« PředchozíPokračovat »
much care, as he who endeavours after the most happiness.”
In the second place, every one ought to reflect how much more unhappy he might be than he really is. The former consideration took in all those who are sufficiently provided with the means to make themselves easy; this regards such as actually lie under some pressure or rnisfortune. These may receive great alleviation, from such a comparison as the unhappy person may make between himself and others; or between the misfortune which he suffers, and greater misfortunes which might have befallen him.
I like the story of the honest Dutchman, who, upon breaking his leg by a fall from the main-mast, told the standers by, it was a great mercy that it was not his neck. To which, since I am got into quotations, give me leave to add the saying of an old philosopher, who, after having invited some of his friends to dine with him, was ruffled by a person that came into the room in a passion, and threw down the table that stood before him: “Every one,” says he, " has his calamity; and he is a happy man that has no greater than this.”
We find an instance to the same purpose, in the life of Doctor Hammond, written by Bishop Fell. As this good man was troubled with a complication of distempers, when he had the gout upon him, he used to thank God that it was not the stone; and when he had the stone, that he had not both these distempers on him at the same time.
I cannot conclude this essay without observing, that there never was any system besides that of Christianity, which could effectually produce in the mind of man, the virtue I have been hitherto speaking of. In order to make us contented with our condition, many of the present philosophers tell us, that our discontent only hurts ourselves, without being able to make any alteration in our circumstances; others that whatever evil be. falls us is derived to us by a fatal necessity, to which superior beings themselves are subject; while others, very gravely, tell the man who is miserable, that it is necessary he should be so, to keep up the harmony of the universe; and that the scheme of Providence would be troubled and perverted, were he otherwise.
These, and the like considerations, rather silence than satisfy a man. They may show him that his discontent is unreasonable, but they are by no means sufficient to relieve it. They rather give despair than consolation. In a word, a man might reply to one of these comforters, as Augustus did to his friend, who advised him not to grieve for the death of a person whom he loved, because his grief could not fetch hin again : “ It is for that very reason," said the emperor, that I grieve."
On the contrary, religion bears a more tender regard to human nature. It prescribes to every miserable man the means of bettering his condition: nay, it shows him, that bearing his afflictions as he ought to do, will naturally end in the removal of them. It makes him easy here, because it can make him happy hereafter.
(1661 - 1731.)
[DANIEL DEFOE may justly be considered the founder of the English Novel. His Robinson Crusoe, is not only the first in order of time, of that class of works in our language, but to this day remains unrivalled in many important particulars. Defoe was incapable of romance. His imagination created no scenes of surpassing loveliness or splendor. His mind possessed little delicacy, he seldoın gives expression to pathos. His forte lay in the narration of adventures, not in the delineation of passion or character. He had a perfect mastery in the art of invention, an almost unbounded power in creating incidents and situations. His minute and circumstantial details, combined with their entire naturalness, cheat the reader into the belief of the reality and truth of what he reads. In this power of feigning reality, or forging the handwriting of nature, as it has not una ptly been termed, Defoe has never been surpassed. In addition to Robinson Crusoe, he wrote many other works of fiction, of various degrees of excellence, besides a large number of satirical and political pieces. His books and pamphlets indeed were no less than 210 in number. The extract which is given is from his description of the Great Plague in London.]
The Great Plague in London.
Much about the same time I walked out into the fields towards Bow, for I had a great mind to see how things were managed in the river, and among the ships; and as I had some concern in shipping, I had a notion that it had been one of the best ways of securing one's self from the infection, to have retired into a ship; and musing how to satisfy my curiosity in that point, I turned away over the fields, from Bow to Bromley,
and down to Blackwall, to the stairs that are there for landing or taking water.
Here I saw a poor man walking on the bank or seawall, as they call it, by himself. I walked a while also about, seeing the houses all shut up; at last I fell into some talk, at a distance, with this poor man. First I asked him how people did thereabouts ? Alas! sir, says he, almost desolate: all dead or sick: Here are very few families in this part, or in that village, pointing at Poplar, where half of them are not dead already, and the rest sick. Then he, pointing to one house, There they are all dead, said he, and the house stands open; nobody dares to go into it. A poor thief, says he, ventured in to steal something, but he paid dear for his theft, for he was carried to the churchyard too, last night. Then he pointed to several other houses. There, says he, they are all dead; the man and his wife and five children. There, says he, they are shut up; you see a watchman at the door; and so of other houses. Why, says I, what do you here all alone? Why, says he, I am a poor desolate man; it hath pleased God I am not yet visited, though my family is, and one of my children dead. mean then, said I, that you are not visited ? Why, says he, that is my house, pointing to a very little low boarded house, and there my poor wife and two children live, said he, if they may be said to live; for my wife and one of the children are visited, but I do not come at them. And with that word I saw the tears run very plentifully down his face; and so they did down mine too, I assure you.
But, said I, why do you not come at them? How can you abandon your own flesh and blood ? Oh, sir,
How do you says he, the Lord forbid; I do not abandon them; I work for them as much as I am able ; and, blessed be the Lord, I keep them from want. And with that I observed he lifted up his eyes to heaven with a countenance that presently told me I had happened on a man that was no hypocrite, but a serious, religious, good man: and his ejaculation was an expression of thankfulness, that in such a condition as he was in, he should be able to say his family did not want. Well, says I, honest man, that is a great mercy, as things go now with the poor. But how do you live then, and how are you kept from the dreadful calamity that is now upon us all? Why, sir, says he, I am a waterman, and there is my boat, says he, and the boat serves me for a house; I work in it in the day, and I sleep in it in the night, and what I get I lay it down upon that stone, says he, showing me a broad stone on the other side of the street, a good way from his house; and then, says he, I halloo and call to them till I make them hear, and they come and fetch it.
Well, friend, says I, but how can you get money as a waterman? Does anybody go by water these times ? Yes, sir, says he, in the way I am employed there does. Do you see there, says he, five ships lie at anchor ? pointing down the river a good way below the town; and do you see, says he, eight or ten ships lie at the chain there, and at anchor yonder ? pointing above the town. All those ships have families on board, of their merchants and owners, and such like, who have locked themselves up and live on board, close shut in, for fear of the infection; and I tend on them to fetch things for them, carry letters, and do what is absolutely necessary, that they may not be