The Works of Samuel Johnson

Part 5 out of 7

Sleep has often been mentioned as the image of
death[f]; "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.

[f] 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 etiam num 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.



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 Pha every thing round me. I shall proceed, therefore,
to finish my career, and pass as rapidly as possible
through the remaining vicissitudes of my life.

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 house keeper, or for a
longer time than three months.

It was yet not 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 own moderation.

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 soon be 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 cureae:
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 each other.

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,


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 had 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

------------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

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 of
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

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

"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

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 mind.

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

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 attainments.

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

[g] It may not be uninteresting to place in immediate comparison
with this finished paper its first rough draught as given in
Boswell, vol. i.
"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 centrifugal.

"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.
> Oi filoi, o filos>.

"Every man moves upon his own centre, and therefore repels others
from too near a contact, though he may comply with some general

Of confederacy with superiors every one knows the inconvenience.
With equals no authority;--every man his own opinion--his own

"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

Quincunque turpi fraude semel innotuit,
Etiamsi verum dicit, amittit fidem.

PHAED. Lib. i. Fab. x. 1.

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 truth."

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

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

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 dread punishment.

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.


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

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 girth.

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 publick 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 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 perfection.
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 apartments.

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

Sir, Your most humble servant,


No. 58. SATURDAY, MAY 25, 1753

Damnant guod non intelligunt. CIC.
They condemn what they do not understand.

EURIPIDES, having presented Socrates with
the writings of Heraclitus[h], 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

[h] 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 favourite project.

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

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
devastations of cities, and snatched up from the
wreck of nations; which those who fled before
barbarians have been careful to carry off in a 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 following lines:

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 book:

--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 Moecenas eques: ut paterni
Fluminis ripae, simul et jocosa
Redderet laudes tibi Vaticani
Montis imago.

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. Hon. 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 Spectator.

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 manner:

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. iii. El. ix.

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 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.

No. 62. SATURDAY, JUNE 9, 1753

Of fortuna viris, invida fortibus
Quam non aequa bonis praemia diridis. SENECA.

Capricious Fortune ever joys,
With partial hand to deal the prize,
To crush the brave and cheat the wise.



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 re-establish 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 of myself."

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, passed the day with anguish in
his heart and distraction in his looks, he seized at
night a very large sum of money in the compting-
house, and setting out he knew not whither, was
heard of no more.

The consequence of his flight was the ruin of
Candidus; ruin surely undeserved and irreproachable,
and such as the laws of a just government ought
either to prevent or repair: nothing is more inequitable
than that one man should suffer for the crimes
of another, for crimes which he neither prompted
nor permitted, which he could neither foresee nor
prevent. When we consider the weakness of human
resolutions and the inconsistency of human conduct,
it must appear absurd that one man shall engage for
another, that he will not change his opinions or alter
his conduct.

It is, I think, worthy of consideration, whether,
since no wager is binding without a possibility of loss
on each side, it is not equally reasonable, that no
contract should be valid without reciprocal stipulations;
but in this case, and others of the same kind, what
is stipulated on his side to whom the bond is given?
he takes advantage of the security, neglects his
affairs, omits his duty, suffers timorous wickedness to
grow daring by degrees, permits appetite to call for
new gratifications, and, perhaps, secretly longs for the
time in which he shall have power to seize the
forfeiture; and if virtue or gratitude should prove too
strong for temptation, and a young man persist in
honesty, however instigated by his passions, what
can secure him at last against a false accusation? I
for my part always shall suspect, that he who can
by such methods secure his property, will go one
step further to increase it; nor can I think that man
safely trusted with the means of mischief, who, by
his desire to have them in his hands, gives an
evident proof how much less he values his neighbour's
happiness than his own.

Another of our companions is Lentulus, a man
whose dignity of birth was very ill supported by
his fortune. As some of the first offices in the
kingdom were filled by his relations, he was early
invited to court, and encouraged by caresses and
promises to attendance and solicitation; a constant
appearance in splendid company necessarily
required magnificence of dress; and a frequent
participation of fashionable amusements forced him
into expense: but these measures were requisite
to his success; since every body knows, that to be
lost to sight is to be lost to remembrance, and that
he who desires to fill a vacancy, must be always at
hand, lest some man of greater vigilance should
step in before him.

