Wednesday, October 10, 1711.
‘… Uni ore omnes omnia
Bona dicere, et Laudare fortunas meas,
Qui Gnatum haberem tali ingenio proeditum.’
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.