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ness all the niceties of ceremony, and distriTO THE IDLER.
buted her notice in the most punctilions proSIF.,
portions to the friends who surrounded us with The uncertainty and defects of language have their happy auguries. produced very frequent complaints among the
But the time soon came when we were left learned; yet there still remain many words to ourselves, and were to receive our pleasures among us undefined, which are very necessa- from each other, and I then began to perceive ry to be rightly understood, and which produce that I was not formed to be much delighted by very mischievous mistakes when they are er a good sort of woman. Her great principle roneously interpreted.
is, that the orders of a family must not be I lived in a state of celibacy beyond the usual broken. Every hour of the day has its emtime. In the hurry first of pleasure, and af-ployment inviolably appropriated; nor will terwards of business, I felt •no want of a any importunity persuade her to walk in the domestic companion ; but becoming weary of garden at the time which she has devoted to labour, I soon grew more weary of idleness, her needlework, or to sit up stairs in that part and thought it reasonable to follow the custom of the forenoon which she has accustomed of life, and to seek some solace of my cares herself to spend in the back parlour. She alin female tenderness, and some amusement of lows herself to sit half an hour after breakfast, my leisure in female cheerfulness.
and an hour after dinner; while I am talking The choice which has been long delayed is or reading to her, she keeps her eye upon her commonly made at last with great caution. watch, and when the minute of departure My resolution was, to keep my passions neu- comes, will leave an argument unfinished, or tral, and to marry only in compliance with my the intrigue of a play unravelled. She once
I drew upon a page of my pocket- called me to supper when I was watching an book a scheme of all female virtues and vices, eclipse, and summoned me at another time to with the vices which border upon every virtue, bed when I was going to give directions at a and the virtues which are allied to every vice. fire. I considered that wit was sarcastic, and mag
Her conversation is so habitually cautious, nanimity imperious; that avarice was econo- that she never talks to me but in general terms, mical, and ignorance obsequious ; and having as to one whom it is dangerous to trust. For estimated the good and evil of every quality, discriminations of character she has no names: employed my own diligence, and that of my all whom she mentions are honest men and friends, to find the lady in whom nature and agreeable women. She smiles not by sensareason had reached that happy mediocrity tion, but by practice. Her laughter is never which is equally remote from exuberance and excited but by a joke, and her notion of a joke deficience.
is not very delicate. The repetition of a good Every woman had her admirers and her cen-joke does not weaken its effect; if she has
and the expectations which one raised laughed once, she will laugh again. were by another quickly depressed; yet there She is an enemy to nothing but ill-nature was one in whose favour almost all suffrages and pride; but she has frequent reason to laconcurred. Miss Gentle was universally al- ment that they are so frequent in the world. lowed to be a good sort of woman. Her for- All who are not equally pleased with the good tune was not large, but so prudently managed, and the bad, with ihe elegant and gross, with that she wore finer clothes, and saw more the witty and the dull, all who distinguish excel. company, than many who were known to be lence from defect, she considers as ill-natured; twice as rich. Miss Gentle's visits were every and she condemns as proud all who repress where welcome ; and whatever family she fa- impertinence or quell presumption, or expect voured with her company, she always left respect from any other eminence than that of behind her such a degree of kindness as fortune, to which she is always willing to pay recommended her to others. Every day ex- homage. tended her acquaintance; and all who knew There are none whom she openly hates, for her declared that they never met with a better if once she suffers, or believes herself to suf sort of woman.
fer, any contempt or insult, she never dismiss To Miss Gentle I made my addresses, and es it from her mind, but takes all opportuniwas received with great equality of temper. ties to tell how easily she can forgive. There She did not in the days of courtship assume are none whom she loves much better than the privilege of imposing rigorous commands, others; for when any of her acquaintance or resenting slight offences. If I forgot any decline in the opinion of the world, she always of her injunctions, I was gently reminded; if finds it inconvenient to visit them; her affecI missed the minute of appointment, I was tion continues unaltered, but it is impossible easily forgiven. I foresaw nothing in mar
to be intimate with the whole town. riage but a halcyon calm, and longed for the She daily exercises her benevolence by pityhappiness which was to he found in the inse- ing every misfortune that happens to every faparable society of a good sort of woman. mjly within her circle of notice; she is in
The jointure was soon settled by the inter-hourly terrors lest one should catch cold in the vention of friends, and the day came in which rain, and another be frighted by the high wind. Miss Gentle was made mine for ever. The Her charity she shows by lamenting that so first month was passed casily enough in re- many poor wretches should languish in the ceiving and repaying the civilities of our streets, and by wondering what the great can
think on that they do so little good with such | busy through the rest of my life in combining large estates.
