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others betrayed. If he gratifies one, he will offend another: those that are not favoured will think them. selves injured; and, since favours can be conferred but upon few, the greater number will be always discontented."
“ The discontent,” said the Princess, “ which is thus unreasonable, I hope that I shall always have spirit to despise, and you power to repress.”
“ Discontent,” answered Rasselas, “ will not always be without reason, under the most just and vigilant administration of public affairs. None, however attentive, can always discover that merit which indigence or faction may happen to obscure; and none, however powerful, can always reward it. Yet, he that sees inferior desert advanced above him, will naturally impute that preference to partiality or caprice; and, indeed, it can scarcely be hoped that any man, however magnanimous by nature, or exalted by condition, will be able to persist for ever in fixed and inexorable justice of distribution: he will sometimes indulge his own affections, and sometimes those of his favourites; he will permit some to please him who can never serve him : he will discover in those whom he loves qualities which in reality they do not possess; and to those, from whom he receives pleasure, he will in his turn endeavour to give it. Thus will recommendations sometimes prevail which were purchased by money, or by the more destructive bribery of fattery and servility.
“ He that hath much to do will do something wrong, and of that wrong must suffer the consequen.
ces; and if it were possible that he should always act rightly, yet when such numbers are to judge of his conduct, the bad will censure and obstruct him by malevolence, and the good sometimes by mistake.
“ The highest stations cannot therefore hope to be the abodes of happiness, which I would willingly believe to have fled from thrones and palaces, to seats of humble privacy and placid obscurity. For what can hinder the satisfaction, or intercept the expectations, of him whose abilities are adequate to his employments, who sees with his own eyes the whole circuit of his influence, who chooses by his own knowledge all whom he trusts, and whom none are tempted to deceive by hope or fear? Surely he has nothing to do but to love and be loved, to be virtuous and to be happy.”
“ Whether perfect happiness would be procured by perfect goodness,” said Nekayah," this world will never afford an opportunity of deciding. But this, at least, may be maintained, that we do not always find visible happiness in proportion to visible virtae. All natural, and almost all political evils, are incident alike to the bad and good: they are confounded in the misery of a famine, and not much distinguished in the fury of a faction; they sink together in a tempest, and are driven together from their country by invaders." All that virtue can afford is quictness of conscience, and a steady prospect of a happier state: this may enable us to endure calamity with patience; but remember that patience must suppose pain.”
Rasselas and Nekayah continue their conversation.
- DEAR Princess,” said Rasselas, “ you fall into the common errors of exaggeratory declamation, by producing, in a familiar disquisition, examples of national calamities, and scenes of extensive misery, which are found in books rather than in the world, and which, as they are horrid, are ordained to be rare. Let us not imagine evils which we do not feel, nor in. jure life by misrepresentations. I cannot bear that querulous eloquence which threatens every city with a siege like that of Jerusalem, that makes famine attend on every flight of locasts, and suspends pestilence on the wing of every blast that issues from the south.
« On necessary and inevitable evils, which overwhelm kingdoms at once, all disputation is vain : when they happen, they must be endured. But it is evident, that these bursts of universal distress are more dreaded than felt: thousands and ten thousands flourish in youth, and wither in age, without the knowledge of any other than domestic evils, and share the same pleasures and vexations, whether their kings are mild or eruel, whether the armies of their country pursue their enemies, or retreat before them. While courts are disturbed with intestine competitions, and ambas. sadors are negotiating in foreign countries, the smith still plies his anvil, and the husbandman drives his
plough forward; the necessaries of life are required and obtained, and the successive business of the season continues to make its wonted revolutions.
« Let us cease to consider what, perhaps, may never happen, and what, when it shall happen, will laugh at human speculation. We will not endeavour to modify the motions of the elements, or to fix the destiny of kingdoms. It is our business to consider what beings like us may perform; each labouring for his owu bappiness, by promoting, within his circle, however narrow, the happiness of others.
« Marriage is evidently the dictate of nature ; men and women were made to be the companions of each other, and therefore I cannot be persuaded but that marriage is one of the means of happiness.”
“ I know not," said the Princess, “ whether mar. riage be more than one of the innamerable modes of human misery. When I see and reckon the various forms of connubial infelicity, the unexpected causes of lasting discord, the diversities of temper, the oppositions of opinion, the rude collisions of contrary desire where both are urged by violent impulses, the obstinate contest of disagreeable virtues, where both are supported by consciousness of 'good intention, I am sometimes disposed to think, with the severer casuists of most nations, that marriage is rather permitted than approved, and that none, but by the instigation of a passion too much indulged, entangle themselves with indissoluble compact.”.
“ You seem to forget,” replied Rasselas, have, even now, represented celibacy as less happy
than marriage. Both conditions may be bad, but they cannot both be worst. Thus it happens when wrong opinions are entertained, that they mutually: destroy each other, and leave the mind open to truth.”
“ I did not expect,” answered the Princess, “ to hear that imputed to falsehood which is the consequence only of frailty. To the mind, as to the eye, it is difficult to compare with exactness objects vast in their extent, and various in their parts. When we see or conceive the whole at once, we readily vote the discriminations, and decide the preference: but of two systems, of which neither can be surveyed by any human being in its full compass of magnitude and multiplicity of complication, where is the wonder that, judging of the whole by parts, I am alternately affected by one and the other, as either presses on my memory or fancy? We differ from ourselves just as we differ from each other, when we see only part of the question, as in the multifarious relations of politics and morality: but when we perceive the whole at once, as numerical computations, all agree in one judgment, and none ever varies in his opinion.”
“ Let us not add,” said the prince, “ to the other evils of life the bitterness of controversy, nor endeavour to vie with each other in subtilties of argument. We are employed in a search, of which both are equally to enjoy the success, or suffer by the miscarriage. It is therefore fit that we assist each other. You surely conclude too hastily from the infelicity of marriage against its institution ; will not the misery of