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tioned, if it exceed a line, and the Junto require it, the person shall bring the passage or an abstract of it the next night, if he has it not with him.
When the books of the library come, every member shall undertake some author, that he may not be without observations to communicate.
QUERIES. How shall we judge of the goodness of a writing? Or what qualities should a writing have to be good and perfect in its kind ?
Answer. To be good, it ought to have a tendency to benefit the reader, by improving his virtue or his knowledge. But, not regarding the intention of the author, the method should be just; that is, it should proceed regularly from things known to things unknown, distinctly and clearly without confusion. The words used should be the most expressive that the language affords, provided that they are the most generally understood. Nothing should be expressed in two words that can be as well expressed in one; that is, no synonymes should be used, or very rarely, but the whole should be as short as possible, consistent with clearness. The words should be so placed as to
. be agreeable to the ear in reading ; summarily, it should be smooth, clear, and short. For the contrary qualities are displeasing.
But, taking the query otherwise, an ill man may write an ill thing well; that is, having an ill design, he may use the properest style and arguments (considering who are to be readers) to attain his ends. In this sense, that is best wrote, which is best adapted for obtaining the end of the writer.
Can a man arrive at perfection in this life, as some believe; or is it impossible, as others believe?
Answer. Perhaps they differ in the meaning of the word perfection. I suppose the perfection of any thing to be only the greatest the nature of the thing is capable of. Different things have different degrees of perfection, and the same thing at different times. Thus, a horse is more perfect than an oyster, yet the oyster may be a perfect oyster, as well as the horse a perfect horse. And an egg is not so perfect as a chicken, nor a chicken as a hen; for the hen has more strength than the chicken, and the chicken more life than the egg ; yet it may be a perfect egg, chicken, and hen.
If they mean a man cannot in this life be so perfect as an angel, it may be true; for an angel, by being incorporeal, is allowed some perfections we are at present incapable of, and less liable to some imperfections than we are liable to. If they mean a man is not capable of being as perfect here as he is capable of being in heaven, that may be true likewise. But that a man is not capable of being so perfect here, as he is capable of being here, is not sense; it is as if I should say, a chicken, in the state of a chicken, is not capable of being so perfect as a chicken is capable of being in that state.
In the above sense, there may be a perfect oyster, a perfect horse, a perfect ship; why not a perfect man? That is, as perfect as his present nature and circumstances admit.
Question. Wherein consists the happiness of a rational creature ?
Answer. In having a sound mind and a healthy body, a sufficiency of the necessaries and conveniences of life, together with the favor of God and the love of mankind.
Q. What do you mean by a sound mind?
A. A faculty of reasoning justly and truly in searching after such truths as relate to my happiness. This faculty is the gift of God, capable of being improved by experience and instruction into wisdom.
Q. What is wisdom ?
A. The knowledge of what will be best for us on all occasions, and the best ways of attaining it.
Q. Is any man wise at all times and in all things?
A. No, but some are more frequently wise than others.
Q. What do you mean by the necessaries of life?
A. Having wholesome food and drink wherewith to satisfy hunger and thirst, clothing, and a place of habitation fit to secure against the inclemencies of the weather.
Q. What do you mean by the conveniences of life?
A. Such a plenty .
Whether it is worth a rational man's while to forego the pleasure arising from the present luxury of the age, in eating and drinking, and artful cookery, studying to gratify the appetite, for the sake of enjoying a healthy old age, a sound mind, and a sound body, which are the advantages reasonably to be expected from a more simple and temperate diet?
Whether those meats and drinks are not the best, that contain nothing in their natural taste, nor have any thing added by art, so pleasing as to induce us to eat or drink when we are not thirsty or hungry, or after thirst and hunger are satisfied; water, for instance, for drink, and bread or the like for meat ?
Is there any difference between knowledge and prudence? If there is any, which of the two is most eligible ?
Is it justifiable to put private men to death for the sake of public safety or tranquillity, who have committed no crime? As, in the case of the plague, to stop infection; or, as in the case of the Welshmen here executed ?
If the sovereign power attempts to deprive a subject of his right, (or, which is the same thing, of what he thinks his right) is it justifiable in him to resist, if he is able ?
What general conduct of life is most suitable for men in such circumstances as most of the members of the Junto are? Or, of the many schemes of living which are in our power to pursue, which will be most probably conducive to our happiness?
Which is best, to make a friend of a wise and good man that is poor, or of a rich man that is neither wise nor good ?
Which of the two is the greatest loss to a country if they both die ?
Which of the two is happiest in life?
Does it not, in a general way, require great study and intense application for a poor man to become rich and powerful, if he would do it without the forfeiture of his honesty?
Does it not require as much pains, study, and application, to become truly wise and strictly virtuous, as to become rich?
Can a man of common capacity pursue both views with success, at the same time?
If not, which of the two is it best for him to make his whole application to ?
Whence comes the dew, that stands on the outside of a tankard that has cold water in it in the summer time?
Does the importation of servants increase or advance the wealth of our country?
Would not an office of insurance for servants be of service, and what methods are proper for the erecting such an office ?
END OF VOL. II.