and comparing. I shall revel in inexhaustible Her house is elegant and her table dainty, accumulations of intellectual riches; I shall though she has little taste of elegance, and is find new pleasures for every moment, and shall wholly free from vicious luxury; but she com never more be weary of myself. I will, howforts herself that nobody can say that her house ever, not deviate too far from the beaten track is dirty, or that her dishes are not well dress of life, but will try what can be found in feed.
male delicacy. I will marry a wife beautiful This, Mr. Idler, I have found by long expe- as the Houries, and wise as Zobeide; with her rience to be the character of a good sort of wo- I will live twenty years within the suburbs of man, which I have sent you for the information Bagdat, in every pleasure that wealth can pur
I will then reof those by whom a “good sort of a woman,"chase, and fancy can invent. and a “good woman,” may happen to be used tire' to a rural dwelling, pass my last days in as equivalent terms, and who may suffer by obscurity and contemplation, and lie silently the mistake, like
down on the bed of death. Through my life Your humble servant, it shall be my settled resolution, that I will Tim WARNER. never depend upon the smile of princes; that
I will never stand exposed to the artifices of courts; I will never pant for public honours,
nor disturb my quiet with the affairs of state. No. 101.] SATURDAY, March 22, 1760. Such was my scheme of life, which I impress
ed indelibly upon my memory. Omar, the son of Hassan, had passed seventy The first part of my ensuing time was to be five years in honour and prosperity. The fa- spent in search of knowledge ; and I know vour of three successive califs had filled his not how I was diverted from my design. I had house with gold and silver; and whenever he no visible impediments without, nor any unappeared, the benedictions of the people pro- governable passions within. I regarded knowclaimed his passage.
ledge as the highest honour and the most enTerrestrial happiness is of short continuance. gaging pleasure; yet day stole upon day, and The brightness of the flame is wasting its fuel; month glided after month, till i found that the fragrant flower is passing away in its own seven years of the first ten had vanished, and odours. The vigour of Omar began to fail, left nothing behind them. I now postponed the curls of beauty fell from his head, strength my purpose of travelling; for why should I go departed from his hands, and agility from his abroad while so much remained to be learned feet. He gave back to the calif the keys of at home? I immured myself for four years, trust, and the seals of secrecy; and sought no and studied the laws of the empire. The fame other pleasure for the remains of life than the of my skill reached the judges; I was found converse of the wise, and the gratitude of the able to speak upon doubtful questions, and good.
was commanded to stand at the footstool of The powers of his mind were yet unimpair- the calif. I was heard with attention, I was ed. His chamber was filled by visitants, eager consulted with confidence, and the love of to catch the dictates of experience, and offi- praise fastened on my heart. cious to pay the tribute of admiration. Caled, I still wished to see distant countries, listenthe son of the viceroy of Egypt, entered every ed with rapture to the relations of travellers, day carly, and retired late. He was beautiful and resolved some time to ask my dismission, and eloquent; Omar admired his wit and loved that I might feast my soul with novelty ; but his docility. "Tell me, said Caled, thou to my presence was always necessary, and the whose voice nations have listened, and whose stream of business hurried me along. Somewisdom is known to the extremities of Asia, times I was afraid lest I should be charged tell me how I may resemble Omar the prudent, with ingratitude ; but I stiil proposed to travel, The arts by which you have gained power and and therefore would not confine myself by preserved it, are to you no longer necessary or marriage, useful; impart to me the secret of your con In my fiftieth year I began to suspect that duct, and teach me the plan upon which your the time of travelling was past, and thought it wisdom has built
best to lay hold on the felicity yet in my power, Young man, said Omar, it is of little use to and indulge myself in domestic pleasures. form plans of life. When I took my first sur- But at fifty no man easily finds a woman beauvey of the world, in my twentieth year, having tiful as the Houries, and wise as Zobeide. 1 considered the various conditions of mankind, inquired and rejected, consulted and deliberalin the hour of solitude I said thus to myself, ed, till the sixty-second year made me ashamea leaning against a cedar which spread its of gazing upon girls. I had now nothing left branches over my head :-Seventy years are but retirement, and for retirement I never allowed to man; I have yet fifty remaining: found a time, till disease forced me from public ten years I will allot to the attainment of employment. knowledge, and ten I will pass in foreign Such was my scheme, and such has been its countries; I shall be learned, and therefore consequence. With an insatiable thirst for shall be honoured ; every city will shout at my knowledge, 1 trifled away the years of improvearrival, and every student will solicit my ment; with a restless desire of seeing different friendship. Twenty years thus passed will countries, I have always resided in the same store my mind with images which I shall be city; with the highest expectation of connubial
felicity, I have lived unmarried; and with un- 1 if the ladies turn to him when his coat is alterable resolutions of contemplative retire- plain, and the footmen serve him with attenment, I am going to die within the walls of tion and alacrity; he may be sure that his Bagdat.
