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gravates dangers incurred or sorrow endured by himself, because he darkens the prospect of futurity, and multiplies the pains of our condition by useless terrour. Those who magnify their delights are less criminal deceivers, yet they raise hopes which are sure to be disappointed. It would be undoubtedly best, if we could see and hear every thing as it is, that nothing might be too anxiously dreaded, or too ardenlty pursued.
No. 51. SATURDAY, April 7, 1759.
It has been commonly remarked, that eminent men are least eminent at home, that bright characters lose much of their splendour at a nearer view, and many who fill the world with their fame excite very little reverence among those that surround them in their domestic privacies.
To blame or to suspect, is easy and natural. When the fact is evident, and the cause doubtful, some accusation is always engendered between idleness and malignity. This disparity of general and familiar esteem is therefore imputed to hidden vices, and to practices indulged in secret, but carefully covered from the public eye.
Vice will indeed always produce contempt. The dignity of Alexander, though nations fell prostrate before him, was certainly held in little veneration by the partakers of his midnight revels, who had seen bim, in the madness of wine murder his friend, or set fire to the Persian palace at the instigation of a harlot. And it is well remembered among us, that the avarice of Marlborough kept him in subjection to his wife, while he was dreaded by France as her conqueror, and honoured by the Emperour as his deliverer.
But though where there is vice there must be a want of reverence, it is not reciprocally true, that when there is want of reverence there is always vice. That awe which great actions or abilities impress will be inevitably diminished by acquaintance, though nothing either mean or criminal should be found.
Of men, as of every thing else, we must judge according to our knowledge. When we see of a hero only his battles, or of a writer only his books, we have nothing to allay our ideas of their greatness. We consider the one only as the guardian of his country, and the other only as the instructor of mankind. We have neither opportunity nor motive to examine the minuter parts of their lives, or the less apparent peculiarities of their characters; we name them with babitual respect, and forget, what we still continue to know, that they are men like other mortals.
But such is the constitution of the world, that much of life must be spent in the same manner by the wise and the ignorant, the exalted and the low. Men, however distinguished by external accidents, or intrinsic qualities, have all the same wants, the same pains, and, as far as the senses are consulted, the same pleasures. The petty cares and petty duties are the same in every station to every understanding, and every hour brings some occasion on which we all sink to the common level. We are all naked till we are dressed, and hungry till we are fed ; and the general's triumph and sage's disputation, end, like the humble labours of the smith or ploughman, in a dinner or in sleep.
Those notions which are to be collected by reason in opposition to the senses, will seldom stand forward in the mind, but lie treasured in the remoter repositories of memory, to be found only when they are sought. Whatever any man may have written or done, his precepts or his valour will scarcely overbalance the unimportant uniformity which runs through his time. We do not easily consider him as great, whom our own eyes show us to be little; nor labour to keep present to our thoughts the latent excellencies of him who shares with us all our weaknesses and many of our follies; who like us is delighted with slight amusements, busied with trifling employments, and disturbed by little vexations.
Great powers cannot be exerted but when great exigencies make them necessary. Great exigencies can happen but seldom; and therefore those qualities which have a claim to the veneration of mankind, lie hid, for the most part, like subterranean treasures, over which the foot passes as on common ground, till necessity breaks open the golden cavern.
In the ancient celebrations of victory, a slave was placed on the triumphal car, by the side of the general, who reminded him by a short sentence, that he was a man.
Whatever danger there might be lest a leader, in his passage to the capitol, should forget the frailties of his nature, there was surely no need of such an admonition; the intoxication could not have continued long; he would have been at home but a few hours before some of his dependents would have forgot his greatness, and shown him, that notwithstanding his laurels, he was yet a man.
There are some who try to escape this domestic degradation, by labouring to appear always wise, or always great; but he that strives against nature will for ever strive in vain. To be grave of mien and slow of utterance, to look with solicitude and speak with hesitation, is attainable at will; but the show of wisdom is ridiculous when there is nothing to cause doubt, as that of valour where there is nothing to be feared.
A man, who has duly considered the condition of his being, will contentedly yield to the course of things : he will not pant for distinction where distinction would imply no merit; but though on great occasions he may wish to be greater than others : he will be satisfied in common occurrences not to be less.
The practice of self-denial, or the forbearance of lawful pleasure, has been considered by almost every nation, from the remotest ages, as the highest exaltation of human virtue; and all have agreed to pay respect and veneration to those who abstained from the delights of life, even when they did not censure those who enjoyed them.