By this course of life his little fortune was every
day made less: but he received so many distinctions
in publick, and was known to resort so familiarly
to the houses of the great, that every man looked
on his preferment as certain, and believed that its
value would compensate for its slowness: he, therefore,
found no difficulty in obtaining credit for all
that his rank or his vanity made necessary: and, as
ready payment was not expected, the bills were
proportionably enlarged, and the value of the hazard
or delay was adjusted solely by the equity of
the creditor. At length death deprived Lentulus
of one of his patrons, and a revolution in the
ministry of another; so that all his prospects vanished
at once, and those that had before encouraged his
expenses, began to perceive that their money was
in danger; there was now no other contention but
who should first seize upon his person, and, by
forcing immediate payment, deliver him up naked
to the vengeance of the rest. In pursuance of this
scheme, one of them invited him to a tavern, and
procured him to be arrested at the door; but Lentulus,
instead of endeavouring secretly to pacify him
by payment, gave notice to the rest, and offered to
divide amongst them the remnant of his fortune:
they feasted six hours at his expense, to deliberate
on his proposal; and at last determined, that as he
could not offer more than five shillings in the pound,
it would be more prudent to keep him in prison,
till he could procure from his relations the payment
of his debts.

Lentulus is not the only man confined within
these walls, on the same account: the like procedure,
upon the like motives, is common among men whom
yet the law allows to partake the use of fire and water
with the compassionate and the just; who frequent
the assemblies of commerce in open day, and talk
with detestation and contempt of highwaymen or
housebreakers: but, surely, that man must be confessedly
robbed, who is compelled, by whatever means,
to pay the debts which he does not owe: nor can I
look with equal hatred upon him, who, at the hazard
of his life, holds out his pistol and demands my
purse, as on him who plunders under shelter of the
law, and by detaining my son or my friend in prison,
extorts from me the price of their liberty. No
man can be more an enemy to society than he, by
whose machinations our virtues are turned to our
disadvantage; he is less destructive to mankind
that plunders cowardice, than he that preys upon

I believe, Mr. Adventurer, you will readily
confess, that though not one of these, if tried before a
commercial judicature, can be wholly acquitted from
imprudence or temerity; yet that, in the eye of all
who can consider virtue as distinct from wealth, the
fault of two of them, at least, is outweighed by the
merit; and that of the third is so much extenuated
by the circumstances of his life, as not to deserve a
perpetual prison: yet must these, with multitudes
equally blameless, languish in confinement, till
malevolence shall relent, or the law be changed.

I am, Sir,

Your humble servant,


No. 67. TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 1753

Inventas----vitam excoluere per artes.

VIRG. AEn. vi. 663.

They polish life by useful arts.

THAT familiarity produces neglect, has been
long observed. The effect of all external objects,
however great or splendid, ceases with their novelty;
the courtier stands without emotion in the royal
presence: the rustick tramples under his foot the
beauties of the spring with little attention to their
colours or their fragrance; and the inhabitant of the
coast darts his eye upon the immense diffusion of
waters, without awe, wonder, or terrour.

Those who have past much of their lives in this
great city, look upon its opulence and its multitudes,
its extent and variety, with cold indifference; but an
inhabitant of the remoter parts of the kingdom is
immediately distinguished by a kind of dissipated
curiosity, a busy endeavour to divide his attention
amongst a thousand objects, and a wild confusion of
astonishment and alarm.

The attention of a new comer is generally first
struck by the multiplicity of cries that stun him in
the streets, and the variety of merchandize and
manufactures which the shopkeepers expose on
every hand; and he is apt, by unwary bursts of
admiration, to excite the merriment and contempt
of those who mistake the use of their eyes for effects
of their understanding, and confound accidental
knowledge with just reasoning.

But, surely, these are subjects on which any man
may without reproach employ his meditations: the
innumerable occupations, among which the thousands
that swarm in the streets of London, are distributed,
may furnish employment to minds of every
cast, and capacities of every degree. He that
contemplates the extent of this wonderful city, finds it
difficult to conceive, by what method plenty is
maintained in our markets, and how the inhabitants are
regularly supplied with the necessaries of life; but
when he examines the shops and warehouses, sees
the immense stores of every kind of merchandize
piled up for sale, and runs over all the manufactures
of art and products of nature, which are every where
attracting his eye and soliciting his purse, he will be
inclined to conclude, that such quantities cannot
easily be exhausted, and that part of mankind must
soon stand still for want of employment, till the wares
already provided shall be worn out and destroyed.

