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another, and will fight rather than be hanged. I rage than other men, yet was often involunta. They therefore landed, but with great loss, rily wishing for a war, but of a war at that time their engineers had, in the last war with the I had no prospect; and being enabled, by the French, learned something of the military sci- death of an uncle, to live without my pay, I ence, and made their approaches with sufficient quitted the army, and resolved to regulate my skil! ; but all their efforts had been without ef- own motions. fect, had not a ball uniortunately fallen into the I was pleased, for a while, with the novelty powder of one our ships, which communicated of independence, and imagined that I had now the fire to the rest, and, by opening the passage found what every man desires. My time was of the harbour, obliged the garrison to capi- in my own power, and my habitation was tulate. Thus was Louisbourg lost, and our wherever my choice should fix it. I amused troops marched out with the admiration of their myself for two years in passing from place to snemies, who durst hardly think themselves place, and comparing one convenience with masters of the place.”
ancther; but being at last ashamed of inquiry, and weary of uncertainty, I purchased a house,
and established my family. No. 21.) SATURDAY, Sept. 2, 1758.
I now expected to begin to be happy, and
was happy for a short time with that expectaTO THE IDLER.
tion. But I soon perceived my spirits to sub
side, and my imagination to grow dark. The Dear Mr. IDLER,
gloom thickened every day around me. I wonThere is a species of misery, or of disease, dered by what malignant power my peace was for which our language is commonly supposed blasted, till I discovered at last that I had no to be without a name, but which I think is thing to do. emphatically enough denominated listlessness,
Time, with all its celerity, moves slowly to and which is commonly termed a want of some- | him whose whole employment is to watch its thing to do.
flight. I am forced upon a thousand shifts to of the unhappiness of this state I do not ex. enable me to endure the tediousness of the pect all your readers to have an adequate idea. day. I rise when I can sleep no longer, and Many are overburthened with business, and can take my morning walk ; I see what I have imagine no comfort but in rest; many have seen before, and return. I set down and perminds so placid, as willingly to indulge a vo- suade myself that I sit down to think, find it luntary lethargy; or so narrow, as easily to be impossible to think without a subject, rise up filled to their utmost capacity. By these I to inquire after news, and endeavour to kindle shall not be understood, and therefore cannot in myself an artificial impatience for intelli. be pitied.
Those only will sympathise with gence of events, which will never extend any my complaint, whose imagination is active and consequence to me, but that a few minutes resolution weak, whose desires are ardent, and they abstract me from myself. whose choice is delicate; who cannot satisfy
When I have heard any thing that may grathemselves with standing still, and yet cannot tify curiosity, I am busied for a while in runfind a motive to direct their course.
ning to relate it. I hasten from one place of I was the second son of a gentleman, whose concourse to another, delighted with my own estate was barely sufficient to support himself importance, and proud to think that I am doand his heir in the dignity of killing game. He ing something, though I know that another therefore made use of the interest which the hour would spare my labour. alliances of his family afforded him, to procure
I had once a round of visits, which I paid me a post in the army. I passed some years very regularly; but I have now tired most of in the most contemptible of all human stations, my friends. When I have sat down I forget to that of a soldier in time of peace. I wandered rise, and have more than once overheard one with the regiment as the quarters were chang- asking another when I would be gone. I pered, without opportunity for business, taste for ceive the company tired, I observe the mistress knowledge, or money for pleasure. Wherever of the family whispering to her servants, I find I came, I was for some time a stranger with-orders given to put off business till to-morrow, out curiosity, and afterwards an acquaintance I see the watches frequently inspected, and yet without friendship: Having nothing to hope cannot withdraw to the vacuity of solitude, or in these places of fortuitous residence, I re
venture myself in my own company, signed my conduct to chance; I had no inten
Thus burthensome to myself and others, I tion to offend, I had no ambition to delight. form many schemes of employment which may I
suppose every man is shocked when he make my life useful or agreeable, and exempt hears how frequently soldiers are wishing for me from the ignominy of living by sufferance.
