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Nature delights in the most plain and simple diet. Every animal, but man, keeps to one dish. Herbs are the food of this species, fish of that, and flesh of a third. Man falls upon every thing that comes in his way; not the smallest fruit or excrescence of the earth, scarce a berry or a mushroom can escape him.
It is impossible to lay down any determinate rule for temperance, because what is luxury in one may be temperance in another; but there are few that have lived any time in the world, who are not judges of their own constitutions, so far as to know what kinds and what proportions of food do best agree with them. Were I to consider my readers as my patients, and to prescribe such a kind of temperance as is accommodated to all persons, and such as is particularly suitable to our climate and way of living, I would copy the following rules of a very eminent physician. Make
repast out of one dish. If you indulge in a second, avoid drinking any thing strong
your meal; at the same time abstain from all sauces, or at least such as are not the most plain and simple. A man could not be well guilty of gluttony, if he stuck to these few obvious and easy rules. In the first case there would be no variety of tastes to solicit his palate, and occasion excess; nor in the second, any artificial provocatives to relieve satiety, and create a false appetite. Were I to prescribe a rule for drinking, it should be formed upon a saying quoted by Sir William Temple; The first glass for myself, the second for my friends, the third for good-humour, and the fourth for mine enemies. But because it is impossible for one who lives in the world to diet himself always in so philosophical a manner, I think every man should
have his days of abstinence, according as his constitution will permit. These are great reliefs to nature, as they qualify her for struggling with hunger and thirst, whenever any distemper or duty of life may put her upon such difficulties; and at the same time give her an opportunity of extricating herself from her oppressions, and recovering the several tones and springs of her distended vessels. Besides that, abstinence well-timed, of. ten kills a sickness in embryo, and destroys the first seeds of an indisposition. It is observed by two or three ancient authors,* that Socrates, notwithstanding he lived in Athens during that great plague, which has made so much noise through all
ages, and has been celebrated at different times by such eminent hands; I say, notwithstanding that he lived in the time of this devouring pestilence, he never caught the least infection, whichthose writers unanimously ascribe to that uninterrupted temperance which he always observed.
And here I cannot but mention an observation which I have often made, upon reading the lives of the philosophers, and comparing them with any series of kings or great men of the same number. If we consider these ancient sages, a great part of whose philosophy consisted in a temperate and abstemious course of life, one would think the life of a philosopher and the life of a man were of two different dates. For we find that the
generality of these wise men were nearer an hundred than sixty years of age, at the time of their respective deaths. But the most remarkable instance of the efficacy of temperance towards the procuring of long life, is what we meet with in a little book published by Lewis Cornaro the Ve
Diogenes Laertius in Vit. Socratis.-.-Elian in Var. Hist. lib. 13. eap. 27, &c.
netian; which I the rather mention, because it is of undoubted credit, as the late Venetian ambassador, who was of the same family, attested more than once in conversation, when he resided in England. Cornaro, who was the author of the little treatise I am mentioning, was of an infirm constitution, until about forty, when by obstinately persisting in an exact course of temperance, he recovered a perfect state of health ; insomuch that at fourscore he published his book, which has been translated into English under the title of Sure and Certain Methods of Attaining a Long and Healthy Life. He lived to give a third or fourth edition of it; and after having passed his hundredth year, died without pain or agony, and like one who falls asleep. The treatise I mention has been taken notice of by several eminent authors, and is written with such a spirit of cheerfulness, religion, and good sense, as are the natural concomitants of temperance and sobriety. The mixture of the old man in it is rather a recommendation than a discredit to it.
Having designed this paper as the sequel to that upon exercise, I have not here considered temperance as it is a moral virtue, which I shall make the subject of a future speculation, but only as it is the means of health.
No. 196. MONDAY, OCTOBER 15, 1711.
Est Ulubris, animus si te non deficit equus.
Hor. 1 Ep. xi. 30.
“THERE is a particular fault which I have observed in most of the moralists in all ages, and that is, that they are always professing themselves, and teaching others, to be happy. This state is not to be arrived at in this life, therefore I would recommend to you to talk in an humbler strain than your predecessors have done, and instead of presuming to be happy, instruct us only to be easy. The thoughts of him who would be discreet, and aim at practicable things, should turn upon allaying our pain, rather than promoting our joy. Great inquietude is to be avoided, but great felicity is not to be attained. The great lesson is equanimity, a regularity of spirit, which is a little above cheerfulness and below mirth. Cheerfulness is always to be supported if a man is out of pain, but mirth to a prudent man should always be accidental. It should naturally arise out of the occasion, and the occasion seldom be laid for it; for those tempers who want mirth to be pleased, are like the constitutions which flag without the use of brandy. Therefore, I say,
let your precept be, ' be easy. That mind is dissolute and ungoverned, which must be hurried out of itself by loud laughter or sensual pleasure, or else be wholly unactive.
• There are a couple of old fellows of my ac
quaintance who meet every day and smoke a pipe, and by their natural love to each other, though they have been men of business and bustle in the world, enjoy a greater tranquillity than either could have worked himself into by any chapter of Seneca. Indolence of body and mind, when we aim at no more, is very frequently enjoyed; but the very inquiry after happiness has something restless in it, which a man who lives in a series of temperate meals, friendly conversations, and easy slumbers, gives himself no trouble about. While men of refinement are talking of tranquillity, he possesses it.
What I would by these broken expressions recommend to you, Mr. Spectator, is, that you would speak of the way of life which plain men may pursue, to fill up the spaces of time with satisfaction. It is a lamentable circumstance, that wisdom, or, as you call it, philosophy, should furnish ideas only for the learned; and that a man must be a philosopher to know how to pass away his time agreeably. It would therefore be worth your pains to place in a handsome light the relations and affinities among men, which render their conversation with each other so grateful, that the highest talents give but an impotent pleasure in comparison with them. You may find descriptions and discourses which will render the fire. side of an honest artificer as entertaining, as your own club is to you. Good-nature has an endless source of pleasures in it; and the representation of domestic life filled with its natural gratifications, instead of the necessary vexations which are generally insisted upon in the writings of the witty, will be a very good office to society.
• The vicissitudes of labour and rest in the lower part of mankind, make their being pass