« ElőzőTovább »
ALL MISERY AND FOLLY.
to youthful royalty), the utter folly of all wars of ambition, where the object sought for—if attained at all—is commonly attained at manifold its real value, and often wrested, after short enjoyment, from its possessor, by the combined indignation and just vengeance of the other nations of the world. It is all misery, and folly, and impiety, and cruelty. The atrocities, and horrors, and disgusts of war, have never been half enough insisted upon by the teachers of the people; but the worst of evils and the greatest of follies, have been varnished over with specious names, and the gigantic robbers and murderers of the world have been holden up, for their imitation, to the weak eyes of youth. May honest counsellors keep this poison from the mind of the young queen. May she love what God bids, and do what makes men happy!
CAUSE OF UNHAPPINESS.
ESSAYS AND SKETCHES.
OF THE BODY.
HAPPINESS is not impossible without health, but it is of very difficult attainment. I do not mean by health merely an absence of dangerous complaints, but that the body should be in perfect tune-full of vigor and alacrity.
The longer I live, the more I am convinced that the apothecary is of more importance than Seneca; and that half the unhappiness in the world proceeds from little stoppages, from a duct choked up, from food pressing in the wrong place, from a vexed duodenum, or an agitated pylorus.
The deception, as practised upon human creatures, is curious and entertaining. My friend sups late; he eats some strong soup, then a lobster, then some tart, and he dilutes these esculent varieties with wine. The next day I call upon him. He is going to sell his house in London, and to retire into the country. He is alarmed for his eldest daughter's health. His expenses are hourly increasing, and nothing but a timely retreat can save him from ruin. All this is the lobster; and when over-excited nature has had time to manage this testaceous encumbrance, the daughter recovers, the finances are in good order, and every rural idea effectually excluded from the mind.
In the same manner old friendships are destroyed by toasted cheese, and hard salted meat has led to suicide. Unpleasant
*Published in Lady Holland's Memoir as, "A few Unfinished Sketches from a Projected Series of 'Practical Essays.""
feelings of the body produce correspondent sensations in the mind, and a great scene of wretchedness is sketched out by a morsel of indigestible and misguided food. Of such infinite consequence to happiness is it to study the body!
I have nothing new to say upon the management which the body requires. The common rules are the best: exercise without fatigue; generous living without excess; early rising, and moderation in sleeping. These are the apothegms of old women; but if they are not attended to, happiness becomes so extremely difficult that very few persons can attain to it. In this point of view, the care of the body becomes a subject of elevation and importance. A walk in the fields, an hour's less sleep, may remove all those bodily vexations and disquietudes which are such formidable enemies to virtue; and may enable the mind to pursue its own resolves without that constant train of temptations to resist, and obstacles to overcome, which it always experiences from the bad organization of its companion. Johnson says, every man is a rascal, when he is sick; meaning, I suppose, that he has no benevolent dispositions at that period toward his fellow-creatures, but that his notions assume a character of greater affinity to his bodily feelings, and that, feeling pain, he becomes malevolent; and if this be true of great diseases, it is true in a less degree of the smaller ailments of the body.
Get up in a morning, walk before breakfast, pass four or five hours of the day in some active employment; then eat and drink overnight, lie in bed till one or two o'clock, saunter away the rest of the day in doing nothing!—can any two human beings be more perfectly dissimilar than the same individual under these two different systems of corporeal management? and is it not of as great importance toward happiness to pay a minute attention to the body, as it is to study the wisdom of Chrysippus and Crantor?
A GOOD stout bodily machine being provided, we must be actively occupied, or there can be little happiness.
If a good useful occupation be not provided, it is so ungenial to the human mind to do nothing, that men occupy themselves peril ously, as with gaming: or frivolously, as with walking up and down
a street at a watering-place, and looking at the passers-by; or malevolently, as by teazing their wives and children. It is impossible to support, for any length of time, a state of perfect ennui; and if you were to shut a man up for any length of time within four walls, without occupation, he would go mad. If idleness do not produce vice or malevolence, it commonly produces melancholy.
A stockbroker or a farmer has no leisure for imaginary wretchedness; their minds are usually hurried away by the necessity of noticing external objects, and they are guaranteed from that curse of idleness, the eternal disposition to think of themselves.
If we have no necessary occupation, it becomes extremely difficult to make to ourselves occupations as entirely absorbing as those which necessity imposes.
The profession which a man makes for himself is seldom more than a half profession, and often leaves the mind in a state of vacancy and inoccupation. We must lash ourselves up, however, as well as we can, to a notion of its great importance; and as the dispensing power is in our own hands, we must be very jealous of remission and of idleness.
It may seem absurd that a gentleman who does not live by the profits of farming should rise at six o'clock in the morning to look after his farm; or, if botany be his object, that he should voyage to Iceland in pursuit of it. He is the happier however for his eagerness; his mind is more fully employed, and he is much more effectually guaranteed from all the miseries of ennui.
It is asked, if the object can be of such great importance. Perhaps not; but the pursuit is. The fox, when caught, is worth nothing he is followed for the pleasure of the following.
What is a man to do with his life who has nothing which he must do? It is admitted he must find some employment, but does it signify what that employment is? Is he employed as much for his own happiness in cultivating a flower-garden as in philosophy, literature, or politics? This must depend upon the individual himself, and the circumstances in which he is placed. As far as the mere occupation or exclusion of ennui goes, this can be settled only by the feelings of the person employed; and if the attention. be equally absorbed, in this point of view one occupation is as good as another; but a man who is conscious he was capable of doing great things, and has occupied himself with trifles beneath
281 the level of his understanding, is apt to feel envy at the lot of those who have excelled him, and remorse at the misapplication of his own powers; he has not added to the pleasures of occupation the pleasures of benevolence, and so has not made his occupation as agreeable as he might have done, and he has probably not gained as much fame and wealth as he might have done if his pursuits had been of a higher nature. For these reasons it seems right that a man should attend to the highest pursuits in which he has any fair chance of excelling; he is as much occupied, gains more of what is worth gaining, and excludes remorse more effectually, even if he fail, because he is conscious of having made the effort. When a very clever man, or a very great man, takes to culti vating turnips and retiring, it is generally an imposture. The moment men cease to talk of their turnips, they are wretched and full of self-reproach. Let every man be occupied, and occupied in the highest employment of which his nature is capable, and die with the consciousness that he has done his best!"
LIFE is to be fortified by many friendships. To love, and to be loved, is the greatest happiness of existence. If I lived under the burning sun of the equator, it would be a pleasure to me to think that there were many human beings on the other side of the world who regarded and respected me; I could and would not live if I were alone upon the earth, and cut off from the remembrance of my fellow-creatures. It is not that a man has occasion often to fall back upon the kindness of his friends; perhaps he may never experience the necessity of doing so; but we are governed by our imaginations, and they stand there as a solid and impregnable bulwark against all the evils of life.
Friendships should be formed with persons of all ages and conditions, and with both sexes. I have a friend who is a bookseller, to whom I have been very civil, and who would do anything to serve me; and I have two or three small friendships among persons in much humbler walks of life, who, I verily believe, would do me a considerable kindness according to their means. It is a great happiness to form a sincere friendship with a woman; but a friendship among persons of different sexes rarely or ever takes place