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THE great secret of succeeding in conversation is, to admire little, to hear much; always to distrust our own reason, and sometimes that of our friends; never to pretend to wit, but to make that of others appear as much as possibly we can; to hearken to what is said, and to answer to the purpose.
In vain are musty morals taught in schools,
Where virtue with a frowning aspect stands,
Charming woman can true converts make,
PROPOSALS AND QUERIES
FOR THE CONSIDERATION OF THE JUNTO."
THAT P. S. and A. N. be immediately invited into the Junto.
That all new members be qualified by the four qualifications, and all the old ones take
That these queries, copied at the beginning of a book, be read distinctly at each meeting; a pause be
*For an account of the JUNTO, see above, p. 9. The Queries appear to have been the author's first thoughts, written down without regard to method, and in parts are unfinished.
tween each, while one might fill and drink a glass of wine.
That, if they cannot be gone through in one night, we begin the next where we left off; only such as particularly regard the Junto to be read every night.
That it be not hereafter the duty of any member to bring queries, but left to his discretion.
That an old declamation be read without fail every night, when there is no new one.
That Mr. Brientnal's poem on the Junto be read once a month, and hummed in concert by as many as can hum it.
That, in spring, summer, and fall, the Junto meet once a month in the afternoon, in some proper place across the river, for bodily exercise.
That in the aforesaid book be kept minutes, thus;
Friday, June 30th, 1732.
Present, A B, C D, E F, &c.
1. H. read this maxim, viz., or this experi-
5. Lately arrived one, of such a pro-
That these minutes be read once a year at the anniversary.
That all fines due be immediately paid in, and the penal laws for queries and declamations abolished; only he who is absent above ten times in the year to pay ten shillings towards the anniversary entertainment.
That the Secretary, for keeping the minutes, be allowed one shilling per night, to be paid out of the money already in his hands.
That, after the queries are begun reading, all discourse foreign to them shall be deemed impertinent. When any thing from reading an author is men
tioned, if it exceed a line, and the Junto require it, the person shall bring the passage or an abstract of it the next night, if he has it not with him.
When the books of the library come, every member shall undertake some author, that he may not be without observations to communicate.
How shall we judge of the goodness of a writing? Or what qualities should a writing have to be good and perfect in its kind?
Answer. To be good, it ought to have a tendency to benefit the reader, by improving his virtue or his knowledge. But, not regarding the intention of the author, the method should be just; that is, it should proceed regularly from things known to things unknown, distinctly and clearly without confusion. The words used should be the most expressive that the language affords, provided that they are the most generally understood. Nothing should be expressed in two words that can be as well expressed in one; that is, no synonymes should be used, or very rarely, but the whole should be as short as possible, consistent with clearness. The words should be so placed as to be agreeable to the ear in reading; summarily, it should be smooth, clear, and short. For the contrary qualities are displeasing.
But, taking the query otherwise, an ill man may write an ill thing well; that is, having an ill design, he may use the properest style and arguments (considering who are to be readers) to attain his ends. In this sense, that is best wrote, which is best adapted for obtaining the end of the writer.
Can a man arrive at perfection in this life, as some believe; or is it impossible, as others believe?
Answer. Perhaps they differ in the meaning of the word perfection. I suppose the perfection of any thing to be only the greatest the nature of the thing is capable of. Different things have different degrees of perfection, and the same thing at different times. Thus, a horse is more perfect than an oyster, yet the oyster may be a perfect oyster, as well as the horse a perfect horse. And an egg is not so perfect as a chicken, nor a chicken as a hen; for the hen has more strength than the chicken, and the chicken more life than the egg; yet it may be a perfect egg, chicken, and hen.
If they mean a man cannot in this life be so perfect as an angel, it may be true; for an angel, by being incorporeal, is allowed some perfections we are at present incapable of, and less liable to some imperfections than we are liable to. If they mean a man is not capable of being as perfect here as he is capable of being in heaven, that may be true likewise. But that a man is not capable of being so perfect here, as he is capable of being here, is not sense; it is as if I should say, a chicken, in the state of a chicken, is not capable of being so perfect as a chicken is capable of being in that state.
In the above sense, there may be a perfect oyster, a perfect horse, a perfect ship; why not a perfect man? That is, as perfect as his present nature and circumstances admit.
Question. Wherein consists the happiness of a rational creature?
Answer. In having a sound mind and a healthy body, a sufficiency of the necessaries and convenien
ces of life, together with the favor of God and the love of mankind.
What do you mean by a sound mind?
A. A faculty of reasoning justly and truly in searching after such truths as relate to my happiness. This faculty is the gift of God, capable of being improved by experience and instruction into wisdom. Q. What is wisdom?
A. The knowledge of what will be best for us on all occasions, and the best ways of attaining it.
Q. Is any man wise at all times and in all things? A. No, but some are more frequently wise than others.
Q. What do you mean by the necessaries of life? A. Having wholesome food and drink wherewith to satisfy hunger and thirst, clothing, and a place of habitation fit to secure against the inclemencies of the weather.
Q. What do you mean by the conveniences of life?
Whether it is worth a rational man's while to forego the pleasure arising from the present luxury of the age, in eating and drinking, and artful cookery, studying to gratify the appetite, for the sake of enjoying a healthy old age, a sound mind, and a sound body, which are the advantages reasonably to be expected from a more simple and temperate diet?
Whether those meats and drinks are not the best, that contain nothing in their natural taste, nor have any thing added by art, so pleasing as to induce us to eat or drink when we are not thirsty or hungry, or after