The Works of Samuel Johnson in Nine Volumes
Part 1 out of 9
Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Carol David and PG Distributed Proofreaders
DR. JOHNSON'S WORKS.
ADVENTURER AND IDLER.
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
IN NINE VOLUMES.
VOLUME THE FOURTH.
The Adventurer was projected in the year 1752, by Dr. John Hawkesworth.
He was partly induced to undertake the work by his admiration of the
Rambler, which had now ceased to appear, the style and sentiments of
which evidently, from his commencement, he made the models of his
The first number was published on the seventh of November, 1752. The
quantity and price were the same as the Rambler, and also the days of
its appearance. He was joined in his labours by Dr. Johnson in 1753,
whose first paper is dated March 3, of that year; and after its
publication Johnson applied to his friend, Dr. Joseph Warton, for his
assistance, which was afforded: and the writers then were, besides the
projector Dr. Hawkesworth, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Joseph Warton, Dr. Bathurst,
Colman, Mrs. Chapone and the Hon. Hamilton Boyle, the accomplished son
of Lord Orrery .
Our business, however, in the present pages, does not lie with the
Adventurer in general, but only with Dr. Johnson's contributions; which
amount to the number of twenty-nine, beginning with No. 34, and ending
with No. 138.
Much criticism has been employed in appropriating some of them, and the
carelessness of editors has overlooked several that have been
satisfactorily proved to be Johnson's own.
Mr. Boswell relies on internal evidence, which is unnecessary, since in
Dr. Warton's copy (and his authority on the subject will scarcely be
disputed) the following remark was found at the end: "The papers marked
T were written by Mr. S. Johnson." Mrs. Anna Williams asserted that he
dictated most of these to Dr. Bathurst, to whom he presented the
profits. The anecdote may well be believed from the usual benevolence of
Johnson and his well-known attachment to that amiable physician, whose
professional knowledge might undoubtedly have enabled him to offer hints
to Johnson in the progress of composition. Thus we may account for the
references to recondite medical writers in No. 39, which so staggered
Boswell and Malone in pronouncing on the genuineness of this paper.
Those who are familiar with Johnson's writings can have little
hesitation, we conceive, in recognising his style, and manner, and
sentiments in those papers which are now published under his name. They
may be considered as a continuation of the Rambler. The same subjects
are discussed; the interests of literature and of literary men, the
emptiness of praise and the vanity of human wishes. The same intimate
knowledge, of the town and its manners is displayed; and occasionally
we are amused with humorous delineation of adventure and of
From the greater variety of its subjects, aided, perhaps, by a growing
taste for periodical literature, the sale of the Adventurer was greater
than that of the Rambler on its first appearance. But still there were
those, who "talked of it as a catch-penny performance, carried on by a
set of needy and obscure scribblers." So slowly is a national taste
for letters diffused, and so hardly do works of sterling merit, which
deal not in party-politics, nor exemplify their ethical discussions by
holding out living characters to censure or contempt, win the applause
of those, whose passions leave them no leisure for abstracted truth, and
whom virtue itself cannot please by its naked dignity. But, by such,
Johnson professed, that he had little expectation of his writings being
perused. Keeping then our main object more immediately in view, the
elucidation of Johnson's real character and motives, we cannot but
admire the prompt benevolence, with which he joined Hawkesworth in his
task, and the ready zeal, with which he embraced any opportunity of
promoting the interests of morality and virtue. "To a benevolent
disposition every state of life will afford some opportunities of
contributing to the welfare of mankind," is the characteristic opening
of his first Adventurer. And when we have admired the real excellence of
his heart, we must wonder at the vigour of a mind, which could so
abstract itself from its own sorrows and misfortunes, which too often
deaden our feelings of pity, as to sympathize with others in affliction,
and even to promote innocent cheerfulness. Bowed down by the loss of a
wife, on whom he had called from amidst the horrors of a hopeless
melancholy, to "hide him from the ills of life," and depressed by
poverty, "that numbs the soul with icy hand," his genius sank not
beneath a load, which might have crushed the loftiest; but the
"incumbrances of his fortune were shaken from his mind, 'as dew-drops
from a lion's mane.'"
The same pure and exalted morality, which stamps their chief value on
the pages of the Rambler, instructs us in the lessons of the Adventurer.
Here is no cold doctrine of expediency or dangerous speculations on
moral approbation, no easy virtue which can be practised without a
struggle, and which interdicts the gratification of no passion but
malice: here is no compromise of personal sensuality, for an endurance
of others' frailties, amounting to an indifference of moral distinctions
altogether. Johnson boldly and, at once, propounds the real motives to
Christian conduct; and does not, with some ethical writers, in a slavish
dread of interfering with the more immediate office of the divine, hold
out slender inducements to virtuous action, which can never give us
strength to stem the torrent of passion; but holding with the acute Owen
Feltham, "that, as true religion cannot be without morality, no more
can morality, that is right, be without religion," Johnson ever directs
our attention, not to the world's smile or frown, but to the discharge
of the duty which Providence assigns us, by the consideration of the
awful approach of that night when no man can work. To conclude with the
appropriate words of an eloquent writer, "in his sublime discussions of
the most sacred truths, as no style can be too lofty nor conceptions too
grand for such a subject, so has the great master never exerted the
powers of his great genius with more signal success. Impiety shrinks
beneath his rebuke; the atheist trembles and repents; the dying sinner
catches a gleam of revealed hope; and all acknowledge the just
dispensations of eternal Wisdom."
 For the general history of the Adventurer, the reader may be
referred to Chalmers' British Essayists, xxiii, Dr. Drake's Essays
on Rambler, Adventurer, &c. ii, and Boswell's Journal, 3rd edit. p.
 Five of these, Nos. 39, 67, 74, 81, and 128, which Sir John Hawkins
omitted to arrange among the writings of Johnson, are given in this
 See particularly the Letters of Misagargyrus.
 The description in No. 84, of the incidents of a stage-coach
journey, so often imitated by succeeding writers, but, perhaps,
never surpassed, will exemplify the above remark.
 See Lounger, No. 30.
 "I have heard, he means to occasionally throw some papers into the
Daily Advertiser; but he has not begun yet, as he is in great
affliction, I fear, poor man, for the loss of his wife."--Letter
from Miss Talbot to Mrs. Carter. Mrs. Johnson died March 17, 1752.
 See the Preface to Shakespeare.
 Owen Feltham's Resolves.
 Indian Observer, No. 1, 1793. See likewise Adventurers, Nos. 120,
The Idler may be ranked among the best attempts which have been made to
render our common newspapers the medium of rational amusement; and it
maintained its ground in this character longer than any of the papers
which have been brought forward by Colman and others on the same
plan. Dr. Johnson first inserted this production in the Universal
Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette, April 15, 1758, four years after he had
desisted from his labours as an essayist. It would seem probable, that
Newbery, the publisher of the Chronicle, projected it as a vehicle for
Johnson's essays, since it ceased to appear when its pages were no
longer enlivened by the humour of the Idler.
It is well known, that Johnson was not "built of the press and pen"
when he composed the Rambler; but his sphere of observation had been
much enlarged since its publication, and his more ample means no longer
suffered his genius to be "limited by the narrow conversation, to which
men in want are inevitably condemned." "The sublime philosophy of the
Rambler cannot properly be said to have portrayed the manners of the
times; it has seldom touched on subjects so transient and fugitive, but
has displayed the more fixed and invariable operations of the human
heart." But the Idler breathes more of a worldly spirit, and savours
less of the closet than Johnson's earlier essays; and, accordingly, we
find delineated in its diversified pages the manners and characters of
the day in amusing variety and contrast.
Written professedly for a paper of miscellaneous intelligence, the Idler
dwells on the passing incidents of the day, whether serious or light,
and abounds with party and political allusion. Johnson ever surveyed
mankind with the eye of a philosopher; but his own easier circumstances
would now present the world's aspect to him in brighter, fairer colours.
Besides, he could, with more propriety and less risk of misapprehension,
venture to trifle now, than when first he addressed the public.
The World had diffused its precepts, and corrected the fluctuating
manners of fashion, in the tone of fashionable raillery; and the
Connoisseur, by its gay and sparkling effusions, had forwarded the
advance of the public mind to that last stage of intellectual
refinement, in which alone a relish exists for delicate and half latent
irony. The plain and literal citizens of an earlier period, who conned
over what was "so nominated in the bend," would have misapprehended that
graceful playfulness of satire, elegant and fanciful as ever charmed the
leisure of the literary loungers of Athens. For, in the writings of
Bonnel Thornton and Colman, the philosophy of Aristippus may indeed be
said to be revived. We would not, however, be supposed, by these
allusions, to imply that all the papers of the Idler are light and
sportive; or that Johnson for a moment lost sight of a grand moral end
in all his discussions. His mind only accommodated itself to the
circumstances in which it was placed, and diligently sought to avail
itself of each varying opportunity to admonish and to benefit, whether
from the chair of philosophic reproof or in the cheerful, social circle.
