Page images
PDF
EPUB

man, who first broached this maxim, I'll not take on myself to pronounce, but I am apt to think he would be no fool who observed it.

If all the resolutions, promises and engagements of To-day, that lie over for To-morrow, were to be summed up and posted by items, what a cumbrous load of procrastinations would be transferred in the midnight crisis of a moment! Something perhaps like the following might be the outline of the deed, by which To-day might will and devise the foresaid contingencies to its heir and successor.

• Conscious that my existence is drawing to its close, I hereby devise and make over to my natural heir and successor, all my right and title in those many vows, promises and obligations, which have been so liberally made to me by sundry persons in my lifetime, but which still remained unfulfilled on their part, and stand out against them: but at the same time that I am heartily desirous all engagements, fair and lawful in their nature, may be

punctually complied with, I do most willingly cancel all such as are of a contrary description; hereby releasing and discharging all manner of persons, who have bound themselves to me under rash and inconsiderate resolutions, from the performance of which evil might ensue to themselves, and wrong or violence be done society.

In the first place I desire my said heir and successor will call in all those debts of conscience, which have been incurred by, and are due from, certain defaulters, who stand pledged to repentance and atonement, of all which immediate payment ought in justice and discretion to be rigorously exacted from the several parties, forasmuch as every hour, by which they outrun their debt, weakens their security.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]

successor.

It is my further will and desire, that all those free livers and profest voluptuaries, who have wasted the hours of my existence in riot and debauchery, may be made to pay down their lawful quota of sick stomachs and aching heads, to be levied upon them severally by poll at the discretion of my heir and

• Whereas I am apprized of many dark dealings and malicious designs now in actual execution, to the great annoyance of society and good-fellowship, I earnestly recommend the detection of all such evilminded persons with To-morrow's light, heartily hoping they will meet their due shame, punishment and disappointment: and I sincerely wish that every honest man, who hath this night gone to rest with a good reputation, may not be deprived of To-morrow's repose by any base efforts, which Slander, who works in the dark, may conjure up to take it from him.

• It is with singular satisfaction I have been made privy to sundry kind and charitable benevolences, that have been privately bestowed upon the indigent and distrest, without any ostentation or parade on the part of the givers, and I do thereupon strictly enjoin and require a fair and impartial account to be taken of the same by my lawful heir and successor, (be the amount what it may) that interest for the same may be put into immediate course of pay. ment; whereby the parties so intitled may enjoy, as in justice they ought to do, all those comforts, blessings and rewards, which talents so employed are calculated to produce.

• All promises made by men of power to their dependants, and all verbal engagements to tradesmen on the score of bills, that lie over for To-morrow, I hereby cancel and acquit; well assured they were not meant by those who made them, nor expected by any who received them, then to be made good and fulfilled.

• To all gamesters, rakes and revellers, who shall be found out of bed at my decease, I bequeath rotten constitutions, restless thoughts and squalid complexions; but to all such regular and industrious people, who rise with the sun and carefully resume their honest occupations, I give the greatest of all human blessings health of body, peace of mind and length of days. • Given under my hand, &c. &c.

• To-Day.'

NUMBER XCVII.

TO THE OBSERVER. SIR, There is an old gentleman of my acquaintance who annoys me exceedingly with his predictions: I have reason to believe he bears me good will in the main, and does not know to what a degree he actually disturbs my peace of mind, I would therefore fain put up with his humour if I could; but when he is for ever ringing his knell in my ears, he sometimes provokes me to retort upon him, oftentimes to laugh at him, and never fails to put me out of patience or out of spirits.

I have read your account of the Dampers with great fellow-feeling, and perceive that my old gentleman is very deep in that philosophy; but as I unfortunately have very little philosophy of any sort to set against it, I find myself frequently at his mercy and without defence.

I do not think this proceeds so much from any radical vice in his nature, as from a foolish vanity to seem wiser than his neighbours, and to put himself off for a man who knows the world : the fact is he is an old bachelor, lives in absolute retirement, and has scarcely stept out of the precincts of his own village three times in his life; yet he is ever telling me of his experience and his observations: if I was to put implicit faith in what he says, common honesty in mankind would be a miracle, and happiness a disappointment; as for hope, that moon-shine diet as he calls it, which is so plentifully served up in the fanciful repasts of the poets, and which is too often, the only standing dish at their tables, I should never get a taste of it; and yet if ruining a merchant's credit is tantamount to robbing him of his property, I must think the Damper, who blasts my hope, is in fact little better than a thief.

I have a natural prejudice for certain people at first sight, where a countenance impresses me in its favour, for I am apt to fancy that honesty sets a mark

upon its owners; there is not a weakness incident to human nature, for which he could hold my understanding in more sovereign contempt: if I was to be advised by him, I should not trust my

wife out of my sight, for it is a maxim with him, that no love-matches can be happy; mine was of that sort and I am happy; still I am out of credit with my Damper. I was bound for a relation in public trust some years ago; there I confess his augury sometimes staggered me, and he urged me with proverbs out of holy writ, which I was rather puzzled to parry; my friend however has done well in the world, discharged his obligation, and repaid it with

grateful returns; still I am out of credit with my Damper. I invested a small sum in a venture to the East Indies; he descanted upon the risque of the sea; I insured upon the ship, he denounced banke ruptcy against the underwriter, the ship came home, and I doubled the capital of my investment; still I am out of credit with my Damper, and he shakes his head at my folly.

I can plainly perceive that his predictions oftentimes are as troublesome to himself as to me; he loses many a fine morning's walk by foreseeing a change of weather; he never goes to church because he has had a suit with the parson; and part of his estate remains untenanted, because a farmer some time ago

broke in his debt. Though I am no philosopher, I am not such a simpleton, as not to know how little we ought to depend upon worldly events in general ; yet it appears to me that what a man has already enjoyed, he can no longer be said to depend upon : if therefore I have had real pleasure in any innocent and agreeable expectation, disappointment can at worst do no more than remove the meat after I have made

my meal.

Though I do not know how to define hope as a metaphysician, I am inclined to speak of it with respect, because I find it has been a good friend to me in my life; it has given me a thousand things, which malice and misfortune would have ravished from me, if I had not fairly worn them out before they could lay their fingers upon them : spe pascit inani-says the poet, and contradicts himself in the same breath: for my part, if it was not for the fear of appearing paradoxical, I should say upon experience that hope, though called a shadow, is, together with that other phantom death, the sole reality beneath the sun ; the unfaithfulness of friends, from whom I had the

« PreviousContinue »