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crowded with tables, that dinner scarcely can be served; the parlour is decorated with so many piles of china, that I dare not step within the door; at every turn of the stairs I have a clock, and half the windows of the upper floors are darkened, that shelves may be set before them.
This, however, might be borne, if she would gratify her own inclinations without opposing mine. But I who am idle am luxurious, and she condemns me to live upon salt provision. She knows the loss of buying in small quantities, we have therefore whole hogs and quarters of oxen. Part of our meat is tainted before it is eaten, and part is thrown away because it is spoiled; but she persists in her system, and will never buy any thing by single pennyworths.
The common vice of those who are still grasping at more, is to neglect that which they already possess, but from this failing my charmer is free. It is the great care of her life that the pieces of beef should be boiled in the order in which they are bought; that the second bag of pease should not be opened till the first are eaten; that every feather-bed shall be lain on in its turn; that the carpets should be taken out of the chests once a month and brushed, and the rolls of linen opened now and then before the fire. She is daily inquiring after the best traps for mice, and keeps the rooms always scented by fumigations to destroy the moths. She employs workmen, from time to time, to adjust six clocks that never go, and clean five jacks that rust in the garret; and a woman in the next alley lives by
scouring the brass and pewter, which are only laid up to tarnish again.
She is always imagining some distant time in which she shall use whatever she accumulates : she has four looking-glasses which she cannot hang up in her house, but which will be handsome in more lofty rooms; and pays rent for the place of a vast copper in some warehouse, because when we live in the country we shall brew our own beer.
Of this life I have long been weary, but know not how to change it: all the married men whom I consult advise me to have patience; but some old bachelors are of opinion that since she loves sales so well, she should have a sale of her own ; and I have, I think, resolved to open her hoards, and advertise an auction.
I am, Sir,
NUMB. 36. SATURDAY, December 23, 1758.
The great differences that disturb the peace of mankind are not about ends, but means. We have all the same general desires, but how those desires shall be accomplished will for ever be disputed. The ultimate purpose of government is temporal, and that of religion is eternal happiness. Hitherto we agree; but here we must part, to try, according to the endless varieties of passion and understanding combined with one another, every possible form of government, and every imaginable tenet of religion.
We are told by Cumberland that rectitude, applied to action or contemplation, is merely metaphorical ; and that as a right line describes the shortest passage from point to point, so a right action effects a good design by the fewest means; and so likewise a right opinion is that which connects distant truths by the shortest train of intermediate propositions.
To find the nearest way from truth to truth, or from purpose to effect, not to use more instruments where fewer will be sufficient, not to move by wheels and levers what will give way to the naked hand, is the great proof of a healthful and vigorous mind, neither feeble with helpless ignorance, nor overburdened with unwieldy knowledge.
But there are men who seem to think nothing so much the characteristick of a genius, as to do common things in an uncommon manner ; like Hudibras, to tell the clock by algebra ; or like the lady in Dr.
Young's satires, to drink tea by stratagem; to quit the beaten track only because it is known, and take a new path, however crooked or rough, because the strait was found out before.
Every man speaks and writes with intent to be understood; and it can seldom happen but he that understands himself might convey his notions to another, if, content to be understood, he did not seek to be admired; but when once he begins to contrive how his sentiments may be received, not with most ease to his reader, but with most advantage to himself, he then transfers his consideration from words to sounds, from sentences to periods, and as he grows more elegant becomes less intelligible.
It is difficult to enumerate every species of authors whose labours counteract themselves; the man of exuberance and copiousness, who diffuses every thought through so many diversities of expression, that it is lost like water in a mist; the ponderous dictator of sentences, whose notions are delivered in the lump, and are, like uncoined bullion, of more weight than use; the liberal illustrator, who shews by examples and comparisons what was clearly seen when it was first proposed ; and the stately son of demonstration, who proves with mathematical formality what no man has yet pretended to doubt.
There is a mode of style for which I know not that the masters of oratory have yet found a name; a style by which the most evident truths are so obscured, that they can no longer be perceived, and the most familiar propositions so disguised that they cannot be known. Every other kind of eloquence
is the dress of sense; but this is the mask by which a true master of his art will so effectually conceal it, that a man will as easily mistake his own positions, if he meets them thus transformed, as he may pass in a masquerade his nearest acquaintance.
This style may be called the terrifick, for its chief intention is to terrify and amaze; it may be termed the repulsive, for its natural effect is to drive away the reader; or it may be distinguished, in plain English, by the denomination of the bugbear style; for it has more terror than danger, and will appear less formidable as it is more nearly approached.
A mother tells her infant, that two and two make four; the child remembers the proposition, and is able to count four to all the purposes of life, till the course of his education brings him among philosophers, who fright him from his former knowledge, by telling him, that four is a certain aggregate of units; that all numbers being only the repetition of an unit, which, though not a number itself, is the parent, root, or original of all number, four is the denomination assigned to a certain number of such repetitions. The only danger is, lest, when he first hears these dreadful sounds, the pupil should run away; if he has but the courage to stay till the conclusion, he will find that, when speculation has done its worst, two and two still make four.
An illustrious example of this species of eloquence may be found in “ Letters concerning Mind.” The author begins by declaring, that “the sorts of things are things that now are, have been, and shall be, and the things that strictly ARE.” In this position, except