Whatever faults have been charged upon the Idler may be traced, we
conceive, to this source. Nobody at times, said Johnson, talks more
laxly than I do. And this acknowledged propensity may well be
presumed to have affected the humorous and almost conversational tone of
the work before us. In the conscious pride of mental might and in the
easier moments of conversations, that illuminated the minds of
Reynolds and of Burke, Johnson delighted to indulge in a lively
sophistry which might sometimes deceive himself, when at first he merely
wished to sport in elegant raillery or ludicrous paradox. When these
sallies were recorded and brought to bear against him on future
occasions, irritated at their misconstruction and conscious to himself
of an upright intention, or at most of only a wish to promote innocent
cheerfulness, he was too stubborn in retracting what he had thus
advanced. Hence, when menaced with a prosecution for his definition of
Excise in his Dictionary, so far from offering apology or promising
alteration, he called, in his Idler, a Commissioner of Excise the lowest
of human beings, and classes him with the scribbler for a party. So
strange a definition and still less pardonable adherence to it can only
be justified on the ground of Johnson's warm feelings for the comfort of
the middle class of society. He knew that the execution of the excise
laws involved an intrusion into the privacies of domestic life, and
often violated the fireside of the unoffending and quiet tradesman. He,
therefore, disliked those laws altogether, and his warm-hearted
disposition would not allow him to calculate on their abstract
advantages with modern political economists, who, in their generalizing
doctrines, too frequently overlook individual comfort and interests. His
remarks, in the same paper, on the edition of the Pleas of the Crown
cannot be thus vindicated, and we must here lament an error in an
otherwise honest and well-intentioned mind. Every impartial reader
of his works may thus easily trace to their origin Johnson's chief
political errors, and his research must terminate in admiration of a
writer, who never prostituted his pen to fear or favour; and who, though
erroneous often in his estimate of men and measures, still, in his
support of a party, firmly believed himself to be the advocate of
morality and right. His tenderness of spirit, his firm principles and
his deep sense of the emptiness of human pursuits are visible amidst the
lighter papers of the Idler, and his serious reflections are, perhaps,
more strikingly affecting as contrasted with mirthfulness and
His concluding paper and the one on the death of his mother have,
perhaps, never been surpassed. Here is no affectation of sentimentality,
no morbid and puling complaints, but the dignified and chastened
expression of sorrow, which a mind, constituted as Johnson's, must have
experienced on the departure of a mother. A heart, tender and
susceptible of pathetic emotion, as his was, must have deeply felt, how
dreary it is to walk downward to the grave unregarded by her "who has
looked on our childhood." Occasions for more violent and perturbed grief
may occur to us in our passage through life, but the gentle, quiet death
of a mother speaks to us with "still small voice" of our wasting years,
and breaks completely and, at once, our earliest and most cherished
associations. This tenderness of spirit seems ever to have actuated
Johnson, and he is surely greatest when he breathes it forth over the
sorrows and miseries of man. Even in his humorous papers, he never
wounds feeling for the sake of raising a laugh, nor sports with folly,
but in the hope of reclaiming the vicious and with the design of warning
the young of the delusion and danger of an example, which can only be
imitated by the forfeiture of virtue and the practice of vice. "In
whatever he undertook, it was his determined purpose to rectify the
heart, to purify the passions, to give ardour to virtue and confidence
 The Genius was published by Colman in the St. James's Chronicle,
1761, 1762. The Gentleman, by the same author, came out in the
London-Packet, 1775. The Grumbler was the production of the
Antiquary Grose, and appeared in the English Chronicle, 1791.
 Owen Feltham.
 Preface to Shakespeare.
 Country Spectator, No. 1.
 Idler, No. 6.
 The World was published in 1753.
 The Connoisseur appeared in 1754.
 See Dr. Drake's Essays, II.
 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides.
 See life of Sir Joshua Reynolds, prefixed to his Works by Malone,
i. 28, &c.
 See Idler, No. 65 and Mr. Chalmers' Preface to vol. 33 of the
 See Gentleman's Magazine 1706. p. 272.
 Idler, No. 41.
 See Pursuits of Literature, Dialogue I. note.
CONTENTS OF THE FOURTH VOLUME.
34. Folly of extravagance. The story of Misargyrus
39. On sleep
41. Sequel of the story of Misargyrus
45. The difficulty of forming confederacies
50. On lying
53. Misargyrus' account of his companions in the Fleet
58. Presumption of modern criticism censured. Ancient poetry necessarily
obscure. Examples from Horace
62. Misargyrus' account of his companions concluded
67. On the trades of London
69. Idle hope
74. Apology for neglecting officious advice
81. Incitement to enterprise and emulation. Some account of the
84. Folly of false pretences to importance. A journey in a stagecoach
85. Study, composition, and converse equally necessary to intellectual
92. Criticism on the Pastorals of Virgil
95. Apology for apparent plagiarism. Sources of literary variety
99. Projectors injudiciously censured and applauded
102. Infelicities of retirement to men of business
107. Different opinions equally plausible
108. On the uncertainty of human things
111. The pleasures and advantages of industry
115. The itch of writing universal
119. The folly of creating artificial wants
120. The miseries of life
126. Solitude not eligible
128. Men differently employed unjustly censured by each other
131. Singularities censured
137. Writers not a useless generation
138. Their happiness and infelicity
1. The Idler's character.
2. Invitation to correspondents.
3. Idler's reason for writing.
4. Charities and hospitals.
5. Proposal for a female army.
6. Lady's performance on horseback.
7. Scheme for news-writers.
8. Plan of military discipline.
9. Progress of idleness.
10. Political credulity.
11. Discourses on the weather.
12. Marriages, why advertised.
13. The imaginary housewife.
14. Robbery of time.
15. Treacle's complaint of his wife.
16. Drugget's retirement.
17. Expedients of idlers.
18. Drugget vindicated.
19. Whirler's character.
20. Capture of Louisbourg.
21. Linger's history of listlessness.
22. Imprisonment of debtors.
23. Uncertainty of friendship.
24. Man does not always think.
25. New actors on the stage.
26. Betty Broom's history.
27. Power of habits.
28. Wedding-day. Grocer's wife. Chairman.
29. Betty Broom's history continued.
30. Corruption of news-writers.
31. Disguises of idleness. Sober's character.
32. On Sleep.
33. Journal of a fellow of a college.
34. Punch and conversation compared.
35. Auction-hunter described and ridiculed.
36. The terrific diction ridiculed.
37. Useful things easy of attainment.
38. Cruelty shown to debtors in prison.
39. The various uses of the bracelet.
40. The art of advertising exemplified.
41. Serious reflections on the death of a friend.
42. Perdita's complaint of her father.
43. Monitions on the flight of time.
44. The use of memory considered.
45. On painting. Portraits defended.
46. Molly Quick's complaint of her mistress.
47. Deborah Ginger's account of city-wits.
48. The bustle of idleness described and ridiculed.
49. Marvel's journey narrated.
50. Marvel's journey paralleled.
51. Domestick greatness unattainable.
52. Self-denial necessary.
53. Mischiefs of good company.
54. Mrs. Savecharges' complaint.
55. Authors' mortifications.
56. Virtuosos whimsical.
57. Character of Sophron.
58. Expectations of pleasure frustrated.
59. Books fall into neglect.
60. Minim the critic.
61. Minim the critic.
62. Hanger's account of the vanity of riches.
63. Progress of arts and language.
64. Ranger's complaint concluded.
65. Fate of posthumous works.
66. Loss of ancient writings.
67. Scholar's journal.
68. History of translation.
69. History of translation.
70. Hard words defended.
71. Dick Shifter's rural excursion.
72. Regulation of memory.
73. Tranquil's use of riches.
74. Memory rarely deficient.
75. Gelaleddin of Bassora.
76. False criticisms on painting.
77. Easy writing.
78. Steady, Snug, Startle, Solid and Misty.
79. Grand style of painting.
80. Ladies' journey to London.
81. Indian's speech to his countrymen.
82. The true idea of beauty.
83. Scruple, Wormwood, Sturdy and Gentle.
84. Biography, how best performed.
85. Books multiplied by useless compilations.
86. Miss Heartless' want of a lodging.
87. Amazonian bravery revived.
88. What have ye done?
89. Physical evil moral good.
90. Rhetorical action considered.
91. Sufficiency of the English language.
92. Nature of cunning.
93. Sam Softly's history.
94. Obstructions of learning.
95. Tim Wainscot's son a fine gentleman.
96. Hacho of Lapland.
97. Narratives of travellers considered.
98. Sophia Heedful.
99. Ortogrul of Basra.
100. The good sort of woman.
101. Omar's plan of life.
102. Authors inattentive to themselves.
103. Honour of the last.
No. 34. SATURDAY, MARCH 3, 1753.
_Has toties optata exegit gloria paenas._ Juv. Sat. x. 187.
Such fate pursues the votaries of praise.
TO THE ADVENTURER.
Fleet Prison, Feb. 24.
To a benevolent disposition, every state of life will afford some
opportunities of contributing to the welfare of mankind. Opulence and
splendour are enabled to dispel the cloud of adversity, to dry up the
tears of the widow and the orphan, and to increase the felicity of all
around them: their example will animate virtue, and retard the progress
of vice. And even indigence and obscurity, though without power to
confer happiness, may at least prevent misery, and apprize those who are
blinded by their passions, that they are on the brink of irremediable
calamity. Pleased, therefore, with the thought of recovering others from
that folly which has embittered my own days, I have presumed to address
the ADVENTURER from the dreary mansions of wretchedness and despair, of
which the gates are so wonderfully constructed, as to fly open for the
reception of strangers, though they are impervious as a rock of adamant
to such as are within them:
--_Facilis descensus Averni:
Noctes utque dies patet atri janua Ditis:
Sed revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras,
Hoc opus, hic labor est_.--VIRG. AEn. vi. 126.
The gates of hell are open night and day;
Smooth the descent, and easy is the way:
But to return and view the cheerful skies;
In this the task and mighty labour lies. DRYDEN.
Suffer me to acquaint you, Sir, that I have glittered at the ball, and
sparkled in the circle; that I have had the happiness to be the unknown
favourite of an unknown lady at the masquerade, have been the delight of
tables of the first fashion, and envy of my brother beaux; and to
descend a little lower, it is, I believe, still remembered, that Messrs.
Velours and d'Espagne stand indebted for a great part of their present
influence at Guildhall, to the elegance of my shape, and the graceful
freedom of my carriage.
