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soul of a heavenly extraction, and is worthy the offspring of the Deity.'
What a generous ambition has this man pointed to us! When men have settled in themselves a conviction, by such noble precepts, that there is nothing honourable which is not accompanied with innocence ; nothing mean but what has guilt in it: I say, when they have attained thus much, though poverty, pain, and death may still retain their terrors, yet riches, pleasures, and honours will easily lose their charms, if they stand between us and our integrity.
What is here said with allusion to fortune and fame, may as justly be applied to wit and beauty ; for these latter are as adventitious as the other, and as little concern the essence of the soul. They are all laudable in the man who possesses them, only for the just application of them. A bright imagination, while it is subservient to an honest and noble soul, is a faculty which makes a man justly admired by mankind, and furnishes him with reflections upon his own actions, which add delicates to the feast of a good conscience : but when wit descends to wait upon sensual pleasures or promote the base purposes of ambition, it is then to be contemned in proportion to its excellence. man will not resolve to place the foundation of his happiness in his own mind, life is a bewildered and unhappy state, incapable of rest or tranquillity. For to such a one, the general applause of valour, wit, nay of honesty itself, can give him but a very feeble comfort ; since it is capable of being interrupted by any one who wants either understanding or goodnature to see or acknowledge such excellences. This rule is so necessary, that one may very safely say, it
is impossible to know any true relish of our being without it. Look about you in common life among the ordinary race of mankind, and you will find merit in every kind is allowed only to those who are in particular districts or sets of company; but, since men can have little pleasure in these faculties which denominate them persons of distinction, let them give up such an empty pursuit, and think nothing essential to happiness but what is in their own power; the capacity of reflecting with pleasure on their own actions, however they are interpreted.
It is so evident a truth, that it is only in our own bosoms we are to search for anything to make us happy, that it is, methinks, a disgrace to our nature to talk of taking our measures from thence only, as a matter of fortitude. When all is well there, the vicissitudes and distinctions of life are the mere scenes of a drama ; and he will never act his part well, who has his thoughts more fixed upon the applause of the audience than the design of his part.
The life of a man who acts with a steady integrity, without valuing the interpretation of his actions, has but one uniform regular path to move in, where he cannot meet opposition, or fear ambuscade. On the other side, the least deviation from the rules of honour introduces a train of numberless evils, and involves him in inexplicable mazes. He that has entered into guilt has bid adieu to rest ; and every criminal has his share of the misery expressed so emphatically in the tragedian,
Macbeth shall sleep no more !
It was with detestation of any other grandeur but
the calm command of his own passions, that the excellent Mr. Cowley cries out with so much justice :
If e'er ambition did my fancy cheat
[Tatler, No. 251.
This afternoon I went to visit a gentleman of my acquaintance at Mile End; and passing through Stepney churchyard, I could not forbear entertaining myself with the inscriptions on the tombs and graves. Among others, I observed one with this notable memorial :
Here lies the body of T. B.
This fantastical desire of being remembered only by the two first letters of a name, led me into the contemplation of the vanity and imperfect attainments of ambition in general. When I run back in my imagination all the men whom I have ever known and conversed with in my whole life, there are but very few who have not used their faculties in the pursuit of what it is impossible to acquire ; or left the possession of what they might have been, at their setting out, masters, to search for it where it was out of their reach. In this thought it was not possible to forget the instance of Pyrrhus, who proposing to himself in discourse with a philosopher, one, and another, and another conquest, was asked, what he would do after all that? 'Then,' says the king,' we will make merry.' He was well answered, “What hinders your doing that in the condition you are already?' The restless
desire of exerting themselves above the common level of mankind is not to be resisted in some tempers ; and minds of this make may be observed in every condition of life. Where such men do not make to themselves, or meet with employment, the soil of their constitution runs into tares and weeds. An old friend of mine, who lost a major's post forty years ago, and quitted, has ever since studied maps, encampments, retreats, and countermarches ; with no other design but to feed his spleen and ill-humour, and furnish himself with matter for arguing against all the successful actions of others. He that, at his first setting out in the world, was the gayest man in our regiment ; ventured his life with alacrity, and enjoyed it with satisfaction ; encouraged men below him, and was courted by men above him, has been ever since the most froward creature breathing. His warm complexion spends itself now only in a general spirit of contradiction : for which he watches all occasions, and is in his conversation still upon sentry, treats all men like enemies, with every other impertinence of a speculative warrior.
He that observes in himself this natural inquietude, , should take all imaginable care to put his mind in some method of gratification; or he will soon find himself grow into the condition of this disappointed major. Instead of courting proper occasions to rise above others, he will be ever studious of pulling others down to him: it being the common refuge of disappointed ambition, to ease themselves by detraction. It would be no great argument against ambition, that there are such mortal things in the disappointment of it; but it certainly is a forcible exception, that there