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good estate, was offered a great sum of money by the kingof Lydia, he thanked him for his kindness, but told him he had already more by half than he knew what to do with. In short, content is equivalent to wealth, and luxury to poverty; or to give the thought a more agreeable turn, “ Content is natural wealth," says Socrates; to which I shall add, Luxury is artificial poverty. I shall therefore recommend to the consideration of those who are always aiming after superfluous and imaginary enjoyments, and will not be at the trouble of contracting their desires, an excellent saying of Bion the philosopher, namely, "That no man has so much care as he who endeavours after the most happiness.”
In the second place, every one ought to reflect how much more unhappy he might be, than he really is. The former consideration took in all those who are sufficiently provided with the means to make themselves easy; this regards such as actually lie under some pressure or misfortune. These may receive great alleviation from such a comparison as the unhappy person may make between himself and others, or between the misfortune which he suffers, and greater misfortunes which might have befallen him.
I like the story of the honest Dutchman, who, upon breaking his leg by a fall from the mainmast, told the standers by, it was a great mercy it was not his neck. To which since I am got into quotations, give me leave to add the saying of an old philosopher, who, after having invited some of his friends to dine with him, was ruffled by his wife, who came into the room in a passion, and threw down the table that stood before them: "Every one," says he, "has his calamity, and he is a happy man that has no greater than this." We find an instance to the same purpose in the life of doctor Hammond, written by bishop Fell. As this good man was troubled with a complication of distempers; when he had the gout upon him, he used to thank God, that it was not the stone; and when he had the stone, that he had not both these distempers on him at the same time.
I cannot conclude this essay without observing, that there was never any system, besides that of christianity, which would effectually produce in the mind of man the virtue I have been hitherto speaking of. In order to make us contented with our condition, many of the present philosophers tell us, that our discontent only hurts ourselves, without being able to make any alteration in our circumstances; others, that whatever evil befalls us is derived to
us by fatal necessity, to which the gods themselves are subject; while others very gravely tell the man who is miserable, that it is necessary he should be so, to keep up the harmony of the universe, and that the scheme of Providence would be troubled and perverted were he otherwise. These and the like considerations rather silence than satisfy a man. They may show him that his discontent is unreasonable, but are by no means sufficient to relieve it. They rather give despair than consolation. In a word, a man might reply to one of these comforters, as Augustus did to his friend, who advised him not to grieve for the death of person whom he loved, because his grief could not fetch him again: "It is for that very reason," said the emperor, "that I grieve."
On the contrary, religion bears a more tender regard to human nature. It prescribes to every miserable man the means of bettering his condition: nay, it shows him that the bearing of his afflictions as he ought to do, will naturally end in the removal of them. It makes him easy here, because it can make him happy hereafter.
XI.-Needlework recommended to the Ladies.
"I HAVE a couple of nieces under my direction, who so often run gadding abroad, that I do not know where to have them. Their dress, their tea, and their visits take up all their time, and they go to bed as tired with doing nothing, as I am after quilting a whole underpetticoat. The whole time they are not idle, is while they read your Spectators; which being dedicated to the interests of virtue, I desire you to recommend the long neglected art of needlework. Those hours, which, in this age, are thrown away in dress, play, visits, and the like, were employed, in my time, in writing out receipts, or working beds, chairs, and hangings for the family. For my part, I have plied my needle these fifty years, and by my good will would never have it out of my hand. It grieves my heart to see a couple of proud idle flirts sipping their tea, for a whole afternoon, in a great room, hung round with the industry of their great grandmother. Pray sir, take the laudable mystery of embroidery into your serious consideration, and as you have a great deal of the virtue of the last age in you, continue your endeavours to reform the present.
I am, &.c."
In obedience to the commands of my venerable correspondent, I have duly weighed this important subject, and promise myself, from the arguments here laid down, that all the fine ladies in England will be ready, as soon as their mourning is over, to appear covered with the work of their own hands.
What a delightful entertainment must it be to the fair sex, whom their native modesty, and the tenderness of men towards them, exempts from public business, to pass their hours in imitating fruits and flowers, and transplanting all the beauties of nature into their own dress, or raising a nèw creation in their clothes and apartments. How pleasing is the amusement of walking among the shades and groves planted by themselves, in surveying heroes slain by their needles, or little cupids, which they have brought into the world without pain.
This is, methinks, the most proper way wherein a lady can show a fine genius, and I cannot forbear wishing, that several writers of that sex, had chosen rather to apply themselves to tapestry than rhyme. Your pastoral poetesses may vent their fancy in rural landscapes, and place despairing shepherds under silken willows, or drown them in a stream of mohair. The heroic writers may work up battles as successfully, and inflame them with gold or stain them with crimson. Even those who have only a turn to a song or an epigram, may put many valuable stitches into a purse, and crowd a thousand graces into a pair of garters.
