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with dogs, and my stable with horses: but a little experience showed me, that these instruments of rural felicity would afford me few gratifications. I never shot but to miss the mark, and, to confess the truth, was afraid of the fire of my own gun. I could discover no musick in the cry of the dogs, nor could divest myself of pity for the animal whose peaceful and inoffensive life was sacrificed to our sport. I was not, indeed, always at leisure to reflect upon her danger; for my horse, who had been bred to the chase, did not always regard my choice either of speed or way, but leaped hedges and ditches at his own discretion, and hurried me along with the dogs, to the great diversion of my brother sportsmen. His eagerness of pursuit once incited him to swim a river; and I had leisure to resolve in the water, that I would never hazard my life again for the destruction of a hare.
I then ordered books to be procured, and by the direction of the vicar had in a few weeks a closet elegantly furnished. You will, perhaps, be surprised when I shall tell you, that when once I had ranged them according to their sizes, and piled them up in regular gradations, I had received all the pleasure which they could give me. I am not able to excite in myself any curiosity after events which have been long passed, and in which I can, therefore, have no interest; I am utterly unconcerned to know whether Tully or Demosthenes excelled in oratory, whether Hannibal lost Italy by his own negligence or the corruption of his countrymen. I have no skill in controversial learning, nor can conceive why so many volumes should have been written upon questions, which I have lived so long and so happily without understanding. I once resolved to go through the volumes relating to the office of justice of the peace, but found them so crabbed and intricate, that in less than a month I desisted in despair, and resolved to supply my deficiencies by paying a competent salary to a skilful clerk.
I am naturally inclined to hospitality, and for some time kept up a constant intercourse of visits with the neighbouring gentlemen ; but though they are easily brought about me by better wine than they can find at any other house, I am not much relieved by their conversation ; they have no skill in commerce or the stocks, and I have no knowledge of the history of families or the factions of the country ; so that when the first civilities are over, they usually talk to one another, and I am left alone in the midst of the company. Though I cannot drink myself, I am obliged to encourage the circulation of the glass; their mirth grows more turbulent and obstreperous; and before their merriment is at an end, I am sick with disgust, and, perhaps, reproached with my sobriety, or by some sly insinuations insulted as a cit.
Such, Mr. Adventurer, is the life to which I am condemned by a foolish endeavour to be happy by imitation ; such is the happiness to which I pleased myself with approaching, and which I considered as the chief end of my cares and my labours. I toiled year after year with cheerfulness, in expectation of the happy hour in which I might be idle: the privilege of idleness is attained, but has not brought with it the blessing of tranquillity.
I am yours, &c.
No. 107. TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 1753.
-Sub judice lis est.
Hor. De Ar. Poel. 78.
And of their vain disputings find no end.
It has been sometimes asked by those who find the appearance of wisdom more easily attained by questions than solutions, how it comes to pass, that the world is divided by such difference of opinion? and why men, equally reasonable, and equally lovers of truth, do not always think in the same manner?
With regard to simple propositions, where the terms are understood, and the whole subject is comprehended at once, there is such an uniformity of sentiment among all human beings, that, for many ages, a very numerous set of notions were supposed to be innate, or necessarily coexistent with the faculty of reason : it being imagined, that universal agreement could proceed only from the invariable dictates of the universal parent.
In questions diffuse and compounded, this similarity of determination is no longer to be expected. At our first sally into the intellectual world, we all march together along one straight and open road; but as we proceed further, and wider prospects open to our view, every eye fixes upon a different scene; we divide into various paths, and, as we move forward, are still at a greater distance from each other. As a question becomes more complicated and involved, and extends to a greater number of relations, disagreement of opinion will always be multiplied ; not because we are irrational, but because we are finite beings, furnished with different kinds of knowledge, exerting different degrees of attention, one discovering consequences which escape another, none taking in the whole concatenation of causes and effects, and most comprehending but a very small part, each comparing what he observes with a different criterion, and each referring it to a different purpose.
Where, then, is the wonder, that they who see only a small part should judge erroneously of the whole? or that they, who see different and dissimilar parts, should judge differently from each other?
Whatever has various respects, must have various appearances of good and evil, beauty or deformity; thus, the gardener tears up as a weed, the plant which the physician gathers as a medicine; and “a general," says Sir Kenelm Digby, “will look with pleasure over a plain, as a fit place on which the fate of empires might be decided in battle, which the farmer will despise as
bleak and barren, neither fruitful of pasturage, nor fit for tillage k.”
Two men examining the same question proceed commonly like the physician and gardener in selecting herbs, or the farmer and hero looking on the plain ; they bring minds impressed with different notions, and direct their inquiries to different ends; they form, therefore, contrary conclusions, and each wonders at the other's absurdity.
We have less reason to be surprised or offended when we find others differ from us in opinion, because we very often differ from ourselves. How often we alter our minds, we do not always remark; because the change is sometimes made imperceptibly and gradually, and the last conviction effaces all memory of the former: yet every man, accustomed from time to time to take a survey of his own notions, will by a slight retrospection be able to discover, that his mind has suffered many revolutions; that the same things have in the several parts of his life been condemned and approved, pursued and shunned : and that on many occasions, even when his practice has been steady, his mind has been wavering, and he has persisted in a scheme of action, rather because he feared the censure of inconstancy, than because he was always pleased with his own choice.
Of the different faces shown by the same objects, as they are viewed on opposite sides, and of the different inclinations which they must constantly raise in him that contemplates them, a more striking example cannot easily
Livy has described the Achæan leader, Philopæmen, as actually so exercising his thoughts whilst be wandered among the rocky passes of the Morea, xxxv. 28. In the graphic page of the Roman historian, as in the stanzas of the “ Ariosto of the North :"
From shingles grey the lances start,
Lady of the Lake. Canto v. 9.
be found than two Greek epigrammatists will afford us in their accounts of human life, which I shall lay before the reader in English prose.
Posidippus, a comick poet, utters this complaint : · Through which of the paths of life is it eligible to
In public assemblies are debates and troublesome affairs : domestick privacies are haunted with anxieties ; in the country is labour; on the sea is terrour: in a foreign land, he that has money must live in fear, he that wants it must pine in distress : are you married ? you are troubled with suspicions; are you single? you languish in solitude; children occasion toil, and a childless life is a state of destitution: the time of youth is a time of folly, and gray hairs are loaded with infirmity. This choice only, therefore, can be made, either never to receive being, or immediately to lose it!.”
Such and so gloomy is the prospect, which Posidippus has laid before us. But we are not to acquiesce too hastily in his determination against the value of existence : for Metrodorus, a philosopher of Athens, has shown, that life has pleasures as well as pains; and having exhibited the present state of man in brighter colours, draws with equal appearance of reason, a contrary conclusion.
“ You may pass well through any of the paths of life. In publick assemblies are honours and transactions of wisdom ; in domestick privacy is stillness and quiet: in the country are the beauties of nature ; on the sea is the hope of gain: in a foreign land, he that is rich is honoured, he that is poor may keep his poverty secret: are you married? you have a cheerful house; are you single? you,
1" Count o'er the joys thine hours have seen,
“ Count o'er thy days from anguish free,
Lord Byron's Euthanasia. Compare also the plaintive chorus in the (Edipus at Colonos, 1211. Among the tragedies of Sophocles this stands forth a mass of feeling. See Schlegel's remarks upon it in his Dramatic Literature.