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Title: Solitude - In Two Parts
Author: Zimmermann, Johann Georg
Language: English
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                           JOHN G. ZIMMERMAN.

                      With the Life of the Author.


                              IN TWO PARTS.

                          NEW-YORK:--C. WELLS.
                            56, Gold-street.


    CHAP.                                                             PAGE.

                                 PART I.

          Life of the author                                             9

       I. Introduction,                                                 15

      II. Influence of solitude upon the mind,                          19

     III. Influence of solitude upon the heart,                         60

      IV. General advantages of retirement,                            109

       V. Advantages of solitude in exile,                             134

      VI. Advantages of solitude in old age and on the bed of death,   138

                                PART II.

       I. Introduction,                                                149

      II. Of the motives to solitude,                                  157

     III. Disadvantages of solitude,                                   185

      IV. Influence of solitude on the imagination,                    200

       V. Effects of solitude on a melancholy mind,                    216

      VI. Influence of solitude on the passions,                       235

     VII. Of the danger of idleness in solitude,                       274

    VIII. Conclusion,                                                  279


Weak and delicate minds may, perhaps, be alarmed by the title of this
work. The word _solitude_, may possibly engender melancholy ideas; but
they have only to read a few pages to be undeceived. The author is not
one of those extravagant misanthropists who expect that men, formed by
nature for the enjoyments of society, and impelled continually towards
it by a multitude of powerful and invincible propensities, should seek
refuge in forests, and inhabit the dreary cave or lonely cell; he is a
friend to the species, a rational philosopher, and the virtuous citizen,
who, encouraged by the esteem of his sovereign, endeavors to enlighten
the minds of his fellow creatures upon a subject of infinite importance
to them, the attainment of true felicity.

No writer appears more completely convinced than M. Zimmerman, that man
is born for society, or feels its duties with more refined sensibility.

It is the nature of human society, and its correspondent duties, which he
here undertakes to examine. The important characters of father, husband,
son, and citizen, impose on man a variety of obligations, which are
always dear to virtuous minds, and establish between him, his country,
his family, and his friends, relations too necessary and attractive to be

    “What wonder, therefore, since th’ endearing ties
    Of passion link the universal kind
    Of man so close; what wonder if to search
    This common nature through the various change
    Of sex, of age, and fortune, and the frame
    Of each peculiar, draw the busy mind
    With unresisted charms? The spacious west,
    And all the teeming regions of the south,
    Hold not a quarry to the curious flight,
    Of knowledge half so tempting or so fair,
    As man to man.”

But it is not amidst tumultuous joys and noisy pleasures; in the chimeras
of ambition, or the illusions of self-love; in the indulgence of feeling,
or the gratification of desire, that men must expect to feel the charms
of those mutual ties which link them so firmly to society. It is not
in such enjoyments that men can feel the dignity of those duties, the
performance of which nature has rendered productive of so many pleasures,
or hope to taste that true felicity which results from an independent
mind and a contented heart: a felicity seldom sought after, only because
it is so little known, but which every individual may find within his
own bosom. Who, alas! does not constantly experience the necessity of
entering into that sacred asylum to search for consolation under the real
or imaginary misfortunes of life, or to alleviate indeed more frequently
the fatigue of its painful pleasures? Yes, all men, from the mercenary
trader, who sinks under the anxiety of his daily task, to the proud
statesman, intoxicated by the incense of popular applause, experience the
desire of terminating their arduous career. Every bosom feels an anxiety
for repose, and fondly wishes to steal from the vortex of a busy and
perturbed life, to enjoy the tranquillity of solitude.

    “Hackney’d in business, wearied at that oar
    Which thousands, once chain’d fast to, quit no more,
    But which, when life at ebb, runs weak and low,
    All wish, or seem to wish, they could forego;
    The statesman, lawyer, merchant, man of trade,
    Pant for the refuge of a peaceful shade
    Where all his long anxieties forgot,
    Amidst the charms of a sequester’d spot,
    Or recollected only to gild o’er
    And add a smile to what was sweet before,
    He may possess the joys he thinks he sees,
    Lay his old age upon the lap of ease,
    Improve the remnant of his wasted span,
    And having liv’d a trifler, die a man.”

