« PreviousContinue »
emotions which they excite are soft and tender. They nothing; and whose purity and nature make a durable draw off the mind from the hurry of business and in- though not a violent impression on us. terest ; cherish reflection ; dispose to tranquillity; and produce an agreeable melancholy, which, of all dispo
[Estimate of the Effects of Luxury.] sitions of the mind, is the best suited to love and friendship. In the second place, a delicacy of taste
[From the same.) is favourable to love and friendship, by confining our
Since xury may be considered either as innocent choice to few people, and making us indifferent to the or blameable, one may be surprised at those preposi company and conversation of the greater part of men. terous opinions which have been entertained concern
You will seldom find that mere men of the world, ing it; while men of libertine principles bestow praises whatever strong sense they may be endowed with, are even on vicious luxury, and represent it as highly very nice in distinguishing characters, or in marking advantageous to society; and, on the other hand, men those insensible differences and gradations which make of severe morals blame even the most innocent luxury, one man preferable to another. Any one that has and represent it as the source of all the corruptions, competent sense is sufficient for their entertain- disorders, and factions incident to civil government. ment : they talk to him of their pleasure and affairs We shall here endeavour to correct both these exwith the same frankness that they would to another; tremes, by proving, first, that the ages of refinement are and finding many who are fit to supply his place, they both the happiest and most virtuous ; secondly, that never feel any vacancy or want in his absence. But, wherever luxury ceases to be innocent, it also ceases to make use of the allusion of a celebrated French to be beneficial; and when carried a degree too far, author, the judgment may be compared to a clock or is a quality pernicious, though perhaps not the most watch where the most ordinary machine is sufficient pernicious, to political society. to tell the hours, but the most elaborate alone can To prove the first point, we need but consider the point out the minutes and seconds, and distinguish effects of refinement both on private and on public the smallest differences of time. One that has well life. Human happiness, according to the most redigested his knowledge, both of books and men, has ceived notions, seems to consist in three ingredients ; little enjoyment but in the company of a few select action, pleasure, and indolence. And though these cornpanions. He feels too sensibly how much all the ingredients ought to be mixed in different proportions, rest of mankind fall short of the notions which he has according to the particular disposition of the person, entertained ; and his affections being thus confined yet no one ingredient can be entirely wanting without within a narrow circle, no wonder he carries them destroying in some measure the relish of the whole further than if they were more general and undistin- composition. Indolence or repose, indeed, seems not guished. The gaiety and frolic of a bottle companion of itself to contribute much to our enjoyment, but, improves with him into a solid friendship; and the like sleep, is requisite as an indulgence to the weakardours of a youthful appetite become an elegant ness of human nature, which cannot support an uninpassion.
terrupted course of business or pleasure. That quick march of the spirits which takes a man from himself,
and chiefly gives satisfaction, does in the end exhaust [Or Simplicity and Refinement.]
the mind, and requires some intervals of repose, which, (From the same.]
though agreeable for a moment, yet, if prolonged,
beget a languor and lethargy that destroy all enjoy. It is a certain rule that wit and passion are entirely ment. Education, custom, and example, have a incompatible. When the affections are moved, there mighty influence in turning the mind to any of these is no place for the imagination. The mind of man pursuits; and it must be owned that, where they being naturally limited, it is impossible that all its promote a relish for action and pleasure, they are so faculties can operate at once; and the more any one far favourable to human happiness. In times when in. predominates, the less room is there for the others to dustry and the arts flourish, men are kept in perpetual exert their vigour. For this reason a greater degree occupation, and enjoy as their reward the occupation of simplicity is required in all compositions where itself, as well as those pleasures which are the fruit of men, and actions, and passions are painted, than in their labour. The mind acquires new vigour, ensuch as consist of reflections and observations. And, larges its powers and faculties, and, by an assiduity as the former species of writing is the more engaging in honest industry, both satisfies its natural appetites and beautiful, one may safely, upon this account, give and prevents the growth of unnatural ones, which the preference to the extreme of simplicity above that commonly spring up when nourished by ease and of refinement.
