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22, 188, 318, 347
221, 292, 324
• 56, 264
• Earth disappears, I mount to brighter skies.
HAT discontent seems to be compounded with
our natures, and inseparable from our very existence, is a just, though common, observation. If we take the philosopher's lanthorn in our hand, on a close and impartial survey of mankind, we shall hardly find a heart untainted with this evil. Ruminating on this subject, of late, I felt my spirits
so depressed, that nature gave way to repose, when, methought, I was employed by some superior power to seek out a contented man. My commission was of unbounded latitude, and it authorised me to interrogate all ranks and degrees, from the throne to the cottage.
With all due observance to the rules of precedence, I repaired to the palace, and announced my embassy to the monarch, dignified with the ivsignia of loyalty, and surrounded by guards and attendants innumerable. He informed me that happiness and contentoient were not his; that, as the father of his people, he participated in their sorrows, while he felt his own inability to alleviate all
their cares, or comply with all their desires; consequently, murmurings and dissatisfactions were diffused among them; internal divisions had weakened the bonds of society and external commotions were draining his revenues; that he could not distinguish between parasites and friends; that his pillow was planted with thorns, and the hair suspended dagger disturbed his peace of mind, amidst all the pomp of state, and the luxuries of the regal board.
I next opened my commission to the minister of state, wbose answer bore no small resemblance to that of his royal master. Placed at the helm of public affairs, to him every eye was raised and every petition preferred; he had to combat flattery and faction in all their various shapes ; to resist the allurements of power, to stem the tide of co ruption, and, after all his exertions, to reflect, that his best services had been exposed to censure, and had not answered the expectations of the multitude, because his abilities were not more than mortal.
The merchant told me, that, though he lived to-day in splendour and opulence, yet ill success on series of misfortunes in his commercial concerns, had cast a gloom over his brightest prospects, and, in all proba. bility, ere to-morrow evening, he should be whereas'd in the gazette, exposed to his connexions, and become an unwelcome dependant on those who at present looked up to him with respect, and paid him venal homage, because they thought his circumstances were fourishing, and his wealth almost inexhaustible.
I next appealed to the tradesman, observing, that he lived apparently in ease and comfort'; but he assured me that I could form no judgement of the cares which wrung his bosom; even the very articles with which he decorated his windows were held by the uncertain tenure of credit; that bad debts were constantly accumulating ; and that, above all, while bis affairs were declining, he was obliged to carry an appearance of respectability, which his circumstances could ill support, in order to avoid being treated with that contempt which is the constant attendant of adversity.
The substantial farmer next attracted my notice. He answered my interrogatories by complaint. He bade me consider the exorbitant rent of his lands, exacted with the greatest rigour, to supply the extravagance and luxury of an ambitious landlord; the badness of the seasons, the uncertainty of producc, aud the expenses of cultivation.
To the mechanic I next applied for information. He said, there was a time when, with the labour of his hands he was enabled to support his family; but those times were altered. War, the scourge of nations, had struck a fatal blow at trade, and even industry and ingenuity were of no avail.
To many other denominations I addressed myself, but every answer I received amounted to only the same import. I now turned from the scene of human evils with an aching heart, and utterly despairing of success, when a distant cottage caught my eye. It stood beneath the shelter of a spreading oak, and appeared to have been raised by hands long since mouldered into dust. The walls were clothed with ivy, and the roof covered with moss. On the south side of it were an extensive garden and orchard, and on the north, a long range of hills, at the foot of which a serpent tine river pursued its course through the saffron meadows beneath the solitary shade of overhanging wood. "This is a beautiful spot,'exclaimed I, but if content cannot be found in the spléndid mansion of luxury, it must be madness to seek it in the humble retreats of life.' Nevertheless, Ideemed I should have been unfaithful to my. trust, had' I omitted the least probable opportunity of obtaining the information: I sought. Impressed with this idea, I turned my steps towards the cottage; on entering, which, I observed a venerable old man, on whose head
"Age had shed his reverend snows. . The furniture of his apartment was simple, but not des. pisable; on the table lay a bible, open with his spectacles on one of the pages; and a few other books graced his shelves. He kindly rose to meet and introduce me, with a cheerful complacency of countenance, which, to my notions of phisiognomy, appeared truly expressive of the Christian Philosopher. Encouraged by his openness and affability, I frankly declared to him the occasion of my visit, to which I added some remarks on my ill success. At his desire 1 then seated myself beside him, on an ancient wainscot settee, and listened with pleasure to every sentence which fell from his lips. “If you have made an enquiry after Happiness,” said he, “ about which there have been so many enquiries, I could have told you that if you sought her on this side of thegrave, all your labours would have been in vain; but this is not the case with Content; it is the lot of a chosen few to know when they have a sufficiency of this world's goods, and to rest satis