Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

if thou waterest, through all thy course, a single habitation from which thou dost not hear the murmurs of complaint ?”

“ You are then,” said Rasselas, “not more successful in private houses than I have been in courts.”

I have, since the last partition of our provinces,” said the princess,“ enabled myself to enter familiarly into many families, where there was the fairest shew of prosperity and peace, and know not one house that is not haunted by some fury that destroys their quiet.

“ I did not seek ease among the poor, because I concluded that there it could not be found. But I saw many poor whom I had supposed to live in affluence. Poverty has, in large cities, very different appearances; it is often concealed in splendour, and often in extravagance. It is the care of a very great part of mankind to conceal their indigence from the rest : they support themselves by temporary expedients, and every day is lost in contriving for the morrow.

“ This, however, was an evil, which, though frequent, I saw with less pain, because I could relieve it. Yet some have refused my bounties ; more offended with my quickness to detect their wants, than pleased with my readiness to succour them: and others, whose exigencies compelled them to admit my kindness, have never been able to forgive their benefactress. Many, however, have been sincerely grateful without the ostentation of gratitude, or the hope of other favours.”

CHAP. XXVI.

The Princess continues her remarks upon private life.

NEKAYAH perceiving her brother's attention fixed, proceeded in her narrative.

“ In families, whether there is or is not poverty, there is commonly discord. If a kingdom be, as Imlac tells us, a great family, a family likewise is a little kingdom, torn with factions and exposed to revolutions. An unpractised observer expects the love of parents and children to be constant and equal; but. this kindness seldom continues beyond the years of infancy: in a short time the children become rivals to their parents. Benefits are allayed by reproaches, and gratitude debased by envy.

“ Parents and children seldom act in concert; each child endeavours to appropriate the esteem or fondness of the parents; and the parents, with yet less temptation, betray each other to their children; thus some place their confidence in the father, and some in the mother, and by degrees the house is filled with artifices and feuds.

“ The opinions of children and parents, of the young and the old, are naturally opposite, by the contrary effects of hope and despondence, of expectation and experience, without crime or folly on either side. The colours of life in youth and age appear different, as the face of nature in spring and winter. And how can

children credit the assertions of parents, which their own eyes shew them to be false?

“ Few parents act in such a manner as much to enforce their maxims by the credit of their lives. The old man trusts wholly to slow contrivance and gradual progression : the youth expects to force his way by genius, vigour, and precipitance. The old man pays regard to riches, and the youth reverences virtue. The old man deifies prudence : the youth commits himself to magnanimity and chance. The young man, who intends no ill, believes that none is intended, and therefore acts with openness and candour : but his father, having suffered the injuries of frand, is impelled to suspect, and too often allured to practise it. Age looks with anger on the temerity of youth, and youth with contempt on the scrupulosity of age. Thus parents and children, for the greatest part, live on, to love less and less : and, if those whom nature had thus closely united are the torments of each other, where shall we look for tenderness and consolation.”

“ Surely,” said the Prince, “you must have been unfortunate in your choice of acquaintance: I am unwilling to believe, that the most tender of all relatious is thus impeded in its effects by natural necessity.”

“ Domestic discord,” answered she, “is not inevitably and fatally necessary; but yet it is not easily avoided. We seldom see that a whole family is virtuous : the good and the evil cannot well agree : and the evil can yet less agree with one another: even the virtuous fall sometimes to variance, when their virtues are of different kinds, and tending to extremes. In

general, those parents have most reverence whó most deserve it; for he that lives well cannot be despised.

“ Many other evils infest private life. Some are the slaves of servants whom they have trusted with their affairs. Some are kept in continual anxiety by the caprice of rich relations, whom they cannot please, and dare not offend. Some husbands are imperious, and some wives perverse: and, as it is always more easy to do evil than good, though the wisdom or virtue of one can very rarely make many happy, the folly or vice of one may make many miserable.”

" If such be the general effect of marriage," said the Prince, “ I shall for the future think it dangerous to connect my interests with those of another, lest I should be unhappy by my parents' fault.”

“ I have met,” said the Princess, “ with many who live single for that reason: but I never found that their prudence ought to raise envy. They dream away their time without friendship, without fondness, and are driven to rid themselves of the day, for which they have no use, by childish amusements, or vicious delights. They act as beings under the constant sense of some known inferiority, that fills their minds with rancour, and their tongues with censure. They are peevish at home, and malevolent abroad; and, the outlaws of human nature, make it their business and their pleasure to disturb that society which debars them from its privileges. To live without feeling or exciting sympathy, to be fortunate without adding to the felicity of others, or afflicted without tasting the balm of pity, is a state more gloomy than solitude: it

is not retreat, but exclusion from mankind. Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.”

“ What then is to be done?” said Rasselas; “ the more we inquire, the less we can resolve. Surely he is most likely to please himself that has no other ipclination to regard.”

CHAP. XXVII.

Disquisition upon Greatness.

The conversation had a short pause. The Prince, having considered his sister's observation, told her, that she had surveyed life with prejudice, and supposed misery where she did not find it.

6 Your narrative," says he, “throws yet a darker gloom upon the prospects of futurity : the predictions of Imlac were but faint sketches of the evils painted by Nekayah. I have been lately convinced that quiet is not the daughter of grandeur, or of power: that her presence is not to be bought by wealth, nor enforced by conquest. It is evident, that as any man acts in a wider compass, he must be more exposed to opposition from enmity, or miscarriage from chance; whoever has many to p'ease or to govern, must use the ministry of many agents, some of whom will be wicked, and some ignoraut; by some he will be misled, and by

F

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »