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On the Sources of Human Happiness.
evils that the most abject slavery can our principles, and the increase and inflict upon him. What would have diffusion of civil and religious advanbeen' our state if Dr. Williams and tages. In one word, let us imitate our our Puritanic ancestors had been thus founder. If we should ever grow in, indolent, thus ignoble? What but different to these glorious objects, or that we should have been bending to any of the great interests of truth under the yoke of superstition, and and freedom, the spirit of Dr. Wil. consigned to dangerous or to ignomini- liams, and of the mighty dead our preous labours, by weak kings and their decessors (with whose portraits we are appropriate instruments, selfish and surrounded), would rise up to reproach bigoted priests, without the hope of our apathy, to record our condemna. deliverance? Let us think of this, tion, and to seal our disgrace. and be zealous for the maintenance of
MISCELLANEOUS COMMUNICATIONS. :
On the Sources of Human Happiness. conducive to real enjoyment than a T HE principal object which I have 'fretful repining disposition.
1 in view in the following remarks, It may be observed then in the is to point out some circumstances first place, that activity is a very imwhich are eminently conducive to portant requisite to human happiness. well-being, but which yet are not The exercise of the bodily and mental commonly regarded as possessing a faculties in the pursuit of some inmoral quality, or as entitling the pos- teresting occupation, seems absolutely sessor to moral approbation or reward, essential to the enjoyment of life. It
although the improvement and is true that if we were to judge of practice of them is in a high degree the result of general experience by calculated to increase the efficacy of the general language of mankind, we those dispositions which we uni should deduce a very different inferversally denominate virtuous.
ence; and might suppose that the If the question be proposed gene- true happiness of man consisted in rally, wherein consists human happi- indolence and inaction. For we are ness; it would be difficult, perhaps constantly complaining of the labour impossible to give an answer which and toil we are subjected to, and exwould apply with absolute precision press ourselves as though exertion of to the character and circumstances mind and body were the greatest bur. of every individual. The characters, den and most grievous evil to which situations, abilities natural or ac our present situation exposes us. quired, and the consequent duties, When we examine human life how: of different persons, are so various, ever a little more attentively, we shall that what would be expedient and soon be led to perceive the fallacy of desirable for one, might be imprac- any inference deduced from this als ticable or very injurious to another; most universal language of mankind. so that to lay down any one precise The most active men are invariably rule to apply to all cases would evä- the happiest; while none are more dently be a vain and absurd attempt. destitute of enjoyment than such as Some general observations however are given up to slothful indulgence. may be safely hazarded, since, though To relieve themselves from the insurthe situations of different individuals portable burden of idleness, we often are extremely various, yet the general see them have recourse to the most principles of human nature are the childish and frivolous amusements : same ; and the influence of particular which however commonly fail to modes of conduct on the physical produce the effect, because they are and moral constitution of man, is in incapable of exciting that degree of a great measure the same in all ages interest in the mind which is necesand nations. It can never cease to sary to rouse its powers into exertion. be true for example that the active Employment of any kind has comman cæteris parilus, is more likely to monly a surprising effect on the spi. be happy than the lounger; or that rits and temper, and is highly instru2 serene and cheerful temper is more mental to our improvement in bodily
On the Sources of Human Happiness. .
