Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

which she had inclosed a bond of annuity for a thousand crowns; defiring him, at the same time, never to see her more, and to forget, if possible, all past favours and familiarities. He was thunderstruck at receiving this message; and having tried, in vain, all the arts that might wini upon the refolution of a woman, resolved at last to attack her by her foible. He commences a law fuit against her before the parliament of Paris; and claims his fon, whom he pretends à right to educate as he pleased, according to the usual maxims of the law in such cases. She pleads, on the other hand, their express agreement before their commerce, and pretends that he had renounced all claim to any offfpring that might arise from their embraccs. It is not yet known, how the parliament will determine in this extraordinary case, which puzzles all the lawyers, as much as it does the philosophers. As soon as they come to any ifsue, I shall inform you of it, and shall embrace any opportunity of fubscribing myself, as I do at present,

Sir,
Your most humble servant,

[ocr errors][merged small]

No. I.

ESSAY VII.

OF THE MIDDLE STATION OF LIFE.

THE moral of the following fable will easily difcover itself, without my explaining it. One rivulet meeting another, with whom he had been long united in strictest amity, with noisy haughtiness and disdain thus bespoke him". What, brother! still in the fame state! Still low and creeping! Are you not ashamed, when you behold me, who, though lately in a like condition with you, am now become a great river, and shall shortly be able to rival the Danube or the Rhine, provided those friendly rains continue, which have favoured my banks, but neglected yours.”

“ Very true," replies the humble rivulet : “ You are now, indeed, swoln to a great size; but methinks you are become withal, somewhat turbulent and muddy. I am contented with my low condition and my purity."

Instead of commenting upon this fable, I shall take occasion from it to compare the different stations of life, and to persuade such of my readers as are placed in the middle station to be satisfied with it, as the most eligible of all others. These form the most numerous rank of men that can be supposed sus, ceptible of philofophy; and, therefore, all difcourses of morality ought principally to be address,

ed ed to them. The great are too much immersed in pleasure; and the poor too much occupied in providing for the necessities of life, to hearken to the calm voice of reason. The middle station, as it is most happy in many respects, so particularly in this, that a man, placed in it, can, with the greatest leisure, consider his own happiness, and reap a new enjoyment, from comparing his situation with that of persons above or below him.

Agur's prayer is sufficiently noted—“ Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die : remove far from me, vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me ; lest I be full and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord ? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” The middle station is here justly recommended, as affording the fullest security for virtue; and I may also add, that it gives opportunity for the most ample exercise of it, and furnishes employment for every good quality which we can possibly be poffeff. ed of. Those who are placed among the lower ranks of men, have little opportunity of exerting any other virtue, besides those of patience, resignation, industry, and integrity. Those who are advanced into the higher stations, have full employment for their generosity, humanity, affability, and charity. When a man lies betwixt these two extremes, he can exert the former virtues towards his superiors, and the latter towards his inferiors. Every moral quality, which the human soul iş

susceptible susceptible of, may have its turn, and be called up to action; and a man may, after this manner, be much more certain of his progress in virtue, than where his good qualities ļie dormant, and without employment.

But there is another virtue, that feems princi. pally to lye among equals, and is, for that reason, chiefly calculated for the middle station of life. This virtue is friendship. I believe most men of generous tempers are apt to envy the great, when they consider the large opportunities such persons have of doing good to their fellow-creatures, and of acquiring the friendship and esteem of men of merit. They make no advances in vain, and are mot obliged to associate with those whom they have little kindness for ; like people of inferior stations, who are fubject to have their proffers of friendship rejected, even where they would be most fond of placing their affections. But though the great have more facility in acquiring friendships, they cannot þe fo certain of the fincerity of them, as men of a lower rank; fince the favours they bestow may acquire them flattery, instead of goodwill and kind. mels. It has been very judiciously remarked, that we attach ourselves more by the fervices we perform than by those we receive, and that a man is in dan ger of losing his friends by obliging them too far. I thould, therefore, chule to lye in the middle way, and to have my commerce with my friend varied both by obligations given and received. I have tod much pride to be willing that all the obligations

should

should lye on my side ; and should be afraid, that, if they all lay on his, he would also have too much pride to be entirely easy under them, or have a per. fect complacency in my company.

[ocr errors]

We may also remark of the middle station of life, that it is more favourable to the acquiring of wisdom and ability, as well as of virtue, and that a man fo fituate has a better chance for attaining a knowledge both of men and things, than those of a more elevated station. He enters with more fa. miliarity into human life, and every thing appears in its natural colours before him : he has more leisure to form observations; and has, besides, the motive of ambition to push him on in his attainments ; being certain that he can never rise to any distinc. tion or eminence in the world, without his own industry. And here I cannot forbear communicating a remark, which may appear somewhat extraordinary, viz. That it is wisely ordained by Providence, that the middle station should be the most favourable to the improving our natural abilities, fince there is really more capacity requisite to perform the duties of that station, than is requisite to act in the higher spheres of life. There are more natural parts, and a stronger genius requisite to make a good lawyer or physician, than to make a great monarch. For let us take any race or succesa fion of kings, where birth alone gives a title to the crown: the English kings, for instance, who have not been esteemed the most shining in history. From the conquest to the succession of his present

Majesty,

« ZurückWeiter »