Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

zen.

if I may presume to beg it, will be the greater favour, as I have lately received rich silks and fine laces to a considerable value, which will be sold cheap for a quick return, and as I have also a large stock of other goods. Indian silks were formerly a great branch of our trade; and since we must not sell them, we must seek amends by dealing in others. This, I hope, will plead for one who would lessen the number of the teasers of the muses, and who, suiting his spirit to his circumstances, humbles the poet to exalt the citi

Like a true tradesman, 1 hardly ever look into any books but those of accompts. To say the truth, I can not, I think, give you a better idea of my being a downright man of traffic, than by acknowledging I oftener read the advertisements than the matter of eyen your paper. I am under a great temptation to take this opportunity of admonishing other writers to follow my example, and trouble the town no more: but as it is my present business to increase the number of buyers rather than sellers, I hasten to tell you that I am, sir,

Your most humble and
most obedient servant,
• PETER MOTTEUX.

T.

STEELE.

* This man was well known at that time; he lived in Leadenhall street. He was found dead one morning ncar a house of bad fame in Star-Court.

No. 289. THURSDAY, JANUARY 31.

Vitæ summa brevis spem nos vetat inchoare longam. Hor. Life's span

forbids us to extend our cares, And stretch our hopes beyond our years. CREECH.

Upon taking my seat in a coffee-house I often draw the eyes of the whole room upon me, when in the hottest seasons of news; and at a time, perhaps, that the Dutch mail is just come in, they hear me ask the coffee-man for his last week's bill of mortality. I find that I have been some times taken, on this occasion, for a parish sexton, sometimes for an undertaker, and sometimes for a doctor of physic. In this, however, I am guided by the spirit of a philosopher, as I take occasion from hence to reflect upon the regular increase and diminution of mankind, and consider the various ways through which we pass from life to eternity. I am very well pleased with these weekly admonitions, that bring into my mind such thoughts as ought to be the daily entertainment of every reasonable creature; and can consider with pleasure to myself, by which of those deliverances, or, as we commonly call them, distempers, I may possibly make my escape out of this world of sorrows, into that condition of existence, wherein I hope to be happier than it is possible for me at present to conceive.

But this is not all the use I make of the abovementioned weekly paper. A bill of mortality is in my opinion an unanswerable argument for a Providence. How can we, without supposing ourselves under the constant care of a Supreme

Being, give any possible account for that nice
proportion which we find in every great city, be-
tween the deaths and births of its inhabitants,
and between the number of males and that of fe-
males who are brought into the world? What else
could adjust in so exact a manner the recruits of
every nation to its losses, and divide these new
supplies of people into such equal bodies of both
sexes? Chance could never hold the balance with
so steady a hand. Were we not counted out by
an intelligent Supervisor, we should sometimes
be overcharged with multitudes, and at others
wasted away into a desert; we should be some-
times a populus virorum, as Florus elegantly
expresses it, a generation of males, and at others
a species of women. We may extend this con-
sideration to every species of living creatures,
and consider the whole animal world as an huge
army
made

up
of innumerable

corps, if I may use that term, whose quotas have been kept entire near five thousand years, in so wonderful a man. ner, that there is not probably a single species lost during this long tract of time. "Could we have general bills of mortality of every kind of animals, or particular ones of every species in each continent and island, I could almost say, in every wood, marsh, or mountain, what astonishing instances would they be of that Providence which watches over all his works?

I have heard of a great man in the Romish church, who, upon reading those words in the 5th chapter of Genesis, 'And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died; and all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died; and all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died; immediately shut himself up in a convent, and retired from the world, as not thinking any thing in this life worth pursuing which had not regard to another.

The truth of it is, there is nothing in history which is so improving to the reader as those accounts which we meet with of the deaths of em:: nent persons, and of their behaviour in that dreadful season. I may also add, that there are no parts in history which affect and please the reader in so sensible a manner. The reason I take to be this, because there is no other single circumstance in the story of any person which can possibly be the case of every one who reads it. A battle or a triumph are conjunctures in which not one man in a million is likely to be engaged; but when we see a person at the point of death, we can not forbear being attentive to every thing he says or does, because we are sure that some time or other we shall ourselves be in the same melancholy circumstances. The general, the statesman, or the philosopher, are perhaps characters which we may never act in; but the dying man is one whom, sooner or later, we shall certainly resem

It is, perhaps, for the same kind of reason, that few books written in English have been so much perused as Dr. Sherlock's Discourse

upon Death; though at the same time I must own, that he who has not perused this excellent piece, has not perhaps read one of the strongest persuasives to a religious life that ever was written in any language.

The consideration with which I shall close this

ble.

essay upon death, is one of the most ancient and most beaten morals that has been recommended to mankind. But its being so very common, and so universally received, though it takes away from it the grace of novelty, adds very much to the weight of it, as it shows that it falls in with the general sense of mankind. In short, I would have every one consider, that he is in this life nothing more than a passenger, and that he is not to set up his rest here, but to keep an attentive eye upon that state of being to which he approaches every moment, and which will be for ever fixed and permanent. This single consideration would be sufficient to extinguish the bitterness of hatred, the thirst of avarice, and the cruelty of ambition.

I am very much pleased with the passage of Antiphanes, a very ancient poet, who lived near a hundred years before Socrates, which represents the life of man under this view, as I have here translated it word for word; • Be not grieved,' says he, above measure for thy deceased friends. They are not dead, but have only finished that journey which it is necessary for every one of us to take: we ourselves must go to that great place of reception in which they are all of them assembled, and in this general rendezvous of mankind live together in another state of being.'

I think I have, in a former paper, taken notice of those beautiful metaphors in scripture, where life is termed a pilgrimage, and those who pass through it are all called strangers and sojourners upon earth. I shall conclude this with a story whicn I have somewhere read in the travels of

« PredošláPokračovať »