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No. 1. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 1785.
J'y goúte avec plaisir
NOTHING is perhaps so difficult as to find out business proper for the idle; and, though it may appear paradoxical, yet I believe none have so much need of it as they. The man who is professionally employed, in whatever department, goes on in the track which habit has marked out for him, at peace with his own thoughts and the world; but he whom every passing moment reproaches with doing nothing, must often fy for relief to very useless or very unworthy occupations. He will often be dissipated without amusement, and intemperate without pleasure, merely because dissipation is preferable to vacancy, and intemperance to listlessness.
There is however a kind of men, whom accident has thrown out of the business of life, and whom temperament, if not virtue, keeps out of the dissipation of it, who hold a station of less destructive and more dignified indolence, whom the company of their
own thoughts renders independent of vulgar society, and the vigour and variety of whose imagination free from the necessity of resorting to frivolous or censurable amusements. Among the first sort, the transition is
yawn of inanity to the roar of riot and intemperance; but persons of the latter description, idle in conduct, but of active minds, as they seldom experience the uneasiness of the one, seldom incur the blame of the other.
As far as the freedom from dissipation extends, the writer of the present paper thinks he may lay claim to the last of those characters. It were needless, and indeed improper, tò trouble his readers with the history of those incidents in his life which have thrown him out of the number of the professionally busy; some untoward circumstances in point of fortune, and some feelings, perhaps blamable from their nicety, drew him, at an early period of life, out from among the bustle of mankind; but without the misanthropy that arises from disgust, or the despondency that is sometimes the consequence of disappointment..
Those incidents, however, did not abridge, but perhaps rather increased, the extent of his society. Within the pale of a particular profession, a man's companions and associates are chiefly limited to some particular class with which that profession is connected. But he who is an idler without unsocial dispositions finds occasional companions in all characters and professions, who are neither estranged from him by the jealousy of rivalship, nor kept at a distance by the opposite nature of their pursuits and occupations.
The busy, it must be owned, are apt to treat such a man with more kindness than deference. This it was not long before I experienced: but of a temper not easily offended, I only smiled at perceiving it; and it rather soothed my indolence, than provoked my spleen, when I found that I had acquired a de
nomination more innocent than respectable. I was called a Lounger by all my acquaintance, and much the greater part of my friends agreed to the appellation. If at any time I felt the undignified sound of the name, yet I took credit with myself, on the other hand, for not deserving it. It flattered a secret pride to be somewhat more than the world thought
Of generic names, indeed, people are not always very scrupulous in the application, and therefore I could easily pardon those who ranked me under the class of men which the title of Lounger distinguishes. He whose walks are pointed neither to the resorts of the merchant, the lawyer, the soldier, or the churchman, it may fairly be supposed has no motive for them at all; and the first of any of those professions who crosses him in his way will accuse him of being a LOUNGER. He will still more seem to deserve that name, if he frequents their places of meeting without having any business congenial to those places.
The same superiority will be assumed by the professedly idle, as by the professionally busy. In the haunts of amusement and of pleasure, the man who does not warmly worship the deity of the place will be accounted a supernumerary by his votaries. At balls and card-parties I have as frequently heard myself called a LOUNGER, as on 'Change or in courts of law.
Abroad, for I was prevailed on by a friend to accompany him for some time on his travels, I was not just called a LOUNGER, the French and Italian languages not possessing an exactly synonymous term, and those which approach nearest to it not being respectful enough to be applied to a stranger. Both nations indeed are idle with so much activity, and contrive to do nothing, and to say nothing, with so much interest in their looks, and so much movement
in their gestures, that it is no wonder the word should not find a place in their vocabulary: but they too marked some traces of my character; though, as is their custom, they tacked a compliment to their draught of it. "Monsieur,' said the Abbé petit souper of Madame de V's, at Paris, · Mon sieur est quelquefois Rêveur, mais toujours interessant, toujours aimable !
On all those occasions, however, I was not quite so idle as those around me imagined. Like Alfred in the Danish camp, I harped for them, but observed for myself; and, like him too, enjoyed my observation the more that it was secret and unsuspected. If this resemblance should convey some idea of treachery, of advantage over those with whom I associated, let it be known, at least, that in the use of it I was perfectly inoffensive. The Lounger is one of the best natured characters in the world, even in the sense which I allow the term to apply to myself. 'Tis the player who frets, and scolds, and is angry: the looker-on sees more errors in the play; but he applies them only to the theory of the game, and thinks but little of the party who commits them.
As a Lounger, I had from my earliest age been fond of books, and sometimes ventured to write when I was tired of reading. A Lounger of the sort I could wish to be thought is one who, even amidst a certain intercourse with mankind, preserves a constant intimacy with himself; it is not therefore to be wondered at, if he should sometimes, if I may
be allowed the expression, correspond with himself, and write down, if he can write at all, what he wishes this favourite companion more particularly to remark. Exactly of this sort are the notes and memorandums I have sometimes been tempted to make: transcripts of what I have felt or thought, or little records of what I have heard or read, set down without any