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age were too little for the much I have to do." On my saying, we could not do too much: that heaven was a blessed place" So much the worse.-'Tis lost! 'tis lost!Heaven is to me the severest part of hell!" Soon after, I proposed prayer, Pray you that can, I never prayed. I cannot pray-nor need I. Is not Heaven on my side already? It closes with my conscience. Its severest strokes but second my own." Observing that his friend was much touched at this, even to tears-(who could forbear? I could not)-with a most affectionate look, he said, "Keep those tears for thyself. I have undone thee.-Dost thou weep for me? That is cruel. What can pain me more?"
Here his friend, too much affected, would have left him." No, stay-thou still mayst hope; therefore hear me. How madly have I talked! How madly hast thou listened, and believed! but look on my present state, as a full answer to thee, and to myself. This body is all weakness and pain; but my soul, as if stung up by torment to greater strength and spirit, is full pow erful to reason; full mighty to suffer. And that which thus triumphs within the jaws of immortality, is doubtless immortal-And, as for a Deity, nothing less than an Almighty could inflict what I feel."
I was about to congratulate this passive, involuntary confessor, on his asserting the two prime articles of his creed, extorted by the rack of nature, when he thus, very passionately exclaimed :-"No: no! let me speak on, I have not long to speak.-My much injured friend! my soul, as my body, lies in ruins; in scattered fragments of broken thought.--Remorse for the past, throws my thought on the future. Worse dread of the future, strikes it back on the past. I turn, and turn, and fiad Didst thou feel half the mountain that is on me, thou wouldst struggle with the martyr for his stake; and bless Heaven for the flames !-that is not an everlasting flame; that is not an unquenchable fire."
How were we struck! yet soon after, still more.
With what an eye of distraction, what a face of despair, he cried out! "My principles have poisoned my friend; my extravagance has beggared my boy! my unkindness has murdered my wife! And is there another hell? Oh, thou blasphemed, yet indulgent LORD GOD! Hell itself is a refuge, if it hide me from thy frown!' Soon after, his understanding failed. His terrified imagination uttered horrors not to be repeated, or ever forgotten. And ere the sun (which, I hope, has seen few like him) arose, the gay, young, noble, ingenious, accomplished, and most wretched Altamont, expired!
If this is a man of pleasure, what is a man of pain? How quick, how total, is the transit of such persons! In what a dismal gloom they set for ever! How short, alas! the day of their rejoicing!—For a moment they glitter -they dazzle! In a moment, where are they? Oblivion covers their memories. Ah! would it did! Infamy snatches them from oblivion. In the long living annals of infamy their triumphs are recorded. Thy sufferings, poor Altamont! still bleed in the bosom of the heart-stricken friend-for Altamont had a friend.
He might have had many. His transient morning might have been the dawn of an immortal day. His name might have been gloriously enrolled in the records of eternity. His memory might have left a sweet fragrance behind it, grateful to the surviving friend, salutary to the succeeding generation. With what capacity was he endowed? With what advantages, for being greatly good! But, with the talents of an an gel, a man may be a fool. If he judges amiss in the supreme point, judging right in all else, but aggravates his folly; as it shows him wrong, though blessed with the best capacity of being right.
DEMOCRITUS AND HERACLITUS.*
The vices and follies of men should excite compassion
rather than ridicule.
FIND it impossible to reconcile myself to a melancholy philosophy.
And I am equally unable to approve of that vain philosophy, which teaches man to despise and ridicule one another. To a wise and feeling mind, the world appears in a wretched and painful light.
Thou art too much affected with the state of things; and this is a source of misery to thee.
And I think thou art too little moved by it. Thy mirth and ridicule bespeak the buffoon, rather than the philosopher. Does it not excite thy compassion, to see mankind so frail, so blind, so far departed from the rules of virtue?
I am excited to laughter, when I see so much impertinence and folly.
Democritus and Heraclitus were two ancient philofophers, the former of whom laughed, and the latter wept, at the errors and follies of mankind.
And yet, after all, they, who are the objects of thy ridicule, include, not only mankind in general, but the persons with whom thou livest, thy friends, thy family, nay even thyself.
little for all the silly persons I meet with: and think I am justifiable in diverting myself with their folly.
If they are weak and foolish, it marks neither wisdom nor humanity, to insult rather than pity them. But is it certain, that thou art not as extravagant as they are?
Ι presume that I am not; since, in every point, my sentiments are the very r y reverse of theirs.
There are follies of different kinds. By constantly amusing thyself with the errors and misconduct of others, thou mayst render thyself equally ridiculous and culpable.
Thou art at liberty to indulge such sentiments; and to weep over me too, if thou hast any tears to spare. For my part, I cannot refrain from pleasing myself with the levities and ill conduct of the world about me. Are not all men foolish, or irregular in their lives?
Alas! there is but too much reason to believe, they are so and on this ground, I pity and deplore their condition. We agree in this point, that men do not conduct themselves according to reasonable and just principles: but I, who do not suffer myself to act as they do, must yet regard the dictates of my understanding and feelings, which compel me to love them;
and that love fills me with compassion for their mistakes and irregularities. Canst thou condemn me for pitying my own species, my brethren, persons born in the same condition of life, and destined to the same hopes and privileges? If thou shouldst enter a hospital, where sick and wounded persons reside, would their wounds and distresses excite thy mirth? And yet, the evils of the body bear no comparison with those of the mind. Thou wouldst certainly blush at thy bar barity, if thou hadst been so unfeeling as to laugh at or despise a miserable being, who had lost one of his legs; and yet thou art so destitute of humanity, as to ridicule those, who appear to be deprived of the noble powers of the understanding, by the little regard which they pay to its dictates.
He who has lost a leg is to be pitied, because the loss is not to be imputed to himself; but he who rejects the dictates of reason and conscience, voluntarily deprives himself of their aid. The loss originates in his own folly.
Ah! so much the more is he to be pitied! A furious maniac, who should pluck out his own eyes, would deserve more compassion than an ordinary blind man.
Come, let us accommodate the business. There is something to be said on each side of the question. There is every where reason for laughing, and reason for weeping. The world is ridiculous, and I laugh at it; it is deplorable, and thou lamentest over it. Every person views it in his own way, and according to his own temper. One point is unquestionable, that mankind are preposterous; to think right, and to act well, we must think and act differently from them. To submit to the authority, and follow the example of the greater part of men, would render us foolish and