As Socrates was passing through the fair at Athens,
and casting his eyes over the shops and customers,
"how many things are here," says he, "that
I do not want!" The same sentiment is every
moment rising in the mind of him that walks the streets
of London, however inferior in philosophy to
Socrates: he beholds a thousand shops crowded with
goods, of which he can scarcely tell the use, and
which, therefore, he is apt to consider as of no value:
and indeed, many of the arts by which families are
supported, and wealth is heaped together, are of that
minute and superfluous kind, which nothing but
experience could evince possible to be prosecuted with
advantage, and which, as the world might easily
want, it could scarcely be expected to encourage.

But so it is, that custom, curiosity, or
wantonness, supplies every art with patrons, and finds
purchasers for every manufacture; the world is so
adjusted, that not only bread, but riches may be
obtained without great abilities or arduous
performances: the most unskilful hand and unenlightened
mind have sufficient incitements to industry; for
he that is resolutely busy, can scarcely be in want.
There is, indeed, no employment, however despicable,
from which a man may not promise himself
more than competence, when he sees thousands and
myriads raised to dignity, by no other merit than
that of contributing to supply their neighbours with
the means of sucking smoke through a tube of clay;
and others raising contributions upon those, whose
elegance disdains the grossness of smoky luxury, by
grinding the same materials into a powder that may
at once gratify and impair the smell.

Not only by these popular and modish trifles,
but by a thousand unheeded and evanescent kinds
of business, are the multitudes of this city preserved
from idleness, and consequently from want. In the
endless variety of tastes and circumstances that
diversify mankind, nothing is so superfluous, but that
some one desires it: or so common, but that some
one is compelled to buy it. As nothing is useless
but because it is in improper hands, what is thrown
away by one is gathered up by another; and the
refuse of part of mankind furnishes a subordinate
class with the materials necessary to their support.

When I look round upon those who are thus
variously exerting their qualifications, I cannot but
admire the secret concatenation of society that links
together the great and the mean, the illustrious
and the obscure; and consider with benevolent
satisfaction, that no man, unless his body or mind be
totally disabled, has need to suffer the mortification
of seeing himself useless or burthensome to the
community: he that will diligently labour, in whatever
occupation, will deserve the sustenance which
he obtains, and the protection which he enjoys; and
may lie down every night with the pleasing
consciousness of having contributed something to the
happiness of life.

Contempt and admiration are equally incident to
narrow minds: he whose comprehension can take
in the whole subordination of mankind, and whose
perspicacity can pierce to the real state of things
through the thin veils of fortune or of fashion, will
discover meanness in the highest stations, and dignity
in the meanest; and find that no man can become
venerable but by virtue, or contemptible but
by wickedness.

In the midst of this universal hurry, no man
ought to be so little influenced by example, or so
void of honest emulation, as to stand a lazy spectator
of incessant labour; or please himself with the
mean happiness of a drone, while the active swarms
are buzzing about him: no man is without some
quality, by the due application of which he might
deserve well of the world; and whoever he be that
has but little in his power, should be in haste to do
that little, lest he be confounded with him that can
do nothing.

By this general concurrence of endeavours, arts
of every kind have been so long cultivated, that all
the wants of man may be immediately supplied;
idleness can scarcely form a wish which she may not
gratify by the toil of others, or curiosity dream of a
toy, which the shops are not ready to afford her.

Happiness is enjoyed only in proportion as it is
known; and such is the state or folly of man, that
it is known only by experience of its contrary: we
who have long lived amidst the conveniences of a
town immensely populous, have scarce an idea of a
place where desire cannot be gratified by money.
In order to have a just sense of this artificial plenty,
it is necessary to have passed some time in a distant
colony, or those parts of our island which are thinly
inhabited: he that has once known how many trades
every man in such situations is compelled to
exercise, with how much labour the products of nature
must be accommodated to human use, how long
the loss or defect of any common utensil must be
endured, or by what awkward expedients it must
be supplied, how far men may wander with money
in their hands before any can sell them what they
wish to buy, will know how to rate at its proper
value the plenty and ease of a great city.

But that the happiness of man may still remain
imperfect, as wants in this place are easily supplied,
new wants likewise are easily created; every man,
in surveying the shops of London, sees numberless
instruments and conveniences, of which, while he
did not know them, he never felt the need; and yet,
when use has made them familiar, wonders how life
could be supported without them. Thus it comes to
pass, that our desires always increase with our
possessions; the knowledge that something remains yet
unenjoyed, impairs our enjoyment of the good before us.