idleness. Banish those arts from society, you deprive We may also observe, that those compositions men both of action and of pleasure; and leaving which we read the oftenest, and which every man of nothing but indolence in their place, you even destroy taste has got by heart, have the recommendation of the relish of indolence, which never is agreeable but simplicity, and have nothing surprising in the thought when it succeeds to labour, and recruits the spirits when divested of that elegance of expression and har- exhausted by too much application and fatigue. mony of numbers with which it is clothed. If the merit Another advantage of industry and of refinements of the composition lie in a point of wit, it may strike in the mechanical arts is, that they commonly produce at first; but the mind anticipates the thought in the some refinements in the liberal; nor can one be carried second perusal, and is no longer affected by it. When to perfection without being accompanied in some I read an epigram of Martial, the first line recalls the degree with the other. The same age which produces whole; and I have no pleasure in repeating to myself great philosophers and politicians, renowned generals what I know already: But each line, each word in and poets, usually abounds with skilful weavers and Catullus, has its merit; and I am never tired with the ship-carpenters. We cannot reasonably expect that perusal of him. It is sufficient to run over Cowley a piece of woollen cloth will be brought to perfection once; but Parnell, after the fiftieth reading, is as fresh in a nation which is ignorant of astronomy, or where as the first. Besides, it is with books as with women, ethics are neglected. The spirit of the age affects all where a certain plainness of manner and of dress is the arts, and the minds of men being once roused more engaging than that glare of paint, and airs, and from their lethargy and put into a fermentation, turn apparel, which may dazzle the eye but reaches not the themselves on all sides, and carry improvements into aflections. Terence is a modest and bashful beauty, every art and science. Profound ignorance is totally to whom we grant everything, because he assumes banished, and men enjoy the privilege of rational
creatures, to think as well as to act, to cultivate the the sword was dropped at once by all the Italian pleasures of the mind as well as those of the body. sovereigns; while the Venetian aristocracy was jealous
The more these refined arts advance, the more of its subjects, the Florentine democracy applied sociable men become. Nor is it possible, that when itself entirely to commerce; Rome was governed by enriched with science, and possessed of a fund of con- priests, and Naples by women. War then became versation, they should be contented to remain in soli- the business of soldiers of fortune, who spared one tude, or live with their fellow-citizens in that distant another, and, to the astonishment of the world, could mamer which is peculiar to ignorant and barbarous engage a whole day in what they called a battle, and nations. They flock into cities ; love to receive and return at night to their camp without the least bloodcommunicate knowledge; to show their wit or their shed. breeding; their taste in conversation or living, in What has chiefly induced severe moralists to declothes or furniture. Curiosity allures the wise ; claim against refinement in the arts, is the example vanity the foolish ; and pleasure both. Particular of ancient Rome, which, joining to its porerty and clubs and societies are everywhere formed; both rusticity virtue and public spirit, rose to such a sursexes meet in an easy and sociable manner; and the prising height of grandeur and liberty ; but, having tempers of men, as well as their behaviour, refine learned from its conquered provinces the Asiatic apace. So that, beside the improvements which they luxury, fell into every kind of corruption; whence receive from knowledge and the liberal arts, it is im- arose sedition and civil wars, attended at last with possible but they must feel an increase of humanity, the total loss of liberty. All the Latin classics whom from the very habit of conversing together, and con- we peruse in our infancy are full of these sentiments, tributing to each other's pleasure and entertainment and universally ascribe the ruin of their state to the Thus industry, knowledge, and humanity, are linked arts and riches imported from the East ; insomuch together by an indissoluble chain, and are found, from that Sallust represents a taste for painting as a vice, experience as well as reason, to be peculiar to the no less than lewdness and drinking. And so popular more polished, and what are commonly denominated were these sentiments during the latter ages
of the the more luxurious ages.
