Abbildungen der Seite

At the same time the poet so contrives matters that the two criminals are the favourites of the audience, We sit still, and wish well to them through the whole play, are pleased when they meet with proper opportunities, and out of humour when they are disappointed? The truth of it is, the accomplished gentleman upon the Englijh stage, is the perlbn that is familiar with other mens wives, and indifferent to his own; as the sine woman is generally a composition of sprightliness and sal shood. 1 do not know whether it proceeds from barrenness of invention, depravation of manners, or ignorance of mankind, but I have often wondered that our ordinary poets cannot frame to themselves the idea of a sine man who is not a whore-master, or of a sine woman that is not a jilt.

I have sometimes thought of compiling a system os ethics out of the writings of those corrupt poets, under the title of Stage Morality. But I have been diverted from this thought by a project which has been executed by an ingenious gentleman of my acquaintance. He has compos'd, it seems, the history of a young fellow, who has taken all his notions of the world from the stage, and who has directed himself in every circumstance of his life and conversation, by the maxims and examples of the sine gentlemen in Englijh comedies. If I can prevail upon him to give me a copy of this new fashioned novel, I will bestow on it a -place in my works, and

Question not but it may have as good an effect upon the rama, as Don Quixote had upon romance. C


[graphic][merged small]

TavTr,v djifarrotat Ti^ivtZaai (pioii shut.

Long exercise, my friend, inures the mind;
And what we once difl'k'd, we p;essing iind.

THFRE is not a common saying which has a better turn of fense in it, than what we often hear in the mouths of the vulgar, that custom is a second nature. It is indeed able to form the man anew, and to give him inchna;ions and capacities altogether different from those he ivas born with Dr. in his history of Stoffordsoire, tells us of an idiot that chancing to live within the found of a clock, and always amusing himself with counting the hour of the day whenever the clock struck, the clock being spoiled by some accident, the idiot continued to strike and count the hour without the help of ii, in the fame manner as he had done when it was intire Though 1 dare not vouch for the truth of thu story, it is very certain that custom has a mechanical effect upon the body, at the fame time that it has a very extraordinary influence upon the mind.

1 shall in this paper consider one very remarkable effect which custom has upon human nature, and which if rightly observed, may lead us into very useful rules of life. What 1 shall here take notice of in custom, is its wonderful efficacy in making every thing pleasant to us. A person who is addicted to play or gaming, though he took but little delight in it at sirst, by degrees contracts so strong an inclination towards it. and gives himself up so indrely to it, that it seems the only end of his being. The love of a retired or busy life will grow upon a man insensibly, as he is conversant in the one or the other, till he is utterly unqualisied for relishing that to which he has been for some time disused. Nay, a man may smoke, or drink, or take snuff, till he is unable to

pass pass away his time without it; not to mention how our delight in any particular study, art, or science, rises and improves in proportion to the application which we bellow upon it. Thus what was at sirst an exercise, becomes at length an entertainment. Our employments are changed into our diversion. The mind grows fond of those actions she is accustomed to, and is drawn with reluctancy from those paths in which she has used to walk.

Not only such actions as were at sirst indifrerent to us, but even such as were painful, will by custom and practice become pleasant. Sir Francis Bacon observes in his natural philosophy, that our taste is never pleased better than with those things which at sirst created a disgust in it. He gives particular instances of claret, coffee, and other liquors, which the palate seldom approves upon the sirst taste; but when it has once got a relish' of them, generally regains it for life. The mind is constituted after the fame manner, and after having habituated herself to any particular exercise or employment, not only loses her sirst aversion towards it, but conceives a certain fondness and affection for it. I have heard one of the greatest genius's this age has produced, who had been trained up in all the po^te studies of antiquity, assure me, upon his being obliged to search into several rolls and records, that notwithstanding such an employment was at sirst very dry and irklbm to him, he at lait took an incredible pleasure ifi it, and preferred it even to the reading of Virgil or Cicero. The reader will observe, that I have not here considered custom as it makes things easy, but as it renders them delightful; and tho' others have often made the fame reflexions, it is possible they may not have drawn those uses from it, with which s intend to sill the remaining part of this paper.

