DR. JOHNSON'S WORKS.
ADVENTURER AND IDLER.
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
IN NINE VOLUMES.
VOLUME THE FOURTH.
The Adventurer was projected in the year 1752, by Dr. John Hawkesworth. He was partly induced to undertake the work by his admiration of the Rambler, which had now ceased to appear, the style and sentiments of which evidently, from his commencement, he made the models of his imitation.
The first number was published on the seventh of November, 1752. The quantity and price were the same as the Rambler, and also the days of its appearance. He was joined in his labours by Dr. Johnson in 1753, whose first paper is dated March 3, of that year; and after its publication Johnson applied to his friend, Dr. Joseph Warton, for his assistance, which was afforded: and the writers then were, besides the projector Dr. Hawkesworth, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Joseph Warton, Dr. Bathurst, Colman, Mrs. Chapone and the Hon. Hamilton Boyle, the accomplished son of Lord Orrery .
Our business, however, in the present pages, does not lie with the Adventurer in general, but only with Dr. Johnson's contributions; which amount to the number of twenty-nine, beginning with No. 34, and ending with No. 138.
Much criticism has been employed in appropriating some of them, and the carelessness of editors has overlooked several that have been satisfactorily proved to be Johnson's own.
Mr. Boswell relies on internal evidence, which is unnecessary, since in Dr. Warton's copy (and his authority on the subject will scarcely be disputed) the following remark was found at the end: "The papers marked T were written by Mr. S. Johnson." Mrs. Anna Williams asserted that he dictated most of these to Dr. Bathurst, to whom he presented the profits. The anecdote may well be believed from the usual benevolence of Johnson and his well-known attachment to that amiable physician, whose professional knowledge might undoubtedly have enabled him to offer hints to Johnson in the progress of composition. Thus we may account for the references to recondite medical writers in No. 39, which so staggered Boswell and Malone in pronouncing on the genuineness of this paper. Those who are familiar with Johnson's writings can have little hesitation, we conceive, in recognising his style, and manner, and sentiments in those papers which are now published under his name. They may be considered as a continuation of the Rambler. The same subjects are discussed; the interests of literature and of literary men, the emptiness of praise and the vanity of human wishes. The same intimate knowledge, of the town and its manners is displayed; and occasionally we are amused with humorous delineation of adventure and of character.
From the greater variety of its subjects, aided, perhaps, by a growing taste for periodical literature, the sale of the Adventurer was greater than that of the Rambler on its first appearance. But still there were those, who "talked of it as a catch-penny performance, carried on by a set of needy and obscure scribblers." So slowly is a national taste for letters diffused, and so hardly do works of sterling merit, which deal not in party-politics, nor exemplify their ethical discussions by holding out living characters to censure or contempt, win the applause of those, whose passions leave them no leisure for abstracted truth, and whom virtue itself cannot please by its naked dignity. But, by such, Johnson professed, that he had little expectation of his writings being perused. Keeping then our main object more immediately in view, the elucidation of Johnson's real character and motives, we cannot but admire the prompt benevolence, with which he joined Hawkesworth in his task, and the ready zeal, with which he embraced any opportunity of promoting the interests of morality and virtue. "To a benevolent disposition every state of life will afford some opportunities of contributing to the welfare of mankind," is the characteristic opening of his first Adventurer. And when we have admired the real excellence of his heart, we must wonder at the vigour of a mind, which could so abstract itself from its own sorrows and misfortunes, which too often deaden our feelings of pity, as to sympathize with others in affliction, and even to promote innocent cheerfulness. Bowed down by the loss of a wife, on whom he had called from amidst the horrors of a hopeless melancholy, to "hide him from the ills of life," and depressed by poverty, "that numbs the soul with icy hand," his genius sank not beneath a load, which might have crushed the loftiest; but the "incumbrances of his fortune were shaken from his mind, 'as dew-drops from a lion's mane.'"
The same pure and exalted morality, which stamps their chief value on the pages of the Rambler, instructs us in the lessons of the Adventurer. Here is no cold doctrine of expediency or dangerous speculations on moral approbation, no easy virtue which can be practised without a struggle, and which interdicts the gratification of no passion but malice: here is no compromise of personal sensuality, for an endurance of others' frailties, amounting to an indifference of moral distinctions altogether. Johnson boldly and, at once, propounds the real motives to Christian conduct; and does not, with some ethical writers, in a slavish dread of interfering with the more immediate office of the divine, hold out slender inducements to virtuous action, which can never give us strength to stem the torrent of passion; but holding with the acute Owen Feltham, "that, as true religion cannot be without morality, no more can morality, that is right, be without religion," Johnson ever directs our attention, not to the world's smile or frown, but to the discharge of the duty which Providence assigns us, by the consideration of the awful approach of that night when no man can work. To conclude with the appropriate words of an eloquent writer, "in his sublime discussions of the most sacred truths, as no style can be too lofty nor conceptions too grand for such a subject, so has the great master never exerted the powers of his great genius with more signal success. Impiety shrinks beneath his rebuke; the atheist trembles and repents; the dying sinner catches a gleam of revealed hope; and all acknowledge the just dispensations of eternal Wisdom."
 For the general history of the Adventurer, the reader may be referred to Chalmers' British Essayists, xxiii, Dr. Drake's Essays on Rambler, Adventurer, &c. ii, and Boswell's Journal, 3rd edit. p. 240.
 Five of these, Nos. 39, 67, 74, 81, and 128, which Sir John Hawkins omitted to arrange among the writings of Johnson, are given in this edition.
 See particularly the Letters of Misagargyrus.
 The description in No. 84, of the incidents of a stage-coach journey, so often imitated by succeeding writers, but, perhaps, never surpassed, will exemplify the above remark.
 See Lounger, No. 30.
 "I have heard, he means to occasionally throw some papers into the Daily Advertiser; but he has not begun yet, as he is in great affliction, I fear, poor man, for the loss of his wife."—Letter from Miss Talbot to Mrs. Carter. Mrs. Johnson died March 17, 1752.
 See the Preface to Shakespeare.
 Owen Feltham's Resolves.
 Indian Observer, No. 1, 1793. See likewise Adventurers, Nos. 120, 126, 128.
The Idler may be ranked among the best attempts which have been made to render our common newspapers the medium of rational amusement; and it maintained its ground in this character longer than any of the papers which have been brought forward by Colman and others on the same plan. Dr. Johnson first inserted this production in the Universal Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette, April 15, 1758, four years after he had desisted from his labours as an essayist. It would seem probable, that Newbery, the publisher of the Chronicle, projected it as a vehicle for Johnson's essays, since it ceased to appear when its pages were no longer enlivened by the humour of the Idler.
It is well known, that Johnson was not "built of the press and pen" when he composed the Rambler; but his sphere of observation had been much enlarged since its publication, and his more ample means no longer suffered his genius to be "limited by the narrow conversation, to which men in want are inevitably condemned." "The sublime philosophy of the Rambler cannot properly be said to have portrayed the manners of the times; it has seldom touched on subjects so transient and fugitive, but has displayed the more fixed and invariable operations of the human heart." But the Idler breathes more of a worldly spirit, and savours less of the closet than Johnson's earlier essays; and, accordingly, we find delineated in its diversified pages the manners and characters of the day in amusing variety and contrast.
Written professedly for a paper of miscellaneous intelligence, the Idler dwells on the passing incidents of the day, whether serious or light, and abounds with party and political allusion. Johnson ever surveyed mankind with the eye of a philosopher; but his own easier circumstances would now present the world's aspect to him in brighter, fairer colours. Besides, he could, with more propriety and less risk of misapprehension, venture to trifle now, than when first he addressed the public.
The World had diffused its precepts, and corrected the fluctuating manners of fashion, in the tone of fashionable raillery; and the Connoisseur, by its gay and sparkling effusions, had forwarded the advance of the public mind to that last stage of intellectual refinement, in which alone a relish exists for delicate and half latent irony. The plain and literal citizens of an earlier period, who conned over what was "so nominated in the bend," would have misapprehended that graceful playfulness of satire, elegant and fanciful as ever charmed the leisure of the literary loungers of Athens. For, in the writings of Bonnel Thornton and Colman, the philosophy of Aristippus may indeed be said to be revived. We would not, however, be supposed, by these allusions, to imply that all the papers of the Idler are light and sportive; or that Johnson for a moment lost sight of a grand moral end in all his discussions. His mind only accommodated itself to the circumstances in which it was placed, and diligently sought to avail itself of each varying opportunity to admonish and to benefit, whether from the chair of philosophic reproof or in the cheerful, social circle. Whatever faults have been charged upon the Idler may be traced, we conceive, to this source. Nobody at times, said Johnson, talks more laxly than I do. And this acknowledged propensity may well be presumed to have affected the humorous and almost conversational tone of the work before us. In the conscious pride of mental might and in the easier moments of conversations, that illuminated the minds of Reynolds and of Burke, Johnson delighted to indulge in a lively sophistry which might sometimes deceive himself, when at first he merely wished to sport in elegant raillery or ludicrous paradox. When these sallies were recorded and brought to bear against him on future occasions, irritated at their misconstruction and conscious to himself of an upright intention, or at most of only a wish to promote innocent cheerfulness, he was too stubborn in retracting what he had thus advanced. Hence, when menaced with a prosecution for his definition of Excise in his Dictionary, so far from offering apology or promising alteration, he called, in his Idler, a Commissioner of Excise the lowest of human beings, and classes him with the scribbler for a party. So strange a definition and still less pardonable adherence to it can only be justified on the ground of Johnson's warm feelings for the comfort of the middle class of society. He knew that the execution of the excise laws involved an intrusion into the privacies of domestic life, and often violated the fireside of the unoffending and quiet tradesman. He, therefore, disliked those laws altogether, and his warm-hearted disposition would not allow him to calculate on their abstract advantages with modern political economists, who, in their generalizing doctrines, too frequently overlook individual comfort and interests. His remarks, in the same paper, on the edition of the Pleas of the Crown cannot be thus vindicated, and we must here lament an error in an otherwise honest and well-intentioned mind. Every impartial reader of his works may thus easily trace to their origin Johnson's chief political errors, and his research must terminate in admiration of a writer, who never prostituted his pen to fear or favour; and who, though erroneous often in his estimate of men and measures, still, in his support of a party, firmly believed himself to be the advocate of morality and right. His tenderness of spirit, his firm principles and his deep sense of the emptiness of human pursuits are visible amidst the lighter papers of the Idler, and his serious reflections are, perhaps, more strikingly affecting as contrasted with mirthfulness and pleasantry.
