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No. 569. On the vice of Drunkenness; its ruinous consequences ; it discovers latent faults, and engenders fresh ones,
Reges dicuntur multis urgere culullis
Hor. Ars Poet. 434.
FRANCIS. No vices are so incurable as those which men are apt to glory in. One would wonder how drunkenness should have the good luck to be of this number. Anarcharsis , being invited to a match of drinking at Corinth, demanded the prize very humorously, because he was drunk before any of the rest of the company; for, says he, when we run a race, he who arrives at the goal first is intitled to the reward. On the contrary, in this thirsty generation, the honour falls upon him who carries off the greatest
quantity of liquor, and knocks down the rest of the company. I 10 was the other day with honest Will Funnell the West Saxon,
who was reckoning up how much liquor had passed through him in the last twenty years of his life, which, according to his computation, amounted to twenty-three hogsheads of October, four ton of Port, half a kilderkin of small beer, nineteen barrels of cyder, and three glasses of Champagne; besides which he had assisted at four hundred bowls of punch, not to mention sips, drams, and whets without number. I question not but every reader's memory will suggest to him several ambitious young men, who are as vain
in this particular as Will Funnell, and can boast of as glorious 20 exploits.
Our modern philosophers observe, that there is a general decay of moisture in the globe of the earth. This they chiefly ascribe to the growth of vegetables, which incorporate into their own substance many fluid bodies that never return again to their former nature; but, with submission, they ought to throw into their account those innumerable rational beings which fetch their nourishment chiefly out of liquids : especially when we consider that men, compared with their fellow-creatures, drink much more than comes to their share.
But however highly this tribe of people may think of them
man but a bottle.
This vice has
drunken man is a greater monster than any that is to be found among all the creatures which God has made; as indeed there is no character which appears more despicable and deformed, in the of all reasonable persons, than that of a drunkard. Bonosus n, one of our countrymen, who was addicted to this vice, having set up for a share in the Roman empire, and being defeated in a great battle, hanged himself.
When he was seen by the army in this melancholy situation, notwithstanding he had
behaved himself very bravely, the common jest was, that the 10 thing they saw hanging upon the tree before them was not a
fatal effects on the mind, the body, and fortune of the person who is devoted to it.
In regard to the mind, it first of all discovers every flaw in it. The sober man, by the strength of reason, may keep under and subdue every vice or folly to which he is most inclined; but wine makes
latent seed sprout up in the soul, and shew itself; it gives fury to the passions, and force to those objects which are
apt to produce them. When a young fellow complained to an 20 old philosopher that his wife was not handsome, ‘Put less water
in your wine,' says the philosopher, and you will quickly make her so. Wine heightens indifference into love, love into jealousy, and jealousy into madness. It often turns the good natured man into an idiot, and the choleric into an assassin.
It gives bitterness to resentment, it makes vanity insupportable, and displays every little spot of the soul in its utmost deformity.
Nor does this vice only betray the hidden faults of a man, and shew them in the most odious colours, but often occasions faults
to which he is not naturally subject. There is more of turn than 30 of truth in a saying of Seneca, That drunkenness does not produce,
but discover faults. Common experience teaches us the contrary. Wine throws a man out of himself, and infuses qualities into the mind which she is a stranger to in her sober moments. The person you converse with, after the third bottle, is not the same
who at first sat down at table with you. Upon this maxim is founded one of the prettiest sayings I ever met with, which is “He who jests upon ascribed to Publius Syrus ", Qui ebrium ludificat, lædit absentem :
a man that is drunk, injures the absent.' Thus does drunkenness act in direct contradiction to reason, 40 whose business it is to clear the mind of every vice which is crept
into it, and to guard it against all the approaches of any that endeavours to make its entrance. But besides these ill effects which this vice produces in a person who is actually under its dominion, it has also a bad influence on the mind even in its sober moments, as it insensibly weakens the understanding, impairs the memory, and makes those faults habitual which are produced by frequent excesses.
I should now proceed to shew the ill effects which this vice has on the bodies and fortunes of men; but these I shall reserve 10 for the subject of some future paper.
No. 574. Contentment the great secret'; considerations tending to promote it ; anecdotes; its natural connection with religion.
Non possidentem multa vocaveris
Muneribus sapienter uti,
Hor. Od. iv. 9. 45.
