Page images
PDF
EPUB

his last satire, where they have endeavoured to expose the sex in general, without doing justice to the valuable part of it. Such levelling satires are of no use to the world, and for this reason I have often wondered how the French author above-mentioned, who was a man of exquisite judgment, and a lover of virtue, could think human nature a proper fubject for fatire in another of his celebrated pieces, which is called The fatire upon man. What vice or frailty can a discourse correct, which cenfures the whole species alike, and endeavours to shew by some superficial strokes of wit, that brutes are the most excellent creatures of the two ? A satire should expofe nothing but what is corrigible, and make a due discrimination between thofe who are, and those who are not the proper objects of it,

L

[ocr errors]

NO 210. WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 31.

Vefcio quomodo inhæret in mentibus quasi seculorum

quoddam augurium futurorum; idque in maximis ingeniis altissimisque animis et existit maxime et apparet facillime.

Cic. Tufc. Quæft. There is, I know not how, in the minds of men a

certain presage, as it were, of a future existence ; and these takes the deepest root, and is most discoverable in the greatest geniuses and most exalted fouls.

[merged small][ocr errors]

SIR,

I

Am fully persuaded that one of the best

springs of generous and worthy actions, is 'the having generous and worthy thoughts of our

selves. Whoever has a mean opinion of the dignity of his nature, will act in no higher a rank

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

• than he has allotted himself in his own estimati

on. If he confiders his being as circumscribed

by the uncertain term of a few years, his designs i will be contracted into the same narrow span he

imagines is to bound his existence. How can he

exalt his thoughts to any thing great and noble, ' '

who only believes that, after a short turn on the • stage of this world, he is to sink into oblivion, " and to lose his consciousness for ever?

. For this reason I am of opinion, that so useful and elevated a contemplation as that of the Soul's

immortality cannot be resumed too often. There • is not a more improving exercise to the human • mind, than to be frequently reviewing its own

great privileges and endowments; nor a more ef• fectual means to awaken in us an ambition raised .. above low objects and little pursuits, than to va·lue ourselves as heirs of eternity.

• It is a very great fatisfaction to consider the • best and wisest of mankind in all nations and ages,

afferting, as with one voice, this their birthright, • and to find it ratified by an express revelation. • At the same time if we turn our thoughts in' ward upon ourselves, we may meet with a kind

of secret fenfe concurring with the proofs of our own immortality.

• You have, in my opinion, raised a good pre' fumptive argument from the increafing appetite • the mind has to knowledge, and to the extending

its own faculties, which cannot be accomplished, as the more restrained perfection of lower creatures may,

in the limits of a short life. I think ' another probable conjecture may be raised from

our appetite to duration itself, and from a reflec'tion on our progress through the several stages of it: We are complaining, as you observe in a former fpeculation, of the shortness of life, and yet are perpetually burrying over the parts of it, to arrive at certain little settlements, or imagina

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

but may

ry points of rest, which are dispersed up and down
in it.
• Now let us consider what happens to us when
we arrive at these imaginary points of reft: Do we
ftop our motion, and sit down fatisfied in the
settlement we have gained ? or are we not remov-
ing the boundary, and marking out new points
of rest, to which we press forward with the like
eagerness, and which cease to be such as fast as

we attain them? Our cafe is like that of a tra'veller upon the Alps, who thould fancy that the

top of the next hill must end his journey, because ' it terminates his profpect; but he no sooner ar. • rives at it, than he fees gew ground and other • hills beyond it, and continues to travel on as before.

• This is fo plainly every man's condition in life, • that there is no one who has observed any thing,

observe, that as fast as his time wears away, his appetite to something future remains. The use therefore I would make of it is this, that

fince nature (as fomc love to express it) does no».

thing in vain, or, to, speak properly, since the Author of our being has planted no wandering

paffion in it, no desire which has not its object, • futurity is the proper object of the passion fo

constantly exercised about it ; and this reftlefr' nefs in the present, this affigning ourseves over to

farther stages of duration, this successive grasping at soinewhat still to come, appears to me (whatever it may be to others) as a kind of inItinct or natural symptom which the mind of maa has of its own immortality.

• I take it at the same time for granted, that the im• mortality of the foul is sufficiently established by * other arguments : And if so, this appetite,

wh ch otherwise would be unaccountable and abfurd, seems very reasonable, and adds strength to the conclusion, But I am amazed when I

• confider

[ocr errors]

$

• consider there are creatures capable of thought,

who, in spite of every argument, can form to • themselves a fullen fatisfaction in thinking other• wife. There is something so pitifully mean in the • inverted ambition of that man who can hope for 6 annihilation, and please himself to think that his

whole fabrick shall one day cruinble into dust, • and mix with the mass of inanimate beings, that

it equally deserves our admiration and pity. The mystery of such mens unbelief is not hard to be

penetrated ; and indeed amounts to nothing more " than a forded hope that they shall not be immor• tal, because they dare not be for

• This brings me back to my first obfervation; • and gives me occasion to say further, that as wor: • thy actions spring from worthy thoughts, fo wor. • thy thoughts are likewise the consequence of wor• thy actions : But the wretch who has degraded • himself below the character of immortality, is

very willing to resign his pretensions to it, and to fubftitute in its room a dark negative happiness • in the extinction of his being.

• The admirable Shakespeare has given us a strong image of the unsupported condition of such a per

fon in his last minutes, in the fecond part of King · Henry the fixth, where Cardinal Beaufort, who

had been concerned in the murder of the good . Duke Humphrey, is represented on his death-bed. • After fome short confused speeches which shew

an imagination disturbed with guilt, just as he ' was expiring, King Henry standing by him full of compaflion, fays, Lord Cardinal! if thou thinkist on heaven's bliss, Hold up thy hand, make signal of that hope! He dies, and makes no sign!• The despair which is here shewn, without a word or action on the part of the dying person,

[ocr errors]

$

' is beyond what could be painted by the most for. cible expressions whatever. .

• I fhall not pursue this thought farther, but

only add, That as annihilation is not to be had « with a wish, so it is the moft abject thing in the • world to wish it. What are honour, fame, • wealth, or power, when compared with the ge

nerous expectation of a Being without end, and a happiness adequate to that being ?

I fall trouble you no farther; but with a cer« tain gravity which these thoughts have given me,

I reflect upon some things people say of you, (as • they will of men who diftinguish themselves) • which I hope are not true ; and wish you as good a man as you are an author. • I am, Sir,

. Your moft obedient humble servant, z

"T. D.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

No 211. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 1.

Fictis meminerit nos jocari fabulis..

PHÆDR. lib. 1. Prol.

Let it be remembered that we sport in fabled fto

ries, HAVING lately translated the fragment of an old

poet which describes-womankind under several characters, and supposes them to have drawn their different manners and dispositions from thofe aniinals and elements out of which he tells us they were compounded; I have some thoughts of giving the sex their revenge, by laying together in another paper the many vicious characters which prevail in the male world, and thewing the different ingredients that go to the making up of such different humours and constitutions. Horace has a thought

« PreviousContinue »