Obrázky stránek

of philosophers and divines. It gives so warning a concussion to those props of our vanity, our strength and youth, that we think of fortifying ourselves within, when there is so little dependence upon our outworks. Youth at the very best is but a betrayer of human life in a gentler and a smoother manner than age: it is like a stream that nourishes a plant upon a bank, and causes it to flourish and blossom to the sight, but at the same time is undermining it at the root in secret. My youth has dealt more fairly and openly with me; it has afforded several prospects of my danger, and given me an advantage not very common to young men, that the attractions of the world have not dazzled me very much; and I begin, where most people end, with a full conviction of the emptiness of all sorts of ambition, and the unsatisfactory nature of all human pleasures. When a smart fit of sickness tells me this scurvy tenement of my body will fall in a little time, I am even as unconcerned as was that honest Hibernian, who being in bed in the great storm some years ago, and told the house would tumble over his head, made answer, "What care I for the house? I am only a lodger." I fancy it is the best time to die when one is in the best humour; and so excessively weak as I now am, I may say with conscience, that I am not at all uneasy at the thought that many men, whom I never had any esteem for, are likely to enjoy this world after me. When I reflect what an inconsiderable little atom every single man is, with respect to to the whole creation, methinks it is a shame to be concerned at the removal of such a trivial animal as I am. The morning after my exit, the sun will rise as

bright as ever, the flowers smell as sweet, the plants spring as green, the world will proceed in its old course, people will laugh as heartily, and marry as fast, as they were used to do. The memory of man (as it is elegantly expressed in the Book of Wisdom) passeth away as the remembrance of a guest that tarrieth but one day. There are reasons enough, in the fourth chapter of the same book, to make any young man contented with the prospect of death. "For honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, or is measured by number of years. But wisdom is the gray hair to man, and an unspotted life is old age. He was taken away speedily, lest wickedness should alter his understanding, or deceit beguile his soul," &c. -I am your, &c.

Autumn Scenery.

Do not talk of the decay of the year; the season is good when the people are so. It is the best time in the year for a painter; there is more variety of colours in the leaves; the prospects begin to open, through the thinner woods over the valleys, and through the high canopies of trees to the higher arch of heaven; the dews of the morning impearl every thorn, and scatter diamonds on the verdant mantle of the earth; the forests are fresh and wholesome. What would you have? The moon shines too, though not for lovers, these cold nights, but for astronomers.

Party Zeal.

There never was any party, faction, sect, or cabal whatsoever, in which the most ignorant were not the most violent; for a bee is not a busier animal than a blockhead. However, such instruments are necessary to politicians; and perhaps it may be with states as with clocks, which must have some dead weight hanging at them, to help and regulate the motion of the finer and more useful parts.

Acknowledgment of Error.

A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser to day than he was yesterday.


What Tully says of war may be applied to disputing; it should be always so managed, as to remember that the only true end of it is peace; but generally true disputants are like true sportsmen, their whole delight is in the pursuit; and a disputant no more cares for the truth than the sportsman for the hare.

Growing Virtuous in Old Age.

When men grow virtuous in their old age, they only make a sacrifice to God of the devil's leavings.


He who tells a lie is not sensible how great a task he undertakes; for he must be forced to invent twenty more to maintain one.


(Died in 1735.)

[DR. JOHN ARBUTHNOT, the friend of Pope, Swift, Gay, and Prior, was associated with his brother wits in some of the humorous productions of the day. The most durable monument of his humour was his History of John Bull, intended to ridicule the Duke of Marlborough. One of the severest of his occasional pieces is the following epitaph on Colonel Chartres, a notorious gambler and money-lender, who was tried and condemned for attempting to commit an infamous crime.]


Here continueth to rot the body of Francis Chartres, who, with an inflexible constancy, and inimitable uniformity of life, persisted, in spite of age and infirmities, in the practice of every human vice, excepting prodigality and hypocrisy; his insatiable avarice exempted him from the first, his matchless impudence from the second. Nor was he more singular in the undeviating pravity of his manners than successful in accumulating wealth; for, without trade or profession, without trust of public money, and without bribeworthy service, he acquired, or more properly created

a ministerial estate.

He was the only person of his time who could cheat with the mask of honesty, retain his primeval meanness when possessed of ten thousand a-year, and having daily deserved the gibbet for what he did, was at last condemned to it for what he could not do. Oh, indignant reader! think not his life useless to mankind. Providence connived at his execrable designs, to give to after ages a conspicuous proof and example of how small estimation is exorbitant wealth in the sight of God, by his bestowing it on the most unworthy of all mortals.



[LORD BOLINGBROKE made a large figure among the distinguished men of his day. His writings, like his statesmanship, display more genius than correct principle. His chief works are Letters on the Study of History, Reflections on Exile, Idea of a Patriot King, &c.]

Absurdity of Useless Learning.

Some [histories] are to be read, some are to be studied, and some may be neglected entirely, not only without detriment, but with advantage. Some are the proper objects of one man's curiosity, some of another's, and some of all men's; but all history is not an object of curiosity for any man. He who improperly, wantonly, and absurdly makes it so, indulges a sort of canine appetite; the curiosity of one, like the hunger of the other, devours ravenously, and without

« PředchozíPokračovat »