They who have been accustomed to the refinements
of science, and multiplications of contrivance,
soon lose their confidence in the unassisted powers
of nature, forget the paucity of our real necessities,
and overlook the easy methods by which they may
be supplied. It were a speculation worthy of a
philosophical mind, to examine how much is taken away
from our native abilities, as well as added to them,
by artificial expedients. We are so accustomed to
give and receive assistance, that each of us singly
can do little for himself; and there is scarce any one
among us, however contracted may be his form of
life, who does not enjoy the labour of a thousand

But a survey of the various nations that inhabit
the earth will inform us, that life may be supported
with less assistance; and that the dexterity, which
practice enforced by necessity produces, is able to
effect much by very scanty means. The nations of
Mexico and Peru erected cities and temples with
out the use of iron; and at this day the rude Indian
supplies himself with all the necessaries of life: sent
like the rest of mankind naked into the world, as
soon as his parents have nursed him up to strength,
he is to provide by his own labour for his own support.
His first care is to find a sharp flint among the
rocks; with this he undertakes to fell the trees of
the forest; he shapes his bow, heads his arrows,
builds his cottage, and hollows his canoe, and from
that time lives in a state of plenty and prosperity;
he is sheltered from the storms, he is fortified against
beasts of prey, he is enabled to pursue the fish of
the sea, and the deer of the mountains; and as he
does not know, does not envy the happiness of
polished nations, where gold can supply the want of
fortitude and skill, and he whose laborious ancestors
have made him rich, may lie stretched upon a couch,
and see all the treasures of all the elements poured
down before him.

This picture of a savage life if it shows how much
individuals may perform, shows likewise how much
society is to be desired. Though the perseverance
and address of the Indian excite our admiration,
they nevertheless cannot procure him the conveniences
which are enjoyed by the vagrant beggar of a
civilized country: he hunts like a wild beast to
satisfy his hunger; and when he lies down to rest after
a successful chase, cannot pronounce himself secure
against the danger of perishing in a few days: he is,
perhaps, content with his condition, because he
knows not that a better is attainable by man; as he
that is born blind does not long for the perception
of light, because he cannot conceive the advantages
which light would afford him; but hunger, wounds,
and weariness, are real evils, though he believes
them equally incident to all his fellow-creatures;
and when a tempest compels him to lie starving in
his hut, he cannot justly be concluded equally happy
with those whom art has exempted from the power
of chance, and who make the foregoing year provide
for the following.

To receive and to communicate assistance,
constitutes the happiness of human life: man may, indeed,
preserve his existence in solitude, but can enjoy it
only in society; the greatest understanding of an
individual, doomed to procure food and clothing
for himself, will barely supply him with expedients
to keep off death from day to day; but as one of a
large community performing only his share of the
common business, he gains leisure for intellectual
pleasures, and enjoys the happiness of reason and

No. 69. TUESDAY, JULY 3, 1753

Fereoe libenter homines id quod volunt credunt. CAESAR.

Men willingly believe what they wish to be true.

TULLY has long ago observed, that no man,
however weakened by long life, is so conscious
of his own decrepitude, as not to imagine that he
may yet hold his station in the world for another year.

Of the truth of this remark every day furnishes new
confirmation: there is no time of life, in which men
for the most part seem less to expect the stroke of
death, than when every other eye sees it impending;
or are more busy in providing for another year,
than when it is plain to all but themselves, that at
another year they cannot arrive. Though every
funeral that passes before their eyes evinces the
deceitfulness of such expectations, since every man who is
born to the grave thought himself equally certain of
living at least to the next year; the survivor still
continues to flatter himself, and is never at a loss for
some reason why his life should be protracted, and
the voracity of death continue to be pacified with
some other prey.
But this is only one of the innumerable artifices
practised in the universal conspiracy of mankind
against themselves: every age and every condition
indulges some darling fallacy; every man amuses
himself with projects which he knows to be improbable,
and which, therefore, he resolves to pursue
without daring to examine them. Whatever any man
ardently desires, he very readily believes that he shall
some time attain: he whose intemperance has
overwhelmed him with diseases, while he languishes in
the spring, expects vigour and recovery from the
summer sun; and while he melts away in the summer,
transfers his hopes to the frosts of winter: he
that gazes upon elegance or pleasure, which want of
money hinders him from imitating or partaking,
comforts himself that the time of distress will soon
be at an end, and that every day brings him nearer
to a state of happiness; though he knows it has passed
not only without acquisition of advantage, but perhaps
without endeavours after it, in the formation
of schemes that cannot be executed, and in the
contemplation of prospects which cannot be approached.