republic, that this author abounds in praises of the (After some farther arguments) Knowledge in the old rigid Roman virtue, though himself the most arts of government naturally begets mildness and egregious instance of modern luxury and corruption ; moderation, by instructing men in the advantages of speaks contemptuously of the Grecian eloquence
, humane maxims above rigour and severity, which though the most elegant writer in the world; nay, drive subjects into rebellion, and make the return to employs preposterous digressions and declamations to submission impracticable, by cutting off all hopes of this purpose, though a model of taste and correctness. pardon. When the tempers of men are softened, as But it would be easy to prove that these writers well as their knowledge improved, this humanity mistook the cause of the disorders in the Roman appears still more conspicuous, and is the chief cha- state, and ascribed to luxury and the arts what really racteristic which distinguishes a civilised age from proceeded from an ill-modelled government, and the times of barbarity and ignorance. Factions are then unlimited extent of conquests. Refinement on the less inveterate, revolutions less tragical, authority pleasures and conveniences of life has no natural less severe, and seditions less frequent. Even foreign tendency to beget venality and corruption. The wars abate of their cruelty; and after the field of value which allomen put upon any particular pleabattle, where honour and interest steel men against sure depends on comparison and experience ; nor is a compassion as well as fear, the combatants divest porter less greedy of money which he spends on bacon themselves of the brute, and resume the man. and brandy, than a courtier who purchases champagne
Nor need we fear that men, by losing their ferocity, and ortolans. Riches are valuable at all times, and will lose their martial spirit, or become less un- to all men, because they always purchase pleasures daunted and vigorous in defence of their country or such as men are accustomed to and desire : nor can their liberty. The arts have no such etfect in ener- anything restrain or regulate the love of money but vating either the mind or body. On the contrary, a sense of honour and virtue ; which, if it be not industry, their inseparable attendant, adds new force nearly equal at all times, will naturally abound most to both. And if anger, which is said to be the whet- | in ages of knowledge and refinement. stone of courage, loses somewhat of its asperity by To declaim against present times, and magnify the politeness and refinement, a sense of honour, which is virtue of remote ancestors, is a propensity almost in a stronger, more constant, and more governable prin- herent in human nature : 'and as the sentiments and ciple, acquires fresh vigour by that elevation of genius opinions of civilised ages alone are transmitted to which arises from knowledge and a good education. posterity, hence it is that we meet with so many Add to this, that courage can neither have any dura- severe judgments pronounced against luxury, and tion, nor be of any use, when not accompanied with even science ; and hence it is that at present we give discipline and martial skill, which are seldom found so ready an assent to them. But the fallacy is easily among a barbarous people. The ancients remarked perceived by comparing different nations that are comes that Datames was the only barbarian that ever knew temporaries; where we both judge more impartially
, the art of war. And Pyrrhus, seeing the Romans and can better set in opposition those manners with marshal their army with some art and skill, said with which we are sufficiently acquainted. Treachery and surprise, These barbarians have nothing barbarous in cruelty, the most pernicious and most odious of all their discipline! It is observable that, as the old vices, seem peculiar to uncivilised ages, and by the Romans, by applying themselves solely to war, were refined Greeks and Romans were ascribed to all the almost the only uncivilised people that ever possessed barbarous nations which surrounded them. They military discipline, so the modern Italians are the might justly, therefore, have presumed that their own only civilised people, among Europeans, that ever ancestors, so highly celebrated, possessed no greater wanted courage and a martial spirit. Those who virtue, and were as much inferior to their posterity in would ascribe this effeminacy of the Italians to honour and humanity as in taste and science. All their luxury, or politeness, or application to the arts, ancient Frank or Saxon may be highly extolled : but peed but consider the French and English, whose I believe every man would think his life or fortune bravery is as incontestable as their love for the arts much less secure in the hands of a Moor or Tartar and their assiduity in commerce. The Italian his-than those of a French or English gentlemen, the torians give us a more satisfactory reason for this rank of men the most civilised in the most civilised degeneracy of their countrymen. They show us how nations.