The wish is not always sincere ; the This new course I have long designed, but greater part are content with sleep and 'lace,'have not yet begun. The present moment is and counterfeit an ardour which they do not never proper for the change, but there is alfeel; but those who desire it most are neither ways a time in view when all obstacles will be prompted by malevolence nor patriotism; they removed, and I shall surprise all that know me neither pant for laurels nor delight in blood; with a new distribution of my time. Twenty but long to be delivered from the tyranny of years have passed since I have resolved a idleness, and restored to the dignity of active complete amendment, and twenty years have beings.
been lost in delays. Age is coming upon me; I never imagined myself to have more cou- / and I should look back with rage and despair
upon the waste of life, but that I am now be Since poverty is punished among us as a ginning in earnest to begin a reformation. crime, it ought at least to be treated with the I am, Sir,
same lenity as other crimes: the offender ought Your humble servant,
not to languish at the will of him whom he Dick LINGER. has offended, but to be allowed some appeal
to the justice of his country. There can be no
reason why any debtor should be imprisoned, No. 22.] SATURDAY Sept. 16 1758. but that he may be compelled to payment; and
a term should therefore be fixed, in which the TO THE IDLER.
creditor should exhibit his accusation of con
cealed property. If such property can be disSIR,
covered, let it be given to the creditor; if the As I was passing lately under one of the gates charge is not offered, or cannot be proved, let of this city, I was struck with horror by a rue- the prisoner be dismissed. ful cry which summoned me to remember the Those who made the laws have apparently
supposed, that every deficiency of payment is The wisdom and justice of the English laws the crime of the debtor. But the truth is, that are, by Englishmen at least loudly, celebrated: the creditor always shares the act, and often but scarcely the most zealous admirers of our more than shares the guilt of improper trust. institutions can think that law wise, which, It seldom happens that any man imprisons an. when men are capable of work, obliges them other but for debts which he suffered to be conto beg; or just, which exposes the liberty of tracted in hope of advantage to himself, and one to the passions of another.
for bargains in which he proportioned his proThe prosperity of a people is proportionate fit to his own opinion of the hazard; and there to the number of hands and minds usefully em- is no reason why one should punish the other ployed. To the community, sedition is a fever, for a contract in which both concurred. corruption is a gangrene, and idleness is an Many of the inhabitants of prisons may justly atrophy. Whatever body, and whatever society complain of harder treatment. He that once wastes more than it acquires, must gradually owes more than he can pay, is often obliged to decay; and every being that continues to be bribe his creditor to patience, by increasing hi fed, and ceases to labour, takes away some- debt. Worse and worse commodities, at a thing from the public stock.
higher and higher price, are forced upon him; The confinement, therefore, of any man in he is impoverished by compulsive traffic, and the sloth and darkness of a prison, is a loss to at last overwhelmed, in the common receptathe nation, and no gain to the creditor. For of cles of misery, by debts, which, without his own the multitudes who are pining in those cells of consent, were accumulated on his head. To misery, a very small part is suspected of any the relief of this distress, no other objection fraudulent act by which they retain what be- can be made, but that by an easy dissolution of longs to others. The rest are imprisoned by debts, fraud will be left without punishment, the wantonness of pride, the malignity of re- and imprudence without awe; and that when venge, or the acrimony of dissappointed ex- insolvency should be no longer punishable, pectation.
credit will cease. If those, who thus rigorously exercise the The motive to credit is the hope of advanpower which the law has put into their hands, tage. Commerce can never be at a stop, while be asked, why they continue to imprison those one man wants what another can supply; and whom they know to be unable to pay them? credit will never be denied, while it is likely to one will answer, that his debtor once lived bet- be repaid with profit. He that trusts one whom ter than himself; another, that his wife looked he designs to sue, is criminal by the act of trust above her neighbours, and his children went in the cessation of such insiduous traffic is to be silk clothes to the dancing-school; and another, desired, and no reason can be given why a that he pretended to be a joker and a wit. Some change of the law should impair any other. will reply, that if they were in debt, they should We see nation trade with nationi, where no meet with the same treatment; some, that they payment can be compelled. Mutual conveni owe no more than they can pay, and need there-ence produces mutual confidence; and the mer. fore give no account of their actions. Some chants continue to satisfy the demands of each will confess their resolution that their debtors other, though they have nothing to dread but shall rot in gaol ; and some will discover, that the loss of trade. they hope, by cruelty, to wring the payment It is vain to continue an institution, which from their friends.
experience shows to be ineffectual. We have The end of all civil regulations is, to secure now imprisoned one generation of debtors after private happiness from private malignity; to another, but we do not find that their numbers keep individuals from the power of one another: lessen. We have now learned that rashness but this end is apparently neglected, when a and imprudence will not be deterred from takman, irritated with loss, is allowed to be the ing credit ; let us try, whether fraud and avajudge of his own cause, and to assign the pu- rice may be more easily restrained from giv. nishment of his own pain; when the distinc- ing it. tion between guilt and happiness, between
I am, Sir, &c. casualty and design, is entrusted to eyes blind with interest, to understandings depraved by resentment.
