Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

4) SIR. WILLIAM TEMPLE TO THE COUNTEUS Op Essex. (Upon her grief occasioned by the loss of her only daughter.)

Shene, Jan. 29. 1674. *)

Perhaps none can be at heart more partial than I am to whatever touches your Ladysbip, 'nor more inclined to defend you upon this very occasion, how unjust and unkind soever you are to yourself. But when you go about to throw away your health, or your life, so great a remainder of

your own family, and so great hopes of that into which you are enter'd **), and all by a desperate melancholy, upon an accident past remedy, and to which all mortal race is perpetually subject; for God's sake, Madam, give me, leave to tell you, that what you do is not at all agreeable either with so good a christian, or so reasonable and so great a person as your Ladyship appears to the world in all other lights.

I know no duty in Religion more generally agreed on, nor more justly required by God Almighty, than a perfect submission to his will in all things; nor do I think any disposition of mind can either please him more, or become us better, than that of being satisfied with all he gives, and contented with all he takes away. None I am sure can be of more honour to God, nor of more ease to ourselves : for if we consider him as our maker, we cannot contend with him; if as our father, we ought not to distrust him: so that we may be confident, whatever be does is intended for our

*) Der Anfang dieses Schreibens, welcher sich auf verschiedene, uns unbekannte Verhältnisse bezieht, in, welchen Lord Temple mit der Gräfinn von Essex stand, und der daher für den Leser unverständlich seyn würde, ist weggelassen worden. So viel sieht man aus demselben, dass die Gräfinn von Essex in den Briefen 'an Sir William Temple und an ihre andern Freunde, eise an Verzweifelung gränzende Truurigkeit über den Tod ihrer Tochter geäussert haben musste. Tir glauben übrigens noch bemerklich machen zu müssen, dass wir diesen Brief nach der in der Einleitung erwähnten Ausgabe der Miscellanea haben abdrucken lassen. Hugh Blair, welcher in seinen Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres vers schiedene Stellen desselben als Muster einer vorzüglichen Schreibart anführt, scheint eine neuere, wahrscheinlich aber, wie man mehreren Umständen abnehmen kann, nicht vom Verfasser bearbeifefe, Ausgabe der Miscellanea vor sich gchabt zu haben. **) Nämlick durch Verheirathung.

с

aus

good, and whatever happens that we interpret otherwise, yet we can get nothing by repining, nor save any thing by resisting

But if it were fit for us to reason with God Almighty, and your Ladyship’s loss be acknowledged as great as it could have been to any one alive; yet I doubt you would have but ill grace to complain at the rate you have done, or rather as you do: for the first motions of passions, how violent soever may be pardoned; and it is only the course of them which makes them inexcusable. In this world, Madam, there is nothing perfectly good, and whatever is called so, is but either comparatively with other things of its kind, or else with the evil that is mingled in its composition;, so he is a good man that is better than men commonly are, or in whom the good qualities are more than the bad; so in the course of life, his condition is esteemed good, which is better than that of most other

men ,

or wherein the good circumstances are more than the ill. By this measure, I doubt, Madam, your complaints ought to be turned into acknowledgments, and your friends would have cause to rejoice rather than condole with you: for the goods or blessings of life are usually esteemed to be birth, health, beauty, friends, children, honour, riches. Now when your Ladyship has fairly considered how Güd Almighty has dealt with you in what he has yiven you of all these, you may be left to judge yourself how you have dealt with him in your complaints for what he has taken away. But if you look about you, and consider other lives as well as your own, and what your lot is in comparison with those that have been drawn in the circle of your knowledge; if you think how few are born with honour, how many die without name or children, how little beauty we see, how few friends we hear of, how many diseases, and how much poverty there is in the world, you will fall down upon your knees, and instead of repining at one affliction, will admire so many blessings as you have received at the hand of God.'

To put your Ladyship in mind of what you are, and the advantages you have in all these points, would look like a design to flatter you: but this I may say, that we will pity you as much as you please, if you will tell us who they are that you

all circumstances you have reason to envy. Now if I had a master that gave me all I could ask,

think upon

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

but thought fit to take one thing from me again, either be cause I used it ill, or gave myself so much' over to it, as to neglect what I owed either to him or the rest of the world; or perhaps because he would shew his power, aud put me in mind from whom I held all the rest; would you think I had much reason to complain of hard usage, and never to remember any more what was left me, never to forget what was taken away?

"Tis true you have lost a child, and therein all that could be lost in a child of that age; but you have kept one child, and are likely to do so long; you have the assurance of another, and the hopes of many more. You have kept a husband great in employment, and in fortune, and (which is more) in the esteem of good men. You have kept your beauty and your health, unless you have destroyed them yourself, or discouraged them to stay with you by using them ill. You have friends that are as kind to you as you can wish or as you can give them leave to be by their fears of losing you, and being thereby so much the unhappier, the kinder they are to you. But you have honour and esteem from all that know you; or if ever it fails in any degree, 'tis only upon that point of your seeming to be fallen out with God and the whole world, and neither to care for yourself, any thing else, after what you have lost.