--_Sed quae praeclara et prospera tanti,
Ut rebus laetis par sit mensura malorum_? Juv. Sat. x. 97.
See the wild purchase of the bold and vain,
Where every bliss is bought with equal pain!
As I entered into the world very young, with an elegant person and a
large estate, it was not long before I disentangled myself from the
shackles of religion; for I was determined to the pursuit of pleasure,
which according to my notions consisted in the unrestrained and
unlimited gratifications of every passion and every appetite; and as
this could not be obtained under the frowns of a perpetual dictator, I
considered religion as my enemy; and proceeding to treat her with
contempt and derision, was not a little delighted, that the
unfashionableness of her appearance, and the unanimated uniformity of
her motions, afforded frequent opportunities for the sallies of my
Conceiving now that I was sufficiently qualified to laugh away scruples,
I imparted my remarks to those among my female favourites, whose virtue
I intended to attack; for I was well assured, that pride would be able
to make but a weak defence, when religion was subverted; nor was my
success below my expectation: the love of pleasure is too strongly
implanted in the female breast, to suffer them scrupulously to examine
the validity of arguments designed to weaken restraint; all are easily
led to believe, that whatever thwarts their inclination must be wrong:
little more, therefore, was required, than by the addition of some
circumstances, and the exaggeration of others, to make merriment supply
the place of demonstration; nor was I so senseless as to offer arguments
to such as could not attend to them, and with whom a repartee or catch
would more effectually answer the same purpose. This being effected,
there remained only "the dread of the world:" but Roxana soared too
high, to think the opinion of others worthy her notice; Laetitia seemed
to think of it only to declare, that "if all her hairs were worlds," she
should reckon them "well lost for love;" and Pastorella fondly
conceived, that she could dwell for ever by the side of a bubbling
fountain, content with her swain and fleecy care; without considering
that stillness and solitude can afford satisfaction only to innocence.
It is not the desire of new acquisitions, but the glory of conquests,
that fires the soldier's breast; as indeed the town is seldom worth
much, when it has suffered the devastations of a siege; so that though I
did not openly declare the effects of my own prowess, which is forbidden
by the laws of honour, it cannot be supposed that I was very solicitous
to bury my reputation, or to hinder accidental discoveries. To have
gained one victory, is an inducement to hazard a second engagement: and
though the success of the general should be a reason for increasing the
strength of the fortification, it becomes, with many, a pretence for an
immediate surrender, under the notion that no power is able to withstand
so formidable an adversary; while others brave the danger, and think it
mean to surrender, and dastardly to fly. Melissa, indeed, knew better;
and though she could not boast the apathy, steadiness, and inflexibility
of a Cato, wanted not the more prudent virtue of Scipio, and gained the
victory by declining the contest.
You must not, however, imagine, that I was, during this state of
abandoned libertinism, so fully convinced of the fitness of my own
conduct, as to be free from uneasiness. I knew very well, that I might
justly be deemed the pest of society, and that such proceedings must
terminate in the destruction of my health and fortune; but to admit
thoughts of this kind was to live upon the rack: I fled, therefore, to
the regions of mirth and jollity, as they are called, and endeavoured
with Burgundy, and a continual rotation of company, to free myself from
the pangs of reflection. From these orgies we frequently sallied forth
in quest of adventures, to the no small terrour and consternation of all
the sober stragglers that came in our way: and though we never injured,
like our illustrious progenitors, the Mohocks, either life or limbs; yet
we have in the midst of Covent Garden buried a tailor, who had been
troublesome to some of our fine gentlemen, beneath a heap of
cabbage-leaves and stalks, with this conceit,
_Satia te caule quem semper cupisti_.
Glut yourself with cabbage, of which you have always been greedy.
There can be no reason for mentioning the common exploits of breaking
windows and bruising the watch; unless it be to tell you of the device
of producing before the justice broken lanterns, which have been paid
for an hundred times; or their appearances with patches on their heads,
under pretence of being cut by the sword that was never drawn: nor need
I say any thing of the more formidable attack of sturdy chairmen, armed
with poles; by a slight stroke of which, the pride of Ned Revel's face
was at once laid flat, and that effected in an instant, which its most
mortal foe had for years assayed in vain. I shall pass over the
accidents that attended attempts to scale windows, and endeavours to
dislodge signs from their hooks: there are many "hair-breadth 'scapes,"
besides those in the "imminent deadly breach;" but the rake's life,
though it be equally hazardous with that of the soldier, is neither
accompanied with present honour nor with pleasing retrospect; such is,
and such ought to be, the difference between the enemy and the preserver
of his country.
Amidst such giddy and thoughtless extravagance, it will not seem
strange, that I was often the dupe of coarse flattery. When Mons.
L'Allonge assured me, that I thrust quart over arm better than any man
in England, what could I less than present him with a sword that cost me
thirty pieces? I was bound for a hundred pounds for Tom Trippet, because
he had declared that he would dance a minuet with any man in the three
kingdoms except myself. But I often parted with money against my
inclination, either because I wanted the resolution to refuse, or
dreaded the appellation of a niggardly fellow; and I may be truly said
to have squandered my estate, without honour, without friends, and
without pleasure. The last may, perhaps, appear strange to men
unacquainted with the masquerade of life: I deceived others, and I
endeavoured to deceive myself; and have worn the face of pleasantry and
gaiety, while my heart suffered the most exquisite torture.
By the instigation and encouragement of my friends, I became at length
ambitious of a seat in parliament; and accordingly set out for the town
of Wallop in the west, where my arrival was welcomed by a thousand
throats, and I was in three days sure of a majority: but after drinking
out one hundred and fifty hogsheads of wine, and bribing two-thirds of
the corporation twice over, I had the mortification to find that the
borough had been before sold to Mr. Courtly.
In a life of this kind, my fortune, though considerable, was presently
dissipated; and as the attraction grows more strong the nearer any body
approaches the earth, when once a man begins to sink into poverty, he
falls with velocity always increasing; every supply is purchased at a
higher and higher price, and every office of kindness obtained with
greater and greater difficulty. Having now acquainted you with my state
of elevation, I shall, if you encourage the continuance of my
correspondence, shew you by what steps I descended from a first floor in
Pall-Mall to my present habitation.
I am, Sir,
Your humble servant,
 For an account of the disputes raised on this paper, and on the
other letters of Misargyrus, see Preface.
No. 39. TUESDAY, MARCH 20, 1753.
--[Greek: Oduseus phulloisi kalupsato to d ar Athaenae
Hypnon ep ommasi cheu, ina min pauseie tachista
Dusponeos kamatoio.]--HOM. E. 491
--Pallas pour'd sweet slumbers on his soul;
And balmy dreams, the gift of soft repose,
Calm'd all his pains, and banish'd all his woes. POPE.
If every day did not produce fresh instances of the ingratitude of
mankind, we might, perhaps, be at a loss, why so liberal and impartial a
benefactor as sleep, should meet with so few historians or panegyrists.
Writers are so totally absorbed by the business of the day, as never to
turn their attention to that power, whose officious hand so seasonably
suspends the burthen of life; and without whose interposition man would
not be able to endure the fatigue of labour, however rewarded, or the
struggle with opposition, however successful.
Night, though she divides to many the longest part of life, and to
almost all the most innocent and happy, is yet unthankfully neglected,
except by those who pervert her gifts.
The astronomers, indeed, expect her with impatience, and felicitate
themselves upon her arrival: Fontenelle has not failed to celebrate her
praises; and to chide the sun for hiding from his view the worlds, which
he imagines to appear in every constellation. Nor have the poets been
always deficient in her praises: Milton has observed of the night, that
it is "the pleasant time, the cool, the silent."
These men may, indeed, well be expected to pay particular homage to
night; since they are indebted to her, not only for cessation of pain,
but increase of pleasure; not only for slumber, but for knowledge. But
the greater part of her avowed votaries are the sons of luxury; who
appropriate to festivity the hours designed for rest; who consider the
reign of pleasure as commencing when day begins to withdraw her busy
multitudes, and ceases to dissipate attention by intrusive and unwelcome
variety; who begin to awake to joy when the rest of the world sinks into
insensibility; and revel in the soft affluence of flattering and
artificial lights, which "more shadowy set off the face of things."
Without touching upon the fatal consequences of a custom, which, as
Ramazzini observes, will be for ever condemned, and for ever retained;
it may be observed, that however sleep may be put off from time to time,
yet the demand is of so importunate a nature, as not to remain long
unsatisfied: and if, as some have done, we consider it as the tax of
life, we cannot but observe it as a tax that must be paid, unless we
could cease to be men; for Alexander declared, that nothing convinced
him that he was not a divinity, but his not being able to live without
To live without sleep in our present fluctuating state, however
desirable it might seem to the lady in Clelia, can surely be the wish
only of the young or the ignorant; to every one else, a perpetual vigil
will appear to be a state of wretchedness, second only to that of the
miserable beings, whom Swift has in his travels so elegantly described,
as "supremely cursed with immortality."
Sleep is necessary to the happy to prevent satiety, and to endear life
by a short absence; and to the miserable, to relieve them by intervals
of quiet. Life is to most, such as could not be endured without frequent
intermission of existence: Homer, therefore, has thought it an office
worthy of the goddess of wisdom, to lay Ulysses asleep when landed on
It is related of Barretier, whose early advances in literature scarce
any human mind has equalled, that he spent twelve hours of the
four-and-twenty in sleep: yet this appears from the bad state of his
health, and the shortness of his life, to have been too small a respite
for a mind so vigorously and intensely employed: it is to be regretted,
therefore, that he did not exercise his mind less, and his body more:
since by this means, it is highly probable, that though he would not then
have astonished with the blaze of a comet, he would yet have shone with
the permanent radiance of a fixed star.
