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gifts of light and heat? Hear me therefore with of sober probability. All power of fancy over attention.
reason is a degree of insanity ; but while this “I have diligently considered the position of power is such as we can control and repress, it the earth and sun, and formed innumerable is not visible to others, nor considered as any schemes, in which I changed their situation. I depravation of the mental faculties ; it is not have sometimes turned aside the axis of the pronounced madness but when it becomes unearth, and sometimes varied the ecliptic of the governable, and apparently influences speech or sun; but I have found it impossible to make a action. disposition by which the world may be advan- “ To indulge the power of fiction, and send taged ; what one region gains, another loses by imagination out upon the wing, is often the sport an imaginable alteration, even without consi- of those who delight too much in silent specudering the distant parts of the solar system with lation. When we are alone, we are not always which we are unacquainted. Do not, therefore, busy; the labour of excogitation is too violent in thy administration of the year, indulge thy to last long; the ardour of inquiry will somepride by innovation ; do not please thyself with times give way to idleness or satiety. He who thinking that thou canst make thyself renowned has nothing external that can divert him, must to all future ages, by disordering the seasons. find pleasure in his own thoughts, and must The memory of mischief is no desirable fame. conceive himself what he is not ; for who is Much less will it become thee to let kindness or pleased with what he is? He then expatiates interest prevail. Never rob other countries of in boundless futurity, and culls from all imagirain to pour it on thine own. For us the Nile nable conditions that which for the present mois sufficient.'
ment he should most desire, amuses his desires “I promised that when I possessed the power, with impossible enjoyments, and confers upon I would use it with inflexible integrity, and he his pride unattainable dominion. The mind dismissed me, pressing my hand. - My heart,' dances from scene to scene, unites all pleasures said he, “will now be at rest, and my benevo- in all combinations, and riots in delights which lence will no more destroy my quiet. I have nature and fortune, with all their bounty, canfound a man of wisdom and virtue, to whom I not bestow. can cheerfully bequeath the inheritance of the “ In time, some particular train of ideas fixes
the attention ; all other intellectual gratificaThe Prince heard this narration with very se- tions are rejected ; the mind, in weariness or rious regard, but the Princess smiled, and Pe- leisure, recurs constantly to the favourite conkuah convulsed herself with laughter. “La- ception, and feasts on the luscious falsehood dies," said Imlac, “to mock the heaviest of hu- whenever she is offended with the bitterness of man afflictions is neither charitable nor wise. truth. By degrees, the reign of fancy is conFew can attain this man's knowledge, and few firmed; she grows first imperious, and in time practise his virtues, but all may suffer his cala- despotic. Then fictions begin to operate as realmity. Of the uncertainties of our present state, ities, false opinions fasten upon the mind, and the most dreadful and alarming is the uncertain life passes in dreams of rapture or of anguish. continuance of reason.'
“ This, sir, is one of the dangers of solitude ; The Princess was recollected, and the favou- which the hermit has confessed not always to rite was abashed. Rasselas, more deeply af- promote goodness, and the astronomer's misery fected, inquired of Imlac, whether he thought has proved to be not always propitious to wissuch maladies of the mind frequent, and how dom.' they were contracted ?
“ I will no more," said the favourite, “ imagine myself the Queen of Abyssinia. I have of
ten spent the hours which the Princess gave to CHAP. XLIV.
my own disposal, in adjusting ceremonies, and
regulating the court ; I have repressed the pride The dangerous prevalence of Imagination. of the powerful, and granted the petitions of
poor ; I have built new palaces in more hap“ DISORDERS of intellect," answered Imlac, py situations, planted groves upon the tops of “happen much more often than superficial ob- mountains, and have exulted in the beneficence servers will easily believe. Perhaps, if we speak of royalty, till, when the Princess entered, I had with rigorous exactness, no human mind is in almost forgotten to bow down before her.” its right state. There is no man, whose imagi- “ And I," said the Princess, “ will not allow nation does not sometimes predominate over his myself any more to play the shepherdess in my reason, who can regulate his attention wholly by waking dreams. I haveoften soothed my thoughts his will, and whose ideas will come and go at with the quiet and innocence of pastoral employhis command. No man will be found in whosements, till I have in my chamber heard the inind airy notions do not sometimes tyrannize, winds whistle, and the sheep bleat; sometimes and force him to hope or fear beyond the limits freed the lamb entangled in the thicket, and sometimes with my crook encountered the wolf. is enough that age can attain ease. To me the I have a dress like that of the village maids, which world has lost its novelty: I look round and see I put on to help my imagination, and a pipe on what I remember to have seen in happier days. which I play softly, and suppose myself follow- I rest against a tree, and consider that in the ed by my flocks.