You will say perhaps that one thing was all your fondness of it made you indifferent to every thing else. But this, I doubt, will be so far from justifying you, that it will prove to be your fault as well as your misfortune. God Almighty gave you all the blessings of life, and you set your beart wholly upon one,, and despise or undervalue all the rest: is this his fault or yours? Nay, is it not to be very unthankful to heaven, as well as very scornful to the rest of the world; is it not to say, because you have lost one thing God hath given you, you thank him for nothing he has left, and care not what he takes away? Is it not to say, since that one thing is gone out of the world, there is nothing left in it which you think can deserve your kindness or esteem? A friend makes me a feast, and sets all before me that his care or kindness could provide ; but I set my heart upon one dish alone, and if that happen to be thrown down, I scorn all the rest; and though he sends for another of the same, yet I risc from the table in a rage, and say my friend is my

or

you, and

1

enemy, and has done me the greatest wrong in the world; have I reason, Madam, or good grace in what I do? Or would it become me better to eat of the rest that is before me, and think no more of what hat happened, and could not be remedied?

All the precepts of christianity agree to teach and command us to moderate our passions, to temper 'our affections towards all things below; to be thankful for the possession, and patient under the loss whenever be that gave it shall see fit to take away. Your extreme fondness was perbaps as displeasing to God before, as now your "extreme affliction; and your loss may have been a punishment for your faults in the manner of enjoying what you had. 'Tis at least pious to ascribe all the ill that befalls us to our own demerits rathet than to injustice in God: aud becomes us better to adore all the issues of his Providence in the effects, than inquire into the causes: for submission is the only way of reasoning between a creature and its maker; and contentment in his will is the gratest duty we can pretend to; - and the best remedy we can apply to all our misfortunes.

But, Madam, though Religion were no party in your case, and that for so violent and injurious a grief you had nothing to answer to God, but only to the world and yourself; yet I very much doubt how you would be acquitted. We bring into the world with us a poor needy uncertain life, short at the longest, and inquiet at the best; all the imaginations of the witty and the wise have been perpetually busied to find out the ways how to revive it with pleasures, or relieve it with ease, and settle it with safety. To some of these ends have been employed the institutions of lawgivers, the reasonings of philosophers, the inventions of poets, the pains of labouring, and the extravagances of voluptuous

All the world is perpetually at work about nothing else, but only that our poor mortal lives should pass the easier and happier for that little time we possess them, or else end the better when we lose them. Upon this occasion riches came to be coveted, 'honours to be esteemed, friendship and love to be pursued, and virtues themselves to be admired in the world. Now, Madam, is it not to bid defiance to all mankind, to condemn their universal opinions and designs, if instead of passing your life as well and easily, you resolve to pass it as ill and as miserably as you can? You

men.

grow insensible to the conveniencies of riches, the dehighto of bonour and praise, the charms of kindness or friendship, nay to the observance or applause of virtues themselves; for who can you expect, in these excesses of passion, will allow you to shew either temperance or fortitude, to be either prudent or just? And for your friends, I suppose, you reckon upon losing their kindness, when you have sufficiently convinced them, they can never hope for aay of yours, since you bave none left for yourself or any thing else. You declaré upon all occasions, you are incapable of receiving any.com, fort or pleasure in any thing that is left in this world; and I assure you, Madam, none can ever love you, that can have no hopes ever to please you.

Among the several inquiries and endeavours after the happiness of life, the sensual men agree in pursuit of every pleasure they can start, without regarding the pains of the chase, the weariness when it ends, or how little the quarry is worth. The busy and ambitious fall into the more lasting pursuits of power and riches; the speculative men prefer tranquillity of mind, before the different motions of passion and appetite, or the common successions of desire and satiety, of pleasure and pain; but this may seem too dull a principle for the happiness of life, which is ever in motion; and passions are perhaps the stings, without which they say no honey is made; yet I think all sorts of men have ever agreed, they ought to be our servants, and not our masters; to give us some agitation for entertainment or exercise,

but never to throw our reason out of its seat. Perhaps I would not į always sit still, or would be sometimes on horse-back; but

I would never ride a horse that galls my flesh, or shakes my bones, or that runs away wilh me as he pleases, so as I can neither stop at a river or precipice. Better no passions at all, than have them too violent; or such alone, as instead of hightning our pleasures, afford us nothing but vexation and pain.

la all such losses as your Ladyship’s has been, there is something that common nature cannot be denied, there is a great deal that good nature may be allowed; but all excessive and outrageous grief or lamentation for dead, was accounted among the ancient christians, to have something of heathenish; and among the civil nations of old, to have something of barbarous; and therefore it bas been the care of the first to

« PreviousContinue »