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THE INFLUENCE OF SOLITUDE, &c. 215
CHAPTER THE SIXTH.
THE INFLUENCE OF SOLITUDE ON THE
HE PASSIONS lofe in Solitude a certain portion of that regulating weight by which in Society they are guided and controlled: The counteracting effects produced by variety, the restraints imposed by the obligations of civility, and the checks which arise from the calls of humanity, occur much less frequently in Retirement than amidst the multifarious transactions of a bufy world. The defires and fenfibilities of the heart having no real objects on which their vibrations can pendulate, are stimulated and increased by the powers of imagination. All the propenfities of the foul, indeed, experience a degree of restleffnefs and vehemence greater than they ever feel while diverted by the pleafures, fubdued by the furrounding diftreffes, and engaged by the business of active and focial life.
The calm which feems to accompany the mind in its retreat is deceitful; the paffions are fecretly at work within the heart; the imagination is continually heaping fuel on the latent fire, P 4 and
and at length the labouring defire burfts forth, and glows with volcanic heat and fury. The temporary inactivity and inertnefs which Retirement seems to impofe, may check, but cannot fubdue, the energies of spirit. The high pride and lofty ideas of great and independent minds may be, for a while, lulled into repofe; but the moment the feelings of fuch a character are awakened by indignity or outrage, its anger springs like an elastic body drawn from its centre, and pierces with vigorous severity the object that provoked it. The perils of Solitude, indeed, always encrease in proportion as the fenfibilities, imaginations, and paffions of its votaries are quick, excurfive, and violent. The man may be the inmate of a cottage, but the fame paffions and inclinations ftill lodge within his heart: his manfion may be changed, but their refidence is the fame; and though they appear to be filent and undisturbed, they are fecretly influencing all the propenfities of his heart. Whatever be the cause of his retirement, whether it be a fenfe of undeserved misfortune, the ingratitude of fuppofed friends, the pangs of defpifed love, or the disappointments of ambition, memory prevents the wound from healing, and ftings the foul with indignation and refentment. The image of departed pleasures haunts the mind, and robs it of its wifhed tranquillity. The ruling paffion still
fubfifts; it fixes itself more strongly on the fancy; moves with greater agitation; and becomes, in retirement, in proportion as it is inclined to VICE OF VIRTUE, either a horrid and tormenting spectre, inflicting apprehenfion and dismay, or a delightful and fupporting angel, irradiating the countenance with fmiles of joy, and filling the heart with peace and gladness.
Bleft is the man, as far as earth can bless,
The extraordinary power which the PASSIONS affume, and the improper channel in which they are apt to flow in retired fituations, is confpicuous from the greater acrimony with which they are in general tainted in fmall villages than in large towns. It is true, indeed, that they do not always explode in fuch fituations with the open and daring violence which they exhibit in a metropolis; but lie buried, as it were, and fmouldering in the bosom, with a more malignant
and confuming flame. To those who only obferve the liftleffness and languor which diftinguifh the characters of those who refide in fmall provincial towns, the flow and uniform rotation of amusements which fills up the leisure of their lives; the confufed wildnefs of their cares; the poor fubterfuges to which they are continually reforting, in order to avoid the clouds of difcontent that impend, in angry darkness, over their heads; the lagging current of their drooping spirits; the miferable poverty of their intellectual powers; the eagernefs with which they strive to raife a card party; the transports they enjoy on the prospect of any new diverfion or occafional exhibition; the hafte with which they run towards any fudden, unexpected noise, that interrupts the deep filence of their fituation; and the patient industry with which, from day to day, they watch each others conduct, and circulate reports of every action of each others lives, will scarcely imagine that any virulence of paffion can disturb the bofoms of perfons who live in fo quiet and feemingly composed a state. But the unoccupied time and barren minds of fuch characters cause the fainteft emotions, and most common defires, to act with all the violence of high and untamed paffions. The loweft diverfions, a cockfighting, or a poney race, make the bosom of a country 'Squire beat with the highest rapture;