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the most inconsiderable among mankind, nay of any species of animals superior to their own, to destroy at once the minister and people altogether: this is doubtless very ridiculous; yet this is doubtless my own case, in respect to many subordinate beings, and very certainly of the Supreme one. Farewel then, ye air-built citadels ! farewel, visions of unsolid glory! Don Pedro will seek no honour of so equivocal an acceptation, as to degrade his character to a superior species, in proportion as it exalts him before his own.
See here a just conclusion! in short, he found it so fairly drawn, as immediately to drop his project, leave the army, and retire: of which whimsical relation it may be well enough observed, that a spider had enslaved the world, had not an ant obstructed his design.
Whence is it, my friend, that I feel it impossible to envy you, altho' hereafter, your qualifications may make whole millions do so? for, believe me, when I affirm, that I deem it much more superfluous, to wish you honours to gratify your ambition, than to wish you ambition enough to make your honours satisfactory. It seems a hard case that
envy should be the consequence of merit, at the same time that scorn so naturally attends the want of it. It is, however, in some measure perhaps an unavoidable (and perhaps in some sense an useful) passion in all the most heroic natures; wbere, refined through certain straiñers, it takes the name of emulation. It is a pain arising in our breasts, on contemplation of the superior advantages of another: and it's tendency is truly good, under some certain regulations. All honour, very evidently depends on comparison; and consequently the more numerous are our superiors, the smaller portion of it falls to our share. Considered relatively, we are dwarfs, or giants; tho' considered absolutely, we are neither. However, the love of this relative grandeur is made a part of our natures; and the use of emulation is to excite our diligence in pursuit of power, for the sake of beneficence. The instances of it's perversion are obvious to every one's observation. A vicious mind, instead of it's own emolument, studies the debase ment of his superior. A person to please one of this cast, must needs divest himself of all useful qualities; and, in order to be beloved, discover nothing that is truly amiable. One may very safely fix our esteem on those whom we hear some people depreciate. Merit is to them as uniformly odious, as the sun itself to the birds of darkness. An author, to judge of his own merit, may fix his eye on this tribe of men; and suffer his satisfaction to arise in due proportion to their discontent. Their disapprobation will sufficiently influence every generous bosom in his favour: and I would as implicitly give my applause to one whom they pull to pieces, as the inhabitants of Pegu worship those that have been devoured by apes. It is another perversion of this passion, tho' of a less enormous nature, whe merely stimulates us to rival others in points of no intrinsic worth. To equal others in the useless parts of learning; to pursue riches for the sake of an equipage as brilliant; to covet an equal knowledge of a table; to'vie in jock
ey-ship, or cunning at a bet. These, and many other rivalships, answer not the genuine purposes of emulation.
I believe the passion is oftentimes derived from a too partial view of our own and others' excellencies. We behold a man possessed of some particular advantage, and we immediately reflect on it's deficiency in ourselves. We wait not to examine what others we have to balance it. We envy another man's bodily accomplishments; when our mental ones might preponderate, would we put them into the scale. Should we ask our own bosoms whether we would change situations altogether, I fancy self-love would, generally, make us prefer our own condition. But if our sentiments remain the same after such an examination, all we can justly endeavour is our own real advancement. To meditate this detriment either in fortune, power, or reputation, at the same time that it is infamous, has often a tendency to depress ourselves. But let us confine our emulation to points of real worth; to riches, power, or knowledge, only that we may rival others in beneficence.
A DREAM. Ingenious was the device of those celebrated worthies, who, for the more effectual promulgation of their well-grounded maxims, first pretended to divine inspiration. Peace be to their manes; may the turf lie Jightly upon their breast; and the verdure over their grave be as perpetual as their memories ! Well knew they, questionless, that a proceeding of this nature must afford an excuse to their modesty, as well as add a weight to their instructions. For, from the beginning of time, if we may believe the histories of the best repute, man has ever found a delight in giv, ing credit to surprising lies. There was, indeed, necessary, a degree of credit, previous to this delight: and there was as necessary a delight, in order to enforce any degree of credit. But so it was that the pleasure rose, in proportion to the wonder; and if the love of wonder was but gratified, no matter whether the tale were founded on a witch or an egeria; on a rat, a.pigeon, the pummel of sword, a bloated sibyl, or a three-foot stool.
Of all writers that bear any resemblance to these originals, those who approach the nearest, are such as describe their extraordinary dreams and visions. Of ostentation we may not, peradventure, accuse them, who claim to themselves no other than the merit of spectators. Of want of abilities we must not censure them; when we are given to know that their imagination had no more part in the affair, than a whited wall has, in those various figures, which some crafty artist represents thereon. The first meditation of a solitary, is the behaviour of men in active life. Hapless species, I cried, how, very grossly art thou mistaking! how very supine, while youth permits thee to gain the prize of virtue, by restraint! how very resolute, when thine age leaves nothing to restrain thee! thou givest a loose to thine inclinations, till they lose their very being; and, like a lamp overwhelmed with oil, are extinguished by indulgence. What folly to dream of virtue, when there is no longer room for self-denial; or, when the enemy expires by sickness, to demand the honour of a triumph! Musing on this subject, I fell into a profound slumber; and the vision with which it furnished me shall supply materials for this essay.
I was, methought, transported into a winding valley, on each side of whose area, as far so my eye could see, were held up (in the manner of a picture) all the pleasing objects either of art or nature. Hills rose one behind another, crowned with trees, or adorned with edifices;.broken rocks contrasted with lawns, and foaming rivers poured headlong over them; gilded spires enlivened even the sunshine; and lonesome ruins, by the side of woods, gave a solemnity to the shade. It would be endless, or rather impossible, to give an idea of the vast variety. It seemed, as tho’ people of whatever inclinations might here meet with their favourite object. While I stood amazed, and even confounded, at so astonishing a landscape, an old man approached towards me, and offered his assistance in alleviating my surprise. “You observe,' said he, in the middle path, a train of sprightly female pilgrims, * conducted by a matron t of a graver cast. She is habited, as you may observe, in a robe far more plain and simple than that of any amidst her followers. It is her province to restrain her pupils, that the objects glittering on each side may not seduce them to make excursions, from which they scarcely ever find their right way again. You may not, perhaps, suspect the gulphs and precipices that lie intermixed amidst scenery so delightful to the eye. You see, indeed, at a considerable distance, the gilt dome of a temple, raised upon columns of the whitest marble. I must inform you, that within this temple resides a lady,f weaving wreaths of immortal
* The Passions.