« AnteriorContinuar »
"It is a very great fatisfaction to confider the best and wifeft of mankind in all nations and ages, afferting, as with one voice, this their birthright, and to find it ' ratified by an express revelation. At the fame time if we turn our thoughts inward upon ourselves, we may meet with a kind of secret sense concurring with the proofs of our own immortality.
You have, in my opinion, raised a good prefumptive argument from the increafing appetite the mind has to knowledge, and to the extending its own faculties, which cannot be accomplished, as the more reftrained perfection of lower creatures may, in the limits of a 'fhort life. I think another probable conjecture may be 'raised from our appetite to duration itself, and from a ' reflection on our progrefs through the feveral ftages of it: "We are complaining," as you obferve in a ⚫ former fpeculation," of the fhortness of life, and yet are perpetually hurrying over the parts of it to arrive at certain little fettlements, or imaginary points of rest, "which are difperfed up and down in it."
Now let us confider what happens to us when we 'arrive at thefe" imaginary points of reft:" Do we ftop our motion, and fit down fatisfied in the fettlement we have gained or are we not removing the boundary, and marking out new points of reft, to which we prefs forward with the like eagerness, and which cease to be fuch as faft as we attain them? Our cafe is like that of a traveller upon the Alps, who should fancy that the top of the next hill muft end his journey, because it terminates his profpect; but he no fooner arrives at it ⚫ than he fees new ground and other hills beyond it, and 'continues to travel on as before.
This is fo plainly every man's condition in life, that there is no one who has obferved any thing, but may obferve, that as faft as his time wears away, his appetite to fomething future remains. The ufe there⚫fore I would make of it is this, that fince nature, as fome love to exprefs it, does nothing in vain, or, to fpeak properly, fince the Author of our being has planted no wandering paffion in it, no defire which ⚫ has not its object, futurity is the proper object of the paffion fo conftantly exercised about it; and this reft
⚫ leffness in the prefent, this affigning ourselves over to farther ftages of duration, this fucceffive grafping at fomewhat still to come, appears to me, whatever it may to others, as a kind of inftinct or natural fymptom ⚫ which the mind of man has of its own immortality.
I take it at the fame time for granted, that the im⚫ mortality of the foul is fufficiently established by other arguments: and if fo, this appetite, which otherwise would be very unaccountable and abfurd, seems very reasonable, and adds ftrength to the conclufion. But I am amazed when I confider there are creatures capable of thought, who, in fpite of every argument, can form to themselves a fullen fatisfaction in thinking otherwife. There is fomething fo pitifully mean in the in ́verted ambition of that man who can hope for annihilation, and please himself to think that his whole fabric fhall one day crumble into duft, and mix with the mafs of inanimate beings, that it equally deferves our admiration and pity. The mystery of fuch mens ⚫ unbelief is not hard to be penetrated; and indeed amounts to nothing more than a fordid hope that they fhall not be immortal, because they dare not be fo.
This brings me back to my firft obfervation, and gives me occafion to fay further, that as worthy actions fpring from worthy thoughts, fo worthy thoughts are likewife the confequence of worthy actions: but the wretch who has degraded himself below the cha⚫racter of immortality, is very willing to refign his pretenfions to it, and to fubftitute in its room a dark negative happiness in the extinction of his being,
The admirable Shakespeare has given us a strong image of the unfupported condition of fuch a perfon in his last minutes in the fecond part of King Henry the fixth, where cardinal Beaufort, who had been con⚫cerned in the murder of the good duke Humphrey, reprefented on his death-bed. After fome fhort confufed fpeeches which fhew an imagination disturbed with guilt, juft as he was expiring, King Henry standing by him full of compaffion, fays,
"Lord Cardinal! if thou think'ft on heav'n's blifs,
The defpair which is here fhewn, without a word or action on the part of the dying perfon, is beyond what could be painted by the moft forcible expreffions whatever.
"I fhall not purfue this thought farther, but only add, that as annihilation is not to be had with a wish, so it is the most abject thing in the world to with it. "What are honour, fame, wealth, or power, when compared with the generous expectation of a being without end, and a happiness adequate to that being ?
