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His table was crowded by men of every nation, who all admired his knowledge, and solicited his favour. His companions, not being able to mix in the conversation, could make no discovery of their ignorance or surprise, and were gradually initiated in the world as they gained knowledge of the language.
The prince had, by frequent lectures, been taught the use and nature of money; but the ladies could not, for a long time, comprehend what the merchants did with small pieces of gold and silver, or why things of so little use should be received as equivalent to the necessaries of life.
They studied the language two years, while Imlac was preparing to set before them the various ranks and conditions of mankind. He grew acquainted with all who had any thing uncommon in their fortune or conduct. He frequented the voluptuous and the frugal, the idle and the busy, the merchants and the men of learning.
The prince being now able to converse with fluency, and having learned the caution necessary to be observed in his intercourse with strangers, began to accompany Imlac to places of resort, and to enter into all assemblies, that he might make his choice of life.
For some time he thought choice needless, because all appeared to him equally happy. Wherever he went he met gaiety and kindness, and heard the song of joy or the laugh of carelessness. He began to believe that the world overflowed with universal plenty, and that nothing was withheld either froin want or merit; that every hand showered liberality, YOL. XI,
and every heart melted with benevolence; " and who then, Tays he, will be suffered to be wretched?”
Imlac permitted the pleasing delusion, and was unwilling to cruß the hope of inexperience, till one day, having fat a while filent, " I know not, said the prince, what can be the reason that I am more unhappy than any of our friends. I see them perpetually and unalterably cheerful, but feel my own mind refleis and unealj. I am unsatisfied with those pleasures which I seem most to court, I live in the crowds of jolliry, not to much to enjoy coinpany as to fhun myself, and am only loud and merry to conceal my fadness.”
“ Every man, frid Inlac, may, by examining his own mind, guess what passes in the minds of others: when you feel that your own gaiety is counterfeit, it may justly lead you to suspect that of your companions not to be sincere. Envy is commonly reciprocal. We are long before we are convinced that he pind's is never to be found, and each be. lieves it posti dled by others, to keep alive the hope of obtaining it for himill. In the assembly, where you paffed tlie last night, there appeared such fprightlincis of air, and volatility of fancy, as might have suited beings of an higher order, formed to inhabit ferener regions, inaccesible to care or sorrow: yet, believe me, prince, there was not one who did not dread the moment when folitude should deliver him to the tyranny of reflection.”
This, fid the prince, may be true of others, since it is true of me; yet, whatever be the general infelicity of man, one condition is more happy than
another, enother, and wisdom surely directs us to take the least evil in the chcice of life.”
“ The causes of good and evil, answered Imlac, are so various and uncertain, so often entangled with each other, so diversified by various relations, and so much subject to accidents which cannot be foreseen, that he who would fix his condition upon incontestible reasons of preference, must live and die enquiring and deliberating.”
“But surely, said Rasselas, the wise men, to whom we listen with reverence and wonder, chose that mode of life for themselves which they thought most likely to make them happy.”
Very few, said the poet, live by choice. Every man is placed in his present condition by causes which acted without his foresight, and with which he did not always willingly co-operate; and therefore you will rarely meet one who does not think the lot of his neighbour better than his own.”
“ I am pleased to think, said the prince, that my birth has given me at least one advantage over others, by enabling me to determine for myself. I have here the world before me; I will review it ac leisure: surely happiness is somewhere to be found.”
C H A P. XVII.
THE PRINCE ASSOCIATES WITH YOUNG MEN OF
SPIRIT AND GAIETY.
ASSEL AS rose next day, and resolved to begin
his experiments upon life. “ Youth, cried he, is the time of gladness: I will join myself to the young men, whose only business is to gratify E 2
their desires, and whose time is all spent in a fue. cession of enjoyments.”
To such focieties he was readily admitted, but a few days brought him back weary and disgusted. Their mirth was without images; their laughter without motive; their pleasures were gross and sensual, in which the mind had no part; their conduct was at once wild and mean; they laughed at order and at law, but the frown of power dejected, and the eye of wisdom abashed them.
The prince soon concluded, that he should never be happy in a course of life of which he was alhamed. I le thought it unsuitable to a reasonable being to act without a plan, and to be sad or cheerful oniy by chance. “Happiness, said he, must be something folid and pernianent, without fear and without uncertainty.”
But his young companions had gained fo much of his regard by their frankness and courtesy, that he could not leave them without warning and remonstrance. My friends, faid he, I have seriously considered our manners and our prospects, and find that we have mistaken our own interest. The first years of man must make provision for the last. He that never thinks never can be wise. Perpetual levity must end in ignorance; and intemperance, though it may fire the spirits for an hour, will make life short or miserable. Let us consider that youth is of no long duration, and that in maturer age, when the enchantments of fancy shall cease, and phantoms of delight dance no more about us, we shall have no comforts but the esteem of wise men, and the means of doing good. Let us, therefore, stop, while to stop is in our power: let us live as men who are some time to grow old, and to whom it will be the most dreadful of all evils not to count their past years by follies, and to be reminded of their former luxuriance of health only by the maladies which riot has produced.”
They stared a while in silence one upon another, and at last drove him away by a general chorus of continued laughter.
The consciousness that his sentiments were just, and his intentions kind, was scarcely sufficient to support him against the horror of derision. But he recovered his tranquillity, and persued his search.
CH A P. XVIII.
THE PRINCE FINDS A WISE AND HAPPY MAN,
S he was one day walking in the street, he
saw a spacious building which all were, by the open doors, invited to enter : he followed the stream of people, and found it a hall or school of declamation, in which professors read lectures to their auditory. He fixed his eye upon a fage raised above the rest, who discoursed with great energy on the government of the passions. His look was venerable, his action graceful, his pronunciation clear, and his diction elegant. He shewed, with great strength of sentiment, and variety of illustration, that human nature is degraded and debased, when the lower faculties predominate over the higher; that when fancy, the parent of passion, plurps the dominion of the mind, nothing ensues