It is under the peaceful shades of solitude that the mind regenerates
and acquires fresh force; it is there alone that the happy can enjoy the
fulness of felicity, or the miserable forget their wo; it is there that
the bosom of sensibility experiences its most delicious emotions; it is
there that creative genius frees itself from the thraldom of society,
and surrenders itself to the impetuous rays of an ardent imagination. To
this desired goal all our ideas and desires perpetually tend. “There
is,” says Dr. Johnson, “scarcely any writer, who has not celebrated the
happiness of rural privacy, and delighted himself and his readers with
the melody of birds, the whisper of groves, and the murmurs of rivulets;
nor any man eminent for extent of capacity, or greatness of exploits,
that has not left behind him some memorials of lonely wisdom and silent

The original work from which the following pages are selected, consists
of four large volumes, which have acquired the universal approbation of
the German empire, and obtained the suffrages of an empress celebrated
for the superior brilliancy of her mind, and who has signified her
approbation in the most flattering manner.

On the 26th of January, 1785, a courier, dispatched by the Russian envoy
at Hamburg, presented M. Zimmerman with a small casket, in the name of
her majesty the empress of Russia. The casket contained a ring set round
with diamonds of an extraordinary size and lustre; and a gold medal
bearing on one side the portrait of the empress, and on the other the
date of the happy reformation of the Russian empire. This present the
empress accompanied with a letter, written with her own hand, containing
these remarkable words:--“To M. Zimmerman, counsellor of state, and
physician to his Britannic majesty, to thank him for the excellent
precepts he has given to mankind in his treatise upon solitude.”


John George Zimmerman was born on the 8th day of December, 1728, at
Brugg, a small town in the canton of Berne.

His father, John Zimmerman, was eminently distinguished as an able and
eloquent member of the provincial council. His mother, who was equally
respected and beloved for her good sense, easy manners, and modest
virtues, was the daughter of the celebrated Pache, whose extraordinary
learning and great abilities, had contributed to advance him to a seat in
the parliament of Paris.

The father of Zimmerman undertook the arduous task of superintending his
education, and, by the assistance of able preceptors, instructed him in
the rudiments of all the useful and ornamental sciences, until he had
attained the age of fourteen years, when he sent him to the university of
Berne, where, under Kirchberger, the historian and professor of rhetoric,
and Altman, the celebrated Greek professor, he studied, for three
years, philology and the belles lettres, with unremitting assiduity and

Having passed nearly five years at the university, he began to think
of applying the stores of information he had acquired to the purposes
of active life; and after mentioning the subject cursorily to a few
relations, he immediately resolved to follow the practice of physic. The
extraordinary fame of Haller, who had recently been promoted by king
George II. to a professorship in the university of Gottingen, resounded
at this time throughout Europe: and Zimmerman determined to prosecute
his studies in physic under the auspices of this great and celebrated
master. He was admitted into the university on the 12th of September,
1747, and obtained his degree on the 14th of August, 1751. To relax his
mind from severer studies, he cultivated a complete knowledge of the
English language, and became so great a proficient in the polite and
elegant literature of this country, that the British poets, particularly
Shakspeare, Pope, and Thomson, were as familiar to him as his favorite
authors, Homer and Virgil. Every moment, in short, of the four years he
passed at Gottingen, was employed in the improvement of his mind; and so
early as the year 1751, he produced a work in which he discovered the
dawnings of that extraordinary genius which afterwards spread abroad with
so much effulgence.[1]

During the early part of his residence at Berne, he published many
excellent essays on various subjects in the Helvetic Journal;
particularly a work on the talents and erudition of Haller. This grateful
tribute, to the just merits of his friend and benefactor, he afterwards
enlarged into a complete history of his life and writings, as a scholar,
a philosopher, a physician, and a man.

The health of Haller, which had suffered greatly by the severity of
study, seemed to decline in proportion as his fame increased; and,
obtaining permission to leave Gottingen, he repaired to Berne, to try,
by the advice and assistance of Zimmerman, to restore, if possible, his
decayed constitution. The benefits he experienced in a short time were so
great, that he determined to relinquish his professorship, and to pass
the remainder of his days in that city. In the family of Haller, lived
a young lady, nearly related to him, whose maiden name was Mely, and
whose husband, M. Stek, had been sometime dead. Zimmerman became deeply
enamored of her charms: he offered her his hand in marriage; and they
were united at the altar in the bands of mutual affection.