Such is the general dream in which we all slumber
out our time: every man thinks the day coming, in
which he shall be gratified with all his wishes, in
which he shall leave all those competitors behind,
who are now rejoicing like himself in the expectation
of victory; the day is always coming to the servile
in which they shall be powerful, to the obscure
in which they shall be eminent, and to the deformed
in which they shall be beautiful.

If any of my readers has looked with so little
attention on the world about him, as to imagine this
representation exaggerated beyond probability, let
him reflect a little upon his own life; let him
consider what were his hopes and prospects ten years
ago, and what additions he then expected to be made
by ten years to his happiness; those years are now
elapsed; have they made good the promise that was
extorted from them? have they advanced his fortune,
enlarged his knowledge, or reformed his conduct,
to the degree that was once expected? I am
afraid, every man that recollects his hopes must
confess his disappointment; and own that day has glided
unprofitably after day, and that he is still at the same
distance from the point of happiness.

With what consolations can those, who have thus
miscarried in their chief design, elude the memory
of their ill success? with what amusements can they
pacify their discontent, after the loss of so large a
portion of life? they can give themselves up again
to the same delusions, they can form new schemes
of airy gratifications, and fix another period of
felicity; they can again resolve to trust the promise
which they know will be broken, they can walk in a
circle with their eyes shut, and persuade themselves
to think that they go forward.

Of every great and complicated event, part
depends upon causes out of our power, and part must
be effected by vigour and perseverance. With regard
to that which is styled in common language the
work of chance, men will always find reasons for
confidence or distrust, according to their different
tempers or inclinations; and he that has been long
accustomed to please himself with possibilities of
fortuitous happiness, will not easily or willingly be
reclaimed from his mistake. But the effects of human
industry and skill are more easily subjected to
calculation: whatever can be completed in a year, is
divisible into parts, of which each may be performed
in the compass of a day; he, therefore, that has
passed the day without attention to the task assigned
him, may be certain, that the lapse of life
has brought him no nearer to his object; for
whatever idleness may expect from time, its produce
will be only in proportion to the diligence with
which it has been used. He that floats lazily down
the stream, in pursuit of something borne along by
the same current, will find himself indeed move
forward; but unless he lays his hand to the oar, and
increases his speed by his own labour, must be always
at the same distance from that which he is

There have happened in every age some
contingencies of unexpected and undeserved success, by
which those who are determined to believe whatever
favours their inclinations, have been encouraged
to delight themselves with future advantages; they
support confidence by considerations, of which the
only proper use is to chase away despair: it is equally
absurd to sit down in idleness because some have
been enriched without labour, as to leap a precipice
because some have fallen and escaped with life, or
to put to sea in a storm because some have been
driven from a wreck upon the coast to which they
are bound.

We are all ready to confess, that belief ought to
be proportioned to evidence or probability: let any
man, therefore, compare the number of those who
have been thus favoured by fortune, and of those
who have failed of their expectations, and he will
easily determine, with what justness he has registered
himself in the lucky catalogue.

But there is no need on these occasions for deep
inquiries or laborious calculations; there is a far
easier method of distinguishing the hopes of folly
from those of reason, of finding the difference
between prospects that exist before the eyes, and
those that are only painted on a fond imagination.
Tom Drowsy had accustomed himself to compute
the profit of a darling project till he had no longer
any doubt of its success; it was at last matured by
close consideration, all the measures were accurately
adjusted, and he wanted only five hundred pounds
to become master of a fortune that might be envied
by a director of a trading company. Tom was
generous and grateful, and was resolved to
recompense this small assistance with an ample fortune;
he, therefore, deliberated for a time, to whom
amongst his friends he should declare his necessities;
not that he suspected a refusal, but because
he could not suddenly determine which of them
would make the best use of riches, and was,
therefore, most worthy of his favour. At last his choice
was settled; and knowing that in order to borrow
he must shew the probability of repayment, he
prepared for a minute and copious explanation of his
project. But here the golden dream was at an end:
he soon discovered the impossibility of imposing
upon others the notions by which he had so long
imposed upon himself; which way soever he turned
his thoughts, impossibility and absurdity arose in
opposition on every side; even credulity and prejudice
were at last forced to give way, and he grew
ashamed of crediting himself what shame would
not suffer him to communicate to another.

