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No. 381 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 381
Saturday, May 17, 1712. Addison.

‘AEquam memento rebus in arduis,

Servare mentem, non secus in bonis

Ab insolenti temperatam

Laetitia, moriture Deli.’


I have always preferred Chearfulness to Mirth. The latter, I consider as an Act, the former as an Habit of the Mind. Mirth is short and transient. Chearfulness fixed and permanent. Those are often raised into the greatest Transports of Mirth, who are subject to the greatest Depressions of Melancholy: On the contrary, Chearfulness, tho’ it does not give the Mind such an exquisite Gladness, prevents us from falling into any Depths of Sorrow. Mirth is like a Flash of Lightning, that breaks thro a Gloom of Clouds, and glitters for a Moment; Chearfulness keeps up a kind of Day-light in the Mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual Serenity.

Men of austere Principles look upon Mirth as too wanton and dissolute for a State of Probation, and as filled with a certain Triumph and Insolence of Heart, that is inconsistent with a Life which is every Moment obnoxious to the greatest Dangers. Writers of this Complexion have observed, that the sacred Person who was the great Pattern of Perfection was never seen to Laugh.

Chearfulness of Mind is not liable to any of these Exceptions; it is of a serious and composed Nature, it does not throw the Mind into a Condition improper for the present State of Humanity, and is very conspicuous in the Characters of those who are looked upon as the greatest Philosophers among the Heathens, as well as among those who have been deservedly esteemed as Saints and Holy Men among Christians.

If we consider Chearfulness in three Lights, with regard to our selves, to those we converse with, and to the great Author of our Being, it will not a little recommend it self on each of these Accounts. The Man who is possessed of this excellent Frame of Mind, is not only easy in his Thoughts, but a perfect Master of all the Powers and Faculties of his Soul: His Imagination is always clear, and his Judgment undisturbed: His Temper is even and unruffled, whether in Action or in Solitude. He comes with a Relish to all those Goods which Nature has provided for him, tastes all the Pleasures of the Creation which are poured about him, and does not feel the full Weight of those accidental Evils which may befal him.

If we consider him in relation to the Persons whom he converses with, it naturally produces Love and Good-will towards him. A chearful Mind is not only disposed to be affable and obliging, but raises the same good Humour in those who come within its Influence. A Man finds himself pleased, he does not know why, with the Chearfulness of his Companion: It is like a sudden Sun-shine that awakens a secret Delight in the Mind, without her attending to it. The Heart rejoices of its own accord, and naturally flows out into Friendship and Benevolence towards the Person who has so kindly an Effect upon it.

When I consider this chearful State of Mind in its third Relation, I cannot but look upon it as a constant habitual Gratitude to the great Author of Nature. An inward Chearfulness is an implicit Praise and Thanksgiving to Providence under all its Dispensations. It is a kind of Acquiescence in the State wherein we are placed, and a secret Approbation of the Divine Will in his Conduct towards Man.

There are but two things which, in my Opinion, can reasonably deprive us of this Chearfulness of Heart. The first of these is the Sense of Guilt. A Man who lives in a State of Vice and Impenitence, can have no Title to that Evenness and Tranquillity of Mind which is the Health of the Soul, and the natural Effect of Virtue and Innocence. Chearfulness in an ill Man deserves a harder Name than Language can furnish us with, and is many degrees beyond what we commonly call Folly or Madness.