His concluding paper and the one on the death of his mother have, perhaps, never been surpassed. Here is no affectation of sentimentality, no morbid and puling complaints, but the dignified and chastened expression of sorrow, which a mind, constituted as Johnson's, must have experienced on the departure of a mother. A heart, tender and susceptible of pathetic emotion, as his was, must have deeply felt, how dreary it is to walk downward to the grave unregarded by her "who has looked on our childhood." Occasions for more violent and perturbed grief may occur to us in our passage through life, but the gentle, quiet death of a mother speaks to us with "still small voice" of our wasting years, and breaks completely and, at once, our earliest and most cherished associations. This tenderness of spirit seems ever to have actuated Johnson, and he is surely greatest when he breathes it forth over the sorrows and miseries of man. Even in his humorous papers, he never wounds feeling for the sake of raising a laugh, nor sports with folly, but in the hope of reclaiming the vicious and with the design of warning the young of the delusion and danger of an example, which can only be imitated by the forfeiture of virtue and the practice of vice. "In whatever he undertook, it was his determined purpose to rectify the heart, to purify the passions, to give ardour to virtue and confidence to truth."
 The Genius was published by Colman in the St. James's Chronicle, 1761, 1762. The Gentleman, by the same author, came out in the London-Packet, 1775. The Grumbler was the production of the Antiquary Grose, and appeared in the English Chronicle, 1791.
 Owen Feltham.
 Preface to Shakespeare.
 Country Spectator, No. 1.
 Idler, No. 6.
 The World was published in 1753.
 The Connoisseur appeared in 1754.
 See Dr. Drake's Essays, II.
 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides.
 See life of Sir Joshua Reynolds, prefixed to his Works by Malone, i. 28, &c.
 See Idler, No. 65 and Mr. Chalmers' Preface to vol. 33 of the British Essayists.
 See Gentleman's Magazine 1706. p. 272.
 Idler, No. 41.
 See Pursuits of Literature, Dialogue I. note.
CONTENTS OF THE FOURTH VOLUME.
34. Folly of extravagance. The story of Misargyrus
39. On sleep
41. Sequel of the story of Misargyrus
45. The difficulty of forming confederacies
50. On lying
53. Misargyrus' account of his companions in the Fleet
58. Presumption of modern criticism censured. Ancient poetry necessarily obscure. Examples from Horace
62. Misargyrus' account of his companions concluded
67. On the trades of London
69. Idle hope
74. Apology for neglecting officious advice
81. Incitement to enterprise and emulation. Some account of the admirable Crichton
84. Folly of false pretences to importance. A journey in a stagecoach
85. Study, composition, and converse equally necessary to intellectual accomplishment
92. Criticism on the Pastorals of Virgil
95. Apology for apparent plagiarism. Sources of literary variety
99. Projectors injudiciously censured and applauded
102. Infelicities of retirement to men of business
107. Different opinions equally plausible
108. On the uncertainty of human things
111. The pleasures and advantages of industry
115. The itch of writing universal
119. The folly of creating artificial wants
120. The miseries of life
126. Solitude not eligible
128. Men differently employed unjustly censured by each other
131. Singularities censured
137. Writers not a useless generation
138. Their happiness and infelicity
1. The Idler's character.
2. Invitation to correspondents.
3. Idler's reason for writing.
4. Charities and hospitals.
5. Proposal for a female army.
6. Lady's performance on horseback.
7. Scheme for news-writers.
8. Plan of military discipline.
9. Progress of idleness.
10. Political credulity.
11. Discourses on the weather.
12. Marriages, why advertised.
13. The imaginary housewife.
14. Robbery of time.
15. Treacle's complaint of his wife.
16. Drugget's retirement.
17. Expedients of idlers.
18. Drugget vindicated.
19. Whirler's character.
20. Capture of Louisbourg.
21. Linger's history of listlessness.
22. Imprisonment of debtors.
23. Uncertainty of friendship.
24. Man does not always think.
25. New actors on the stage.
26. Betty Broom's history.
27. Power of habits.
28. Wedding-day. Grocer's wife. Chairman.
29. Betty Broom's history continued.
30. Corruption of news-writers.
31. Disguises of idleness. Sober's character.
32. On Sleep.
33. Journal of a fellow of a college.
34. Punch and conversation compared.
35. Auction-hunter described and ridiculed.
36. The terrific diction ridiculed.
37. Useful things easy of attainment.
38. Cruelty shown to debtors in prison.
39. The various uses of the bracelet.
40. The art of advertising exemplified.
41. Serious reflections on the death of a friend.
42. Perdita's complaint of her father.
43. Monitions on the flight of time.
44. The use of memory considered.
45. On painting. Portraits defended.
46. Molly Quick's complaint of her mistress.
47. Deborah Ginger's account of city-wits.
48. The bustle of idleness described and ridiculed.
49. Marvel's journey narrated.
50. Marvel's journey paralleled.
51. Domestick greatness unattainable.
52. Self-denial necessary.
53. Mischiefs of good company.
54. Mrs. Savecharges' complaint.
55. Authors' mortifications.
56. Virtuosos whimsical.
57. Character of Sophron.
58. Expectations of pleasure frustrated.
59. Books fall into neglect.
60. Minim the critic.
61. Minim the critic.
62. Hanger's account of the vanity of riches.
63. Progress of arts and language.
64. Ranger's complaint concluded.
65. Fate of posthumous works.
66. Loss of ancient writings.
67. Scholar's journal.
68. History of translation.
69. History of translation.
70. Hard words defended.
71. Dick Shifter's rural excursion.
72. Regulation of memory.
73. Tranquil's use of riches.
74. Memory rarely deficient.
75. Gelaleddin of Bassora.
76. False criticisms on painting.
77. Easy writing.
78. Steady, Snug, Startle, Solid and Misty.
79. Grand style of painting.
80. Ladies' journey to London.
81. Indian's speech to his countrymen.
82. The true idea of beauty.
83. Scruple, Wormwood, Sturdy and Gentle.
84. Biography, how best performed.
85. Books multiplied by useless compilations.
86. Miss Heartless' want of a lodging.
87. Amazonian bravery revived.
88. What have ye done?
89. Physical evil moral good.
90. Rhetorical action considered.
91. Sufficiency of the English language.
92. Nature of cunning.
93. Sam Softly's history.
94. Obstructions of learning.
95. Tim Wainscot's son a fine gentleman.
96. Hacho of Lapland.
97. Narratives of travellers considered.
98. Sophia Heedful.
99. Ortogrul of Basra.
100. The good sort of woman.
101. Omar's plan of life.
102. Authors inattentive to themselves.
103. Honour of the last.
No. 34. SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 1753.
Has toties optata exegit gloria paenas. Juv. Sat. x. 187. Such fate pursues the votaries of praise.
TO THE ADVENTURER.
Fleet Prison, Feb. 24.
To a benevolent disposition, every state of life will afford some opportunities of contributing to the welfare of mankind. Opulence and splendour are enabled to dispel the cloud of adversity, to dry up the tears of the widow and the orphan, and to increase the felicity of all around them: their example will animate virtue, and retard the progress of vice. And even indigence and obscurity, though without power to confer happiness, may at least prevent misery, and apprize those who are blinded by their passions, that they are on the brink of irremediable calamity. Pleased, therefore, with the thought of recovering others from that folly which has embittered my own days, I have presumed to address the ADVENTURER from the dreary mansions of wretchedness and despair, of which the gates are so wonderfully constructed, as to fly open for the reception of strangers, though they are impervious as a rock of adamant to such as are within them:
—Facilis descensus Averni: Noctes utque dies patet atri janua Ditis: Sed revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras, Hoc opus, hic labor est.—VIRG. AEn. vi. 126.
The gates of hell are open night and day; Smooth the descent, and easy is the way: But to return and view the cheerful skies; In this the task and mighty labour lies. DRYDEN.
Suffer me to acquaint you, Sir, that I have glittered at the ball, and sparkled in the circle; that I have had the happiness to be the unknown favourite of an unknown lady at the masquerade, have been the delight of tables of the first fashion, and envy of my brother beaux; and to descend a little lower, it is, I believe, still remembered, that Messrs. Velours and d'Espagne stand indebted for a great part of their present influence at Guildhall, to the elegance of my shape, and the graceful freedom of my carriage.
—Sed quae praeclara et prospera tanti, Ut rebus laetis par sit mensura malorum? Juv. Sat. x. 97.
See the wild purchase of the bold and vain, Where every bliss is bought with equal pain!
As I entered into the world very young, with an elegant person and a large estate, it was not long before I disentangled myself from the shackles of religion; for I was determined to the pursuit of pleasure, which according to my notions consisted in the unrestrained and unlimited gratifications of every passion and every appetite; and as this could not be obtained under the frowns of a perpetual dictator, I considered religion as my enemy; and proceeding to treat her with contempt and derision, was not a little delighted, that the unfashionableness of her appearance, and the unanimated uniformity of her motions, afforded frequent opportunities for the sallies of my imagination.