No. 23.) SATURDAY, Sept. 23, 1758. rate. There is scarcely any man without some
favourite trifle which he values above greate. Life has no pleasure higher or nobler than attainments, some desire of petty praise which that of friendship. It is painful to consider, he cannot patiently suffer to be frustrated. This that this sublime enjoyment may be impaired minute ambition is sometimes crossed before or destroyed by innumerable causes, and that it is known, and sometimes defeated by wan. there is no human possession of which the ton petulance ; but such attacks are seldom duration is less certain.
made without the loss of friendship ; for whoMany have talked, in very exalted language,
ever has once found the vulnerable part will of the perpetuity of friendship, of invincible always be feared, and the resentment will burn constancy, and unalienable kindness; and on in secret, of which shame hinders the dissome examples have been seen of men who
covery: have continued faithful to their earliest choice, and whose affection has predominated over I wise man will obviate as inconsistent wita
This, however, is a slow malignity, which a changes of fortune, and contrariety of opinion. quiet, and a good man will repress as contrary
But these instances are memorable, because to virtue; but human happiness is sometimes they are rare. The friendship which is to be violated by some more sudden strokes. practised or expected by common mortals, must
A dispute begun in jest upon a subject which take its rise from mutual pleasure, and must
a moment before was on both parts regarded end when power ceases of delighting each with careless indifference, is continued by the other.
desire of conquest, till vanity kindles into rage, Many accidents therefore may happen, by and opposition rankles into enmity. Against which the ardour of kindness will be abated, this hasty mischief, I know not what security without criminal baseness or contemptible in- can be obtained; men will be sometimes sur. constancy on either part. To give pleasure is not always in our power; and little does he prised into quarrels; and though they might
both hasten to reconciliation, as soon as their know himself
, who believes that he can be al- tumult had subsided, yet two minds will seldom ways able to receive it.
be found together, which can at once subdue Those who would gladly pass their days to their discontent, or immediately enjoy the gether may be separated by the different course of their affairs: and friendship, like love, is wounds of the conflict.
sweets of peace, without remembering the destroyed by long absence, though it may
Friendship has other enemies. Suspicion is increased by short intermissions. What we have missed long enough to want it, we value always hardening the cautious, and disgust remore when it is regained; but that which has will sometimes part those whom long recipro
pelling the delicate. Very slender differences been lost till it is forgotten, will be found at cation of civility or beneficence has united. last with little gladness, and with still less, if Lonelove and Ranger retired into the country a substitute has supplied the place. A man
to enjoy the company of each other, and redeprived of the companion to whom he used to turned in six weeks cold and petulant: Ran. open his bosom, and with whom he shared the ger's pleasure was, to walk in the fields, and hours of leisure and merriment, feels the day Lonelove's to sit in a bower; each had comat first hanging heavy on him ; his difficul
plied with the other in his turn, and each wag ties oppress, and his doubts distraet him; he sees time come and go without his wonted angry that compliance had been exacted. gratification, and all is sadness within and ual decay, or dislike hourly increased by cau
The most fatal disease of friendship is gradsolitude about him. But this uneasiness never lasts long ; necessity produces expedients, new for removal. Those who are angry may be re
ses too slender for complaint and too numerous amusements are discovered, and new conver
conciled ; those who have been injured may ·sation is admitted.
receive a recompense; but when the desire No expectation is more frequently disappointed, than that which naturally arises in the of pleasing and willingness to be pleased is mind from the prospect of meeting an old silently diminished, the renovation of friendship friend after long separation. We expect the is hopeless; as, when the vital powers sink attraction to be revived, and the coalition to be into langour, there is no longer any use of the renewed; no man considers how much altera
physician. tion time' has made in himself, and very few inquire what effect it has haduponothers. The No. 24.] Saturday, Sept. 30, 1758. first hour convinces them, that the pleasure which they have formerly enjoyed, is forever When man sees one of the inferior creatures at an end; different scenes have made differ- perched upon a tree or basking in the sunshine, ent impressions; the opinions of both are without any apparent endeavour or pursuit, he changed; and that similitude of manners and often asks himself, or his companion, On what sentiment is lost which confirmed them both that animal can be supposed to be thinking ? in the approbation of themselves.
