Monday, June 25, 1711.
‘Nil ego contulerim jucundo sanus amico.’
A man advanced in Years that thinks fit to look back upon his former Life, and calls that only Life which was passed with Satisfaction and Enjoyment, excluding all Parts which were not pleasant to him, will find himself very young, if not in his Infancy. Sickness, Ill-humour, and Idleness, will have robbed him of a great Share of that Space we ordinarily call our Life. It is therefore the Duty of every Man that would be true to himself, to obtain, if possible, a Disposition to be pleased, and place himself in a constant Aptitude for the Satisfactions of his Being. Instead of this, you hardly see a Man who is not uneasy in proportion to his Advancement in the Arts of Life. An affected Delicacy is the common Improvement we meet with in those who pretend to be refined above others: They do not aim at true Pleasures themselves, but turn their Thoughts upon observing the false Pleasures of other Men. Such People are Valetudinarians in Society, and they should no more come into Company than a sick Man should come into the Air: If a Man is too weak to bear what is a Refreshment to Men in Health, he must still keep his Chamber. When any one in Sir ROGER’S Company complains he is out of Order, he immediately calls for some Posset-drink for him; for which reason that sort of People who are ever bewailing their Constitution in other Places are the Chearfullest imaginable when he is present.
It is a wonderful thing that so many, and they not reckoned absurd, shall entertain those with whom they converse by giving them the History of their Pains and Aches; and imagine such Narrations their Quota of the Conversation. This is of all other the meanest Help to Discourse, and a Man must not think at all, or think himself very insignificant, when he finds an Account of his Head-ach answer’d by another’s asking what News in the last Mail? Mutual good Humour is a Dress we ought to appear in whenever we meet, and we should make no mention of what concerns our selves, without it be of Matters wherein our Friends ought to rejoyce: But indeed there are Crowds of People who put themselves in no Method of pleasing themselves or others; such are those whom we usually call indolent Persons. Indolence is, methinks, an intermediate State between Pleasure and Pain, and very much unbecoming any Part of our Life after we are out of the Nurse’s Arms. Such an Aversion to Labour creates a constant Weariness, and one would think should make Existence it self a Burthen. The indolent Man descends from the Dignity of his Nature, and makes that Being which was Rational merely Vegetative: His Life consists only in the meer Encrease and Decay of a Body, which, with relation to the rest of the World, might as well have been uninformed, as the Habitation of a reasonable Mind.
Of this kind is the Life of that extraordinary Couple Harry Tersett and his Lady. Harry was in the Days of his Celibacy one of those pert Creatures who have much Vivacity and little Understanding; Mrs. Rebecca Quickly, whom he married, had all that the Fire of Youth and a lively Manner could do towards making an agreeable Woman. The two People of seeming Merit fell into each other’s Arms; and Passion being sated, and no Reason or good Sense in either to succeed it, their Life is now at a Stand; their Meals are insipid, and their Time tedious; their Fortune has placed them above Care, and their Loss of Taste reduced them below Diversion. When we talk of these as Instances of Inexistence, we do not mean, that in order to live it is necessary we should always be in Jovial Crews, or crowned with Chaplets of Roses, as the merry Fellows among the Ancients are described; but it is intended by considering these Contraries to Pleasure, Indolence, and too much Delicacy, to shew that it is Prudence to preserve a Disposition in our selves to receive a certain Delight in all we hear and see.