work has been praised by some leader of literary fashions.
Of declining reputation the symptoms are
not less easily observed. If the author enters No. 102.] SATURDAY, March 29, 1760. a coffee-house, he has a box to himself; if he
calls at a bookseller's, the boy turns his back; It very seldom happens to man that his busi- and, what is the most fatal of all prognostics, ness is his pleasure. What is done from ne- authors will visit him in a morning, and talk cessity is so often to be done when against the to him, hour after hour, of the malevolence of present inclination, and so often fills the mind critics, the neglect of merit, the bad taste of with anxiety, that an habitual dislike steals the age, and the.candour of posterity. upon us, and we shrink involuntarily from the All this, modified and varied by accident remembrance of our task. This is the reason and custom, would form very amusing scenes why almost every one wishes to quit his em- of biography, and might recreate many a ployment; he does not like another state, but mind which is very little delighted with conis disgusted with his own.
spiracies or battles, intrigues of a court, or From this unwillingness to perform more debates of a parliament, to this might be than is required of that which is commonly added all the changes of the countenance of performed with reluctance, it proceeds that a patron, traced from the first glow which few authors write their own lives. Statesmen, Hattery raises in his cheek, through ardour of courtiers, ladies, generals, and seamen, have fondness, vehemence of promise, magnificence given to the world their own stories, and the of praise, excuse of delay, and lamentation of events with which their different stations have inability, to the last chill look of final dismission, made them acquainted. They retired to the when the one grows weary of soliciting, and closet as to a place of quiet and amusement, the other of hearing solicitation. and pleased themselves with writing, because Thus copious are the materials which have they could lay down the pen whenever they been hitherto suffered to lie neglected, while were weary. But the author however con- the repositories of every family that has prospicuous, or however important, either in the duced a soldier or a minister are ransacked, public eye or in his own, leaves his life to be and libraries are crowded with useless folios related by his successors, for he cannot gratify of state papers which will never be read, and his vanity but by sacrificing his ease.
which contribute nothing to valuable knowIt is commonly supposed, that the uniformity ledge. of a studious life affords no matter for narra hope the learned will be taught to know tion: but the truth is, that of the most studious their own strength and their value, and, inlife a great part passes without study. An au- stead of devoting their lives to the honour of thor partakes of the common condition of hu- those who seldom thank them for their labours, manity; he is born and married like another resolve at last to do justice to themselves. man; he has hopes and fears, expectations and disappointments, griefs and joys, and friends and enemies, like a courtier or a states- No. 103.] Saturday, April 5, 1760. .