Nor should it be objected, that there have been many men who daily spend
fifteen or sixteen hours in study: for by some of whom this is reported
it has never been done; others have done it for a short time only; and
of the rest it appears, that they employed their minds in such
operations as required neither celerity nor strength, in the low
drudgery of collating copies, comparing authorities, digesting
dictionaries, or accumulating compilations.
Men of study and imagination are frequently upbraided by the industrious
and plodding sons of care, with passing too great a part of their life
in a state of inaction. But these defiers of sleep seem not to remember
that though it must be granted them that they are crawling about before
the break of day, it can seldom be said that they are perfectly awake;
they exhaust no spirits, and require no repairs; but lie torpid as a
toad in marble, or at least are known to live only by an inert and
sluggish locomotive faculty, and may be said, like a wounded snake, to
"drag their slow length along."
Man has been long known among philosophers by the appellation of the
microcosm, or epitome of the world: the resemblance between the great
and little world might, by a rational observer, be detailed to many
particulars; and to many more by a fanciful speculatist. I know not in
which of these two classes I shall be ranged for observing, that as the
total quantity of light and darkness allotted in the course of the year
to every region of the earth is the same, though distributed at various
times and in different portions; so, perhaps, to each individual of the
human species, nature has ordained the same quantity of wakefulness and
sleep; though divided by some into a total quiescence and vigorous
exertion of their faculties, and, blended by others in a kind of
twilight of existence, in a state between dreaming and reasoning, in
which they either think without action, or act without thought.
The poets are generally well affected to sleep: as men who think with
vigour, they require respite from thought; and gladly resign themselves
to that gentle power, who not only bestows rest, but frequently leads
them to happier regions, where patrons are always kind, and audiences
are always candid; where they are feasted in the bowers of imagination,
and crowned with flowers divested of their prickles, and laurels of
The more refined and penetrating part of mankind, who take wide surveys
of the wilds of life, who see the innumerable terrours and distresses
that are perpetually preying on the heart of man, and discern with
unhappy perspicuity, calamities yet latent in their causes, are glad to
close their eyes upon the gloomy prospect, and lose in a short
insensibility the remembrance of others' miseries and their own. The
hero has no higher hope, than that, after having routed legions after
legions, and added kingdom to kingdom, he shall retire to milder
happiness, and close his days in social festivity. The wit or the sage
can expect no greater happiness, than that, after having harassed his
reason in deep researches, and fatigued his fancy in boundless
excursions, he shall sink at night in the tranquillity of sleep.
The poets, among all those that enjoy the blessings of sleep, have been
least ashamed to acknowledge their benefactor. How much Statius
considered the evils of life as assuaged and softened by the balm of
slumber, we may discover by that pathetick invocation, which he poured
out in his waking nights: and that Cowley, among the other felicities of
his darling solitude, did not forget to number the privilege of sleeping
without disturbance, we may learn from the rank that he assigns among
the gifts of nature to the poppy, "which is scattered," says he, "over
the fields of corn, that all the needs of man may be easily satisfied,
and that bread and sleep may be found together."
Si quis invisum Cereri benignae
Me putat germen, vehementer errat;
Illa me in partem recipit libenter
Meque frumentumque simul per omnes
Consulens mundo Dea spargit oras;
Crescite, O! dixit, duo magna sustentaculu
Carpe, mortalis, mea dona laetus,
Carpe, nec plantas alias require,
Sed satur panis, satur et soporis,
He wildly errs who thinks I yield
Precedence in the well-cloth'd field,
Tho' mix'd with wheat I grow:
Indulgent Ceres knew my worth,
And to adorn the teeming earth,
She bade the Poppy blow.
Nor vainly gay the sight to please,
But blest with pow'r mankind to ease,
The goddess saw me rise:
"Thrive with the life-supporting grain,"
She cried, "the solace of the swain,
The cordial of his eyes.
Seize, happy mortal, seize the good;
My hand supplies thy sleep and food,
And makes thee truly blest:
With plenteous meals enjoy the day,
In slumbers pass the night away,
And leave to fate the rest." C. B.
Sleep, therefore, as the chief of all earthly blessings, is justly
appropriated to induustry and temperance; the refreshing rest, and the
peaceful night, are the portion only of him who lies down weary with
honest labour, and free from the fumes of indigested luxury; it is the
just doom of laziness and gluttony, to be inactive without ease, and
drowsy without tranquillity.
Sleep has been often mentioned as the image of death; "so like it,"
says Sir Thomas Brown, "that I dare not trust it without my prayers:"
their resemblance is, indeed, apparent and striking; they both, when
they seize the body, leave the soul at liberty: and wise is he that
remembers of both, that they can be safe and happy only by virtue.
Lovely sleep! thou beautiful image of terrible death,
Be thou my pillow-companion, my angel of rest!
Come, O sleep! for thine are the joys of living and dying:
Life without sorrow, and death with no anguish, no pain.
_From the German of Schmidt_
No. 41. TUESDAY, MARCH 27, 1753.
--_Si mutabile pectus
Est tibi, consiliis, non curribus, utere nostris;
Dum potes, et solidis etiamnum sedibus adstas,
Dumque male optatos nondum premis inscius axes._ OVID. Met. ii. 143.
--Th' attempt forsake,
And not my chariot but my counsel take;
While yet securely on the earth you stand;
Nor touch the horses with too rash a hand. ADDISON.
TO THE ADVENTURER.
Sir, Fleet, March 24.
I now send you the sequel of my story, which had not been so long
delayed, if I could have brought myself to imagine, that any real
impatience was felt for the fate of Misargyrus; who has travelled no
unbeaten track to misery, and consequently can present the reader only
with such incidents as occur in daily life. You have seen me, Sir, in
the zenith of my glory, not dispensing the kindly warmth of an
all-cheering sun: but, like another Phaeton, scorching and blasting
every thing round me. I shall proceed, therefore, to finish my career,
and pass as rapidly as possible through the remaining vicissitudes of my
When I first began to be in want of money, I made no doubt of an
immediate supply. The newspapers were perpetually offering directions to
men, who seemed to have no other business than to gather heaps of gold
for those who place their supreme felicity in scattering it. I posted
away, therefore, to one of these advertisers, who by his proposals
seemed to deal in thousands; and was not a little chagrined to find,
that this general benefactor would have nothing to do with any larger
sum than thirty pounds, nor would venture that without a joint note from
myself and a reputable housekeeper, or for a longer time than three
It was not yet so bad with me, as that I needed to solicit surety for
thirty pounds: yet partly from the greediness that extravagance always
produces, and partly from a desire of seeing the humour of a petty
usurer, a character of which I had hitherto lived in ignorance, I
condescended to listen to his terms. He proceeded to inform me of my
great felicity in not falling into the hands of an extortioner; and
assured me, that I should find him extremely moderate in his demands: he
was not, indeed, certain that he could furnish me with the whole sum,
for people were at this particular time extremely pressing and
importunate for money: yet, as I had the appearance of a gentleman, he
would try what he could do, and give me his answer in three days.
At the expiration of the time, I called upon him again; and was again
informed of the great demand for money, and that, "money was money now:"
he then advised me to be punctual in my payment, as that might induce
him to befriend me hereafter; and delivered me the money, deducting at
the rate of five and thirty _per cent_. with another panegyrick upon his
I will not tire you with the various practices of usurious oppression;
but cannot omit my transaction with Squeeze on Tower-hill, who, finding
me a young man of considerable expectations, employed an agent to
persuade me to borrow five hundred pounds, to be refunded by an annual
payment of twenty per cent_. during the joint lives of his daughter
Nancy Squeeze and myself. The negociator came prepared to enforce his
proposal with all his art; but, finding that I caught his offer with the
eagerness of necessity, he grew cold and languid; "he had mentioned it
out of kindness; he would try to serve me: Mr. Squeeze was an honest
man, but extremely cautious." In three days he came to tell me, that his
endeavours had been ineffectual, Mr. Squeeze having no good opinion of
my life; but that there was one expedient remaining: Mrs. Squeeze could
influence her husband, and her good will might be gained by a
compliment. I waited that afternoon on Mrs. Squeeze, and poured out
before her the flatteries which usually gain access to rank and beauty:
I did not then know, that there are places in which the only compliment
is a bribe. Having yet credit with a jeweller, I afterwards procured a
ring of thirty guineas, which I humbly presented, and was soon admitted
to a treaty with Mr. Squeeze. He appeared peevish and backward, and my
old friend whispered me, that he would never make a dry bargain: I
therefore invited him to a tavern. Nine times we met on the affair; nine
times I paid four pounds for the supper and claret; and nine guineas I
gave the agent for good offices. I then obtained the money, paying ten
_per cent_. advance; and at the tenth meeting gave another supper, and
disbursed fifteen pounds for the writings.
Others who styled themselves brokers, would only trust their money upon
goods: that I might, therefore, try every art of expensive folly, I took
a house and furnished it. I amused myself with despoiling my moveables
of their glossy appearance, for fear of alarming the lender with
suspicions: and in this I succeeded so well, that he favoured me with
one hundred and sixty pounds upon that which was rated at seven hundred.
I then found that I was to maintain a guardian about me to prevent the
goods from being broken or removed. This was, indeed, an unexpected tax;
but it was too late to recede: and I comforted myself, that I might
prevent a creditor, of whom I had some apprehensions, from seizing, by
having a prior execution always in the house.
