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No. 153 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

As to all the rational and worthy Pleasures of our Being, the Conscience of a good Fame, the Contemplation of another Life, the Respect and Commerce of honest Men, our Capacities for such Enjoyments are enlarged by Years. While Health endures, the latter Part of Life, in the Eye of Reason, is certainly the more eligible. The Memory of a well-spent Youth gives a peaceable, unmixed, and elegant Pleasure to the Mind; and to such who are so unfortunate as not to be able to look back on Youth with Satisfaction, they may give themselves no little Consolation that they are under no Temptation to repeat their Follies, and that they at present despise them. It was prettily said,

‘He that would be long an old Man, must begin early to be one:’

It is too late to resign a thing after a Man is robbed of it; therefore it is necessary that before the Arrival of Age we bid adieu to the Pursuits of Youth, otherwise sensual Habits will live in our Imaginations when our Limbs cannot be subservient to them. The poor Fellow who lost his Arm last Siege, will tell you, he feels the Fingers that were buried in Flanders ake every cold Morning at Chelsea.

The fond Humour of appearing in the gay and fashionable World, and being applauded for trivial Excellencies, is what makes Youth have Age in Contempt, and makes Age resign with so ill a Grace the Qualifications of Youth: But this in both Sexes is inverting all things, and turning the natural Course of our Minds, which should build their Approbations and Dislikes upon what Nature and Reason dictate, into Chimera and Confusion.

Age in a virtuous Person, of either Sex, carries in it an Authority which makes it preferable to all the Pleasures of Youth. If to be saluted, attended, and consulted with Deference, are Instances of Pleasure, they are such as never fail a virtuous old Age. In the Enumeration of the Imperfections and Advantages of the younger and later Years of Man, they are so near in their Condition, that, methinks, it should be incredible we see so little Commerce of Kindness between them. If we consider Youth and Age with Tully, regarding the Affinity to Death, Youth has many more Chances to be near it than Age; what Youth can say more than an old Man, ‘He shall live ’till Night?’ Youth catches Distempers more easily, its Sickness is more violent, and its Recovery more doubtful. The Youth indeed hopes for many more Days, so cannot the old Man. The Youth’s Hopes are ill-grounded; for what is more foolish than to place any Confidence upon an Uncertainty? But the old Man has not Room so much as for Hope; he is still happier than the Youth, he has already enjoyed what the other does but hope for: One wishes to live long, the other has lived long. But alas, is there any thing in human Life, the Duration of which can be called long? There is nothing which must end to be valued for its Continuance. If Hours, Days, Months, and Years pass away, it is no matter what Hour, what Day, what Month, or what Year we die. The Applause of a good Actor is due to him at whatever Scene of the Play he makes his Exit. It is thus in the Life of a Man of Sense, a short Life is sufficient to manifest himself a Man of Honour and Virtue; when he ceases to be such he has lived too long, and while he is such, it is of no Consequence to him how long he shall be so, provided he is so to his Life’s End.


[Footnote 1: a Young]