries cau abate bis fidelity, no distress induce him to forsake his benefactor ; studious to please, and fearing to offend, he is still an humble, stedfast dependent ; and in him alone fawning is not flattery. How ubkind then to tarture this faithful creature, who has left the forest to claim the protection of man! How ungrateful a Teturn to the trusty animal for all its services!
ON THE INCREASED LOVE OF LIFE WITH
AGE, that lessens the enjoyment of life, increases m our desire of living. Those dangers, which, in the vigour of youth, we had learned to despise, as. sume new terrors as we grow old. Our caution increasing as our years increase, fear becomes at Tast the prevailing passion of the mind; and the small remainder of life is taken up in useless efforts
to keep off our end, or provide for a continued existence.
Strange contradiction in our nature, and to which even the wise are liable! If I should judge of that part of life which lies before me hy that which I have already seen, the prospect is hideous. Experience tells me, that my past enjoyments have brought no real felicity; and sensation assures me, that those I have felt are stronger than those whieh are yet to come. Yet experience and sensation in vain persuade ; hope, more powerful than eilher, dresses out the distant prospect in faucied beauty; some happiness, in long perspective, still beckons me to pursue; and, like a losing gamester, every new disappointment, increases my ardour to continue the game.
Whence then is this increased love of life, which grows upon us with our years! Whence comes it, that we thus make greater efforts to preserve our existence, at a period when it becomes scarce worth the keeping? Is it that nature, attentive to the preservation of mankind, increases our wishes to live, while she lessens our enjoyments; and, as she robs the senses of every pleasure, equips imagina. tion in the spoil! Life would be insupportable to an old man, who, loaded with infirmities, feared death no more than when in the vigour of manhood; the numberless calamities of decaying na. ture, and the consciousness of surviving every plea. sure, would at once induce him, with his own hand, to terminate the scene of misery : but happily the contempt of death forsakes him at a time when it could only be prejudicial; and life acquires an imaginary value in proportion as its real value is no more.
Our attachment to every object around us in. ereases in general, from the length of our acquaintance with it. I would not choose,' says a French philosopher, to see an old post pulled up with which I had been long acquainted.' A mind long