Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

scure allusions will produce in others the same train of ideas which they excite in themselves.

Nor is this the only inconvenience which the man of study suffers from a recluse life. When he meets with an opinon that pleases him, he catches it up with eagerness; looks only after such arguments as tend to his confirmation; or spares himself the trouble of discussion, and adopts it with very little proof; indulges it long without suspicion, and in time unites it to the general body of his knowledge, and treasures it up among incontestable truths : but when he comes into the world among men who, arguing upon dissimilar principles, have been led to different conclusions, and been placed in various situations, view the same object on many sides; he finds his darling position attacked, and himself in no condition to defend it: having thought always in one train, he is in the state of a man who having fenced always with the same master, is perplexed and amazed by a new posture of his antagonist; he is entangled in unexpected difficulties, he is harassed by sudden objections, he is unprovided with solutions or replies, his surprise impedes his natural powers of reasoning, his thoughts are scattered and confounded, and he gratifies the pride of airy petulance with an easy victory.

It is difficult to imagine, with what obstinacy truths which one mind perceives almost by intuition, will be rejected by another; and how many artifices must be practised, to procure admission for the most evident propositions into understandings frighted by their novelty, or hardened against them by accidental prejudice; it can scarcely be conceived, how frequently in these extemporaneous controversies, the dull will be subtile, and the acute absurd; how often stupidity will elude the force of argument, by involving itself in its own gloom; and mistaken ingenuity will weave artful fallacies, which reason can scarcely find means to disentangle.

In these encounters the learning of the recluse usually fails him : nothing but long habit and frequent experiments can confer the power of changing a position into various forms, presenting it in different points of view, connecting it with known and granted truths, fortifying it with intelligible arguments, and illustrating it by apt similitudes; and he, therefore, that has collected his knowledge in solitude, must learn its application by mixing with mankind.

But while the various opportunities of conversation invite us to try every mode of argument, and every art of recommending our sentiments, we are frequently betrayed to the use of such as are not in themselves strictly defensible: a man heated in talk, and eager of victory, takes advantage of the mistakes or ignorance of his adversary, lays hold of concessions to which he knows he has no right, and urges proofs likely to prevail on his opponent, though he knows himself that they have no force: thus the severity of reason is relaxed, many topics are accumulated, but without just arrangement or distinction; we learn to satisfy ourselves with such ratiocination as silences others; and seldom recal to a close examination, that discourse which has gratified our vanity with victory and applause.

Some caution, therefore, must be used, lest copiousness and facility be made less valuable by inaccuracy and confusion. To fix the thoughts by writing, and subject them to frequent examinations and reviews, is the best method of enabling the mind to detect its own sophisms, and keep it on guard against the fallacies which it practises on others : in conversation we naturally diffuse our

[blocks in formation]

thoughts, and in writing we contract them; method is the excellence of writing, and unconstraint the grace of conversation.

To read, write, and converse in due proportions, is, therefore, the business of a man of letters. For all these there is not often equal opportunity ; excellence, therefore, is not often attainable, and most men fail in one or other of the ends proposed, and are full without readiness, or ready without exact

Some deficiency must be forgiven all, because all are men; and more must be allowed to pass uncensured in the greater part of the world, because none can confer upon himself abilities, and few have the choice of situations proper for the improvement of those which nature has bestowed : it is, however, reasonable, to have Perfection in our eye; that we may always advance towards it, though we know it never can be reached.

T.

ness.

N° 86. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 1753.

Concubitu prohibere vago

HOR.

The wandering wish of lawless love suppress.

FRANCIS.

TO THE ADVENTURER.

SIR,

To indulge that restless impatience, which every man feels to relate incidents by which the passions have been greatly affected, and communicate ideas that have been forcibly impressed, I have given you some account of my life, which, without farther apology or introduction, may, perhaps, be favourably received in an Adventurer.

My mother died when I was very young; and my father, who was a naval commander, and had, therefore, no opportunity to superintend my conduct, placed me at a grammar school, and afterwards removed me to the university. At school the number of boys was so great, that to regulate our morals was impossible; and at the university even my learning contributed to the dissoluteness of my manners. As I was an only child, my father had always allowed me more money than I knew how to lay out, otherwise than in the gratification of my vices: I had sometimes, indeed, been restrained by a general sense of right and wrong; but I now opposed the remonstrances of conscience by the cavils of sophistry; and having learned of some celebrated philosophers, as well ancient as modern, to prove that nothing is good but pleasure, I became a rake upon principle.

My father died in the same year with Queen Anne, a few months before I became of age, and left me a very considerable fortune in the funds. I immediately quitted the university and came to London, which I considered as the great mart of pleasure; and as I could afford to deal largely, I wisely determined not to endanger my capital. I projected a scheme of life that was most agreeable to my temper, which was rather sedate than volatile, and regulated my expenses with the economy of a philosopher

. I found that my favourite appetites might be gratified with greater convenience and less scandal, in proportion as my life was more private: instead, therefore, of incumbering myself with a family, I took the first floor of a house which was let into lodgings, hired one servant,

and kept a brace of geldings at a livery stable. I constantly frequented the theatres, and found my principles confirmed by almost every piece that was represented, particularly my resolution never to marry. In comedy, indeed, the action terminated in marriage ; but it was generally the marriage of a rake, who gave up his liberty with reluctance, as the only expedient to recover a fortune; and the husband and wife of the drama were wretches whose example justified this reluctance, and appeared to be exhibited for no other purpose than to warn mankind, that whatever may

be

presumed by those whom indigence has made desperate, to marry is to forfeit the quiet, independence, and felicity of life.

In this course I had continued twenty years, without having impaired my constitution, lessened my fortune, or incumbered myself with an illegitimate offspring; when a girl about eighteen, just arrived from the country, was hired as a chambermaid by the person who kept the house in which I lodged: the native beauty of health and simplicity in this young

creature had such an effect upon my imagination, that I practised every art to debauch her, and at length succeeded.

I found it convenient for her to continue in the house, and, therefore, made no proposal of removing her into lodgings; but after a few months she found herself with child, a discovery which interrupted the indolence of my sensuality, and made me repent my indiscretion : however, as I would not incur my own censure by ingratitude or inhumanity, I provided her a lodging and attendants, and she was at length delivered of a daughter. The child I regarded as a new incumbrance; for though I did not consider myself as under parental or conjugal obligations, yet I could not think myself at liberty

« ZurückWeiter »