Samuel Johnson.

The Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 03 The Rambler, Volume II online

. (page 32 of 38)
Online LibrarySamuel JohnsonThe Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 03 The Rambler, Volume II → online text (page 32 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


crowd, and murmured because he was not distinguished above the rest. By
degrees all made advances, and all resented repulse. The table was then
covered with delicacies in vain; the musick sounded in empty rooms; and
Abouzaid was left to form in solitude some new scheme of pleasure or
security.

Resolving now to try the force of gratitude, he inquired for men of
science, whose merit was obscured by poverty. His house was soon crowded
with poets, sculptors, painters, and designers, who wantoned in
unexperienced plenty, and employed their powers in celebration of their
patron. But in a short time they forgot the distress from which they had
been rescued, and began to consider their deliverer as a wretch of
narrow capacity, who was growing great by works which he could not
perform, and whom they overpaid by condescending to accept his bounties.
Abouzaid heard their murmurs and dismissed them, and from that hour
continued blind to colours, and deaf to panegyrick.

As the sons of art departed, muttering threats of perpetual infamy,
Abouzaid, who stood at the gate, called to him Hamet the poet. "Hamet,"
said he, "thy ingratitude has put an end to my hopes and experiments: I
have now learned the vanity of those labours that wish to be rewarded by
human benevolence; I shall henceforth do good, and avoid evil, without
respect to the opinion of men; and resolve to solicit only the
approbation of that Being whom alone we are sure to please by
endeavouring to please him."



No. 191. TUESDAY, JANUARY 14, 1752.

_Cereus in vitium flecli, monitoribus asper_. HOR. Art. Poet. 163.

The youth -
Yielding like wax, th' impressive folly bears;
Rough to reproof, and slow to future cares. FRANCIS.

TO THE RAMBLER.

DEAR MR. RAMBLER,

I have been four days confined to my chamber by a cold, which has
already kept me from three plays, nine sales, five shows, and six
card-tables, and put me seventeen visits behind-hand; and the doctor
tells my mamma, that, if I fret and cry, it will settle in my head,
and I shall not be fit to be seen these six weeks. But, dear Mr. Rambler,
how can I help it? At this very time Melissa is dancing with the
prettiest gentleman; - she will breakfast with him to-morrow, and then run
to two auctions, and hear compliments, and have presents; then she will
be drest, and visit, and get a ticket to the play; then go to cards and
win, and come home with two flambeaux before her chair. Dear Mr.
Rambler, who can bear it?

My aunt has just brought me a bundle of your papers for my amusement.
She says you are a philosopher, and will teach me to moderate my
desires, and look upon the world with indifference. But, dear sir, I do
not wish nor intend to moderate my desires, nor can I think it proper to
look upon the world with indifference, till the world looks with
indifference on me. I have been forced, however, to sit this morning a
whole quarter of an hour with your paper before my face; but just as my
aunt came in, Phyllida had brought me a letter from Mr. Trip, which I
put within the leaves; and read about _absence_ and _inconsolableness_,
and _ardour_, and _irresistible passion_, and _eternal constancy_, while
my aunt imagined that I was puzzling myself with your philosophy, and
often cried out when she saw me look confused, "If there is any word
that you do not understand, child, I will explain it."

Dear soul! how old people that think themselves wise may be imposed
upon! But it is fit that they should take their turn, for I am sure,
while they can keep poor girls close in the nursery, they tyrannize over
us in a very shameful manner, and fill our imaginations with tales of
terrour, only to make us live in quiet subjection, and fancy that we can
never be safe but by their protection.

I have a mamma and two aunts, who have all been formerly celebrated for
wit and beauty, and are still generally admired by those that value
themselves upon their understanding, and love to talk of vice and
virtue, nature and simplicity, and beauty and propriety; but if there
was not some hope of meeting me, scarcely a creature would come near
them that wears a fashionable coat. These ladies, Mr. Rambler, have had
me under their government fifteen years and a half, and have all that
time been endeavouring to deceive me by such representations of life as
I now find not to be true; but I know not whether I ought to impute them
to ignorance or malice, as it is possible the world may be much changed
since they mingled in general conversation.