nor can I conceive why his affairs should not excite curiosity as much as the
Respicere ad longe jussit spatia ultima vitæ. whisper of a drawing-room, or the factions of a camp:
Nothing detains the reader's attention more Much of the pain and pleasure of mankind powerfully than deep involutions of distress, arises from the conjectures which every one or sudden vicissitudes of fortune; and these makes of the thoughts of others; we all enmight be abundantly afforded by memoirs of joy praise which we do not hear, and resent the sons of literature. They are entangled by contempt which we do not see. The Idler contracts which they know not how to fulfii, may therefore be forgiven, if he suffers his and obliged to write on subjects which they do imagination to represent to him what his readnot understand. Every publication is a new ers will say or think when they are infurined period of time, from which some increase or that they have now his last paper in their declension of fame is to be reckoned. The hands. gradations of a hero's life are from battle to Value is more frequently raised by scarcity battle, and of an author's from book to book. than by use. That which lay neglected when
Success and miscarriage have the same ef- it was common, rises in estimation as its quanfects in all conditions. The prosperous are tity becomes less. We seldom learn the true feared, hated, and flattered; and the unfortu- want of what we have, till it is discovered that nate avoided, pitied, and despised. No sooner we can have no more. is a book published than the writer may judge This essay will, perhaps, be read with care of the opinion of the world. If his acquain- even by those who have not yet attended to tance press round him in public places or-sa- any other; and he that finds this late attention lute him from the other side of the street; if recompensed, will not forbear to wish that he invitations to dinner come thick upon him, and had bestowed it sooner. those with whom he dines keep him to supper;
Though the Idler and his readers have con- the heart, shall be brought to judgment, and tracted no close friendship, they are perhaps an everlasting futurity shall be determined by both unwilling to part. There are few things the past. not purely evil, of which we can say, without some emotion of uneasiness, " this is the last.” Those who never could agree together, shed
No. XXII.* tears when mutual discontent has determined them to final separation ; of a place which has been frequently visited, though without Many naturalists are of opinion, that the anipleasure, the last look is taken with heaviness mals which we commonly consider as mute, of heart; and the Idler with all his chillness have the power of imparting their thoughts tó of tranquillity, is not wholly unaffected by the one another. That they can express general thought that his last essay is now before him.
sensations is very certain : every being that can This secret horror of the last is inseparable utter sounds, has a different voice for pleasure from a thinking being, whose life is limited, and for pain. The hound informs his fellows and to whom death is dreadfu. We always when he scents his game; the hen calls her make a secret comparison between a part and chickens to their food by her cluck, and drives the whole : the termination of any period of them from danger by her scream. life reminds us that life itself has likewise its Birds have the greatest variety of notes, termination ; when we have done any thing they have indeed a variety, which seems almost for the last time, we involuntarily reflect that sufficient to make a speech adequate to the a part of the days allotted us is past, and that purposes of a life which is regulated by inas more are past there are less remaining.
stinct, and can admit little change or improve.
To the cries of birds curiosity or suIt is very happily and kindly provided, that ment. in every life there are certain pauses and in- perstition has been always attentive; many terruptions which force consideration have studied the language of the feathered
upon the careless, and seriousness upon the light; tribes, and some have boasted that they underpoints of time where one course of action stood it. ends, and another begins; and by vicissitudes
The most skilful or most confident interpre of fortune, or alteration of employment, by ters of the sylvan dialogues, have been comchange of place or loss of friendship, we are monly found among the philosophers of the forced to say of something, “this is the last.” east, in a country where the calmness of the
An even and unvaried tenour of life always air, and the mildness of the seasons, allow the hides from our apprehension the approach of its student to pass a great part of the year in end. Succession is not perceived hut by varia-groves and bowers. But what may be done in tion; he that lives to day as he liv u yesterday, one place by peculiar opportunities, may be and expects that as the present day is, such will performed in another by peculiar diligence, be the morrow, easily conceives time as run
A shepherd of Bohemia has, by long abode in ning in a circle and returning to itself. The the forests, enabled himself to understand the uncertainty of our duration is impressed com- voice of birds; at least he relates with great monly by dissimilitude of condition; it is only confidence a story, of which the credibility is by finding life changeable that we are remind-/ left to be considered by the learned. ed of its shortness.
As I was sitting (said he) within a hollow This conviction, however forcible at every rock, and watching my sheep that fed in the new impression, is every moment fading from valley, I heard two vultures interchangeably the mind; and partly by the inevitable incur- crying on the summit of a cliff. Both voices sion of new images, and partly by voluntary ex
were earnest and deliberate.
