Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

FOLLY

“ Fools are the daily work
Of Nature, her vocation. If she form
A man, she loses by it, 'tis too expensive;

'Twould make ten fools."- Dryden's Edipus. “ Agamemnon is a fool, Achilles is a fool, Thersites is a fool, and, as aforesaid, Patroclus is a fool.”-Shakspeare. Why is it that all the world are so bit- and that two grains more of commonler against fools? They are the great sense in the composition of the animal staple of the creation, and they are the would have ruined the entire concern, work of God, “as well as better men.” and have rendered the physical organiOf the mass of mankind, the larger zation of the species unfitted for the part are fools all over; and the rest world it was destined to inhabit. The differ only in having their folly varie- whole state and condition of civilized galed by an occasional vein of wisdom, society, at least, is built upon the sinhardly more than sufficient for pre- gle relation of folly to dupery; and unventing themselves from burning their less one were mad enough to desire, fingers; and this, too, is often of that with Jean Jacques, a return to simple bastard sort which is more appropri- savagery, one must look with complaately designated by the name of cun- cency upon this sine qua non of the ning. Even the wisest of mankind social system. The exclusive end of pay their due tribute to Nemesis, and all government is but a sort of game exhibit occasional touches of folly, law to keep fools (under the pretext which set the duller souls staring by of protecting them from the inroads of its exaggerated absurdity. Happy, unlicensed knaves) in a preserve for indeed, is it for them that this is the the battus of the regular sportsmen. case; for, without some such protect- A community of sheer rogues would ing infirmity, they would be put out of destroy itself, like two millstones movall relation to their fellow-creatures. ing without the intervention of a maThe faultless monsters would be as terial to be ground. A nation of fools much displaced in society, as a frog in would be devoured by their neighbors ; a bottle of carbonic acid, or Liston in but a society compounded of the two, a Quakers' meeting.

with a proper intermixture of those Folly is the rule of Nature, and who are, in their own persons, an hapwisdom but the exception ; and to com- py mixture of both, is admirably qualiplain of it is to “ complain you are a fied for the maintenance of “social man.” The outcry against folly is a order, and the relations of civilized mere rebellion against Heaven. It life.” Folly is therefore the ultimate shows an utter want of self-knowledge, cause of all that is brilliant and elevator a contemptible affectation. In one ed in social polity. Without fools, word, it is no better than sheer cant, we should have neither kings, nor biand ought, like all other cant, to be put shops, nor judges, nor generals, nor podown by general acclamation. Provi- lice magistrates, nor constables; or, at dence makes nothing in vain ; and the least, if such things existed, they bare fact of this multiplicity of fools would be constituted so differently should lead, by the shortest route, to a from those which at present bear the conviction that they are a very useful, name, that they would no longer be and therefore a very respectable class worthy of it. They would be stripped of personages. Those, however, who of all the sublime and beautiful in are deeply versed in the philosophy of which they now rejoice; and the pohuman life, will make no difficulty in lished Corinthian capital would be diacknowledging (sub rosá, be it under- vested of the better part of its gilding stood) that the whole scheme of Na- and ornament. There would be no ture is based on the folly of mankind; sinecures, no pensions, no reversionary

