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Numb. 6. SATURDAY, April 7, 1750.
Strenua nos exercet inertia, navibus atque
Active in indolence, abroad we roam
With vain pursuits fatigu’d, at length you'll find,
· THAT man should never' suffer his happiness to
depend upon external circumstances, is one of the chief precepts of the Stoical philosophy; a precept, indeed, which that lofty sect has extended beyond the condition of human life, and in which some of them seem to have comprised an utter exclusion of all corporal pain and pleasure from the regard or attention of a wise man. .
Such sapientia insaniens, as Horace calls the doctrine of another sect, such extravagance of philosophy, can want neither authority nor argument for its confutation : it is overthrown by the experience of every hour, and the powers of nature rise up against it. But we may very properly inquire, how near to this exalted state it is in our power to approach, how far we can exempt ourselves from outward influences, and secure to our minds a state of tranquillity : for, though the boast of absolute independence is ridiculous and vain, yet a mean flexibility to every impulse, and a patient VOL. IV,
submission to the tyranny of casual troubles, is below the dignity of that mind, which, however depraved or. weakened, boasts it derivation from a celestial original, and hopes for an union with infinite goodness, and unvariable felicity.
Ni vitiis pejora fovens
Proprium deserat ortum.
Unless the soul, to vice a thrall,
The necessity of erecting ourselves to some degree of intellectual dignity, and of preserving resources of pleasure, which may not be wholly at the mercy of ac- • cident, is never more apparent than when we turn our eyes upon those whom fortune has let loose to their own conduct; who, not being chained down by their condition to a regular and stated allotment of their hours, are obliged to find themselves business or diversion, and having nothing within that can enter-, tain or employ them, are compelled to try all the arts of destroying time.
The numberless expedients practised by this class of mortals to alleviate the burthen of life, are not less shameful, nor, perhaps, much less pitiable, than those to which a trader on the edge of bankruptcy is reduced. I have seen melancholy overspread a whole family at the disappointment of a party for cards; and when, after the proposal of a thousand schemes, and the despatch of the footman upon a hundred messages, they have submitted, with gloomy resignation, to the misfortune of passing one evening in conversation with
each other; on a sudden, such are the revolutions of the world, an unexpected visiter has brought them reliet, acceptable as provision to a starving city, and enabled them to hold out till the next day.
The general remedy of those, who are uneasy without knowing the cause, is change of place; they are willing to imagine that their pain is the consequence of some local inconvenience, and endeavour to fly from it, as children from their shadows ; always hoping for some more satisfactory delight from every new scene, and always returing home with disappointment and complaints.
Who can look upon this kind of infatuation, without reflecting on those that suffer under the dreadful symptom of canine madness, termed by physicians the dread of water ? These miserable wretches, un.able to drink, though burning with thirst, are sometimes known to try various contortions, or inclinations of the body, flatterring themselves that they can swallow in one posture that liquor which they find in another to repel their lips.
Yet such folly is not peculiar to the thoughtless or ignorant, but sometimes seizes those minds which seem most exempted from it, by the variety of attainments, quickness of penetration, or severity of judgment; and, indeed, the pride of wit and knowledge is often mortified by finding that they confer no security against the common errours, which mislead the weakest and meanest of mankind.
These reflections arose in my mind upon the remembrance of a passage in Cowley's preface to his poems, where, however exalted by genius, and enlarged by
study, study, he informs us of a scheme of happiness to which the imagination of a girl upon the loss of her first lover could have scarcely given way; but which he seems to have indulged, till he had totally forgotten its absurdity, and would probably have put in execution, had he been hindered only by his reason..
'My desire,' says he, 'has been for some years past, though the execution has been accidentally diverted, 6 and does still vehemently continue, to retire myself to
some of our American plantations, not to seek for gold, or enrich myself with the traffick of those parts, which is the end of most men that travel thither; but to forsake this world for ever, with all the vanities and vexations of it, and to bury myself there im . some obscure retreat, but not without the consolation of letters and philosophy.
. Such was the chimerical provision which Cowley.' had made in his own mind, for the quiet of his remaining life, and which he seems to recommend' to posterity, since there is no other reason for disclosing it. Surely no stronger instance can be given of a persuasion that content was the inhabitant of particular regions, and that a man might set sail with a fair wind, and leave behind him all his cares, incumbrances, and calamities.
If he travelled so far with no other purpose than to bury himself in some obscure retreat, he might have found, in bis own country, innumerable coverts sufficiently dark to have concealed the genius of Cowley; for whatever might be his opinion of the importunity with which he might be summoned back into publick life, a short experience would have convinced him,
that privation is easier than acquisition, and that it would require little continuance to free himself from the intrusion of the world. There is pride enough in the human heart to prevent much desire of acquaintance with a man, by whom we are sure to be neglected, however his reputation for science or virtue may excite our curiosity or esteem; so that the lover of retirement needs not be afraid lest the respect of strangers should overwhelm him with visits. Even those to whom he has formerly been known, will very patiently support his absence when they have tried a little to live without him, and found new diversions for those moments which his company contributed to exhilarate. · It was, perhaps, ordained by Providence, to hinder us from tyrannising over one anotier, that no individual should be of such importance, as to cau , by his retirement or death, any chasın in the world. And Cowley had conversed to little po pieno niti mankind, if he had never remarked, how soon the useful friend, the gay companioni, anat glav) red lov r, when once they are removed from before the siznt, give way to the succession of new objects.
The privacy, therefore, of his brinitage might have been safe enouyh from violation, though he had chosen it within the linits is his native isiani; he might have found here preservatives against the vanities and re.rations of the world, not less ethralius than those which the woods or fields of America could afford him ; but having once his mini in bitired with disgust, he conceived it impossible to be iar enough from the cause of his uneasiness; and has posting away with the expedition of a coward, who, D 3