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I have often and deeply reflected how far this state of existence is in right of itself capable of happiness; and what are the circumstances which afford the best chance of attaining it; and I am firmly convinced that the description given by Martial of the ingredients most conducive to it, is founded not merely in the dreams of a poet's fancy, but in solid and unalterable truth.
The great difficulty is the concurrence of the ingredient, which is least likely to be combined with the rest, but without which all the rest are vain :
“ Quod sis, esse velis; nihilque malis."
Unless a man knows how to value such a lot; unless he is thoroughly aware of the emptiness or the perplexities of wealth, and grandeur, and rank, and power ; as long as he is dazzled by show, or sighs after distinction; the moderate pleasures with, in his reach will appear insipid and dull.
To see so large a portion of mankind pass by, unheeded, the very exquisite enjoyments, which offer themselves to their embrace, in pursuit of the most delusive phantoms, which they are seeking at the expense of ease, virtue, health, fortune, and reputation, is indeed amongst the most deplorable proofs of our fallen nature. To rise of a morning with a head unburthened with perplexing business,
and a heart unclouded with care ; to behold, as the sun pierces through the mistiness of the dawn, the scenes of nature opening before us in dewy brilliance; to be at liberty to wander uncontrolled amid this beautiful landscape, and, while exercise strengthens and braces the body, to inhale freshness and exquisite odours, and exhilarating spirits, from the pure airs of heaven, is not mere negative happiness, but rapture and enchantment! From hence to return home, even to a straw-roofed cottage, where there is neatness, and competence, and peace; and a book, and a virtuous friend, of a cultivated mind, to meet one ; is only a variety, and not a diminution, of the day's pleasure. The sacred charm of innocence, instead of leaving the sting of regret in the recollection of the past, adds, on reflection, to the poignancy of the enjoyment; and the corporeal frame, healthy from its own habits, and untouched by mental uneasiness, becomes attuned to sensations of happiness, such as almost lift it above humanity!
I am as sure, as I am of any human truth, that grandeur and ambition at the very moment of attaining their utmost wishes, never felt pleasures, which, even in a worldly point of view, could bear a comparison with these cheap and innocent occupations ! Occupations, in the power of thousands,
and tens of thousands, who desert them for the paths of bitterness, disappointment, disgrace, crime, and eternal misery!
But, alas ! the rarest of all earthly attainments is content! It seems to be one of the most radical defects of our frail nature. We cannot bear to see our neighbours mounted over our heads; we cannot bear to see bloated Greatness look down upon us with neglect and scorn; when we ought to consider the robe of office that covers the insignificant, and the coronet which encircles the brows of the weak, as nothing more than the fool's cloak and cap, which point him out more distinctly to the contempt of the world. It must be confessed, indeed, that there are times, when the best regulated minds cannot entirely restrain their indignation on this subject. Never perhaps did the period exist in this country, when these abuses were carried so far, as they have lately been. Upstarts of the most offensive sort have been obtruded into too many high offices, and decked out with too many unmerited distinctions, which have enabled them to insult men, their superiors as well in all the gifts of nature, as in all those artificial claims which have hitherto been recognised by the wisdom of human institutions. These men, even where they have been blessed with native genius, have uniformly been inebriated with the fumes of sudden prosperity, and belied the honourable expectations, which they had raised. In truth, they are so engrossed with themselves, that they have no conception of any pretensions but their own. But these circumstances, though they may palliate, can by no means justify, the disturbance of that peace of mind, which becomes true wisdom, and true virtue !
There is, however, a species of celebrity, which it is not unbecoming a well-attempered disposition to seek. I mean the fame, which is merited by eminence in literature; miore especially by the sublime efforts of poetry. This pursuit is not inconsistent with that station and those habits, which Martial describes as affording the best probability of happiness here; but, on the contrary, would be most cherished by them. Anxieties 'never cease to embitter the pillow of greatness; a large retinue, a crowd of dependants, surround it with intrigues and troubles; calumny, envy, and malice are constantly at work ; luxury enfeebles the constitution; idleness weakens the mind; and while all in this world appears but the vanity of vanities, the hopes of the next grow fainter and fainter, for the sake of delusions, from which the unhappy victim is yet too feeble to extricate himself.
O how I sigh for the enviable state, so beautifully delineated by the poet; and in the first place
“ Lis nunquam, toga rara, mens quieta;"
that toga, from which I turn with such unfeigned abhorrence; which covers a heart, so restless, so feverish, so artificial; and is surmounted by a head 80 full of quips, and quirks, and sophistry, and so occupied in groveling labours, when it might aspire to speculations which would exalt, it in the ranks of intellectual existence! To behold a crowd of law. yers, in a narrow and heated court breathing pestilence and poison, with wan looks, sallow cheeks, and distracted countenances, insisting with artificial energy on some technical nonsense subversive of wisdom, justice, and equity, is a spectacle, from which I early filed with unconquerable disgust. What wise man would for a moment exchange for it the lot of the poor and uncultivated ploughman, whom I have heard, in the exuberance of his heartfelt joy, make the echoes rebound with his voice, as I have seen him, in a cold drizzling morning of December, striking his furrow in distant fields, far amid solitary woodlands, and remote from all that is deemed the gaiety of life!
The heart, that has lost its zest for the scenery of Nature, that is untouched by the simplest pleasures, however harsh the designation may seem, is depraved! A walk, a ride, in the open air, at a distance from towns, and a return to the most unostentatious cottage, where only competence, and cleanliness, and peace preside, offers to a virtuous