« VorigeDoorgaan »
The various objects that compose the world, were, by nature, formed to delight our senses; and as it is this alone that makes them desirable to an uncorrupted taste, a man may be said naturally to possess them, when he possesses those enjoyments which they are fitted by nature to yield. Hence it is usual with me to consider myself as having a natural property in every object that administers pleasure to me.
When I am in the country, all the fine seats near the place of my residence, and to which I have access, I regard as mine. The same I think of the groves and fields where I walk, and muse on the folly of the civil landlord in London, who has the fantastical pleasure of draining dry rent into his coffers, but is a stranger to the fresh air and rural enjoyments. By these principles, I am possessed of half a dozen of the finest seats in England, which, in the eye of the law, belong to certain of my acquaintance, who, being men of business, choose to live near the court.
In some great families, where I choose to pass my time, a stranger would be apt to rank me with the other domestics; but, in my own thoughts and natural judgment, I am master of the house, and he who goes by that name is my steward, who cases me of the care of providing for myself the conveniencies and pleasures of life.
When I walk the streets, I use the foregoing natural maxim, viz. That he is the true possessor of a thing, who enjoys it, and not he that owns it without the enjoyment of it, to convince myself that I have a property in the gay part of all the gilt chariots that I meet, which I regard as amusements designed to delight my eyes, and the imagination of those kind people who sit in them, gaily attired, only to please me, I have a real, they only an imaginary pleasure, from their exterior embellishments. Upon the same principle, I have discovered that I am the natural proprietor of all the diamond necklaces, the crosses, stars, brocades, and embroidered clothes, which I see at a play or birthnight, as giving more natural delight to the spectator, than to those that wear them. And I look on the beaus and ladies as so many paroquets in an aviary, or tulips in a garden, designed purely for my diversion. A gallery of pictures, a cabinet or library, that I have free access to, 1 think my own.
In a word, all that I desire, is the use of things, let who will have the keeping of them ; by which maxim I am grown one of the richest men in Great Britain ; with this difference that I am not a prey to my own cares, or the envy of others.
The same principles I find of great use in my private economy. As I cannot go to the price of history painting, I have purchased, at easy rates, several beautifully designed pieces of landscape and perspective, which are much more pleasing to a natural taste, ihan unknown faces of Dutch gambols, though done by the best masters; my couches, beds, and window curtains, are of Irish stuff, which those of that nation work very fine, and with a delightful mixture of colours. There is not a piece of china in my house ; but I have glasses of all sorts, and some tinged with the finest colours; which are not the less pleasing because they are domestic, and cheaper than foreign toys. Every thing is neat, entire, and clean, and fitted to the taste of one who would rather be happy, than be thought rich.
Every day numberless innocent and natural gratifications occur to me, while I behold my fellow-creatures labouring in a toilsome and absurd. pursuit of trifles; one, he may be called by a particular appellation ; another, that he may wear a particular ornament, which I regard as a piece of riband, that has an agreeable effect on my sight, but is so far from supplying the place of merit, where it is not, that it serves only to make the want of it more conspicuous. Fair weather is the joy of my soul; about noon, I behold a blue sky with rapture, and receive great consolation from the rosy dashes of light, which adorn the clouds both morning and evening. When I am lost among the green trees, I do not envy a great man, with a great crowd at his levee. And I often lay aside thoughts of going to an opera, that I may enjoy the silent pleasure of walking by moonlight, or viewing the stars sparkle in their azure ground; which I louk upon as a part of my possessions, not without a secret indignation at the tastelessness of mortal men, who, in their race through life, overlook the real enjoyments of it.
But the pleasure which naturally affects a human mind with the most lively and transporting touches, I take to be the sense that we act in the eye of infinite wisdom, power and goodness, that will crown our virtuous endeavours here, with a happiness hereafter, large as our desires, and lasting as our immortal souls. This is a perpetual spring of gladness in the mind. This lessens our calamities, and doubles our joys. Without this, the highest state of life is insipid ; and with it, the lowest is a paradise.
IV.-Thc Folly and Madness of Ambition illustrated. AMONG the variety of subjects with which you have entertained and instructed the public, I do not remember that you have any where touched upon the folly and madness of ambition; which, for the benefit of those who are dissatisfied with their present situations, I beg leave to illustrate, by giving the history of my own life.
I am the son of a younger brother, of a good family, who, at his decease, left me a little fortune of a hundred pounds a year. I was put early to Eton school, where I learnt Latin and Greek; from which I went to the university, where I learnt not totally to forget them. I came to my fortune wbile I was at college ; and having no inclination to follow any profession, I removed myself to town, and lived for some time as most young gentlemen do, by spending four times my income. But it was my happiness, before it was too late, to fall in love, and to marry a very amiable young creature, whose fortune was just sufficient to repair the breach made in my own.
