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pleasure, plunge into the current of life, whether placid or turbulent, and pass on from one point of prospect to another, attentive rather to any thing than the state of their minds; satisfied, at an easy rate, with an opinion, that they are no worse than others, that every man must mind his own interest, or that their pleasures hurt only themselves, and are therefore no proper subjects of censure.
Some, however, there are, whom the intrusion of scruples, the recollection of better notions, or the latent reprehension of good examples, will not suffer to live entirely contented with their own conduct; these are forced to pacify the mutiny of reason with fair promises, and quiet their thoughts with designs of calling all their actions to review, and planning a new scheme for the time to come.
There is nothing which we estimate so fallaciously as the force of our own resolutions, nor any fallacy which we so unwillingly and tardily detect. He that has resolved a thousand times, and a thousand times deserted his own purpose, yet suffers no abatement of his confidence, but still believes himself his own master; and able, by innate vigour of soul, to press forward to his end, through all the obstructions that inconveniences or delights can put in his way.
That this mistake should prevail for a time is very natural. When conviction is present, and temptation out of sight, we do not easily conceive how any reasonable being can deviate from his true interest. What ought to be done while it yet hangs only in speculation, is so plain and certain, that there is no place for doubt; the whole soul yields itself to the predominance of truth, and readily determines to do what, when the time of action comes, will be at last omitted. I believe most men may review all the lives that have passed within their observation, without remembering one efficacious resolution, or being able to tell a single instance of a course of practice sud. denly changed in consequence of a change of opinion, or an establishment of determination. Many, indeed, alter their conduct, and are not at fifty what they were at thirty ; but they commonly varied imperceptibly from themselves, followed the train of external causes, and rather suffered reformation than made it.
It is not uncommon to charge the difference between promise and performance, between profession and reality, upon deep design, and studied deceit; but the truth is, that there is very little hypocrisy in the world: we do not so often endeavour or wish to impose on others as on ourselves; we resolve to do right, we hope to keep our resolutions, we declare them to confirm our own hope, and fix our own inconstancy by calling witnesses of our actions : but at last habit prevails, and those whom we invited to our triumph, laugh at our defeat.
Custom is commonly too strong for the most resolute resolver, though furnished for the assault with all the weapons of philosophy. He that endeavours to free himself from an ill habit,' says Bacon,
must not change too much at a time, lest he should be discouraged by difficulty; nor too little, for then he will make but slow advances. This is a precept which may be applauded in a book, but will fail in the trial, in which every change will be found too great or too little. Those who have been able to conquer habit, are like those that are fabled to have returned from the realms of Pluto:
Pauci, quos æquus amavit Jupiter, atque ardens evexit ad æthera virtus. They are sufficient to give hope, but not security; to animate the contest, but not to promise victory.
Those who are in the power of evil habits, must conquer them as they can; and conquered they must be, or neither wisdom nor happiness can be attained; but those who are not yet subject to their influence may, by timely caution, preserve their freedom; they may effectually resolve to escape the tyrant, whom they will very vainly resolve to conquer.
N° 28. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28, 1758. .
$ TO THE IDLER. SIR, * It is very easy for a man who sits idle at home, and has nobody to please but himself, to ridicule or to censure the common practices of mankind; and those who have no present temptation to break the rules of propriety, may applaud his judgment, and join in his merriment; but let the author or his readers mingle with common life, they will find themselves irresistibly borne away by the stream of custom, and must submit, after they have laughed at others, to give others the same opportunity of laughing at them.
• There is no paper published by the Idler which I have read with more approbation than that which censures the practice of recording vulgar marriages in the
newspapers. I carried it about in my pocket, and read it to all those whom I suspected of having published their nuptials, or of being inclined to publish them, and sent transcripts of it to all the couples that transgressed your precepts for the next fortnight. I hoped that they were all vexed, and pleased myself with imagining their misery.
• But short is the triumph of malignity. I was married last week to Miss Mohair, the daughter of asalesman; and, at my first appearance after the wedding night, was asked by my wife's mother whether I had sent our marriage to the Advertiser ; I endeavoured to shew how unfit it was to demand the attention of the public to our domestic affairs; but she told me, with great vehemence, “ That she would not have it thought to be a stolen match; that the blood of the Mohairs should never be disgraced ; that her husband had served all the parish offices but one; that she had lived five-and-thirty years in the same house, had paid every body twenty shillings in the pound, and would have me know, though she was not as fine and as flaunting as Mrs. Gingham, the deputy's wife, she was not ashamed to tell her
name, and would shew her face with the best of them, and since I had married her daughter At this instant entered my father-in-law, a grave man, from whom I expected succour: but upon hearing the case, he told me, " That it would be very imprudent to miss such an opportunity of advertising my shop; and that when notice was given of my marriage, many
wife's friends would think themselves obliged to be my customers.” I was subdued by clamour on one side, and gravity on the other, and shall be obliged to tell the town that “ three days ago Timothy Mushroom, an eminent oilman in Seacoal-lane, was married to Miss Polly Mohair, of Lothbury, a beautiful young lady, with a large fortune.”
I am, Sir, &c.
“SIR, • I am the unfortunate wife of the grocer whose letter you published about ten weeks ago, in which he com
plains, like a sorry fellow, that I loiter in the shop with my needlework in my hand, and that I oblige him to take me out on Sundays, and keep a girl to look after the child. Sweet Mr. Idler, if you did but know all, you would give no encouragement to such an unreasonable grumbler. I brought him three hundred pounds, which set him up in a shop, and bought in a stock, on which, with good management, we might live comfortably; but now I have given him a shop, I am forced to watch him and the shop too. I will tell you, Mr. Idler, how it is. There is an alehouse over the way, with a ninepin alley, to which he is sure to run when I turn my back, and there he loses his money, for he plays at ninepins as he does every thing else. While he is at this favourite sport, he sets a dirty boy to watch his door, and call him to his customers; but he is long in coming, and so rude when he comes, that our custom falls off every day.
• Those who cannot govern themselves, must be governed ; I am resolved to keep him for the future behind his counter, and let him bounce at his customers if he dares. I cannot be above stairs and below at the same time, and have therefore taken a girl to look after the child, and dress the dinner; and, after all, pray who is to blame?
On a Sunday, it is true, I make him walk abroad, and sometimes carry the child;- I wonder who should carry it! But I never take him out till after churchtime, nor would do it then, but that, if he is left alone, he will be upon the bed. On a Sunday, if he stays at home, he has six meals; and, when he can eat no longer, has twenty stratagems to escape from me to the alehouse; but I'commonly keep the door locked, till Monday produces something for him to do.
* This is the true state of the case, and these are the provocations for which he has written his letter to you. I hope you will write a paper to shew that, if a wife