The general voice of mankind, civil and barbarous, confesses that the mind and body are at variance, and that neither can be made happy by its proper gratifications, but at the expense of the other; that a pampered body will darken the mind, and an enlightened mind will macerate the body. And none have failed to confer their esteem on those who prefer intellect to sense', who control their lower by their higher faculties, and forget the wants and desires of animal life for rational disquisitions or pious contemplations.
The earth has scarce a country so far advanced towards political regularity as to divide the inhabitants into classes, where some orders of men or women are not distinguished by voluntary severities, and where the reputation of their sanctity is not increased in proportion to the rigour of their rules, and the exactness of their performance.
When an opinion, to which there is no temptation of interest, spreads wide and continues long, it may be reasonably presumed to have been infused by nature or dictated by reasou. It has been often observed that the fictions of imposture and
illusions of fancy, soon give way to time and experience ; and that nothing keeps its ground but truth, which gains every day new influence by new confirmation.
But truth, when it is reduced to practice, easily becomes subject to caprice and imagination ; and many particular acts will be wrong, though their general principle be right. It cannot be denied that a just conviction of the restraint necessary to be laid upon the appetites, has produced extravagant and unnatural modes of mortification ; and institutions which, however favourably considered, will be found to violate naturó without promoting piety.
But the doctrine of self-denial is not weakened in itself by the errours of those who misinterpret or misapply it ; the encroachment of the appetites upon the understanding is hourly perceived; and the state of those whom sensuality has enslaved is known to be in the highest degree despicable and wretched.
The dread of such shameful captivity may justly raise alarms; and wisdom will endeavour to keep danger at a distance. By timely caution and suspicious vigilance those desires may be repressed, to which indulgence would soon give absolute dominion ; those enemies may be overcome, which, when they have been a while accustomed to victory, can no longer be resisted.
Nothing is more fatal to happiness or virtue, than that confidence which flatters us with an opinion of our own strength, and by assuring us of the power of retreat precipitates us into hazard. Some may safely venture further than others into the regions of delight. lay themselves more open to the golden shafts of pleasure, and advance nearer to the residence of the syrens; but he that is best armed with constancy and reason, is yet vulnerable in one part or other; and to every man there is a point fixed, beyond which, if he passes, he will not easily return. It is certainly most wise, as it is most safe, to stop before he touches the utmost limit, since every step of advance will more and more entice him to go forward, till he shall at last enter into the recesses of voluptuousness, and sloth and despondency close the passage bebind him.
To deny early and inflexibly, is the only art of checking the importunity of desire, and of preserving quiet and innocence. Innocent gratifications must be sometimes withheld; he that complies with all lawful desires will certainly lose his empire over bimself, and in time either submit his reason to his wishes, and think all his desires lawful, or dismiss his reason as troublesome and intrusive, and resolve to snatch
what he may happen to wish, without inquiry about right and wrong.
No man, whose appetites are his masters, can perform the duties of his nature with strictness and regularity; he that would be superior to external influences must first become superior to his own passions.
When the Roman general, sitting at supper with a plate of turnips before him, was solicited by large presents to betray his trust, he asked the messengers whether he that could sup on turnips was a man likely to sell his own country. Upon him who has reduced his senses to obedience, temptation has lost its power; he is able to attend impartially to virtue, and execute her commands without hesitation.
To set the mind above the appetites is the end of abstinence : which one of the fathers observes to be not a virtue, but the ground-work of virtue. By forbearing to do what may innocently be done, we may add hourly new vigour or resolution, and secure the power of resistance when pleasure or interest shall lend their charms to guilt.
No. 53. SATURDAY, April 21, 1759.
TO THE IDLER.
SIR– I have a wife that keeps good company. You know that the word good varies its meaning according to the value set upon different qualities and different places. To be a good man in a college, is to be learned ; in a camp, to be brave; and in the city, to be rich. By good company, in the place which I have the misfortune to inhabit, we understand not only those from whom any good can be learned, whether wisdom or virtue; or by whom any good can be conferred, whether profit or reputation. Good company is the company of those whose birth is high, and whose riches are great, or of those whom the rich and noble admit to familiarity.
I am a gentleman of a fortune by no means exhuberant, but more than equal to the wants of my family, and for some years equal to our desires. My wife, who had never been accustomed to splendour, joined her endeavours to mine in the superintendence of our economy; we lived in decent plenty, and were not excluded from moderate pleasures.
But slight causes produce great effects. All my happiness has been destroyed by change of place; virtue is too of