With this agreeable companion I retreated to the country, and endeavoured, as well as I was able, to square my wishes to my circumstances. In this endeavour I succeeded so well, that, except a few private hankerings after a little more than 1 possessed, and now and then a sigh, when a coach and six happened to drive by me in my walks, I was a very happy
I can truly assure you, Mr. Fitz Adam, that though our family economy was not much to be boasted of, and in consequence of it, we were frequently driven to great straits and difficulties, I experienced more real satisfaction in this humble situation, than I have ever done since, in more en viable circumstances. We were sometimes a little in debt; but when money came in, the pleasure of discharging what we owed, was more than equivalent for the pain it put us to; and, though the narrowness of our circumstances sub jected us to many cares and anxieties, it served to keep the body in action, as well as the mind; for, as our garden was somewhat large, and required more hands to keep it in order, than we could afford to hire, we laboured daily in it ourselves, and drew health from our necessities.
I had a little boy, who was the delight of my heart, and who probably might have been spoilt by nursing, if the attention of his parents had not been otherwise employed.
His mother was naturally of a sickly constitution : tut the affairs of her family, as they engrossed all her thoughts, gave her no time for complaint. The ordinary troubles of life, which, to those who have nothing else to think of, are almost insupportable, were less terrible to us, than to persons in easier circumstances; for it is a certain truth, however your readers may please to receive it, that where the mind is divided between many cares, the anxiety is lighter than where there is only one to contend with.
And even in the happiest situation, in the middle of ease, health, and affluence, the mind is generally ingenfous at tormenting itself; losing the immediate enjoyment of those invaluable blessings, by the painful suggestion that they are too great for continuance.
These are the reflections that I have had since; for I do not attempt to deny, that I sighed frequently for an addition to my fortune. The death of a distant relation, which happened five years after our marriage, gave me this addition, and made me for a time the happiest man living. My income was now increased to six hundred a year; and I hoped, with a little economy, to be able to make a figure with it. But the ill health of my wife, which in less easy circumstances had not touched me so nearly, was now constanily in my thoughts, and soured all my enjoyments. The consciousness, too, of having such an estate to leave my boy, made me so anxious to preserve him, that, instead of suffering him to run at pleasure, where he pleased, and grow hardy by exercise, I almost destroyed him by confinement. We now did nothing in our garden, because we were in circumstances to have it kept by others; but as air and exercise were necessary for our healths, we resolved to abridge ourselves in some unnecessary articles, and to set up an equipage. This, in time, brought with it a train of expenses, which we had neither prudence to foresee, nor courage to prevent. For as it enabled us to extend the circuit of our visits, it greatly increased our acquaintance, and subjected us to the necessity of making continual entertainments at home, in return for all those which we were invited to abroad. The charges that attended this new manner of living, were much too great for the income we possessed; insomuch that we found ourselves, in a very short time, more necessitous than ever. Pride would not suffer us to lay down our equipage ; and to live in a manner unsuitable
to it, was what we could not bear to think of. To
the debts we had contracted, I was soon forced to mortgage, and at last to sell, the best part of my estate ; and as it was utterly impossible to keep up the parade any longer, we thought it advisable to remove on a sudden, to sell our coach in town, and to look out for a new situation, at a greater distance from our acquaintance.
But unfortunately for my peace, I carried the habit of expense along with me, and was very near being reduced to absolute want, when, by the unexpected death of an uncle and his two sons, who died within a few weeks of each other, I succeeded to an estate of seven thousand pounds a vear. And now, Mr. Fitz Adam, both
readers will undoubtedly call me a very happy man; and so indeed I was. I set about the regulation of my family, with the most pleasing satisfaction. The splendour of my equipages, the magnificence of my plate, the crowd of servants that attended me, the elegance of my house and furniture, the grandeur of my park and gardens, the luxury of my table, and the court that was every where paid me, gave me inexpressible delight, so long as they were novelties; but no sooner were they become habitual to me, than I lost all manner of relish for them; and I discovered, in a very little time, that, by having nothing to wish for, I had nothing to enjoy. My appetite grew pall'd by satiety, a perpetual crowd of visiters robbed me of all domestic enjoyment, my servants plagued me, and my steward cheated me.
But the curse of greatness did not end here. Daily experience convinced me, that I was compelled to live more for others than myself. My uncle had been a great party man, and a zealous opposer of all ministerial measures ; and as his estate was the largest of any gentleman's in the country, he supported an interest in it beyond any of his competitors. My father had been greatly obliged by the court party, which determined me in gratitude to declare myself on that side ; but the difficulties I had to encoun. ter, were too many and too great for me; insomuch that I have been baffled and defeated in almost every thing I have undertaken. To desert the cause I have embarked in, would disgrace me, and to go greater lengths in it, would undo me.
I am engaged in a perpetual state of warfare with the principal gentry of the country, and am cursed by my tenants and dependents, for compelling them, at every