« AnteriorContinuar »
the way. They like to leap hedges and ditches; to scramble amidst briars and thorns; to splash through mire and bog ; to be a terrible long while before they come to the end of their labour ; and at last, as I am told it often happens in the field, they sometimes find themselves just where they set out.
But, as the frogs in the fable say, “This is sport to them but death to us.'- -You cannot imagine what mischiefs and inconveniences it produces in our family. Before this disease of disputation took hold of him, Mr. Category was attentive to his affairs, kind to his friends, polite to his acquaintance, and one of the best husbands and fathers in the world; but now he neglects his business, quarrels with his relations, is rude to every body about him, and minds his wife and children no more than if they were so many broomsticks. Indeed I begin to be of opinion, that my sister has lost a good deal of his affection, from that same meekness of spirit which I mentioned her to be possessed of; and I think he likes me much better since I grew tired of yielding every point, as I used to do for peace sake, and now and then wrangle a little with him.
It is not difficult to find an opportunity. Were it about important concerns alone, it would happen only now and then, and might be easily avoided or endured. But 'tis all one what the matter in dispute is, so it but affords a dispute. Every thing is fair game (to come back to the simile of the chase) :- If we can't start a hare, a mole or a mouse will serve our turn. 'Twas but yesterday at dinner we had half a dozens battles between him and an odd sort of an old man he has lately taken a great liking to, who, I am told was a tutor at one of the universities, till he lost all employment from this same crazy humour of truth-hunting. The soup was not half helped round when a question arose as to the Spartan broth. The fish introduced a dissertation about a mullet, I think it was at some great supper in Rome ; and the cloth was no sooner taken away than a violent altercation arose about the favourite liquours of the ancients. My hair-dresser happening to call in the afternoon, set them off upon the head.dress of Poppea; and an old lady who drank tea with us, puzzling herself to trace the relation between our grand-fathers, introduced an enquiry, which lasted till near suppertime, on the family of Sesostris.
Were he confined to those old out-of-the-way topics, though the matter might never be exhausted, the number of the disputants would at least be abridged, and we might find a quiet hour when there was no scholar in the house but himself. But he is as keen about ascertaining modern facts as those of ancient times. If he can get hold of any body who has travelled where few have travelled before, if it is but a lame seaman, whom he has found begging in the street, there is no end of his questions. Not that he always acquiesces in what they tell him; on the contrary, he often disputes with them about things which they have seen, which he says cannot be true, because they are contrary to his philosophy; but, on the other hand, he tells them many things which they might have seen in those far countries, which they are obliged to confess they never either saw or heard of Truth, he says, is not easily discernible by common eyes : truth, he says, according to the old proverb, lies in the bottom of a well. God forgive me, Mr. Lounger, I am sometimes tempted to wish he were there along with her.
Not but that I have an affection for him too, for he has many good qualities, and that makes me the more vexed at this strange humour he has got into, which, besides plaguing us all as it does, is often of real prejudice to him and to his affairs. For he
is not contented with this search after truth in spe. culation only, but often carries it into practice in the ordinary concerns of life; and there too he always looks for her in some place where nobody ever thought of her being to be found. He was, I don't know whether fortunately or not, left a sufficiency by his father, to enable him to live without a profession ; but during one half of the year, when we reside in the country, he is a very keen farmer, planter, and gardener. But his method of farming, planting, and gardening, is quite different from that of any body else, and, as tells us, the only true one in the country. It happens however that he has scantier crops, less thriving trees, and worse flavoured fruit than any body around us; but that don't signify, he maintains the contrary, and has the pleasure of finding a dispute with every body that visits his farm, his plantations, or his garden. Last season he spoiled a whole
grass by a new method of hay, making. He was positive that it was excellent hay notwithstanding, and much more nourishing than if it had been made after the usual method : but he could not persuade his horses to eat it.
He is rather more successful in making experi. ments of a similar kind on himself. He once took it into his head, having found, as he told us, the most incontestible evidence of its truth, that men could live very well without sleep ; and actually went the length of disturbing the whole house for two nights together, by having himself pinched and buffetted about to keep him awake. On another occasion, he took nearly the same fancy with regard to food, and lived three or four days on a few boiled potatoes and some water gruel. This, however, was got the better of, by the warm fumes of a venison pasty, which happens to be a favourite dish of his. He insisted, however, on the superior healthfulness of the former diet ; but owned, that in this, as int many other things, the wrong way was the pleasantest.
This rage of experiment, as well as of enquiry, may lead to very serious consequences, if indulged as far as he sometimes gives us reason to think him inclined to do. He told us t'other morning, he was not at all surprised at the ancient philosopher who leaped into Etna, to be satisfied about the causes of its burning; and we have received intelligence, that he has actually been in treaty for a seat in a balloon to resolve some doubts he has entertained on the subject of that singular invention. Now, Mr. Lounger, as however troublesome his doubts are to his family, we by no means wish to have them cleared up quite so soon: it would be conferring a great favour on us all, if you, who are a philosopher like himself, would try to persuade Mr. Category to be contented to take things a little more on credit than he is at present disposed to do; particularly, that he would neither think of burning himself alive, or breaking his neck, for the sake of coming at the truth all of a hurry, but submit, for the sake of his wife and children, to grope about a while longer in this world of errors, I am, &c.
P.S. Pray don't forget to put him in mind, that there will be no disputing in heaven.
N° 59. SATURDAY, MARCH 18, 1786.
One of the pleasures of which the idle are deprived, is that of relaxation from business. Those whom ina tricate and weighty affairs embarrass and fatigue, talk with envy of the leisure of the unemployed, of the bliss of retirement. But in their hours of occasional amusement, they know not the grievance of listless days, and months, and years of idleness : nor when they pant for rest from their labours, are they aware, that it is from labour alone that rest acquires its name,
and derives its enjoyment. When, in the course of my usual walk, I passed the other morning through the place where but a few days before I had met so many busy faces, and been jostled by so many hurried steps; when I saw the court doors shut, and heard no hum within ; I confess it struck me with a melancholy sort of feel. ing. But the first lawyer whom I encountered had a smile of satisfaction on his countenance, and congratulated himself on the suspension of those labours which last week he said had lain so heavy on him. • You are free from that plague,' said he, you
have no session or term-time'-' But you forget my friend, I have no vacation.' I contrive, however, to get through the no-busimy
life with tolerable satisfaction, and if at any time an hour hangs heavy on me, I do not carry my misfortune into the streets, but like decent bega gars keep my distresses at home, and am relieved by the private contributions of the humane and the cha ritable,