« PreviousContinue »
be, in the ftrict analysis of it, no other than what it is here defcribed, a mere uninterefting propofition, amounting to nothing more than that fomebody acted meritoriously; yet it would not neceffarily follow, that true philosophy would banish the defire of it from the human breast. For this paffion may be (as moft certainly it is) wifely implanted in our fpecies, notwithstanding the corresponding object should in reality be very different from what it appears in imagination. Do not many of our most refined and even contemplative pleafures owe their existence to our mistakes? It is but extending (I will not fay, improving) some of our senses to a higher degree of acuteness than we now poffefs them, to make the faireft views of nature, or the nobleft productions of art, appear horrid and deformed. To fee things as they truly and in themselves are, would not always, perhaps be of advantage to us in the intellectual world, any more than in the natural. But, after all, who shall certainly affure us, that the pleasure of virtuous fame dies with its poffeffor, and reaches not to a farther scene of existence? There is nothing, it
should seem, either abfurd or unphilofophi cal in fuppofing it poffible at least, that the praises of the good and the judicious, that fweetest mufic to an honeft ear in this world, may be echoed back to the mansions of the next that the poet's defcription of Fame may be literally true, and tho fhe walks upon earth, the may yet lift her head into heaven.
BUT can it be reasonable to extinguish a paffion which nature has univerfally light ed up in the human breast, and which we conftantly find to burn with most strength and brightness in the nobleft and beft formed bofoms? Accordingly Revelation is so far from endeavoring (as you fuppofe) to eradicate the feed which nature has thus deeply planted, that the rather seems, on the contrary, to cherish and forward its growth. To be exalted with honor, and to be had in everlasting remembrance, are in the number of thofe encouragements which the Jewish difpenfation offered to the vir tuous; as the perfon from whom the facred author of the Christian fyftem received his birth, is herself reprefented as rejoicing that all generations should call her blessed.
To be convinced of the great advantage of cherishing this high regard to posterity; this noble defire of an after-life in the breath of others, one need only look back upon the history of the antient Greeks and Romans. What other principle was it, Hortenfius, which produced that exalted strain of virtue in those days, that may well ferve as a model to thefe? Was it not the confentiens laus bonorum, the incorrupta vox bene judicantium (as Tully calls it) the con→ current approbation of the good, the uncor rupted applause of the wife, that animated their most generous pursuits?
To confefs the truth, I have been ever inclined to think it a very dangerous attempt, to endeavor to leffen the motives of right conduct, or to raise any fufpicion concerning their folidity. The tempers and difpofitions of mankind are so extremely different, that it seems neceffary they should be called into action by a variety of incitements. Thus, while fome are willing to wed Virtue for her perfonal charms, others are engaged to take her for the fake of her expected dowry: and fince her followers and admirers have fo little to hope from her in
prefent, it were pity, methinks, to reason them out of any imagined advantage in reverfion. Farewel.
THINK, Cleora, you are the truest female hermit, I ever knew; at least I do not remember to have met with any among your fex, of the fame order with yourself for as to the Religious on the other fide of the water, I can by no means efteem them worthy of being ranked in your number. They are a fort of People who either have seen nothing of the world, or too much : and where is the merit of giving up what one is not acquainted with, or what one is weary of? But you are a far more illustrious reclufe, who have entered into the world with innocency, and retired from it with good humor. That fort of life, which makes fo amiable a figure in the description of poets and philofophers, and which kings and heroes have profeffed to afpire after, Cleora actually enjoys the
lives her own, free from the follies and impertinences, the hurry and disappointments of falfe pursuits of every kind. How much do I prefer one hour of fuch folitude, to all the glittering, glaring, gaudy days of the ambitious? I shall not envy them their gold and their filver, their precious jewels, and their changes of raiment, while you permit me to join you and Alexander in your hermitage. I hope to do fo on Sunday evening, and attend you to the fiege of Tyre, or the deserts of Africa, or wherever else your hero fhall lead you. But should I find you in more elevated company, and engaged with the rapturous ****; even then, I hope, you will not refufe to admit me of your party. If I have not yet a proper goût for the myftic writers, perhaps I am not quite incapable of acquiring one; and as I have every thing of the hermit in my compofition except the enthusiasm, it is not impoffible but I may catch that also, by the affistance of you and ****. I defire you would receive me as a probationer at least, and as one who is willing, if he is worthy, to be initiated into your fecret doctrines. I think I only want this taste