Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

there was a small mansion-house, but the fields around it were left in a state in which Nature had formed them. I knew that by the skilful hand of art, the romantic scenes of Nature might be much aided and improved ; and I already enjoyed, by anticipation, the happiness I expected to derive from the beauty of the place, and the ornaments I proposed to add to it. I purchased also a considerable library of books, and proposed to reap much pleasure from the perusal of them, and from the renewal of the studies of my early days, which had for some time been interrupted. In short, I pictured out to myself an elysium of enjoyment, a life of philosophic ease and happiness; and, notwithstanding my present contempt of the world, and my idea of the vanity of its pursuits, I confess I had still so much of the world in me, as to feel some secret pleasure from the thought that I should be considered as a most accomplished pattern of taste and elegance in a retired and solitary life.

“But I proceed to inform you, that I put my plan in execution, and retired from the world and its cares to my little paradise at B. For some years of my residence there, I found my happiness come up to my expectations. I passed my time most delightfully, as I thought, in improving the appearance of my grounds, in beautifying the landscape, in planting a shrub, or directing the current of a brook. My reading also gave me much amusement; it lay almost entirely in works of taste, the classics, and the best modern books of belleslettres. I felt a vanity in thinking my taste was every day improving, and that my natural sensibility of mind became more and more delicate.

“But I did not long remain in this state. I began, at times to feel a languor, a listlessness, which seemed to grow stronger at every return. I now

found my ferme ornéegave me little amusement; the charm of novelty was worn off, and I grew tired of having always under my eye the same objects, however beautiful; there was not a tree the shape of which I was not acquainted with, nor a walk which I had not a thousand times measured with my steps. My books, too, had lost their charms. My reading, as I have already said, lay almost entirely in books of taste; but I now found, instead of relieving my mind, this sort of reading fatigued and exhausted it. The enjoyment which I received was of a kind which rested in itself, and led to no further pursuit: so that I became more and more languid, weakened, and inactive. This I have experienced to be the case with all pleasure arising from inanimate beauties, and from every thing that may be termed an object merely of taste; they all terminate in themselves, and lead to weariness and satiety, unlike the exercise of the social affections, where every enjoyment multiplies itself, and leads to still fuller and more endearing sources of delight. Many a time have I felt a craving void in my heart, and how to fill it up I knew not.

The
very

indolence which this state of mind created, heightened the evil, by depriving me of the power of trying to banish it. When the morning came, I have been unwilling to get out of bed, because I knew not what to do when I should get up; and at night I have been afraid to lie down, because I knew, that when the night was spent, it would only lead to the nothingness of the next day. Many a summer-afternoon have I spent, stretched on a sofa, and looking through the window, with a book in my hand, unable either to read the book, or to venture forth into the fields : and many a winter. night has been employed in doing little more than sitting in an easy chair, and gazing in the fire. In this state I have been sometimes tempted to wish for the perfect torpor of patient dulness. Without the activity of thought, I was liable to the reproach of thinking; and, instead of the quiet in which vacant souls are rocked by Indolence, I found her slumbers, like the broken sleep of a fever, weary instead of refreshing me. I frequently felt twitches of mind from a sense of my own inactive uselessness; and the accounts I sometimes received of the success in projects of ambition of others whom I knew, and once thought my inferiors, added poignancy to my self-reproach.

“I made an effort to dispel my sorrows, by keeping company with my neighbours. Most of them were indeed distant; but distance in that part of the country is no bar to visits. In this society of my neighbours, however, I found no amusement; the inhabitants of the country had no conversation which could afford me any pleasure ; and the company of some bucks, who came from town to reside a few months for the sake of sport, was still more intolerable. The only connection I had with them arose from their abusing my servants, and breaking down

“ I sometimes received a visit from Atticus, and a few other friends, with whom I had always kept up a correspondence, and for whom I still entertained the most sincere regard. But even their visits did not yield me much enjoyment. Every year I found growing more and more upon me a shyness, a reserve, and an awkwardness, which diminished my pleasure even in the company of those who had been my most intimate friends. When they came to see me, I felt myself different from them; I wished to hide myself from their sight. In there useful talents, in the activity of their minds, there was a reproof to my

situation which I could not easily bear; when they were gone, I felt a greater blank than ever,

my fences.

and upbraided myself for prizing so little their excellent company.

“ Such now is, and such for many years past has been, the tenor of my life. I could picture it out more fully by a variety of other particulars; but I must have already tired you, and I hasten to a conclusion.

It may perhaps be asked, to what purpose this so long detail ? I answer, to caution others who have not had my experience, against the errors I have committed. There is a certain delicacy of mind which is not incompatible with the highest ambition; but when that ambition receives a check in its early beginning, when that delicacy is hurt by some unexpected and sore misfortune, a person of such a character is apt to quarrel with the world, and to seek for happiness without its rage. But let your readers, Sir, particularly those of a warm and romantic cast, be assured, that happiness is not thus to be found. Men were born to live in society; and from society only can happiness be derived. The station of life requires activity and effort. For these was mankind formed; and those who do not contri. bute to the happines of themselves and others by strenuous exertions of virtue, are unworthy of a place in the great theatre of the universe. Let not any one, therefore, in a moment of disgust, give up the ordinary cares and projects of the world, and indulge in ideas of that visionary bliss which exists only in romantic pictures and delusive representations of solitude and retirement. Let not one disappointment, nor even a series of disappointments, induce them to abandon the common road of life. 'Tis only a pettish child, when it is crossed, that is entitled to spurn from it its toy of happiness.

“ I remember to have read in a letter, of Shenstone's, if I mistake not, something to the following

purpose: 'You and I, my friend, left happiness when we deviated from the turnpike road of life, Wives, children, alliances, visits, the ordinary employments of the world, are necessary ingredients of happiness. A man with them may, from a variety of causes, be abundantly miserable; but without them he cannot be happy. From long ex: perience, I can bear a full testimony to the truth of this remark.--I am, &c.

HORTENSIUS," P

No. 10. SATURDAY, APRIL 9, 1785.

TO THE AUTHOR OF THE LOUNGER.

SIR, « Somewhat more than thirty years ago, I retired to a family seat in a remote part of Scotland, where I have passed my time ever since. There the management and improvement of my estate, the society of a few friends, and a good collection of books, enable me to pass my days in a manner much to my satisfaction ; and there I experienced more happiness than you, Sir, accustomed to great cities, will perhaps readily believe.

“ Some weeks ago, a piece of important family, business brought me to town. The morning after I arrived, I sent for a tailor, wishing to make a decent appearance in your city; which, by the way, I found so much changed since I had left it, that till I got into what is now called the Old Town, I did not know where I was, and could not recognise the ancient dusky capital of Caledonia. As I was at no time

« VorigeDoorgaan »