« PreviousContinue »
103. The prevalence of curiosity. The character of
114. The necessity of proportioning punishments to
121. The dangers of imitation. The impropriety of
123. The young trader turned gentleman
126. The universality of cowardice. The impropriety
136. The meanness and mischief of indiscriminate
NUMB. 71. TUESDAY, November 20, 1750.
Vivere quod propero puuper, nec inutilis annis,
True, sir, to live I haste, your pardon give,
MANY words and sentences are so frequently heard in the mouths of men, that a superficial obser ver is inclined to believe, that they must contain some primary principle, some great rule of action, which it is proper always to have present to the attention, and by which the use of every hour is to be adjusted. Yet, if we consider the conduct of those sententious philosophers, it will often be found, that they repeat these aphorisms, merely because they have somewhere heard them, because they have nothing else to say, or because they think veneration gained by such appearances of wisdom, but that no ideas are annexed to the words, and that, according to the old blunder
of the followers of Aristotle, their souls are mere pipes or organs, which transmit sounds, but do not understand them.
Of this kind is the well-known and well-attested position, that life is short, which may be heard among mankind by an attentive auditor, many times a day, but which never yet within my reach of observation left any impression upon the mind; and perhaps, if my readers will turn their thoughts back upon their old friends, they will find it difficult to call a single man to remembrance, who appeared to know that life was short till he was about to lose it./
It is observable that Horace, in his account of the characters of men, as they are diversified by the various influence of time, remarks, that the old man is dilator, spe longus, given to procrastination, and inclined to extend his hopes to a great distance. So far are we generally from thinking what we often say of the shortness of life, that at the time when it is necessarily shortest, we form projects which we delay to execute, indulge such expectations as nothing but a long train of events can gratify, and suffer those passions to gain upon us, which are only excusable in the prime of life.
These reflections were lately excited in my mind, by an evening's conversation with my friend Prospero, who, at the age of fifty-five, has bought an estate, and is now contriving to dispose and cultivate it with uncommon elegance. His great pleasure is to walk among stately trees, and lie musing in the heat of noon under their shade; he is therefore maturely considering how he shall dispose his walks and his groves, and has at last determined to send for the