Conceiving now that I was sufficiently qualified to laugh away scruples, I imparted my remarks to those among my female favourites, whose virtue I intended to attack; for I was well assured, that pride would be able to make but a weak defence, when religion was subverted; nor was my success below my expectation: the love of pleasure is too strongly implanted in the female breast, to suffer them scrupulously to examine the validity of arguments designed to weaken restraint; all are easily led to believe, that whatever thwarts their inclination must be wrong: little more, therefore, was required, than by the addition of some circumstances, and the exaggeration of others, to make merriment supply the place of demonstration; nor was I so senseless as to offer arguments to such as could not attend to them, and with whom a repartee or catch would more effectually answer the same purpose. This being effected, there remained only "the dread of the world:" but Roxana soared too high, to think the opinion of others worthy her notice; Laetitia seemed to think of it only to declare, that "if all her hairs were worlds," she should reckon them "well lost for love;" and Pastorella fondly conceived, that she could dwell for ever by the side of a bubbling fountain, content with her swain and fleecy care; without considering that stillness and solitude can afford satisfaction only to innocence.
It is not the desire of new acquisitions, but the glory of conquests, that fires the soldier's breast; as indeed the town is seldom worth much, when it has suffered the devastations of a siege; so that though I did not openly declare the effects of my own prowess, which is forbidden by the laws of honour, it cannot be supposed that I was very solicitous to bury my reputation, or to hinder accidental discoveries. To have gained one victory, is an inducement to hazard a second engagement: and though the success of the general should be a reason for increasing the strength of the fortification, it becomes, with many, a pretence for an immediate surrender, under the notion that no power is able to withstand so formidable an adversary; while others brave the danger, and think it mean to surrender, and dastardly to fly. Melissa, indeed, knew better; and though she could not boast the apathy, steadiness, and inflexibility of a Cato, wanted not the more prudent virtue of Scipio, and gained the victory by declining the contest.
You must not, however, imagine, that I was, during this state of abandoned libertinism, so fully convinced of the fitness of my own conduct, as to be free from uneasiness. I knew very well, that I might justly be deemed the pest of society, and that such proceedings must terminate in the destruction of my health and fortune; but to admit thoughts of this kind was to live upon the rack: I fled, therefore, to the regions of mirth and jollity, as they are called, and endeavoured with Burgundy, and a continual rotation of company, to free myself from the pangs of reflection. From these orgies we frequently sallied forth in quest of adventures, to the no small terrour and consternation of all the sober stragglers that came in our way: and though we never injured, like our illustrious progenitors, the Mohocks, either life or limbs; yet we have in the midst of Covent Garden buried a tailor, who had been troublesome to some of our fine gentlemen, beneath a heap of cabbage-leaves and stalks, with this conceit,
Satia te caule quem semper cupisti.
Glut yourself with cabbage, of which you have always been greedy.
There can be no reason for mentioning the common exploits of breaking windows and bruising the watch; unless it be to tell you of the device of producing before the justice broken lanterns, which have been paid for an hundred times; or their appearances with patches on their heads, under pretence of being cut by the sword that was never drawn: nor need I say any thing of the more formidable attack of sturdy chairmen, armed with poles; by a slight stroke of which, the pride of Ned Revel's face was at once laid flat, and that effected in an instant, which its most mortal foe had for years assayed in vain. I shall pass over the accidents that attended attempts to scale windows, and endeavours to dislodge signs from their hooks: there are many "hair-breadth 'scapes," besides those in the "imminent deadly breach;" but the rake's life, though it be equally hazardous with that of the soldier, is neither accompanied with present honour nor with pleasing retrospect; such is, and such ought to be, the difference between the enemy and the preserver of his country.
Amidst such giddy and thoughtless extravagance, it will not seem strange, that I was often the dupe of coarse flattery. When Mons. L'Allonge assured me, that I thrust quart over arm better than any man in England, what could I less than present him with a sword that cost me thirty pieces? I was bound for a hundred pounds for Tom Trippet, because he had declared that he would dance a minuet with any man in the three kingdoms except myself. But I often parted with money against my inclination, either because I wanted the resolution to refuse, or dreaded the appellation of a niggardly fellow; and I may be truly said to have squandered my estate, without honour, without friends, and without pleasure. The last may, perhaps, appear strange to men unacquainted with the masquerade of life: I deceived others, and I endeavoured to deceive myself; and have worn the face of pleasantry and gaiety, while my heart suffered the most exquisite torture.
By the instigation and encouragement of my friends, I became at length ambitious of a seat in parliament; and accordingly set out for the town of Wallop in the west, where my arrival was welcomed by a thousand throats, and I was in three days sure of a majority: but after drinking out one hundred and fifty hogsheads of wine, and bribing two-thirds of the corporation twice over, I had the mortification to find that the borough had been before sold to Mr. Courtly.
In a life of this kind, my fortune, though considerable, was presently dissipated; and as the attraction grows more strong the nearer any body approaches the earth, when once a man begins to sink into poverty, he falls with velocity always increasing; every supply is purchased at a higher and higher price, and every office of kindness obtained with greater and greater difficulty. Having now acquainted you with my state of elevation, I shall, if you encourage the continuance of my correspondence, shew you by what steps I descended from a first floor in Pall-Mall to my present habitation.
I am, Sir,
Your humble servant,
 For an account of the disputes raised on this paper, and on the other letters of Misargyrus, see Preface.
No. 39. TUESDAY, MARCH 20, 1753.
—[Greek: Oduseus phulloisi kalupsato to d ar Athaenae Hypnon ep ommasi cheu, ina min pauseie tachista Dusponeos kamatoio.]—HOM. E. 491
—Pallas pour'd sweet slumbers on his soul; And balmy dreams, the gift of soft repose, Calm'd all his pains, and banish'd all his woes. POPE.
If every day did not produce fresh instances of the ingratitude of mankind, we might, perhaps, be at a loss, why so liberal and impartial a benefactor as sleep, should meet with so few historians or panegyrists. Writers are so totally absorbed by the business of the day, as never to turn their attention to that power, whose officious hand so seasonably suspends the burthen of life; and without whose interposition man would not be able to endure the fatigue of labour, however rewarded, or the struggle with opposition, however successful.
Night, though she divides to many the longest part of life, and to almost all the most innocent and happy, is yet unthankfully neglected, except by those who pervert her gifts.
The astronomers, indeed, expect her with impatience, and felicitate themselves upon her arrival: Fontenelle has not failed to celebrate her praises; and to chide the sun for hiding from his view the worlds, which he imagines to appear in every constellation. Nor have the poets been always deficient in her praises: Milton has observed of the night, that it is "the pleasant time, the cool, the silent."
These men may, indeed, well be expected to pay particular homage to night; since they are indebted to her, not only for cessation of pain, but increase of pleasure; not only for slumber, but for knowledge. But the greater part of her avowed votaries are the sons of luxury; who appropriate to festivity the hours designed for rest; who consider the reign of pleasure as commencing when day begins to withdraw her busy multitudes, and ceases to dissipate attention by intrusive and unwelcome variety; who begin to awake to joy when the rest of the world sinks into insensibility; and revel in the soft affluence of flattering and artificial lights, which "more shadowy set off the face of things."
Without touching upon the fatal consequences of a custom, which, as Ramazzini observes, will be for ever condemned, and for ever retained; it may be observed, that however sleep may be put off from time to time, yet the demand is of so importunate a nature, as not to remain long unsatisfied: and if, as some have done, we consider it as the tax of life, we cannot but observe it as a tax that must be paid, unless we could cease to be men; for Alexander declared, that nothing convinced him that he was not a divinity, but his not being able to live without sleep.
To live without sleep in our present fluctuating state, however desirable it might seem to the lady in Clelia, can surely be the wish only of the young or the ignorant; to every one else, a perpetual vigil will appear to be a state of wretchedness, second only to that of the miserable beings, whom Swift has in his travels so elegantly described, as "supremely cursed with immortality."
Sleep is necessary to the happy to prevent satiety, and to endear life by a short absence; and to the miserable, to relieve them by intervals of quiet. Life is to most, such as could not be endured without frequent intermission of existence: Homer, therefore, has thought it an office worthy of the goddess of wisdom, to lay Ulysses asleep when landed on Phaeacia.
It is related of Barretier, whose early advances in literature scarce any human mind has equalled, that he spent twelve hours of the four-and-twenty in sleep: yet this appears from the bad state of his health, and the shortness of his life, to have been too small a respite for a mind so vigorously and intensely employed: it is to be regretted, therefore, that he did not exercise his mind less, and his body more: since by this means, it is highly probable, that though he would not then have astonished with the blaze of a comet, he would yet have shone with the permanent radiance of a fixed star.
Nor should it be objected, that there have been many men who daily spend fifteen or sixteen hours in study: for by some of whom this is reported it has never been done; others have done it for a short time only; and of the rest it appears, that they employed their minds in such operations as required neither celerity nor strength, in the low drudgery of collating copies, comparing authorities, digesting dictionaries, or accumulating compilations.
Men of study and imagination are frequently upbraided by the industrious and plodding sons of care, with passing too great a part of their life in a state of inaction. But these defiers of sleep seem not to remember that though it must be granted them that they are crawling about before the break of day, it can seldom be said that they are perfectly awake; they exhaust no spirits, and require no repairs; but lie torpid as a toad in marble, or at least are known to live only by an inert and sluggish locomotive faculty, and may be said, like a wounded snake, to "drag their slow length along."
Man has been long known among philosophers by the appellation of the microcosm, or epitome of the world: the resemblance between the great and little world might, by a rational observer, be detailed to many particulars; and to many more by a fanciful speculatist. I know not in which of these two classes I shall be ranged for observing, that as the total quantity of light and darkness allotted in the course of the year to every region of the earth is the same, though distributed at various times and in different portions; so, perhaps, to each individual of the human species, nature has ordained the same quantity of wakefulness and sleep; though divided by some into a total quiescence and vigorous exertion of their faculties, and, blended by others in a kind of twilight of existence, in a state between dreaming and reasoning, in which they either think without action, or act without thought.