Being desirous that I should love books, they told me, that nothing but
knowledge could make me an agreeable companion to men of sense, or
qualify me to distinguish the superficial glitter of vanity from the
solid merit of understanding; and that a habit of reading would enable
me to fill up the vacuities of life without the help of silly or
dangerous amusements, and preserve me from the snares of idleness and
the inroads of temptation.

But their principal intention was to make me afraid of men; in which
they succeeded so well for a time, that I durst not look in their faces,
or be left alone with them in a parlour; for they made me fancy, that no
man ever spoke but to deceive, or looked but to allure; that the girl
who suffered him that had once squeezed her hand, to approach her a
second time, was on the brink of ruin; and that she who answered a
billet, without consulting her relations, gave love such power over her,
that she would certainly become either poor or infamous.

From the time that my leading-strings were taken off, I scarce heard any
mention of my beauty but from the milliner, the mantua-maker, and my own
maid; for my mamma never said more, when she heard me commended, but
"the girl is very well," and then endeavoured to divert my attention by
some inquiry after my needle, or my book.

It is now three months since I have been suffered to pay and receive
visits, to dance at publick assemblies, to have a place kept for me in
the boxes, and to play at lady Racket's rout; and you may easily imagine
what I think of those who have so long cheated me with false
expectations, disturbed me with fictitious terrours, and concealed from
me all that I have found to make the happiness of woman.

I am so far from perceiving the usefulness or necessity of books, that
if I had not dropped all pretensions to learning, I should have lost Mr.
Trip, whom I once frighted into another box, by retailing some of
Dryden's remarks upon a tragedy; for Mr. Trip declares, that he hates
nothing like hard words, and I am sure, there is not a better partner to
be found; his very walk is a dance. I have talked once or twice among
ladies about principles and ideas, but they put their fans before their
faces, and told me I was too wise for them, who for their part never
pretended to read any thing but the play-bill, and then asked me the
price of my best head.

Those vacancies of time which are to be filled up with books I have
never vet obtained; for, consider, Mr. Rambler, I go to bed late, and
therefore cannot rise early; as soon as I am up, I dress for the
gardens; then walk in the park; then always go to some sale or show, or
entertainment at the little theatre; then must be dressed for dinner;
then must pay my visits; then walk in the park; then hurry to the play;
and from thence to the card-table. This is the general course of the
day, when there happens nothing extraordinary; but sometimes I ramble
into the country, and come back again to a ball; sometimes I am engaged
for a whole day and part of the night. If, at any time, I can gain an
hour by not being at home, I have so many things to do, so many orders
to give to the milliner, so many alterations to make in my clothes, so
many visitants' names to read over, so many invitations to accept or
refuse, so many cards to write, and so many fashions to consider, that I
am lost in confusion, forced at last to let in company or step into my
chair, and leave half my affairs to the direction of my maid.

This is the round of my day; and when shall I either stop my course, or
so change it as to want a book? I suppose it cannot be imagined, that
any of these diversions will soon be at an end. There will always be
gardens, and a park, and auctions, and shows, and playhouses, and cards;
visits will always be paid, and clothes always be worn; and how can I
have time unemployed upon my hands?

But I am most at a loss to guess for what purpose they related such
tragick stories of the cruelty, perfidy, and artifices of men, who, if
they ever were so malicious and destructive, have certainly now reformed
their manners. I have not, since my entrance into the world, found one
who does not profess himself devoted to my service, and ready to live or
die as I shall command him. They are so far from intending to hurt me,
that their only contention is, who shall be allowed most closely to
attend, and most frequently to treat me; when different places of
entertainment, or schemes of pleasure are mentioned, I can see the eye
sparkle and the cheeks glow of him whose proposals obtain my
approbation; he then leads me off in triumph, adores my condescension,
and congratulates himself that he has lived to the hour of felicity. Are
these, Mr. Rambler, creatures to be feared? Is it likely that an injury
will be done me by those who can enjoy life only while I favour them
with my presence?

