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No 42. SATURDAY, MARCH 31, 1753.
Sua cuique Deus fit dira Cupido.
Our lusts are Gods, and what they will is fate.
I HAD the misfortune, some time ago, to be in company where a gentleman, who has the honour to be a principal speaker at a disputing society of the first class, was expected. Till this person came in, the conversation was carried on with the cheerful easy negligence of sensible good-humour: but we soon discovered that his discourse was a perpetual effort to betray the company into attempts to prove self-evident propositions; a practice in which he seems to have followed the example of that deep philosopher, who denied motion, because,' as he said, a body must move either where it is, or where it is not; and both suppositions are equally absurd.'
His attempt, however, was totally unsuccessful; till at last he affirmed, that a man had no more
power over his own actions than a clock; and that the motions of the human machine were determined by irresistible propensities, as a clock is kept going by a weight. This proposition was answered with a loud laugh; every one treated it as an absurdity which it was impossible to believe ; and, to expose him to the ridicule of the company, he was desired to prove what he had advanced, as a fit punishment of his design to engage others to prove the contrary, which, though for a different reason, was yet equally ridiculous. After a long harangue, in which he retailed all the sophistry that he remembered, and much more than he understood, he had the mortification to find that he had made no proselyte, nor was yet become of sufficient consequence to provoke an antagonist.
Í sat silent; and as I was indulging my speculation on the scene which chance ha exhibited before me,
I recollected several incidents which cona vinced me, that most of the persons who were present had lately professed the opinion which they now opposed ; and acted upon that very principle which they derided as absurd, and appeared to detest as impious.
The company consisted of Mr. Traffic, a wealthy merchant; Mr. Courtly, a commissioner of a public office; Mr. Gay, a gentleman in whose conversation there is a higher strain of pleasantry and humour, than in any other person of my acquaintance; and Myrtilla, the wife of our friend, at whose house we were assembled to dine, and who, during this interval, was engaged by some unexpected business in another room.
Those incidents which I then recollected, I will now' relate: nor can any of the persons whom I have thus ventured to name, be justly offended; because that which is declared not to be the effect of choice, cannot be considered as the object of
With Mr. Traffic I had contracted an intimacy in our younger days, which, notwithstanding the disparity of our fortune, has continued till now. We had both been long acquainted with a gentleman, who, though his extensive trade had contributed to enrich his country, was himself, by sudden and inevitable losses, become poor: his credit, however, was still good; and, by the risk of a certain sum, it was still possible to retrieve his fortune. With this gentleman we had spent many a social hour; we had habitually drank his health when he was absent, and always expressed our sentiments of his merit in the highest terms.
In this exigency, therefore, he applied to me, and communicated the secret of his distress; a secret, which is always concealed by a generous mind till it is extorted by torture that can no longer be borne; he knew
circumstances too well, to expect the sum that he wanted from my purse: but he requested that I would, to save him from the pain and confusion of such a conversation, communicate his request, and a true state of his affairs, to Mr. Traffic: for,' says he, though I could raise double the sum upon my own personal security, yet I would no more borrow of a man without acquainting him at what risk he lends, than I would solicit the insurance of a ship at a common premium, when I knew, by private intelligence, that she could swim no longer than every pump was at work.'
I undertook this business with the utmost confidence of success.
Mr. Traffic heard the account of our friend's misfortunes with great appearance of concern; he warmly commended his integrity, and lamented the precarious situation of a trader,
whom economy and diligence cannot secure from calamities, which are brought upon others only by profusion and riot: but as to the money, he said, that I could not expect him to venture it without security: that
friend himself could not wonder that his request was refused, a request with which, indeed,' said he, “I cannot possibly comply.' Whatever may be thought of the free agency of myself and my friend, which Mr. Traffic had made no scruple to deny in a very interesting particular: I believe every one will readily admit, that Mr. Traffic was neither free in speculation nor fact: for he can be little better than a machine actuated by avarice, who had not power to spare one thousand pounds from two hundred times the sum, to prevent the immediate ruin of a man, in whose behalf he had been so often liberal of praise, with whom his social enjoyments had been so long connected, and for whose misfortunes he was sensibly touched.
Soon after this disappointment, my unhappy friend became a bankrupt, and applied to me once more, to solicit Mr. Courtly for a place in his office. By Mr. Courtly I was received with great friendship; he was much affected with the distresses of my friend; he generously gave me a bank note, which he requested me to apply to his immediate relief in such a manner as would least wound his delicacy; and promised that the first vacancy he should be provided for: but when the vacancy happened, of which I had the earliest intelligence, he told me, with evident compunction and distress, that he could not possibly fulfil his promise, for that a very great man had recommended one of his domestics, whose solicitation for that reason it was not in his power to refuse.' This gentleman, therefore, had also professed himself a machine; and indeed he appears to have been no
less the instrument of ambition, than Mr. Traffic of avarice. Mr. Gay, the wit, besides that he has
much the air of a free agent, is a man of deep penetration, great delicacy, and strong compassion : but, in direct opposition to all these great and good qualities, he is continually entangled in difficulties, and precipitated not only into indecency and unkindness, but impiety, by his love of ridicule. I remembered that I had lately expostulated with him about this strange perversion of his abilities, in these terms, • Dear Charles, it amazes me that you should rather affect the character of a merry fellow, than a wise
you should mortify a friend, whom you not only love, but esteem; wantonly mangle a character which you reverence, betray a secret, violate truth, and sport with the doctrines and the practice of a religion which you believe, merely for the pleasure of being laughed at.' I remember too, that when he had heard me out, he shrugged up his shoulders, and, greatly extending the longitudinal dimensions of his countenance, “ All this,' said he, * is very true; but if I was to be hanged, I could not help it. Here was another declaration in favour of fatality. Poor Gay professes himself a slave rather to vanity than to vice, and patiently submits to the most ridiculous drudgery without one struggle for freedom.
Of the lady I am unwilling to speak with equal plainness; but I hope Myrtilla will allow me to plead an irresistible impulse, when she reflects that I have heard her lament that she is herself urged by an irresistible impulse to play. I remembered that I had, at the request of my friend, taken an opportunity when we were alone, indirectly to represent the pernicious consequences of indulging so