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puny essays of human skill ; throw aside speculations of the sublimest nature and vastest importance into some obscure corner of the mind, to make room for new notions of no consequence at all; are even tired of health, because not enlivered with alternate pain ; and prefer the first reading of an indifferent author to the second or third perusal of one whose merit and reputation are established.
Our being thus formed serves many useful purposes in the present state. It contributes not a little to the advancement of learning; for, as Cicero takes notice, that which makes men willing to undergo the fatigues of philosophical disquisitions, is not so much the greatness of objects as their novelty. It is not enough that there is field and game for the chase, and that the understanding is prompted with a restless thirst of knowledge, effectually to rouse the soul sunk into the state of sloth and indolence; it is also necessary that there be an uncommon pleasure annexed to the
appearance of truth in the mind. This pleasure being exquisite for the time it lasts, but transient, it hereby comes to pass that the mind grows into an indifference to its former notions, and passes on after new discoveries, in hope of repeating the delight. It is with knowledge as with wealth, the pleasure of which lies more in making endless additions than in taking a review of our old store. There are some inconveniences, that follow this temper, if not guarded against, particularly this, that, through too great an eagerness of something new, we are many times impatient of staying long enough upon a question that requires some time to resolve it: or, which is worse, persuade ourselves that we are masters of the subject before we are so, only to be at the
liberty of going upon a fresh scent:in Mr. Locke's words, “ We see a little, presume a great deal, and so jump to the conclusion."
• A farther advantage of our inclination for novelty as at present circumstantiated, is, that it annihilates all the boasted distinctions among mankind. Look not up with envy to those above thee ! Sounding titles, stately buildings, fine gardens, gilded chariots, rich equipages what are they? They dazzle every one but the possessor: to him that is accustomed to them they are cheap and regardless thiags; they supply him not with brighter images or more sublime satisfactions, than the plain man may have whose small estate will just enable him to support the charge of a simple unencumbered life. He enters heedless into his rooms of state, as you or I do under our poor sheds. The noble paintings and costly furniture are lost on him; he sees them not; as how can it be otherwise, when by custom a fabric infinitely more grand and finished, that of the universe, stands unobserved by the inhabitants, and the everlasting lamps of heaven are lighted up in vain, for any notice that mortals take of them? Thanks to indulgent nature, which not only placed her children originally upon a level, but still, by the strength of this principle, in a great measure preserves it, in spite of all the care of man to introduce artificial distinctions.
« To add no morem is not this fondness for novelty, which makes us out of conceit with all we already have, a convincing proof of a future state? Either man was made in vain, or this is not the only world he was made for: for there cannot be a greater instance of vanity than that to which man is liable, to be deluded from the cradle to the grave with fleeting shadows of happiness.
His pleasures, and those not considerable neither, die in the possession, and fresh enjoyments do not rise fast enough to fill up half his life with satisfaction. When I see persons sick of themselves any longer than they are called away by something that is of force to chain down the present thought: when I see them hurry from country to town, and then from the town back again into the country, continually shifting postures, and placing life in all the different lights they can think of; “Surely,” say I to myself, “ life is vain, and the man beyond expression stupid or prejudiced whó from the vanity of life cannot gather that he is designed for immortality."
No. 627. WEDNESDAY, DEC. 1, 1714.
Tantum inter densas umbrosa cacumina fagos
VIRG. Ecl. ij. S.
The following account, which came to my hands some time ago, may be no disagreeable entertainment to such of my readers as have tender hearts, and nothing to do. 6 MR. SPECTATOR,
A FRIEND of mine died of a fever last week, which he caught by walking too late in a dewy evening amongst his reapers. I must inform you that his greatest pleasure was in husbandry and gardening. He had some humours which seemed inconsistent with that good sense he was otherwise master of. His uneasiness in the company of women was very remarkable in a man of such perfect good-breeding; and his avoiding one particular walk in his garden, where he had used to pass the greatest part of his time, raised abun.' dance of idle conjectures in the village where he lived. Upon looking over his papers we found out the reason, which he never intimated to his nearest friends. He was, it seems, a passionate lover in his youth of which a large parcel of letters he left behind him are a witness. I send you a copy of the last he ever wrote upon that subject, by which you will find that he concealed the true name of his mistress under that of Zelinda.
6 A LONG month's absence would be insupportable to me, if the business I am employed in were not for the service of my Zelinda, and of such a nature as to place her every moment in my mind. I have furnished the house exactly according to your fancy, or, if you please, my own; for I have long since learned to like nothing but what you do. The apartment designed for your use is so exact a copy of that which you live in, that I often think myself in your
house when I step into it, but sigh when I find it without its proper inhabitant. You will have the most delicious prospect from your closet window that England affords: I am sure I should think it so, if the landscape that shows such variety did not at the same time suggest to me the greatness of the space that lies between us.
“ The gardens are laid out very beautifully; I have dressed up every hedge in woodbines, sprinkled bowers and arbours in every corner,
and made a little paradise around me: yet I am still like the first man in his solitude, but half blessed without a partner in my happiness. I have directed one walk to be made for two persons, where I promise ten thousand satisfactions to myself in your conversation. I already take my evening's turn in it, and have worn a path upon the edge of this little alley, while I soothed myself with the thought of your walking by my side. I have held many imaginary discourses with you
in this retirement; and when I have been weary have sat down with you in the midst of a row of jessamines. The many expressions of joy and rapture I use in these silent conversations have made me for some time the talk of the parish ; but a neighbouring young fellow, who makes love to the farmer's daughter, hath found me out, and made my case known to the whole neighbourhood.
“ In planting of the fruit-trees, I have not forgot the peach you are so fond of. I have made a walk of elms along the river side, and intend to sow all the place about with cowslips, which I hope you will like as well as that I have heard you talk of by your father's house in the country.
“Oh! Zelinda, what a scheme of delight have I drawn up in my imagination! What day-dreams do I indulge myself in! When will the six weeks be at an end, that lie between me and my promised happiness!
“ How could you break off so abruptly in your last, and tell me you must go and dress for the play? If you loved as I do, you would find no more company in a crowd than I have in my solitude. I am, &c."
« On the back of this letter is written, in the hand of the deceased, the following piece of history;