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like a solitude haunted by the ghosts of all your“ departed friends.
The misfortune too is, that amidst the avocations of disagreeable mere mortal business of preparing for a journey, they can only just glide by you, and give you no idea but of their loss. When you are quietly reposing in the shades of Lucan, your imagination will be at full leisure to stop the fleeting phantoms, and converse with them at your ease.
You say that Mr. Vesey still talks of returning after Christmas. If he should continue in this determination, I hope you will not put any discouragement on this near hope, for the sake of a more distant prospect. Consider, my dear friend, that at your age and mine, the more immediate good is the most valuable; and we can reasonably place but little dependance on any remote hopes, except those which extend beyond the circuit of the sun.
I take it for granted that by after Christmas Mr. Vesey means immediately after; for your friends would think themselves grievously defrauded, if you did not visit them till spring. No: I must hope, my dear Mrs. Vesey, that we shall enjoy the delightful social hours of winter together; not like the soi disant philosophers whom you mention, puzzling plain truth by the vanity of perplexed system, but conversing with the simplicity of an honest heart, regulated by rigid principles, and enlivened by the playfulness of an innocent imagination.
I am flattered to find that I agree with Mr. Burke. Yes : ask your own heart; and it will tell you, what is the rule of life that best directs it to grow wise and good. Be thankful for this gracious guidance, and never listen to the half learning, the perverted understanding, and pert ridicule of French philosophers, and beaux esprits, who would persuade
it is best to wander over a wide stormy ocean, without a pilot, and without a leading star!": No XXIV.
On the Pleasures of Reading.
The contempt of many of the innocent trifles of life, which the generality of the world betray, arises fiom the weakness and narrowness, and not from the superiority, of their understandings. Most of the empty baubles, which mankind pursue as objects of high consideration, are suffered to eclipse those simple amusements which are in no respect less important, and which are so far more valuable as they are more compatible with purity of heart and conduct !
It is from an undue estimate of the points of ordinary ambition, that health, liberty, carelessness of mind, and ease of conscience are sacrificed to the attainment of distinctions, which in the opinion of the truly wise are mere vanity. A just appreciation on the contrary will deem every pursuit, that affords amusement without derogating from virtue, praiseworthy.
Of all the human relaxations which are free from guilt, perhaps there is none so dignified as reading. It is no little good to while away the tediousness of existence in a gentle and harmless
Exercise of the intellectual faculties. If we build castles in the air that vanish as quickly as the passing clouds, still some beneficial result has been obtained; some hours of weariness have been stolen from us; and probably some cares have been robbed of their sting
I do not here mean to discuss the scale of excellence among the various studies that books afford. It is my purpose to shew that even the most trifling books, which give harmless pleasure, produce a good far exceeding what the world ascribes to more high-sounding Occupations.
When we recollect of how many it is the lot, even against choice, to pass their days in solitude, how admirable is the substitute for conversation, which the powers of genius and arts of printing bestow !
I have made these observations for the purpose of introducing the following very excellent Letter of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to her daughter, Lady Bute.
“ Louvre, Sept. 30. 1757. Daughter! Daughter! don't call names; you are always abusing my pleasures, which is what no mortal will bear. Trash, lumber, sad stuff, are the titles you give to my favourite amusement. If I called a white staff a stick of wood, a gold key
gilded brass, and the ensigns of illustrious ordery coloured strings, this may be philosophically true; but would be very ill received. We have all our playthings; happy are they that can be contented with those they can obtain: those hours are spent in the wisest manner that can easiest shade the ills. of life, and are the least productive of ill consequences. I think my time better employed in reading the adventures of imaginary people, than the Duchess of Marlborough, who passed the latter years of her life in paddling with her will, and contriving schemes of plaguing some, and extracting praise from others to no purpose; eternally disappointed, and eternally fretting. The active scenes are over at my age. I indulge, with all the art I čan, my taste for reading. If I could confine it to valuable books, they are almost as rare as valuable men. I must be content with what I can find. As I approach a second childhood, I endeavour to enter into the pleasures of it. Your youngest son is, perhaps, at this very moment riding on a .poker with great delight, not at all regretting that it is not a gold one,
and much less wishing it an Arabian horse, which he could not know how to manage ; I am reading an idle tale, not expecting wit or truth in it, and am very glad it is not metaphysics to puzzle my judgment, or history to mislead my opinion: he fortifies his health by exercise; I calm