« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
fifty of the French, with the loss of ninety-tive of his own men.
No. 8. SATURDAY, June 3, 1758.
TO THE IDLER.
Sir-In time of public danger, it is every man's duty to withdraw his thoughts in some measure from his private interest, and employ part of his time for the general welfare. National conduct ought to be the result of national wisdom, a plan formed by mature consideration and diligent selection out of all the schemes which may be offered, and all the information which can be procured.
In a battle, every man should fight as if he was the single champion; in preparations for war, every man should think, as if the last event depended on his counsel. None can tell what discoveries are within his reach, or how much he may contribute to the public safety.
Full of these considerations, I have carefully reviewed the process of the war, and find, what every other man has found, that we have hitherto added nothing to our military reputation ; that at one time we have been beaten by enemies whom we did not see; and at another, have avoided the sight of enemies lest we should be beaten.
Whether our troops are defective in discipline or in courage, is not very useful to inquire ; they evidently want something necessary to success; and he that shall supply that want will deserve well of his country.
“To learn of an enemy,” has always been accounted politic and honourable; and therefore I hope it will raise no prejudices against my project, to confess that I borrowed it from a Frenchman.
When the #sle of Rhodes was, many centuries ago, in the hands of that military order now called the Knights of Malta, it was ravaged by a dragon, who inhabited a den under a rock, from which he issued forth when he was hungry or wanton, and without fear or mercy devoured men and beasts as they came in his way. Many councils were beld, and many devices offered, for his destruction; but as his back was armed with impenetrable scales, none would venture to attack him. At last Dudon, a French knight, undertook the deliverance of the island. From some place of security he took a view of the dragon, or, as a modern soldier would say, reconnoitred him, and observed that his belly was naked and vulnerable. He then returned home to make his arrangements; and, by a very exact imitation of nature, made a dragon of pasteboard, in the belly of which he put beef and mutton, and accustomed two sturdy mastiffs to feed themselves, by tearing their way to the concealed flesh. When his dogs were well practised in this method of plunder, he marched out with them at his heels, and showed them the dragon; they rushed upon him in quest of their dinner; Dudon battered his skull, while they lacerated his belly; and neither his sting nor claws were able to defend him.
Something like this might be practised in our present state. Let a fortification be raised on Salisbury-plain, resembling Brest, or Toulon, or Paris itself, with all the usual preparations for defence : let the inclosure be filled with beef and ale : let the soldiers, from some proper eminence, see shirts waying upon lines, and here and there a pluinp landlady hurrying about with pots in her hands. When they are sufficiently animated to advance, lead them in exact order, with fife and drum, to that side whence the wind blows, till they come within the scent of roast meat and tobacco. Contrive that they may approach the place fasting about an hour after dinner-time, assure them that there is no danger, and command an attack.
If nobody within either moves or speaks, it is not unlikely that they may carry the place by storm; but if a panic should seize them, it will be proper to defer the enterprise to a more hungry hour. When they have entered, let them fill their bellies and return to the camp.
On the next day let the same place be shown them again, but with some additions of strength or terrour. I cannot pretend to inform our generals through what gradations of danger they shall train their men to fortitude. They best know what the soldiers and what themselves can bear. It will be proper that the war should every day vary its appearance. Sometimes, as they mount, a cook may throw fat upon the fire, to accustom them to a sudden blaze; and sometimes, by the clatter of empty pots, they may be inured to formidable noises. But let it never be forgotten, that victory must repose with a full belly.
In time it will be proper to bring our French prisoners from the coast, and place them upon the walls in martial order. At their first appearance their hands must be tied, but they may be allowed to grin. In a month they may guard the place with their hands loosed, provided that on pain of death they be forbidden to strike.
By this method our army will soon be brought to look an enemy in the face. But it has been lately observed, that fear is received by the ears as well as the eyes ; and the Indian war-cry is represented as too dreadful to be endured, as a sound that will force the bravest veteran to drop his weapon, and desert his rank, that will deafen his ear, and chill his breast, that will neither suffer him to hear orders or to feel shame, or retain any sensibility but the dread of death..
That the savage clamours of naked barbarians should thus terrify troops disciplined to war, and ranged in array with arms in their hands, is surely strange. But this is no time to reason. I am of opinion, that by a proper mixture of asses, bulls, turkeys, geese, and tragedians, a noise might be procured equally borrid with the war-cry. When our men have been encouraged by frequent victories, nothing will remain but to qualify them for extreme danger, by a sudden concert of terrific vociferation. When they have endured this last trial, let them be led to action, as men who are no longer to be frightened, as men who can bear at once the grimaces of the Gauls, and the howl of the Americans,
“Sir-I have read you ; that is a favour few authors can boast of baving received from me besides yourself. My intention in telling you of it is to inform you, that you have both pleased and angered me. Never did writer appear so delightful to me as you did when you adopted the name of the Idler. But what a falling off was there when your first production was brought to light! A natural irresistible attachment to that favourable passion, idling, had led me to hope for indulgence from the Idler, but I find him a stranger to the title.