As little reason can I yet find to suspect them of stratagems and fraud.
When I play at cards, they never take advantage of my mistakes, nor
exact from me a rigorous observation of the game. Even Mr. Shuffle, a
grave gentleman, who has daughters older than myself, plays with me so
negligently, that I am sometimes inclined to believe he loses his money
by design, and yet he is so fond of play, that he says, he will one day
take me to his house in the country, that we may try by ourselves who
can conquer. I have not yet promised him; but when the town grows a
little empty, I shall think upon it, for I want some trinkets, like
Letitia's, to my watch. I do not doubt my luck, but must study some
means of amusing my relations.

For all these distinctions I find myself indebted to that beauty which I
was never suffered to hear praised, and of which, therefore, I did not
before know the full value. The concealment was certainly an intentional
fraud, for my aunts have eyes like other people, and I am every day
told, that nothing but blindness can escape the influence of my charms.
Their whole account of that world which they pretend to know so well,
has been only one fiction entangled with another; and though the modes
of life oblige me to continue some appearances of respect, I cannot
think that they, who have been so clearly detected in ignorance or
imposture, have any right to the esteem, veneration, or obedience of,

Sir, Yours,
BELLARIA.



No. 192. SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 1752.

[Greek:
Genos ouden eis Erota;
Sophiae, tropos pateitai;
Monon arguron blepousin.
Apoloito protos autos
Ho ton arguron philaesas.
Dia touton ou tokaees,
Dai touton ou tokaees;
Polemoi, phonoi di auton.
To de cheiron, ollymestha
Dia touton oi philountes.] ANACREON. [Greek: ODLI Ms.] 5.

Vain the noblest birth would prove,
Nor worth or wit avail in love;
'Tis gold alone succeeds - by gold
The venal sex is bought and sold.
Accurs'd be he who first of yore
Discover'd the pernicious ore!
This sets a brother's heart on fire,
And arms the son against the sire;
And what, alas! is worse than all,
To this the lover owes his fall. F. LEWIS.

TO THE RAMBLER.

SIR,

I am the son of a gentleman, whose ancestors, for many ages, held the
first rank in the country; till at last one of them, too desirous of
popularity, set his house open, kept a table covered with continual
profusion, and distributed his beef and ale to such as chose rather to
live upon the folly of others, than their own labour, with such
thoughtless liberality, that he left a third part of his estate
mortgaged. His successor, a man of spirit, scorned to impair his dignity
by parsimonious retrenchments, or to admit, by a sale of his lands, any
participation of the rights of his manour; he therefore made another
mortgage to pay the interest of the former, and pleased himself with the
reflection, that his son would have the hereditary estate without the
diminution of an acre.

Nearly resembling this was the practice of my wise progenitors for many
ages. Every man boasted the antiquity of her family, resolved to support
the dignity of his birth, and lived in splendour and plenty at the
expense of his heir, who, sometimes by a wealthy marriage, and sometimes
by lucky legacies, discharged part of the incumbrances, and thought
himself entitled to contract new debts, and to leave to his children the
same inheritance of embarrassment and distress.

Thus the estate perpetually decayed; the woods were felled by one, the
park ploughed by another, the fishery let to farmers by a third; at last
the old hall was pulled down to spare the cost of reparation, and part
of the materials sold to build a small house with the rest. We were now
openly degraded from our original rank, and my father's brother was
allowed with less reluctance to serve an apprenticeship, though we never
reconciled ourselves heartily to the sound of haberdasher, but always
talked of warehouses and a merchant, and when the wind happened to blow
loud, affected to pity the hazards of commerce, and to sympathize with
the solicitude of my poor uncle, who had the true retailer's terrour of
adventure, and never exposed himself or his property to any wider water
than the Thames.

In time, however, by continual profit and small expenses, he grew rich,
and began to turn his thoughts towards rank. He hung the arms of the
family over his parlour-chimney; pointed at a chariot decorated only
with a cypher; became of opinion that money could not make a gentleman;
resented the petulance of upstarts; told stories of alderman Puff's
grandfather the porter; wondered that there was no better method for
regulating precedence; wished for some dress peculiar to men of fashion;
and when his servant presented a letter, always inquired whether it came
from his brother the esquire.

My father was careful to send him game by every carrier, which, though
the conveyance often cost more than the value, was well received,
because it gave him an opportunity of calling his friends together,
describing the beauty of his brother's seat, and lamenting his own
folly, whom no remonstrances could withhold from polluting his fingers
with a shop-book.

