« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
poverty. Another, after a great deal of puffing, threw down his luggage, which, upon examining, I found to be his wife.
There were multitudes of lovers, saddled with very whimsical burdens, composed of darts and flames; but, what was very odd, though they sighed as if their hearts would break, under these bundles of calamities, they could not persuade themselves to cast them into the heap, when they came up to it; but, after a few vain efforts, shook their heads, and marched away as heavyladen as they came. I saw multitudes of old women throw down their wrinkles, and several young ones who stripped themselves of a tawny skin. There were very great heaps of red noses, large lips, and rusty teeth.
The truth of it is, I was surprised to see the greatest part of the mountain made up of bodily deformities. Observing one advancing towards the heap with a larger cargo than ordinary upon his back, I found, upon his near approach, that it was only a natural hump, which he disposed of, with great joy of heart, among this collection of human miseries. There were likewise distempers of all sorts ; though I could not but observe, that there were many more imaginary than real. One little packet I could not but take notice of, which was a complication of all the diseases incident to human nature, and was in the hand of a great many fine people; this was called the spleen. But, what most of all surprised me, was a remark I made, that there was not a single vice or folly thrown into the whole heap; at which I was very much astonished, having concluded within myself that every one would take this opportunity of getting rid of his passions, prejudices and frailties.
I took notice, in particular, of a very profligate fellow, who, I did not question, came loaded with his crimes; but, upon search." ing into his bundle, I found that, instead of throwing his guilt from him, he had only laid down his memory. He was fol. lowed by another worthless rogue, who flung away his modesty, instead of his ignorance.
When the whole race of mankind had thus cast their burdens, the phantom which had been so busy on this occasion, seeing me an idle spectator of what passed, approached towards me. I grew uneasy at her presence, when, of a sudden, she held her
magnifying glass full before my eyes. I no sooner saw my face in it, but was startled at the shortness of it, which now appeared to me in its utmost aggravation. The immoderate breadth of the features made me very much out of humor with my own countenance; upon which, I threw it from me like a mask. It happened, very luckily, that one who stood by me had just before thrown down his visage, which it seems was too long for him. It was indeed extended to a most shameful length; I believe the very chin was, modestly speaking, as long as my whole face.
We had both of us an opportunity of mending ourselves; and all the contributions being now brought in, every man was at liberty to exchange his misfortunes for those of another person. I saw, with unspeakable pleasure, the whole species thus delivered from its sorrows; though, at the same time, as we stood round the heap and surveyed the several materials of which it was composed, there was scarce a mortal in this vast multitude who did not discover what he thought pleasures and blessings of life, and wondered how the owners of them ever came to look upon them as burdens and grievances.
As we were regarding very attentively this confusion of miseries, this chaos of calamity, Jupiter issued out a second proclamation, that every one was now at liberty to exchange his affliction, and to return to his habitation with any such bundle as should be allotted to him. Upon this, Fancy began again to bestir herself, and parcelling out the whole heap, with incredible activity, recommended to every one his particular packet.
The hurry and confusion at this time was not to be expressed.
Some observations which I made upon the occasion, I shall communicate to the public. * * * A poor galley-slave, who had thrown down his chains, took up the gout instead; but made such wry faces, that one might easily perceive he was no great gainer by the bargain. It was pleasant enough to see the several exchanges that were made, for sickness against poverty, hunger against want of appetite, and ease against pain. The female world were busy among themselves, in bartering for features : one was trucking a lock of gray hairs for a carbuncle; another was making over a short waist for a pair of round shoulders; and a third cheapening a bad face for a lost reputation; but on all these occasions there was not one of them who did not think the new blemish, as soon as she got it into her possession, much more disagreeable than the old one. I made the same observation on every other misfortune or calamity which every one in the assembly brought upon himself, in lieu of what he had parted with ; whether it be that all the evils which befall us are in some measure suited and proportioned to our strength, or that any evil becomes more supportable by our being accustomed to it, I shall not deterniine. * * *
I must not omit my own particular adventure. My friend with a long visage had no sooner taken upon him my short face, but he made such a grotesque figure in it, that, as I looked upon him, I could not forbear laughing at myself, insomuch that I put my own face out of countenance. The poor gentleman was so sensible of the ridicule, that I found he was ashamed of what he had done : on the other side, I found that I myself had no great reason to triumph; for, as I bent to touch my forehead, I missed the place, and clapped my finger upon my upper lip. Besides, as my nose was exceedingly prominent, I gave it two or three unlucky knocks, as I was playing my hand about my face, and aiming at some other part of it. I saw two other gentlemen by me, who were in the same ridiculous circumstances..