If we consider attentively this property of human nature, it may instruct us in very sine moralities. In the sirst place. I would have no man discouraged with that kind os life or series of action, in which the choice of others, or his own necessities, may have engaged him. It may perhaps be very disagreeable to him at sirst; but use and application will certainly render it not only less painsul, but pleasing and satisfactory.

In the second place, I would recommend to every one that admirable precept which Pythagoras is said to have given to his disciples, and which that philosopher must have drawn from the observation I have enlarged upon.

i/ijjimum. Fitch upon that course of life which is the most excellent, and custom will render it the most delightful. Men whose circumstances will permit them to choose their own way of life, are inexcusable if they do not punue that which their judgment tells them is the most laudable. The voice of reason is more to be regarded than the bent of any present inclination, since by the rule above-mentioned, inclination will at length come -over to reason, though we can never force reason to comply with inclination.

In the third place, this observation may teach the most sensual and irreligious man, to overlook those hardships and dissiculties, which are apt to discourage him from the prosecution of a virtuous life. The gods, said Jieficd. ha-ve placed lahour besore virtue; the way ta her is at first rough and difficult, but grows more smooth and ei'sy the further you advance in it. The man who proceeds in it, with steadiness and resolution, will in a little time sind that her ways are ways of pleasantness, and that all her paths are peace.

To enforce this consideration, we may further observe that the practice of religion will not only be attended with that pleasure, which naturally accompanies those actions to which we are habituated, but with those supernumerary joys of heart, that rife from the consciousness of such a pleasure, from the satisfaction of acting up to the dictates of reason, and from the prospect of an happy immortality.

In the fourth place, we may learn from this observation whicit we have made on the mind of man, to take particular ca;e, when we are once settled in a regular course of life, how we too frequently indulge ourselves in any the most innocent diversions and entertainments, since the mind may insensibly fall off from the relish of virtuous actions, and, by degrees, exchange that pleasure which it takes in the performance of its duty, for delights of a much more inserior and unprositable nature.

[ocr errors]

nam consuetudo faciet jucun


The last use which I shall make of this remarkable property in human nature, of being delighted with those actions to which it is accustomed, is to shew how absolutely necessary it is for us to gain habits of virtue in this life, if we would enjoy the pleasures of the next. The state of bliss we call Heaven will not be capable of affecting those minds, which are not thus qualisied for it ; we must, in this world, gain a relish of truth and virtue, if vve would be able to taste that knowledge and perfection, which are to make us happy in the next. The feeds of those spiritual joys and iaptures, which are to rife up and flourish in the foul to all eternity, must be planted in her during this her present state of probation. In short, Heaven is not to be looked upon only as the reward, but as the natural effect of a religious life.

On the other hand, those evil spirits, who, by long custom, have contracted in the body habits of lust and sensuality, malice and revenge, an aversion to every thing that is good, just or laudable, are naturally seasoned and prepared for pain and misery. Their torments have already taken root in them; they cannot be happy when divested of the body, unless we may suppose, that Providence will in a manner, create them anew, and work a miracle in the rectissication of their faculties. They may, indeed, taste a kind of malignant pleasure in those actions to which they are accustomed, whilst in this life; but when they are removed from all those objects which are here apt to gratify them, they will naturally become their own tormentors, and cherish in themselves those painful habits cf mind which are called in Scripture phrase, the worm which never dies. This notion of Heaven and Hell is so very conformable to the light of nature, that it was discovered by several of the most exalted Heathens. It has been sinely improved by many eminent divines of the last age, as in particular by Archbishop Tillotson and Dr. Sherlock: but there is none who has rais'd such noble speculations upon it as Dr. Scot, in the sirst book of his Christian Life, which is one of the sinest and most rational schemes of divinity, that is written in our tongue, or in any other. That excellent author has shewn how every particular custom and habit of virtue will, in its own nature, produce the heaven, or a state of happi

I 4 ness

« ZurückWeiter »