315 health and vigour as well as in many of idleness to concentrate the thoughts other things of much greater impor- en self, in a manner which is utterly tance. The idle man is cominonly inconsistent with the cultivation of low-spirited, peevish and splenetic; any elevated or enlarged sentiment, every little inconvenience or obstacle and destructive of all real enjoyment; to the accomplishment of his desires, while on the other hand, an active vexes him and ruffles his temper; but disposition is continually carrying us since he is not thus excited to exert beyond these narrow bounds; and himself in its removal, his life is ren- thus, as it is often first excited by bedered an endless scene of petty trou nevolent and amiable feelings, so it bles and vexations, which if he had has commonly the happiest effect in any habits of enterprise or activity continuing, enlivening and purifying would be removed without difficulty these feelings, converting them into as soon as they made their appearance, habitual states of mind, and ruling and before they had had time to principles of conduct. “ The necesa occasion any material inconvenience. sity of action," says Dr. Johnson, “ is But when allowed to remain and not only demonstrable from the fabric accumulate, they grow up to a serious of the human body, but is also evident amount; which one more accustom- from the universal practice of maned to look difficulties in the face kind; since all men, for the presermight contemplate with apprehen- vation of their health, for pleasure sion, and which fill him with ab- and enjoyment, even when exempsolute despair. Still, though he des- ted by circumstances from the neces pairs of getting rid of them, they are sity of pursuing any kind of lucrative not on that account the less felt; they labour, have invented sports and diproduce a permanent effect upon his versions which though not equally temper, he contracts a sour, morose, useful to the world with the mecha. complaining disposition; and thus, nical or menial arts, yet equal them from being at first merely indolent, in the fatigue they occasion to those he becomes a thoroughly discontent- who practise them; differing from ed, dissatisfied creature, caring for no them only as acts of choice differ from one but himself, and despised or dis- those which are attended by the painliked by every one else. Even when ful sense of compulsion." 'Even this it does not operate in this manner; sense of compulsion which is the when circumstances are not such as general subject of complaint, may to throw any of these petty miseries nevertheless be of considerable serin his way, yet the necessary effect vice, by excluding that undecided, of laziness is to bring on ill-humour vacillating state of mind which often and disquiet; a temper of mind which attends those who are aware that their is most destructive of his own peace, laborious exertions are merely the and must greatly impede his l.sefulness objects of their own free choice, and to others.
than which nothing can be more • To correct this unhappy disposition, mortifying and humiliating to those there is no remedy more eflectual than who are conscious of its influence employment, perhaps no sovereign re- yet cannot shake off its power. This medy but ihis. In so far as its effi- is another reason why it is a most cacy in promoting this object is con- wise and excellent appointment of cerned it is of little consequence what Providence, that in most cases it is the employment is; provided it in- not left to our own choice whether terests the mind and presents it with we will exert ourselves or no; but some other object on which it can that we are most of us compelled, in dwell with more complacency than order to gain the means of comfort. on its own grievances and complaints. able subsistence, to devote ourselves If the employment be one which is to some regular employment. Dr. fitted at the same time to answer Johnson himself seems to have fursome valuable end, to contribute to nished a striking illustration of the his own comfort or convenience; to truth of this remark ;-though abunpromote his iinprovement in useful dantly active in the earlier part of knowledge ; or still more to promote his life, his latter years which were the comfort or relief of others; so spent in ease and comparative afflumuch the better. It is scarcely necesence were clouded with melancholy, sary to dwell on the obvious tendency occasioned it would seem in a great
ILUSTI TUTTI I PEELTON OPTAUTIESTI I
On the Sources of Human Happiness. measure by the absence of imperious ever, these qualities are sometimes seert motive to exertion. I have no doubt separated, and may easily be distinthat he was much happier when guished froin each other. There are compiling his Dictionary, or even many persons of great and eminent when writing the parliamentary de- worth, and who possess abundance bates in a garret in Grub Street, of benevolence, or who are at least than in the luxurious indolence of continually performing acts of the Streatham.
most disinterested and even profuse - I have said that employment, con- beneficence, who are yet destitute of stant regular employment of any kind, all command of temper; who either cannot fail to have a most beneficial administer their good offices with a effect upon the spirits and temper; sour moroseness of manner which but it is evident that this effect must takes from them their most powerful be greatly heightened, if it be direct- charms, or are liable to sudden fits ed towards honourable pursuits, or and starts of passion which sometimes arise from the prosecution of objects induce them to inflict serious evils suggested by a generous and benero- upon the very persons whom but a lent disposition. It may therefore moment before they had cherished be added in the second place, that the and assisted. Thus their kindness happiness of man must materially eren towards those whom they wish depend on the gratification of the to serve, is interrupted or prevented, more enlarged and benevolent feels and all its happy effects both on ings of his nature. It is scarce pos- the giver and the receiver are