Abbildungen der Seite

it was that some of the ancients imagined, that as men, in this life, inclined more to the angel or the brute, so, after their death, they should transmigrate into the one or the other; and it would be no unpleasant notion to consider the several species of brutes, into which we may imagine that tyrants, misers, the proud, malicious, and ill-natured, might be changed.

As a consequence of this original, all passions are in all men, but all appear not in all: constitution, education, custom of the country, reason, and the like causes, may improve or abate the strength of them, but still the seeds remain, which are ever ready to sprout forth upon

the least encouragement. I have heard a story of a good religious man, who, having been bred with the milk of a goat, was very modest in public, by a careful reflection he made on his actions; but he frequently had an hour in secret, wherein he had his frisks and capers; and if we had an opportunity of examining the retirement of the strictest philosophers, no doubt but we should find perpetual returns of those passions they so artfully conceal from the public. I remember Machiavel observes, that every state should entertain a perpetual jealousy of its neighbours, that so it should never be unprovided when an emergency happens; in like manner, should the reason be perpetually on its guard against the passions, and never suffer them to carry on any design that may

be destructive of its security ; yet, at the same time, it must be careful, that it don't so far break their strength, as to render them contemptible, and consequently itself unguarded.

• The understanding being of itself too slow and lazy to exert itself into action, it is necessary it should be put in motion by the gentle gales of the passions, which may preserve it from stagnating and corruption ; for they are necessary to the health of the mind, as the circulation of the animal spirits is to the health of the body; they keep it in life, and strength, and vigour, nor is it possible for the mind to perform its offices without their assistance. These motions are given us with our being ; they are little spirits that are born and die with us; to some they are mild, easy, and gentle; to others, wayward and unruly, yet never too strong for the reins of reason and the guidance of judgment.

We may generally observe a pretty nice proportion between the strength of reason and passion ; the greatest geniuses have commonly the strongest affections, as, on the other hand, the weaker understandings have generally the weaker passions; and 'tis fit the fury of the coursers should not be too great for the strength of the charioteer. Young men, whose passions are not a little unruly, give small hopes of their ever being considerable ; the fire of youth will of course abate, and is a fault, if it be a fault, that mends every day ; but surely, unless a man has fire in his youth, he can hardly have warmth in old age. We must therefore be very cautious, lest, while we think to regulate the passions, we should quite extinguish them, which is putting out the light of the soul ; for to be without passion, or to be hurried away with it, makes a man equally blind. The extraordinary severity used in most of our schools, has this fatal effect, it breaks the spring of the mind, and most certainly destroys more good geniuses, than it can possibly improve. And surely it is a mighty mistake that the passions should be so entirely subdued : for little irregularities are sometimes not only to be borne with, but to be cultivated too, since they are frequently attended with the greatest perfections. All great geniuses have faults mixed with their virtues, and resemble the flaming bush which has thorns amongst lights.

• Since therefore the passions are the principles of human actions, we must endeavour to manage them so as to retain their vigour, yet keep them under strict command ; we must govern them rather like free subjects than slaves, lest, while we intend to make them obedient, they become abject, and unfit for those great purposes to which they were designed. For my part, I must confess, I could never have any regard to that sect of philosophers, who so much insisted upon an absolute indifference and vacancy from all passions ; for it seems to me a thing very inconsistent, for a man to divest himself of humanity, in order to acquire tranquillity of mind, and to eradicate the very principles of action, because it's possible they may produce ill effects. 'I am, SIR, Your affectionate admirer,

«T. B.'

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 1712.

It is a very common expression, that such a one is very good-natured, but very passionate. The expression, indeed, is very good-natured to allow passionate people so much quarter ; but I think a passionate man deserves the least indulgence imaginable. It is said it is soon over; that is, all the mischief he does is quickly dispatched, which, I think, is no great recommendation to favour. I have known one of those good-natured passionate men say in a mixed company, even to his own wife or child, such things as the most inveterate enemy of his family would not have spoken, even in imagination. It is certain that quick sensibility is inseparable from a ready understanding ; but why should not that good understanding call to itself all its force on such occasions, to master that sudden inclination to anger ? To contain the spirit of anger, is the worthiest discipline we can put ourselves to. When a man has made any progress this way, a frivolous fellow in a passion is to him as contemptible as a froward child. It ought to be the study of every man, for his own quiet and peace. When he stands combustible and ready to flame upon every thing that touches him, life is as uneasy to himself as it is to all about him. Syncropius leads, of all men living, the most ridiculous life ; he is ever offending, and begging pardon. If his man enters the room without what he was sent for—“That blockhead,' begins he— Gentlemen, I ask your pardon, but servants now-a-day3— The wrong plates are laid, they are thrown into the middle of the room; his wife stands by in pain for him, which he sees in her face, and answers as if he had heard all she was thinking ;-Why! what the devil! Why don't you take care to give orders in these things ?' His friends sit down to a tasteless plenty of every thing, every minute expecting new insults from his impertinent passions. In a word, to eat with or visit Syncropius, is no other than going to see him exercise his family, exercise their patience, and his own anger.

It is monstrous that the shame and confusion in which this good-natured angry man must needs behold his friends, while he thus lays about him, does not give him so much reflection as to create an amendment. This is the most scandalous disuse of reason imaginable ; all the harmless part of him is no more than that of a bull dog ; they are tame no longer than they are not offended. One of those good-natured angry men shall, in an instant, assemble together so many allusions to secret circumstances, as are enough to dissolve the peace of all the families and friends he is acquainted with in a quarter of an hour, and yet the next moment be the best natured man in the whole world.

The next disagreeable person to the outrageous gentleman, is one of a much lower order of anger, and he is what we commonly call a peevish fellow. A peevish fellow is one who has some reason in himself for being out of humour, or has a natural incapacity for delight, and therefore disturbs all who are happier than himself with Pishes and Pshaws, or other well-bred interjections, at every thing that is said or done in his presence. There should be physic mixed in the food of all which these fellows eat in good company. This degree of anger passes, forsooth, for a delicacy of judgment, that won't admit of being easily pleased; but none above the character of wearing a peevish man's livery ought to bear with his ill



« ZurückWeiter »