Soon after his union with this amiable woman, the situation of physician
to the town of Brugg became vacant, which he was invited by the
inhabitants to fill; and he accordingly relinquished the pleasures and
advantages he enjoyed at Berne and returned to the place of his nativity,
with a view to settle himself there for life. His time, however, was not
so entirely engrossed by the duties of his profession, as to prevent him
from indulging his mind in the pursuits of literature; and he read almost
every work of reputed merit, whether of physic, or moral philosophy,
belles lettres, history, voyages, or even novels and romances, which the
various presses of Europe from time to time produced. The novels and
romances of England, in particular, gave him great delight.

But the amusements which Brugg afforded were extremely confined: and he
fell into a state of nervous langor, or rather into a peevish dejection
of spirits, neglecting society, and devoting himself almost entirely to a
retired and sedentary life.

Under these circumstances, this excellent and able man passed fourteen
years of an uneasy life; but neither his increasing practice, the
success of his literary pursuits,[2] the exhortations of his friends,
nor the endeavors of his family, were able to remove the melancholy and
discontent that preyed continually on his mind. After some fruitless
efforts to please him, he was in the beginning of April, 1768, appointed
by the interest of Dr. Tissot, and baron Hockstettin, to the post of
principal physician to the king of Great Britain, at Hanover; and he
departed from Brugg, to take possession of his new office, on the 4th of
July, in the same year. Here he was plunged into the deepest affliction
by the loss of his amiable wife, who after many years of lingering
sufferance, and pious resignation, expired in his arms, on the 23d of
June, 1770; an event which he has described in the following work,
with eloquent tenderness and sensibility. His children too, were to
him additional causes of the keenest anguish and the deepest distress.
His daughter had from her earliest infancy, discovered symptoms of
consumption, so strong and inveterate as to defy all the powers of
medicine, and which, in the summer of 1781, destroyed her life. The
character of this amiable girl, and the feelings of her afflicted father
on this melancholy event, his own pen has very affectingly described in
the following work.

But the state and condition of his son was still more distressing to his
feelings than even the death of his beloved daughter. This unhappy youth,
who, while he was at the university, discovered the finest fancy and the
soundest understanding, either from a malignant and inveterate species of
scrofula, with which he had been periodically tortured from his earliest
infancy, or from too close an application to study, fell very early in
life into a state of bodily infirmity and mental langor, which terminated
in the month of December, 1777, in a total derangement of his faculties;
and he has now continued, in spite of every endeavor to restore him, a
perfect idiot for more than twenty years.

The domestic comforts of Zimmerman were now almost entirely destroyed;
till at length, he fixed upon the daughter of M. Berger, the king’s
physician at Lunenbourg, and niece to baron de Berger, as a person in
every respect qualified to make him happy, and they were united to each
other in marriage about the beginning of October, 1782. Zimmerman was
nearly thirty years older than his bride: but genius and good sense are
always young: and the similarity of their characters obliterated all
recollection of disparity of age.

It was at this period that he composed his great and favorite work on
solitude, thirty years after the publication of his first essay on the
subject. It consists of four volumes in quarto: the two first of which
were published in 1784; and the remaining volumes in 1786. “A work,”
says Tissot, “which will always be read with as much profit as pleasure,
as it contains the most sublime conceptions, the greatest sagacity of
observation, and extreme propriety of application, much ability in the
choice of examples, and (what I cannot commend too highly, because I can
say nothing that does him so much honor, nor give him any praise that
would be more gratifying to his own heart) a constant anxiety for the
interest of religion, with the sacred and solemn truths of which his mind
was most devoutly impressed.”

