Page images
PDF
EPUB

mixed and blended together, they compose what we endeavour to express when we say a modest assurance ;' by which we understand the just mean between bashfulness and impudence.

I shall conclude with observing, that as the same man may be both modest and assured, so it is also possible for the same to be both impudent and bashful.

We have frequent instances of this odd kind of mixture in people of depraved minds and mean education, who, though they are not able to meet a man's eyes, or pronounce a sentence without confusion, can voluntarily commit the greatest villanies or most indecent actions.

Such a person seems to have made a resolution to do ill even in spite of himself, and in defiance of all those checks and restraints his temper and complexion seem to have laid in his way.

Upon the whole, I would endeavour to establish this maxim, that the practice of virtue is the most proper method to give a man a becoming assurance in his words and actions. Guilt always seeks to shelter itself in one of the extremes, and is sometimes attended with both.

X.

N° 374. FRIDAY, MAY 9, 1712.

Nil actum reputans si quid superesset ugendum.

LUCAN. ii, 57. He reckon'd not the past, while aught remain’d Great to be done, or mighty to be gain'd.

Rowe. There is a fault, which, though common, wants a name. It is the very contrary to procrastination. As we lose the present hour by delaying from day to day to execute what we ought to do immediately, so most of us take occasion to sit still and throw away the time in our possession by retrospect on what is past, imagining we have already acquitted ourselves, and established our characters in the sight of mankind. But when we thus put a value upon ourselves for what we have already done, any farther than to explain ourselves in order to assist our future conduct, that will give us an over-weening opinion of our merit, to the prejudice of our present industry. The great rule, methinks, should be, to manage the instant in which we stand, with fortitude, equanimity, and moderation, according to men's respective circumstances. If our past actions reproach us, they cannot be atoned for by our own severe reflections so effectually as by a contrary behaviour. If they are praise-worthy, the memory of them is of no use but to act suitably to them. Thus a good present behaviour is an implicit repentance for any miscarriage in what is past; but present slackness will not make up for past activity. Time has swallowed up all that we contemporaries did yesterday, as irrevocably as it has the actions of the antedi

luvians. But we are again awake, and what shall we do to-day-to-day, which passes while we are yet speaking ? Shall we remember the folly of last night, or resolve upon the exercise of virtue tomorrow? Last night is certainly gone, and to-morrow may never arrive. This instant make use of. Can you oblige any man of honour and virtue? Do it immediately. Can you visit a sick friend? Will it revive him to see you enter, and suspend your own ease and pleasure to comfort his weakness, and hear the impertinences of a wretch in pain? Do not stay to take coach, but be gone. Your mistress will bring sorrow, and your bottle madness. Go to neither- -Such virtues and diversions as these are mentioned because they occur to all men. But every man is sufficiently convinced, that to suspend the use of the present moment, and resolve better for the future only, is an unpardonable folly. What I attempted to consider, was the mischief of setting such a value

upon what is past, as to think we have done enough. * Let a man have filled all the offices of life with the highest dignity till yesterday, and begin to live only to himself to-day, he must expect he will, in the effects upon his reputation, be considered as the man who died yesterday. The man who distinguishes himself from the rest, stands in a press of people : those before him intercept his progress; and those behind him, if he does not urge on, will tread him down. Cæsar, of whom it was said that he thought nothing done while there was left any thing for him to do, went on in performing the greatest exploits, without assuming to himself a privilege of taking rest upon the foundation of the merit of his former actions. It was the manner of that glorious captain to write down what scenes he had passed through; but it was rather to

keep his affairs in method, and capable of a clear review, in case they should be examined by others, than that he built a renown upon any thing that was past. I shall produce two fragments of his, to demonstrate that it was his rule of life to support himself rather by what he should perform, than what he had done already. In the tablet which he wore about him the same year in which he obtained the battle of Pharsalia, there were found these loose notes of his own conduct. It is supposed, by the circumstances they alluded to, that they might be set down the evening of the same night.

* My part is now but begun, and my glory must be sustained by the use I make of this victory; otherwise my loss will be greater than that of Pompey. Our personal reputation will rise or fall as we bear our respective fortunes. All my private enemies among the prisoners shall be spared. I will forget this, in order to obtain such another day. Trebutius is ashamed to see me: I will go to his tent, and be reconciled in private. Give all the men of honour, who take part with me, the terms I offered before the battle. Let them owe this to their friends who have been long in my interests. Power is weakened by the full use of it, but extended by moderation. Galbinius is proud, and will be servile in his present fortune: let him wait. Send for Stertinius : he is modest, and his virtue is worth gaining. I have cooled my heart with reflection, and am fit to rejoice with the army to-mor

He is a popular general, who can expose himself like a private man during a battle; but he is more popular who can rejoice but like a private man after a victory.'

What is particularly proper for the example of all who pretend to industry in the pursuit of ho

row.

[ocr errors]

nour and virtue, is, that this hero was more than ordinarily solicitous about his reputation, when a common mind would have thought itself in security, and given itself a loose to joy and triumph. But though this is a very great instance of his temper, I must confess I am more taken with his reflections when he retired to his closet in some disturbance upon the repeated ill omens of Calphurnia's dream, the night before his death. The literal translation of that fragment shall conclude this paper.

• Be it so then. If I am to die to-morrow, that is what I am to do to-morrow. It will not be then, because I am willing it should be then; nor shail I escape it, because I am unwilling. It is in the gods when, but in myself how, I shall die. If Calphurnia's dreams are fumes of indigestion, how shall I behold the day after to-morrow! If they are from the gods, their admonition is not to prepare me to escape

from their decree, but to meet it. I have lived to a fulness of days and of glory : what is there that Cæsar has not done with as much honour as ancient heroes? Cæsar has not yet died ! Cæsar is prepared to die.'

T.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »