« PreviousContinue »
North-west passage * that brings the merchant's ships into port, as soon as he can desire; in a word, it conquers all enemies, and makes fortune itself pay contribution.
If this omnipotent engine were applied to all virtuous and worthy purposes, it would root out all vice from the world ; for the industry of honest men is much more powerful than the industry of the wicked, which prevails not so much by its own activity as by the remissness and supine laziness of their unwary enemies. The beauty and the brightness of it appear most powerfully to our observation by the view of the contempt and deformity of that which is most opposite to it, idleness, which enfeebles and enervates the strength of the soundest constitutions, shrinks and stupifies the faculties of the most vigorous mind, and gives all the destroying diseases to body and mind, without the contribution from any other vice. Idleness is the sin and the punishment of beggars, and should be detested by all noble persons as a disease pestilential to their fortune and their honour.
I know not how it comes to pass, but the world pays dear for the folly of it; that this transcendant qualification of industry is looked upon only as an
* In the age of Clarendon, one of the favourite objects was the discovery of a passage by sea to the North of the American Continent, as in the present time it is to discover the North East passage, or one to the North of Siberia,
assistant fit for vulgar spirits, to which nature has not been bountiful in the distribution of her store; as the refuge for dull and heavy men who have neither their conceptions or apprehensions within any distance, nor can arrive at any ordinary design without much labour and toil. Men of sharp and pregnant parts, it is said, stand in no need of industry; whose rich fancy presents to them in a moment the view of all contingencies, and all that occurs to formal and elaborate men after all their efforts. They are supposed to view, and survey, and judge, and execute, while the others are tormenting themselves with imaginations of difficulty till all opportunities are lost. It is considered an affront to the liberality of nature, and to the excellent qualities she has bestowed upon them, to take pains to find what they have about them, and to doubt that which is most evident to them; be. cause men who have more dim sights cannot discern so far as they; and by this haughty childishness they quickly deprive themselves of the plentiful supplies which they have received from nature, for-want of nourishment and recruits.
If diligent and industrious men raise themselves with very ordinary assistance from nature, to a great and deserved height of reputation and honour, by their solid acquired wisdom and confessed judgment, what noble flights would such men make with equal industry, who are likewise liberally endowed with the advantages of nature ! and without that assistance experience makes it manifest unto us, that those early buddings, how vigorous soever they appear, if they are neglected and uncultivated by serious labour, wither and fade away without producing any thing worthy of notice. Tully's rule to his orator is applicable to all conditions of life. " Quantum detraxit ex studio tantum amisit ex gloria.” As much as is taken from study is lost to glory.
OF YOUTH AND AGE. .
A MAN, who is young in years, may be old in hours, if he have lost no time ; but that rarely happens. Generally youth is like the first cogitations, not so wise as the second; for there is a youth in thoughts as well as in ages ; and yet the invention of young men is more lively than that of old, and imaginations stream into their minds better, and as it were more divinely. Natures that
have much heat, and violent desires and perturbations, are not ripe for action, till they have passed the meridian of their years; as it was with Julius Cæsar, and Septimus Severus, of the latter of wbom it is said “ Juventutem egit erroribus, imo furoribus, plenam."* And yet he was the ablest emperor of almost all the list. But reposed natures may do well in youth, as it is seen in Augustus Cæsar, Cosmo, duke of Florence, Gaston de Foix, and others. On the other hand heat and vivacity in age form an excellent composition for business.
Young men are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than counsel, and fitter for new projects than for settled business; for the experirience of age in things that fall within its compass directs them, but in new things abuses them. The errors of
young men are the ruin of business; but the errors of aged men amount only to this, that more might have been done, or sooner. Young men in the conduct and management of affairs, embrace more than they can hold, stir more than they can quiet, fly to the end without consideration of the means and degrees, pursue some few principles which they have discovered by chance absurdly, fear not to innovate, which draws unknown inconveniences, use extreme remedies at first; and that which doubles all errors, will not acknowledge or retract them, like a restive horse, that will neither stop nor turn. Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little ; repent too soon, and seldom drive business to its full period, but content themselves with mediocrity of success.
* He passed his youth not merely in errors but in made
Certainly it is good to unite both in the same employments; for that will be good for the present, because the virtues of either
age may correct the defects of both; and good for succession, that young men may be learners while men in age are actors. And lastly, good for external accidents, because authority follows old men, and favour and popularity youth. But for the moral part, perhaps, youth will have the preeminence, as age has for the politic : and certainly the more we drink of the world the more it intoxicates; and age rather improves in the powers of the understanding than in the virtues of the will and affections.
Some have an over early ripeness in their years, which fades betimes. These are, first, such as have brittle wits, of which the edge is soon turned; such as was Hermogenes, the rhetorician, whose books are exceedingly subtle, and who afterwards waxed stupid. A second sort is of those that have some natural dispositions which have better grace in youth thạn in age, such as is a fluent and luxuriant speech, which well becomes youth but not age. Tully says of Hortensius, “ idem manebat
decebat." He continued the same as in his youth but it did not become him. The third is, of such as take