We come now to the second position which we pro- general preferable to sloth and idleness, which would posed to illustrate, to wit, that as innocent luxury commonly succeed in its place, and are more hurtful or a refinement in the arts and conveniences of life is both to private persons and to the public. When advantageous to the public, so wherever luxury ceases sloth reigns, a mean uncultivated way of life prevails to be innocent, it also ceases to be beneficial; and amongst individuals, without society, without enjoywhen carried a degree farther, begins to be a quality ment. And if the sovereign, in such a situation, pernicious, though perhaps not the most pernicious, to demands the service of his subjects, the labour of the political society.
state suffices only to furnish the necessaries of life to Let us consider what we call vicious luxury. No the labourers, and can afford nothing to those who gratification, however sensual, can of itself be esteemed are employed in the public service. vicious. A gratification is only vicious when it engrosses all a man's expense, and leaves no ability for such acts of duty and generosity as are required by
Of the Middle Station of Life. his situation and fortune. Suppose that he correct The moral of the following fable will easily discover the vice, and employ part of his expense in the edu- itself without my explaining it. One rivulet meetcation of his children, in the support of his friends, ing another, with whom he had been long united in and in relieving the poor, would any prejudice result strictest amity, with noisy haughtiness and disdain to society? On the contrary, the same consumption thus bespoke him: What, brother! still in the same would arise; and that labour which at present is state! Still low and creeping! Are you not ashamed employed only in producing a slender gratification to when you behold me, who, thou lately in a like one man, would relieve the necessitous, and bestow condition with you, am now become a great river, satisfaction on hundreds. The same care and toil that and shall shortly be able to rival the Danube or the raise a dish of pease at Christmas, would give bread Rhine, provided those friendly rains continue which to a whole family during six months. To say that have favoured my banks, but neglected yours ? Very Fithout a ricious luxury the labour would not have true,' replies the humble rivulet, ‘you are now, inbeen employed at all, is only to say that there is some deed, swollen to a great size ; but methinks you are other defect in human nature, such as indolence, become withal somewhat turbulent and muddy. I Belfishness, inattention to others, for which luxury am contented with my low condition and my purity.' in some measure provides a remedy; as one poison Instead of commenting upon this fable, I sball take may be an antidote to another. But virtue, like occasion from it to compare the different stations of wholesome food, is better than poisons, however cor- life, and to persuade such of my readers as are placed rected.
in the middle station to be satisfied with it, as the Suppose the same number of men that are at pre- most eligible of all others. These form the most sent in Great Britain with the same soil and climate; numerous rank of men that can be supposed suscepI ask, is it not possible for them to be happier, by the tible of philosophy, and therefore all discourses of most perfect way of life that can be imagined, and by morality ought principally to be addressed to them. the greatest reformation that omnipotence itself could The great are too much immersed in pleasure, and work in their temper and disposition ? To assert that the poor too much occupied in providing for the they cannot
, appears evidently ridiculous. As the necessities of life, to hearken to the calm voice of land is able to maintain more than all its present in- reason. The middle station, as it is most happy in habitants, they could never, in such a Utopian state, many respects, so particularly in this, that a man feel
any other ills than those which arise from bodily placed in it can, with the greatest leisure, consider sickness, and these are not the half of human miseries. his own happiness, and reap a new enjoyment, from | All other ills spring from some vice, either in our comparing his situation with that of persons above or
Belves or others, and even many of our diseases pro- below him. ceed from the same origin. Remove the vices, and Agur's prayer is sufficiently noted— Two things the ills follow. You must only take care to remove have I required of thee; deny me them not before I all the vices. If you remove part, you may render die: remove far from me vanity and lies ; give me
By banishing vicious luxury, neither poverty nor riches ; feed me with food conwithout curing sloth and an indifference to others, venient for me, lest I be full and deny thee and say, you only diminish industry in the state, and add no- who is the Lord ? or lest I be poor, and steal, and thing to men's charity or their generosity. Let us, take the
name of my God in vain. The middle statherefore, rest contented with asserting that two option is here justly recommended, as affording the posite vices in a state may be more advantageous than fullest security for virtue; and I may also add, that either of them alone; but let us never pronounce vice it gives opportunity for the most ample exercise of in itself advantageous. Is it not very inconsistent for it
, and furnishes employment for every good quality an author to assert in one page that moral distinctions which we can possibly be possessed of. Those who are are inventions of politicians for public interest, and placed among the lower ranks of men have little opporin the next page maintain that vice is advantageous tunity of exerting any other virtue besides those of to the public? And indeed it seems, upon any patience, resignation, industry, and integrity. Those system of morality, little less than a contradiction in who are advanced into the higher stations, have full terms to talk of a vice which is in general beneficial employment for their generosity, humanity, affability, to society.
