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sufficient materials to work upon, it must have continual recourse to learning and books for fresh supplies; so that the solitary life will become indigent and be ready to starve without them; but if once we be thoroughly engaged in the love of letters, instead of being wearied with the length of any day, we shall only complain of the shortness of our whole life.
"O vita, stulto longa, sapienti brevis."
O life, long to the fool, short to the wise!
The first minister of state has not so much business in public, as a wise man has in private; if the one have little leisure to be alone, the other has less leisure to be in company; the one has but part of the affairs of one nation, the other all the works of God and nature, under his consideration. No saying shocks me so much as that which I hear very often, "that a man does not know how to pass his time." It would have been but ill spoken by Methusalem in the nine hundred and sixty-ninth year of his life; so far it is from us, who have not time enough to attain the perfection of any part of any science, to have cause to complain that we are forced to be idle for want of work.
But this, you will say, is work only for the learned; others are not capable either of the em
ployments or amusements that arise from letters. I know they are not; and therefore cannot much recommend solitude to a map wholly illiterate. But if any man be so unlearned as to want entertainment in the little intervals of accidental solitude, which frequently occur in almost all conditions (except the very meanest of the people, who have business enough in the necessary provisions for life) it is truly a great shame both to his parents and himself. For a very small portion of any ingenious art will stop up all those gaps of our time; either music, or painting, or designing, or chemistry, or history, or gardening, or twenty other things, will do it usefully and pleasantly; and if he happen to set his affections upon poetry (which I do not advise him too immoderately) that will over-do it. No wood will be thick enough to hide him from the importunities of company or business, which would abstract him from his beloved.
"O quis me gelidis sub montibus Hæmi
Hail, old patrician trees, so great and good!
Where the poetic birds rejoice,
And for their quiet nests and plenteous food
*Virg. Georg. ii. 489.
Hail, the poor Muses richest manor seat
Which all the happy Gods so love,
That for you oft they quit their bright and great Metropolis above.
Here Nature does a house for me erect,
Who those fond artists does despise,
Here let me, careless and unthoughtful lying, Hear the soft winds, above me flying, With all their wanton boughs dispute, And the more tuneful birds to both replying, Nor be myself, too, mute.
A silver stream shall roll his waters near,
Ah wretched and too solitary he,
Who loves not his own company!
He'll feel the weight of't many a day,
Unless he call in sin or vanity
To help to bear't away.
OF NATURE IN MAN.
NATURE is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished. Force makes nature more violent in the return; doctrine and discourse make nature less importune; but custom only alters and subdues nature. He that seeks victory over his nature, let him not set himself too great nor too small tasks; for the first will make him dejected by often failing, and the second will make him a bad proceeder by often prevailing. And at the first let him practise with helps, as swimmers do with bladders or rushes; but after a time let him practise with disadvantages, as dancers do with thick shoes: for it breeds great perfection, if the practice be harder than the use.
Where nature is mighty, and therefore the victory hard, the degrees must be, first to stay and arrest nature in time, like him, that would say over the four and twenty letters when he
was angry; then to go less in quantity, as if we should in drinking wine confine ourselves first to a draught at a meal; and lastly to discontinue altogether. But if a man have fortitude and resolution to enfranchise himself at once, that is the best.
Neither is the ancient rule amiss, to bend nature as a wand to a contrary extreme, in order to set it right, it being understood that the contrary extreme is no vice. Let no one force a habit on himself by perpetual continuance, but with some intermission for the pause enforces the new onset; and if he who is not perfect be always in practice, he will practise his errors as well as his abilities, and establish one habit of both. There are no means to prevent this but by seasonable intermission.
But let no one trust his victory over his nature too far: for nature will lie buried for a long time, and yet revive upon a temptation. Like Æsop's damsel, turned from a cat into a woman, who sat very demurely at the table, till a mouse ran before her. Therefore either avoid the occasion altogether, or encounter it often, to be little moved by it.
A man's nature is best perceived in privacy; for there is no affectation in passion, which puts him out of his precepts, and in a new case of