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CATHERINE TALBOT'S

ESSAYS.

On the Employment of Time in the different Situa

tions in Society.

One scarce ever walked, with any set of company, by a neat cottage, but somebody or other has ex. pressed their envy of the pastoral inhabitant. It is quite common, among people of easy and affluent circumstances, to imagine, in a splenetic moment, every laborious situation happier than their own, and to wish an exchange with the ploughman, the shepherd, or the mechanic. I have sometimes thought this an affectation; and a very false senti. ment it surely is : for if all made the improvement they ought of their own way of life, there can be little doubt, but the higher and more leisurable stations would be, upon the whole, the happiest. That they rarely prove so in fact, is the fault of the possessors, who, unable to avoid their neces. sary cares, and unindustrious to seek out their true advantages, sink under a weight, that they might easily balance so as not to feel it.

What is generally called the spleen, is no other than the uneasy consciousness and dissatisfaction of a mind former for nobler pursuits and better purposes than it is ever put upon. Mere pleasure is an end too unworthy for a rational being to make its only aim : yet persons, unconstrained hy neces. sity, are so apt to be allureď by indolence and amusement, that their better faculties are seldom exercised as they ought to be; though every employment that serves no other purpose than merely to while away the present moment, gives the mind à painful sensation, that, whether distinctly attended to or not, makes up, when frequently repeated, the sum of that satiety and tediousness so often lamented in prosperous life.

1 There is, doubtless, to many persons à real dif.

ficulty in making the choice of an employment, when they are left perfectly at liberty to choose what they will. Necessity is, perhaps, the most satisfactory guide ; and, for that reason alone, the artificer, the shepherd, and the fariner, are happier than their affluent neighbours: the poor man must either work or starve; so he makes the best of his lot, works cheerfully, and enjoys the fruit of his honest labour : the rich, the easy, the indolent, have a task as necessary, but not so obvious. There is room for some doubt and uncertainty as to the way of setting about it. A life of sublime speculation is too high for the present state; a life of soft plcasure is too low : the right medinm is a life busied in the exercise of duty; and duties there are peculiar to every situation, and an inquiry into these is the leading one.*

I was drawu 'into this speculation, by having in. dulged, last summer, a whole week of idleness in a visit I made to an old acquaintance in the country. 1, too, took it into my head one afternoon to envy a poor man, who was hard at work for his livelihood mending the roof of a church, where he had some danger as well as toil. I, who had been seeking out the coolest shade, and reclining on the greenest turf, amid the fragrance of a thousand flowers-1, who had leisure to attend to the warbling of birds around me, or in peace and safety might amuse myself with the liveliest wit and eloquence of Greece and Rome-would have resigned all these delights, with joy, to sit whistling at the top of a high ladder, suffering both heat avd hunger. À

After ruminating much on so odd a phænomenon, I could find no better way of accounting for it, than from the preferableness of any allotted employ ment to an inactive indulgence of selfish pleasure.

• This is rather obscurely expressed : the meaning seems to be, that an inquiry into each person's peculiar situation is hisí leading dutý; i.e. that duty, without proper attention to which he cannot practise the rest.

It would, therefore, be worth while for all of us to consider what is our allotted employment; and, sitting down contented with that, all might be more than tolerably happy, and no such great inequalities in the world as are usually complained of.

Not that all amusement and indulgence should be severely banished : when properly and proportionably mixed with the more serious purposes of life, they become a part of duty. Rest and relaxatiou are necessary to health; the elegant arts refine ourimaginations ;* and the most trifling gaieties serve to cherish our good humour and innocent alacrity of heart. The enjoyment of proper delights fills us with gratitude to their all bountiful Dispenser, and adds to the bands of society a flowery chain of no small strength, and does justice to a fair world that is full of them. The number of them varies according to numberless circumstances ; but in no circumstance are mere amusement and relaxation to be considered as the business of life, or to be substituted for that real task, which, in some instance or other, is allotted to every state.

Let then the shepherd enjoy his peace, his meadows, and his caten pipe : let the honest artificer pursue his trade with cheerful indụstry, and rejoice that the weight of states and kingdoms does not lie upon his shoulders : let the man of a middle sta

• ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes

Emollit mores.Ovid.

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