« PředchozíPokračovat »
haps, it falls out very ofter that, in moral questions, the philosophers in the gown, and in the livery, differ not so much in their sentiments, as in their language, and have equal power of discerning right, though they cannot point it out to others with equal address.
There are very few faults to be committed in solitude, or without some agents, partners, confederates, or witnesses; and, therefore, the servant must commonly know the secrets of a master, who has any secrets to entrust; and failings, inerely personal, are so frequently exposed by that security which pride and folly generally produce, and so inquisitively watched by that desire of reducing the inequalities of condition, which the lower orders of the world will always feel, that the testimony of a menial domestick can seldom be considered as defective for want of knowledge. And though its impartiality may be sometimes suspected, it is at least as credible as that of equals, where rivalry instigates censure, or friendship dictates palliations.
The danger of betraying our weakness to our servants, and the impossibility of concealing it from them, may be justly considered as one motive to a regular and irreproachable life. For no condition is more hateful or despicable, than his who has put himself in the power of his servant ; in the power of him whom, perhaps, he has first corrupted by making him subservient to his vices, and whose fidelity he therefore cannot enforce by any precepts of honesty or reason. It is seldom known that authority thus acquired, is possessed without insolence, or that the master is not forced to confess, by his tameness VOL. IV.
or forbearance, that he fas enslaved himself by some foolish confidence. And his crime is equally punished, whatever part he takes of the choice to which he is reduced ; and he is from that fatal hour, in which he sacrificed his dignity to his passions, in perpetual dread of insolence or defamation; of a controller at home, or an accuser abroad. He is condemned to purchase, by continual bribes, that secrecy which bribes never secured, and which, after a long course of submission, promises, and anxieties, he will find violated in a fit of rage, or in a frolick of drunkenness.
To dread no eye, and to suspect no tongue, is the great prerogative of innocence; an cxemption granted only to invariable virtue. But guilt has always its horrours and solicitudes; and, to make it yet more shameful and detestable, is is doomed often to stand in awe of those, to whom nothing could give influence or weight, but their power of betraying.
NUMB. 69. Tuesday, November 13, 1750.
Flet quoque, ut in speculo rugas adspexit aniles,
The dreadful wrinkles when poor Helen spy'd,
N old Greek epigrammatist, intending to show
the miseries that attend the last stage of man, imprecates upon those, who are so foolish as to wish for long life, 'the calamity of continuing to grow old from century to century. He thought that no adventitious or foreign pain was requisite; that decrepitude itself was an epitome of whatever is dreadful; and nothing could be added to the curse of age, but that it should be extended beyond its natural limits.
The most indifferent or negligent spectator can indeed scarcely retire, without heaviness of heart, from a view of the last scenes of the tragedy of life, in which he finds those who, in the former parts of the drama, were distinguished by opposition of conduct,
contrariety of designs, and dissimilitude of personal qualities, all involved in one common distress, and all struggling with affliction which they cannot hope
The other miseries, which waylay our passage through the world, wisdom may escape, and fortitude may conquer : by caution and circumspection we may steal along with very little to obstruct or incommode us; by spirit and vigour we may force a way, and reward the vexation of contest by the pleasures of victory. But a time must come when our policy and bravery shall be equally useless; when we shall all sink into helplessness and sadness, without any power of receiving solace from the pleasures that have formerly delighted us, or any prospect of emerging into a second possession of the blessings that we have lost.
The industry of man has, indeed, not been wanting in endeavours to procure comforts for these hours of dejection and melancholy, and to gild the dreadful gloom with artificial light. The most usual support of old
is wealth. He whose possessions are large, and whose chests are full, imagines himself always fortified against invasions on his authority. If he has lost all other means of government, if his strength and his reason fail hiin, he can at last alter his will; and, therefore, all that have hopes must likewise have fears, and he may still continue to give lau's to such as have not ceased to regard their own interest.
This is, indeed, too frequently the citadel of the dotard, the last fortress to which age retires, and
in which he makes the stand against the upstart race that seizes his domains, disputes his commands, and cancels his prescriptions.
But here, though there may be safety, there is no pleasure; and what remains is but a proof that more was once possessed.
Nothing seems to have been more universally dreaded by the ancients than orbity, or want of children; and, indeed, to a man who has survived all the companions of his youth, all who have participated his pleasures and his cares, have been engaged in the same events, and filled their minds with the same conceptions, this full-peopied world is a dismal solitude. He stands forlorn and silent, neglected or insulted, in the midst of multitudes, animated with hopes which he cannot share, and employed in business which he is no longer able to forward or retard; nor can he find any to whom his life or his death are of importance, unless he has secured some domestick gratifications, some tender employments, and endeared himself to some whose interest and gratitude may unite them to him.
So different are the colours of life as we look forward to the future, or backward to the past; and so different the opinions and sentiments which this contrariety of appearance naturally produces, that the conversation of the old and young ends geNerally with contempt or pity on cither side. To a young man entering the world with fulness of kopc, and ardour of pursuit, nothing is so unpleasing as the cold caution, the faint expectations, the scrupulous diffidence, which experience and disappointments certainly infuse; and the old man wonders in F F 3