« AnteriorContinuar »
appear now no longer wear their daily mask, nor attempt to hide their lewdness or their misery.
But who are those who make the streets their couch, and find a short repose from wretchedness at the doors of the opulent? These are strangers, wanderers, and orphans, whose circumstances are too humble to expect redress, and whose distresses are too great even for pity. Their wretchedness excites rather horror than pity. Some are withont the covering even of rags, and others emaciated with disease; the world has disclaimed them; society turns its back upon their distress, and has given them up to nakedness and hunger. These poor shivering females have once seen happier days, and been flattered into beauty. They have been prostituted to the gay luxurious villain, and are now turned out to meet the severity of winter. Perhaps, now lying at the doors of their betrayers, they sue to wretches whose hearts are insensible, or debauchees who may curse, but will not relieve them.
Why, why was I born a man, and yet see the sufferings of wretches I cannot relieve! Poor houseless creatures! the world will give you reproaches, but will not give you relief. The slightest misfor'tunes of the great, the most imaginary uneasiness of the rich, are aggravated with all the power of eloquence, and held up to engage our attention and sympathetic sorrow. The poor weep unheeded, persecuted by every subordinate species of tyranny; and every law, which gives others security, becomes an enemy to them.
Why was this heart of mine formed with so much sensibility! or why was not my fortune adapted to
its impulse! Tenderness, without a capacity of relieving, only makes the man who feels it more wretched than the object which sues for assistan.e.
But let me turn from a scene of such distress to the sanctified hypocrite, who has been talking of vir. tue till the time of bed, and now steals out, to give a loose to his vices under the protection of midnight; vices more atrocious, because he attempts to conceal them. See how he pauts down the dark alley, and, with hastening steps, fears an acquaintance in every face. He has passed the whole day in com. pany he hates, and now goes to prolong the night among company that as heartily hate him. May his vices he detected ! may the morning rise upon his shame! yet I wish to no purpose; villany, when detected, never gives up, but boldly adds impudence to imposture.
No. 5. SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 1759.
UPON POLITICAL FRUGALITY.
FRUGALITY has ever been esteemed a virtue as well among Pagans as Christians : there have been even heroes who have practised it. However, we must acknowledge, that it is too modest a virtue, or, if you will, too obscure a one to be essential to heroism ; few heroes have been able to attain to such an height. Frugality agrees much better with politics; it seems to be the base, the support, and, in a word, seems to be the inseparable companion of a just administration.
However this be, there is not perhaps in the world a people less fond of this virtue than the English, and of consequence there is not a nation more restless, more exposed to the uneasiness of life, or less capable of providing for particular happiness. We are taught to despise this yirtue from our childhood ; our education is improperly directed, and a man who has gone through the politest institutions, is generally the person who is acquainted with the wholesome "precepts of frugality. We every day hear the elegance of taste, the magnificence of some, and the generosity of others, made the subject of our admiration and applause. All this we see represented, not as the end and recompence of labour and desert, but as the actual result of genius, as the mark of a noble and exalted mind.
In the midst of these praises bestowed on luxury, for whom elegance and taste are but another name, perhaps it may be thought improper to plead the cause of frugality. It may be thought low, or vainly declamatory, to exhort our youth from the follies of dress, and of every other superfluity; to accustom themselves, even with mechanic meanness, to the simple necessaries of life. Such sort of instructions may appear antiquated; yet, however, they seem the foundations of all our virtues, and the most efficacious method of making mankind useful members of society. Unhappily, however, such discourses are not fashionable among us; and the fashion seems every day growing still more obsolete, since the press, and every other method of exhortation, seems disposed to talk of the luxuries of life as harmless
enjoyments. I remember, when a boy, to have remarked, that those who in school wore the finest clothes were pointed at as being conceited and proud. At present, our little masters are taught to consider dress betimes, and they are regarded, even at school, with contempt, who do not appear as genteel as the rest. Education should teach us to become useful, sober, disinterested, and laborious members of society; but does it not at present point out a different path? It teaches us to multiply our wants, by which means we become more eager to possess, in order to dissipate; a greater charge to ourselves, and more useless or obnoxious to society.
If a youth happens to be possessed of more genius than fortune, he is early informed that he ought to think of his advancement in the world ; that he should labour to make himself pleasing to his superiors; that he should shun low company (by which is meant the company of his equals); that he should rather live a little above than below his fortune; that he should think of becoming great; but he finds none to admonish him to become frugal, to persevere in one single design, to avoid every pleasure and all flattery, which, however, seeming to conciliate the favour of his superiors, never conciliate their esteem. There are none to teach him, that the best way
of becoming happy in himself, and useful to others, is to continue in the state in which fortune at first placed him, without making too hasty strides to advancement; that greatness may be attained, but should not be expected; and that they who most impatiently expect advancement, are seldom possessed of their wishes. He has few, I say, to teach him this lesson, or to moderate his youthful passions ; yet, this experience may say, that a young man, who but for six years of the early part of his life could seem divested of all his passions, would certainly make, or considerably increase his fortune, and might indulge several of his favourite inclinations in manhood with the utmost security.
The efficaciousness of these means is sufficiently known and acknowledged; but as we are apt to
nect a low idea with all our notions of frugality, the person who would persuade us to it might be accused of preaching up avarice.
Of all vices, however, against which morality dissuades, there is not one more undetermined than this of avarice. Misers are described by some, as men divested of honour, sentiment, or humanity; but this is only an ideal picture, or the resemblance at least is found but in a few. In truth, they who are generally called misers, are some of the very best members of society. The sober, the laborious, the attentive, the frugal, are thus styled by the gay, giddy, thoughtless, and extravagant. The first set of men do society all the good, and the latter all the evil that is felt. Even the excesses of the first no way injure the commonwealth; those of the latter are the most injurious that can be conceived.
The ancient Romans, more rational than we in this particular, were very far from thus misplacing their admiration or praise; instead of regarding the practice of parsimony as low or vicious, they made it synonymous even with probity. They esteemed those virtues so inseparable, that the known expression of vir frugi signified, at one and the same time,