ページの画像
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

at its highest rate when it is sacrificed to a frolick or
a jest.
Every man has daily occasion to remark what
vexations arise from this privilege of deceiving one
another. The active and vivacious have so long dis-
dained the restraints of truth, that promises and ap-
pointments have lost their cogency, and both parties
neglect their stipulations, because each concludes
that they will be broken by the other.
Negligence is first admitted in small affairs, and
strengthened by petty indulgences. He that is not
yet hardened by custom, ventures not on the viola-
tion of important engagements, but thinks himself
bound by his word in cases of property or danger,
though he allows himself to forget at what time he
is to meet ladies in the park, or at what tavern his
friends are expecting him.
This laxity of honour would be more tolerable, if
it could be restrained to the play-house, the ball-
room, or the card-table; yet even there it is suffi-
ciently troublesome, and darkens those moments
with expectation, suspense, and resentment, which
are set aside for pleasure, and from which we natu-
rally hope for unmingled enjoyment, and total re-
laxation. But he that suffers the slightest breach in

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

his morality, can seldom tell what shall enter it, or how wide it shall be made; when a passage is open, the influx of corruption is every moment wearing down opposition, and by slow degrees deluges the heart. Aliger entered the world a youth of lively imagination, extensive views, and untainted principles. His curiosity incited him to range from place to place, and try all the varieties of conversation; his elegance of address and fertility of ideas gained him friends wherever he appeared; or at least he found the general kindness of reception always shown to a young man whose birth and fortune give him a claim to notice, and who has neither by vice nor folly destroyed his privileges. Aliger was pleased with this general smile of mankind, and was industrious to preserve it by compliance and officiousness, but did not suffer his desire of pleasing to vitiate his integrity. It was his established maxim, that a promise is never to be broken; nor was it without long reluctance that he once suffered himself to be drawn away from a festal engagement by the importunity of another company. He spent the evening, as is usual in the rudiments of vice, in perturbation and imperfect enjoyment, and met his disappointed friends in the morning with confusion and excuses. His companions, not accustomed to such scrupulous anxiety, laughed at his uneasiness, compounded the offence for a bottle, gave him courage to break his word again, and again levied the penalty. He ventured the same experiment upon another society, and found them equally ready to consider it as a venial fault, always incident to a man of quickness and gaiety; till, by degrees, he began to think himself at liberty to follow the last invitation, and was no longer shocked at the turpitude of falsehood. He made no difficulty to promise his presence at distant places, and if listlessness happened to creep upon him, he would sit at home with great tranquillity, and has often sunk to sleep in a chair, while he held ten tables in continual

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic][graphic]

expectations of his entrance. It was so pleasant to live in perpetual vacancy, that he soon dismissed his attention as an useless incumbrance, and resigned himself to carelessness and dissipation, without any regard to the future or the past, or any other motive of action than the impulse of a sudden desire, or the attraction of immediate pleasure. The absent were immediately forgotten, and the hopes or fears felt by others, had no influence upon his conduct. He was in speculation completely just, but never kept his promise to a creditor; he was benevolent, but always deceived those friends whom he undertook to patronise or assist; he was prudent, but suffered his affairs to be embarrassed for want of regulating his accounts at stated times. He courted a young lady, and when the settlements were drawn, took a ramble into the country on the day appointed to sign them. He reSolved to travel, and sent his chests on shipboard, but delayed to follow them till he lost his passage. He was summoned as an evidence in a cause of great importance, and loitered on the way till the trial was past. It is said that when he had, with great expense, formed an interest in a borough, his opponent contrived, by some agents who knew his temper, to lure him away on the day of election. His benevolence draws him into the commission of a thousand crimes, which others less kind or civil would escape. His courtesy invites application; his promises produce dependance; he has his pockets filled with petitions, which he intends sometime to deliver and enforce, and his table covered with letters of request, with which he purposes to comply; but time slips imperceptibly away, while he is eitheridle or busy; his friends lose their opportunities, and charge upon him their miscarriages and calamities, This character, however contemptible, is not peculiar to Aliger. They whose activity of imagination is often shifting the scenes of expectation, are frequently subject to such sallies of caprice as make all their actions fortuitous, destroy the value of their friendship, obstruct the efficacy of their virtues, and set them below the meanest of those that persistin their resolutions, execute what they design, and perform what they have promised.

[graphic]
[graphic][graphic]
[graphic]
[ocr errors][merged small]

MONG those who have endeavoured to promote learning, and rectify judgment, it has been long customary to complain of the abuse of words, which are often admitted to signify things so different, that, instead of assisting the understanding as vehicles of knowledge, they produce errour, dissention, and perplexity, because what is affirmed in one sense, is received in another. If this ambiguity sometimes embarrasses the most Solemn controversies, and obscures the demonstrations of science, it may well be expected to infest the pompous periods of declaimers, whose purpose is often only to amuse with fallacies, and change the colours of truth and falsehood; or the musical compositions of poets, whose style is professedly figurative, and whose art is imagined to consist in distorting Words from their original meaning. There are few words of which the reader believes himself better to know the import, than of poverty; yet, whoever studies either the poets or philosophers, will find such an account of the condition expressed

by that term as his experience or observation will

[graphic]
« 前へ次へ »