« ZurückWeiter »
he had ordered meat to be set before him, of which he now eat so heartily ? The sultan being willing to gratify the curiosity of his host , answered him in this inanner : » Upon hearing the greatness of the offence » which had been committed by one of the » army , I had reason to think it might have » been one of my own sons, for who else, » would have been so audacious and pre. » suming ? I gave orders therefore for the » lights to be extinguished, that I might » not be led astray by partiality or compas» sion , from doing justice on the criminal. » Upon the lighting the flambeaux a second » time, I looked upon the face of the dead » person, and to my unspeakable joy, found » it was not my son. It was for this reason » that I immediately fell upon my knees, » and gave thanks to God. As for my eating » heartily of the food you have set before » me, you will cease to wonder at it, when » you know that the great anxiety of mind » I have been in upon this occasion, since » the first complaints you brought me, has » hindered my eating any thing from that » time till this very moment. »
TARRE is nothing which betrays a man into so many errors and inconveniences as the desire of not appearing singular; for which reason it is very necessary to form a right idea of singularity, that we may know when it is laudable, and when it is vicious. In the first place, every man of sense will agree with me, that singularity is laudable, when , in contradiction to a multitude, it adheres to the dictates of conscience , morality, and honour. In these cases we ought to consider, that it is not custom, but duty which is the rule of action, and that we should be only so far sociable, as we are reasonable creatures. Singularity in concerns of this kind is to be looked upon as heroic bravery, in which a man leaves the species only as he soars above it. What grealer instance can there be of a weak and pusillanimous temper , than for a man to pass his whole life in opposition to his own sentiments? or not to dare to be what he thinks he ought to be?
Singularity , therefore, is only vicious when it makes men act contrary to reason, or when it puts them upon distinguishing themselves by trifles. As for the first of those, who are singular in any thing that is immoral, or dishonourable , I believe every one will easily give them up. I shall therefore speak of those only who are remarkable for their singularity in things of no importance, as in dress , behaviour , conversation, and all the little intercourses of life. In these cases there is a certain deference due to custom; and notwithstanding there may be a colour of reason to deviate from the multitude in some particulars, a man ought to sacrifice his private inclinations and opinions to the practice of the public. It must be confessed that good sense often makes a humourist ; but then it unqualifies him for being of any moment in the world, and renders him ridiculous to persons of a much inferior understanding."
I have heard of a gentleman in the north of England, who was a remarkable instance of this foolish singularity. He had laid down as a rule within himself, to act in the most indifferent parts of life according to the most abstracted notions of reason and
good sense, without any regard to fashion or example. This humour broke out at first in many little oddnesses : he had never any stated hours for his dinner, supper, or sleep; because , said he, we ought to attend the calls of nature, and not set our appetites to our meals, but bring our meals to our appetites. In his conversation with country gentlemen , he would not make use of a phrase that was not strictly true : he never told any of them that he was his humble servant, but that he was his well-wisher ; and would rather be thought a malecontent, than drink the king's health when he was not a-dry. He would thrust his head out of his chamber window every morning, and after having gaped for fresh air about half an hour , repeat fifty verses as loud as he could bawl them for the benefit of his lungs; to which end he generally took them out of Homer , the Greek tongue , especially in that author, being more deep and sonorous, and more conducive to expectoration , than any other. He had many other particularities : for which he gave sound and philosophical reasons. As this humour still grew upon hiin, he chose to wear a turban instead of a periwig : concluding very justly, that a
bandage of clean linen about his head was much more wholesome, as well as cleanly, than the caul of a wig , which is soiled with frequent perspirations. He afterwards judiciously observed , that the many ligatures in our English dress must naturally check the circulation of the blood; for which reason, he made his breeches and his doublet of one continued piece of cloth, after the manner of the Hussars. In short, by following the pure dictates of reason, he at length departed so much from the rest of his countrymen, and indeed from his whole species, that his friends would have clapped him into Bedlam, and have begged his estate ; but the judge being informed that he did no harm , contented himself with issuing out a commission of lunacy against him, and putting his estate into the hands of proper guardians.
The fate of this philosopher puts me in mind of a remark in Monsieur Fontenelle's djalogues of the dead. « The ambitious and » the covetous, says he , are madmen to all » intents and purposes, as much as those » who are shut up in dark rooms; but they » have the good luck to have numbers on » their side; whereas the frenzy of one who