By such means I had so embarrassed myself, that my whole attention was
engaged in contriving excuses, and raising small sums to quiet such as
words would no longer mollify. It cost me eighty pounds in presents to
Mr. Leech the attorney, for his forbearance of one hundred, which he
solicited me to take when I had no need. I was perpetually harassed with
importunate demands, and insulted by wretches, who a few months before
would not have dared to raise their eyes from the dust before me. I
lived in continual terrour, frighted by every noise at the door, and
terrified at the approach of every step quicker than common. I never
retired to rest without feeling the justness of the Spanish proverb,
"Let him who sleeps too much, borrow the pillow of a debtor:" my
solicitude and vexation kept me long waking; and when I had closed my
eyes, I was pursued or insulted by visionary bailiffs.
When I reflected upon the meanness of the shifts I had reduced myself
to, I could not but curse the folly and extravagance that had
overwhelmed me in a sea of troubles, from which it was highly improbable
that I should ever emerge. I had some time lived in hopes of an estate,
at the death of my uncle; but he disappointed me by marrying his
housekeeper; and, catching an opportunity soon after of quarrelling with
me, for settling twenty pounds a year upon a girl whom I had seduced,
told me that he would take care to prevent his fortune from being
squandered upon prostitutes.
Nothing now remained, but the chance of extricating myself by marriage;
a scheme which, I flattered myself, nothing but my present distress
would have made me think on with patience. I determined, therefore, to
look out for a tender novice, with a large fortune, at her own disposal;
and accordingly fixed my eyes upon Miss Biddy Simper. I had now paid her
six or seven visits; and so fully convinced her of my being a gentleman
and a rake, that I made no doubt that both her person and fortune would
be soon mine.
At this critical time, Miss Gripe called upon me, in a chariot bought
with my money, and loaded with trinkets that I had, in my days of
affluence, lavished on her. Those days were now over; and there was
little hope that they would ever return. She was not able to withstand
the temptation of ten pounds that Talon the bailiff offered her, but
brought him into my apartment disguised in a livery; and taking my sword
to the window, under pretence of admiring the workmanship, beckoned him
to seize me.
Delay would have been expensive without use, as the debt was too
considerable for payment or bail: I, therefore, suffered myself to be
immediately conducted to gaol.
_Vestibulum ante ipsum, primisque in faucibus Orci,
Luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia curae:
Pallentesque habitant morbi, tristisque senectus,
Et metus, et malesuada fames, et turpis egestas._ VIRG. Aen. vi. 273.
Just in the gate and in the jaws of hell,
Revengeful cares and sullen sorrows dwell;
And pale diseases, and repining age;
Want, fear, and famine's unresisted rage. DRYDEN.
Confinement of any kind is dreadful; a prison is sometimes able to shock
those, who endure it in a good cause: let your imagination, therefore,
acquaint you with what I have not words to express, and conceive, if
possible, the horrours of imprisonment attended with reproach and
ignominy, of involuntary association with the refuse of mankind, with
wretches who were before too abandoned for society, but, being now freed
from shame or fear, are hourly improving their vices by consorting with
There are, however, a few, whom, like myself, imprisonment has rather
mortified than hardened: with these only I converse; and of these you
may, perhaps, hereafter receive some account from
Your humble servant, MISARGYRUS.
No. 45. TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 1753
_Nulla fides regni sociis, omnisque potestas
Impatiens consortis erit._--LUCAN. Lib. i. 92.
No faith of partnership dominion owns:
Still discord hovers o'er divided thrones.
It is well known, that many things appear plausible in speculation,
which can never be reduced to practice; and that of the numberless
projects that have flattered mankind with theoretical speciousness, few
have served any other purpose than to show the ingenuity of their
contrivers. A voyage to the moon, however romantick and absurd the
scheme may now appear, since the properties of air have been better
understood, seemed highly probable to many of the aspiring wits in the
last century, who began to dote upon their glossy plumes, and fluttered
with impatience for the hour of their departure:
--_Pereunt vestigia mille
Ante fugam, absentemque ferit gravis ungula campum._
Hills, vales and floods appear already crost;
And, ere he starts, a thousand steps are lost. POPE.
Among the fallacies which only experience can detect, there are some, of
which scarcely experience itself can destroy the influence; some which,
by a captivating show of indubitable certainty, are perpetually gaining
upon the human mind; and which, though every trial ends in
disappointment, obtain new credit as the sense of miscarriage wears
gradually away, persuade us to try again what we have tried already, and
expose us by the same failure to double vexation.
Of this tempting, this delusive kind, is the expectation of great
performances by confederated strength. The speculatist, when he has
carefully observed how much may be performed by a single hand,
calculates by a very easy operation the force of thousands, and goes on
accumulating power till resistance vanishes before it; then rejoices in
the success of his new scheme, and wonders at the folly or idleness of
former ages, who have lived in want of what might so readily be
procured, and suffered themselves to be debarred from happiness by
obstacles which one united effort would have so easily surmounted.
But this gigantick phantom of collective power vanishes at once into air
and emptiness, at the first attempt to put it into action. The different
apprehensions, the discordant passions, the jarring interests of men,
will scarcely permit that many should unite in one undertaking.
Of a great and complicated design, some will never be brought to discern
the end; and of the several means by which it may be accomplished, the
choice will be a perpetual subject of debate, as every man is swayed in
his determination by his own knowledge or convenience. In a long series
of action some will languish with fatigue, and some be drawn off by
present gratifications; some will loiter because others labour, and some
will cease to labour because others loiter: and if once they come within
prospect of success and profit, some will be greedy and others envious;
some will undertake more than they can perform, to enlarge their claims
of advantage; some will perform less than they undertake, lest their
labours should chiefly turn to the benefit of others.
The history of mankind informs us that a single power is very seldom
broken by a confederacy. States of different interests, and aspects
malevolent to each other, may be united for a time by common distress;
and in the ardour of self-preservation fall unanimously upon an enemy,
by whom they are all equally endangered. But if their first attack can
be withstood, time will never fail to dissolve their union: success and
miscarriage will be equally destructive: after the conquest of a
province, they will quarrel in the division; after the loss of a battle,
all will be endeavouring to secure themselves by abandoning the rest.
From the impossibility of confining numbers to the constant and uniform
prosecution of a common interest, arises the difficulty of securing
subjects against the encroachment of governours. Power is always
gradually stealing away from the many to the few, because the few are
more vigilant and consistent; it still contracts to a smaller number,
till in time it centres in a single person.
Thus all the forms of governments instituted among mankind, perpetually
tend towards monarchy; and power, however diffused through the whole
community, is, by negligence or corruption, commotion or distress,
reposed at last in the chief magistrate.
"There never appear," says Swift, "more than five or six men of genius
in an age; but if they were united, the world could not stand before
them." It is happy, therefore, for mankind, that of this union there is
no probability. As men take in a wider compass of intellectual survey,
they are more likely to choose different objects of pursuit; as they see
more ways to the same end, they will be less easily persuaded to travel
together; as each is better qualified to form an independent scheme of
private greatness, he will reject with greater obstinacy the project of
another; as each is more able to distinguish himself as the head of a
party, he will less readily be made a follower or an associate.
The reigning philosophy informs us, that the vast bodies which
constitute the universe, are regulated in their progress through the
ethereal spaces by the perpetual agency of contrary forces; by one of
which they are restrained from deserting their orbits, and losing
themselves in the immensity of heaven; and held off by the other from
rushing together, and clustering round their centre with everlasting
The same contrariety of impulse may be perhaps discovered in the motions
of men: we are formed for society, not for combination; we are equally
unqualified to live in a close connexion with our fellow-beings, and in
total separation from them; we are attracted towards each other by
general sympathy, but kept back from contact by private interests.
Some philosophers have been foolish enough to imagine, that improvements
might be made in the system of the universe, by a different arrangement
of the orbs of heaven; and politicians, equally ignorant and equally
presumptuous, may easily be led to suppose, that the happiness of our
world would be promoted by a different tendency of the human mind. It
appears, indeed, to a slight and superficial observer, that many things
impracticable in our present state, might be easily effected, if mankind
were better disposed to union and co-operation: but a little reflection
will discover, that if confederacies were easily formed, they would lose
their efficacy, since numbers would be opposed to numbers, and unanimity
to unanimity; and instead of the present petty competitions of
individuals or single families, multitudes would be supplanting
multitudes, and thousands plotting against thousands.
There is no class of the human species, of which the union seems to have
been more expected, than of the learned: the rest of the world have
almost always agreed to shut scholars up together in colleges and
cloisters; surely not without hope, that they would look for that
happiness in concord, which they were debarred from finding in variety;
and that such conjunctions of intellect would recompense the munificence
of founders and patrons, by performances above the reach of any single
But discord, who found means to roll her apple into the banqueting
chamber of the goddesses, has had the address to scatter her laurels in
the seminaries of learning. The friendship of students and of beauties
is for the most part equally sincere, and equally durable: as both
depend for happiness on the regard of others, on that of which the value
arises merely from comparison, they are both exposed to perpetual
jealousies, and both incessantly employed in schemes to intercept the
praises of each other.
I am, however, far from intending to inculcate that this confinement of
the studious to studious companions, has been wholly without advantage
to the publick: neighbourhood, where it does not conciliate friendship,
incites competition; and he that would contentedly rest in a lower
degree of excellence, where he had no rival to dread, will be urged by
his impatience of inferiority to incessant endeavours after great
These stimulations of honest rivalry are, perhaps, the chief effects of
academies and societies; for whatever be the bulk of their joint
labours, every single piece is always the production of an individual,
that owes nothing to his colleagues but the contagion of diligence, a
resolution to write, because the rest are writing, and the scorn of
obscurity while the rest are illustrious.
 It may not be uninteresting to place in immediate comparison with
this finished paper its first rough draught as given in Boswell,
"_Confederacies difficult; why_.