My curiosity clusion of unwelcome thoughts, we are again prevailed over the care of the flock; I climbed exposed to the universal fallacy; and we must slowly and silently from crag to crag, concealdo another thing for the last time, before we ed among the shrubs, till I found a cavity where consider that the time is nigh when we shall I might sit and listen without suffering or girdo no more.
ing disturbance. As the last Idler is published in that solemn
I soon perceived that my labour would be week which the Christian world has always well repaid, for an old vulture was sitting on a set apart for the examination of the conscience, naked prominence, with her young about her, the review of life, the extinction of earthly de- whom she was instructing in the arts of a vulsires, and the renovation of holy purposes; I ture's life, and preparing by the last lecture, hope that
my readers are already disposed to for their final dismission to the mountains and view every incident with seriousness, and im- the skies. prove it by meditation ; and that when they My children, said the old vulture, you will see this series of trifles brought to a conclu- the less want my instructions, because you sion, they will consider that, by outliving the have had my practice before your eyes; you Idler, they have passed weeks, months, and have seen me snatch from the farm the houseyears, which are now no longer in their power; hold fowl, you have seen me seize the leveret that an end must in time be put to every thing in the bush, and the kid in the pasturage; you great, as to every thing little; that to life must know how to fix your talons, and how to come its last hour, and to this system of being balance your flight when you are laden with its last day, the hour at which probation ceases and repentance will be vain ; the day in which tion of the work in volumes, Dr. Johnson substituted
* This was the original No. 22, but or the republica every work of the hand, and imagination of what now stands under that head.
your prey. But you remember the taste of ourselves ? Because man wil. sometimes, more delicious food. I have often regaled you replied the mother, remain for a long time with the flesh of man. Tell us, said the young quiet in his den. The old vultures will tell vultures, where man may be found, and how you when you are to watch his motions. he may be known: his flesh is surely the When you see men in great numbers moving natural food of a vulture. Why have you close together, like a flight of storks, you may never brought a man in your talons to the conclude that they are hunting, and that you nest? He is too bulky, said the mother; when will soon revel in human blood. But still, said we find a man we can only tear away his flesh, the young one, I would gladly know the reaand leave his bones upon the ground. Since son of this mutual slaughter. I could never man is so big, said the young ones, how do you kill what I could not eat. My child, said the kill him? You are afraid of the wolf and of mother, this is a question which I cannot anthe bear, by what power are vultures superior swer, though I am reckoned the most subtile to man? Is man more defenceless than a bird of the mountain.
When I was young,,
I sheep? We have not the strength of man, used frequently to visit the ayry of an old vul returned the mother, and I am sometimes in ture, who dwelt upon the Carpathian rocks ; doubt whether we have the subtilty; and the he had made many observations; he knew the vultures would seldom feast upon his flesh, places that afforded prey round his habitation, had not nature, that devoted him to our uses, as far in every direction as the strongest wing infused into him a strange ferocity, which I can fly between the rising and setting of the have never observed in any other being that summer sun; he had fed year after year on the feeds upon the earth. Two herds of men will entrails of men. His opinion was, that men often meet and shake the earth with noise, and had only the appearance of animal life, being fill the earth with fire." When you hear noise, really vegetables, with a power of motion; and and see fire, with flashes along the ground, that as the boughs of an oak are dashed togethhasten to the place with your swiftest wing, er by the storm, that swine may fatten upon the for men are surely destroying one another; falling acorns, so men are by some unaccountayou will then find the ground smoking with ble power driven one against another, till they blood and covered with carcases, of which lose their motion, that vultures may be fed. many are dismembered, and mangled for the Others think they have observed something of convenience of the vulture.' But when men contrivance and policy among these mischievhave killed their prey, said the pupil, why do ous beings; and those that hover more closely they not eat it ? When the wolf has killed a round them, pretend, that there is in every sheep, he suffers not the vulture to touch it till herd, one that gives directions to the rest, and he has satisfied himself. Is not man another seems to be more eminently delighted with a kind of wolf? Man, said the mother, is the wide carnage. What it is that entitles him to only beast who kills that which he does not such pre-eminence we know not; he is seldom devour, and this quality makes him so much a the biggest or the swiftest, but he shews by his benefactor to our species. If men kill our eagerness and diligence that he is, more than prey, and lay it in our way, said the young any of the others, a friend to vultures. one what need shall we have of labouring for