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No go. SATURDAY, MARCH 18, 1780.
Verum etiam amicum qui intuetur tanquam exemplar aliquod intuca
tur sui. Quocirca et absentes adsunt et egentes abundant, et im. becilles valent, et, quod difficilius dictu est, mortui vivunt tantus eos bonos, memoria, desiderium prosequitur amicorum. Ex quo illorum beata mors videtur, borum vita laudabilis.
Life,' says Sir William Temple, is like wine ; • who would drink it pure, must not draw it to the • dregs.' Such, I confess, has ever been my opinion, although, in reckoning up the good things of this world, long life is commonly estimated as one of its chief blessings.
I am ready to allow, that an old man, looking back on a well-spent life, in which he finds nothing to regret, and nothing to be ashamed of, and waiting with dignity for that event which is to period to his existence, is one of the most verrable and respectable of all objects. The idea that he is soon to quit the busy scenes of life throws a tenderness around him, similar to that we feel in bidding adieu to a friend who is to leave us for a long time.
There is, however, something wonderfully un. pleasant in the decay of the powers of mind and body, the necessary consequence of extreme old age. To those around them, particularly to those with whom they are more nearly connected, the imbecility which almost always attends persons in a very advanced period of life, affords one of the most affecting spectacles that can well be conceived. It is a situation truly interesting ; and, while it teaches us
to make every allowance for the weakness of disposes us, by every attention, by every mark of observance, to smooth the steps of the aged, and to remove, as much as possible, those clouds that hang on the evening of life.
It must, at the same time, be admitted, that there are men who live to a very great age, in the full
possession of their faculties, and, what is still more, with all the affections of the mind alive and unabated. Yet, even where this is the case, I cannot, for
my part, consider long life as an object much to be desired.
There is one circumstance, which with me is alone sufficient to decide the question. If there be any thing that can compensate the unavoidable evils with which this life is attended, and the numberless calamities to which mankind are subject, it is the pleasure arising from the society of those we love and esteem. Friendship is the cordial of life. But every one who arrives at extreme old age, must make his account with surviving the greater part, perhaps the whole, of his friends. He must see them fall from him by degrees, while he is left alone, single and unsupported, like a leafiess trunk, exposed to every storm and shrinking from every blast.
I have been led to these reflections by a loss I lately sustained in the sudden and unlooked-for death of a friend, to whom, from my earliest youth, I had been attached by every tie of the most tender affection. Such was the confidence that subsisted between us, that, in his bosom, I was wont to repose every thought of my mind, and every weakness of my heart. In framing him, nature seemed to have thrown together a variety of opposite qualities, which happily tempering each other, formed one of the most engaging characters I have ever known. An elevation of mind, a manly firmness, a Castilian
sense of honour, accompanied with a bewitching sweetness, proceeding from the most delicate atten. tion to the situation and the feelings of others. In his manners simple and unassuming ; in the company of strangers modest to a degree of bashfulness; yet possessing a fund of knowledge, and an extent of ability, which might have adorned the most exalted station. But it was in the social circle of his friends that he appeared to the highest advantage; there the native benignity of his soul diffused, as it were, a kindly influence on all around him, while his conversation never failed at once to amuse and to in. struct. Not many months
I paid him a visit at his seat in a remote part of the kingdom. I found him engaged in embellishing a place of which I have of. ten heard him talk with rapture, and the beauties of which I found his partiality had not exaggerated. He shewed me all the improvements he had made, and pointed out those he meant to make. He told me all his schemes and all his projects. And while I live, I must ever retain a warm remembrance of the pleasure I then enjoyed in his society.
The day I meant to set out on my return, he was seized with a slight indisposition, which he seemed to think somewhat serious; and, indeed, if he had a weakness, it consisted in rather too great anxiety with regard to his health. I remained with him till he thought himself almost perfectly recovered ; and, in order to avoid the unpleasant ceremony of taking leave, I resolved to steal away early in the morning, before any of the family should be astir. About daybreak I got up, and let myself out. At the door I found an old and favourite dog of my friend's, who immediately came and fawned upon me. He walked with me through the park. At the gate he stopped, and looked up wishfully in my face; and, though I do not well know how to account for it, I felt, at that moment when I parted with the faithful animal, a degree of tenderness, joined with a melancholy so pleasing that I had no inclination to check it. In that frame of mind I walked on (for I had ordered my horses to wait me at the first stage) till I reached the summit of a hill, which I knew commanded the last view I should have of the habitation of my friend. I turned to look back on the delighful scene. As I looked the idea of the owner came full into my mind; and, while I contemplated his many virtues and numberless amiable qualities, a suggestion arose, if he should be cut off, what an irreparable loss it would be to his family, to his friends, a:id to society. In vain I endeavoured to combat this melancholy forboding, by reflecting on the u.common, vigour of his constitution and the fair prospect it afforded of his enjoying many days. The impression still recurred, and it was some considerable time before I had strength of mind sufficient to conquer it.
I had not been long at home when I received accounts of his being attacked by a violent distemper, and in a few days after I learned that it had put an end to his life.
This blow, for a time, unmanned me quite. Even pow, the chief consolation I find is in the society of a few chosen friends. Should they also be torn from me, the world would to me be as a desert ; and, though I should still endeavour to discharge my duty in that station which Providence has assigned me in life, I should never cease to look forward, not with. out impatience, to those peaceful mansions where the weary are at rest, and where only we can hope to meet again with those from whom we have been parted by the inexorable hand of death.
N°91. TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 1780.
Non quia, Mæcenas, Lydorum quidquid Etruscos
In estimating the conduct of men, we naturally take into account, not only the merit or blame of their actions, abstractedly considered, but also that portion of either which those actions derive from the situation of the persons performing them. Besides the great moral laws by which every man is bound, particular ranks and circumstances have their peculiar obligations; and he who attains elevation of place, or extent of fortune, increases not only the pleasure he has to enjoy, but the duties he has to per. form. This, however, moralists have always complained, is apt to be forgotten; the great are ever ready to exercise power, and the rich to purchase pleasure : but the first are not always mindful of benignity, nor the latter of beneficence.
In the lighter duties of life the same rule takes place, and is, in the same manner, but little attended
In these, indeed, it is more liable to be disregarded from an idea of its unimportance. Yet, to the little and the poor, the behaviour of the great or the rich is often as essential as their conduct. There
tyranny and injustice in the one as well as in the other; nay, I have known many men