"Seldom in war a match for single persons--nor in peace; therefore
kings make themselves absolute. Confederacies in learning--every
great work the work of one. _Bruy_. Scholars friendship like
ladies. Scribebamus, &c. Mart. The apple of discord--the laurel of
discord--the poverty of criticism. Swift's opinion of the power of
six geniuses united. That union scarce possible. His remarks just;
--man a social, not steady nature. Drawn to man by words, repelled
by passions. Orb drawn by attraction, rep. [_repelled_] by
"Common danger unites by crushing other passions--but they return.
Equality hinders compliance. Superiority produces insolence and
envy. Too much regard in each to private interest;--too little.
"The mischiefs of private and exclusive societies.--The fitness of
social attraction diffused through the whole. The mischiefs of too
partial love of our country. Contraction of moral duties.
[Greek: Oi philoi, ou philos].
"Every man moves upon his own centre, and therefore repels others
from too near a contact, though he may comply with some general
laws. Of confederacy with superiors every one knows the
inconvenience. With equals no authority;--every man his own
opinion--his own interest.
"Man and wife hardly united;--scarce ever without children.
Computation, if two to one against two, how many against five? If
confederacies were easy--useless;--many oppresses many.--If possible
only to some, dangerous. _Principum amicitias_."
No. 50. SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 1753.
_Quicunque turpi fraude semel innotuit,
Etiamsi verum dicit, amittit fidem._ PHAED. Lib. i. Fab. x. l.
The wretch that often has deceiv'd,
Though truth he speaks, is ne'er believ'd.
When Aristotle was once asked, what a man could gain by uttering
falsehoods? he replied, "Not to be credited when he shall tell the
The character of a liar is at once so hateful and contemptible, that
even of those who have lost their virtue it might be expected that from
the violation of truth they should be restrained by their pride. Almost
every other vice that disgraces human nature, may be kept in countenance
by applause and association: the corrupter of virgin innocence sees
himself envied by the men, and at least not detested by the women; the
drunkard may easily unite with beings, devoted like himself to noisy
merriments or silent insensibility, who will celebrate his victories
over the novices of intemperance, boast themselves the companions of his
prowess, and tell with rapture of the multitudes whom unsuccessful
emulation has hurried to the grave; even the robber and the cut-throat
have their followers, who admire their address and intrepidity, their
stratagems of rapine, and their fidelity to the gang.
The liar, and only the liar, is invariably and universally despised,
abandoned, and disowned: he has no domestick consolations, which he can
oppose to the censure of mankind; he can retire to no fraternity, where
his crimes may stand in the place of virtues; but is given up to the
hisses of the multitude, without friend and without apologist. It is the
peculiar condition of falsehood, to be equally detested by the good and
bad: "The devils," says Sir Thomas Brown, "do not tell lies to one
another; for truth is necessary to all societies: nor can the society of
hell subsist without it."
It is natural to expect, that a crime thus generally detested should be
generally avoided; at least, that none should expose himself to unabated
and unpitied infamy, without an adequate temptation; and that to guilt
so easily detected, and so severely punished, an adequate temptation
would not readily be found.
Yet so it is, that in defiance of censure and contempt, truth is
frequently violated; and scarcely the most vigilant and unremitted
circumspection will secure him that mixes with mankind, from being
hourly deceived by men of whom it can scarcely be imagined, that they
mean any injury to him or profit to themselves: even where the subject
of conversation could not have been expected to put the passions in
motion, or to have excited either hope or fear, or zeal or malignity,
sufficient to induce any man to put his reputation in hazard, however
little he might value it, or to overpower the love of truth, however
weak might be its influence.
The casuists have very diligently distinguished lies into their several
classes, according to their various degrees of malignity: but they have,
I think, generally omitted that which is most common, and perhaps, not
least mischievous; which, since the moralists have not given it a name,
I shall distinguish as the _lie of vanity_.
To vanity may justly be imputed most of the falsehoods which every man
perceives hourly playing upon his ear, and, perhaps, most of those that
are propagated with success. To the lie of commerce, and the lie of
malice, the motive is so apparent, that they are seldom negligently or
implicitly received; suspicion is always watchful over the practices of
interest; and whatever the hope of gain, or desire of mischief, can
prompt one man to assert, another is by reasons equally cogent incited
to refute. But vanity pleases herself with such slight gratifications,
and looks forward to pleasure so remotely consequential, that her
practices raise no alarm, and her stratagems are not easily discovered.
Vanity is, indeed, often suffered to pass unpursued by suspicion,
because he that would watch her motions, can never be at rest: fraud and
malice are bounded in their influence; some opportunity of time and
place is necessary to their agency; but scarce any man is abstracted one
moment from his vanity; and he, to whom truth affords no gratifications,
is generally inclined to seek them in falsehoods.
It is remarked by Sir Kenelm Digby, "that every man has a desire to
appear superior to others, though it were only in having seen what they
have not seen." Such an accidental advantage, since it neither implies
merit, nor confers dignity, one would think should not be desired so
much as to be counterfeited: yet even this vanity, trifling as it is,
produces innumerable narratives, all equally false; but more or less
credible in proportion to the skill or confidence of the relater. How
many may a man of diffusive conversation count among his acquaintances,
whose lives have been signalized by numberless escapes; who never cross
the river but in a storm, or take a journey into the country without
more adventures than befel the knights-errant of ancient times in
pathless forests or enchanted castles! How many must he know, to whom
portents and prodigies are of daily occurrence; and for whom nature is
hourly working wonders invisible to every other eye, only to supply them
with subjects of conversation.
Others there are that amuse themselves with the dissemination of
falsehood, at greater hazard of detection and disgrace; men marked out
by some lucky planet for universal confidence and friendship, who have
been consulted in every difficulty, intrusted with every secret, and
summoned to every transaction: it is the supreme felicity of these men,
to stun all companies with noisy information; to still doubt, and
overbear opposition, with certain knowledge or authentick intelligence.
A liar of this kind, with a strong memory or brisk imagination, is often
the oracle of an obscure club, and, till time discovers his impostures,
dictates to his hearers with uncontrouled authority; for if a publick
question be started, he was present at the debate; if a new fashion be
mentioned, he was at court the first day of its appearance; if a new
performance of literature draws the attention of the publick, he has
patronized the author, and seen his work in manuscript; if a criminal of
eminence be condemned to die, he often predicted his fate, and
endeavoured his reformation: and who that lives at a distance from the
scene of action, will dare to contradict a man, who reports from his own
eyes and ears, and to whom all persons and affairs are thus intimately
This kind of falsehood is generally successful for a time, because it is
practised at first with timidity and caution: but the prosperity of the
liar is of short duration; the reception of one story is always an
incitement to the forgery of another less probable; and he goes on to
triumph over tacit credulity, till pride or reason rises up against him,
and his companions will no longer endure to see him wiser than
It is apparent, that the inventors of all these fictions intend some
exaltation of themselves, and are led off by the pursuit of honour from
their attendance upon truth: their narratives always imply some
consequence in favour of their courage, their sagacity, or their
activity, their familiarity with the learned, or their reception among
the great; they are always bribed by the present pleasure of seeing
themselves superior to those that surround them, and receiving the
homage of silent attention and envious admiration.
But vanity is sometimes excited to fiction by less visible
gratifications: the present age abounds with a race of liars who are
content with the consciousness of falsehood, and whose pride is to
deceive others without any gain or glory to themselves. Of this tribe it
is the supreme pleasure to remark a lady in the playhouse or the park,
and to publish, under the character of a man suddenly enamoured, an
advertisement in the news of the next day, containing a minute
description of her person and her dress. From this artifice, however, no
other effect can be expected, than perturbations which the writer can
never see, and conjectures of which he never can be informed; some
mischief, however, he hopes he has done; and to have done mischief, is
of some importance. He sets his invention to work again, and produces a
narrative of a robbery or a murder, with all the circumstances of time
and place accurately adjusted. This is a jest of greater effect and
longer duration: if he fixes his scene at a proper distance, he may for
several days keep a wife in terrour for her husband, or a mother for her
son; and please himself with reflecting, that by his abilities and
address some addition is made to the miseries of life.
There is, I think, an ancient law of Scotland, by which _leasing-making_
was capitally punished. I am, indeed, far from desiring to increase in
this kingdom the number of executions; yet I cannot but think, that they
who destroy the confidence of society, weaken the credit of
intelligence, and interrupt the security of life; harass the delicate
with shame, and perplex the timorous with alarms; might very properly be
awakened to a sense of their crimes, by denunciations of a whipping-post
or pillory: since many are so insensible of right and wrong, that they
have no standard of action but the law; nor feel guilt, but as they
No. 53. TUESDAY, MAY 8, 1753.
_Quisque suos patimur manes_. VIRG. Aen. Lib. vi. 743.
Each has his lot, and bears the fate he drew.
Sir, Fleet, May 6.
In consequence of my engagements, I address you once more from the
habitations of misery. In this place, from which business and pleasure
are equally excluded, and in which our only employment and diversion is
to hear the narratives of each other, I might much sooner have gathered
materials for a letter, had I not hoped to have been reminded of my
promise; but since I find myself placed in the regions of oblivion,
where I am no less neglected by you than by the rest of mankind, I
resolved no longer to wait for solicitation, but stole early this
evening from between gloomy sullenness and riotous merriment, to give
you an account of part of my companions.
