I Stood the other Day, and beheld a Father sitting in the Middle of a Room with a large Family of Children about him; and methought I could observe in his Countenance different Motions of Delight, as he turned his Eye towards the one and the other of them. The Man is a Person moderate in his Designs for their Preferment and Welfare; and as he has an easy Fortune, he is not sollicitous to make a great one. His eldest Son is a Child of a very towardly Disposition, and as much as the Father loves him, I dare say he will never be a Knave to improve his Fortune. I do not know any Man who has a juster Relish of Life than the Person I am speaking of, or keeps a better Guard against the Terrors of Want or the Hopes of Gain. It is usual in a Crowd of Children, for the Parent to name out of his own Flock all the great Officers of the Kingdom. There is something so very surprizing in the Parts of a Child of a Man's own, that there is nothing too great to be expected from his Endowments. I know a good Woman who has but three Sons, and there is, she says, nothing she expects with more Certainty, than that she shall see one of them a Bishop, the other a Judge, and the third a Court Physician. The Humour is, that any thing which can happen to any Man's Child, is expected by every Man for his own. But my Friend whom I was going to speak of, does not flatter himself with such vain Expectations, but has his Eye more upon the Virtue and Disposition of his Children, than their Advancement or Wealth. Good Habits are what will certainly improve a Man's Fortune and Reputation; but on the other side, Affluence of Fortune will not as probably produce good Affections of the Mind.
It is very natural for a Man of a kind Disposition to amuse himself with the Promises his Imagination makes to him of the future Condition of his Children, and to represent to himself the Figure they shall bear in the World after he has left it. When his Prospects of this Kind are agreeable, his Fondness gives as it were a longer Date to his own Life; and the Survivorship of a worthy Man [in ] his Son is a Pleasure scarce inferior to the Hopes of the Continuance of his own Life. That Man is happy who can believe of his Son, that he will escape the Follies and Indiscretions of which he himself was guilty, and pursue and improve every thing that was valuable in him. The Continuance of his Virtue is much more to be regarded than that of his Life; but it is the most lamentable of all Reflections, to think that the Heir of a Man's Fortune is such a one as will be a Stranger to his Friends, alienated from the same Interests, and a Promoter of every thing which he himself disapproved. An Estate in Possession of such a Successor to a good Man, is worse than laid waste; and the Family of which he is the Head, is in a more deplorable Condition than that of being extinct.
When I visit the agreeable Seat of my honoured Friend Ruricola, and walk from Room to Room revolving many pleasing Occurrences, and the Expressions of many just Sentiments I have heard him utter, and see the Booby his Heir in Pain while he is doing the Honours of his House to the Friend of his Father, the Heaviness it gives one is not to be expressed. Want of Genius is not to be imputed to any Man, but Want of Humanity is a Man's own Fault. The Son of Ruricola, (whose Life was one continued Series of worthy Actions and Gentleman-like Inclinations) is the Companion of drunken Clowns, and knows no Sense of Praise but in the Flattery he receives from his own Servants; his Pleasures are mean and inordinate, his Language base and filthy, [his ] Behaviour rough and absurd. Is this Creature to be accounted the Successor of a Man of Virtue, Wit and Breeding? At the same time that I have this melancholy Prospect at the House where I miss my old Friend, I can go to a Gentleman's not far off it, where he has a Daughter who is the Picture both of his Body and Mind, but both improved with the Beauty and Modesty peculiar to her Sex. It is she who supplies the Loss of her Father to the World; she, without his Name or Fortune, is a truer Memorial of him, than her Brother who succeeds him in both. Such an Offspring as the eldest Son of my Friend, perpetuates his Father in the same manner as the Appearance of his Ghost would: It is indeed Ruricola, but it is Ruricola grown frightful.
I know not to what to attribute the brutal Turn which this young Man has taken, except it may be to a certain Severity and Distance which his Father used towards him, and might, perhaps, have occasioned a Dislike to those Modes of Life which were not made amiable to him by Freedom and Affability.
We may promise our selves that no such Excrescence will appear in the Family of the Cornelii, where the Father lives with his Sons like their eldest Brother, and the Sons converse with him as if they did it for no other Reason but that he is the wisest Man of their Acquaintance. As the Cornelii are eminent Traders, their good Correspondence with each other is useful to all that know them, as well as to themselves: And their Friendship, Good-will and kind Offices, are disposed of jointly as well as their Fortune, so that no one ever obliged one of them, who had not the Obligation multiplied in Returns from them all.
It is the most beautiful Object the Eyes of Man can behold, to see a Man of Worth and his Son live in an entire unreserved Correspondence. The mutual Kindness and Affection between them give an inexpressible Satisfaction to all who know them. It is a sublime Pleasure which encreases by the Participation. It is as sacred as Friendship, as pleasurable as Love, and as joyful as Religion. This State of Mind does not only dissipate Sorrow, which would be extream without it, but enlarges Pleasures which would otherwise be contemptible. The most indifferent thing has its Force and Beauty when it is spoke by a kind Father, and an insignificant Trifle has it's Weight when offered by a dutiful Child. I know not how to express it, but I think I may call it a transplanted Self-love. All the Enjoyments and Sufferings which a Man meets with are regarded only as they concern him in the Relation he has to another. A Man's very Honour receives a new Value to him, when he thinks that, when he is in his Grave, it will be had in Remembrance that such an Action was done by such a one's Father. Such Considerations sweeten the old Man's Evening, and his Soliloquy delights him when he can say to himself, No Man can tell my Child his Father was either unmerciful or unjust: My Son shall meet many a Man who shall say to him, I was obliged to thy Father, and be my Child a Friend to his Child for ever.
It is not in the Power of all Men to leave illustrious Names or great Fortunes to their Posterity, but they can very much conduce to their having Industry, Probity, Valour and Justice: It is in every Man's Power to leave his Son the Honour of descending from a virtuous Man, and add the Blessings of Heaven to whatever he leaves him. I shall end this Rhapsody with a Letter to an excellent young Man of my Acquaintance, who has lately lost a worthy Father.
'I know no Part of Life more impertinent than the Office of administring Consolation: I will not enter into it, for I cannot but applaud your Grief. The virtuous Principles you had from that excellent Man whom you have lost, have wrought in you as they ought, to make a Youth of Three and Twenty incapable of Comfort upon coming into Possession of a great Fortune. I doubt not but that you will honour his Memory by a modest Enjoyment of his Estate; and scorn to triumph over his Grave, by employing in Riot, Excess, and Debauchery, what he purchased with so much Industry, Prudence, and Wisdom. This is the true Way to shew the Sense you have of your Loss, and to take away the Distress of others upon the Occasion. You cannot recal your Father by your Grief, but you may revive him to his Friends by your Conduct.'
[Footnote 1: "to", and in the first reprint.]
[Footnote 2: and his]Translation of motto: