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cious ignorance, and their choice to be regulated by presumptuous stupidity.
This unresisting acquiescence in the determination of others, may be the consequence of application of some study remote from the beaten track of life, some employment which does not allow leisure for sufficient inspection of those petty affairs, by which nature has decreed a great part of our duration to be filled. To a mind thus withdrawn from common objects, it is more eligible to repose on the prudence of another, than to be exposed every moment to slight interruptions. The submission which such confidence requires, is paid without pain, because it implies no confession of inferiority. The business from which we withdraw our cognisance, is not above our abilities, but below our notice. We please our pride with the effects of our influence thus weakly exerted, and fancy ourselves placed in a higher orb, from which we regulate subordinate agents by a slight and distant superintendence. But whatever vanity or abstraction may suggest, no man can safely do that by others which might be done by himself; he that indulges negligence will quickly become ignorant of his own affairs; and he that trusts without reserve will at last be deceived.
It is however impossible but that, as the attention tends strongly towards one thing, it must retire from another; and he that omits the care of domestick business, because he is engrossed by inquiries of more importance to mankind, has at least the merit of suffering in a good cause. But, there are many who can plead no such extenuation of their folly; who shake off the burthen of their station, not that they may soar with less incumbrance to the heights of knowledge or virtue, but that they may loiter at ease and sleep in quiet; and
who select for friendship and confidence not the faithful and the virtuous, but the soft, the civil, and compliant.
This openness to flattery is the common disgrace of declining life. When men feel weakness increasing on them, they naturally desire to rest from the struggles of contradiction, the fatigue of reasoning, the anxiety of circumspection; when they are hourly tormented with pains and diseases, they are unable to bear any new disturbance, and consider all opposition as an addition to misery, of which they feel already more than they can patiently endure. Thus desirous of peace, and thus fearful of pain, the old man seldom inquires after any other qualities in those whom he caresses, than quickness in conjecturing his desires, activity in supplying his wants, dexterity in intercepting complaints before they approach near enough to disturb him, flexibility to his present humour, submission to hasty petulance, and attention to wearisome narrations. By these arts alone many have been able to defeat the claims of kindred and of merit, and to enrich themselves with presents and legacies.
Thrasybulus inherited a large fortune, and augmented it by the revenues of several lucrative em. ployments, which he discharged with honour and dexterity. He was at last wise enough to consider, that life should not be devoted wholly to accumu. lation, and therefore retiring to his estate, applied himself to the education of his children, and the cultivation of domestick happiness.
He passed several years in this pleasing amusement, and saw his care amply recompensed; his daughters were celebrated for modesty and elegance, and his sons for learning, prudence, and spirit. In time the eagerness with which the neighbouring gentlemen courted his alliance, obliged him to resign his daughters to other families; the vivacity and curiosity of his sons hurried them out of rural privacy into the open world, from whence they had not soon an inclination to return. This however he had always hoped; he pleased himself with the success of his schemes, and felt no inconvenience from solitude till an apoplexy deprived him of his wife.
Thrasybulus had now no companion; and the maladies of increasing years having taken from him much of the power of proçuring amusement for himself, he thought it necessary to procure some inferior friend who might ease him of his economical solicitudes, and divert him by cheerful con. versation. All these qualities he soon recollected in Vafer, a clerk in one of the offices over which he had formerly presided. Vafer was invited to visit his old patron, and being by his station acquainted with the present modes of life, and by constant practice dexterous in business, entertained him with so many novelties, and so readily disentangled his affairs, that he was desired to resign his clerkship, and accept a liberal salary in the house of Thrasybulus.
Vafer, having always lived in a state of dependence, was well versed in the arts by which favour is obtained, and could without repugnance or hesitation accommodate himself to every caprice, and echo every opinion. He never doubted but to be convinced, nor attempted opposition but to flatter Thrasybulus with the pleasure of a victory. By this practice he found his way into his patron's heart, and having first made himself agreeable, soon became important. His insidious diligence, by which the laziness of age was gratified, engrossed the management of affairs; and his petty offices of civility, and occasional intercessions, persuaded the tenants to consider him as their friend and benefactor, and to entreat his enforcement of their representations of hard years, and his countenance to petitions for abatement of rent,
Thrasybulus had now banquetted on flattery, till he could no longer bear the harshness of remonstrance, or the insipidity of truth. All contrariety to his own opinion shocked him like a violation of some natural right, and all recommendation of his affairs to his own inspection was dreaded by him as a summons to torture. His children were alarmed by the sudden riches of Vafer, but their complaints were heard by their father with impatience, as the result of a conspiracy against his quiet, and a design to condemn him, for their own advantage, to groan out his last hours in perplexity and drudgery. The daughters retired with tears in their eyes, but the son continued his importunities till he found his inheritance hazarded by his obstinacy. Vafer triumphed over all their efforts, and continuing to confirm himself in authority, at the death of his master, purchased an estate, and bade defiance to inquiry and justice.
N° 163. TUESDAY, OCT. 8, 1751,
Mitte superba pati fastidia, spemque caducam
Despice ; vive tibi, nam moriere tibi.
Bow to no patron's insolence ; rely
None of the cruelties exercised by wealth and power upon indigence and dependence is more mischievous in its consequences, or more frequently practised with wanton negligence, than the encouragement of expectations which are never to be gratified, and the elation and depression of the heart by needless vicissitudes of hope and disappointment.
Every man is rich or poor, according to the proportion between his desires and enjoyments ; any enlargement of wishes is therefore equally destructive to happiness with the diminution of possession, and he that teaches another to long for what he never shall obtain, is no less an enemy to his quiet, than if he had robbed him of part of his patrimony.
But representations thus refined exhibit no adequate idea of the guilt of pretended friendship; of artifices by which followers are attracted only to decorate the retinue of pomp, and swell the shout of popularity, and to be dismissed with contempt and ignominy, when their leader has succeeded or miscarried, when he is sick of show, and weary of noise. While a man, infatuated with the promises of greatness, wastes his hours and days in attendance and solicitation, the honest opportunities of improving his condition pass by without his notice; he neglects to cultivate his own barren soil, because he expects every moment to be placed in regions of spontaneous fertility, and is seldom roused from his delusion, but by the gripe of distress which he cannot resist, and the sense of evils which cannot be remedied.
The punishment of Tantalus in the infernal regions affords a just image of hungry servility, flattered with the approach of advantage, doomed to lose it before it comes into his reach, always within a few days of felicity, and always sinking back to his former wants.