If I may, without breach of good manners, imagine that any pretty creature is void of genius, and would perform her part herein but very awkwardly, I must nevertheless insist upon her working, if it be only to keep her out of harm's way.
Another argument for busying good women in works of fancy, is, because it takes them off from scandal, the usual attendant of tea-tables, and all other inactive scenes of life. While they are forming their birds and beasts, their neighbours will be allowed to be the fathers of their own children; and Whig and Tory will be but seldom mentioned, where the great dispute is whether blue or red is the more proper colour. How much greater glory would Sophronia do the general, if she would choose rather to work the battle of Blenheim in tapestry, than signalize herself, with so much vehemence, against those who are Frenchmen in their hearts.
A third reason that I shall mention, is the profit that is brought to the family where these pretty arts are encouraged. It is manifest, that this way of life not only keeps fair ladies from running out into expenses, but it is at the same time, an actual improvement. How memorable would
that matron be, who shall have it inscribed upon her monument, that she wrote out the whole Bible in tapestry, and died in a good old age, after having covered three hundred yards of wall in the mansion house."
These premises being considered, I humbly submit the following proposals to all mothers in Great Britain.
I. That no young virgin whatsoever be allowed to receive the addresses of her first lover, but in a suit of her own embroidering.
II. That before every fresh servant, she be obliged to appear with a new stomacher at the least.
III. That no one be actually married, until she hath the childbed, pillows, &c. ready stitched, as likewise the mantle for the boy quite finished.
These laws, if I mistake not, would effectually restore the decayed art of needlework, and make the virgins of Great Britain exceedingly nimble fingered in their business.
IF there be any thing that makes human nature appear ridiculous to beings of superior faculties, it must be pride. They know so well the vanity of those imaginary perfections that swell the heart of man, and of those little supernumerary advantages, whether in birth, fortune, or title, which one man enjoys above another, that it must certainly very much astonish, if it does not very much divert them, when they see a mortal puffed up, and valuing himself above his neighbours, on any of these accounts, at the same time that he is obnoxious to all the common calamities of the species.
To set this thought in its true light, we will fancy, if you please, that yonder molehill is inhabited by reasonable creatures, and that every pismire (his shape and way of life only excepted) is endowed with human passions. How should we smile to hear one give us an account of the pedigrees, distinctions, and titles that reign among them? Observe how the whole swarm divide, and make way for the pismire that passes through them; you must understand he is an emmet of quality, and has better blood in his veins than
any pismire in the molehill. Don't you see how sensible he is of it, how slow he marches forward, how the whole rabble of ants keep their distance? Here you may observe one placed upon a little eminence, and looking down on a long row of labourers. He is the richest insect on this side the hillock, he has a walk of half a yard in length, and a quarter of an inch in breadth, he keeps a hundred menial servants, and has at least fifteen barleycorns in his granary. He is now chiding and beslaving the emmet that stands before him, and who, for all that we can discover, is as good an emmet as himself.
But here comes an insect of figure! Don't you take notice of a little white straw he carries in his mouth? That straw, you must understand, he would not part with for the longest tract about the molehill: Did you but know what he has undergone to purchase it! See how the ants of all qualities and conditions swarm about him. Should this straw drop out of his mouth, you would see all this numerous circle of attendants follow the next that took it up, and leave the discarded insect, or run over his back to come at its successor.
If now you have a mind to see all the ladies of the molehill, observe first the pismire that listens to the emmet on her left hand, at the same time that she seems to turn away her head from him. He tells this poor insect she is a goddess, that her eyes are brighter than the sun, that life and death are at her disposal. She believes him, and gives herself a thousand little airs upon it. Mark the vanity of the pismire on your left hand. She can scarce crawl with age; but you must know she values herself upon her birth; and if you mind, spurns at every one that comes within her reach. The little nimble coquette that is running along by the side of her, is a wit. She has broke many a pismire's heart. Do but observe what a drove of lovers are running after her.
We will here finish this imaginary scene; but first of all to draw the parallel closer, will suppose, if you please, that death comes upon the molehill, in the shape of a cock sparrow, who picks up, without distinction, the pismire of quality and his flatterers, the pismire of substance and his day labourers, the white straw officer and his sycophants, with all the goddesses, wits, and beauties of the molehill. May we not imagine, that beings of superior natures and perfections regard all the instances of pride and vanity, among our own species, in the same kind of view, when