Of this question since neither bird nor beast Friendship is often destroyed by opposition can answer it, we must be content to live with. of interest, not only by the ponderous and visi- out the resolution. We know not how much ble interest which the desire of wealth and the brutes recollect of the past, or anticipate of greatness forms and maintains, but by a thou- the future; what power they have of comparing sand secret and slight competitions, scarcely and preferring; or whether their faculties may known to the mind upon which they ope- | not rest in motionless indifference, till they are
moved by the presence of their proper object, day do something which we forget when it 19 or stimulated to act by corporal sensations. done, and know to have been done only by con
I am the less inclined to these superfluous in- sequence. The waking hours are not denied to quiries, because I have always been able to have been passed in thought; yet he that shall find sufficient matter for curiosity in my own endeavour to recollect on one day the ideas of species. It is useless to go far in quest of that the former, will only turn the eye of reflection which may be found at home; a very narrow upon vacancy; he will find, that the greater circle of observation will supply a sufficient part is irrevocably vanished, and wonder how aumber of men and women, who might be the moments could come and go, and leave so asked, with equal propriety, On what they can little behind them. be thinking ?
To discover only that the arguments on both It is reasonable to believe, that thought, like sides are defective, and to throw back the every thing else, has its causes and effects; that tenet into its former uncertainty, is the sport of it must proceed from something known, done, wanton or malevolent scepticism, delighting or suffered; and must produce some action or to see the sons of philosophy at work upon a
Yet how great is the number of those task which never can be decided. I shall in whose minds no source of thought has ever suggest an argument hitherto overlooked, been opened, in whose life no thought of conse- which may perhaps determine the controversy. quence is ever discovered; who have learned If it be impossible to think without materials, nothing upon which they can reflect; who have there must necessarily be minds that do not neither seen nor felt any thing which could always think ; and whence shall we furnish leave its traces on the memory; who neither materials for the meditation of the glutton beforesee nor desire any change of their condi- tween his meals, of the sportsman in a rainy tion, and have therefore neither fear hope, nor month, of the annuitant between the days of design, and yet are supposed to be thinking quarterly payment, of the politician when the beings.
mails are detained by contrary winds ? To every act a subject is required. He that But how frequent soever may be the examthinks must think upon something. But tell ples of existence without thought, it is certainly me, ye that pierce deepest into nature, ye that a state not much to be desired. He that lives take the widest surveys of life, inform me, kind in torpid insensibility, wants nothing of a carshades of Malbranche and of Locke, what cass but putrefaction. It is the part of every that something can be, which excites and con- inhabitant of the earth to partake the pains and tinues thought in maiden aunts with small for- pleasures of his fellow-beings; and, as in a tunes; in younger brothers that live upon an- road through a country desert and uniform, the nuities; in traders retired from business; in traveller languishes for want of amusement, so soldiers absent from their regiments; or in the passage of life will be tedious and irksome widows that have no children ?
to him who does not beguile it by diversified Life is commonly considered as either active ideas. or contemplative; but surely this division, how long soever it has been received, is inadequate and fallacious. There are mortals whose life No. 25.] SATURDAY, Oct. 7, 1758. is certainly not active for they do neither good nor evil; and whose life cannot be properly call
TO THE IDLER. ed contemplative, for they never attend either to the conduct of men, or the works of nature, SIR, but rise in the morning, look round them till I am am a very constant frequenter of the playnight in careless stupidity, go to bed and sleep, house, a place to which I suppose the Idler not and rise again in the morning.
much a stranger, since he can have no where It has been lately a celebrated question in the else so much entertainment with so little conschools of philosophy, Whether the soul always currence of his own endeavour. At all other thinks ? Some have defined the soul to be the assemblies he that comes to receive delight, power of thinking; concluded that its essence will be expected to give it; but in the theatre consists in act; that, if it should cease to act, nothing is necessary to the amusement of two it would cease to be; and that cessation of hours, but to sit down and be willing to be thought is but another name for extinction of pleased, mind. This argument is subtile, but not con The last week has offered two new actors to clusive; because it supposes what cannot be the town. The appearance and retirement of proved, that the nature of mind is properly actors are the great events of the theatrical defined. Others affect to disdain subtilty, world; and their first performance fills the pit when subtilty will not serve their purpose, with conjecture and prognostication, as the first and appeal to daily experience. We spend actions of a new monarch agitate nations with many hours, they say, in sleep, without the hope or fear. least remembrance of any thoughts which What opinion I have formed of the future then passed in our minds; and since we can excellence of these candidates for dramatic only by our own consciousness be sure that glory, it is not necessary to declare. Their en. we think, why thould we imagine that we have trance gave me a higher and nobler pleasure had thought of which no consciousness re than any borrowed character can afford. I saw mains ?
the ranks of the theatre emulating each other This argument, which appeals to experience, in candour and humanity, and contending who may from experience be confuted. We every 1 should most effectually assist the struggles of
endeavour, dissipate the blush of diffidence, | They that enter into the world are too often and still the flutter of timidity.