The poets are generally well affected to sleep: as men who think with vigour, they require respite from thought; and gladly resign themselves to that gentle power, who not only bestows rest, but frequently leads them to happier regions, where patrons are always kind, and audiences are always candid; where they are feasted in the bowers of imagination, and crowned with flowers divested of their prickles, and laurels of unfading verdure.
The more refined and penetrating part of mankind, who take wide surveys of the wilds of life, who see the innumerable terrours and distresses that are perpetually preying on the heart of man, and discern with unhappy perspicuity, calamities yet latent in their causes, are glad to close their eyes upon the gloomy prospect, and lose in a short insensibility the remembrance of others' miseries and their own. The hero has no higher hope, than that, after having routed legions after legions, and added kingdom to kingdom, he shall retire to milder happiness, and close his days in social festivity. The wit or the sage can expect no greater happiness, than that, after having harassed his reason in deep researches, and fatigued his fancy in boundless excursions, he shall sink at night in the tranquillity of sleep.
The poets, among all those that enjoy the blessings of sleep, have been least ashamed to acknowledge their benefactor. How much Statius considered the evils of life as assuaged and softened by the balm of slumber, we may discover by that pathetick invocation, which he poured out in his waking nights: and that Cowley, among the other felicities of his darling solitude, did not forget to number the privilege of sleeping without disturbance, we may learn from the rank that he assigns among the gifts of nature to the poppy, "which is scattered," says he, "over the fields of corn, that all the needs of man may be easily satisfied, and that bread and sleep may be found together."
Si quis invisum Cereri benignae Me putat germen, vehementer errat; Illa me in partem recipit libenter Fertilis agri.
Meque frumentumque simul per omnes Consulens mundo Dea spargit oras; Crescite, O! dixit, duo magna sustentaculu vitae,
Carpe, mortalis, mea dona laetus, Carpe, nec plantas alias require, Sed satur panis, satur et soporis, Caetera sperue,
He wildly errs who thinks I yield Precedence in the well-cloth'd field, Tho' mix'd with wheat I grow: Indulgent Ceres knew my worth, And to adorn the teeming earth, She bade the Poppy blow.
Nor vainly gay the sight to please, But blest with pow'r mankind to ease, The goddess saw me rise: "Thrive with the life-supporting grain," She cried, "the solace of the swain, The cordial of his eyes.
Seize, happy mortal, seize the good; My hand supplies thy sleep and food, And makes thee truly blest: With plenteous meals enjoy the day, In slumbers pass the night away, And leave to fate the rest." C. B.
Sleep, therefore, as the chief of all earthly blessings, is justly appropriated to induustry and temperance; the refreshing rest, and the peaceful night, are the portion only of him who lies down weary with honest labour, and free from the fumes of indigested luxury; it is the just doom of laziness and gluttony, to be inactive without ease, and drowsy without tranquillity.
Sleep has been often mentioned as the image of death; "so like it," says Sir Thomas Brown, "that I dare not trust it without my prayers:" their resemblance is, indeed, apparent and striking; they both, when they seize the body, leave the soul at liberty: and wise is he that remembers of both, that they can be safe and happy only by virtue.
 Lovely sleep! thou beautiful image of terrible death, Be thou my pillow-companion, my angel of rest! Come, O sleep! for thine are the joys of living and dying: Life without sorrow, and death with no anguish, no pain. From the German of Schmidt
No. 41. TUESDAY, MARCH 27, 1753.
—Si mutabile pectus Est tibi, consiliis, non curribus, utere nostris; Dum potes, et solidis etiamnum sedibus adstas, Dumque male optatos nondum premis inscius axes. OVID. Met. ii. 143.
—Th' attempt forsake, And not my chariot but my counsel take; While yet securely on the earth you stand; Nor touch the horses with too rash a hand. ADDISON.
TO THE ADVENTURER.
Sir, Fleet, March 24.
I now send you the sequel of my story, which had not been so long delayed, if I could have brought myself to imagine, that any real impatience was felt for the fate of Misargyrus; who has travelled no unbeaten track to misery, and consequently can present the reader only with such incidents as occur in daily life. You have seen me, Sir, in the zenith of my glory, not dispensing the kindly warmth of an all-cheering sun: but, like another Phaeton, scorching and blasting every thing round me. I shall proceed, therefore, to finish my career, and pass as rapidly as possible through the remaining vicissitudes of my life.
When I first began to be in want of money, I made no doubt of an immediate supply. The newspapers were perpetually offering directions to men, who seemed to have no other business than to gather heaps of gold for those who place their supreme felicity in scattering it. I posted away, therefore, to one of these advertisers, who by his proposals seemed to deal in thousands; and was not a little chagrined to find, that this general benefactor would have nothing to do with any larger sum than thirty pounds, nor would venture that without a joint note from myself and a reputable housekeeper, or for a longer time than three months.
It was not yet so bad with me, as that I needed to solicit surety for thirty pounds: yet partly from the greediness that extravagance always produces, and partly from a desire of seeing the humour of a petty usurer, a character of which I had hitherto lived in ignorance, I condescended to listen to his terms. He proceeded to inform me of my great felicity in not falling into the hands of an extortioner; and assured me, that I should find him extremely moderate in his demands: he was not, indeed, certain that he could furnish me with the whole sum, for people were at this particular time extremely pressing and importunate for money: yet, as I had the appearance of a gentleman, he would try what he could do, and give me his answer in three days.
At the expiration of the time, I called upon him again; and was again informed of the great demand for money, and that, "money was money now:" he then advised me to be punctual in my payment, as that might induce him to befriend me hereafter; and delivered me the money, deducting at the rate of five and thirty per cent. with another panegyrick upon his own moderation.
I will not tire you with the various practices of usurious oppression; but cannot omit my transaction with Squeeze on Tower-hill, who, finding me a young man of considerable expectations, employed an agent to persuade me to borrow five hundred pounds, to be refunded by an annual payment of twenty per cent_. during the joint lives of his daughter Nancy Squeeze and myself. The negociator came prepared to enforce his proposal with all his art; but, finding that I caught his offer with the eagerness of necessity, he grew cold and languid; "he had mentioned it out of kindness; he would try to serve me: Mr. Squeeze was an honest man, but extremely cautious." In three days he came to tell me, that his endeavours had been ineffectual, Mr. Squeeze having no good opinion of my life; but that there was one expedient remaining: Mrs. Squeeze could influence her husband, and her good will might be gained by a compliment. I waited that afternoon on Mrs. Squeeze, and poured out before her the flatteries which usually gain access to rank and beauty: I did not then know, that there are places in which the only compliment is a bribe. Having yet credit with a jeweller, I afterwards procured a ring of thirty guineas, which I humbly presented, and was soon admitted to a treaty with Mr. Squeeze. He appeared peevish and backward, and my old friend whispered me, that he would never make a dry bargain: I therefore invited him to a tavern. Nine times we met on the affair; nine times I paid four pounds for the supper and claret; and nine guineas I gave the agent for good offices. I then obtained the money, paying ten _per cent_. advance; and at the tenth meeting gave another supper, and disbursed fifteen pounds for the writings.
Others who styled themselves brokers, would only trust their money upon goods: that I might, therefore, try every art of expensive folly, I took a house and furnished it. I amused myself with despoiling my moveables of their glossy appearance, for fear of alarming the lender with suspicions: and in this I succeeded so well, that he favoured me with one hundred and sixty pounds upon that which was rated at seven hundred. I then found that I was to maintain a guardian about me to prevent the goods from being broken or removed. This was, indeed, an unexpected tax; but it was too late to recede: and I comforted myself, that I might prevent a creditor, of whom I had some apprehensions, from seizing, by having a prior execution always in the house.
By such means I had so embarrassed myself, that my whole attention was engaged in contriving excuses, and raising small sums to quiet such as words would no longer mollify. It cost me eighty pounds in presents to Mr. Leech the attorney, for his forbearance of one hundred, which he solicited me to take when I had no need. I was perpetually harassed with importunate demands, and insulted by wretches, who a few months before would not have dared to raise their eyes from the dust before me. I lived in continual terrour, frighted by every noise at the door, and terrified at the approach of every step quicker than common. I never retired to rest without feeling the justness of the Spanish proverb, "Let him who sleeps too much, borrow the pillow of a debtor:" my solicitude and vexation kept me long waking; and when I had closed my eyes, I was pursued or insulted by visionary bailiffs.
When I reflected upon the meanness of the shifts I had reduced myself to, I could not but curse the folly and extravagance that had overwhelmed me in a sea of troubles, from which it was highly improbable that I should ever emerge. I had some time lived in hopes of an estate, at the death of my uncle; but he disappointed me by marrying his housekeeper; and, catching an opportunity soon after of quarrelling with me, for settling twenty pounds a year upon a girl whom I had seduced, told me that he would take care to prevent his fortune from being squandered upon prostitutes.
Nothing now remained, but the chance of extricating myself by marriage; a scheme which, I flattered myself, nothing but my present distress would have made me think on with patience. I determined, therefore, to look out for a tender novice, with a large fortune, at her own disposal; and accordingly fixed my eyes upon Miss Biddy Simper. I had now paid her six or seven visits; and so fully convinced her of my being a gentleman and a rake, that I made no doubt that both her person and fortune would be soon mine.
At this critical time, Miss Gripe called upon me, in a chariot bought with my money, and loaded with trinkets that I had, in my days of affluence, lavished on her. Those days were now over; and there was little hope that they would ever return. She was not able to withstand the temptation of ten pounds that Talon the bailiff offered her, but brought him into my apartment disguised in a livery; and taking my sword to the window, under pretence of admiring the workmanship, beckoned him to seize me.
