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a good one upon our stage, and has given admirable play to our comic wits; so that in my opinion there is no vein of that sort, either antient or modern, which excels or equals the humour of our plays. And for the rest I cannot but observe, to the honour of our country, that the good qualities among us seem to be natura!, and the ill ones more accidental, and such as would be easily changed by the example of princes and the precepts of laws; such I mean as should be designed to form manners, restrain excesses, to encourage industry, to prevent men from making experiments beyond their fortunes, to countenance virtue, and raise that true esteem due to plain sense and common honesty.
FORTUNE is like the market, where many times if you can stay little, the price will fall. And again, it is sometimes like Sybilla's offer, which at first offers the commodity at full, then consumes part and part, and still holds up the
price. For occasion (as it is in the common verse) turns a bald noddle, after she has presented her locks in front, and no hold taken. There is surely no greater wisdom, than well to time the beginnings and on-sets of things. Dangers are no more light, if they once seem light; and more dangers have deceived men, than forced them. Nay, it were better to meet some dangers half way, though they come nothing near, than to keep too long a watch upon their approaches; for if a man watch too long, it is odds he will fall asleep. On the other side, to be deceived with too long shadows, (as some have been, when the moon was low, and shone on their enemies back,) and so to shoot off before the time: or to teach dangers to come on, by over eagerness in meeting them, is another extreme. The ripeness or unripeness of the occasion (as we said) must ever be well weighed; and generally it is good to commit the beginnings of all great actions to Argus with his hundred eyes, and the ends to Briareus with his hundred hands; first to watch and then to speed. The helmet of Pluto, which makes the politic man go invisible, is secrecy in the counsel, and celerity in the execution. For when things are once come to the execution, there is no secrecy comparable to celerity; like the motion of a bullet in the air, which flies so swift as to outrun the eye.
"Nam neque divitibus contingunt gaudia solis,
God made not pleasures only for the rich,
Nor have those men without their share too liv'd, Who both in life and death the world deceiv'd.
THIS seems a strange sentence, thus literally translated, and looks as if it were in vindication of the men of business (for who else can deceive the world); whereas it is in commendation of those who live and die so obscurely, that the world takes no notice of them. This Horace
calls deceiving the world, and in another place
uses the same phrase
"Secretum iter et fallentis semita vita."
The secret tracks of the deceiving life.
It is very elegant in Latin, but our English word will hardly bear up to that sense, and therefore Mr. Broom translates it very well.
"Or from a life, led, as it were, by stealth."
Yet we say, in our language, a thing deceives our sight, when it passes before us unperceived, and we may say well enough out of the same author,
"Sometimes with sleep, sometimes with wine we
"The cares of life, and troubles to deceive."
Lib. i. Sat. vii. 44.
But that is not to deceive the world, but to deceive ourselves, as Quintilian says, " vitam fallere," to draw on still, and amuse, and deceive our life, till it be advanced insensibly to the fatal period, and fall into that pit which nature hath prepared for it. The meaning of all this is no more than that most vulgar saying "Bene qui latuit, bene vixit," he has lived well who has lain well hidden. Which if it be a truth, the world (I will swear) is sufficiently deceived; for my part I think it is, and that the pleasantest condition of life is in incognito. What a brave privilege is it, to be free from all contentions, from envying, or being envied, from receiving and from paying all kind of ceremonies! It is in my mind a very delightful pastime, for two good and agreeable friends to travel up and down together, in places where they are by nobody known, nor know any body. It was the case of Eneas and his Achates, when they walked invisibly about the fields and streets of Carthage; Venus herself,
A veil of thicken'd air around them cast,
The common story of Demosthenes coufessing that he had taken great pleasure in hearing a woman say, as he passed "This is that Demosthenes," is wonderfully ridiculous from so solid an orator I myself have often met with that temptation to vanity (if it were any); but I am so far from finding it any pleasure, that it only makes me run faster from the place, till I get out of sight. Democritus relates, and in such a manner as if he gloried in the good fortune and commodity of it, that when he came to Athens, nobody there did so much as take notice of him; and Epicurus lived there many years in his gardens, so famous since that time, with his friend Metradorus, after whose death, making in one of his letters a kind of commemoration of the happiness which they two had enjoyed together, he adds at last, that he thought it no disparagement to those great felicities of their life, that in the midst of the most talked of and talking country in the world, they had lived so long, not only without fame, but almost without being heard of. And yet within a very few years afterwards, there were no two names more known or more generally celebrated. If we engage into a large acquaintance and various familiarities, we set up our