I am the happy Father of a very towardly Son, in whom I do not only see my Life, but also my Manner of Life, renewed. It would be extremely beneficial to Society, if you would frequently resume Subjects which serve to bind these sort of Relations faster, and endear the Ties of Blood with those of Good-will, Protection, Observance, Indulgence, and Veneration. I would, methinks, have this done after an uncommon Method, and do not think any one, who is not capable of writing a good Play, fit to undertake a Work wherein there will necessarily occur so many secret Instincts, and Biasses of human Nature which would pass unobserved by common Eyes. I thank Heaven I have no outrageous Offence against my own excellent Parents to answer for; but when I am now and then alone, and look back upon my past Life, from my earliest Infancy to this Time, there are many Faults which I committed that did not appear to me, even till I my self became a Father. I had not till then a Notion of the Earnings of Heart, which a Man has when he sees his Child do a laudable Thing, or the sudden Damp which seizes him when he fears he will act something unworthy. It is not to be imagined, what a Remorse touched me for a long Train of childish Negligencies of my Mother, when I saw my Wife the other Day look out of the Window, and turn as pale as Ashes upon seeing my younger Boy sliding upon the Ice. These slight Intimations will give you to understand, that there are numberless little Crimes which Children take no notice of while they are doing, which upon Reflection, when they shall themselves become Fathers, they will look upon with the utmost Sorrow and Contrition, that they did not regard, before those whom they offended were to be no more seen. How many thousand Things do I remember, which would have highly pleased my Father, and I omitted for no other Reason, but that I thought what he proposed the Effect of Humour and old Age, which I am now convinced had Reason and good Sense in it. I cannot now go into the Parlour to him, and make his Heart glad with an Account of a Matter which was of no Consequence, but that I told it, and acted in it. The good Man and Woman are long since in their Graves, who used to sit and plot the Welfare of us their Children, while, perhaps, we were sometimes laughing at the old Folks at another End of the House. The Truth of it is, were we merely to follow Nature in these great Duties of Life, tho we have a strong Instinct towards the performing of them, we should be on both Sides very deficient. Age is so unwelcome to the Generality of Mankind, and Growth towards Manhood so desirable to all, that Resignation to Decay is too difficult a Task in the Father; and Deference, amidst the Impulse of gay Desires, appears unreasonable to the Son. There are so few who can grow old with a good Grace, and yet fewer who can come slow enough into the World, that a Father, were he to be actuated by his Desires, and a Son, were he to consult himself only, could neither of them behave himself as he ought to the other. But when Reason interposes against Instinct, where it would carry either out of the Interests of the other, there arises that happiest Intercourse of good Offices between those dearest Relations of human Life. The Father, according to the Opportunities which are offered to him, is throwing down Blessings on the Son, and the Son endeavouring to appear the worthy Offspring of such a Father. It is after this manner that Camillus and his firstborn dwell together. Camillus enjoys a pleasing and indolent old Age, in which Passion is subdued, and Reason exalted. He waits the Day of his Dissolution with a Resignation mixed with Delight, and the Son fears the Accession of his Fathers Fortune with Diffidence, lest he should not enjoy or become it as well as his Predecessor. Add to this, that the Father knows he leaves a Friend to the Children of his Friends, an easie Landlord to his Tenants, and an agreeable Companion to his Acquaintance. He believes his Sons Behaviour will make him frequently remembered, but never wanted. This Commerce is so well cemented, that without the Pomp of saying, Son, be a Friend to such a one when I am gone; Camillus knows, being in his Favour, is Direction enough to the grateful Youth who is to succeed him, without the Admonition of his mentioning it. These Gentlemen are honoured in all their Neighbourhood, and the same Effect which the Court has on the Manner of a Kingdom, their Characters have on all who live within the Influence of them.
My Son and I are not of Fortune to communicate our good Actions or Intentions to so many as these Gentlemen do; but I will be bold to say, my Son has, by the Applause and Approbation which his Behaviour towards me has gained him, occasioned that many an old Man, besides my self, has rejoiced. Other Mens Children follow the Example of mine, and I have the inexpressible Happiness of overhearing our Neighbours, as we ride by, point to their Children, and say, with a Voice of Joy, There they go.
You cannot, Mr. SPECTATOR, pass your time better than insinuating the Delights which these Relations well regarded bestow upon each other. Ordinary Passions are no longer such, but mutual Love gives an Importance to the most indifferent things, and a Merit to Actions the most insignificant. When we look round the World, and observe the many Misunderstandings which are created by the Malice and Insinuation of the meanest Servants between People thus related, how necessary will it appear that it were inculcated that Men would be upon their Guard to support a Constancy of Affection, and that grounded upon the Principles of Reason, not the Impulses of Instinct.
It is from the common Prejudices which Men receive from their Parents, that Hatreds are kept alive from one Generation to another; and when Men act by Instinct, Hatreds will descend when good Offices are forgotten. For the Degeneracy of human Life is such, that our Anger is more easily transferred to our Children than our Love. Love always gives something to the Object it delights in, and Anger spoils the Person against whom it is moved of something laudable in him. From this Degeneracy therefore, and a sort of Self-Love, we are more prone to take up the Ill-will of our Parents, than to follow them in their Friendships.
One would think there should need no more to make Men keep up this sort of Relation with the utmost Sanctity, than to examine their own Hearts. If every Father remembered his own Thoughts and Inclinations when he was a Son, and every Son remembered what he expected from his Father, when he himself was in a State of Dependance, this one Reflection would preserve Men from being dissolute or rigid in these several Capacities. The Power and Subjection between them, when broken, make them more emphatically Tyrants and Rebels against each other, with greater Cruelty of Heart, than the Disruption of States and Empires can possibly produce. I shall end this Application to you with two Letters which passed between a Mother and Son very lately, and are as follows.
If the Pleasures, which I have the Grief to hear you pursue in Town,
do not take up all your Time, do not deny your Mother so much of it,
as to read seriously this Letter. You said before Mr. _Letacre_,
that an old Woman might live very well in the Country upon half my
Jointure, and that your Father was a fond Fool to give me a
Rent-Charge of Eight hundred a Year to the Prejudice of his Son.
What _Letacre_ said to you upon that Occasion, you ought to have
born with more Decency, as he was your Fathers well-beloved
Servant, than to have called him _Country-put_. In the first place,
_Frank_, I must tell you, I will have my Rent duly paid, for I will
make up to your Sisters for the Partiality I was guilty of, in
making your Father do so much as he has done for you. I may, it
seems, live upon half my Jointure! I lived upon much less, _Frank_,
when I carried you from Place to Place in these Arms, and could
neither eat, dress, or mind any thing for feeding and tending you a
weakly Child, and shedding Tears when the Convulsions you were then
troubled with returned upon you. By my Care you outgrew them, to
throw away the Vigour of your Youth in the Arms of Harlots, and deny
your Mother what is not yours to detain. Both your Sisters are
crying to see the Passion which I smother; but if you please to go
on thus like a Gentleman of the Town, and forget all Regards to your
self and Family, I shall immediately enter upon your Estate for the
Arrear due to me, and without one Tear more contemn you for
forgetting the Fondness of your Mother, as much as you have the
Example of your Father. O _Frank_, do I live to omit writing myself,
_Your Affectionate Mother_, A.T.
I will come down to-morrow and pay the Money on my Knees. Pray write
so no more. I will take care you never shall, for I will be for ever
hereafter, _Your most dutiful Son_, F.T.
I will bring down new Heads for my Sisters. Pray let all be
T.Translation of motto: