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THE MISERIES OF ENNUI.
I was much affected with the philosophical resignation of the honest soldier, who made his appearance in your number for June, and his story* made the deeper impression upon my mind, as his disposition forms a striking contrast with my own. the second son of a wealthy gentleman, who reserved the bulk of his fortune for my elder brother: so that the only provision I enjoyed, was a tolerable education and a lieutenant's commission in the army. During the late war I obtained a company, by dint of service, and at the
peace was reduced
halfthis reduction was no great misfortune to me, who had learned to practise economy in an inferior station, and was so much master of my accounts, that I could live independently even to my wish, and could save something out of the appointments of a reformed captain.
My father having by this time resigned his breath, I had no parental home to which I could retire; therefore I set up my rest in a country town where I had been formerly quartered with the regiment, and made some agreeable acquaintances. There I passed my time according to my heart's desire. I fished, fowled, and hunted with the gentlemen of the neighborhood, who entertained me in their houses with the most cordial hospitality. I walked, I chatted, I danced and played at cards with their wives and daughters. Delightful excursions, and amusing parties of pleasure, were planned and executed every day. The time stole away insensibly: I knew no care; I felt no disorder. I inherited
[The · Distresses of a Common Soldier ;' which first appeared in the • British Magazine, and was afterwards introduced into the Citizen of the World :' see vol. ii. Letter 117.]
from nature a vigorous constitution, a happy serenity of temper, and was distinguished among my friends as the best-humored fellow in the world.
In the midst of these enjoyments my heart was touched by the amiable qualities of a young lady, who was content to unite her fate with mine, contrary to the inclination and without the consent of her father, who possessed a very large forture, and resented her marriage with such perseverance of indignation, that he never would admit her into his presence, nor even, at his death, forgive her for the step she had taken. His displeasure, however, affected us the less, as we found happiness in our mutual passion, and knew no wants; for my wife inherited from an aunt a legacy of eighteen hundred pounds, the interest of which, together with my half-pay, was sufficient to answer all our occasions.
We found great satisfaction in contriving plans for living snug upon our income, and enjoyed unspeakable pleasure in executing the scheme to which we had given the preference. Chance presented us with an opportunity to purchase a small, though neat and convenient house, with about twenty acres of land, in an agreeable rural situation, and there our time was parcelled out in a succession of tasks, for improving a large farm that we rented, and cultivating a sweet little garden laid out on a gentle slope, the foot of which was watered by a brawling rivulet of pure, transparent water. Although heaven had not thought proper to indulge us with children, we were favored with every other substantial blessing; and every circumstance of rural economy proved a source of health and satisfaction.
The labors of the field, the little domestic cares of the barnyard, the poultry-yard, and the dairy, were productive of such delights as none of your readers will conceive, except those who are enamored of a country life. I cannot remember those peace
ful scenes of innocence and tranquillity without regret; they often haunt my imagination, like the ghosts of departed happi
Within the bosom of this charming retreat we lived, in a state of uninterrupted enjoyment, until our felicity was invaded by two unexpected events, at which, I am afraid, we shall always have cause to repine: my nephew, who had succeeded to my father's estate, died of the small-pox, and, a few weeks after this incident, my wife's only brother broke his neck in leaping a fivebarred gate : so that we found ourselves, all at once, in possession of a very opulent fortune, and violently transported from that element for which our tempers had been so well adapted.
In the first flutter and agitation of mind, occasioned by this unhoped-for accession, we quitted our romantic solitude, and rushed into all the pageantry of high life. Thus irresistibly sucked within the vortex of dissipation, we grew giddy in a rapid whirl of unnatural diversion : we became enamored of tinsel liveries, equipage, and all the frippery of fashion. Instead of tranquillity, health, a continual flow of satisfaction, and a succession of rational delights, which we formerly derived from temperance, exercise, the study of nature, and practice of benevolence, We now tasted no pleasure but what consists in the gratification of idle vanity, tossed for ever on a sea of absurd amusements, by such loud storms of riot and tumult, as drowned the voice of reason and reflection, and overwhelmed all the best faculties of the soul. We deserted nature, sentiment, and true taste, to lead 3 weary life of affectation, folly, and intemperance; our senses became so depraved, that our eyes were captivated with glare and glitter, and our ears with noise and clamor ; while our fancy dwelt with pleasure on every gewgaw of Gothic extravagance. We entertained guests whom we despised, we visited friends whom we did not love, and invited company whom we could Dot esteem. We drank wines that we could not relish, and ate victuals that we could not digest. We frequented concerts which we did not understand, plays that we did not like, and public diversions which we could not enjoy. Our house might have been termed the temple of uproar; card-tables were the shrines, and the votaries seemed agitated by the demons of envy, spite, rage, vexation, and despair. In a word, all was farce and form; all was a phantasma, and a hideous dream of incoherent absurdities.
These pleasures, like brandy to a dram-drinker, have lost their effect: we have waked from the intoxication to a due sense of our miserable condition; for the vigor both of mind and body is quite impaired. With respect to each other, we find ourselves in a state of mutual disgust; and all the enjoyments of life we either taste with indifference, or reject with loathing. For my own part, I am overwhelmed with what the French call ennui ;a distemper for which there is no name in the English language ;* a distemper which may be understood from the following lines of
“ Thee too, my Paridel !t she mark'd thee there,
Stretch'd on the rack of a too easy chair ;
It is not a common vacancy of thought, or an ordinary languor of the nerves, that I labor under, but a confirmed imbecility of mind, and a want of relish, attended with a thousand uneasi. nesses, which render life almost insupportable. I sleep without
("Ennui is a growth of English root,
Though nameless in our language :—we retort
That awful yawn which sleep cannot abate.”-Don Juan. + [Dunciad, b. iv. " The name is taken from Spenser, who gives it to a wandering courtly squire, that travelled about for the same reason for which many young squires are now fond of travelling, and especially to Paris."Pope.]
refreshment; I am fatigued without labor. I am scarcely risen when I wish the day was done, and when night comes I long for morning. I eat without appetite, drink without exhilaration ; exercise affords no spirits, conversation no amusement, reading no entertainment, and diversion no pleasure. It is not from affectation, but an acquired insensibility, that I see Falstaff without a smile, and the Orphan without emotion. I endeavor to kill the time by shifting continually the scene of dissipation; but I am close pursued by disgust: all is disappointment, insipid, nauseous, or shocking My temper is grown so fretful and peevish, that I quarrel by turns with my servants and myself; even she that was once the delight of my eyes and the joy of my heart, is now become the subject of perpetual disquiet. I harbor vishes which I dare not approve; my heart palpitates with passions which I am ashamed to avow. I am tormented by a thousand petty grievances, which rise liks angry pimples from the the ebullitions of a soured disposition, and incidents that would move the mirth of other men, are to me productive of choler and anxiety. Two days ago I ordered my servants to horsewhip a cobbler, who refused to leave off whistling in his stall as he sat at work, opposite to my chamber-window; and if I had then met with your maimed soldier, in all probability I should have chastised him for presuming to be more happy than his betters.
Gentlemen, if you have any recipe for the cure of my disorder, it will be charity to publish it for the benefit of many thousands that labor under the same malady which now afflicts your humble servant,
The distemper of our correspondent is endemial among the great, and may be termed a scurvy of the spirits. Exercise is as necessary to the mind as to the body, and mental exercise consiste