Delay would have been expensive without use, as the debt was too considerable for payment or bail: I, therefore, suffered myself to be immediately conducted to gaol.
Vestibulum ante ipsum, primisque in faucibus Orci, Luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia curae: Pallentesque habitant morbi, tristisque senectus, Et metus, et malesuada fames, et turpis egestas. VIRG. Aen. vi. 273.
Just in the gate and in the jaws of hell, Revengeful cares and sullen sorrows dwell; And pale diseases, and repining age; Want, fear, and famine's unresisted rage. DRYDEN.
Confinement of any kind is dreadful; a prison is sometimes able to shock those, who endure it in a good cause: let your imagination, therefore, acquaint you with what I have not words to express, and conceive, if possible, the horrours of imprisonment attended with reproach and ignominy, of involuntary association with the refuse of mankind, with wretches who were before too abandoned for society, but, being now freed from shame or fear, are hourly improving their vices by consorting with each other.
There are, however, a few, whom, like myself, imprisonment has rather mortified than hardened: with these only I converse; and of these you may, perhaps, hereafter receive some account from
Your humble servant, MISARGYRUS.
No. 45. TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 1753
Nulla fides regni sociis, omnisque potestas Impatiens consortis erit.—LUCAN. Lib. i. 92.
No faith of partnership dominion owns: Still discord hovers o'er divided thrones.
It is well known, that many things appear plausible in speculation, which can never be reduced to practice; and that of the numberless projects that have flattered mankind with theoretical speciousness, few have served any other purpose than to show the ingenuity of their contrivers. A voyage to the moon, however romantick and absurd the scheme may now appear, since the properties of air have been better understood, seemed highly probable to many of the aspiring wits in the last century, who began to dote upon their glossy plumes, and fluttered with impatience for the hour of their departure:
—Pereunt vestigia mille Ante fugam, absentemque ferit gravis ungula campum.
Hills, vales and floods appear already crost; And, ere he starts, a thousand steps are lost. POPE.
Among the fallacies which only experience can detect, there are some, of which scarcely experience itself can destroy the influence; some which, by a captivating show of indubitable certainty, are perpetually gaining upon the human mind; and which, though every trial ends in disappointment, obtain new credit as the sense of miscarriage wears gradually away, persuade us to try again what we have tried already, and expose us by the same failure to double vexation.
Of this tempting, this delusive kind, is the expectation of great performances by confederated strength. The speculatist, when he has carefully observed how much may be performed by a single hand, calculates by a very easy operation the force of thousands, and goes on accumulating power till resistance vanishes before it; then rejoices in the success of his new scheme, and wonders at the folly or idleness of former ages, who have lived in want of what might so readily be procured, and suffered themselves to be debarred from happiness by obstacles which one united effort would have so easily surmounted.
But this gigantick phantom of collective power vanishes at once into air and emptiness, at the first attempt to put it into action. The different apprehensions, the discordant passions, the jarring interests of men, will scarcely permit that many should unite in one undertaking.
Of a great and complicated design, some will never be brought to discern the end; and of the several means by which it may be accomplished, the choice will be a perpetual subject of debate, as every man is swayed in his determination by his own knowledge or convenience. In a long series of action some will languish with fatigue, and some be drawn off by present gratifications; some will loiter because others labour, and some will cease to labour because others loiter: and if once they come within prospect of success and profit, some will be greedy and others envious; some will undertake more than they can perform, to enlarge their claims of advantage; some will perform less than they undertake, lest their labours should chiefly turn to the benefit of others.
The history of mankind informs us that a single power is very seldom broken by a confederacy. States of different interests, and aspects malevolent to each other, may be united for a time by common distress; and in the ardour of self-preservation fall unanimously upon an enemy, by whom they are all equally endangered. But if their first attack can be withstood, time will never fail to dissolve their union: success and miscarriage will be equally destructive: after the conquest of a province, they will quarrel in the division; after the loss of a battle, all will be endeavouring to secure themselves by abandoning the rest.
From the impossibility of confining numbers to the constant and uniform prosecution of a common interest, arises the difficulty of securing subjects against the encroachment of governours. Power is always gradually stealing away from the many to the few, because the few are more vigilant and consistent; it still contracts to a smaller number, till in time it centres in a single person.
Thus all the forms of governments instituted among mankind, perpetually tend towards monarchy; and power, however diffused through the whole community, is, by negligence or corruption, commotion or distress, reposed at last in the chief magistrate.
"There never appear," says Swift, "more than five or six men of genius in an age; but if they were united, the world could not stand before them." It is happy, therefore, for mankind, that of this union there is no probability. As men take in a wider compass of intellectual survey, they are more likely to choose different objects of pursuit; as they see more ways to the same end, they will be less easily persuaded to travel together; as each is better qualified to form an independent scheme of private greatness, he will reject with greater obstinacy the project of another; as each is more able to distinguish himself as the head of a party, he will less readily be made a follower or an associate.
The reigning philosophy informs us, that the vast bodies which constitute the universe, are regulated in their progress through the ethereal spaces by the perpetual agency of contrary forces; by one of which they are restrained from deserting their orbits, and losing themselves in the immensity of heaven; and held off by the other from rushing together, and clustering round their centre with everlasting cohesion.
The same contrariety of impulse may be perhaps discovered in the motions of men: we are formed for society, not for combination; we are equally unqualified to live in a close connexion with our fellow-beings, and in total separation from them; we are attracted towards each other by general sympathy, but kept back from contact by private interests.
Some philosophers have been foolish enough to imagine, that improvements might be made in the system of the universe, by a different arrangement of the orbs of heaven; and politicians, equally ignorant and equally presumptuous, may easily be led to suppose, that the happiness of our world would be promoted by a different tendency of the human mind. It appears, indeed, to a slight and superficial observer, that many things impracticable in our present state, might be easily effected, if mankind were better disposed to union and co-operation: but a little reflection will discover, that if confederacies were easily formed, they would lose their efficacy, since numbers would be opposed to numbers, and unanimity to unanimity; and instead of the present petty competitions of individuals or single families, multitudes would be supplanting multitudes, and thousands plotting against thousands.
There is no class of the human species, of which the union seems to have been more expected, than of the learned: the rest of the world have almost always agreed to shut scholars up together in colleges and cloisters; surely not without hope, that they would look for that happiness in concord, which they were debarred from finding in variety; and that such conjunctions of intellect would recompense the munificence of founders and patrons, by performances above the reach of any single mind.
But discord, who found means to roll her apple into the banqueting chamber of the goddesses, has had the address to scatter her laurels in the seminaries of learning. The friendship of students and of beauties is for the most part equally sincere, and equally durable: as both depend for happiness on the regard of others, on that of which the value arises merely from comparison, they are both exposed to perpetual jealousies, and both incessantly employed in schemes to intercept the praises of each other.
I am, however, far from intending to inculcate that this confinement of the studious to studious companions, has been wholly without advantage to the publick: neighbourhood, where it does not conciliate friendship, incites competition; and he that would contentedly rest in a lower degree of excellence, where he had no rival to dread, will be urged by his impatience of inferiority to incessant endeavours after great attainments.
These stimulations of honest rivalry are, perhaps, the chief effects of academies and societies; for whatever be the bulk of their joint labours, every single piece is always the production of an individual, that owes nothing to his colleagues but the contagion of diligence, a resolution to write, because the rest are writing, and the scorn of obscurity while the rest are illustrious.
 It may not be uninteresting to place in immediate comparison with this finished paper its first rough draught as given in Boswell, vol. i.
"Confederacies difficult; why.
"Seldom in war a match for single persons—nor in peace; therefore kings make themselves absolute. Confederacies in learning—every great work the work of one. Bruy. Scholars friendship like ladies. Scribebamus, &c. Mart. The apple of discord—the laurel of discord—the poverty of criticism. Swift's opinion of the power of six geniuses united. That union scarce possible. His remarks just; —man a social, not steady nature. Drawn to man by words, repelled by passions. Orb drawn by attraction, rep. [repelled] by centrifugal.
"Common danger unites by crushing other passions—but they return. Equality hinders compliance. Superiority produces insolence and envy. Too much regard in each to private interest;—too little.
"The mischiefs of private and exclusive societies.—The fitness of social attraction diffused through the whole. The mischiefs of too partial love of our country. Contraction of moral duties. [Greek: Oi philoi, ou philos].
"Every man moves upon his own centre, and therefore repels others from too near a contact, though he may comply with some general laws. Of confederacy with superiors every one knows the inconvenience. With equals no authority;—every man his own opinion—his own interest.
"Man and wife hardly united;—scarce ever without children. Computation, if two to one against two, how many against five? If confederacies were easy—useless;—many oppresses many.—If possible only to some, dangerous. Principum amicitias."
No. 50. SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 1753.
Quicunque turpi fraude semel innotuit, Etiamsi verum dicit, amittit fidem. PHAED. Lib. i. Fab. x. l.
The wretch that often has deceiv'd, Though truth he speaks, is ne'er believ'd.
When Aristotle was once asked, what a man could gain by uttering falsehoods? he replied, "Not to be credited when he shall tell the truth."
The character of a liar is at once so hateful and contemptible, that even of those who have lost their virtue it might be expected that from the violation of truth they should be restrained by their pride. Almost every other vice that disgraces human nature, may be kept in countenance by applause and association: the corrupter of virgin innocence sees himself envied by the men, and at least not detested by the women; the drunkard may easily unite with beings, devoted like himself to noisy merriments or silent insensibility, who will celebrate his victories over the novices of intemperance, boast themselves the companions of his prowess, and tell with rapture of the multitudes whom unsuccessful emulation has hurried to the grave; even the robber and the cut-throat have their followers, who admire their address and intrepidity, their stratagems of rapine, and their fidelity to the gang.
