Monday, October 15, 1711.
Est lubris, animus si te non deficit oequus.
‘There is a particular Fault which I have observed in most of the Moralists in all Ages, and that is, that they are always professing themselves, and teaching others to be happy. This State is not to be arrived at in this Life, therefore I would recommend to you to talk in an humbler Strain than your Predecessors have done, and instead of presuming to be happy, instruct us only to be easy. The Thoughts of him who would be discreet, and aim at practicable things, should turn upon allaying our Pain rather than promoting our Joy. Great Inquietude is to be avoided, but great Felicity is not to be attained. The great Lesson is AEquanimity, a Regularity of Spirit, which is a little above Chearfulness and below Mirth. Chearfulness is always to be supported if a Man is out of Pain, but Mirth to a prudent Man should always be accidental: It should naturally arise out of the Occasion, and the Occasion seldom be laid for it; for those Tempers who want Mirth to be pleased, are like the Constitutions which flag without the use of Brandy. Therefore, I say, let your Precept be, Be easy. That Mind is dissolute and ungoverned, which must be hurried out of it self by loud Laughter or sensual Pleasure, or else [be ] wholly unactive.
There are a Couple of old Fellows of my Acquaintance who meet every Day and smoak a Pipe, and by their mutual Love to each other, tho’ they have been Men of Business and Bustle in the World, enjoy a greater Tranquility than either could have worked himself into by any Chapter of Seneca. Indolence of Body and Mind, when we aim at no more, is very frequently enjoyed; but the very Enquiry after Happiness has something restless in it, which a Man who lives in a Series of temperate Meals, friendly Conversations, and easy Slumbers, gives himself no Trouble about. While Men of Refinement are talking of Tranquility, he possesses it.
What I would by these broken Expressions recommend to you, Mr. SPECTATOR, is, that you would speak of the Way of Life, which plain Men may pursue, to fill up the Spaces of Time with Satisfaction. It is a lamentable Circumstance, that Wisdom, or, as you call it, Philosophy, should furnish Ideas only for the Learned; and that a Man must be a Philosopher to know how to pass away his Time agreeably. It would therefore be worth your Pains to place in an handsome Light the Relations and Affinities among Men, which render their Conversation with each other so grateful, that the highest Talents give but an impotent Pleasure in Comparison with them. You may find Descriptions and Discourses which will render the Fire-side of an honest Artificer as entertaining as your own Club is to you. Good-nature has an endless Source of Pleasure in it; and the Representation of domestick Life, filled with its natural Gratifications, (instead of the necessary Vexations which are generally insisted upon in the Writings of the Witty) will be a very good Office to Society.
The Vicissitudes of Labour and Rest in the lower Part of Mankind, make their Being pass away with that Sort of Relish which we express by the Word Comfort; and should be treated of by you, who are a SPECTATOR, as well as such Subjects which appear indeed more speculative, but are less instructive. In a word, Sir, I would have you turn your Thoughts to the Advantage of such as want you most; and shew that Simplicity, Innocence, Industry and Temperance, are Arts which lead to Tranquility, as much as Learning, Wisdom, Knowledge, and Contemplation.
I am, Sir,
Your most Humble Servant,
Hackney, [October 12. ]
‘I am the young Woman whom you did so much Justice to some time ago, in acknowledging that I am perfect Mistress of the Fan, and use it with the utmost Knowledge and Dexterity. Indeed the World, as malicious as it is, will allow, that from an Hurry of Laughter I recollect my self the most suddenly, make a Curtesie, and let fall my Hands before me, closing my Fan at the same instant, the best of any Woman in England. I am not a little delighted that I have had your Notice and Approbation; and however other young Women may rally me out of Envy, I triumph in it, and demand a Place in your Friendship. You must therefore permit me to lay before you the present State of my Mind. I was reading your Spectator of the 9th Instant, and thought the Circumstance of the Ass divided between two Bundles of Hay which equally affected his Senses, was a lively Representation of my present Condition: For you are to now that I am extremely enamoured with two young Gentlemen who at this time pretend to me. One must hide nothing when one is asking Advice, therefore I will own to you, that I am very amorous and very covetous. My Lover Will is very rich, and my Lover Tom very handsome. I can have either of them when I please; but when I debate the Question in my own Mind, I cannot take Tom for fear of losing Will‘s Estate, nor enter upon Will’s Estate, and bid adieu to Tom‘s Person. I am very young, and yet no one in the World, dear Sir, has the main Chance more in her Head than myself. Tom is the gayest, the blithest Creature! He dances well, is very civil, and diverting at all Hours and Seasons. Oh, he is the Joy of my Eyes! But then again Will is so very rich and careful of the Main. How many pretty Dresses does Tom appear in to charm me! But then it immediately occurs to me, that a Man of his Circumstances is so much the poorer. Upon the whole I have at last examined both these Desires of Loves and Avarice, and upon strictly weighing the Matter I begin to think I shall be covetous longer than fond; therefore if you have nothing to say to the contrary, I shall take Will. Alas, poor Tom!
Your Humble Servant,
[Footnote 1: is]
[Footnote 2: the 12th of October.]