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DI AL OG U E S.
ON · HAPPINESS: It was at a time, when a certain friend, whom I highly value, was my guest.. We had been sitting together, entertaining ourselves with Shakspeare. Among many of his. characters, we had looked into that of Wolsey.. How soon, says my friend, does the Cardinal in disgrace abjure that happiness which he was lately fo fond of.? Scarcely out of office, but he begins to exclaim,
Vain pomp and glory of the world ! I hate ye.. So true is it, that our sentiments ever vary with the season; and that in adverfity we are of one mind, in prosperity of another. As for this mean opinion, said I, of human happiness, it is a truth, which small reflection might have taught him long before. There seems little need of distress to inform us of this. I rather commend the seeming wisdom of that eastern monarch, who in the affluence of prosperity, when he was. proving every pleasure, was yet so sensible of their empti
ness, their insufficiency to make him happy, that he proclaimed a reward to the man, who should invent a new delight. The reward indeed was proclaimed, but the delight was not to be found. If by delight, faid he, you mean some good; something conducing to real happiness; it might have been found perhaps, and yet not hit the monarch's fancy. Is that, said I, possible? It is possible, replied he, tho’it had been the Sovereign Good itself. And indeed what wonder? Is it probable that such a mortal as an eastern monarch ;. such a pampered, flattered, idle mortal, should have attention, or capacity for a subject so delicate ? A subject, enough to exercise the fubtileft and most acute ?
What then is it you efteem, faid I, the Sovereign Good to be? It should seem, by your representation, to be fomething very uncommon.. Ask me not the question, said he, you know not where it will carry us. Its general idea indeed is easy and plain; but the detail of particulars is perplexed and long ;- passions and opinions for ever thwart us; a paradox appears in almost ever advance. Besides, did our inquiries fucceed ever so happily, the very subject itself is always enough to give me pain. That, replied I, seems a paradox indeed. It is not, said he, from any, prejudice, which I have conceived against it; for to man I. esteem it the nobleft in the world. Nor is it for being a subject, to which my genius does not lead mę; for no subject at all times has more employed my attention. But the truth is, I can scarce ever think of it, but an unlucky story still occurs to my mind. “A certain stargazer, with his telescope was “ once viewing the moon, and describing her seas, her moun“ tains, and her territories. Says à clown to his compa. " nion, Let him spy what he pleases; we are as near to the moon, as he and all his brethren." So fares it, alas !
with these our moral speculations. Practice too often creeps, where Theory can foar. The philosopher proves as weak, as those whom he most contemns. A mortifying thought to such as well attend it. Too mortifying, replied I, to be long dwelt on. Give us rather your general idea of the Sovereign Good. This is eafy from your own account, however intricate the detail.
Thus then, said he, since you are fo urgent, it is thus that I conceive it. The Sovereign Good is that, the poffeflion of which renders us happy. And how, faid I, do we poffess it? Is it fensual, or intellectual ? There you are entering, said he, upon the detail. This is beyond your queftion. Not a small advance, faid I, to indulge poor curiofity? Will
you raise me a thirst, and be so cruel not to allay it? It is not, replied he, of my raising, but your own. Befides, I am not certain, should I attempt to proceed, whether you will admit such authorities as it is poffible I may
vouch. That, said I, must be determined by their weight and character. Suppose, said he, it should be mankind; the whole human race. Would you not think it something strange to feek of those concerning Good, who pursue it a thoufand ways, and many of them contradictory? I confefs, said I, it seems so. And yet, continued he, were there a point, in which such dissentients ever agreed, this agreement would be no mean argument in favour of its truth and justness. But where, replied I, is this argument to be found ?
He answered me by asking, what if it should appear, that: there were certain original characteristics and pre-conceptions of good, which were natural, uniform, and common to all men; which all recognized in their various pursuits ; and that the difference lay only in the applying them to par
ticulars ? This requires, faid I, to be illustrated. As if, continued he, a company of travellers, in some wide forest, were all intending for one city, but each by a route peculiar to himself. The roads indeed would be various, and many perhaps false ; but all who travelled, would have one end in view. It is evident, said I, they would. So fares it then, added he, with mankind in the pursuit of good. The ways indeed are many, but what they seek is one.
For instance: Did you ever hear of any, who, in pursuit of their good, were for living the life of a bird, an insect, or, a filh? None. And why not? It would be inconsistent, an-, fwered I, with their nature. You see then, said he, they all agree in this; that what they pursue, ought to be consistent, and agreeable to their proper nature. So ought it, said I, * undoubtedly. If so, continued he, one pre-conception is discovered, which is common to good in general : It is, that all good is supposed fomething agreeable to nature. This, indeed, replied I, seems to be agreed on all hands.
But again, faid he, Is there a man scarcely to be found of a temper so truly mcrtified, as to acquiesce in the lowest, and shortest necessaries of life? Who aims not, if he be able, at something farther, something better? I replied, scarcely
Do not multitudes pursue, said he, infinite objects of defire, acknowledged, every one of them, to be in no respect necessaries? Exquisite viands, delicious wines, splendid apparel, curious gardens; magnificent apartments adorned with pictures and sculptures ; music and poetry, and the whole tribe of elegant arts. It is evident, faid I. If it be, continued he, it should seem that they all considered the Chief or Sovereign Good, not to be that, which conduces to bare existence or mere being; for to this the necessaries alone
are adequate. I replied they were. But if not this, it . must be somewhat conducive to that, which is superior to mere being. It must. And what, continued he, can this be, but well-being, under the various shapes, in which different opinions paint it? Or can you suggest any thing else? I replied, I could not. Mark here, then, continued he, another pre-concepcion, in which they all agree; the Sovereign Good is somewhat conducive, not to mere being, but to well being. I replied, it had so appeared.
AGAIN, continued he. What labour, what expence, to procure those rarities, which our own poor country is unable to afford us! How is the world ransacked to its utmost verges, and luxury and arts imported from every quarter! Nay more: How do we baffle Nature herself; invert her order; seek the vegetables of spring in the rigours of winters and winter's ice during the heats of summer! I replied we did. And what disappointment, what remorse, when endeavours fail? It is true. If this then be evident, said he; it would seem, that whatever we defire as our Chief and Sovereign Good, is something which, as far as possible, we would accommodate to all places and times. I answered, So it appeared. See then, said he, another of its charac. teristics, another pre-conception.
But farther still: What contests for wealth! What scram. bling for property! What perils in the pursuit! What folicitude in the maintenance! And why all this? To what purpose, what end? Or is not the reason plain? Is it not that wealth may continually procure us, whatever we fancy good; and make that perpetual, which would otherwise be trasient? I replied, it seemed so. Is it not farther desired, as supplying us from ourselves; when without it, we must be beholden to the benevolence of others, and depend on their caprice for all that we enjoy? It is true, said I, this seems a reason..