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prejudiced; which are all of them employments suited to a reasonable nature, and bring great satisfaction to the person who can busy himself in them with discretion.
There is another kind of virtue, that may find employment for those retired hours in which we are altogether left to ourselves, and destitute of company and conversation; I mean that intercourse and communication which every reasonable creature ought to maintain with the great Author of
The man who lives under an habitual sense of the Divine presence, keeps up a perpetual cheerfulness of temper, and enjoys every moment the satisfaction of thinking himself in company with his dearest and best of friends. The time never lies heavy upon him : it is impossible for him to be alone. His thoughts and passions are the most busied at such hours, when those of other men are the most unactive: he no sooner steps out of the world, but his heart burns with devotion, swells with hope, and triumphs in the eonsciousness of that Presence which everywhere surrounds him; or, on the contrary, pours out its fears, its sorrows, its apprehensions, to the great Supporter of its existence.
I have here only considered the necessity of a man's being virtuous, that he may have something to do; but if we consider further, that the exercise of virtue is not only an amusement for the time it lasts, but that its influence extends to those parts of our existence which lie beyond the grave, and that our whole eternity is to take its colour from those hours which we here employ in virtue or in vice, the argument redoubles upon us for putting in practice this method of passing away our time.
When a man has but a little stock to improve, and has opportunities of turning it all to good account, what shall we think of him if he suffers nineteen parts of it to lie dead, and perhaps employs even the twentieth to his ruin or disadvantage? But because the mind cannot be always in its fervours, nor strained up to a pitch of virtue, it is necessary to find out proper employments for it in its relaxations.
The next method, therefore, that I would propose to fill up our time, should be useful and innocent diversions. I must confess I think it is below reasonable creatures to be
With his dearest and best of friends.) Inaccurate. It should either be,“ with the dearest and best of friends;" or " with his dearest and best friend.”
altogether conversant in such diversions as are merely innocent, and have nothing else to recommend them but that there is no hurt in them. Whether any kind of gaming has even thus much to say for itself, I shall not determine; but I think it is very wonderful to see persons of the best sense passing away a dozen hours together in shuffling and dividing a pack of cards, with no other
conversation but what is made up of a few game phrases, and no other ideas but those of black or red spots ranged together in different figures. Would not a man laugh to hear any one of this species complaining that life is short ?
The stage might be made a perpetual source of the most noble and useful entertainments, were it under proper regulations.
But the mind never unbends itself so agreeably as in the conversation of a well-chosen friend. There is indeed no blessing of life that is any way comparable to the enjoyment of a discreet and virtuous friend. It eases and unloads the mind, clears and improves the understanding, engenders thoughts and knowledge, animates virtue and good resolutions, soothes and allays the passions, and finds employment for most of the vacant hours of life.
Next to such an intimacy with a particular person, one would endeavour after a more general conversation with such as are able to entertain and improve those with whom they converse, which are qualifications that seldom go asunder.
There are many other useful amusements of life, which one would endeavour to multiply, that one might on all occasions have recourse to something, rather than suffer the mind to lie idle, or run adrift with any passion that chances to rise in it.
A man that has a taste of music, painting, or architecture, is like one that has another sense, when compared with such as have no relish of those arts. The florist, the planter, the gardener, the husbandman, when they are only as accomplishments to the man of fortune, are great reliefs to a country life, and many ways useful to those who are possessed of them.
But of all the diversions of life, there is none so proper to fill up its empty spaces as the reading of useful and entertaining authors. But this I shall only touch upon, because it in some measure interferes with the third method,
which I shall propose in another paper, for the employment of our dead, unactive hours, and which I shall only mention in general to be, the pursuit of knowledge.
No. 94. MONDAY, JUNE 18.
-Hoc est Vivere bis, vita posse priore frui. MART. The last method which I proposed in my Saturday's paper, for filling up those empty spaces of life which are so tedious and burthensome to idle people, is the employing ourselves in the pursuit of knowledge. I remember Mr. Boyle, speaking of a certain mineral, tells us, that a man may consume his whole life in the study of it, without arriving at the knowledge of all its qualities. The truth of it is, there is not a single science, or any branch of it, that might not furnish a man with business for life, though it were much longer than it is.
I shall not here engage on those beaten subjects of the usefulness of knowledge, nor of the pleasure and perfection it gives the mind, nor on the methods of attaining it, nor recommend any particular branch of it, all which have been the topics of many other writers; but shall indulge myself in a speculation that is more uncommon,
may therefore, perhaps, be more entertaining.
I have before shown bow the unemployed parts of life appear long and tedious; and shall here endeavour to show how those parts of life which are exercised in study, reading, and the pursuits of knowledge, are long, but not tedious, and by that means discover a method of lengthening our lives, and at the same time of turning all the parts of them to our advantage.