in a sible for any man to be happy in a great measure destroyed. A temper state of absolute solitude. I do not of this kind is one of ihe greatest bars speak here of those occasional seclu- to happiness in those who are afflicted sions fróin social intercourse which with it mit becomes therefore one of are useful to promote meditation and our most important personal duties to thought, and which may thus- tend be strenuous in our endeavours to regreatly to exalt and improve the be- strain and sweeten it. There is an nevolent feelings, and suggest to us apology, but a very imperfect one, additional opportunities and modes which is sometimes made for this unof calling them into action, but an happy irritability of temper, which entire and permanent separation from ascribes it to a morbid sensibility in all intercourse with our fellow-crea- the original constitution of such pertures. The happiest men probably sons. This apology might be made are they who enjoy the most frequent with nearly equal justice for every moand constant opportunities of culti- ral defect and for every intellectual vating the sentiments which belong folly whatever; and if admitted, puts to and arise out of domestic society. a stop to all sorts of improvement. What picture of human felicity can It is true that original temperament, equal that which is often enjoyed in or rather, perhaps, improper managethe simple scenes of private life;, ment in early life, may occasionally where every one is deeply interested give rise to an unusual degree of this in the general welfare; where every disposition ; but this can be no justiheart flows with delight in conteni- fication of it; it cannot render it less plating the enjoyment of all, where inconsistent with our enjoyment of erery one is actively employed in mic life and society; and rather furnishes nistering to the general good of the an additional motive to such persons little society. Such feelings thus as have laboured under these disadgenerated and improved, in a mind vantages, to be more than ordinarily otherwise well disposed, are the best solicitous to keep it in check. And means of introducing and nourishing let no one imagine that this is imposmore exalted and extensive affections sible; that his own case is so pecuand of leading to a complete forget. liar as not to vield to the ordinary infulness of self in an habitual regard fluence of moral medicine. There is through the whole conduct of life a course of discipline before which the to the general welfare and improve- most inveterate mental disorders will ment of the human race.
give way. The remedy, however, it Closely allied to benerolence is inust be admitted, is often more easily what is commonly called a good trm. perceived and pointed out than applied. ptr. Though nearly connected, how. To perceive it only requires good sense
On the Sources of Tłuman Happiness.
317 and discernment; to apply it steadily disposition to observe with satisfaction and effectually requires often a great and duly to appreciate such good quashare of self-government and self lities as are possessed even by the denial, and the frequent mortification worst men, and to place in their due and disappointment of our strongest light all the excellencies of the really propensities.
deserving, and which when justly esBy the unreflecting at all times, and timated are sufficient to cast into the by seme sects among puilosophers, shade the infirmities or failings by much more than their im weight is which they may be accompanied. attributed to original diferences in Candour in acknowledging all these mental and bodily constitutions. That would greatly contribute to the formasuch differences do exist, no one I tion of an even and gentle disposition, think can doubt who observes the very Again, a habit, which may soon be great variety of character and disposi- acquired by care and practice, of tion, which frequently appear in per- checking the external signs of those sons whose circumstances and educa- emotions of contempt and anger to tion, so far as we have been able to which we feel ourselves peculiarly liatrace, or as human means were able ble, will succeed in time in preventing to controul them, have been as nearly the inordinate rise of the emotions similar as possible. We are not either themselves. Such efforts at first proformed or educated after one common duce nothing more than the external standard ; nor is it desirable that we appearance of decorum and propriety should: a dull, uniform sameness of behaviour; but the influence soon would doubtless take away greatly becomes more extensive. Between the from the enjoyment of human life, outward signs and the feelings which and would be inconsistent with the are represented by them, there is a sur. proper discharge of the various duties prising connection ; and as, on the one which the convenience or the subsis- hand, the assumed language of violent tence of mankind requires. Though emotion will, in many cases, excite however we admit that such original a considerable degree of the emotion diversities do exist, yet by much the itself-80, on the other, the constant greater part of the actual diversity ob- endeavour to check the external sympservable in human character is to be toms, soon chokes up and even enascribed to those circumstances which tirely removes the source from whence • we call accidental or adventitious; they flow. that is, they are the result of educa. The species of ill-humour which tion and experience, and are in some arises from a morbid sensibility to our considerable measure subject to go- own miseries, is equally inconsistent vernment and controul. T'he contrary with real enjoyment. Nothing is opinion appears not only inconsistent more destructive of pleasure than a with a just theory of the history of the constant habit of complaining and human mind, but also leads to dan- grumbling; which leads a man to look gerous practical consequences, and in preference on those circumstances ought therefore to be diligently guard- of his lot which are the least inviting, ed against. But to return to our pro- and is eternally brooding over them so per subject.