treated with unreasonable rigour by those that This behaviour is such as becomes a people, were once as ignorant and heady as themselves; too tender to repress those who wish to please, and distinction is not always made between the too generous to insult those who can make no faults which require speedy and violent eradicaresistance. A public performer is so much in tion, and those that will gradually drop away the power of spectators, that all unnecessary in the progression of life. Vicious solicitations severity is restrained by that general law of of appetite, if not checked will grow more humanity which forbids us to be cruel, where importunate; and mean arts of profit or ambithere is nothing to be feared.
tion will gather strength in the mind, if they In every new performer something must be are not early suppressed. But mistaken notions pardoned. No man can by any force of reso- of superiority, desires of useless show, pride lution, secure to himself the full posession of of little accomplishments, and all the train of his own powers under the eye of a large assem- vanity, will be brushed away by the wing of bly. Variation of gesture, and flexion of voice, | Time. are to be obtained only by experience.
Reproof should not exhaust its power upon There is nothing for which such numbers petty failings; let it watch diligently against think themselves qualified as for theatrical ex- the incursion of vice, and leave foppery and hibition. Every human being has an action futility to die of themselves. graceful to his own eye, a voice musical to his own ear, and a sensibility which nature forbids him to know that any other bosom can excel. No. 26.] SATURDAY, Oct: 14, 1758. An art in which such numbers fancy themselves excellent, and which the public liberally MR. IDLER, rewards, will excite many competitors, and in I never thought that I should write any thing many attempts there must be many miscar- to be printed; but having lately seen your first riages.
essay, which was sent down into the kitchen, The care of the critic should be to distinguish with a great bundle of gazettes and uselss pa. error from inability, faults of inexperience from pers, I find that you are willing to admit any defects of nature. Action irregular and turbu- correspondent, and therefore hope you will not lent may be reclaimed ; vociferation vehement reject me. If you publish my letter, it may and confused may be restrained and modulated; encourage others, in the same condition with the stalk of the tyrant may become the gait of myself, to tell their stories, which may be per, the man; the yell of inarticulate distress may haps as useful as those of great ladies. be reduced to human lamentation. All these I am a poor girl. I was bred in the country faults should be for a time overlooked, and af- at a charity-school, maintained by the contri terwards censured with gentleness and can-butions of wealthy neighbours. The ladies, or dour. But if in an actor there appears an utter patronesses, visited us from time to time, exvacancy of meaning, a frigid equality, a stupid amined how we were taught, and saw that our languor, a torbid apathy, the greatest kindness clothes were clean. We lived happily enough, that can be shown him, is a speedy sentence and were instructed to be thankful to those at of expulsion.
whose cost we were educated. I was always I am, Sir &c. the favourite of my mistress ; she used to call
me to read, and show my copy-book to all The plea which my correspondent has offered strangers, who never dismissed me without for young actors, I am very far from wishing to commendation, and very seldom without a invalidate. I always considered those combina- shiling. tions which are sometimes formed in the play At last the chief of our subscribers, having house, as acts of fraud or of cruelty ; he that passed a winter in London, came down full of applauds him who does not deserve praise, is an opinion new and strange to the whole counendeavouring to deceive the public : he that try. She held it little less than criminal to hisses in malice or sport, is an oppressor and teach poor girls to read and write. They who a robber.
are born to poverty, said she, are born to ignoBut surely this laudable forbearance might be rance, and will work the harder the less they justly extended to young poets. The art of the know. writer, like that of the player, is attained by She told her friends, that London was in slow degrees. The power of distinguishing and confusion by the insolence of servants; that discriminating comic characters, or of filling scarcely a wench was to be got for all work, since tragedy with poetical images, must be the gift education had made such numbers of fine laof nature, which no instruction nor labour can dies, that nobody would now accept a lower title supply; but the art of dramatic disposition, the than that of a waiting-maid or something that contexture of the scenes, the opposition of cha- might qualify her to wear laced shoes and long racters, the involution
the plot, the expedi- ruffles, and to sit at work in the parlour winents of suspension, and the stratagems of sur- dow. But she was resolved, for her part, to prise are to be learned by practice; and it is spoil no more girls; those, who were to live by cruel to discourage a poet for ever, because he their hands, should neither read nor write out has not from genius what only experience can of her pocket; the world was bad enough albestow.
ready, and she would have mo part in making Life is a stage. Let me likewise solicit can- it worse. dour for the young actor on the stage of life. She was for a short time wamly opposed