grants, no proconsular colonies, and no tages of good cookery, or disposed to close boroughs to claim them; nothing, set down the labors of Messrs. Ude, in short, to distinguish men from the and Kitchener (peace to his manes !) beasts of the field! This is the very among the vanities of vanity. On the touchstone of political science; and contrary, I believe most potently in yet men go on abusing the blockheads the truth of that proverb which teachand dolts, as if they were a superfluity es, that when Divine Providence gave in nature, and a let and an hindrance to man the fruits of the earth and the to the public at large. But the matter inhabitants of the three elements to does not stop here. Banish folly from make out a dinner, the devil, with a the intellectual complex, and the ma- corresponding malice, dragged into upjor part even of the honester callings per air that quintessential spoil-sport, must cease and be abandoned. The a bad cook. “ He who does not mind world would become little better than his belly,” said Doctor Johnson, the one vast tub of Diogenes, and its pop- Magnus Apollo of all Church and ulation would be as unaccommodated State maxim-mongers and moralists, and as idle as the people of Ireland. will hardly mind anything.' To be If the simple desire of fencing out the indifferent to what one eats, is not to inclemency of the elements alone pre- know right from wrong; and is one of sided over the choice of our habili- the few species of folly, which is bad ments, and nothing were granted to fol- in itself, and deserving of universal vily and ostentation, what would become tuperation. I speak not then of salof the tailor, and of the milliner and mis and fricandeaux, and of the other mantua-maker? It is folly and vanity essentials of a good table, but of those that render these trades a means of numerous inventions for pleasing the genteel livelihood to so many worthy eye at the expense of the stomach,citizens; and without them the Stultz- the temples, the flowers, the figures, es and the Herbots would pine in the the carmels, and, above all, of that gisame hopeless obscurity as the vilest ant abuse, the plateau, whose pondecountry botch. How little of the rous and massive vastness feeds notwenty yards of silk which my wife thing but the pride and vanity of the

me is indispensable to the ostentatious owner. Of the hundreds building of a decent evening dress, be- of articles which go to the set out of a long to wisdom and propriety; and formal dinner-table, and which occupy how much is dedicated, under the the entire morning of a butler and a names of gigots, volans à dent, ruches, pantry-boy to display, how few, how and furbelos, to the service of folly! very few administer to the real comHow little of the stupendous and com- fort of the meal! Yet, were these plicated piece of architecture, called a not in demand, an host of industrious bonnet, depends upon the capacity of persons would be thrown out of emthe head which bears it. The helmet ployment. Then again it would be a of the Castle of Otranto is but a type sore day for the tobacconist, if mankind of its marvellous disproportion. Like were given only to the essentials of a the interior of St. Peter's at Rome, cigar, a pinch of blackguard, or a quid the first aspect of it overwhelms the of pigtail. Drive out Folly with her spectator with a deep sense of awe, fifty guinea ineerschaum, her bighly and impresses him with as full a con- ornamented mull, her cherry sticks, viction as death itself, of the micro- and her ruinously extravagant hookah, cosm of man.

and the poor tradesman would starve. With respect to the other great es- The kindred shop of the perfumer afsential of life, the eating and the fords another illustration of the same drinking, folly is no less predominant. verity. It is not the Windsor soap Not that I am insensible to the advan- and the toothbrush that enable the

assures

* Boswell's Life.

[ocr errors]

shopkeeper to drive his curricle and to or so in a century. Without fools the sport his villa. These he owes to the journalists would be no less distressed. essences, the atars, the scents, and the There would be no leading articles, no cosmetics, which are dedicated to the exciting slanders, no slang descriptions service of Folly, together with the gold of the beastly chivalry of the prize and silver nécessaires that are anything ring, no lengthy columns concerning but necessary to the beaux, who can- captivating swindlers and interesting not travel a step without them. But cut-throats; no canting narrations of it would be ungenerous to push this fêtes, nor servile sycophantic pratings matter farther. That reader must be of the whereabouts of royal infants, of far beyond the average folly, which is boating-parties, poney-chaises, of lords the subject of this paper, who cannot in waiting, and “ladies of the domesdraw a general conclusion from the tic circle," and, worst of all, there foregoing particulars, and satisfy him- would be no advertisements, no poetic self that commerce would cease with advocacy of white champagne and the existence of fools; and consequent- black polish, no surgical moralizing ly that they are of the last necessity concerning “the morning of life and to that complex, which is the pride, the delusions of passion, no invitaboast, and prosperity of the summary tions to single ladies of decent compeof all perfection, the model of all ci- tence to marry felons, no notices of vilization, the type of all morality,– tradesmen leaving off business, or of Old England. The utility of fools in savings of full fifty per cent. in the the various departments of literature is purchase of calicoes. This multiplia mystery of a more recondite nature. city of advertisements proves to deYou, however, know, Mr. Editor, and monstration that the English are the so do Messrs. Colburn and Murray, greatest fools under the sun; and are that they are the best customers of they not the most prosperous of peothe trade. Without fools there would ple, the envy of surrounding nations, be no watering-places, and without and the admiration of the entire world? watering-places there would be no What more would you have ? An circulating libraries worth mention- adequate supply of fools, moreover, is ing; without circulating libraries there highly important in a political sense, would be no fashionable novels, no as the raw materials of standing armies light poetry, no squibs, no autobiogra- so urgently necessary to society as the phy, and (tell it not in Gath) no re first eleinents of modern government. views and magazines ; and without all Poverty and gin, indeed, might go far these there would be no authors nor in raising the necessary contingent of booksellers—miserable rites ! The common soldiers, to be shot at and handsomest and the best books (in the knocked on the head at sixpence per bookseller's sense of the word) are got diem. But it would be difficult, I up exclusively for the fools. Without think, to persuade wise men of princely the aid of fools, both as purchasers fortunes to forego their ease and indeand as authors too, there would be no pendence, and risk their capital in embroiling of the sciences, no factions commissions and often-changed accouin literature, no party politics, no an- trements, for the mere pleasure of gry polemics, no Kantism, no animal strutting about in laced clothes and magnetism, no phrenology, no eternal fur caps, like our sucking cornets and disputes on corn and currency; the ensigns. The inultiplicity of fools, paper-makers might stop there mill- too, is the joyful occasion of the prewheels, and the pressmen be placed sent flourishing condition of the prac-, under the command of a lieutenant of tice of physic. To the folly of man

