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draw his mind from idle speculations, and, instead of watching motions which he has no power to regulate, to employ his faculties upon nearer and more interesting objects, the survey of his passions, the knowledge of duties which must daily be performed, and the detection of dangers which must daily be incurred.
This angelic counsel every man of letters should always have before him. He that devotes himself wholly to retired ftudy, naturally finks from omiffion to forgetfulness of social duties, and from which he must be sometimes awakened, and recalled to the general condition of mankind.
So many hindrances may obstruct the acquisition of knowledge, that there is little reafon for wondering that it is in a few hands. To the greater part of mankind the duties of life are inconsistent with much ftudy, and the hours which they would spend upon letters must be stolen from their occupations and their families. Many suffer themselves to be lured by more sprightly and luxuriant pleasures from the shades of contemplation, where they find seldom more than a calm delight, such as, though greater than all others, if its certainty and its duration be reckoned with its power of gratification, is yet easily quitted for some extemporary joy, which the present moment offers, and another perhaps will put out of reach.
It is the great excellence of learning that it borrows very little from time or place; it is not confined to season or climate, to cities or to the country, but may be cultivated and enjoyed where no other pleasure can be obtained. But this quality, which constitutes much of its value, is one occasion of neglect ; what may be done at all times with equal propriety, is deferred from day to day, till the mind is gradually reconciled to the omiffion, and the attention is turned to other objects. This habitual idleness gains too much power to be conquered, and the soul finks from the idea of intellectual labour and intenseness of meditation. That those who profess to advance learning some
times obstruct it, cannot be denied; the continual multiplication of books not only distracts choice, but disappoints enquiry. To him that has moderately stored his mind with images, few writers afford any novelty ; or what little they have to add to the common stock of learning is so buried in the mass of general notions, that, like filver mingled with the ore of lead, it is too little to pay for the labour of separation, and he that has often been deceived by the promise of a title, at last grows weary of examining, and is tempted to consider all as equally fallacious.
The Story of Maria-from Sterne.
"HEY were the sweetest notes I ever heard ;
and I instantly let down the fore-glass to hear them more distinctly-'Tis Maria, said the postillion, observing I was listening-Poor Maria, continued he, (leaning his body on one side to let me see her, for he was in a line betwixt us) is fitting upon a bank playing her vespers upon her pipe, with her little goat beside her.
The young fellow uttered this with an accent and a look so perfectly in tune to a feeling heart, that I instantly made a vow, I would give him a four-and-twenty fous piece, when I got to Moulins
- And who is poor Maria ? said I. The love and pity of the villages around us; said the poftillion-it is but three years ago, that the fun did not shine upon so fair, so quick-witted, and amiable a maid; and better fate did Maria deserve, than to have her banns forbid by the intrigues of the curate of the parish who published them
He was going on, when Maria, who had made a fhort pause, put the pipe to her mouth, and began the air again, they were the same notes,--yet were ten times fweeter : it is the evening service to the virgin, said the young man but who has taught her to play it or how she came by her pipe, no one knows; we think that Heaven has assisted her in both; for ever since she has been unsettled in her mind, it seems her only confolation-she has never once had the pipe out of her hand, but plays that service upon it almost night and day.
The postillion delivered this with so much discretion and natural eloquence, that I could not help decyphering something in his face above his condition, and Thould have lifted out his hiftory, had not poor Maria's taken fo full poffeffion of me.
We had got up by this time almost to the bank where Maria was sitting : she was in a thin white jacket, with, her hair, all but two treffes, drawn up into a filk net, with a few olive leaves twisted a little fantastically on one side-she was beautiful; and if ever I felt the full force of an honest heart-ache, it was the moment I saw her
-God help her ! poor damsel! above a hundred mafles, said the postillion, have been said in the several parish churches and convents around, for her,--but without effect; we have still hopes, as she is sensible for short intervals, that the virgin at last will restore her to herself; but her parents, who know her best, are hopeless upon that score, and think her senses are loft for ever.
As the postillion spoke this, Maria made a cadence so melancholy, so tender and querulous, that I sprung out of the chaise to help her, and found myself fitting betwixt her and her goat before I relapsed from my enthuGasm.
Maria looked wishfully for some time at me, and then at her goat—and then at me—and then at the goat again ; and so on, alternately
-Well, Maria, said I softly-What resemblance do
you find ?
I do intreat the candid reader to believe me, that it was from the humbleft conviction of what a beast man is,--that I asked the question ; and that I would not have let fallen an unfeasonable pleasantry in the venerable presence of Misery, to be entitled to all the wit that ever Rabelais scattered and yet I own my heart smote me, and that fo smarted at the very idea of it, that I fwore I would set up for wisdom, and utter grave sentences the rest of my days and never-never attempt again to commit mirth with man, woman, or child, the longest day I had to live.
As for writing nonsense to them I believe, there was a reserve-but that I leave to the world.
Adieu, Maria! adieu, poor hapless damsel ! some time, but not now, I may hear thy sorrows from thy own lips--but I was deceived; for that moment the took her pipe, and told me such a tale of woe with it, that I rose up, and, with broken and irregular fteps, walked foftly to my chaise.
In my next journey I was prompted to go half a league out of my road to the village where her parents dwelt to enquire after her.
-The old mother came to the door, her looks told me the story before the opened her mouth-She had loft her husband; he had died, she said, of anguish, for the loss of Maria's senses about a month before- She had feared at first, she added, that it would have plundered her poor girl of what little understanding was left-but, on the contrary, it had brought her more to herself-still she could not reft-her poor daughter, she faid, crying, was wandering some where about the road
-Why does my pulse beat languid as I write this? and what made La Fleur, whose heart seemed only to be tuned to joy, to pass the back of his hand twice acrofs his eyes, as the woman stood and told it? I beckoned to the postillion to turn back into the road. ,