To this test let every man bring his imaginations,
before they have been too long predominant in his
mind. Whatever is true will bear to be related,
whatever is rational will endure to be explained;
but when we delight to brood in secret over future
happiness, and silently to employ our meditations
upon schemes of which we are conscious that the
bare mention would expose us to derision and
contempt; we should then remember, that we are
cheating ourselves by voluntary delusions; and
giving up to the unreal mockeries of fancy, those hours
in which solid advantages might be attained by
sober thought and rational assiduity.

There is, indeed, so little certainty in human
affairs, that the most cautious and severe examiner
may be allowed to indulge some hopes which he
cannot prove to be much favoured by probability;
since, after his utmost endeavours to ascertain events,
he must often leave the issue in the hands of chance.
And so scanty is our present allowance of happiness,
that in many situations life could scarcely be
supported, if hope were not allowed to relieve the
present hour by pleasures borrowed from futurity;
and reanimate the languor of dejection to new
efforts, by pointing to distant regions of felicity, which
yet no resolution or perseverance shall ever reach.

But these, like all other cordials, though they may
invigorate in a small quantity, intoxicate in a greater;
these pleasures, like the rest, are lawful only in
certain circumstances, and to certain degrees; they may
be useful in a due subserviency to nobler purposes,
but become dangerous and destructive when once
they gain the ascendant in the heart: to soothe the
mind to tranquillity by hope, even when that hope
is likely to deceive us, may be sometimes useful;
but to lull our faculties in a lethargy is poor and

Vices and errours are differently modified,
according to the state of the minds to which they are
incident; to indulge hope beyond the warrant of
reason, is the failure alike of mean and elevated
understandings; but its foundation and its effects are
totally different: the man of high courage and great
abilities is apt to place too much confidence in
himself, and to expect, from a vigorous exertion of his
powers, more than spirit or diligence can attain:
between him and his wish he sees obstacles indeed, but
he expects to overleap or break them; his mistaken
ardour hurries him forward; and though, perhaps,
he misses his end, he nevertheless obtains some
collateral good, and performs something useful to
mankind, and honourable to himself.

The drone of timidity presumes likewise to hope,
but without ground and without consequence; the
bliss with which he solaces his hours he always
expects from others, though very often he knows not
from whom: he folds his arms about him, and sits
in expectation of some revolution in the state that
shall raise him to greatness, or some golden shower
that shall load him with wealth; he dozes away the
day in musing upon the morrow; and at the end of
life is roused from his dream only to discover that
the time of action is past, and that he can now shew
his wisdom only by repentance.

No. 74. SATURDAY, JULY 21, 1753
Insansientis dum sapientiae
Consultus erro.---- HOR. Lib. i. Od. xxxiv. 2.

I missed my end, and lost my way
By crack-brain'd wisdom led astray.



IT has long been charged by one part of mankind
upon the other, that they will not take advice;
that counsel and instruction are generally thrown
away; and that, in defiance both of admonition and
example, all claim the right to choose their own
measures, and to regulate their own lives.

That there is something in advice very useful and
salutary, seems to be equally confessed on all hands:
since even those that reject it, allow for the most
part that rejection to be wrong, but charge the fault
upon the unskilful manner in which it is given: they
admit the efficacy of the medicine, but abhor the
nauseousness of the vehicle.

Thus mankind have gone on from century to
century: some have been advising others how to act,
and some have been teaching the advisers how to
advise; yet very little alteration has been made in
the world. As we must all by the law of nature enter
life in ignorance, we must all make our way through
it by the light of our own experience; and for any
security that advice has been yet able to afford,
must endeavour after success at the hazard of
miscarriage, and learn to do right by venturing to do

By advice I would not be understood to mean,
the everlasting and invariable principles of moral and
religious truth, from which no change of external
circumstances can justify any deviation; but such
directions as respect merely the prudential part of
conduct, and which may be followed or neglected
without any violation of essential duties.

It is, indeed, not so frequently to make us good
as to make us wise, that our friends employ the
officiousness of counsel; and among the rejectors of
advice, who are mentioned by the grave and sententious
with so much acrimony, you will not so often
find the vicious and abandoned, as the pert and the
petulant, the vivacious and the giddy.

As the great end of female education is to get a
husband, this likewise is the general subject of
female advice: and the dreadful denunciation against
those volatile girls, who will not listen patiently to
the lectures of wrinkled wisdom, is, that they will
die unmarried, or throw themselves away upon some
worthless fellow, who will never be able to keep
them a coach.

I being naturally of a ductile and easy temper,
without strong desires or quick resentments, was


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