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least alarming, yet, perhaps, the most fatal. Dissipation and intemperance are often the transient effects of youthful heat, which time allays, and experience overcomes ; but indolence “ grows with our growth, and strengthens with ourstrength,” till it has weakened every exertion of public and private duty; yet so seducing, that its evils are unfelt, and its errors unrepented of.
It is a circumstance of peculiar regret, that this should often be the propensity of delicate and amiable minds. Men unfeeling and unsusceptible, commonly beat the beaten track with activity and resolution; the occupations they pursue, and the enjoyments they feel, seldom much disappoint the expectations they have formed; but persons endowed with that nice perception of pleasure and pain which is annexed to sensibility, feel so much indescribable uneasiness in their pursuits, and frequently so little satisfaction in their
attainments, that they are too often induced to sit still, without attempting the one, or desiring the other.
The complaints which such persons make of their want of that success which attends men of inferior abilities, are as unjust as unavailing. It is from the use, not the possession of talents, that we get on in life: the exertion of very moderate parts outweighs the indecision of the brightest. Men possessed of the first, do things tolerably, and are satisfied; of the last, forbear doing things well, because they have ideas beyond them.
When I first resolved to publish this paper, I applied to several literary friends for their aid in carrying it on. From one gentleman in London, I had, in particular, very sanguine expectations of assistance. His genius and abilities I had early opportunities of knowing, and he is now in a situation most favourable to such productions, as he lives amidst the great and
the busy world, without being much occupied either by ambition or business. His compositions at college, when I first became acquainted with him, were remarkable for elegance and ingenuity; and,
; as I knew he still spent much of his time in reading the best writers, ancient and modern, I made no doubt of his having attained such farther improvement of style, and extension of knowledge, as would render him a very valuable contributor to the Mirror.
A few days ago, more than four months after I had sent him my letter, I received the following answer to it.
London, 1st March, 1779.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
I am ashamed to look on the date of this letter, and to recollect that of yours. I will not, however, add the sin of hypocrisy to my other failings, by in
forming you, as is often done in such cases, that hurry of business, or want of health, has prevented me from answering your letter. I will frankly confess, that I have had abundance of leisure, and been perfectly well since I received it; I can add, though, perhaps, you may not so easily believe me, that I have had as much inclination as opportunity; but the truth is, (you know my weakness that way,) I have wished, resolved, and re-resolved to write, as I do by many other things, without the power of accomplishing it.
. That disease of indolence, which you and my other companions used to laugh at, grows stronger and stronger upon me; my symptoms, indeed, are mortal; for I begin now to lose the power of struggling against the malady, sometimes to shut my ears against self-admonition, and admit of it as a lawful indulgence.
Your letter, acquainting me of the design of publishing a periodical paper,
and asking my assistance in carrying it on, found me in one of the paroxysms of my disorder. The fit seemed to give way to the call of friendship. I got up from my easy chair, walked two or three turns through the room, read your letter again, looked at the Spectators, which stood, neatly bound and gilt, in the front of my book-press, called for
, and sat down, in the fervour of imagination, ready to combat vice, to encourage virtue, to form the manners, and to regulate the taste of millions of my fellowsubjects. A field fruitful and unbounded lay before me; I began to speculate on the prevailing vices and reigning follies of the times, the thousand topics which might arise for declamation, satire, ridicule, and humour; the picture of manners, the shades of character, the delicacies of sentiment. I was bewildered amidst this multitude and variety of subjects, and sat dreaming over the redundancy of matter,