same shade I once disputed upon the annual “I will confess," said the Prince, “an in- overflow of the Nile with a friend who is now dulgence of fantastic delight more dangerous silent in the grave. cast my eyes upwards, than yours. I have frequently endeavoured to fix them on the changing moon, and think with imagine the possibility of a perfect government, pain on the vicissitudes of life. I have ceased by which all wrong should be restrained, all to take much delight in physical truth; for více reformed, and all the subjects preserved in what have I to do with those things which I am tranquillity and innocence.
This thought pro
soon to leave ?” duced innumerable schemes of reformation, and “You may at least recreate yourself,” said dictated many useful regulations and salutary Imlac, “ with the recollection of an honourable edicts. This has been the sport, and sometimes and useful life, and enjoy the praise which all the labour, of my solitude ; and I start when I agree to give you." think with how little anguish I once supposed
“ Praise,” said the sage, with a sigh, “is to the death of my father and my brothers.' an old man an empty sound. I have neither mo
“ Such,” said Imlac, are the effects of vi, ther to be delighted with the reputation of her sionary schemes ; when we first form them, we son, nor wife to partake the honours of her husknow them to be absurd, but familiarize them band. I have outlived my friends and my riby degrees, and in time lose sight of their folly.” vals. Nothing is now of much importance, for
I cannot extend my interest beyond myself.
Youth is delighted with applause, because it is CHAP. XLV.
considered as the earnest of some future good,
and because the prospect of life is far extended; They discourse with an old Man.
but to me, who am now declining to decrepi
tude, there is little to be feared from the maleThe evening was now far past, and they rose volence of men, and yet less to be hoped from to return home. As they walked along the bank their affection or esteem. Something they may of the Nile, delighted with the beams of the yet take away, but they can give me nothing. moon quivering on the water, they saw, at a Riches would now be useless, and high employsmall distance, an old man, whom the Prince ment would be pain. My retrospect of life rehad often heard in the assembly of the sages. cals to my view many opportunities of good ne“ Yonder,” said he, “is one whose years have glected, much time squandered upon trifles, calmed his passions, but not clouded his reason ; and more lost in idleness and vacancy. I leave let us close the disquisitions of the night, by in- many great designs unattempted, and many quiring what are his sentiments of his own state, great attempts unfinished. My mind is burthenthat we may know whether youth alone is to ed with no heavy crime, and therefore I comstruggle with vexation, and whether any better pose myself to tranquillity ; endeavour to abhope remains for the latter part of life. stract my thoughts from hopes and cares, which,
Here the sage approached and saluted them. though reason knows them to be vain, still try They invited him to join their walk, and prat- to keep their old possession of the heart; extled a while as acquaintance that had unex- pect, with serene humility, that hour which napectedly met one another. The old man was ture cannot long delay, and hope to possess, in cheerful and talkative, and the way seemed short a better state, that happiness which here I could in his company. He was plesed to find himself not find, and that virtue which here I have not not disregarded, accompanied them to their attained.” house, and, at the Prince's request, entered with He arose and went away, leaving his audience them. They placed him in the seat of honour, not much elated with the hope of long life. The and set wine and conserves before him.
Prince consoled himself with remarking, that it od'Sir,” said the Princess, “ an evening walk was not reasonable to be disappointed by this must give to a man of learning like you, plea- account ; for age had never been considered as sures which ignorance and youth can hardly the season of felicity, and, if it was possible to conceive. You know the qualities and the cau- be easy in decline and weakness, it was likely ses of all that you behold, the laws by which that the days of vigour and alacrity might be the river flows, the periods in which the planets happy; that the noon of life might be bright, perform their revolutions. Every thing must if the evening could be calm. supply you with contemplation, and renew the The Princess suspected that age was queruconsciousness of your own dignity.”
lous and malignant, and delighted to repress the “Lady," answered he, “let the gay and the expectations of those who had newly entered the vigorous expect pleasure in their excursions ; it world. She had seen the possessors of estates
look with envy on their heirs, and known many and close the hand of charity; and where will who enjoyed pleasure no longer than they could you find the power of restoring his benefactions confine it to themselves.