Mr. Locke observes,“ That we get the idea of time, or duration, by reflecting on that train of ideas which succeed one another in our minds: that for this reason, when we sleep soundly, without dreaming, we have no perception of time, or the length of it, whilst we sleep; and that the moment wherein we leave off to think, till the moment we begin to think again, seem to have no distance." To which the author adds, “ And so I doubt not but it would be to a waking man, if it were possible for him to keep only one idea in his
mind, without variation, and the succession of others : and we see, that one who fixes his thoughts very intently on one thing, so as to take but little notice of the succession of ideas that pass in his mind whilst he is taken up with that earnest contemplation, lets slip out of his account a good part of that duration, and thinks that time shorter than it is."
We might carry this thought further, and consider a man as, on one side, shortening his time by thinking on nothing, or but a few things; so, on the other, as lengthening it, by employing his thoughts on many subjects, or by entertaining a quick and constant succession of ideas. Accordingly Monsieur Mallebranche, in his Inquiry after Truth, (which was published several years before Mr. Locke's Essay on Human Understanding) tells us, that it is possible some creatures may think half an hour as long as we do a thousand years; or look upon that space of duration which we call a minute, as an hour, a week, a month, or an whole age.
This notion of Monsieur Mallebranche is capable of some little explanation from what I have quoted out of Mr. Locke; for if our notion of time is produced by our reflecting on the succession of ideas in our mind, and this succession may be infinitely accelerated or retarded, it will follow, that different beings may have different notions of the same parts of duration, according as their ideas, which we suppose are equally distinct in each of them, follow one another in a greater or less degree of rapidity.
There is a famous passage in the Alcoran, which looks as if Mahomet had been possessed of the notion we are now speaking of. It is there said, that the angel Gabriel took Mahomet out of his bed one morning to give him a sight of all things in the seven heavens, in paradise, and in hell, which the prophet took a distinct view of:1 and after having held ninety thousand conferences with God, was brought back again to his bed. All this, says the Alcoran, was transacted in so small a space of time, that Mahomet at his return found his bed still warm, and took up an earthen pitcher (which was thrown down at the very instant that the angel Gabriel carried him away) before the water was all spilt.
1 Which the prophet took a distinct view of.] This way of throwing the preposition to the end of a sentence, is among the peculiarities of Mr Addison's manner; and was derived from his nice ear. The secret de. serves to be explained. The English tongue is naturally grave and majestic. The rhythm corresponds to the genius of it; and runs, almost whether we will or no, into iambics. But the continuity of this solemn measure has an ill effect where the subject is not of moment. Mr. Ad. dison's delicate ear made him sensible of this defect in the rhythm of our language, and suggested to him the proper cure for it ; which was, to break the continued iambic measure, especially at the end of a sentence, where the weight of it would be most felt, by a preposition, or other short word, of no emphasis in the sense, and without accent, thrown into that
There is a very pretty story in the Turkish Tales which relates to this passage of that famous impostor, and bears some affinity to the subject we are now upon. A sultan of Egypt, who was an infidel
, used to laugh at this circumstance in Mahomet’s life, as what was altogether impossible and absurd; but conversing one day with a great doctor in the law, who had the gift of working miracles, the doctor told him he would quickly convince him of the truth of this passage in the history of Mahomet, if he would consent to do what he should desire of him. Upon this the sultan was directed to place himself by an huge tub of water, which he did accordingly; and as he stood by the tub amidst a circle of his great men, the holy man bid him plunge his head into the water, and draw it up again ; the king accordîngly thrust his head into the water, and at the same time found himself at the foot of a mountain on a sea-shore. The king immediately began to rage against his doctor for this piece of treachery and witchcraft; but at length, knowing it
part: whence a trochee, being introduced into the place of an iambus, would give that air of negligence, and what the French call “legereté,” which, in a work of gaiety or elegance, is found so taking. For instance, had the author said, “ of which the prophèt töāk å distinct viēw”—the metre had been wholly iambic, or, what is worse, would have been loaded with a spondee in the last foot, and the accent must have fallen, with solemnity, on the word “view.” But by reserving the preposition “of” to the end of the sentence, he gains this advantage, that “view of” becomes a trochee; and the ear is not only relieved by the variety, but escapes the “ ictus” of a too important close. For the same reason, he frequently terminates a sentence, or a paragraph, by such unpretending phrases, as, of it—of him-to her from thěm, &c.; which have the same effect on the ear, (the accent, here, falling on the preposition,) and give a careless air to the rhythm, exactly suited to the subject and genius of these little essays: though the common reader, who does not enter into the beauty of this contrivance, is ready to censure the author, as wanting nerves and force.
In the formal style, it is evident, this liberty should be sparingly used : but in conversation, in letters, in narratives, and, universally, in all the lighter forms of composition, the Addisonian termination, as we may call it, has an extreme grace.