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No. 72. SATURDAY, January 15, 1780.
Sunt lacrymæ rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt.
The consideration of death has been always made use of, by the moralist and the divine, as a powerful incentive to virtue and to piety. From the uncertainty of life, they have endeavoured to sink the estimation of its pleasures, and, if they could not strip the seductions of vice of their present enjoyment, at least to load them with the fear of their end.
Voluptuaries, on the other hand, have, from a similar reflection, endeavoured to enhance the value, and persuade to the enjoyment, of temporal delights. They have advised us to pluck the roses which would otherwise soon wither of themselves, to seize the moments which we could not
long command, and, since time was unavoidably fleeting, to crown its flight with joy.
Of neither of these persuasives, whether of the moral or the licentious, the severe or the gay, have the effects been great. . Life must necessarily consist of active scenes, which exclude from its general tenor the leisure of meditation, and the influence of thought. The schemes of the busy will not be checked by the uncertainty of their event, nor the amusements of the dissipated be either controlled or endeared by the shortness of their duration. Even the cell of the Anchorite, and the cloister of the Monk, have their business and their pleasures ; for study may become business, and abstraction pleasure, when they engage the mind, and occupy the time. A man may even enjoy the present, and forget the future, at the very moment in which he is writing
of the insignificancy of the former, and the importance of the latter.
It were easy to shew the wisdom and benignity of Providence, Providence ever wise and benign, in this particular of our constitution; but it would be trite to repeat arguments too obvious not to have been often observed, and too just not to have been always allowed.
But, though neither the situation of the world, nor the formation of our minds, allow the thoughts of futurity or death a constant or prevailing effect upon our lives, they may surely sometimes, not unseasonably, press upon our imagination; even exclusive of their inoral or religious use. There is a sympathetic enjoyment which often makes it not only better, but more delightful, to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting.
Perhaps I felt it so, when, but a few days since, I attended the funeral of a young lady, who was torn, in the bloom
of youth and beauty, from the arms of a father who doated on her, of a family by whom she was adored: I think I would not have exchanged my feelings at the time, for all the mirth which gaiety could inspire, or all the pleasure which luxury could bestow.
Maria was in her twentieth year. To the beauty of her form, and excellence of her natural disposition, a parent equally indulgent and attentive had done the fullest justice. To accomplish her person, and to cultivate her mind, every endeavour had been used; and they had been attended with that success which they commonly meet with, when not prevented by mistaken fondness or untimely vanity.' Few young ladies have attracted more admiration; none ever felt it less : with all the charms of beauty, and the polish of education, the plainest were not less affected, nor the most ignorant less assuming. She died when every tongue
was eloquent of her virtues, when every hope was ripening to reward them.
It is by such private and domestic distresses, that the softer emotions of the heart are most strongly excited. The fall of more important personages is commonly distant from our observation; but even where it happens under our immediate notice, there is a mixture of other feelings by which our compassion is weakened. The eminently great, or extensively useful, leave behind them a train of interrupted views, and disappointed expectations, by which the distress is complicated beyond the simplicity of pity. But the death of one who, like Maria, was to shed the influence of her virtues over the age
of a father and the childhood of her sisters, presents to us a little view of family affliction, which every eye can perceive, and every heart can feel. On scenes of public sorrow and national regret, we gaze as upon those gallery-pictures which