The liar, and only the liar, is invariably and universally despised, abandoned, and disowned: he has no domestick consolations, which he can oppose to the censure of mankind; he can retire to no fraternity, where his crimes may stand in the place of virtues; but is given up to the hisses of the multitude, without friend and without apologist. It is the peculiar condition of falsehood, to be equally detested by the good and bad: "The devils," says Sir Thomas Brown, "do not tell lies to one another; for truth is necessary to all societies: nor can the society of hell subsist without it."
It is natural to expect, that a crime thus generally detested should be generally avoided; at least, that none should expose himself to unabated and unpitied infamy, without an adequate temptation; and that to guilt so easily detected, and so severely punished, an adequate temptation would not readily be found.
Yet so it is, that in defiance of censure and contempt, truth is frequently violated; and scarcely the most vigilant and unremitted circumspection will secure him that mixes with mankind, from being hourly deceived by men of whom it can scarcely be imagined, that they mean any injury to him or profit to themselves: even where the subject of conversation could not have been expected to put the passions in motion, or to have excited either hope or fear, or zeal or malignity, sufficient to induce any man to put his reputation in hazard, however little he might value it, or to overpower the love of truth, however weak might be its influence.
The casuists have very diligently distinguished lies into their several classes, according to their various degrees of malignity: but they have, I think, generally omitted that which is most common, and perhaps, not least mischievous; which, since the moralists have not given it a name, I shall distinguish as the lie of vanity.
To vanity may justly be imputed most of the falsehoods which every man perceives hourly playing upon his ear, and, perhaps, most of those that are propagated with success. To the lie of commerce, and the lie of malice, the motive is so apparent, that they are seldom negligently or implicitly received; suspicion is always watchful over the practices of interest; and whatever the hope of gain, or desire of mischief, can prompt one man to assert, another is by reasons equally cogent incited to refute. But vanity pleases herself with such slight gratifications, and looks forward to pleasure so remotely consequential, that her practices raise no alarm, and her stratagems are not easily discovered.
Vanity is, indeed, often suffered to pass unpursued by suspicion, because he that would watch her motions, can never be at rest: fraud and malice are bounded in their influence; some opportunity of time and place is necessary to their agency; but scarce any man is abstracted one moment from his vanity; and he, to whom truth affords no gratifications, is generally inclined to seek them in falsehoods.
It is remarked by Sir Kenelm Digby, "that every man has a desire to appear superior to others, though it were only in having seen what they have not seen." Such an accidental advantage, since it neither implies merit, nor confers dignity, one would think should not be desired so much as to be counterfeited: yet even this vanity, trifling as it is, produces innumerable narratives, all equally false; but more or less credible in proportion to the skill or confidence of the relater. How many may a man of diffusive conversation count among his acquaintances, whose lives have been signalized by numberless escapes; who never cross the river but in a storm, or take a journey into the country without more adventures than befel the knights-errant of ancient times in pathless forests or enchanted castles! How many must he know, to whom portents and prodigies are of daily occurrence; and for whom nature is hourly working wonders invisible to every other eye, only to supply them with subjects of conversation.
Others there are that amuse themselves with the dissemination of falsehood, at greater hazard of detection and disgrace; men marked out by some lucky planet for universal confidence and friendship, who have been consulted in every difficulty, intrusted with every secret, and summoned to every transaction: it is the supreme felicity of these men, to stun all companies with noisy information; to still doubt, and overbear opposition, with certain knowledge or authentick intelligence. A liar of this kind, with a strong memory or brisk imagination, is often the oracle of an obscure club, and, till time discovers his impostures, dictates to his hearers with uncontrouled authority; for if a publick question be started, he was present at the debate; if a new fashion be mentioned, he was at court the first day of its appearance; if a new performance of literature draws the attention of the publick, he has patronized the author, and seen his work in manuscript; if a criminal of eminence be condemned to die, he often predicted his fate, and endeavoured his reformation: and who that lives at a distance from the scene of action, will dare to contradict a man, who reports from his own eyes and ears, and to whom all persons and affairs are thus intimately known?
This kind of falsehood is generally successful for a time, because it is practised at first with timidity and caution: but the prosperity of the liar is of short duration; the reception of one story is always an incitement to the forgery of another less probable; and he goes on to triumph over tacit credulity, till pride or reason rises up against him, and his companions will no longer endure to see him wiser than themselves.
It is apparent, that the inventors of all these fictions intend some exaltation of themselves, and are led off by the pursuit of honour from their attendance upon truth: their narratives always imply some consequence in favour of their courage, their sagacity, or their activity, their familiarity with the learned, or their reception among the great; they are always bribed by the present pleasure of seeing themselves superior to those that surround them, and receiving the homage of silent attention and envious admiration.
But vanity is sometimes excited to fiction by less visible gratifications: the present age abounds with a race of liars who are content with the consciousness of falsehood, and whose pride is to deceive others without any gain or glory to themselves. Of this tribe it is the supreme pleasure to remark a lady in the playhouse or the park, and to publish, under the character of a man suddenly enamoured, an advertisement in the news of the next day, containing a minute description of her person and her dress. From this artifice, however, no other effect can be expected, than perturbations which the writer can never see, and conjectures of which he never can be informed; some mischief, however, he hopes he has done; and to have done mischief, is of some importance. He sets his invention to work again, and produces a narrative of a robbery or a murder, with all the circumstances of time and place accurately adjusted. This is a jest of greater effect and longer duration: if he fixes his scene at a proper distance, he may for several days keep a wife in terrour for her husband, or a mother for her son; and please himself with reflecting, that by his abilities and address some addition is made to the miseries of life.
There is, I think, an ancient law of Scotland, by which leasing-making was capitally punished. I am, indeed, far from desiring to increase in this kingdom the number of executions; yet I cannot but think, that they who destroy the confidence of society, weaken the credit of intelligence, and interrupt the security of life; harass the delicate with shame, and perplex the timorous with alarms; might very properly be awakened to a sense of their crimes, by denunciations of a whipping-post or pillory: since many are so insensible of right and wrong, that they have no standard of action but the law; nor feel guilt, but as they dread punishment.
No. 53. TUESDAY, MAY 8, 1753.
Quisque suos patimur manes. VIRG. Aen. Lib. vi. 743.
Each has his lot, and bears the fate he drew.
Sir, Fleet, May 6.
In consequence of my engagements, I address you once more from the habitations of misery. In this place, from which business and pleasure are equally excluded, and in which our only employment and diversion is to hear the narratives of each other, I might much sooner have gathered materials for a letter, had I not hoped to have been reminded of my promise; but since I find myself placed in the regions of oblivion, where I am no less neglected by you than by the rest of mankind, I resolved no longer to wait for solicitation, but stole early this evening from between gloomy sullenness and riotous merriment, to give you an account of part of my companions.
One of the most eminent members of our club is Mr. Edward Scamper, a man of whose name the Olympick heroes would not have been ashamed. Ned was born to a small estate, which he determined to improve; and therefore, as soon as he became of age, mortgaged part of his land to buy a mare and stallion, and bred horses for the course. He was at first very successful, and gained several of the king's plates, as he is now every day boasting, at the expense of very little more than ten times their value. At last, however, he discovered, that victory brought him more honour than profit: resolving, therefore, to be rich as well as illustrious, he replenished his pockets by another mortgage, became on a sudden a daring bettor, and resolving not to trust a jockey with his fortune, rode his horse himself, distanced two of his competitors the first heat, and at last won the race by forcing his horse on a descent to full speed at the hazard of his neck. His estate was thus repaired, and some friends that had no souls advised him to give over; but Ned now knew the way to riches, and therefore without caution increased his expenses. From this hour he talked and dreamed of nothing but a horse-race; and rising soon to the summit of equestrian reputation, he was constantly expected on every course, divided all his time between lords and jockeys, and, as the unexperienced regulated their bets by his example, gained a great deal of money by laying openly on one horse and secretly on the other. Ned was now so sure of growing rich, that he involved his estate in a third mortgage, borrowed money of all his friends, and risked his whole fortune upon Bay Lincoln. He mounted with beating heart, started fair, and won the first heat; but in the second, as he was pushing against the foremost of his rivals, his girth broke, his shoulder was dislocated, and before he was dismissed by the surgeon, two bailiffs fastened upon him, and he saw Newmarket no more. His daily amusement for four years has been to blow the signal for starting, to make imaginary matches, to repeat the pedigree of Bay Lincoln, and to form resolutions against trusting another groom with the choice of his girth.
The next in seniority is Mr. Timothy Snug, a man of deep contrivance and impenetrable secrecy. His father died with the reputation of more wealth than he possessed: Tim, therefore, entered the world with a reputed fortune of ten thousand pounds. Of this he very well knew that eight thousand was imaginary: but being a man of refined policy, and knowing how much honour is annexed to riches, he resolved never to detect his own poverty; but furnished his house with elegance, scattered his money with profusion, encouraged every scheme of costly pleasure, spoke of petty losses with negligence, and on the day before an execution entered his doors, had proclaimed at a public table his resolution to be jolted no longer in a hackney coach.
Another of my companions is the magnanimous Jack Scatter, the son of a country gentleman, who, having no other care than to leave him rich, considered that literature could not be had without expense; masters would not teach for nothing; and when a book was bought and read, it would sell for little. Jack was, therefore, taught to read and write by the butler; and when this acquisition was made, was left to pass his days in the kitchen and the stable, where he heard no crime censured but covetousness and distrust of poor honest servants, and where all the praise was bestowed on good housekeeping, and a free heart. At the death of his father, Jack set himself to retrieve the honour of his family: he abandoned his cellar to the butler, ordered his groom to provide hay and corn at discretion, took his housekeeper's word for the expenses of the kitchen, allowed all his servants to do their work by deputies, permitted his domesticks to keep his house open to their relations and acquaintance, and in ten years was conveyed hither, without having purchased by the loss of his patrimony either honour or pleasure, or obtained any other gratification than that of having corrupted the neighbouring villagers by luxury and idleness.
