« PreviousContinue »
suicides; and I would have every lower wretch of this sort dragged at the cart's tail, and afterwards hung in chains at his own door, or have his quarters put up in terrorem in the most public places, as a rebel to his Maker. But that the suicide of quality might be treated with more respect, he should be indulged in having his wounded corpse and shattered brains laid, as it were, in state for some days; of which dreadful spectacle we may conceive the horrour from the following picture drawn by Dryden:
The slayer of bimself too saw I there:
The common murderer has his skeleton preserved at Surgeon's Hall, in order to deter others from being guilty of the same crime ; and I think it would not be improper to have a charnel-house set apart to receive the bones of these more unnatural self-murderers, in which monuments should be erected, giving an account of their deaths, and adorned with the glorious ensigns of their rashness, the rope, the knife, the sword, or the pistol.
The cause of these frequent self-murders among us has been generally imputed to the peculiar temperature of our climate. Thus a dull day is looked upon as a natural order of execution, and Englishmen must necessarily shoot, hang, and drown themselves in November. That our spirits are in some measure influenced by the air, cannot be denied: but we are not such mere harometers, as to be driven to despair and death by the small degree
of gloom that our winter brings with it. have not so much sunshine as some countries in the world, we have infinitely more than many others; and I do not hear that men dispatch themselves by dozens in Russia or Sweden, or that they are unable to keep up their spirits even in the total darkness of Greenland. Our climate exempts us from many diseases, to which other more southern nations are naturally subject; and I can never be persuaded, that being born near the north pole is a physical cause for self-murder.
Despair, indeed, is the natural cause of these shocking actions ; but this is commonly despair brought on by wilful extravagance and debauchery. These first involve men into difficulties, and then death at once delivers them of their lives and their cares. For my part, when I see a young profligate wantonly squandering his fortune in bagnios or at the gaming-table, I cannot help looking on him as hastening his own death, and in a manner digging his own grave. As he is at last induced to kill himself by motives arising from his vices, I consider him as dying of some disease which those vices naturally produce. If his extravagance has been chiefly in luxurious eating and drinking, I imagine bim poisoned by his wines, or surfeited by a favourite dish ; and if he has thrown away his estate in a bawdy-house, I conclude him destroyed by rottenness and filthy diseases.
Another principal cause of the frequency of suicide is the noble spirit of free-thinking, which has diffused itself among all ranks of people. The libertine of fashion has too refined a taste to trou. ble himself at all about a soul or an hereafter ; but
the vulgar infidel is at wonderful pains to get rid of his bible, and labours to persuade himself out of his religion. For this purpose he attends constantly at the disputant societies, where he hears a great deal about free-will, free agency, and predestination, till at length, he is convinced that man is at liberty to do as he pleases, lays his misfortunes to the charge of Providence, and comforts himself that he was inevitably destined to be tied up in his own garters. The courage of these heroes proceeds from the same principles, whether they fall by their own hands, or those of Jack Ketch : the suicide, of whatever rank, looks death in the face without shrinking; as the gallant rogue affects an easy unconcern under Tyburn, throws away the psalm-book, bids the cart drive off with an oath, and swings like a gentleman.
ON PRODIGALITY. It is the fate of almost every passion, when it has passed the bounds which nature prescribes, to counteract its own purpose. Too much rage hin. ders the warrior from circumspection; and too much eagerness of profit hurts the credit of the trader. Too much ardour takes away from the lover that easiness of address with which ladies are delighted. Thus extravagance, though dictated by vanity, and incited by voluptuousness, seldom procures ultimately either applause or pleasure.
If praise be justly estimated by the character
of those from whom it is received, little satisfaction will be given to the spendthrift by the encomiums which he purchases. For who are they that animate him in his pursuits, but young men, thoughtless and abandoned like himself, unacquainted with all on which the wisdom of nations has impressed the stamp of excellence, and devoid alike of knowledge and of virtue ? By whom is his profusion praised, but by wretches who consider him as subservient to their purposes; Syrens that entice him to shipwreck; and Cyclops that are gaping to devour him?
Every man whose knowledge, or whose virtue, can give value to his opinion, looks with scorn or pity (neither of which can afford much gratification to pride) on him whom the panders of luxury have drawn into the circle of their influence, and whom he sees parcelled out among the different ministers of folly, and about to be torn to pieces by tailors and jockeys, vintners and attor. neys; who at once rob and ridicule him, and who are secretly triumphing over his weakness, when they present new incitements to his appetite, and heighten his desires by counterfeited applause.
Such is the praise that is purchased by prodigality. Even when it is not yet discovered to be false, it is the praise only of those whom it is reproachful to please, and whose sincerity is corrupted by their interest; men who live by the riots which they encourage, and who know, that whenever their pupil grows wise, they shall lose their power. Yet with such flatteries, if they could last, might the cravings of vanity, which is seldom very delicate, be satisfied: but the time
is always hastening forward, when this triumph, poor as it is, shall vanish, and when those who now surround him with obsequiousness and compliments, fawn among his equipage, and animate his riots, shall turn upon him with insolence, and reproach him with the vices promoted by themselves.
And as little pretensions bas the man, who squanders his estate by vain or vicious expenses, to greater degrees of pleasure than are obtained by others. To make any happiness sincere, it is necessary that we believe it to be lasting ; since whatever we suppose ourselves in danger of losing, must be enjoyed with solicitude and uneasiness, and the more value we set upon it, the more must the present possession be embittered. How can he, then, be envied for his felicity, who knows that its continuance cannot be expected, and who is conscious that a very short time will give him up to the gripe of poverty, which will be harder to be borne, as he has given way to more excesses, wantoned in greater abundance, and indulged his appetite with more profuseness?
It appears evident, that frugality is necessary even to complete the pleasnre of expense; for it may be generally remarked of those who squander what they know their fortune not sufficient to allow, that in their most jovial expense there always breaks out some proof of discontent and impatience; they either scatter with a kind of wild desperation and affected lavishness, as criminals brave the gallows when they cannot escape it; or pay their money with a peevish anxi. ety, and endeavour at once to spend idly, and to save meanly; having neither firmness to deny their