to mankind, or his peace to himself?" Pekuah conjectured that the man was older To this no reply was attempted, and Imlac than he appeared, and was willing to impute his began to hope that their curiosity would subcomplaints to delirious dejection, or else suppo- side ; but, next day, Pekuah told them, she had sed that he had been unfortunate, and was there- now found an honest pretence for a visit to the fore discontented; "for nothing,” said she, is astronomer, for she would solicit permission to more common than to call our own condition continue under him the studies in which she the condition of life.”
had been initiated by the Arab, and the Princess Imlac, who had no desire to see them depress. might go with her, either as a fellow-student, or ed, smiled at the comforts which they could so because a woman could not decently come alone. readily procure to themselves, and remembered, “ I am afraid," said Imlac, “ that he will soon that at the same age he was equally confident of be weary of your company. Men advanced far unmingled prosperity, and equally fertile of con- in knowledge do not love to repeat the elements solatory expedients. He forbore to force upon of their art ; and I am not certain that even of them unwelcome knowledge, which time itself the elements, as he will deliver them connected would too soon impress. The Princess and her with inferences and mingled with reflections, lady retired; the madness of the astronomer you are a very capable auditress.”_" That, hung upon their minds, and they desired Imlac said Pekuah, “ must be my care: I ask of you to enter upon his office, and delay next morning only to take me thither. My knowledge is, perthe rising of the sun.
haps, more than you imagine it; and by concurring always with his opinions, I shall make
him think it greater than it is.” CHAP. XLVI.
The astronomer, in pursuance of this resolu.
tion, was told that a foreign lady, travelling in The Princess and Pekuah visit the Astronomer. search of knowledge, had heard of his reputa
tion, and was desirous to become his scholar. The Princess and Pekuah, having talked in The uncommonness of the proposal raised at private of Imlac's astronomer, thought his cha- once his surprise and curiosity, and when, after racter at once so amiable and so strange that a short deliberation, he consented to admit her, he they could not be satisfied without a nearer could not stay without impatience till the next knowledge ; and Imlac was requested to find day. the means of bringing them together.
The ladies dressed themselves magnificently, This was somewhat difficult; the philosopher and were attended by Imlac to the astronomer, had never received any visits from women, who was pleased to see himself approached with though he lived in a city that had in it many respect by persons of so splendid an appearance. Europeans, who followed the manners of their In the exchange of the first civilities, he was tiown countries, and many from other parts of morous and bashful: but when the talk became the world, that lived there with European liber- regular, he recollected his powers, and justified ty: The ladies would not be refused, and seve- the character which Imlac had given. Inquiring ral schemes were proposed for the accomplish- of Pekuah what could have turned her inclinament of their design. It was proposed to intro- tion towards astronomy, he received from her a duce them as strangers in distress, to whom the history of her adventure at the Pyramid, and of sage was always accessible ; but, after some de- the time passed in the Arab's island. She told liberation, it appeared, that by this artifice, no her tale with ease and elegance, and her converacquaintance could be formed, for their conver- sation took possession of his heart. The dissation would be short, and they could not de- course was then turned to astronomy: Pekuah cently importune him often. “'l'his,” said Ras- displayed what she knew: he looked upon her selas, “ is true: but I have yet a stronger ob- as a prodigy of genius, and entreated her not jection against the misrepresentation of your to desist from a study which she had so happily state. I have always considered it as treason begun. against the great republic of human nature, to They came again and again, and were every make any man's virtues the means of deceiving time more welcome than before. The sage enhim, whether on great or little occasions. All deavoured to amuse them, that they might proimposture weakens confidence, and chills bene- long their visits, for he found his thoughts grow volence. When the sage finds that you are not brighter in their company: the clouds of soliwhat you seemed, he will feel the resentment tude vanished by degrees, as he forced himself natural to a man, who, conscious of great abili- to entertain them, and he grieved when he was ties, discovers that he has been tricked by un- left, at their departure, to his old employment derstandings meaner than his own, and, per- of regulating the seasons. haps, the distrust which he can never afterwards The Princess and her favourite had now wholly lay aside, may stop the voice of counsel, watched his lips for several months, and could VOL. V.
