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No. 133 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

I went this Evening to visit a Friend, with a design to rally him, upon a Story I had heard of his intending to steal a Marriage without the Privity of us his intimate Friends and Acquaintance. I came into his Apartment with that Intimacy which I have done for very many Years, and walked directly into his Bed-chamber, where I found my Friend in the Agonies of Death. [2] What could I do? The innocent Mirth in my Thoughts struck upon me like the most flagitious Wickedness: I in vain called upon him; he was senseless, and too far spent to have the least Knowledge of my Sorrow, or any Pain in himself. Give me leave then to transcribe my Soliloquy, as I stood by his Mother, dumb with the weight of Grief for a Son who was her Honour and her Comfort, and never till that Hour since his Birth had been an Occasion of a Moment’s Sorrow to her.

‘How surprising is this Change! from the Possession of vigorous Life and Strength, to be reduced in a few Hours to this fatal Extremity! Those Lips which look so pale and livid, within these few Days gave Delight to all who heard their Utterance: It was the Business, the Purpose of his Being, next to Obeying him to whom he is going, to please and instruct, and that for no other end but to please and instruct. Kindness was the Motive of his Actions, and with all the Capacity requisite for making a Figure in a contentious World, Moderation, Good-Nature, Affability, Temperance and Chastity, were the Arts of his Excellent Life. There as he lies in helpless Agony, no Wise Man who knew him so well as I, but would resign all the World can bestow to be so near the end of such a Life. Why does my Heart so little obey my Reason as to lament thee, thou excellent Man. … Heaven receive him, or restore him … Thy beloved Mother, thy obliged Friends, thy helpless Servants, stand around thee without Distinction. How much wouldst thou, hadst thou thy Senses, say to each of us.

But now that good Heart bursts, and he is at rest–with that Breath expired a Soul who never indulged a Passion unfit for the Place he is gone to: Where are now thy Plans of Justice, of Truth, of Honour? Of what use the Volumes thou hast collated, the Arguments thou hast invented, the Examples thou hast followed. Poor were the Expectations of the Studious, the Modest and the Good, if the Reward of their Labours were only to be expected from Man. No, my Friend, thy intended Pleadings, thy intended good Offices to thy Friends, thy intended Services to thy Country, are already performed (as to thy Concern in them) in his Sight before whom the Past, Present, and Future appear at one View. While others with thy Talents were tormented with Ambition, with Vain-glory, with Envy, with Emulation, how well didst thou turn thy Mind to its own Improvement in things out of the Power of Fortune, in Probity, in Integrity, in the Practice and Study of Justice; how silent thy Passage, how private thy Journey, how glorious thy End! Many have I known more Famous, some more Knowing, not one so Innocent.’


[Footnote 1: From Plutarch’s ‘Life of Phocion’.]

[Footnote 2: This friend was Stephen, son of Edmund Clay, haberdasher. Stephen Clay was of the Inner Temple, and called to the bar in 1700.]