One of the most eminent members of our club is Mr. Edward Scamper, a man
of whose name the Olympick heroes would not have been ashamed. Ned was
born to a small estate, which he determined to improve; and therefore,
as soon as he became of age, mortgaged part of his land to buy a mare
and stallion, and bred horses for the course. He was at first very
successful, and gained several of the king's plates, as he is now every
day boasting, at the expense of very little more than ten times their
value. At last, however, he discovered, that victory brought him more
honour than profit: resolving, therefore, to be rich as well as
illustrious, he replenished his pockets by another mortgage, became on a
sudden a daring bettor, and resolving not to trust a jockey with his
fortune, rode his horse himself, distanced two of his competitors the
first heat, and at last won the race by forcing his horse on a descent
to full speed at the hazard of his neck. His estate was thus repaired,
and some friends that had no souls advised him to give over; but Ned now
knew the way to riches, and therefore without caution increased his
expenses. From this hour he talked and dreamed of nothing but a
horse-race; and rising soon to the summit of equestrian reputation, he
was constantly expected on every course, divided all his time between
lords and jockeys, and, as the unexperienced regulated their bets by his
example, gained a great deal of money by laying openly on one horse and
secretly on the other. Ned was now so sure of growing rich, that he
involved his estate in a third mortgage, borrowed money of all his
friends, and risked his whole fortune upon Bay Lincoln. He mounted with
beating heart, started fair, and won the first heat; but in the second,
as he was pushing against the foremost of his rivals, his girth broke,
his shoulder was dislocated, and before he was dismissed by the surgeon,
two bailiffs fastened upon him, and he saw Newmarket no more. His daily
amusement for four years has been to blow the signal for starting, to
make imaginary matches, to repeat the pedigree of Bay Lincoln, and to
form resolutions against trusting another groom with the choice of his
The next in seniority is Mr. Timothy Snug, a man of deep contrivance and
impenetrable secrecy. His father died with the reputation of more wealth
than he possessed: Tim, therefore, entered the world with a reputed
fortune of ten thousand pounds. Of this he very well knew that eight
thousand was imaginary: but being a man of refined policy, and knowing
how much honour is annexed to riches, he resolved never to detect his
own poverty; but furnished his house with elegance, scattered his money
with profusion, encouraged every scheme of costly pleasure, spoke of
petty losses with negligence, and on the day before an execution entered
his doors, had proclaimed at a public table his resolution to be jolted
no longer in a hackney coach.
Another of my companions is the magnanimous Jack Scatter, the son of a
country gentleman, who, having no other care than to leave him rich,
considered that literature could not be had without expense; masters
would not teach for nothing; and when a book was bought and read, it
would sell for little. Jack was, therefore, taught to read and write by
the butler; and when this acquisition was made, was left to pass his
days in the kitchen and the stable, where he heard no crime censured but
covetousness and distrust of poor honest servants, and where all the
praise was bestowed on good housekeeping, and a free heart. At the death
of his father, Jack set himself to retrieve the honour of his family: he
abandoned his cellar to the butler, ordered his groom to provide hay and
corn at discretion, took his housekeeper's word for the expenses of the
kitchen, allowed all his servants to do their work by deputies,
permitted his domesticks to keep his house open to their relations and
acquaintance, and in ten years was conveyed hither, without having
purchased by the loss of his patrimony either honour or pleasure, or
obtained any other gratification than that of having corrupted the
neighbouring villagers by luxury and idleness.
Dick Serge was a draper in Cornhill, and passed eight years in
prosperous diligence, without any care but to keep his books, or any
ambition but to be in time an alderman: but then, by some unaccountable
revolution in his understanding, he became enamoured of wit and humour,
despised the conversation of pedlars and stock-jobbers, and rambled
every night to the regions of gaiety, in quest of company suited to his
taste. The wits at first flocked about him for sport, and afterwards for
interest; some found their way into his books, and some into his
pockets; the man of adventure was equipped from his shop for the
pursuit, of a fortune; and he had sometimes the honour to have his
security accepted when his friends were in distress. Elated with these
associations, he soon learned to neglect his shop; and having drawn his
money out of the funds, to avoid the necessity of teasing men of honour
for trifling debts, he has been forced at last to retire hither, till
his friends can procure him a post at court.
Another that joins in the same mess is Bob Cornice, whose life has been
spent in fitting up a house. About ten years ago Bob purchased the
country habitation of a bankrupt: the mere shell of a building Bob holds
no great matter; the inside is the test of elegance. Of this house he
was no sooner master than he summoned twenty workmen to his assistance,
tore up the floors and laid them anew, stripped off the wainscot, drew
the windows from their frames, altered the disposition of doors and
fire-places, and cast the whole fabrick into a new form: his next care
was to have his ceilings painted, his pannels gilt, and his
chimney-pieces carved: every thing was executed by the ablest hands:
Bob's business was to follow the workmen with a microscope, and call
upon them to retouch their performances, and heighten excellence to
The reputation of his house now brings round him a daily confluence of
visitants, and every one tells him of some elegance which he has
hitherto overlooked, some convenience not yet procured, or some new mode
in ornament or furniture. Bob, who had no wish but to be admired, nor
any guide but the fashion, thought every thing beautiful in proportion
as it was new, and considered his work as unfinished, while any observer
could suggest an addition; some alteration was therefore every day made,
without any other motive than the charms of novelty. A traveller at last
suggested to him the convenience of a grotto: Bob immediately ordered
the mount of his garden to be excavated: and having laid out a large sum
in shells and minerals, was busy in regulating the disposition of the
colours and lustres, when two gentlemen, who had asked permission to see
his gardens, presented him a writ, and led him off to less elegant
I know not, Sir, whether among this fraternity of sorrow you will think
any much to be pitied; nor indeed do many of them appear to solicit
compassion, for they generally applaud their own conduct, and despise
those whom want of taste or spirit suffers to grow rich. It were happy
if the prisons of the kingdom were filled only with characters like
these, men whom prosperity could not make useful, and whom ruin cannot
make wise: but there are among us many who raise different sensations,
many that owe their present misery to the seductions of treachery, the
strokes of casualty, or the tenderness of pity; many whose sufferings
disgrace society, and whose virtues would adorn it: of these, when
familiarity shall have enabled me to recount their stories without
horrour, you may expect another narrative from
Your most humble servant,
No. 58. SATURDAY, MAY 25, 1753.
_Damnant quod non intelligunt_. CIC.
They condemn what they do not understand.
Euripides, having presented Socrates with the writings of Heraclitus,
a philosopher famed for involution and obscurity, inquired afterwards
his opinion of their merit. "What I understand," said Socrates, "I find
to be excellent; and, therefore, believe that to be of equal value which
I cannot understand."
The reflection of every man who reads this passage will suggest to him
the difference between the practice of Socrates, and that of modern
criticks: Socrates, who had, by long observation upon himself and
others, discovered the weakness of the strongest, and the dimness of the
most enlightened intellect, was afraid to decide hastily in his own
favour, or to conclude that an author had written without meaning,
because he could not immediately catch his ideas; he knew that the
faults of books are often more justly imputable to the reader, who
sometimes wants attention, and sometimes penetration; whose
understanding is often obstructed by prejudice, and often dissipated by
remissness; who comes sometimes to a new study, unfurnished with
knowledge previously necessary; and finds difficulties insuperable, for
want of ardour sufficient to encounter them.
Obscurity and clearness are relative terms: to some readers scarce any
book is easy, to others not many are difficult: and surely they, whom
neither any exuberant praise bestowed by others, nor any eminent
conquests over stubborn problems, have entitled to exalt themselves
above the common orders of mankind, might condescend to imitate the
candour of Socrates; and where they find incontestable proofs of
superior genius, be content to think that there is justness in the
connexion which they cannot trace, and cogency in the reasoning which
they cannot comprehend.
This diffidence is never more reasonable than in the perusal of the
authors of antiquity; of those whose works have been the delight of
ages, and transmitted as the great inheritance of mankind from one
generation to another: surely, no man can, without the utmost arrogance,
imagine that he brings any superiority of understanding to the perusal
of these books which have been preserved in the devastation of cities,
and snatched up from the wreck of nations; which those who fled before
barbarians have been careful to carry off in the hurry of migration, and
of which barbarians have repented the destruction. If in books thus made
venerable by the uniform attestation of successive ages, any passages
shall appear unworthy of that praise which they have formerly received,
let us not immediately determine, that they owed their reputation to
dulness or bigotry; but suspect at least that our ancestors had some
reasons for their opinions, and that our ignorance of those reasons
makes us differ from them.
It often happens that an author's reputation is endangered in succeeding
times, by that which raised the loudest applause among his
contemporaries: nothing is read with greater pleasure than allusions to
recent facts, reigning opinions, or present controversies; but when
facts are forgotten, and controversies extinguished, these favourite
touches lose all their graces; and the author in his descent to
posterity must be left to the mercy of chance, without any power of
ascertaining the memory of those things, to which he owed his luckiest
thoughts and his kindest reception.
On such occasions, every reader should remember the diffidence of
Socrates, and repair by his candour the injuries of time: he should
impute the seeming defects of his author to some chasm of intelligence,
and suppose that the sense which is now weak was once forcible, and the
expression which is now dubious formerly determinate.
How much the mutilation of ancient history has taken away from the
beauty of poetical performances, may be conjectured from the light which
a lucky commentator sometimes effuses, by the recovery of an incident
that had been long forgotten: thus, in the third book of Horace, Juno's
denunciations against, those that should presume to raise again the
walls of Troy, could for many ages please only by splendid images and
swelling language, of which no man discovered the use or propriety, till
Le Fevre, by showing on what occasion the Ode was written, changed
wonder to rational delight. Many passages yet undoubtedly remain in the
same author, which an exacter knowledge of the incidents of his time
would clear from objections. Among these I have always numbered the
_Aurum per medios ire satellites,
Et perrumpere amat saxa, potentius
Ictu fulmineo. Concidit auguris
Argivi domus ob lucrum
Demersa exitio. Diffidit urbium
Portas vir Macedo, et subruit aemulos
Regis muneribus_: Munera navium
Saevos illaqueant duces. HOR. Lib. iii. Ode xvi. 9.
