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No. 027 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 27
Saturday, March 31, 1711. Steele.

‘Ut nox longa, quibus Mentitur arnica, diesque
Longa videtur opus debentibus, ut piger Annus
Pupillis, quos dura premit Custodia matrum,
Sic mihi Tarda fluunt ingrataque Tempora, quae spem
Consiliumque morantur agendi Gnaviter, id quod
AEque pauperibus prodest, Locupletibus aque,
AEque neglectum pueris senibusque nocebit.’


There is scarce a thinking Man in the World, who is involved in the Business of it, but lives under a secret Impatience of the Hurry and Fatigue he suffers, and has formed a Resolution to fix himself, one time or other, in such a State as is suitable to the End of his Being. You hear Men every Day in Conversation profess, that all the Honour, Power, and Riches which they propose to themselves, cannot give Satisfaction enough to reward them for half the Anxiety they undergo in the Pursuit, or Possession of them. While Men are in this Temper (which happens very frequently) how inconsistent are they with themselves? They are wearied with the Toil they bear, but cannot find in their Hearts to relinquish it; Retirement is what they want, but they cannot betake themselves to it; While they pant after Shade and Covert, they still affect to appear in the most glittering Scenes of Life: But sure this is but just as reasonable as if a Man should call for more Lights, when he has a mind to go to Sleep.

Since then it is certain that our own Hearts deceive us in the Love of the World, and that we cannot command our selves enough to resign it, tho’ we every Day wish our selves disengaged from its Allurements; let us not stand upon a Formal taking of Leave, but wean our selves from them, while we are in the midst of them.

It is certainly the general Intention of the greater Part of Mankind to accomplish this Work, and live according to their own Approbation, as soon as they possibly can: But since the Duration of Life is so incertain, and that has been a common Topick of Discourse ever since there was such a thing as Life it self, how is it possible that we should defer a Moment the beginning to Live according to the Rules of Reason?

The Man of Business has ever some one Point to carry, and then he tells himself he’ll bid adieu to all the Vanity of Ambition: The Man of Pleasure resolves to take his leave at least, and part civilly with his Mistress: But the Ambitious Man is entangled every Moment in a fresh Pursuit, and the Lover sees new Charms in the Object he fancy’d he could abandon. It is, therefore, a fantastical way of thinking, when we promise our selves an Alteration in our Conduct from change of Place, and difference of Circumstances; the same Passions will attend us where-ever we are, till they are Conquered, and we can never live to our Satisfaction in the deepest Retirement, unless we are capable of living so in some measure amidst the Noise and Business of the World.

I have ever thought Men were better known, by what could be observed of them from a Perusal of their private Letters, than any other way. My Friend, the Clergyman, [1] the other Day, upon serious Discourse with him concerning the Danger of Procrastination, gave me the following Letters from Persons with whom he lives in great Friendship and Intimacy, according to the good Breeding and good Sense of his Character. The first is from a Man of Business, who is his Convert; The second from one of whom he conceives good Hopes; The third from one who is in no State at all, but carried one way and another by starts.


‘I know not with what Words to express to you the Sense I have of the high Obligation you have laid upon me, in the Penance you enjoined me of doing some Good or other, to a Person of Worth, every Day I live. The Station I am in furnishes me with daily Opportunities of this kind: and the Noble Principle with which you have inspired me, of Benevolence to all I have to deal with, quickens my Application in every thing I undertake. When I relieve Merit from Discountenance, when I assist a Friendless Person, when I produce conceal’d Worth, I am displeas’d with my self, for having design’d to leave the World in order to be Virtuous. I am sorry you decline the Occasions which the Condition I am in might afford me of enlarging your Fortunes; but know I contribute more to your Satisfaction, when I acknowledge I am the better Man, from the Influence and Authority you have over,