Tasteless who piles his massy gold,
Should have its glorious name enrolld;
Even in its lowest, last extreme ;
FRANCIS. I was once engaged in a discourse with a Rosicrusian about the great secret. As this kind of men (I mean those of them who are not professed cheats), are over-run with enthusiasm and philosophy, it was very amusing to hear this religious adept descanting on his pretended discovery. He talked of the secret as of a spirit which lived within an emerald, and converted every thing that was near it to the highest perfection it is capable of. • It gives a lustre,' says he, to the sun, and water to the diamond.
It irradiates every metal, and enriches lead with all the properties 20 of gold. It heightens smoke into flame, flame into light, and
light into glory. He further added, that a single ray of it dissi
pates pain, and care, and melancholy, from the person on whom it falls. In short, says he, its presence naturally changes every place into a kind of heaven. After he had gone on for some time in this unintelligible cant, I found that he jumbled natural and moral ideas together in the same discourse, and that his great secret was nothing else but-Content.
This virtue does indeed produce, in some measure, all those effects which the alchymist usually ascribes to what he calls the
philosopher's stone : and if it does not bring riches, it does the 10 same thing, by banishing the desire of them. If it cannot remove
the disquietudes arising out of a man's mind, body, or fortune, it makes him easy under them. It has indeed a kindly influence on the soul of man, in respect of every being to whom he stands related. It extinguishes all murmur, repining, and ingratitude towards that Being who has allotted him his part to act in this world. It destroys all inordinate ambition, and every tendency to corruption, with regard to the community wherein he is placed. It gives sweetness to his conversation, and a perpetual serenity to all his thoughts.
Among the many methods which might be made use of for the acquiring of this virtue, I shall only mention the two following. First of all, a man should always consider how much he has more than he wants; and then, secondly, how much more unhappy he might be than he really is.
First of all, a man should always consider how much he has more than he wants. I am wonderfully pleased with the reply which Aristippus made to one who condoled him upon the loss of a farm: 'Why,' said he, 'I have three farms still, and you have
but one; so that I ought rather to be afflicted for you than you 30 for me n' On the contrary, foolish men are more apt to consider
what they have lost than what they possess; and to fix their eyes upon those who are richer than themselves, rather than on those who are under greater difficulties. All the real pleasures and conveniences of life lie in a narrow compass : but it is the humour of mankind to be always looking forward, and straining after one who has got the start of them in wealth and honour. For this reason, as there are none can be properly called rich, who have not somewhat more than they want; there are few rich men
in any of the politer nations but those who are among the 40 middle sort of people, who keep their wishes always within their
fortunes, and have more wealth than they know how to enjoy. Persons of a higher rank live at best in a kind of splendid poverty, and are perpetually wanting, because, instead of acquiescing in the solid pleasures of life, they endeavour to outvie one another in shadows and appearances.
Men of sense have at all times beheld with a great deal of mirth this silly game that is playing over their heads, and, by contracting their desires, enjoy all that secret satisfaction which others are always in quest of.
The truth is, this ridiculous chace after imaginary pleasures can10 not be sufficiently exposed, as it is the great source of those evils
which generally undo a nation. Let a man's estate be what it will, he is a poor man if he does not live within it, and naturally sets himself to sale to any one that can give him his price. When Pittacus, after the death of his brother, who had left him a good estate, was offered a great sum of money by the king of Lydia, he thanked him for his kindness, but told him he had already more by half than he knew what to do with. In short, content is equivalent to wealth, and luxury to poverty; or, to give the
thought a more agreeable turn, Content is natural wealth, says 20 Socrates ; to which I shall add, Luxury is artificial poverty. I
shall therefore recommend to the consideration of those who are always aiming after superfluous and imaginary enjoyments, and will not be at the trouble of contracting their desires, an excellent saying of Bion the philosopher, namely, 'That no man has so much care, as he who endeavours after the most happiness.'
In the second place, every one ought to reflect how much more unhappy he might be than he really is. The former consideration took in all those who are sufficiently provided with the
means to make themselves easy; this regards such as actually lie 30 under some pressure or misfortune. These may receive great
alleviation from such a comparison as the unhappy person may make between himself and others, or between the misfortune which he suffers, and greater misfortunes which might have befallen him.
I like the story of the honest Dutchman, who, upon breaking his leg by a fall from the mainmast, told the standers by, it was a great mercy that it was not his neck. To which, since I am got into quotations, give me leave to add the saying of an old philo
sopher, who, after having invited some of his friends to dine with 40 him, was ruffled by his wife that came into the room in a passion,