and charity. When a man lies betwixt these two I thought this reasoning necessary, in order to give extremes, he can exert the former virtues towards his some light to a philosophical question which has been superiors, and the latter towards his inferiors. Every much disputed in England. I call it a philosophical moral quality which the human soul is susceptible question, not a political one
; for whatever may be of, may have its turn, and be called up to action ; the consequence of such a miraculous transformation and a man may, after this manner, be much more of mankind as would endow them with every species certain of his
progress in virtue, than where his good of virtue, and free them from every species of vice, qualities lie dormant and without employment. this concerns not the magistrate who aims only at
But there is another virtue that seems principally possibilities. He cannot cure every vice by substi- to lie among equals, and is, for that reason, chiefly tuting a virtue in its place. Very often
he can only calculated for the middle station of life. This virtue cure one vice by another, and in that case he ought is friendship. I believe most men of generous temto prefer what is least pernicious to society. Luxury, pers are apt
to envy the great, when they consider the when excessive, is the source of many ills , but is in large opportunities such persons have of doing good
the matter worse.
to their fellow-creatures, and of acquiring the friend the soul must be made of still a finer mould, to shine ship and esteem of men of merit. They make no in philosophy or poetry, or in any of the higher parts advances in vain, and are not obliged to associate of learning.' Courage and resolution are chiefly rewith those whom they have little kindness for, like quisite in a commander, justice and humanity in a people of inferior stations, who are subject to have statesman, but genius and capacity in a scholar. their proffers of friendship rejected even where they Great generals and great politicians are found in all would be most fond of placing their affections. But ages and countries of the world, and frequently start though the great have more facility in acquiring up at once, even amongst the greatest barbarians. friendships, they cannot be so certain of the sincerity Sweden was sunk in ignorance when it produced of them as men of a lower rank, since the favours Gustavus Ericson and Gustavus Adolphus ; Muscory they bestow may acquire them flattery, instead of when the Czar appeared ; and perhaps Carthage when good will and kindness. It has been very judiciously it gave birth to Hannibal. But England must pass remarked, that we attach ourselves more by the ser- through a long gradation of its Spensers, Johnsons, vices we perform than by those we receive, and that Wallers, Drydens, before it arise at an Addison or a a man is in danger of losing his friends by obliging Pope. A happy talent for the liberal arts and them too far. should therefore choose to lie in sciences is a kind of prodigy among men. Nature the middle way, and to have my commerce with my must afford the richest genius that comes from her friend varied both by obligations given and received. hands ; education and example must cultivate it from I have too much pride to be willing that all the the earliest infancy; and industry must concur to obligations should lie on my side, and should be carry it to any degree of perfection. No man needs afraid that, if they all lay on his, he would also have be surprised to see Kouli-Kan among the Persians ; too much pride to be entirely easy under them, or but Homer, in so early an age among the Greeks, is have a perfect complacency in my company.