Without foolish authors kind, medicine is indebted, at once, criticism would perish for want of its for half the diseases on which it opeproper pabulum, or at most a blue and rates, and for the fame of its principal yellow octavo would be called for once remedies. A well-stored apotheca

the navy.

ry's shop is a standing monument of rogues who lead parties, the latter human credulity and imbecility; and would come into such close contact, the blue or pink bottle in its illuminat- that questions would be settled, one ed window is a Pharos shining over way or other, without delay; and the the sunken rocks of the owner's shal- world would at least lose the amuselow qualifications. Among the rich ment of a protracted struggle : and, variety of its accumulated disgusts, farther, without the particular interthere are, at most, some half dozen or vention of fools, to do the dirty work dozen drugs which skill can turn to of politics, and to hazard measures of account. The rest are never better which the most barefaced villany would than the innocuous instruments of fool- be ashamed, policy would be cut off catching : too often they are either from half its best means, and from all positively or negatively poisons, in the the applause which attends a successhands of that empiricism which sets ful stroke. We all know that this colleges and corporations at defiance. class of persons rush in where wise Not, indeed, that the worst quacks are men fear to go, and are therefore always to be found among men divest- especially formed by nature for fulfiled of diplomas, or those who disguise ling the functions of a cat's-paw. But the implements of their trade beneath why enlarge on this subject? Twenthe mystery of a three-halfpenny stamp. ty folio volumes would not exhaust it. No two things can be more distinct Nay, are the Statutes at large anythan the trade and the profession of thing else than one vast text-book on physic. The professor administers to the political utility of fools ? the maladies of the patient; the trader Considering the boundless advanto his passions. The professor ac- tages of folly, and the corresponding quires skill by anatomizing the dead ; bounty of Providence in keeping up the trader thrives by cutting up the the stock of fools, it may readily be living. If to flattery and slander he presupposed that their condition is by adds a good dash of hypocrisy, and no means without its comforts; and proves his competence in medicine by the fact corresponds with the prehis progress in theology, his fortunes sumption. There is no one in life are made. The fools fall to his share, so thoroughly self-satisfied as your and he thrives; while the professor, thorough fool. It is the miserable in possession of the wise men, starves prerogative of reason to bring us acby inches upon their custom, and dies quainted with the rich variety of our in disappointment. In law, likewise,- miseries, and with the empty nothingbut why mention law ? Its luxuries ness of the objects on which humanity are too expensive for ordinary indul- fixes its desires. The highest flight gence; and, after all, it is only the of wisdom is to lash the mind to a very greatest of fools that voluntarily stoical patience of suffering, and, by rush into its labyrinths : it is the rogue bringing a conviction of the realities who usually commences litigation. of life, of their necessity, and their Besides, law is only another name for inevitability, to screw our courage to gaming; and as throwing dice is the the sticking-place, and inspire us with gayest mode of trusting to chance, it a becoming resignation. The fool, will probably soon supersede the law on the contrary, sees nothing of all altogether. In politics, the utility of this.* fools is unbounded. Without their Folly, says the Greek tragedian, general interposition between the makes the sweetest life, and, of all