not catch a single word from which they could vided his hours by a succession of amusements, judge whether he continued, or not, in the opi- he found the conviction of his authority over nion of his preternatural commission. They of- the skies fade gradually from his mind, and beten contrived to bring him to an open declara- gan to trust less to an opinion which he never tion; but he easily eluded all their attacks, and, could prove to others, and which he now found on which side soever they pressed him, escaped subject to variation, from causes in which reason from them to some other topic.
had no part. “If I am accidentally left alone As their familiarity increased, they invited for a few hours,” said he,"my inveterate perhim often to the house of Imlac, where they suasion rushes upon my soul, and my thoughts distinguished him by extraordinary respect. He are chained down by some irresistible violence; began gradually to delight in sublunary pleasures. but they are soon disentangled by the Prince's He came early, and departed late ; laboured to conversation, and instantaneously released at recommend himself by assiduity and compli- the entrance of Pekuah. I am like a man haance, excited their curiosity after new arts, that bitually afraid of spectres, who is set at ease by they might still want his assistance ; and when a lamp, and wonders at the dread which harassthey made any excursion of pleasure or inquiry, ed him in the dark, yet, if his lamp be extinentreated to attend them.
guished, feels again the terrors which he knows By long experience of his integrity and wise that when it is light he shall feel no more. But dom, the Prince and his sister were convinced I am sometimes afraid, lest I indulge my quiet that he might be trusted without danger : and, by criminal negligence, and voluntarily forget lest he should draw any false hopes from the ci- the great charge with which I am intrusted. If vilities which he received, discovered to him I favour myself in a known error, or am detertheir condition, with the motives of their jour- mined by my own ease in a doubtful question ney, and required his opinion on the choice of of this importance, how dreadful is my crime!" life.
“No disease of the imagination,” answered “Of the various conditions which the world Imlac, “is so difficult of cure, as that which is spreads before you, which you shall prefer," complicated with the dread of guilt ; fancy and said the sage, “I am not able to instruct you. I conscience then act interchangeably upon us, can only tell that I have chosen wrong. Í have and so often shift their places, that the illusions passed my time in study without experience; in of one are not distinguished from the dictates of the attainment of sciences which can, for the most the other. If fancy presents images not moral part, be but remotely useful to mankind. I or religious, the mind drives them away when have purchased knowledge at the expence of all they give it pain ; but when melancholy notions the common comforts of life: I have missed the take the form of duty, they lay hold on the faendearing elegance of female friendship, and culties without opposition, because we are afraid the happy commerce of domestic tenderness. If I to exclude or banish them. For this reason the have obtained any prerogatives above other stu- superstitious are often melancholy, and the dents, they have been accompanied with fear, melancholy almost always superstitious. disquiet, and scrupulosity ; but even of these “ But do not let the suggestions of timidity prerogatives, whatever they were, I have, since overpower your better reason : the danger of my thoughts have been diversified by more in- neglect can be but as the probability of the obtercourse with the world, begun to question the ligation, which, when you consider it with freereality. When I have been for a few days lost dom, you find very little, and that little growin pleasing dissipation, I am always tempted to ing every day less. Open your heart to the inthink that my inquiries have ended in error, fluence of the light, which, from time to time, and that I have suffered much, and suffered it breaks in upon you : when scruples importune in vain.”
you, which you, in your lucid moments, know Imlac was delighted to find that the sage's to be vain, do not stand to parley, but fly to understanding was breaking through its mists, business, or to Pekuah ; and keep this thought and resolved to detain him from the planets till always prevalent, that you are only one atom of he should forget his task of ruling them, and the mass of humanity, and have neither such reason should recover its original influence. virtue nor vice as that you should be singled out
From this time the astronomer was received for supernatural favours or afflictions.” into familiar friendship, and partook of all their projects and pleasures: his respect kept him attentive, and the activity of Rasselas did not
CHAP. XLVII. leave much time unengaged. Something was always to be done: the day was spent in making The Prince enters, and brings a new Topic. observations, which furnished talk for the evening, and the evening was closed with a scheme “ All this,” said the astronomer, “ I have for the morrow.
