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In afflictions men generally draw their consolations out of books of morality, which indeed are of great use to fortify and strengthen the mind against the impressions of sorrow. Monsieur St. Evremont, who does not approve of this method, recommends authors who are apt to stir up mirth in the mind of the readers, and fancies Don Quixote can give more relief to a heavy heart than Plutarch or Seneca, as it is much easier to divert grief than to conquer it. This doubtless may have its effects on some tempers. I should rather have recourse to authors of a quite contrary kind, that give us instances of calamities and misfortunes, and shew human nature in its greatest distresses.
If the afflictions we groan under be very heavy, we shall find some consolation in the society of as great sufferers as ourselves, especially when we find our companions men of virtue and merit. If our afflictions are light, we shall be comforted by the comparison we make between ourselves and our fel. low-sufferers. A loss at sea, a fit of sickness, or the death of a friend, are such trifles, when we consider whole kingdoms laid in ashes, families put to the sword, wretches shut up in dungeons, and the like calamities of mankind, that we are out of countenance for our own weakness, if we sink under such little strokes of fortune.
Let the disconsolate Leonora consider, that at the very time in which she languishes for the loss of her deceased lover, there are persons in several parts of the world just perishing in shipwreck; others crying out for mercy in the terrors of a death-bed repentance; others lying under the tortures of an infamous execution, or the like dreadful calamities; and she will find her sorrows vanish at the appearance of those which are so much greater and more astonishing
I would further propose to the consideration of my afflicted disciple, that possibly what she now looks upon as the greatest misfortune, is not really such in itself. For my own part, I question not but our souls in a separate state will look back on their lives in quite another view, than what they had of them in the body; and that what they now consider as misfortunes and disappointments, will very often appear to have been escapes and blessings.
The mind that hath any cast towards devotion, naturally flies to it in its afflictions.
When I was in France I heard a very remarkable story of two lovers, which I shall relate at length in my to-morrow's paper, not only because the circumstances of it are extraordinary, but because it may serve as an illustration to all that can be said on this last head, and shew the power of religion in abating that particular anguish which seems to lie so heavy on Leonora. The story was told me by a priest, as I travelled with him in a stage-coach. I shall give it my reader as well as I can remember, in his own words, after having premised, that if consolations may be drawn from a wrong religion, and a misguided devotion, they cannot but flow much more naturally from those which are founded upon reason and established in good sense.
N° 164. FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 1711.
Illa; quis et me, inquit, miseram, et te perdidit, Orpheu?
Virg. iv. Georg. 494.
CONSTANTIA was a woman of extraordinary wit and beauty, but very unhappy in a father, who, having arrived at great riches by his own industry, took delight in nothing but his money. Theodosius * was the younger son of a decayed family, of great parts and learning, improved by a genteel and virtuous education. When he was in the twentieth year of his age he became acquainted with Constantia, who had not then passed her fifteenth. As he lived but a few miles distant from her father's house, he had frequent opportunities of seeing her; and by the advantages of a good person and a pleasing conversation, made such an impression on her heart as it was impossible for time to efface. He was himself no less smitten with Constantia. A long acquaintance made them still discover new beauties in each other, and by degrees raised in them that mutual passion which had an influence on their fol
* The Theodosius aud Constantia of Dr. Langhorne, a collection of letters, in 2 vols. 12mo., takes its rise from this paper.
lowing lives. It unfortunately happened, that in the midst of this intercourse of love and friendship between Theodosius and Constantia, there broke out an irreparable quarrel between their parents, the one valuing himself too much upon his birth, and the other upon his possessions. The father of Constantia was so incensed at the father of Theodosius, that he contracted an unreasonable aversion towards his son, insomuch that he forbade him his house, and charged his daughter, upon her duty, never to see him more. In the mean time, to break off all communication between the two lovers, who he knew entertained secret hopes of some favourable opportunity that should bring them together, he found out a young gentleman of a good fortune and an agreeable person, whom he pitched upon as a husband for his daughter. He soon concerted this affair so well, that he told Constantia it was his design to marry her to such a gentleman, and that her wedding should be celebrated on such a day. Constantia, who was overawed with the authority of her father, and unable to object any thing against so advantageous a match, received the proposal with a profound silence, which her father commended in her, as the most decent manner of a virgin's giving her consent to an overture of that kind. The noise of this intended marriage soon reached Theodosius, who after a long tumult of passions, which naturally rise in a lover's heart on such an occasion, writ the following letter to Constantia :
The thought of my Constantia, which for some years has been my only happiness, is now become a greater torment to me than I am able to bear. Must I then live to see you another's ? The streams, the fields and meadows, where we have so often talked together, grow painful to me; life itself
is become a burden. May you long be happy in the world, but forget that there was ever such a man in it as
This letter was conveyed to Constantia that very evening, who fainted at the reading of it; and the next morning she was much more alarmed by two or three messengers, that came to her father's house, one after another, to inquire if they had heard any thing of Theodosius, who it seems had left his chamber about midnight, and could no where be found. The deep melancholy which had hung upon his mind some time before, made them apprehend the worst that could befal him. Constantia, who knew that nothing but the report of her marriage could have driven him to such extremities, was not to be comforted. She now accused herself of having so tamely given an ear to the proposal of a husband, and looked upon the new lover as the murderer of Theodosius. In short, she resolved to suffer the utmost effects of her father's displeasure, rather than comply with a marriage which appeared to her so full of guilt and horror. The father seeing himself entirely rid of Theodosius, and likely to keep a considerable portion in his family, was not very much concerned at the obstinate refusal of his daughter; and did not find it very difficult to excuse himself upon that account to his intended son-in-law, who had all along regarded this alliance rather as a marriage of convenience than of love. Constantia had now no relief but in her devotions and exercises of religion, to which her afflictions had so entirely subjected her mind, that after some years had abated the violence of her sorrows, and settled her thoughts in a kind of tranquillity, she resolved to pass the remainder of her days in a convent. Her father was