* As the old song of J. Miller, 1744, abundantly testifies. A fool enjoys the sweets of life,

If Fortune smile, as smile she will, Unwounded by its cares;

Upon her booby brood, His passions never are at strife,

The fool anticipates no ill, He hopes, not he, nor fears.

But reaps the present good.

evils, is the least painful;* and Champ- themselves with associates of high infort justly remarks, that Nature in pity tellectual powers, but give a marked relieves us from the load of existence preference to those least able to set when the passions cease to blind us to the Thames on fire. If, from a misthe evils by which it is surrounded. placed vanity, an individual among Who ever heard of a fool committing them now and then is ambitious of suicide, or staining himself with any appearing clever himself, and seeks to of the greater crimes which spring open his table to the lettered, the scifrom intensity of feeling? The French, entific, and the deep thinker, his choice before the Revolution, had an exalted more frequently stumbles upon some but false idea of the philosophy of the blue-stocking pretender or charlatan, English, and this justifies another of some wholesale dealer in solemn plautheir prejudices respecting our tenden- sibilities, or worthy blockhead, whose cy to melancholy. However good it accidental acquirements serve only to may be to be merry and wise, the render his native folly more saliently union of the two is by no means so conspicuous. He who would get on easy to effect. The Quakers are re- in the world, must sedulously hide from markable for their sense and practical it his superiority. The man of merit, wisdom ; but are they not at the same who makes too open a display of his time the muzziest mortals in existence ? abilities, is distrusted and hated. He Your man of wit laughs only when he must be dissatisfied, and therefore is has a good cause ;. but the fool laughs dangerous. It is not the dull and the at everything—at anything—at no- silly who breed revolutions, but that thing. Our ancestors, whose wisdom is sect, hated of gods and men, the phiproverbial, and is only called in ques- losophers. Their knowledge is disaftion by Jacobins and innovators, were fection, and their science infidelity. thrown upon professional fools or jest- Had there been no geniuses in France, ers for their merriment. They were the world would not have groaned untoo staid and grave a race to venture der the oppression of a Bonaparte, and upon a laugh of their own raising; that nation would have enjoyed to all whereas we moderns, who are too sil- eternity the mild, benignant, and paly to stir a step in safety without their ternal sway of the Bourbons. guidance, keep up the circulation of It is not then wonderful that the wisthe blood by endless laughing at our est governments lay themselves so deown jokes and our neighbors' absurdi liberately out for captivating the good ties. It is then a most merciful dis- graces of fools. For their benefit, pensation of Providence that multiplies the most expensive ceremonies are infools, and confines within the narrow stituted; for them, fasts are proclaimest limits those who must either burst ed, kings' speeches laboriously conned with indignation at triumphant villany, by heart, Antijacobin and Quarterly or pine into atrophy at the aspect of Reviews written, ribbons and medals human misery. The superiority of multiplied, and State-trumpeters hirfolly is observable in the fact, that the ed ; for their especial amusement, greatest geniuses are glad to take oc robes and jewels are called into play, casional refuge in fooling. It is also and maces surcharged with the very well worthy of remark, that the rich best double gilding. If none but cleand the noble, who may command ver persons were to be consulted, there their own company, seldom surround would be no occasion for late debates,

Or should, through love of change, her wheels Fools, careless, whistle on and say,
Her fav’rite bantling cross,

'Tis silly to be sad. The happy fool no anguish feels,

Since free from sorrow, fear, and shame, He weighs nor gains nor loss.

A fool thus fate defies, When knaves o'erreach, and friends betray, The greatest folly I can name Whilst mcn of sense run mad,

Is to be over-wise. * Ajax Mastigophorus.

« AnteriorContinuar »