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regard needs not ask it of others, but may give it to himself when he pleases. These disputes commonly disorder none but weak and fantastic minds, who have taken a surfeit of prosperity; and since God has sent them no disappointments, are determined to make some out of their own indiscretion.
To conclude; he that would be happy should always put the best construction upon business and conversation. He should not suppose malice or contempt is meant in every action which he does not understand. To interpret thus will render him often mistaken and always uneasy: it is the way never to be kind to others nor just to himself.
NUNQUAM minus solus, quam cum solus," "Never less alone than when alone," is now become a vulgar saying, and quoted by every man, and almost every boy, for these seventeen hundred years. But it was at first spoken by the excellent Scipio, who was without doubt a most eloquent and witty person, as well as one of the most wise, most worthy, most happy, and greatest of mankind. His meaning no doubt was this, that he found more satisfaction to his mind, and more improvement by solitude than by company; and to shew that he spoke not this vainly or inconsiderately, after he had rendered Rome mistress of almost the whole world, he retired into voluntary exile, and, in a private house situated in the middle of a wood near Linternum, * passed the remainder of his glorious life no less glori
ously. This house Seneca visited long afterwards with great veneration, and among other things describes his baths of so mean a structure, that in his time the basest of the people would despise them, and cry out, " poor Scipio understood not how to live."
What an authority is here for the credit of a retreat! And happy had it been for Hannibal, if adversity could have taught him as much wisdom as was learnt by Scipio from the highest prosperities. This would be no wonder, if it were as truly as it is colourably and wittily said by Montagne, that ambition itself might teach us to love solitude; since nothing so much hates to have companions. It is true, ambition loves to have its elbows free, it detests to have company on either side; but it delights in a train behind, aye, and ushers too before it. But the greater part of men are so far from the opinion of the noble Roman, that if they chance at any time to be without company, they are like a becalmed ship, they never move except by the wind of other men's breath, and have no oars of their own to steer withal.
It is very fantastical and contradictory in humau nature, that men should love themselves above all the rest of the world, and yet never endure to be with themselves. When they are
in love with a mistress all other persons are importunate and burthensome to them.
"Tecum vivere amen tecum obeam lubens."
"Sic ego secretis possum bene vivere sylvis,
"With thee for ever I in woods could rest,
And yet our dear self is so wearisome to us that we can scarcely support its conversation for an hour together. This is such an odd temper of mind, as Catullus expresses towards one of his mistresses, whom we may suppose to have been of a very unsociable humour.
"Odi et amo, quânam id faciam ratione requiris!
"I hate, and yet I love thee too;
"How can that be? I do not know;
Only that so it is I know,
"And feel with torment that 'tis so."
This is a deplorable condition, and sometimes drives men to pitiful shifts, in seeking how to avoid themselves.
The truth is, that neither he who is a fop in
the world is fit to be alone; nor he who has attached himself to the world, though he have never so much understanding: so that solitude can be well fitted and sit right upon few persons. They must have knowledge enough of the world to see the vanity of it, and enough virtue to despise all vanity. If our minds are possessed with violent passions, we had better be in a fair, than in a wood alone. For our passions may, like thieves, cheat us, and pick our pockets in the midst of company; but like robbers they will strip and bind, or murder us, when they catch us alone. This is but to retreat from men and fall into the hands of devils. It is like the punishment of parricides among the Romans, to be sowed into a bag, with an ape, a dog, and a serpent.
The first work to make ourselves capable of enjoying the good of solitude is to eradicate all unruly passions; for how is it possible to enjoy ourselves while our affections are tied to things without? In the second place, we must learn the art and get the habit of thinking; for this too, no less than well speaking, depends upon much practice; and cogitation is the thing which distinguishes the solitude of a god from a wild beast. Now because the soul of man is not by its own nature or observation furnished with