“What rules bas le proposed totally to unbrace the slackened nerve; to shade the heavy eye of inattention; to give the smooth feature and the uncontracted muscle; or procure insensibility to the whole animal composition ?
**These were some of the placid blessings I promised myself the enjoyment of, when I committed violence upon myself, by mustering up all my strength to set about reading you;
but I am disappointed in them all, and the stroke of eleven in the morning is still as terrible to me as before, and I find putting on my clothes still as painful and laborious. Oh that our climate would permit that original nakedness which the thrice happy Indians to this day enjoy! How many unsolicitous hours should I bask away, warmed in bed by the sun's glorious beams, could I, like them, tumble from thence in a moment, when necessity obliges me to endure the torment of getting upon my legs !
“But wherefore do I talk to you upon subjects of this delicate nature; you who seem ignorant of the inexpressible charms of the elbow-chair, attended with a soft stool for the elevation of the feet! thus, vacant of thought, do I indulge the live-long day.
“You may define happiness as you please; I embrace that opinion which makes it consist in the absence of pain. To reflect is pain; to stir is pain; therefore I never reflect or stir but when I cannot help it. Perhaps you will call my scheme of life indolence, and therefore think thc Idler excused from taking any notice of me: but I have always looked upon indolence and idleness as the same; and so desire you will now and then, while you profess yourself of our fraternity, take some notice of me, and others in my situation, who think they have a right to your assistance; or relinguish the name.
“You may publish, burn, or destroy this, just as you are in the humour; it is ten to one but I forget that I wrote it, before it reaches you. I believe you may find a motto for it in Horace, but I cannot reach him without getting out of my chair; that is a sufficient reason for my not affixing any. And being obliged to sit upright to ring the bell for my servant to convey this to the penny-post, if I slip the opportunity of his being now in the room, makes me break off abruptly."
This correspondent, whoever he be, is not to be dismissed without some tokens of regard. There is no mark more certain of a genuine Idler, than uneasiness without molestation; and complaint without a grievance.
Yet my gratitude to the contributor of half a paper shall not wholly overpower my sincerity. I must inform you, that, with all his pretensions, he that calls for directions to be idle, is yet but in the rudiments of idleness, and has attained neither the practice nor theory of wasting life. The true nature of idleness he will know in time, by continuing to be idle. Virgil tells us of an impetuous and rapid being, that acquires strength by motion. The Idler acquires weight by lying still.
The vis inertiæ, the quality of resisting all external impulse, is hourly increasing; the restless and troublesome faculties of attention and distinction, reflection on the past, and solicitude for the future, by a long indulgence of idleness, will, like tapers in unelastic air, be gradually extinguished; and the officious lover, the vigilant soldier, the busy trader, may, by a judicious composure of his mind, sink into a state approaching to that of brute matter, in which he shall retain the consciousness of his own existence, only by an obtuse languor, and drowsy discontent.
This is the lowest stage to which the favourites of idleness can descend; these regions of undelighted quiet can be entered by few. Of those that are preparing to sink down into their shade, some are roused into action by avarice or ambition, some are awakened by the voice of fame, some allured by the smile of beauty, and many withheld by the importunities of want. Of all the enemies of idleness, want is the most formidable. Fame is soon found to be a sound, and love a dream; avarice and ambition may be justly suspected of privy confederacies with idleness; for when they have for a while protected their votaries, they often deliver them up to end their lives under her dominion. Want always struggles against idleness; but want herself is often overcoine; and every hour shows the careful observer, those who had rather live in ease than in plenty. So wide is the reign of idleness, and so powerful her influ
But she does not immediately confer all her gifts.. My correspondent, who seems, with all his errours, worthy of advice, must be told, that he is calling too hastily for the last effusion of total insensibility. Whatever he may have been taught by unskilful idlers to believe, labour is necessary in his initiation to idleness. He that never labours may know the pains of idleness, but not the pleasure. The comfort is, that if he devotes himself to insensibility, he will daily Jengthen the intervals of idleness, and shorten those of labour, till at last he will lie down to rest, and no longer disturb the world or himself by bustle or competition.
Thus I have endeavoured to give him that information which, perhaps, after all, he did not want; for a true idler often calls for that which he knows is never to be had, and asks questions which he does not desire ever to be answered.