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2. Another effect of wealth is dissipation and amusement, especially among the nobility and gentry of a country. Persons of this rank being bred to no business, and, in general, I fear, unprovided with any great store of knowledge or learning; unformed to habits of application, or to the steady pursuit of any useful or laudable object; must almost inevitably be given up to a scattered and dissipated life. Plays and operas, balls and assemblies, gambling and horse-racing, with other empty and boister. ous pastimes, will probably occupy their chief attention. Or, if there is anyone who happens to be cast in a finer mould, to be endued with a taste for the polite arts or the belles lettres, he is likely to saunter away the day in some gallery of painting or statuary, antique or modern ; in inspecting the cabinets of the curious, and other similar exhibitions; and to pass his evening, unless occasionally engaged at a concert or at the theatre, in something that he supposes to be literate or philosophical conversation. And should there yet remain a listless interval, he will probably fill it up
with some sentimental volume which requires no attention, and yields no instruction; or, at best, which has in it more of taste or delicacy, than of solidity or argument. That this, in the main, is a just description, I think few of my readers will deny; and it is willingly admitted that there are many noble and honourable ex. ceptions.
What is here said of the higher orders of society is proportionably true of all the rest. Wherever there is wealth, there will be dissipation. There are few opulent merchants or tradesmen so deeply engaged in their shop or their counting-house, as not to find time for amusement beyond what is necessary for mere relaxation. And after they have entirely withdrawn from business, their amusements will multiply of course, although their habits of employment, by leading them to agriculture, or some other practical object, may seldom suffer them to lapse totally into a dissipated life.
3. Again: Wealth is almost sure to be attended with a proportionable degree of sensual gratification. It requires no proof, that, as riches accumulate, men are generally disposed to allow a larger scope to a wanton and capricious appetite. They will spread their tables, not only with superfluous abundance, but also with increasing variety and curiosity; and sometimes to a degree of extravagance, as if they meant to emulate that luxurious prince, who, to humour his palate, would provide himself with the tongues of singing birds, and the brains of pheasants, would eat no fish when he happened to be near the sea-coast, and no flesh at a distance from it; as if he thought that fare still the best which was most scarce or costly*. I am aware that this might as well arise from vanity as from a surfeited appetite; and should any one choose to resolve it into the former, it would yet serve to illustrate our general argument. A similar progress may be observed in other cases of animal indulgence. Instead of floors of bare earth, or covered with straw or rushest, we come gradually to tread on
warm and elegant carpets, and to stretch ourselves on beds of down instead of strawpallets, with a log of wood for a bolster*.
mon in Queen Elizabeth's time, not excepting even her presence chamber.” Lord Kaimes' Sketches of the His. tory of Man, vol. i. p. 326.—“ An old tenure in England binds the vassal to find straw for the king's bed, and hay. for his horses.” Id. vol. ii. p. 122.
* Holingshed, who wrote in the reign of Elizabeth, has the following passage in the preface to his history. “ There are old men yet dwelling in the village where I remain, which have noted two things to be marvellously altered in England within their sound remembrance. One is the multitude of chimnies lately erected; whereas, in their young days, there were not above two or three, if so many, in most uplandish towns of the realm. The second is, the great amendment of lodging: For, said they, our fathers, and we ourselves, have laid full oft upon straw-pallets, with a good round log under their head instead of a bolster. If it were so that the father, or the good man of the house, had a mattress or flock bed, and thereto a sack of chaff to rest his head upon, he thought himself to be as well lodged as the lord of the town: so well were they contented. Pillows, said they, were thought meet only for women in childbed.” In this last opinion they have been followed at a much later period in the northern part of this island, if we may credit the following anecdote told by Lord Kaimes: “ A knot of islanders,” says he, “ benighted, wrapped themselves up in their plaids, and lay down in
Instances of grosser and more licentious indulgence I forbear to specify; as I have no mind to paint out scenes of low debauchery, to trace the haunts of lewdness and prostitution, or to dwell on evils, which, in the present circumstances of the world, are, I fear, more to be lamented than remedied.
All these effects are much heightened by competition, in that state of society now under review; in which the opulent part of a nation is supposed to bear a considerable proportion to the whole. In this case, one rich citizen will vie with another in every form of ostentatiouis splendour and luxurious gratification.
Further: When a state is arrived at this point of wealth and refinement, its rich and pampered citizens will lay out for foreign
the snow to sleep. A young gentleman, making up a ball of snow, used it for a pillow. His father (Sir Evan Cameron) striking away the ball with his foot, What, Sir, said he, are you turning effeminate?” This, indeed, is carrying the doctrine of indulgence to a point of rigour that would scarce be required in the hospice of St, Bernard.