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It is easy to talk of sitting at home contented, when others are seeing or making shows. But not to have been where it is supposed, and seldom supposed falsely, that all would go if they could: to be able to say nothing when every one is talking; to have no opinion when every one is judging; to hear exclamations of rapture, without power to depress; to listen to falsehoods without right to contradict, is, after all, a state of temporary inferiority, in which the mind is rather hardened by stubbornness, than supported by fortitude. If the world be worth winning, let us enjoy it; if it is to be despised, let us despise it by conviction. But the world is not to be despised, but as it is compared with something better. Company is in itself better than solitude, and pleasure better than indolence. Ea nihilo nihil fit, says the moral as well as the natural philosopher. By doing nothing, and by knowing nothing, no power of doing good can be obtained. He must mingle with the world that desires to be useful. Every new scene impresses new ideas, enriches the imagination, and enlarges the power of reason, by new topicks of comparison. You that have seen the regatta will have images which we who miss it must want, and no intellectual images are without use. But when you are in this scene of splendour and gaiety, do not let one of your fits of negligence steal upon you. Hoc age, is the great rule, whether you are serious or merry; whether you are stating the expences of your family, learning science or duty from a folio, or floating on the Thames in a fancied dress. Of the whole entertainment let me not hear so copi
ous nor so true an account from any body as from you. I am, dearest Madam, your, &c.
LETTER XXX. To Mrs. THRALE.
DICAR MADAM, Ashbourne.
I AM sure I write and write, and every letter that comes from you charges me with not writing. Since I wrote to Queeney I have written twice to you, on the 6th and the 9th; be pleased to let me know whether you have them or have them not. That of the 6th you should regularly have had on the 8th, yet your letter of the 9th seems not to mention it; all this puzzles me.
Poor dear ****! He only grows dull because he is sickly; age has not yet begun to impair him; nor is he such a chameleon as to take immediately the colour of his company. When you see him again, you will find him reanimated. Most men have their bright and their cloudy days; at least they have days when they put their powers into action, and days when they suffer them to repose.
Fourteen thousand pounds make a sum sufficient for the establishment of a family, and which, in whatever flow of riches or confidence of prosperity, deserves to be very seriously considered. I hope a great part of it has paid debts, and no small part bought land. As for gravelling and walling and digging, though I am not much delighted with them, yet something, indeed much, must be allowed to every man's taste. He that is growing rich has a right to enjoy part of the growth his own way. I hope to range in the walk, and row upon the water, and devour fruit from the wall.
Dr. Taylor wants to be gardening. He means to buy a piece of ground in the neighbourhood, and surround it with a wall, and build a gardener's house upon it, and have fruit, and be happy. Much happiness it will not bring him; but what can he do better? If I had money enough, what would I do? Perhaps, if you and master did not hold me, I might go to Cairo, and down the Red Sea to Bengal, and take a ramble in India. Would this be better than building and planting? It would surely give more variety to the eye, and more amplitude to the mind. Half fourteen thousand would send me out to see other forms of existence, and bring me back to describe them.
I answer this the day on which I had yours of the 9th, that is on the 11th. Let me know when it comes. I am, &c.
LETTER XXXI. To Mrs. THRALE.
MADAM, Lichfield, August 2, 1775.
I DINED to-day at Stowhill, and am come away to write my letter. Never surely was I such a writer before. Do you keep my letters? I am not of your opinion that I shall not like to read them hereafter; for though there is in them not much history of mind, or any thing else,"they will, I hope, always be in some degree the records of a pure and blameless friendship, and, in some hours of languor and sadness, may revive the memory of more cheerful times. Why you should suppose yourself not desirous hereafter to read the history of your own mind, I do not see. Twelve years, on which you now look as on a vast expanse of life, will probably be passed over uniformly and smoothly, with very little perception of your progress, and with very few remarks upon the way. The accumulation of knowledge which you promise to yourself, by which the future is to look back upon the present, with the superiority of manhood to infancy, will perhaps never be attempted, or never will be made; and you will find, as millions have found before you, that forty-five has made little sensible addition to thirty-three. As the body after a certain time gains no increase of height, and little of strength, there is likewise a period, though more variable by external causes, when the mind commonly attains its stationary point, and very little advances its powers of reflection, judgment, and ratiocination. The body may acquire new modes of motion, or new dexterities of mechanick operations, but its original strength receives not improvement: the mind may be stored with new languages, or new sciences, but its power of thinking remains nearly the same, and unless it attains new subjects of meditation, it commonly produces thoughts of the same force and the same extent, at very distant intervals of life; as the tree, unless a foreign fruit be ingrafted, gives year after year productions of the same form and the same flavour.
By intellectual force or strength of thought is meant the degree of power which the mind possesses of surveying the subject of meditation, with its circuit of concomitants, and its train of dependence. Of this power, which all observe to be very different in different minds, part seems the gift of nature, and part the acquisition of experience. When the powers of nature have attained their intended energy, they can be no more advanced. The shrub can never become a tree. And it is not unreasonable to suppose that they are before the middle of life in their full vigour. Nothing then remains but practice and experience; and perhaps why they do so little, may be worth enquiry. But I have just now looked, and find it so late, that I will enquire against the next post night. I am, &c.
LETTER XXXII. To Mrs. THRALE.
DEAR MADAM, Lichfield, August 5, 1775.
INSTEAD of forty reasons for my return, one is sufficient, that you wish for my company. I purpose to write no more till you see me. The ladies at Stowhill and Greenhill are unanimously of opinion, that it will be best to take a postchaise, and not to be troubled with the vexations of a common carriage. I will venture to suppose the ladies at Streatham to be of the same mind.
You will now expect to be told why you will not