Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

my companions and I caught hold of whatever shrub grew next to us, and supported ourselves in that manner."

"After some time, this violent paroxysm ceasing, we again stood up, in order to prosecute our voyage to Euphemia, which lay within sight. In the mean time, while we were preparing for this purpose, I turned my eyes towards the city, but could see only a frightful dark cloud, that seemed to rest upon the place. This the more surprised us, as the weather was so very We waited, therefore, till the cloud had passed away: then turning to look for the city, it was totally sunk. Wonderful to tell! nothing but a dismal and putrid lake was seen where it stood. We looked about to find some one that could tell us of its sad catastro

serene.

phe, but could see no person. All was become a me lancholy solitude; a scene of hideous desolation. Thus proceeding pensively along, in quest of some human being that could give us a little information, we, at length saw a boy sitting by the shore, and appearing stupified with terror., Of him, therefore, we inquired concerning the fate of the city; but he could not be prevailed on to give us an answer. We intreated him, with every expression of tenderness and pity to tell us ; but his senses were quite wrapt up in the contemplation of the danger he had escaped. We offered him some victuals, but he seemed to loath the sight. We still persisted in our offices of kindness; but he only pointed to the place of the city, like one out of his senses; and then running up into the woods, was never heard of after. Such was the fate of the city of Euphemia, As we continued our melancholy course along the shore, the whole coast, for the space of two hundred miles, presented nothing but the remains of cities; and men scattered, without a habitation, over the fields. Proceeding thus along, we at length ended our distressful voyage by arriving at Naples, after having escaped a thousand dangers both at sea and land.”

COLDSMITH.

SECTION II.

Letter from PLINY to GEMINIUS.

Do we not sometimes observe a sort of people, who though they are themselves under the abject dominion of every vice, show a kind of malicious resentment against the errors of others: and are most severe upon those whom they most resemble? yet, surely a lenity of disposition, even in persons who have the least occasion for clemency themselves, is of all virtues the most becoming. The highest of all characters, in my estimation, is his who is as ready to pardon the errors of mankind, as if he were every day guilty of some himself; and, at the same time, as cautious of committing a fault, as if he never forgave one. It is a rule then which we should, upon all occasions, both private and public, most religiously observe; "to be inexorable to our own failings, while we treat those of the rest of the world with tenderness, not excepting even such as forgive none but themselves."

I shall, perhaps, be asked, who it is that has given occasion to these reflections. Know then that a certain person lately-but of that when we meet-though, upon second thoughts, not even then; lest, whilst I condemn and expose his conduct, I shall act counter to that maxim I particularly recommend. Whoever therefore, and whatever he is, shall remain in silence: for though there may be some use, perhaps, in setting a mark upon the man, for the sake of example, there will be more, however, in sparing him, for the sake of humanity. Farewell.

MELMOTH'S PLINY.

SECTION III.

Letter from PLINY to MARCELLINUS, on the death of an amiable young woman. ▲

I WRITE this under the utmost oppression of sorrow: the youngest daughter of my friend Fundanus is dead! Never surely was there a more agreeable, and more amiable young person; or one who better deserved to have enjoyed a long, I had almost said, an immortal life! She had all the wisdom of age, and discretion of a matron, joined with youthful sweetness and virgin modesty. With what an engaging fondness did she behave to her father! How kindly and respectfully receive his friends! How affectionately treat all those who, in their respective offices, had the care and education of her! She employed much of her time in reading, in which she discovered great strength of judgment; she indulged herself in few diversions, and those with much caution. With what forbearance, with what patience, with what courage, did she endure her last illness! She complied with all the directions of her physicians; she encouraged her sister, and her father; and, when all her strength of body was exhausted, supported herself by the single vigour of her mind. That, indeed, continued, even to her last moments, unbroken by the pain of a long illness, or the terrors of approaching death; and it is a reflection which makes the loss of her so much the more to be lamented. A loss infinitely severe ! and more severe by the particular conjuncture in which it happened! She was contracted to a most worthy youth; the wedding day was fixed, and we were all invited.-How sad a change from the highest joy, to the deepest sorrow! How shall I express the wound that pierced my heart, when I heard Fundanus himself, (as grief is ever finding out circumstances to aggravate its affliction,)

ordering the money he had designed to lay out upon clothes and jewels for her marriage, to be employed in myrrh and spices for her funeral? He is a man of great learning and good sense, who has applied himself, from his earliest youth, to the noblest and most elevated studies: but all the maxims of fortitude which he has received from books, or advanced himself, he now absolutely rejects; and every other virtue of his heart gives place to all a parent's tenderness. We shall excuse, we shall even approve his sorrow, when we consider what he has lost. He has lost a daughter who resembled him in his manners, as well as his person; and exactly copied out all her father. If his friend Marcellinus shall think proper to write to him, upon the subject of so reasonable a grief, let me remind him not to use the rougher arguments of consolation, and such as seem to carry a sort of reproof with them; but those of kind and sympathizing humanity. Time will render him more open to the dictates of reason for as a fresh wound shrinks back from the hand of the surgeon, but by degrees submits to, and even requires the means of its cure; so a mind, under the first impressions of a misfortune, shuns and rejects all arguments of consolation; but at length, if applied with tenderness, calmly and willingly acquiesces in them. Farewell. MELMOTH'S PLINY.

SECTION IV.

On discretion.

I HAVE often thought, if the minds of men were laid open, we should see but little difference between that of a wise man, and that of a fool.

There are infinite reveries, numberless extravagances, and a succession of vanities, which pass through both. The great difference is, that the first

knows how to pick and cull his thoughts for conversation, by suppressing some, and communicating others; whereas the other lets them all indifferently fly out in words. This sort of discretion, however, has no place in private conversation between intimate friends. On such occasions, the wisest men very often talk like the weakest; for indeed talking with a friend is nothing else than thinking aloud.

Tully has therefore very justly exposed a precept, delivered by some ancient writers, That a man should live with his enemy in such a manner, as might leave him room to become his friend; and with his friend, in such a manner, that, if he became his enemy, it should not be in his power to hurt him. The first part of this rule, which regards our behaviour towards an enemy, is indeed very reasonable, as well as very pru. dential; but the latter part of it, which regards our be haviour towards a friend, savours more of cunning than of discretion; and would cut a man off from the greatest pleasures of life, which are the freedoms of conversation with a bosom friend. Besides that, when a friend is turned into an enemy, the world is just enough to accuse the perfidiousness of the friend, rather than the indiscretion of the person who confided in him.

Discretion does not only show itself in words, but in all the circumstances of action; and is like an underagent of Providence, to guide and direct us in the or dinary concerns of life.

There are many more shining qualities in the mind of man, but there is none so useful as discretion. It is this, indeed, which gives a value to all the rest; which sets them at work in their proper times and places; and turns them to the advantage of the person who is possessed of them. Without it, learning is pedantry, and wit impertinence; virtue itself looks like weakness; the best parts only qualify a man to be

« ForrigeFortsett »