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Weak and delicate minds may, perhaps, be alarmed by the title of this work. The word solitude, may possibly engender melancholy ideas; but they have only to read a few pages to be undeceived. The author is not one of those extravagant misanthropists who expect that men, formed by nature for the enjoyments of society and impelled continually toward it by a multitude of powerful and invincible propensities, should seek refuge in forests, and inhabit the dreary cave or lonely cell; he is a friend to the species, a rational philosopher, and the virtuous citizen, who, encouraged by the esteem of his sovereign, endeavors to enlighten the minds of his fellow creatures, upon a subject of infinite importance to them, the attainment of true felicity.
No writer appears more completely convinced than M. Zimmerman, that man is born for society, or feels its duties with more refined sensibility.
It is the nature of human society, and its correspondent duties, which he here undertakes to examine. The important character of father, husband, son, and citizen, impose on man a variety of obligations, which are always dear to virtuous minds, and establish between him, his country, his family, and his friends, relations too necessary and attractive to be disregarded.
“What wonder, therefore, since th' endearing ties
Of passion link the universal kind
Of sex, of age, and fortune, and the framo
But it is not amidst tumultuous joys and noisy pleasures ; in the chimeras of ambition, or the illusions of self-love; in the indulgence of feeling, or the gratification of desire, that men must expect to feel the charms of those mutual ties which link them so firmly to society. It is not in such enjoyments that men can feel the dignity of those duties, the performance of which nature has rendered productive of so many pleasures, or hope to taste that true felicity which results from an independent mind and a contented heart; a felicity seldom sought after, only because it is so little known, but which every individual may find within his own bosom. Who, alas! does not constantly experience the necessity of entering into that sacred asylum to search for consolation under the real or imaginary misfortunes of life, or to alleviate indeed more frequently the fatigue of its painful pleasures? Yes, all men, from the mercenary trader, who sinks under the anxiety of his daily task, to the proud statesman, intoxicated by the incense of popular applause, experience the desire of terminating their arduous career. Every bosom feels an anxiety for repose, and fondly wishes to steal from the vortex of a busy and perturbed life, to enjoy the tranquillity of solitude.
" Hackney'd in business, wearied at that oar
Where all his long anxieties forgot,
It is under the peaceful shades of solitude that the mind regenerates and requires fresh force; it is there alone that the happy can enjoy the fulness of felicity; or the miserable forget their wo; it is there that the bosom of sensibility experiences its most delicious emotions; it is there that creative genius frees itself from the thraldom of society, and surrenders itself to the impetuous rays of an ardent imagination. To this desired goal all our ideas and desires perpetually tend. “There is,” says Dr. Johnson, “scarcely any writer, who has not celebrated the happiness of rural privacy, and delighted himself and his readers with the melody of birds, the whisper of groves, and the murmurs of rivulets; nor any man eminent for extent of capacity, or eatness of exploits, that has not left behind him some memorials of lonely wisdom and silent dignity."
The original work from which the following pages are selected, consists of four large volumes, which have acquired the universal approbation of the German empire, and obtained the suffrages of an empress celebrated for the superior brilliancy of her mind, and who has signified her approbation in the most flattering manner.
On the 26th of January, 1785, à courier dispatched by the Russian envoy at Hamburg, presented M. Zimmerman with a small casket, in the name of her majesty the empress of Russia. The casket contained a ring set round with diamonds of an extraordinary size and luster; and a gold medal bearing on one side the portrait