Dick Serge was a draper in Cornhill, and passed eight years in prosperous diligence, without any care but to keep his books, or any ambition but to be in time an alderman: but then, by some unaccountable revolution in his understanding, he became enamoured of wit and humour, despised the conversation of pedlars and stock-jobbers, and rambled every night to the regions of gaiety, in quest of company suited to his taste. The wits at first flocked about him for sport, and afterwards for interest; some found their way into his books, and some into his pockets; the man of adventure was equipped from his shop for the pursuit, of a fortune; and he had sometimes the honour to have his security accepted when his friends were in distress. Elated with these associations, he soon learned to neglect his shop; and having drawn his money out of the funds, to avoid the necessity of teasing men of honour for trifling debts, he has been forced at last to retire hither, till his friends can procure him a post at court.
Another that joins in the same mess is Bob Cornice, whose life has been spent in fitting up a house. About ten years ago Bob purchased the country habitation of a bankrupt: the mere shell of a building Bob holds no great matter; the inside is the test of elegance. Of this house he was no sooner master than he summoned twenty workmen to his assistance, tore up the floors and laid them anew, stripped off the wainscot, drew the windows from their frames, altered the disposition of doors and fire-places, and cast the whole fabrick into a new form: his next care was to have his ceilings painted, his pannels gilt, and his chimney-pieces carved: every thing was executed by the ablest hands: Bob's business was to follow the workmen with a microscope, and call upon them to retouch their performances, and heighten excellence to perfection.
The reputation of his house now brings round him a daily confluence of visitants, and every one tells him of some elegance which he has hitherto overlooked, some convenience not yet procured, or some new mode in ornament or furniture. Bob, who had no wish but to be admired, nor any guide but the fashion, thought every thing beautiful in proportion as it was new, and considered his work as unfinished, while any observer could suggest an addition; some alteration was therefore every day made, without any other motive than the charms of novelty. A traveller at last suggested to him the convenience of a grotto: Bob immediately ordered the mount of his garden to be excavated: and having laid out a large sum in shells and minerals, was busy in regulating the disposition of the colours and lustres, when two gentlemen, who had asked permission to see his gardens, presented him a writ, and led him off to less elegant apartments.
I know not, Sir, whether among this fraternity of sorrow you will think any much to be pitied; nor indeed do many of them appear to solicit compassion, for they generally applaud their own conduct, and despise those whom want of taste or spirit suffers to grow rich. It were happy if the prisons of the kingdom were filled only with characters like these, men whom prosperity could not make useful, and whom ruin cannot make wise: but there are among us many who raise different sensations, many that owe their present misery to the seductions of treachery, the strokes of casualty, or the tenderness of pity; many whose sufferings disgrace society, and whose virtues would adorn it: of these, when familiarity shall have enabled me to recount their stories without horrour, you may expect another narrative from
Your most humble servant,
No. 58. SATURDAY, MAY 25, 1753.
Damnant quod non intelligunt. CIC.
They condemn what they do not understand.
Euripides, having presented Socrates with the writings of Heraclitus, a philosopher famed for involution and obscurity, inquired afterwards his opinion of their merit. "What I understand," said Socrates, "I find to be excellent; and, therefore, believe that to be of equal value which I cannot understand."
The reflection of every man who reads this passage will suggest to him the difference between the practice of Socrates, and that of modern criticks: Socrates, who had, by long observation upon himself and others, discovered the weakness of the strongest, and the dimness of the most enlightened intellect, was afraid to decide hastily in his own favour, or to conclude that an author had written without meaning, because he could not immediately catch his ideas; he knew that the faults of books are often more justly imputable to the reader, who sometimes wants attention, and sometimes penetration; whose understanding is often obstructed by prejudice, and often dissipated by remissness; who comes sometimes to a new study, unfurnished with knowledge previously necessary; and finds difficulties insuperable, for want of ardour sufficient to encounter them.
Obscurity and clearness are relative terms: to some readers scarce any book is easy, to others not many are difficult: and surely they, whom neither any exuberant praise bestowed by others, nor any eminent conquests over stubborn problems, have entitled to exalt themselves above the common orders of mankind, might condescend to imitate the candour of Socrates; and where they find incontestable proofs of superior genius, be content to think that there is justness in the connexion which they cannot trace, and cogency in the reasoning which they cannot comprehend.
This diffidence is never more reasonable than in the perusal of the authors of antiquity; of those whose works have been the delight of ages, and transmitted as the great inheritance of mankind from one generation to another: surely, no man can, without the utmost arrogance, imagine that he brings any superiority of understanding to the perusal of these books which have been preserved in the devastation of cities, and snatched up from the wreck of nations; which those who fled before barbarians have been careful to carry off in the hurry of migration, and of which barbarians have repented the destruction. If in books thus made venerable by the uniform attestation of successive ages, any passages shall appear unworthy of that praise which they have formerly received, let us not immediately determine, that they owed their reputation to dulness or bigotry; but suspect at least that our ancestors had some reasons for their opinions, and that our ignorance of those reasons makes us differ from them.
It often happens that an author's reputation is endangered in succeeding times, by that which raised the loudest applause among his contemporaries: nothing is read with greater pleasure than allusions to recent facts, reigning opinions, or present controversies; but when facts are forgotten, and controversies extinguished, these favourite touches lose all their graces; and the author in his descent to posterity must be left to the mercy of chance, without any power of ascertaining the memory of those things, to which he owed his luckiest thoughts and his kindest reception.
On such occasions, every reader should remember the diffidence of Socrates, and repair by his candour the injuries of time: he should impute the seeming defects of his author to some chasm of intelligence, and suppose that the sense which is now weak was once forcible, and the expression which is now dubious formerly determinate.
How much the mutilation of ancient history has taken away from the beauty of poetical performances, may be conjectured from the light which a lucky commentator sometimes effuses, by the recovery of an incident that had been long forgotten: thus, in the third book of Horace, Juno's denunciations against, those that should presume to raise again the walls of Troy, could for many ages please only by splendid images and swelling language, of which no man discovered the use or propriety, till Le Fevre, by showing on what occasion the Ode was written, changed wonder to rational delight. Many passages yet undoubtedly remain in the same author, which an exacter knowledge of the incidents of his time would clear from objections. Among these I have always numbered the following lines:
Aurum per medios ire satellites, Et perrumpere amat saxa, potentius Ictu fulmineo. Concidit auguris Argivi domus ob lucrum Demersa exitio. Diffidit urbium Portas vir Macedo, et subruit aemulos Regis muneribus: Munera navium Saevos illaqueant duces. HOR. Lib. iii. Ode xvi. 9.
Stronger than thunder's winged force, All-powerful gold can spread its course, Thro' watchful guards its passage make, And loves thro' solid walls to break: From gold the overwhelming woes That crush'd the Grecian augur rose: Philip with gold thro' cities broke, And rival monarchs felt his yoke; Captains of ships to gold are slaves, Tho' fierce as their own winds and waves. FRANCIS.
The close of this passage, by which every reader is now disappointed and offended, was probably the delight of the Roman Court: it cannot be imagined, that Horace, after having given to gold the force of thunder, and told of its power to storm cities and to conquer kings, would have concluded his account of its efficacy with its influence over naval commanders, had he not alluded to some fact then current in the mouths of men, and therefore more interesting for a time than the conquests of Philip. Of the like kind may be reckoned another stanza in the same book:
—Jussa coram non sine conscio Surgit marito, seu vocat institor, Seu navis Hispanae magister, Dedecorum pretiosus emptor. HOR. Lib. iii. Ode. vi. 29.
The conscious husband bids her rise, When some rich factor courts her charms, Who calls the wanton to his arms, And, prodigal of wealth and fame, Profusely buys the costly shame. FRANCIS.
He has little knowledge of Horace who imagines that the factor, or the Spanish merchant, are mentioned by chance: there was undoubtedly some popular story of an intrigue, which those names recalled to the memory of his reader.
The flame of his genius in other parts, though somewhat dimmed by time, is not totally eclipsed; his address and judgment yet appear, though much of the spirit and vigour of his sentiment is lost: this has happened in the twentieth Ode of the first book:
Vile potabis modicis Sabinum Cantharis, Graeca quod ego ipse testa Conditum levi, datus in theatro Cum tibi plausus, Care Maecenas eques: ut paterni Fluminis ripae, simul et jocosa Redderet laudes tibi Vaticani Montis imago.
A poet's beverage humbly cheap, (Should great Maecenas be my guest,) The vintage of the Sabine grape, But yet in sober cups shall crown the feast: 'Twas rack'd into a Grecian cask, Its rougher juice to melt away; I seal'd it too—a pleasing task! With annual joy to mark the glorious day, When in applausive shouts thy name Spread from the theatre around, Floating on thy own Tiber's stream, And Echo, playful nymph, return'd the sound. FRANCIS.
We here easily remark the intertexture of a happy compliment with an humble invitation; but certainly are less delighted than those, to whom the mention of the applause bestowed upon Maecenas, gave occasion to recount the actions or words that produced it.
Two lines which have exercised the ingenuity of modern criticks, may, I think, be reconciled to the judgment, by an easy supposition: Horace thus addresses Agrippa:
Scriberis Vario fortis, et hostium Victor, Maeonii carminis alite. HOR. Lib. i. Ode vi. 1.
Varius, a swan of Homer's wing, Shall brave Agrippa's conquests sing.
That Varius should be called "A bird of Homeric song," appears so harsh to modern ears, that an emendation of the text has been proposed: but surely the learning of the ancients had been long ago obliterated, had every man thought himself at liberty to corrupt the lines which he did not understand. If we imagine that Varius had been by any of his contemporaries celebrated under the appellation of Musarum ales, "the swan of the Muses," the language of Horace becomes graceful and familiar; and that such a compliment was at least possible, we know from the transformation feigned by Horace of himself.