often thought; but my reason has been so long The sage confessed to Imlac, that since he subjugated by an uncontrolable and overwhelmhad mingled in the gay tumults of life, and di- ing
idea, that it durst not confide in its own decisions. I now see how fatally I betrayed my lives well in a monastery. But, perhaps, every quiet, by suffering chimeras to prey upon me in one is not able to stem the temptations of public secret ; but melancholy shrinks from communi- life ; and, if he cannot conquer, he may properly cation, and I never found a man before to whom retreat. Some have little power to do good, and I could impart my troubles, though I had been have likewise little strength to resist evil. Many certain of relief. I rejoice to find my own sen- are weary of their conflicts with adversity, and timents confirmed by yours, who are not easily are willing to eject those passions which have deceived, and can have no motive or purpose to long busied them in vain. And many are disdeceive. I hope that time and variety will dis- missed by age and diseases from the more labosipate the gloom that has so long surrounded rious duties of society. In monasteries the weak me, and the latter part of my days will be spent and timorous may be happily sheltered, the in peace.”
weary may repose, and the penitent may medi~ Your learning and virtue,” said Imlac, tate. Those retreats of prayer and contemplamay justly give you hopes."
tion have something so congenial to the mind of Rasselas then entered, with the Princess and man, that, perhaps, there is scarcely one that Pekuah, and inquired whether they had contri- does not purpose to close his life in pious abved any new diversion for the next day. “Such," straction, with a few associates serious as himsaid Nekayah," is the state of life, that none are self.” happy but by the anticipation of change; the Such," said Pekuah, “ has often been my change itself is nothing; when we have made it, wish; and I have heard the Princess declare, the next wish is to change again. The world is that she should not willingly die in a crowd.” not yet exhausted ; let me see something to- “ The liberty of using harmless pleasures,” morrow which I never saw before.”
proceeded Imlac, “will not be disputed; but it “Variety,” said Rasselas, “is so necessary to is still to be examined what pleasures are harmcontent, that even the Happy Valley disgusted less. The evil of any pleasure that Nekayah me by the recurrence of its luxuries; yet I could can image, is not in the act itself, but in its connot forbear to reproach myself with impatience, sequences. Pleasure, in itself harmless, may when I saw the monks of St Anthony support, become mischievous, by endearing to us a state without complaint, a life, not of uniform de- which we know to be transient and probatory, light, but uniform hardship."
and withdrawing our thoughts from that, of “ Those men,” answered Imlac,“ are less which every hour brings us nearer to the beginwretched in their silent convent than the Abys- ning, and of which no length of time will bring sinian princes in their prison of pleasures. What- us to the end. Mortification is not virtuous in ever is done by the monks is incited by an ade- itself, nor has any other use, but that it disenquate and reasonable motive. Their labour sup- gages us from the allurements of sense. In the plies them with necessaries ; it therefore cannot state of future perfection, to which we all asbe omitted, and is certainly rewarded. Their pire, there will be pleasure without danger, and devotion prepares them for another state, and security without restraint.” reminds them of its approach, while it fits The Princess was silent; and Rasselas, turning them for it. Their time is regularly distributed; to the astronomer, asked him whether he could one duty succeeds another; so that they are not not delay her retreat, by shewing her something left open to the distraction of unguided choice, which she had not seen before. nor lost in the shades of listless inactivity. There “ Your curiosity,” said the sage," has been is a certain task to be performed at an appropri- so general, and your pursuit of knowledge so ated hour; and their toils are cheerful, because vigorous, that novelties are not now very easily they consider them as acts of piety, by which to be found : but what you can no longer prothey are always advancing towards endless feli- cure from the living may be given by the dead. city'
Among the wonders of this country are the Ca“Do you think,” said Nekayah," that the tacombs, or the ancient repositories, in which monastic rule is a more holy and less imperfect the bodies of the earliest generations were lodged, state than any other ? May not he equally hope and where, by the virtue of the gums which emfor future happiness who converses openly with balmed them, they yet remain without corrupmankind, who succours the distressed by his tion.” charity, instructs the ignorant by his learning, “I know not,” said Rasselas, "what pleasure and contributes by his industry to the general the sight of the Catacombs can afford; but, since system of life ; even though he should omit some nothing else is offered, I am resolved to view of the mortifications which are practised in the them, and shall place this with many other cloister, and allow himself such harmless de- things which I have done, because I would do lights, as his condition may place within his something." reach ?"
They hired a guard of horsemen, and the next “ This,” said Imlac, “is a question, which day visited the Catacombs. When they were has long divided the wise, and perplexed the about to descend into the sepulchral caves, “Pegood. I am afraid to decide on either part. He kuah,” said the Princess, " we are now again that lives well in the world is better than he that invading the habitations of the dead; I know