The little presents which we sent were always returned with great
munificence. He was desirous of being the second founder of his family,
and could not bear that we should be any longer outshone by those whom
we considered as climbers upon our ruins, and usurpers of our fortune.
He furnished our house with all the elegance of fashionable expense, and
was careful to conceal his bounties, lest the poverty of his family
should be suspected.

At length it happened that, by misconduct like our own, a large estate,
which had been purchased from us, was again exposed to the best bidder.
My uncle, delighted with an opportunity of reinstating the family in
their possessions, came down with treasures scarcely to be imagined in a
place where commerce has not made large sums familiar, and at once drove
all the competitors away, expedited the writings, and took possession.
He now considered himself as superior to trade, disposed of his stock,
and as soon as he had settled his economy, began to shew his rural
sovereignty, by breaking the hedges of his tenants in hunting, and
seizing the guns or nets of those whose fortunes did not qualify them
for sportsmen. He soon afterwards solicited the office of sheriff, from
which all his neighbours were glad to be reprieved, but which he
regarded as a resumption of ancestral claims, and a kind of restoration
to blood after the attainder of a trade.

My uncle, whose mind was so filled with this change of his condition,
that he found no want of domestick entertainment, declared himself too
old to marry, and resolved to let the newly-purchased estate fall into
the regular channel of inheritance. I was therefore considered as heir
apparent, and courted with officiousness and caresses, by the gentlemen
who had hitherto coldly allowed me that rank which they could not
refuse, depressed me with studied neglect, and irritated me with
ambiguous insults.

I felt not much pleasure from the civilities for which I knew myself
indebted to my uncle's industry, till, by one of the invitations which
every day now brought me, I was induced to spend a week with Lucius,
whose daughter Flavilla I had often seen and admired like others,
without any thought of nearer approaches. The inequality which had
hitherto kept me at a distance being now levelled, I was received with
every evidence of respect: Lucius told me the fortune which he intended
for his favourite daughter; many odd accidents obliged us to be often
together without company, and I soon began to find that they were
spreading for me the nets of matrimony.

Flavilla was all softness and complaisance. I, who had been excluded by
a narrow fortune from much acquaintance with the world, and never been
honoured before with the notice of so fine a lady, was easily enamoured.
Lucius either perceived my passion, or Flavilla betrayed it; care was
taken, that our private meetings should be less frequent, and my charmer
confessed by her eyes how much pain she suffered from our restraint. I
renewed my visit upon every pretence, but was not allowed one interview
without witness; at last I declared my passion to Lucius, who received
me as a lover worthy of his daughter, and told me that nothing was
wanting to his consent, but that my uncle should settle his estate upon
me. I objected the indecency of encroaching on his life, and the danger
of provoking him by such an unseasonable demand. Lucius seemed not to
think decency of much importance, but admitted the danger of
displeasing, and concluded that as he was now old and sickly, we might,
without any inconvenience, wait for his death.

With this resolution I was better contented, as it procured me the
company of Flavilla, in which the days passed away amidst continual
rapture; but in time I began to be ashamed of sitting idle, in
expectation of growing rich by the death of my benefactor, and proposed
to Lucius many schemes of raising my own fortune by such assistance as I
knew my uncle willing to give me. Lucius, afraid lest I should change my
affection in absence, diverted me from my design by dissuasives to which
my passion easily listened. At last my uncle died, and considering
himself as neglected by me, from the time that Flavilla took possession
of my heart, left his estate to my younger brother, who was always
hovering about his bed, and relating stories of my pranks and
extravagance, my contempt of the commercial dialect, and my impatience
to be selling stock.

My condition was soon known, and I was no longer admitted by the father
of Flavilla. I repeated the protestations of regard, which had been
formerly returned with so much ardour, in a letter which she received
privately, but returned by her father's footman. Contempt has driven out
my love, and I am content to have purchased, by the loss of fortune, an
escape from a harpy, who has joined the artifices of age to the
allurements of youth. I am now going to pursue my former projects with a
legacy which my uncle bequeathed me, and if I succeed, shall expect to
hear of the repentance of Flavilla.

I am, Sir, Yours, &c.

CONSTANTIUS.



