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THE WASTE OF LIFE.
FROM THE PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE, NOV. 18, 1736.
ANERGUS was a gentleman of a good estate; he was bred to no business, and could not contrive how to waste his hours agreeably; he had no relish for any of the proper works of life, nor any taste at all for the improvements of the mind; he spent generally ten hours of the four-and-twenty in his bed; he dozed away two or three more on his couch, and as many were dissolved in good liquor every evening, if he met with company of his own humor. Five or six of the rest he sauntered away with much indolence; the chief business of them was to contrive his meals, and to feed his fancy beforehand with the promise of a dinner and supper; not that he was so absolute a glutton, or so entirely devoted to appetite; but, chiefly because he knew not how to employ his thoughts better, he let them rove about the sustenance of his body. Thus he had made a shift to wear off ten years since the paternal estate fell into his hands; and yet, according to the abuse of words in our day, he was called a man of virtue, because he was scarce ever known to be quite drunk, nor was his nature much inclined to lewdness.
One evening, as he was musing alone, his thoughts happened to take a most unusual turn, for they cast a glance backward, and began to reflect on his manner of life. He bethought himself what a number of living beings had been made a sacrifice to support his carcass, and how much corn and wine had been mingled with those offerings. He had not quite lost all the arithmetic that he had learned when he was a boy,
and he set himself to compute what he had devoured since he came to the age of man.
"About a dozen of feathered creatures, small and great, have, one week with another," said he, "given up their lives to prolong mine, which in ten years amounts to at least six thousand.
"Fifty sheep have been sacrificed in a year, with half a hecatomb of black cattle, that I might have the choicest part offered weekly upon my table. Thus a thousand beasts out of the flock and the herd have been slain in ten years' time to feed me, besides what the forest has supplied me with. Many hundreds of fishes have, in all their varieties, been robbed of life for my repast, and of the smaller fry as many thousands.
"A measure of corn would hardly afford me fine flour enough for a month's provision, and this arises to above six score bushels; and many hogsheads of ale and wine, and other liquors, have passed through this body of mine, this wretched strainer of meat and drink.
"And what have I done all this time for God or man? What a vast profusion of good things upon a useless life, and a worthless liver! There is not the meanest creature among all these which I have devoured, but hath answered the end of its creation better than I. It was made to support human nature, and it hath done so. Every crab and oyster I have eat, and every grain of corn I have devoured, hath filled up its place in the rank of beings with more propriety and honor than I have done. O shameful waste of life and time!"
In short, he carried on his moral reflections with so just and severe a force of reason, as constrained him to change his whole course of life, to break off his
follies at once, and to apply himself to gain some useful knowledge, when he was more than thirty years of age. He lived many following years, with the character of a worthy man and an excellent Christian; he performed the kind offices of a good neighbour at home, and made a shining figure as a patriot in the senate-house; he died with a peaceful conscience, and the tears of his country were dropped upon his tomb. The world, that knew the whole series of his life, stood amazed at the mighty change. They beheld him as a wonder of reformation, while he himself confessed and adored the Divine power and mercy, which had transformed him from a brute to a man.
But this was a single instance; and we may almost venture to write MIRACLE upon it. Are there not numbers of both sexes among our young gentry, in this degenerate age, whose lives thus run to utter waste, without the least tendency to usefulness?
When I meet with persons of such a worthless character as this, it brings to my mind some scraps of Horace ;
"Nos numerus sumus, et fruges consumere nati,
Cui pulchrum fuit in medios dormire dies," &c
There are a number of us creep
Into this world, to eat and sleep;
And know no reason why they're born,
But merely to consume the corn,
And leave behind an empty dish.
Though crows and ravens do the same,
Then, if their tomb-stone, when they die.
Drunk all their drink, and gone to bed.
There are other fragments of that heathen poet, which occur on such occasions; one in the first of his Satires, the other in the last of his Epistles, which seem to represent life only as a season of luxury.
"Exacto contentus tempore vitæ
Cedat, uti conviva satur."
"Lusisti satis, edisti satis, atque bibisti;
Which may be thus put into English.
Life's but a feast; and when we die,
With cheerful looks, and ease at heart;
NECESSARY HINTS TO THOSE THAT WOULD BE RICH.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1736.
THE use of money is all the advantage there is in having money.
For six pounds a year you may have the use of one hundred pounds, provided you are a man of known prudence and honesty.
He that spends a groat a day idly, spends idly above six pounds a year, which is the price for the use of one hundred pounds.
He that wastes idly a groat's worth of his time per day, one day with another, wastes the privilege of using one hundred pounds each day.
He that idly loses five shillings' worth of time, loses five shillings, and might as prudently throw five shillings into the sea.
He that loses five shillings, not only loses that sum, but all the advantage that might be made by turning it in dealing, which, by the time that a young man becomes old, will amount to a considerable sum of money.
Again; he that sells upon credit, asks a price for what he sells equivalent to the principal and interest of his money for the time he is to be kept out of it; therefore he that buys upon credit, pays interest for what he buys, and he that pays ready money, might let that money out to use; so that he that possesses any thing he has bought, pays interest for the use of it.
Yet, in buying goods, it is best to pay ready money, because he that sells upon credit, expects to lose five per cent by bad debts; therefore he charges, on all he sells upon credit, an advance that shall make up that deficiency.
Those who pay for what they buy upon credit, pay their share of this advance.
He that pays ready money, escapes, or may escape, that charge.
A penny saved is two pence clear,
A pin a day's a groat a year.