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tender regard for you ; but having been very much perplexed in my thoughts on the subject of my last, made me determine to suspend speaking of it until I came myself. But my lovely creature, know it is not in the power of age, or misfortune, or any other accident which hangs over human life, to take from me the pleasing esteem I have for you, or the memory of the bright figure you appeared in, when you gave your hand and heart to, “ Madam, your most grateful husband,
“ and obedient servant.”*+
N° 143. TUESDAY, AUGUST 14, 1711.
Non est vivere, sed valere, rita.
MARTIAL, Epig. Jixx. 6. For life is only life, when blest with health.
It is an unreasonable thing some men expect of their acquaintance. They are ever complaining that they are out of order, or displeased, or they know not how, and are so far from letting that be a reason for retiring to their own homes, that they make it their argument for coming into company. What has any body to do with accounts of a man's being indisposed but his physician? If a man laments in company, where the rest are in humour enough to enjoy themselves, he should not take it ill if a
* Richard Steele.
+ The letters in this No. 142, are all genuine, written originally by Steele, and actually sent, with but little váriation, to Mrs. Scurlock, afterwards Lady Steele. See Steele's Letters, vol. I. p. 11. & seq. cr. 8vo, 1787, 2 vols.
servant is ordered to present him with a porringer of caudle or posset-drink, by way of admonition that he go home to bed. That part of life which we ordinarily understand by the word conversation, is an indulgence to the sociable part of our make; and should incline us to bring our proportion of good-will or good-humour among the friends we meet with, and not to trouble them with relations which must of necessity oblige them to a real or feigned affliction. Cares, distresses, diseases, uneasinesses, and dislikes of our own, are by no means to be obtruded upon our friends. If we would consider how little of this vicissitude of motion and rest, which we call life, is spent with satisfaction, we should be more tender of our friends, than to bring them little sorrows which do not belong to them. There is no real life but cheerful life; therefore valetudinarians should be sworn, before they enter into company, not to say a word of themselves until the meeting breaks up. It is not here pretended, that we should be always sitting with chaplets of flowers round our heads, or be crowned with roses in order to make our entertainment agreeable to us; but if (as it is usually observed) they who resolve to be merry, seldom are so; it will be much more unlikely for us to be well-pleased, if they are admitted who are always complaining they are sad. Whatever we do, we should keep up the cheerfulness of our spirits, and never let them sink below an inclination at least to be well pleased. The way to this, is to keep our bodies in exercise, our minds at ease. That insipid state wherein neither are in vigour, is not to be accounted any part of our portion of being. When we are in the satisfaction of some innocent pleasure, or pursuit of some laudable design, we are in the possession of life, of human life. Fortune will give
us disappointments enough, and nature is attended with infirmities enough, without our adding to the unhappy side of our account by our spleen or illhumour. Poor Cottilus, among so many real evils, a chronical distemper and a narrow fortune, is never heard to complain. That equal spirit of his, which any man may have, that, like him, will conquer pride, vanity, and affectation, and follow nature, is not to be broken, because it has no points to contend for. To be anxious for nothing but what nature demands as necessary, if it is not the way to an estate, is the way to what men aim at by getting an estate. This temper will preserve health in the body, as well as tranquillity in the mind. Cottilus sees the world in a hurry, with the same scorn that a sober person sees a man drunk. Had he been contented with what he ought to have been, how could, says he, such a one have met with such a disappointment? If another had valued his mistress for what he ought to have loved her, he had not been in her power. If her virtue had had a part of his passion, her levity had been his cure ; she could not then have been false and amiable at the same time.
Since we cannot promise ourselves constant health, let us endeavour at such a temper as may be our best support in the decay of it. Uranius has arrived at that composure of soul, and wrought himself up to such a neglect of every thing with which the generality of mankind is inchanted, that nothing but acute pains can give him disturbance, and against those too he will tell his intimate friends he has a secret which gives him present ease. Uranius is so thoroughly persuaded of another life, and endeavours so sincerely to secure an interest in it, that he looks upon pain but as a quickening of his pace to a home, where he shall be better provided for than in his present apartment. Instead of the melancholy views which others are apt to give themselves, he will tell you that he has forgot he is mortal, nor will he think of himself as such. He thinks at the time of his birth he entered into an eternal being; and the short article of death he will not allow an interruption of life ; since that moment is not of half the duration as is his ordinary sleep. Thus is his being one uniform and consistent series of cheerful diversions and moderate cares, without fear or hope of futurity. Health to him is more than pleasure to another man, and sickness less affecting to him than indisposition is to others.
I must confess, if one does not regard life after this manner, none but idiots can pass it away with any tolerable patience. Take a fine lady who is of a delicate frame, and you may observe, from the hour she rises, a certain weariness of all that passes about her. I know more than one who is much too nice to be quite alive. They are sick of such strange frightful people that they meet; one is so awkward, and another so disagreeable, that it looks like a penance to breathe the same air with them. You see this is so very true, that a great part of ceremony and good-breeding among the ladies turns upon their uneasiness; and I will undertake, if the how-do-ye-servants of our women were to make a weekly bill of sickness, as the parish-clerks do of mortality, you would not find, in an account of seven days, one in thirty that was not downright sick or indisposed, or but a very little better than she was, and so forth.
It is certain that to enjoy life and health as a constant feast, we should not think pleasure necessary, but, if possible, to arrive at an equality of mind. It is as mean to be overjoyed upon occasions of good fortune, as to be dejected in circumstances of dis
tress, Laughter in one condition is as unmanly as weeping in the other. We should not form our minds to expect transport on every occasion, but know how to make it enjoyment to be out of pain. Ambition, envy, vagrant desire, or impertinent mirth will take up our minds, without we can possess ourselves in that sobriety of heart which is above all pleasures, and can be felt much better than described. But the ready way, I believe, to the right enjoyment of life, is, by a prospect towards another, to have but a very mean opinion of it. A great author of our time* has set this in an excellent light, when, with a philosophic pity of human life, he spoke of it in his Theory of the Earth in the following manner:
• For what is this life but a circulation of little mean actions ? We lie down and rise again, dress and undress, feed and wax hungry, work or play,
and then we lie down again, and the circle returns. We spend the day in trifles, and when the night comes we throw ourselves into the bed of folly, amongst dreams, and broken thoughts, and wild imaginations. Our reason lies asleep by us, and we are for the time as arrant brutes as those that sleep in the stalls, or in the field. Are not the capacities of man higher than these? And ought not his ambition and expectations to be greater? Let us be adventurers for another world. It is at least a fair and noble chance; and there is nothing in this worth our thoughts or our passions. If we should be disappointed, we are still no worse than the rest of our fellow-mortals; and if we succeed in our expectations, we are eternally happy.' T.
and are weary.,
• Dr. Thomas Burnet, Master of the Charter-house. Theoria Telluris, 4to. Amst. 1699, p. 241.