The heap was at last distributed among the two sexes, who made a most piteous sight, as they wandered up and down, under the pressure of their several burdens. The whole plain was filled with murmurs and complaints, groans and lamentations.
Jupiter, at length, taking compassion on the poor mortals, ordered them a second time to lay down their loads, with a design to give every one his own again. They discharged themselves with a great deal of pleasure, after which, the phantom who had led them into such gross delusions was commanded to disappear.
There was sent in her stead a goddess of a quite different figure; her motions were steady and composed, and her aspect serious, but cheerful. She every now and then cast her eyes towards heaven, and fixed them upon Jupiter. Her name was Patience. She had no sooner placed herself by the mount of sorrows, but, what I thought very remarkable, the whole heap sunk to such a
degree, that it did not appear a third part as big as it was before. She afterwards returned every man his own proper calamity, and teaching him how to bear it in the most commodious manner, he marched off with it contentedly, being very well pleased that he had not been left to his own choice, as to the kind of evils which fell to his lot.
Besides the several pieces of morality to be drawn out of this vision, I learnt from it never to repine at my own misfortunes, or to envy the happiness of another, since it is impossible for any man to form a right judgment of his neighbor's sufferings; for which reason, also, I have determined never to think too lightly of another's complaints, but to regard the sorrows of my fellowcreatures with sentiments of humanity and compassion.
HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE.
Lord Bolingbroke was, in his own day, the most conspicuous of the friendly band of wits and poets of the golden age of English literature; but now he is the least popular among them. A complete edition of his works occupies five volumes. His writings on religion and philosophy show him to have been an opponent of Christianity.
ABSURDITY OF USELESS LEARNING. Some histories are to be read, some are to be studied, and some may be neglected entirely, not only without detriment, but with advantage. Some are the proper objects of one man's curiosity, some of another's, and some of all men's; but all history is not an object of curiosity for any man. He who improperly, wantonly and absurdly, makes it so, indulges a sort of canine appetite; the curiosity of one, like the hunger of the other, devours ravenously, and without distinction, whatever falls in its way, but neither of them digests. They heap crudity upon crudity, and nourish and improve nothing but their distemper. Some such characters I have known, though it is not the most common extreme into which men are apt to fall. One of them I know, in this country. He joined to a more than athletic strength of body, a prodigious memory; and to both, a prodigious industry. He had read almost constantly twelve or fourteen hours a day, for five and twenty or thirty years, and had heaped together as much learning as could be crowded into a head. In the course of my acquaintance with him, I consulted him once or twice, not oftener; for I found this mass of learning of as little use to me as to the owner. The man was cominunicative enough, but nothing was distinct in his mind. How could it be otherwise ? — he had never spared time to think; all was employed in reading. His reason had not the merit of common mechanism. When you press a watch, or pull a clock, they answer your question with precision; for they report exactly the hour of the day, and tell you neither more nor less than you desire to know. But when you asked this man a question, he overwhelmed you by pouring forth all that the several terms or words of your question recalled to his memory; and if he omitted anything, it was that very thing to which the sense of the whole question should have led him, or confined him. To ask him a question was to wind up a spring in his memory, that rattled on with vast rapidity and confused noise, till the force of it was spent; and you went away with all the noise in your ears, stunned and uninformed. I never left him, that I was not ready to say to him, “God grant you a decrease of learning." * * . *
He who reads with discernment and choice will acquire less · learning, but more knowledge ; and as this knowledge is collected with design, and cultivated with art and method, it will be at all times of immediate and ready use to himself and others.
Thus useful arms in magazines we place,
He who reads without this discernment and choice, and, like Bodin's pupil, resolves to read all, will not have time, nor capacity neither, to do anything else. He will not be able to think, without which it is impertinent to read; nor to act, without which it is impertinent to think. He will assemble materials with much pains, and purchase them at much expense, and have