Page images

the citizens call an hundred thousand pounds; and in all the time of growing up to that wealth, was never known in any of his ordinary words or actions to discover any proof of reason. Upon this foundation my friend has set forth, that he is illegally master of his coffers, and has writ two epigrams to signify his own pretensions and sufficiency for spending that estate. He has inserted in his plea some things which I fear will give offence; for he pretends to argue, that though a man has a little of the knave mixed with the fool, he is nevertheless liable to the loss of goods; and makes the abuse of reason as just an avoidance of an estate as the total absence of it. This is what can never pass; but witty men are so full of themselves, that there is no persuading them; and my friend will not be convinced, but that upon quoting Solomon, who always used the word fool as a term of the same signification with unjust, and makes all deviation from goodness and virtue to come under the notion of folly; I say, he doubts not but by the force of this authority, let his idiot uncle appear never so great a knave, he shall prove him a fool at the same time.

This affair led the company here into an examination of these points; and none coming here but wits, what was asserted by a young lawyer, that a lunatic is in the care of the chancery, but a fool in that of the crown, was received with general indignation. "Why that ?' says old Renault. · Why that? Why must a fool be a courtier more than a madman ? This is the iniquity of this dull age. I remember the time when it went on the mad side ; all your top wits were scourers, rakes, roarers, and demolishers of windows. I knew a mad lord, who was drunk five years together, and was the envy of that age, who is faintly imitated by the dull pretenders to vice and madness in this. Had he lived

to this day, there had not been a fool in fashion in the whole kingdom.' When Renault had done speaking, a very worthy man assumed the discourse :

This is,' said he, Mr. Bickerstaff, a proper argument for you to treat of in your article from this place; and if you would send your Pacolet into all our brains, you would find, that a little fibre or valve, scarce discernible, makes the distinction between a politician and an idiot. We should therefore, throw a veil upon those unhappy instances of human nature, 'who seem to breathe without the direction of reason and understanding, as we should avert our eyes with abhorrence from such as live in perpetual abuse and contradiction to these noble faculties. Shall this unfortunate man be divested of his estate, because he is tractable and indolent, runs in no man's debt, invades no man's bed, nor spends the estate he owes his children and his character ; when one who shows no sense above him, but in such practices, shall be esteemed in his senses, and possibly may pretend to the guardianship of him who is no ways his inferior, but in being less wicked? We see old age brings us indifferently into the same impotence of soul, wherein nature has placed this lord.'

There is something very fantastical in the distribution of civil power and capacity among men. The law certainly gives these persons into the ward and care of the crown, because that is best able to protect them from injuries, and the impositions of craft and knavery; that the life of an idiot may not ruin the entail of a noble house, and his weakness may not frustrate the industry or capacity of the founder of his family. But when one of bright parts, as we say, with his eyes open, and all men's eyes upon him, destroys those purposes, there is no remedy. Folly and ignorance are punished! folly

and guilt are tolerated! Mr. Locke has somewhere made a distinction between a madman and a fool : a fool is he that from right principles makes a wrong conclusion; but a madman is one who draws a just inference from false principles. Thus the fool who cut off the fellow's head that lay asleep, and hid it, and then waited to see what he would say when he awaked and missed his head-piece, was in the right in the first thought, that a man would be surprised to find such an alteration in things since he fell asleep; but he was a little mistaken to imagine he could awake at all after his head was cut off. A madman fancies himself a prince; but upon his mistake, he acts suitable to that character; and though he is out in supposing he has principalities, while he drinks gruel, and lies in straw, yet you shall see him keep the port of a distressed monarch in all his words and actions. These two persons are equally taken into custody : but what must be done to half this good company, who every hour of their life are knowingly and wittingly both fools and madmen, and yet have capacities both of forming principles, and drawing conclusions, with the full use of reason?

From my own Apartment, July 11. This evening some ladies came to visit my sister Jenny; and the discourse after very many frivolous and public masters, turned upon the main point among the women, the passion of love. Sappho, who always leads on this occasion, began to show her reading, and told us, that Sir John Suckling and Milton had, upon a parallel occasion, said the tenderest things she ever read. The circumstance,' said she, is such as gives us a notion of that protecting part, which is the duty of men in their honourable designs upon, or possession of women.

In Suckling's tragedy of Brennoralt he makes the lover steal into his mistress's bedchamber, and draw the curtains; then, when his heart is full of her charms, as she lies sleeping, instead of being carried away by the violence of his desires into thoughts of a warmer nature, sleep, which is the image of death, gives this generous lover reflections of a different kind, which regard rather her safety than his own passion. For, beholding her as she lies sleeping, he utters these words:

“ So misers look upon their gold,
Which, while they joy to see, they fear to lose:
The pleasure of the sight scarce equalling
The jealousy of being dispossessed by others.
Her face is like the milky way i'the sky.
A meeting of gentle lights without name!
“ Heav'n ! shall this fresh ornament of the world,
These precious love-lines, pass with other common

Amongst the wastes of time? what pity 'twere !"

- When Milton makes Adam leaning on his arm, beholding Eve, and lying in the contemplation of her beauty, he describes the utmost tenderness and guardian affection in one word:

“ Adam, with looks of cordial love, - Hung over her enamour'd." • This is that sort of passion which truly deserves the name of love, and has something more generous than friendship itself; for it has a constant care of the object beloved, abstracted from its own interests in the possession of it.'

Sappho was proceeding on the subject, when my sister produced a letter sent to her in the time of my absence, in celebration of the marriage state, which is the condition wherein only this sort of passion reigns in full authority. The epistle is as follows:


Your brother being absent, I dare take the liberty of writing to you my thoughts of that state, which our whole sex either is, or desires to be in. You will easily guess I mean matrimony, which I hear so much decried, that it was with no small labour I maintained my ground against two opponents; but, as your brother observed of Socrates, I drew them into my conclusion, from their own concessions ; thus : :

“ In marriage are two happy things allow'd,
A wife in wedding sheets, and in a shroud.
How can a marriage state then be accurs'd,

Since the last day's as happy as the first ?" • If you think they were too easily confuted, you may conclude them not of the first sense, by their talking against marriage. Your's

MARIANA I observed Sappho began to redden at this epistle : and turning to a lady, who was playing with a dog she was so fond of as to carry him abroad with her ; • Nay,' says she, “I cannot blame the men if they have mean ideas of our souls and affections, and wonder so many are brought to take us for companions for life, when they see our endearments so triflingly placed: for to my knowledge, Mr. Truman would give half his estate for half the affection you have shown to that Shock; nor do I believe you would be ashamed to confess, that I saw you cry, when he had the colic last week with lapping sour milk. What more could you do for your lover himself ?” “What more !' replied the lady. “There is not a man in England for whom I could lament half so much. Then she stifled the animal with kisses, and called him beau, life, dear monsieur, pretty


« PreviousContinue »