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Saturday, November 10.
Vix ea noftra voco
OVID. Met. lib. 13. ver. 141.
Thefe I fcarce call our own.
HERE are but few men who are not ambitious of diftinguishing themselves in the nation or country where they live, and of growing confiderable among those with whom they converse. There is a kind of grandeur and refpect, which the meanest and most infignificant part of mankind endeavour to procure in the little circle of their friends and acquaintance. The pooreft mechanic, nay, the man who lives upon common alms, gets him his fet of admirers, and delights in that fuperiority which he enjoys over those who are in fome refpects beneath him. This ambition, which is natural to the foul of man, might methinks receive a very happy turn; and, if it were rightly directed, contribute as much to a perfon's advantage, as it generally does to his uneafinefs and difquiet.
I fhall therefore put together fome thoughts on this fubject, which I have not met with in other writers ; and fhall fet them down as they have occurred to me, without being at the pains to connect or methodise them. All fuperiority and pre-eminence that one man can have over another, may be reduced to the notion of quality, which, confidered at large, is either that of fortune, body, or mind. The first is that which consists in birth, title, or riches; and is the moft foreign to our natures, and what we can the leaft call our own of any of the three kinds of quality In relation to the body, quality arifes from health, ftrength, or beauty; which are nearer to us, and more a part of ourfelves than the former. Quality, as it regards the mind, has its rife from knowledge or virtue; and is that which is more effential to us, and more intimately united with us than either of the other two.
The quality of fortune, though a man has lefs reason to value himself upon it than on that of the body or mind,
is however the kind of quality which makes the most fhining figure in the eye of the world.
As virtue is the most reasonable and genuine fource of honour, we generally find in titles an intimation of fome particular merit that fhould recommend men to the high stations which they poffefs. Holiness is afcribed to the pope; majefty to kings; ferenity or mildnefs of temper to princes; excellence or perfection to ambaffadors; grace to archbishops; honour to peers; worship or venerable behaviour to magiftrates; and reverence, which is of the fame import as the former, to the inferior clergy. In the founders of great families, fuch attributes of honour are generally correfpondent with the virtues of the person to whom they are applied; but in the defcendants they are too often the marks rather of grandeur than of merit. The ftamp and denomination ftill continues, but the intrinfic value is frequently loft.
The death-bed fhews the emptinefs of titles in a true light. A poor difpirited finner lies trembling under the apprehenfions of the ftate he is entering on; and is afked by a grave attendant how his holinefs does? Another hears himself addreffed to under the title of highness or excellency, who lies under fuch mean circumftances of mortality, as are the difgrace of human nature. Titles at fuch a time look rather like infults and mockery than refpect.
The truth of it is, honours are in this world under no regulation; true quality is neglected, virtue is oppreffed, and vice triumphant. The last day will rectify this diforder, and affign to every one a station fuitable to the dignity of his character; ranks will be then adjusted, and precedency fet right.
Methinks we should have an ambition, if not to advance ourselves in another world, at least to preferve our poft in it, and outshine our inferiors in virtue here, that they may not be put above us in a ftate which is to fettle the distinction for eternity.
Men in fcripture are called "ftrangers and fojourners "upon earth," and life a "pilgrimage." Several hea then, as well as chriftian authors, under the fame kind of metaphor, have reprefented the world as an inn, which was only defigned to furnish us with accommodations in
this our paffage. It is therefore very abfurd to think of fetting up our rest before we come to our journey's end, and not rather to take care of the reception we shall there meet, than to fix our thoughts on the little conveniencies and advantages which we enjoy one above another in the way to it.
Epictetus makes ufe of another kind of allufion, which is very beautiful, and wonderfully proper to incline us to be fatisfied with the poft in which Providence has placed us. We are here, fays he, as in a theatre, where every one has a part allotted to him. The great duty which lies upon a man is to act his part in perfection. We may indeed fay, that our part does not fuit us, and that we could act another better. But this, fays the philofopher, is not our business. All that we are concerned in is to excel in the part which is given us. If it be an improper one, the fault is not in us, but in him who has caft our feveral parts, and is the great difpofer of the drama.
The part that was acted by this philofopher himself was but a very indifferent one, for he lived and died a flave. His motive to contentment in this particular, receives a very great enforcement from the above-mentioned confideration, if we remember that our parts in the other world will be new caft, and that mankind will be there ranged in different stations of fuperiority and pre-eminence, in proportion as they have here excelled one another in virtue, and performed in their feveral pofts of life the duties which belong to them.
There are many beautiful paffages in the little apocryphal book, entitled, "The Wisdom of Solomon," to let forth the vanity of honour, and the like temporal bleffings which are in fo great repute among men, and to comfort thofe who have not the poffeflion of them. It reprefents in very warm and noble terms this advancement of a good man in the other world, and the great furprise which it will produce among those who are his fuperiors in this. Then fhall the righteous man ftand
in great boldness before the face of fuch as have af⚫flicted him, and made no account of his labours. When they fee it, they fhall be troubled with terrible fear, and fhall be amazed at the ftrangeness of his falvation, fo far beyond all that they looked for. And they
repenting and groaning for anguish of fpirit, fhall fay ' within themselves; this was he whom we had fome 'time in derifion, and a proverb of reproach. We fools ' accounted his life madness, and his end to be without 'honour. How is he numbered among the children ' of God, and his lot is among the faints !'
If the reader would fee the defcription of a life that is paffed away in vanity, and among the shadows of pomp and greatnefs, he may fee it very finely drawn in the fame place. In the mean time, fince it is neceffary in the prefent conftitution of things, that order and diftinction fhould be kept up in the world, we should be happy, if those who enjoy the upper ftations in it, would endeavour to furpass others in virtue, as much as in rank, and by their humanity and condefcenfion make their superiority eafy and acceptable to those who are beneath them and if, on the contrary, those who are in meaner pofts of life, would confider how they may better their condition hereafter, and by a juft deference and fubmiffion to their fuperiors, make them happy in those bleffings with which Providence has thought fit to diftinguish them.
Monday, November 12.
Rumorefque ferit varios
VIRG. En. 12. v. 228.
A thoufand rumours spreads.
WHY will you apply to my father for my love?
I cannot help it if he will give you my perfon; but I • affure you it is not in his power, nor even in my own, to give you my heart. Dear fir, do but confider the ill-confequence of fuch a match; you are fifty-five, I twenty-one. You are a man of business, and mightily converfant in arithmetic and making calculations; be pleafed therefore to confider what proportion your fpirits bear to mine, and when you have made a just eftimate of the neceffary decay on one fide, and the 'redundance on the other, you will act accordingly. This perhaps, is fuch language as you may not expect from a young lady; but my happiness is at stake, and I must talk plainly. I mortally hate you; and so, as you and my father agree, you may take me or leave me but if you will be fo good as never to fee me more, you will for ever oblige,
Your most humble fervant,
THERE are so many artifices and modes of falfe wit, and fuch a variety of humour discovers itself among its votaries, that it would be impoffible to exhauft fo fertile a fubject, if you would think fit to refume it. The following inftances may, if you think fit, be added by way of appendix to your discourses on that fubject.
That feat of poetical activity mentioned by Horace, of an author who could compofe two hundred verses