certainly matter of the highest wonder. We may also remark of the middle station of life, A man cannot show a genius for war who is not so that it is more favourable to the acquiring of wisdom fortunate as to be trusted with command ; and it seland ability, as well as of virtue, and that a man so dom happens, in any state or kingdom, that several situate has a better chance for attaining a knowledge at once are placed in that situation. How many both of men and things, than those of a more elevated Marlboroughs were there in the confederate army, who station. He enters with more familiarity into human never rose so much as to the command of a regiment? life, and everything appears in its natural colours be- But I am persuaded there has been but one Milfore him : he has more leisure to form observations ; | ton in England within these hundred years, because and has, besides, the motive of ambition to push him every one may exert the talents of poetry who is poson in his attainments, being certain that he can never sessed of them; and no one could exert them under rise to any distinction or eminence in the world with greater disadvantages than that divine poet. If no out his own industry. And here I cannot forbear man were allowed to write verses but the person who communicating a remark, which may appear some- was beforehand named to be laureate, could we espect what extraordinary, namely, that it is wisely ordained a poet in ten thousand years! by Providence that the middle station should be the Were we to distinguish the ranks of men by their most favourable to the improving our natural abilities, genius and capacity, more than by their virtue and since there is really more capacity requisite to per- usefulness to the public, great philosophers would cer. form the duties of that station, than is requisite to tainly challenge the first rank, and must be placed at act in the higher spheres of life. There are more the top of mankind. So rare is this character, that natural parts, and a stronger genius requisite to make perhaps there has not as yet been above two in the a good lawyer or physician, than to make a great world who can lay a just claim to it. At least Galimonarch. For, let us take any race or succession of leo and Newton seem to me so far to excel all the kings, where birth alone gives a title to the crown ; rest, that I cannot admit any other into the same the English kings, for instance, who have not been class with them. esteemed the most shining in history. From the Con- Great poets may challenge the second place; and quest to the succession of his present majesty, we may this species of genius, though rare, is yet much more reckon twenty-eight sovereigns, omitting those who frequent than the former. Of the Greek poets that died minors. Of these, eight are esteemed princes of remain, Homer alone seems to merit this character : great capacity, namely, the Conqueror, Harry II., of the Romans, Virgil, Horace, and Lucretius: of the Edward I., Edward III., Harry V. and VII., Eliza- English, Milton and Pope: Corneille, Racine, Boileau, beth, and the late King William. Now, I believe and Voltaire of the French: and Tasso and Ariosto every one will allow, that, in the common run of of the Italians. mankind, there are not eight out of twenty-eight Great orators and historians are perhaps more rare who are fitted by nature to make a figure either on than great poets; but as the opportunities for exertthe bench or at the bar. Since Charles VII., tening the talents requisite for eloquence, or acquiring monarchs have reigned in France, omitting Francis the knowledge requisite for writing history, depend in II. Five of those have been esteemed princes of some measure upon fortune, we cannot pronounce capacity, namely, Louis XI., XII., and XIV., Francis these productions of genius to be more extraordinary I., and Harry IV. In short, the governing of man than the former. kind well requires a great deal of virtue, justice, and I should now return from this digression, and show humanity, but not a surprising capacity. A certain that the middle station of life is more favourable to Pope, whose name I have forgot, used to say, 'Let us happiness, as well as to virtue and wisdom; but as divert ourselves, my friends ; the world governs itself.' the arguments that prove this seem pretty obvious, I There are, indeed, some critical times, such as those shall here forbear insisting on them. in which Harry IV. lived, that call for the utmost vigour; and a less courage and capacity than what The Hartleian theory at this time found adappeared in that great monarch must have sunk un- mirers and followers in England. Dr David Hartder the weight. But such circumstances are rare ; LEY, an English physician (1705-1757), having imand even then fortune does at least one half of the bibed from Locke the principles of logic and metabusiness.
physics, and from a hint of Newton the doctrine Since the common professions, such as law or phy, that there were vibrations in the substance of the sic, require equal, if not superior capacity, to what are brain that might throw new light on the phenomena azerted in the higher spheres of life, it is evident that of the mind, formed a systeni which he developed