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No. 582. WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 18.
Tenet insanabile multos
Juv. Sat. vii. 51.
THERE is a certain distemper, which is mentioned neither by Galen nor Hippocrates, nor to be met with in the London Dispensary. Juvenal, in the motto of my paper, terms it a Cacoethes, which is a hard word for a disease, called in plain English, the itch of writing. This Cacoethes is as epidemical as the small pox, there being very few who are not seized with it some time or other in their lives. There is, however, this difference in these two distempers ; that the first, after having indisposed you for a time, never returns again; whereas this I am speaking of, when it is once got into the blood, seldom comes out of it. The British nation is very much afflicted with this malady, and though very many remedies have been applied to persons infected with it, few of them have ever proved successful. Some have been cauterized with satires and lampoons, but have received little or no benefit from them; others have had their heads fastened for an hour together between a cleft board, which is made use of as a cure for the disease, when it appears in its greatest malignity. There is, indeed, one kind of this malady which has been sometimes removed, like the biting of a Tarantula, with the sound of a musical instrument, which is commonly known by the name of a cat-call. But if you have a patient of this kind under your care, you may assure yourself there is no other way of recovering him effectually, but by forbidding him the use of pen, ink, and paper. But to drop the allegory before I have tired it out, there is
no species of scribblers more offensive, and more incurable, than your periodical writers, whose works return upon the public on certain days, and at stated times. We have not the consolation, in the perusal of these authors, which we find at the reading of all others, namely, that we are sure, if we have but patience, we may come to the end of their labours. I have often admired a humorous saying of Diogenes, who reading a dull author to several of his friends, when every one began to be tired,finding he was almost come to a blank leaf at the end of it, cried, ' Courage, lads, I see land.' On the contrary, our progress through that kind of writers, I am now speaking of, is never at an end. One day makes work for another; we do not know when to promise ourselves rest.
It is a melancholy thing to consider, that the art of printing, which might be the greatest blessing to mankind, should prove detrimental to us, and that it should be made use of to scatter prejudice and ignorance through a people, instead of conveying to them truth and knowledge.
I was lately reading a very whimsical treatise, entitled, “William Ramsay's Vindication of Astrology. This profound author, among many mystical passages, has the following one: “ The absence of the sun is not the cause of night, forasmuch as his light is so great, that it may illuminate the earth all over at once as clear as broad day, but there are tenebrificous and dark stars, by whose influence night is brought on, and which do ray out darkness and obscurity upon the earth, as the sun does light."
I consider writers in the same view this sage astrologer does the heavenly bodies. Some of them are stars that scatter light, as others do darkness. I could mention several authors who are tenebrificous stars of the first magnitude, and point out a knot of gentlemen, who have been dull in concert, and may be looked
upon as a dark constellation. The nation has been a great while benighted with several of these antiluminaries. I suffered them to ray out their darkness as long as I was able to endure it, till at length I came to a resolution of rising upon them, and hope, in a little time to drive them quite out of the British hemisphere.
No. 583. FRIDAY, AUGUST 20.
Ipse thymum pinosque ferens de montibus altis,
VIRG. Georg. iv, 112
Every situation of life has duties which are proper to it. Those who are determined by choice to any particular kind of business, are, indeed, more happy than those who are determined by necessity, but both are under an equal obligation of fixing on employments, which may be either useful to themselves or beneficial to others. No one of the sons of Adam ought to think himself exempt from that labour and industry, which were denounced to our first parent, and in him, to all his posterity. Those to whom birth or fortune may seem to make such an application unnecessary, ought to find out some calling or profession for themselves, that they may not lie as a burden on the species, and be the only useless parts of the creation.
a The humour of this paragraph should not divert the reader from ob serving the nice conduct of the allegory.-H. b Perspicuity requires “ those persons, who.”—H.
Many of our country gentlemen, in their busy hours, apply themselves wholly to the chase, or to some other diversion, which they find in the fields and woods. This gave occasion to one of our most eminent English writers to represent every one of them as lying under a kind of curse pronounced to them in the words of Goliath : 'I will give thee to the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.'
Though exercises of this kind, when indulged with moderation, may have a good influence both on the mind and body, the country affords many other amusements of a more noble kind.
Among these, I know none more delightful in itself, and bene. ficial to the public, than that of PLANTING. I could mention a nobleman, whose fortune has placed him in several parts of England, and who has always left these visible marks behind him, which show he has been there; he never hired a house in his life, without leaving all about it the seeds of wealth, and bestowing legacies on the posterity of the owner. Had all the gentlemen of England made the same improvements upon their estates, our whole country would have been, at this time, as one great garden. Nor ought such an employment to be looked upon as too inglorious for men of the highest rank. There have been heroes in this art, as well as in others. We are told in particular of Cyrus the Great, that he planted all the lesser Asia. There is, indeed, something truly magnificent in this kind of amusement: it gives a nobler air to several parts of nature; it fills the earth with a variety of beautiful scenes, and has something in it like creation. For this reason, the pleasure of one who plants, is something like that of a poet, who, as Aristotle observes is more delighted with his productions than any other .writer or artist whatsoever.
Plantations have one advantage in them which is not to be found in most other works, as they give a pleasure of a more lasting date, and continually improve in the eye of the planter. When you have finished a building, or any other undertaking of the like nature, it immediately decays upon your hands; you see it brought to its utmost point of perfection, and from that time hastening to its ruin. On the contrary, when you have finished your plantations, they are still arriving at greater degrees of perfection as long as you live, and appear more delightful in every succeeding year, than they did in the foregoing.
But I do not only recommend this art to men of estates as a pleasing amusement, but as it is a kind of virtuous employment, and may therefore be inculcated by moral motives; particularly from the love which we ought to have for our country, and the regard which we ought to bear to our posterity. As for the first, I need only mention what is frequently observed by others, that the increase of forest-trees does by no means bear a proportion to the destruction of them, insomuch that in a few ages, the nation may be at a loss to supply itself with timber sufficient for the fleets of England. I know, when a man talks of posterity, in matters of this nature, he is looked upon with an eye of ridicule by the cunning and selfish part of mankind. Most people are of the humour of an old fellow of a college, who, when he was pressed by the society to come into something that might redound to the good of their successors, grew very peevish; 'We are always doing, (says he.) something for posterity, but I would fain see posterity do something for us.'
But I think men are inexcusable, who fail in a duty of this nature, since it is so easily discharged. When a man considers, that the putting a few twigs into the ground, is doing good to one who will make his appearance in the world about fifty years hence, or that he is, perhaps, making one of his own descendants easy or rich, by so inconsiderable an expence, if he finds himself