No. 193. TUESDAY, JANUARY 21, 1752.

_Laudis amore tumes? sunt certa piacula, quoe te
Ter pure lecto poterunt recreare libello_. HOR. Lib. i. Ep. i. 36.

Or art thou vain? books yield a certain spell
To stop thy tumour; you shall cease to swell
When you have read them thrice, and studied well. CREECH.

Whatever is universally desired, will be sought by industry and
artifice, by merit and crimes, by means good and bad, rational and
absurd, according to the prevalence of virtue or vice, of wisdom or
folly. Some will always mistake the degree of their own desert, and some
will desire that others may mistake it. The cunning will have recourse
to stratagem, and the powerful to violence, for the attainment of their
wishes; some will stoop to theft, and others venture upon plunder.

Praise is so pleasing to the mind of man, that it is the original motive
of almost all our actions. The desire of commendation, as of every thing
else, is varied indeed by innumerable differences of temper, capacity,
and knowledge; some have no higher wish than for the applause of a club;
some expect the acclamations of a county; and some have hoped to fill
the mouths of all ages and nations with their names. Every man pants for
the highest eminence within his view; none, however mean, ever sinks
below the hope of being distinguished by his fellow-beings, and very few
have by magnanimity or piety been so raised above it, as to act wholly
without regard to censure or opinion.

To be praised, therefore, every man resolves; but resolutions will not
execute themselves. That which all think too parsimoniously distributed
to their own claims, they will not gratuitously squander upon others,
and some expedient must be tried, by which praise may be gained before
it can be enjoyed.

Among the innumerable bidders for praise, some are willing to purchase
at the highest rate, and offer ease and health, fortune and life. Yet
even of these only a small part have gained what they so earnestly
desired; the student wastes away in meditation, and the soldier perishes
on the ramparts, but unless some accidental advantage cooperates with
merit, neither perseverance nor adventure attracts attention, and
learning and bravery sink into the grave, without honour or remembrance.

But ambition and vanity generally expect to be gratified on easier
terms. It has been long observed, that what is procured by skill or
labour to the first possessor, may be afterwards transferred for money;
and that the man of wealth may partake all the acquisitions of courage
without hazard, and all the products of industry without fatigue. It was
easily discovered, that riches would obtain praise among other
conveniencies, and that he whose pride was unluckily associated with
laziness, ignorance, or cowardice, needed only to pay the hire of a
panegyrist, and he might be regaled with periodical eulogies; might
determine, at leisure, what virtue or science he would be pleased to
appropriate, and be lulled in the evening with soothing serenades, or
waked in the morning by sprightly gratulations.

The happiness which mortals receive from the celebration of beneficence
which never relieved, eloquence which never persuaded, or elegance which
never pleased, ought not to be envied or disturbed, when they are known
honestly to pay for their entertainment. But there are unmerciful
exactors of adulation, who withhold the wages of venality; retain their
encomiast from year to year by general promises and ambiguous
blandishments; and when he has run through the whole compass of
flattery, dismiss him with contempt, because his vein of fiction is
exhausted.

A continual feast of commendation is only to be obtained by merit or by
wealth; many are therefore obliged to content themselves with single
morsels, and recompense the infrequency of their enjoyment by excess and
riot, whenever fortune sets the banquet before them. Hunger is never
delicate; they who are seldom gorged to the full with praise, may be
safely fed with gross compliments; for the appetite must be satisfied
before it is disgusted.

It is easy to find the moment at which vanity is eager for sustenance,
and all that impudence or servility can offer will be well received.
When any one complains of the want of what he is known to possess in an
uncommon degree, he certainly waits with impatience to be contradicted.
When the trader pretends anxiety about the payment of his bills, or the
beauty remarks how frightfully she looks, then is the lucky moment to
talk of riches or of charms, of the death of lovers, or the honour of a
merchant.

Others there are yet more open and artless, who, instead of suborning a
flatterer, are content to supply his place, and, as some animals
impregnate themselves, swell with the praises which they hear from their
own tongues. _Recte is dicitur laudare sese, cui nemo alius contigit



Online LibrarySamuel JohnsonThe Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 03 The Rambler, Volume II → online text (page 32 of 38)