Thursday, August 23, 1711.
‘Maximas Virtutes jacere omnes necesse est Voluptate dominante.’
Tull. ‘de Fin.’
I Know no one Character that gives Reason a greater Shock, at the same Time that it presents a good ridiculous Image to the Imagination, than that of a Man of Wit and Pleasure about the Town. This Description of a Man of Fashion, spoken by some with a Mixture of Scorn and Ridicule, by others with great Gravity as a laudable Distinction, is in every Body’s Mouth that spends any Time in Conversation. My Friend WILL. HONEYCOMB has this Expression very frequently; and I never could understand by the Story which follows, upon his Mention of such a one, but that his Man of Wit and Pleasure was either a Drunkard too old for Wenching, or a young lewd Fellow with some Liveliness, who would converse with you, receive kind Offices of you, and at the same time debauch your Sister, or lie with your Wife. According to his Description, a Man of Wit, when he could have Wenches for Crowns apiece which he liked quite as well, would be so extravagant as to bribe Servants, make false Friendships, fight Relations: I say, according to him, plain and simple Vice was too little for a Man of Wit and Pleasure; but he would leave an easy and accessible Wickedness, to come at the same thing with only the Addition of certain Falshood and possible Murder. WILL, thinks the Town grown very dull, in that we do not hear so much as we used to do of these Coxcombs, whom (without observing it) he describes as the most infamous Rogues in Nature, with relation to Friendship, Love, or Conversation.
When Pleasure is made the chief Pursuit of Life, it will necessarily follow that such Monsters as these will arise from a constant Application to such Blandishments as naturally root out the Force of Reason and Reflection, and substitute in their Place a general Impatience of Thought, and a constant Pruiriency of inordinate Desire.
Pleasure, when it is a Man’s chief Purpose, disappoints it self; and the constant Application to it palls the Faculty of enjoying it, tho’ it leaves the Sense of our Inability for that we wish, with a Disrelish of every thing else. Thus the intermediate Seasons of the Man of Pleasure are more heavy than one would impose upon the vilest Criminal. Take him when he is awaked too soon after a Debauch, or disappointed in following a worthless Woman without Truth, and there is no Man living whose Being is such a Weight or Vexation as his is. He is an utter Stranger to the pleasing Reflections in the Evening of a well-spent Day, or the Gladness of Heart or Quickness of Spirit in the Morning after profound Sleep or indolent Slumbers. He is not to be at Ease any longer than he can keep Reason and good Sense without his Curtains; otherwise he will be haunted with the Reflection, that he could not believe such a one the Woman that upon Trial he found her. What has he got by his Conquest, but to think meanly of her for whom a Day or two before he had the highest Honour? and of himself for, perhaps, wronging the Man whom of all Men living he himself would least willingly have injured?
Pleasure seizes the whole Man who addicts himself to it, and will not give him Leisure for any good Office in Life which contradicts the Gaiety of the present Hour. You may indeed observe in People of Pleasure a certain Complacency and Absence of all Severity, which the Habit of a loose unconcerned Life gives them; but tell the Man of Pleasure your secret Wants, Cares, or Sorrows, and you will find he has given up the Delicacy of his Passions to the Cravings of his Appetites. He little knows the perfect Joy he loses, for the disappointing Gratifications which he pursues. He looks at Pleasure as she approaches, and comes to him with the Recommendation of warm Wishes, gay Looks, and graceful Motion; but he does not observe how she leaves his Presence with Disorder, Impotence, down-cast Shame, and conscious Imperfection. She makes our Youth inglorious, our Age shameful.