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should be annihilated every thousand years. Supposing then that you had it in your choice to be happy all the while this prodigious mass of sand was consuming by this slow method till there was not a grain of it left, on condition you were to be miserable for ever after; or, supposing that you might be happy for ever after, on condition you were to be miserable till the whole mass of sand were thus annihilated, at the rate of one sand in a thousand years: which of these two cases would you make your choice ?
It must be confessed in this case, so many thousands of years are, to the imagination, as a kind of eternity, though in reality they do not bear so great a proportion to that duration which is to follow them, as a unit does to the greatest number which you can put together in figures, or as one of those sands to the supposed heap. Reason, therefore, tells us, without any manner of hesitation, which would be the better part in this choice. How. ever, as I have before intimated, our reason might in such a case be overset by the imagination, as to dispose some persons to sink under the consideration of the great length of the first part of this duration, and of the great distance of that second daration which is to succeed it. The mind, I say, might give itself up to that happiness which is at hand, considering that it is so very near, and that it would last so very long. But when the choice we actually have before us is this, Whether we will chuse to be happy for the space of only threescore and ten, nay, perhaps, of only twenty or ten years, I might say of only a day or an hour, and miserable to all eternity; or, on the contrary, miserable for this short term of years, and happy for a whole eternity; what
A “Under the consideration of the great length of the first part of this duration." The connecting of so many genitive cases together, in this sentence, by means of the preposition of, though generally a fault, and for the most part studiously avoided by Mr. Addison, has here an extreme grace, as the length of the chain serves to express, more emphatically, the length of that duration which he describes.-H.
words are sufficient to express that folly and want of consideration which in such a case makes a wrong choice ?
I here put the case even at the worst, by supposing (what seldom happens) that a course of virtue makes us miserable in this life; but if we suppose (as it generally happens) that virtue would make us more happy, even in this life, than a contrary course of vice; how can we sufficiently admire the stupidity or madness of those persons who are capable of making so absurd a choice ?
Every wise man, therefore, will consider this life only as it may conduce to the happiness of the other, and cheerfully sacrifice the pleasures of a few years to those of an eternity.*
No. 576. WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 4.
Nitor in adversum; nec me, qui cætera, vincit
Ovid. Met il, T2.
I REMEMBER a young man of very lively parts, and of a sprightly turn in conversation, who had only one fault, which was an inordinate desire of appearing fashionable. This ran him into many amours, and consequently into many distempers. He never went to bed till two a-clock in the morning, because he
These two moral papers, though on the commonest of all subjects, and without the appearance of a new sentiment to recommend them, are. perhaps, as pleasing as any in the Spectator. The reason is, that they are exquisitely well written; by which I only mean, that the style is perfectly clear, and pure; that is, such as it should be on the occasion, which requires, and only permits, that plain good sense should be suitably expressed:
Tantum de medio sumptis accedit honoris !-H.
would not be a queer fellow; and was every now and then knocked down by a constable, to signalize bis vivacity. He was initiated into half a dozen clubs before he was one and twenty, and so improved in them his natural gaiety of temper, that you might frequently trace him to his lodgings by a range of broken windows, and other the like monuments of wit and gallantry. To be short, after having fully established his reputation of being a very agreeable rake, he died of old age at five and twenty.
There is, indeed, nothing which betrays a man into so many errors and inconveniences, as the desire of not appearing singular; for which reason it is very necessary to form a right idea of singularity, that we may know when it is laudable and when it is vicious. In the first place, every man of sense will agree with me, that singularity is laudable, when, in contradiction to a multitude, it adheres to the dictates of conscience, morality, and honour. In these cases we ought to consider, that it is not custom, but duty, which is the rule of action ; and that we should be only so far sociable, as we are reasonable creatures. Truth is never the less so, for not being attended to; and it is the nature of actions, not the number of actors, by which we ought to regulate our behaviour. Singularity in concerns of this kind is to be looked upon as heroic bravery, in which a man leaves the species only as he soars above it. What greater instance can there be of a weak and pusillanimous temper, than for a man to pass his whole life in opposition to his own sentiments? or not to dare to be what he thinks he ought to be ?
Singularity, therefore, is only vicious when it makes men act contrary to reason, or when it puts them upon distinguishing themselves by trifles. As for the first of these, who are singular in any thing that is irreligious, immoral, or dishonourable, I believe every one will easily give them up. I shall therefore speak of those only who are remarkable for their singularity in things of no importance, as in dress, behaviour, conversation, and all the little intercourses of life. In these cases there is a certain deference due to custom; and notwithstanding there may be a colour of reason to deviate from the multitude in some particulars, a man ought to sacrifice his private inclinations and opinions to the practice of the public. It must be confessed that good sense often makes a humourist; but then it unqualifies him for being of any moment in the world, and renders him ridiculous to persons of a much inferior understanding.
I have heard of a gentleman in the north of England, who was a remarkable instance of this foolish singularity. He had laid it down as a rule within himself, to act in the most indifferent parts of life according to the most abstracted notions of reason and good sense, without any regard to fashion or example. This humour broke out at first in many little oddnesses : he had never any stated hours for his dinner, supper, or sleep; because, said he, we ought to attend the calls of nature, and not set our appetites to our meals, but bring our meals to our appetites. In his conversation with country-gentlemen, he would not make use of a phrase that was not strictly true : he never told any of them, that he was his humble servant, but that he was his wellwisher; and would rather be thought a malecontent, than drink the king's health when he was not a-dry. He would thrust his head out of his chamber-window every morning, and after having gaped for fresh air about half an hour, repeat fifty verses as loud as he could bawl them for the benefit of his lungs; to which end he generally took them out of Homer; the Greek tongue, espe. cially in that author, being more deep and sonorous, and more conducive to expectoration, than any other. He had many other particularities, for which he gave sound and philosophical reasons. As this humour still grew upon him, he chose to wear a turban instead of a periwig; concluding very justly, that a bandage of clean linen about his head was much more wholesome, as well as cleaply, than the caul of a wig, which is soiled with frequent perspitations. He afterwards judiciously observed, that the many ligatures in our English dress must naturally check the circulation of the blood; for which reason, he made his breeches and his doublet of one continued piece of cloth, after the manner of the Hussars. In short, by following the pure dictates of reason, he at length departed so much from the rest of his countrymen, and, indeed, from his whole species, that his friends would have clapped him into Bedlam, and have begged his estate, but the judge being informed that he did no harm, contented himself with issuing out a commission of lunacy against him, and putting his estate into the hands of proper guardians.
The fate of this philosopher puts me in mind of a remark in Monsieur Fontenelle's dialogue of the dead. The ambitious and the covetous (says he) are madmen to all intents and purposes, as much as those who are shut up in dark rooms; but they have the good luck to have numbers on their side ; whereas the frenzy of one who is given up for a lunatic, is a frenzy hors d'œuvre;' that is, in other words, something which is singular in its kind, and does not fall in with the madness of a multitude.
In the reign of King Charles I, the Company of Stationers, into whose hands the printing of the Bible is committed by