as to preclude all attention to those The weakness and irritability of which are more favourable and encoutemper which I have alluded to, is so raging, and to magnify the others to inconsistent with our happiness, that such a degree in his disordered imagi. it is necessary to take all possible me- nation, that what might have been but thods to restrain it. For this purpose trifling grievances are exalted into it is very desirable to cultivate a habit evils of the first magnitude. A habit of looking always in preference on the therefore of dwelling on whatever is. bright side of every character, and in- in its nature fitted to give pleasure, deed of every object which attracts our and of endeavouring to look out for notice. I would not recommend a the beneficial consequences wlrich are total blindness to the defects and errors to Aow even from those which cannor, of others, for that might be fatal to in the first instance, be regarded with our own personal security, and inju- satisfaction, is exceedingly well calrious to the important interests of culated to secure and increase our those whose welfare it is our more happiness. This is the disposition . immediate duty to promote; but a which every sincere Christian, every * YOL. &1.
On the Sources of Iluman Happiness.
believer in the constant superinten- which are most difficult to be procured. dance of an infinitely wise and kind In absolute enjoyment we are nearly Providence, will naturally cherish; upon a level; but the difference in and he will be led to this, by a sense our favour consists in this, that our not merely of its propriety, but of its pleasures are more secure and permaimmediate and direct influence on his nent than theirs, and also that almost present enjovments. Let the more cvery change is with us a change from serious afflictions of life then teach us contented tranquillity to a state of patience and resignation. Is for the high enjoyment, while they, having lighter grievances and petty miseries foolishly placed their habitual station by which so many suffer their tempers at the summit of all, cannot remove to be ruffled and their cheerfulness from it without descending. destroyed, let them be regarded as Such then are some of those sources fitter subjects of a laugh or jest than of from which the wise and prudent any graver reflections. A very amus- man may, in ordinary cases, depend ing book-which had a great run upon deriving an abundant and some vears ago, but se'nis now almost secure supply of happiness ;- from foryotion---the "Miseries of Human innocent, or still better, from benefiLifc," may perhaps show us the right cent, activity from the exercise or way of dealing with theic minor trou- the benevolent affections cither tobles. To allow them to destroy one's wards those with whom he is pecucomfort would be the extreme of folly; liarly connected by the ties of kindred and to talk about philosophy or resig- or friendship, or as delighting in the nation in connexion with such tritles more enlarged, expanded views of woull be equally absurd ; the only universal philanthropy--from a serene method left therefore is to treat them and even tenper, unruffled either by with their own characteristic levity: trilling offences on the part of others,
Another circumstance of great im- or by those petty miseries and vexaportance to human happiness, is a tions which occasionally occur to himwise management and distribution of self. From these, and such as these, our babits. The capacity of acquiring the wise man may draw a nerer-fail-habits, both bodily and mental, is a ing supply of enjoyment. Not that he most important and valuable part of is to be always in transport or extacy, our constitution. By its means we for this is inconsistent with hunan acquire and continually improve our nature, and indeed is not in itself deskill in those occupations which are sirable; but a steady, uniform cheerto be the means of our subsistence or fulness and tranquillity which, from its the source of our usefulness to our permanence and security, will certainfellow-creatures; and our various ne ly furnish in the end a much greater cessary employments become, through sum of real happiness. The enumethe operation of the same general prin- ration is not by any ineans complete; ciple, not only easy but agreeable to for such is the admirable constitution us. Every thing however depends on of things, that, to the truly wise man, the right application of this principle. every object in nature, and almost It may minister to virtue or be made every circumstance of life, may be subservient to vice; it may contribute made the source of pleasure. All the to happiness or greatly aggravate our provinces of external nature-all the misery, according as it is wisely or powers, desires and affections of his injudiciously directed. The object own mind, will contribute to his felitherefore in the regulation of our ha- city: the powers of taste and imaginabits must be that those things be ren- tion-the search after, and discovery dered easy and agreeable through fre- of, knowledge the interest he takes quent practice, which are most essen- in the events which diversify the histially requisite to our comfort and tory of his species,-all these, and a permanent well-being; and that we thousand other pleasures of the mind, render our pleasures dependent, as which, though nothing can in this inuch as possible, on those sources uncertain state be pronounced absowhich are most easily attainable. lutely imperishable and constantly Now all this may be done by habit. within reach, may yet be said to be in A habit of moderation in our desires general firmly secured to wise and good will enable us to take as much delight men as a just reward of intellectual and in the cheaper, more ordinary means moral happiness.
gratification, as others do in those