Stronger than thunder's winged force,
All-powerful gold can spread its course,
Thro' watchful guards its passage make,
And loves thro' solid walls to break:
From gold the overwhelming woes
That crush'd the Grecian augur rose:
Philip with gold thro' cities broke,
And rival monarchs felt his yoke;
_Captains of ships to gold are slaves,
Tho' fierce as their own winds and waves._ FRANCIS.
The close of this passage, by which every reader is now disappointed and
offended, was probably the delight of the Roman Court: it cannot be
imagined, that Horace, after having given to gold the force of thunder,
and told of its power to storm cities and to conquer kings, would have
concluded his account of its efficacy with its influence over naval
commanders, had he not alluded to some fact then current in the mouths
of men, and therefore more interesting for a time than the conquests of
Philip. Of the like kind may be reckoned another stanza in the same
--_Jussa coram non sine conscio
Surgit marito, seu vocat_ institor,
_Seu_ navis Hispanae magister,
_Dedecorum pretiosus emptor_. HOR. Lib. iii. Ode. vi. 29.
The conscious husband bids her rise,
_When some rich factor courts her charms_,
Who calls the wanton to his arms,
And, prodigal of wealth and fame,
Profusely buys the costly shame. FRANCIS.
He has little knowledge of Horace who imagines that the _factor_, or the
_Spanish merchant_, are mentioned by chance: there was undoubtedly some
popular story of an intrigue, which those names recalled to the memory
of his reader.
The flame of his genius in other parts, though somewhat dimmed by time,
is not totally eclipsed; his address and judgment yet appear, though
much of the spirit and vigour of his sentiment is lost: this has
happened in the twentieth Ode of the first book:
_Vile potabis modicis Sabinum
Cantharis, Graeca quod ego ipse testa
Conditum levi, datus in theatro
Cum tibi plausus,
Care Maecenas eques: ut paterni
Fluminis ripae, simul et jocosa
Redderet laudes tibi Vaticani
A poet's beverage humbly cheap,
(Should great Maecenas be my guest,)
The vintage of the Sabine grape,
But yet in sober cups shall crown the feast:
'Twas rack'd into a Grecian cask,
Its rougher juice to melt away;
I seal'd it too--a pleasing task!
With annual joy to mark the glorious day,
When in applausive shouts thy name
Spread from the theatre around,
Floating on thy own Tiber's stream,
And Echo, playful nymph, return'd the sound. FRANCIS.
We here easily remark the intertexture of a happy compliment with an
humble invitation; but certainly are less delighted than those, to whom
the mention of the applause bestowed upon Maecenas, gave occasion to
recount the actions or words that produced it.
Two lines which have exercised the ingenuity of modern criticks, may, I
think, be reconciled to the judgment, by an easy supposition: Horace
thus addresses Agrippa:
_Scriberis Vario fortis, et hostium
Victor_, Maeonii carminis alite. HOR. Lib. i. Ode vi. 1.
Varius, a _swan of Homer's wing_,
Shall brave Agrippa's conquests sing.
That Varius should be called "A bird of Homeric song," appears so harsh
to modern ears, that an emendation of the text has been proposed: but
surely the learning of the ancients had been long ago obliterated, had
every man thought himself at liberty to corrupt the lines which he did
not understand. If we imagine that Varius had been by any of his
contemporaries celebrated under the appellation of _Musarum ales_, "the
swan of the Muses," the language of Horace becomes graceful and
familiar; and that such a compliment was at least possible, we know from
the transformation feigned by Horace of himself.
The most elegant compliment that was paid to Addison, is of this obscure
and perishable kind;
When panting Virtue her last efforts made,
You brought your Clio to the virgin's aid.
These lines must please as long as they are understood; but can be
understood only by those that have observed Addison's signatures in the
The nicety of these minute allusions I shall exemplify by another
instance, which I take this occasion to mention, because, as I am told,
the commentators have omitted it. Tibullus addressed Cynthia in this
_Te spectem, suprema mihi cum venerit hora,
Te teneam moriens deficiente manu._ Lib. i. El. i. 73.
Before my closing eyes dear Cynthia stand,
Held weakly by my fainting trembling hand.
To these lines Ovid thus refers in his Elegy on the death of Tibullus:
Cynthia discedens, Felicius, inquit, amata
Sum tibi; vixisti dum tuus ignis eram.
Cui Nemesis, quid, ait, tibi sint mea damna dolori?
Me tenuit moriens deficiente manu. Am. Lib. in. El. ix. 56.
Blest was my reign, retiring Cynthia cry'd;
Not till he left my breast, Tibullus dy'd.
Forbear, said Nemesis, my loss to moan,
The _fainting trembling hand_ was mine alone.
The beauty of this passage, which consists in the appropriation made by
Nemesis of the line originally directed to Cynthia, had been wholly
imperceptible to succeeding ages, had chance, which has destroyed so
many greater volumes, deprived us likewise of the poems of Tibullus.
 The obscurity of this philosopher's style is complained of by
Aristotle in his treatise on Rhetoric, iii. 5. We make the reference
with the view of recommending to attention the whole of that book,
which is interspersed with the most acute remarks, and with rules of
criticism founded deeply on the workings of the human mind. It is
undervalued only by those who have not scholarship to read it, and
surely merits this slight tribute of admiration from an Editor of
Johnson's works, with whom a Translation of the Rhetoric was long a
No. 62. SATURDAY, JUNE 9, 1753.
_O fortuna viris, invida fortibus
Quam non aequa bonis praemia dividis._ SENECA.
Capricious Fortune ever joys,
With partial hand to deal the prize,
To crush the brave and cheat the wise.
TO THE ADVENTURER.
Fleet, June 6.
To the account of such of my companions as are imprisoned without being
miserable, or are miserable without any claim to compassion, I promised
to add the histories of those, whose virtue has made them unhappy or
whose misfortunes are at least without a crime. That this catalogue
should be very numerous, neither you nor your readers ought to expect:
_rari quippe boni_; "the good are few." Virtue is uncommon in all the
classes of humanity; and I suppose it will scarcely be imagined more
frequent in a prison than in other places.
Yet in these gloomy regions is to be found the tenderness, the
generosity, the philanthropy of Serenus, who might have lived in
competence and ease, if he could have looked without emotion on the
miseries of another. Serenus was one of those exalted minds, whom
knowledge and sagacity could not make suspicious; who poured out his
soul in boundless intimacy, and thought community of possessions the law
of friendship. The friend of Serenus was arrested for debt, and after
many endeavours to soften his creditor, sent his wife to solicit that
assistance which never was refused. The tears and importunity of female
distress were more than was necessary to move the heart of Serenus; he
hasted immediately away, and conferring a long time with his friend,
found him confident that if the present pressure was taken off, he
should soon be able to reestablish his affairs. Serenus, accustomed to
believe, and afraid to aggravate distress, did not attempt to detect the
fallacies of hope, nor reflect that every man overwhelmed with calamity
believes, that if that was removed he shall immediately be happy: he,
therefore, with little hesitation offered himself as surety.
In the first raptures of escape all was joy, gratitude, and confidence:
the friend of Serenus displayed his prospects, and counted over the sums
of which he should infallibly be master before the day of payment.
Serenus in a short time began to find his danger, but could not prevail
with himself to repent of beneficence; and therefore suffered himself
still to be amused with projects which he durst not consider, for fear
of finding them impracticable. The debtor, after he had tried every
method of raising money which art or indigence could prompt, wanted
either fidelity or resolution to surrender himself to prison, and left
Serenus to take his place.
Serenus has often proposed to the creditor, to pay him whatever he shall
appear to have lost by the flight of his friend: but however reasonable
this proposal may be thought, avarice and brutality have been hitherto
inexorable, and Serenus still continues to languish in prison. In this
place, however, where want makes almost every man selfish, or
desperation gloomy, it is the good fortune of Serenus not to live
without a friend: he passes most of his hours in the conversation of
Candidus, a man whom the same virtuous ductility has, with some
difference of circumstances, made equally unhappy. Candidus, when he was
young, helpless, and ignorant, found a patron that educated, protected,
and supported him; his patron being more vigilant for others than
himself, left at his death an only son, destitute and friendless.
Candidus was eager to repay the benefits he had received; and having
maintained the youth for a few years at his own house, afterwards placed
him with a merchant of eminence, and gave bonds to a great value as a
security for his conduct.
The young man, removed too early from the only eye of which he dreaded
the observation, and deprived of the only instruction which he heard
with reverence, soon learned to consider virtue as restraint, and
restraint as oppression: and to look with a longing eye at every expense
to which he could not reach, and every pleasure which he could not
partake: by degrees he deviated from his first regularity, and unhappily
mingling among young men busy in dissipating the gains of their fathers'
industry, he forgot the precepts of Candidus, spent the evening in
parties of pleasure, and the morning in expedients to support his riots.
He was, however, dexterous and active in business: and his master, being
secured against any consequences of dishonesty, was very little
solicitous to inspect his manners, or to inquire how he passed those
hours, which were not immediately devoted to the business of his
profession: when he was informed of the young man's extravagance or
debauchery, "let his bondsman look to that," said he, "I have taken care
Thus the unhappy spendthrift proceeded from folly to folly, and from
vice to vice, with the connivance, if not the encouragement, of his
master; till in the heat of a nocturnal revel he committed such
violences in the street as drew upon him a criminal prosecution. Guilty
and unexperienced, he knew not what course to take; to confess his crime
to Candidus, and solicit his interposition, was little less dreadful
than to stand before the frown of a court of justice. Having, therefore,
Back to Full Books