« AnteriorContinuar »
that which he demands by the voice of reason, and into his hands let us peaceably surrender our souls.
Such are the liberal precepts which good sense dictates to every man, and which religion authorizes *. Let us apply these precepts to ourselves. You have condescended to disclose your mind to me; I am acquainted with your uneasiness; you do not endure less than myself; and your troubles , like mine, are incurable; and they are the more remediless, as the laws of honor aremore immutable than those of fortune. You bear them , I must confess, with fortitude. Virtue supports you; advance but one step farther, and she disengages you. You intreat me to suffer; my lord, I dare importune you to put an end to your sufferings; and I leave you to judge which of us is most dear to the other.
*'A strange letter this for the discussion of such a subject! Do men argue so coolly on a question of this nature, when they examine it on their own accounts? Is the letter a forgery, or does the author reason only with an intent to be refuted? What makes our opinion in this particular dubious, is the example of Robcck, which he cites, and which seems to war rant his own. Roheck deliberated so gravely that he had patience to write a book, a large, voluminous, weighty , and dispassionate book; and when he had concluded, according to his principles, that it was lawful to put an end to our being, he destroyed himself with the fame composure that he wrote. Let us beware of the prejudices of the times, and of particular countries. When suicide is out of fashion we conclude that none but madmen destroy themselves; and all the efforts of courage appear chimerical to dastardly minds; everyone judges of others by himself. Nevertheless, how many instances are there, well attested, of men, in every other respect perfectly discreet, who, without remorse, rage, or despair, have quitted life for no other reason than because it was a burden to them and have died with more composure than they lived?
Why should we delay doing that which we must do at last? shall we wait till old age and decrepit baseness attach us to life after they have robbed it of its charms, and till we are doomed to drag an infirm and decrepit body with labor and ignominy, and pain? We are at an age when the foul has vigor to disengage itself with ease from its shackles, and when a man knows how to die as he ought; when farther advanced in years, he suffers himself to be torn from life, which he quits with reluctance. Let us take advantage of this time, when the tedium of life makes death desirable ; and let us tremble for fear it should come in all its horrors, at the moment when we could willi to avoid it. I remember the time, when I prayed to heaven only for a single hour of life, and when I should have died in despair if it had not been granted. Ah! what a pain it is to burst asunder the ties which attach our hearts to this world , and how advisable it is to quit life the moment the connexion is broken! I am sensible, my lord, that we are both worthy of a purer mansion; virtue points it out, and destiny invites us to seek it. May the friendship which invites us preserve our union to the latest hour! O what a pleasure for two sincere friends voluntary to end their days in each other's arms, to intermingle their latest breath, and at the same instant to give up the foul which they shared in common! What pain, what regret can infect their last moments? What do they quit by taking leave of the world? They go together; they quit nothing.
H O U art distracted, my friend by a fatal passion; be more discreet: do not give counsel, whilst thou standest so much in need of advice. I have known greater evils than yours. I am armed with fortitude of mind; I am an Englishman , and not afraid to die; but I know how to live and suffer as becomes a man. I have seen death near at hand, and have viewed it with too much indifference to go in search of it.
It is true, I thought you might be of use to me; my affection stood in need of yours: your endeavours might have been serviceable to me; your understanding might have enlightened me in the most important concern of my life ; if I do not avail myself of it, who are you to impute it to? Where is it? What is become of it? What are you capable of? Of what use can you be in your present condition? What service can I expect from you? A senseless grief renders you stupid and unconcerned. Thou art no man; thou art nothing) and if I did not consider what thou mightest be, I cannot conceive any thing more abject.
There is need of no other proof than your letter itself. Formerly I could discover in your good sense and truth. Your sentiments were just, your reflections proper, and I liked you not only from judgment but choice; for I considered your influence as an additional motive to excite me to the study of wisdom. But what do I perceive now in the arguments of your letter, with which you appear to be so highly satisfied? A wretched and perpetual sophistry, which, in the erroneous deviations of your reason, shows the disorder of your mind, and which I would not stoop to refute, if I did not commiserate your delirium.
To subvert all your reasoning with one word, I would only ask you a single question. You who believe in the existence of a God, in the immortality of the soul, and in the free will of man, you surely cannot suppose that an intelligent being is embodied, and stationed on the earth by accident only, to exist', to suffer, and to die. It is certainly most probable that the life of man is not without some design, some end, some moral object. I entreat you to give me a direct answer to this point; after which we will deliberately examine your letter, and you will blush to have written it.
But let us wave all general maxims, about which we often hold violent disputes, without adopting any of them in practice; for in their applications we always find some particular circumstances which make such an alteration in the