No. 222. Wednesday, November 14, 1711. Steele.

Cur alter fratrum cessare, et ludere, et ungi, Præferat Herodis palmetis pinguibus


There is one thing I have often look'd for in your Papers, and have as often wondered to find my self disappointed; the rather, because I think it a Subject every way agreeable to your Design, and by being left unattempted by others, seems reserved as a proper Employment for you; I mean a Disquisition, from whence it proceeds, that Men of the brightest Parts, and most comprehensive Genius, compleatly furnished with Talents for any Province in humane Affairs; such as by their wise Lessons of Oeconomy to others have made it evident, that they have the justest Notions of Life and of true Sense in the Conduct of it--: from what unhappy contradictious Cause it proceeds, that Persons thus finished by Nature and by Art, should so often fail in the Management of that which they so well understand, and want the Address to make a right Application of their own Rules. This is certainly a prodigious Inconsistency in Behaviour, and makes much such a Figure in Morals as a monstrous Birth in Naturals, with this Difference only, which greatly aggravates the Wonder, that it happens much more frequently; and what a Blemish does it cast upon Wit and Learning in the general Account of the World? And in how disadvantageous a Light does it expose them to the busy Class of Mankind, that there should be so many Instances of Persons who have so conducted their Lives in spite of these transcendent Advantages, as neither to be happy in themselves, nor useful to their Friends; when every Body sees it was entirely in their own Power to be eminent in both these Characters? For my part, I think there is no Reflection more astonishing, than to consider one of these Gentlemen spending a fair Fortune, running in every Body's Debt without the least Apprehension of a future Reckoning, and at last leaving not only his own Children, but possibly those of other People, by his Means, in starving Circumstances; while a Fellow, whom one would scarce suspect to have a humane Soul, shall perhaps raise a vast Estate out of Nothing, and be the Founder of a Family capable of being very considerable in their Country, and doing many illustrious Services to it. That this Observation is just, Experience has put beyond all Dispute. But though the Fact be so evident and glaring, yet the Causes of it are still in the Dark; which makes me persuade my self, that it would be no unacceptable Piece of Entertainment to the Town, to inquire into the hidden Sources of so unaccountable an Evil. I am, SIR, Your most Humble Servant.

What this Correspondent wonders at, has been Matter of Admiration ever since there was any such thing as humane Life. Horace reflects upon this Inconsistency very agreeably in the Character of Tigellius, whom he makes a mighty Pretender to Oeconomy, and tells you, you might one Day hear him speak the most philosophick Things imaginable concerning being contented with a little, and his Contempt of every thing but mere Necessaries, and in Half a Week after spend a thousand Pound. When he says this of him with Relation to Expence, he describes him as unequal to himself in every other Circumstance of Life. And indeed, if we consider lavish Men carefully, we shall find it always proceeds from a certain Incapacity of possessing themselves, and finding Enjoyment in their own Minds. Mr. Dryden has expressed this very excellently in the Character of Zimri. [1]

A Man so various, that he seem'd to be Not one, but all Mankind's Epitome. Stiff in Opinion, always in the Wrong, Was every Thing by Starts, and Nothing long; But in the Course of one revolving Moon, Was Chymist, Fidler, Statesman, and Buffoon. Then all for Women, Painting, Rhiming, Drinking, Besides ten thousand Freaks that died in thinking; Blest Madman, who could every Hour employ In something new to wish or to enjoy! In squandering Wealth was his peculiar Art, Nothing went unrewarded but Desert.

This loose State of the Soul hurries the Extravagant from one Pursuit to another; and the Reason that his Expences are greater than anothers, is, that his Wants are also more numerous. But what makes so many go on in this Way to their Lives End, is, that they certainly do not know how contemptible they are in the Eyes of the rest of Mankind, or rather, that indeed they are not so contemptible as they deserve. Tully says, it is the greatest of Wickedness to lessen your paternal Estate. And if a Man would thoroughly consider how much worse than Banishment it must be to his Child, to ride by the Estate which should have been his had it not been for his Fathers Injustice to him, he would be smitten with the Reflection more deeply than can be understood by any but one who is a Father. Sure there can be nothing more afflicting than to think it had been happier for his Son to have been born of any other Man living than himself.

It is not perhaps much thought of, but it is certainly a very important Lesson, to learn how to enjoy ordinary Life, and to be able to relish your Being without the Transport of some Passion or Gratification of some Appetite. For want of this Capacity, the World is filled with Whetters, Tipplers, Cutters, Sippers, and all the numerous Train of those who, for want of Thinking, are forced to be ever exercising their Feeling or Tasting. It would be hard on this Occasion to mention the harmless Smoakers of Tobacco and Takers of Snuff.

The slower Part of Mankind, whom my Correspondent wonders should get Estates, are the more immediately formed for that Pursuit: They can expect distant things without Impatience, because they are not carried out of their Way either by violent Passion or keen Appetite to any thing. To Men addicted to Delight[s], Business is an Interruption; to such as are cold to Delights, Business is an Entertainment. For which Reason it was said to one who commended a dull Man for his Application,

No Thanks to him; if he had no Business, he would have nothing to do.


[Footnote 1: i.e. The Duke of Buckingham, in Part I. of 'Absalom and Achitophel'.]

Translation of motto:
HOR. 2 Ep. ii. 183.
'Why, of two brothers, one his pleasure loves,
Prefers his sports to Herod's fragrant groves.'