The most elegant compliment that was paid to Addison, is of this obscure and perishable kind;
When panting Virtue her last efforts made, You brought your Clio to the virgin's aid.
These lines must please as long as they are understood; but can be understood only by those that have observed Addison's signatures in the Spectator.
The nicety of these minute allusions I shall exemplify by another instance, which I take this occasion to mention, because, as I am told, the commentators have omitted it. Tibullus addressed Cynthia in this manner:
Te spectem, suprema mihi cum venerit hora, Te teneam moriens deficiente manu. Lib. i. El. i. 73.
Before my closing eyes dear Cynthia stand, Held weakly by my fainting trembling hand.
To these lines Ovid thus refers in his Elegy on the death of Tibullus:
Cynthia discedens, Felicius, inquit, amata Sum tibi; vixisti dum tuus ignis eram. Cui Nemesis, quid, ait, tibi sint mea damna dolori? Me tenuit moriens deficiente manu. Am. Lib. in. El. ix. 56.
Blest was my reign, retiring Cynthia cry'd; Not till he left my breast, Tibullus dy'd. Forbear, said Nemesis, my loss to moan, The fainting trembling hand was mine alone.
The beauty of this passage, which consists in the appropriation made by Nemesis of the line originally directed to Cynthia, had been wholly imperceptible to succeeding ages, had chance, which has destroyed so many greater volumes, deprived us likewise of the poems of Tibullus.
 The obscurity of this philosopher's style is complained of by Aristotle in his treatise on Rhetoric, iii. 5. We make the reference with the view of recommending to attention the whole of that book, which is interspersed with the most acute remarks, and with rules of criticism founded deeply on the workings of the human mind. It is undervalued only by those who have not scholarship to read it, and surely merits this slight tribute of admiration from an Editor of Johnson's works, with whom a Translation of the Rhetoric was long a favourite project.
No. 62. SATURDAY, JUNE 9, 1753.
O fortuna viris, invida fortibus Quam non aequa bonis praemia dividis. SENECA.
Capricious Fortune ever joys, With partial hand to deal the prize, To crush the brave and cheat the wise.
TO THE ADVENTURER.
Fleet, June 6.
To the account of such of my companions as are imprisoned without being miserable, or are miserable without any claim to compassion, I promised to add the histories of those, whose virtue has made them unhappy or whose misfortunes are at least without a crime. That this catalogue should be very numerous, neither you nor your readers ought to expect: rari quippe boni; "the good are few." Virtue is uncommon in all the classes of humanity; and I suppose it will scarcely be imagined more frequent in a prison than in other places.
Yet in these gloomy regions is to be found the tenderness, the generosity, the philanthropy of Serenus, who might have lived in competence and ease, if he could have looked without emotion on the miseries of another. Serenus was one of those exalted minds, whom knowledge and sagacity could not make suspicious; who poured out his soul in boundless intimacy, and thought community of possessions the law of friendship. The friend of Serenus was arrested for debt, and after many endeavours to soften his creditor, sent his wife to solicit that assistance which never was refused. The tears and importunity of female distress were more than was necessary to move the heart of Serenus; he hasted immediately away, and conferring a long time with his friend, found him confident that if the present pressure was taken off, he should soon be able to reestablish his affairs. Serenus, accustomed to believe, and afraid to aggravate distress, did not attempt to detect the fallacies of hope, nor reflect that every man overwhelmed with calamity believes, that if that was removed he shall immediately be happy: he, therefore, with little hesitation offered himself as surety.
In the first raptures of escape all was joy, gratitude, and confidence: the friend of Serenus displayed his prospects, and counted over the sums of which he should infallibly be master before the day of payment. Serenus in a short time began to find his danger, but could not prevail with himself to repent of beneficence; and therefore suffered himself still to be amused with projects which he durst not consider, for fear of finding them impracticable. The debtor, after he had tried every method of raising money which art or indigence could prompt, wanted either fidelity or resolution to surrender himself to prison, and left Serenus to take his place.
Serenus has often proposed to the creditor, to pay him whatever he shall appear to have lost by the flight of his friend: but however reasonable this proposal may be thought, avarice and brutality have been hitherto inexorable, and Serenus still continues to languish in prison. In this place, however, where want makes almost every man selfish, or desperation gloomy, it is the good fortune of Serenus not to live without a friend: he passes most of his hours in the conversation of Candidus, a man whom the same virtuous ductility has, with some difference of circumstances, made equally unhappy. Candidus, when he was young, helpless, and ignorant, found a patron that educated, protected, and supported him; his patron being more vigilant for others than himself, left at his death an only son, destitute and friendless. Candidus was eager to repay the benefits he had received; and having maintained the youth for a few years at his own house, afterwards placed him with a merchant of eminence, and gave bonds to a great value as a security for his conduct.
The young man, removed too early from the only eye of which he dreaded the observation, and deprived of the only instruction which he heard with reverence, soon learned to consider virtue as restraint, and restraint as oppression: and to look with a longing eye at every expense to which he could not reach, and every pleasure which he could not partake: by degrees he deviated from his first regularity, and unhappily mingling among young men busy in dissipating the gains of their fathers' industry, he forgot the precepts of Candidus, spent the evening in parties of pleasure, and the morning in expedients to support his riots. He was, however, dexterous and active in business: and his master, being secured against any consequences of dishonesty, was very little solicitous to inspect his manners, or to inquire how he passed those hours, which were not immediately devoted to the business of his profession: when he was informed of the young man's extravagance or debauchery, "let his bondsman look to that," said he, "I have taken care of myself."
Thus the unhappy spendthrift proceeded from folly to folly, and from vice to vice, with the connivance, if not the encouragement, of his master; till in the heat of a nocturnal revel he committed such violences in the street as drew upon him a criminal prosecution. Guilty and unexperienced, he knew not what course to take; to confess his crime to Candidus, and solicit his interposition, was little less dreadful than to stand before the frown of a court of justice. Having, therefore, passed the day with anguish in his heart and distraction in his looks, he seized at night a very large sum of money in the compting-house, and setting out he knew not whither, was heard of no more.
The consequence of his flight was the ruin of Candidus; ruin surely undeserved and irreproachable, and such as the laws of a just government ought either to prevent or repair: nothing is more inequitable than that one man should suffer for the crimes of another, for crimes which he neither prompted nor permitted, which he could neither foresee nor prevent. When we consider the weakness of human resolutions and the inconsistency of human conduct, it must appear absurd that one man shall engage for another, that he will not change his opinions or alter his conduct.
It is, I think, worthy of consideration, whether, since no wager is binding without a possibility of loss on each side, it is not equally reasonable, that no contract should be valid without reciprocal stipulations; but in this case, and others of the same kind, what is stipulated on his side to whom the bond is given? he takes advantage of the security, neglects his affairs, omits his duty, suffers timorous wickedness to grow daring by degrees, permits appetite to call for new gratifications, and, perhaps, secretly longs for the time in which he shall have power to seize the forfeiture; and if virtue or gratitude should prove too strong for temptation, and a young man persist in honesty, however instigated by his passions, what can secure him at last against a false accusation? I for my part always shall suspect, that he who can by such methods secure his property, will go one step further to increase it; nor can I think that man safely trusted with the means of mischief, who, by his desire to have them in his hands, gives an evident proof how much less he values his neighbour's happiness than his own.
Another of our companions is Lentulus, a man whose dignity of birth was very ill supported by his fortune. As some of the first offices in the kingdom were filled by his relations, he was early invited to court, and encouraged by caresses and promises to attendance and solicitation; a constant appearance in splendid company necessarily required magnificence of dress; and a frequent participation of fashionable amusements forced him into expense: but these measures were requisite to his success; since every body knows, that to be lost to sight is to be lost to remembrance, and that he who desires to fill a vacancy, must be always at hand, lest some man of greater vigilance should step in before him.
By this course of life his little fortune was every day made less: but he received so many distinctions in publick, and was known to resort so familiarly to the houses of the great, that every man looked on his preferment as certain, and believed that its value would compensate for its slowness: he, therefore, found no difficulty in obtaining credit for all that his rank or his vanity made necessary: and, as ready payment was not expected, the bills were proportionably enlarged, and the value of the hazard or delay was adjusted solely by the equity of the creditor. At length death deprived Lentulus of one of his patrons, and a revolution in the ministry of another; so that all his prospects vanished at once, and those that had before encouraged his expenses, began to perceive that their money was in danger; there was now no other contention but who should first seize upon his person, and, by forcing immediate payment, deliver him up naked to the vengeance of the rest.
In pursuance of this scheme, one of them invited him to a tavern, and procured him to be arrested at the door; but Lentulus, instead of endeavouring secretly to pacify him by payment, gave notice to the rest, and offered to divide amongst them the remnant of his fortune: they feasted six hours at his expense, to deliberate on his proposal; and at last determined, that as he could not offer more than five shillings in the pound, it would be more prudent to keep him in prison, till he could procure from his relations the payment of his debts.
Lentulus is not the only man confined within these walls, on the same account: the like procedure, upon the like motives, is common among men whom yet the law allows to partake the use of fire and water with the compassionate and the just; who frequent the assemblies of commerce in open day, and talk with detestation and contempt of highwaymen or housebreakers: but, surely, that man must be confessedly robbed, who is compelled, by whatever means, to pay the debts which he does not owe: nor can I look with equal hatred upon him, who, at the hazard of his life, holds out his pistol and demands my purse, as on him who plunders under shelter of the law, and by detaining my son or my friend in prison, extorts from me the price of their liberty. No man can be more an enemy to society than he, by whose machinations our virtues are turned to our disadvantage; he is less destructive to mankind that plunders cowardice, than he that preys upon compassion.