"I shall trouble you no farther; but with a certain gravity which thefe thoughts have given me, I reflect upon fome things people fay of you, as they will of men who diftinguish themselves, which I hope are not true; and with you as good a man as you are an ' author.
I am, Sir,
Your moft obedient humble fervant,
Thursday, November 1.
Ficis meminerit nos jocari fabulis. PHÆDR. lib. 1. Prol. Let it be remember'd that we fport in fabled stories.
HAVING lately tranflated the fragment of an old
poet which defcribe's womankind under feveral characters, and fuppofes them to have drawn their different manners and difpofitions from thofe animals and elements out of which he tells us they were compounded, I had fome thoughts of giving the fex their revenge, by laying together in another paper the many vicious characters which prevail in the male world, and fhewing the different ingredients that go to the making up of fuch different humours and conftitutions. Horace has a thought which is fomething akin to this, when, in order to excufe himfelf to his miftrefs, for an
invective which he had written against her, and to account for that unreasonable fury with which the heart of man is often tranfported, he tells us, that when Prometheus made his man of clay, in the kneading up of the heart, he seasoned it with fome furious particles of the lion. But upon turning this plan to and fro in my thoughts, I obferved fo many unaccountable humours in man, that I did not know out of what animals to fetch them. Male fouls are diverfified with fo many characters, that the world has not variety of materials fufficient to furnish out their different tempers and inclinations. The creation, with all its animals and elements, would not be large enough to fupply their feveral extravagan
Instead therefore of purfuing the thought of Simonides, I fhall obferve, that as he has expofed the vicious part of women from the doctrine of pre-existence, fome of the ancient philofophers have, in a manner, fatirized the vicious part of the human fpecies in general, from a notion of the foul's poft-existence, if I may fo call it ; and that as Simonides describes brutes entering into the compofition of women, others have reprefented human fouls as entering into brutes. This is commonly termed the doctrine of tranfmigration, which fuppofes that human fouls, upon their leaving the body, become the fouls of fuch kinds of brutes as they moft resemble in their manners; or to give an account of it as Mr. Dryden has defcribed it in his tranflation of Pythagoras his fpeech in the fifteenth book of Ovid, where that philofopher diffuades his hearers from eating flefh:
"Thus all things are but alter'd, nothing dies,
By time, or force, or fickness difpoffefs'd,
"The foul is fill the fame, the figure only loft.
"Then let not piety be put to flight, "To please the taste of glutton-appetite; "But fuffer inmate fouls fecure to dwell, "Left from their feats your parents you expel; "With rapid hunger feed upon your kind, "Or from a beast diflodge a brother's mind."
Plato in the vifion of Erus the Armenian, which I may poffibly make the fubject of a future fpeculation, records fome beautiful tranfmigrations; as that the foul of Orpheus, who was mufical, melancholy, and a woman-hater, entered into a swan; the foul of Ajax, which was all wrath and fiercenefs, into a lion; the foul of Agamemnon, that was rapacious and imperial, into an eagle; and the foul of Therfites, who was a mimic and a buffoon, into a monkey.
Mr. Congreve, in a prologue to one of his comedies, has touched upon this doctrine with great humour.
"Thus Ariftotle's foul of old that was,
May now be damn'd to animate an ass; "Or in this very houfe, for ought we know, "Is doing painful penance in fome beau."
I fhall fill up this paper with fome letters which my laft Tuesday's fpeculation has produced. My following correfpondents will fhew, what I there obferved, that the fpeculation of that day affects only the lower part of the fex.
From my house in the Strand, October 30, 1711. • Mr. SPECTATOR,
UPON reading your Tuesday's paper, I find by feveral fymptoms in my conftitution that I am a bee. My fhop, or if you pleafe to call it fo, my cell, is in that great hive of females which goes by the name of "The New Exchange," where I am daily employed in gathering together a little ftock of gain from the fineft flowers about the town, I mean the ladies and the beaus. I have a numerous fwarm of children, to whom I give the best education I am able: but, fir, it is my misfortune to be married to a drone, who