The king of Prussia, while he was reviewing his troops in Silesia, in the
autumn of the year 1785, caught a severe cold, which settled on his lungs
and in the course of nine months brought on symptoms of an approaching
dropsy. Zimmerman, by two very flattering letters of the 6th and 16th of
June, 1786, was solicited by his majesty to attend him, and he arrived at
Potzdam on the 23d of the same month; but he immediately discovered that
his royal patient had but little hopes of recovery; and, after trying
the effect of such medicines as he thought most likely to afford relief,
he returned to Hanover on the 11th of July following.[3] But it was not
Frederick alone who discovered his abilities. When in the year 1788, the
melancholy state of the king of England’s health alarmed the affection of
his subjects, and produced an anxiety throughout Europe for his recovery,
the government of Hanover dispatched Zimmerman to Holland, that he might
be nearer London, in case his presence there became necessary; and he
continued at the Hague until all danger was over.

Zimmerman was the first who had the courage to unveil the dangerous
principles of the new philosophers, and to exhibit to the eyes of the
German princes the risk they ran in neglecting to oppose the progress of
so formidable a league. He convinced many of them, and particularly the
emperor Leopold II. that the views of these _illuminated_ conspirators
were the destruction of Christianity, and the subversion of all regular
government. These exertions, while they contributed to lessen the danger
which threatened his adopted country, greatly impaired his health.

In the month of November, 1794, he was obliged to have recourse to
strong opiates to procure even a short repose: his appetite decreased;
his strength failed him; and he became so weak and emaciated, that,
in January 1795, he was induced to visit a few particular patients in
his carriage, it was painful to him to write a prescription, and he
frequently fainted while ascending to the room. These symptoms were
followed by a dizziness in his head, which obliged him to relinquish
all business. At length the axis of his brain gave way, and reduced him
to such a state of mental imbecility, that he was haunted continually
by an idea that the enemy was plundering his house, and that he and
his family were reduced to a state of misery and want. His medical
friends, particularly Dr. Wichman, by whom he was constantly attended,
contributed their advice and assistance to restore him to health; and
conceiving that a journey and a change of air were the best remedies
that could be applied, they sent him to Eutin, in the duchy of Holstein,
where he continued three months, and about the month of June, 1795,
returned to Hanover greatly recovered. But the fatal dart had infixed
itself too deeply to be entirely removed; he soon afterwards relapsed
into his former imbecility, and barely existed in lingering sufferance
for many months, refusing to take any medicines, and scarcely any food;
continually harassed and distressed by the cruel allusion of poverty,
which again haunted his imagination. At certain intervals his mind
seemed to recover only for the purpose of rendering him sensible of his
approaching dissolution; for he frequently said to his physicians, “My
death I perceive will be slow and painful;” and, about fourteen hours
before he died, he exclaimed, “Leave me to myself; I am dying.” At
length his emaciated body and exhausted mind sunk beneath the burden of
mortality, and he expired without a groan, on the 7th October, 1795, aged
66 years and ten months.




Solitude is that intellectual state in which the mind voluntarily
surrenders itself to its own reflections. The philosopher, therefore, who
withdraws his attention from every external object to the contemplation
of his own ideas, is not less solitary than he who abandons society, and
resigns himself entirely to the calm enjoyments of lonely life.

The word “solitude” does not necessarily import a total retreat from the
world and its concerns: the dome of domestic society, a rural village,
or the library of a learned friend, may respectively become the seat
of solitude, as well as the silent shade of some sequestered spot far
removed from all connection with mankind.

A person may be frequently solitary without being alone. The haughty
baron, proud of his illustrious descent, is solitary unless he is
surrounded by his equals: a profound reasoner is solitary at the tables
of the witty and the gay. The mind may be as abstracted amidst a numerous
assembly; as much withdrawn from every surrounding object; as retired
and concentrated in itself; as solitary, in short, as a monk in his
cloister, or a hermit in his cave. Solitude, indeed, may exist amidst the
tumultuous intercourse of an agitated city as well as in the peaceful
shades of rural retirement; at London and at Paris, as well as on the
plains of Thebes and the deserts of Nitria.

The mind, when withdrawn from external objects, adopts, freely and
extensively, the dictates of its own ideas, and implicitly follows
the taste, the temperament, the inclination, and the genius, of its
possessor. Sauntering through the cloisters of the Magdalen convent at
Hidelshiem, I could not observe, without a smile, an aviary of canary
birds, which had been bred in the cell of a female devotee. A gentleman
of Brabant, lived five-and-twenty years without ever going out of his
house, entertaining himself during that long period with forming a
magnificent cabinet of pictures and paintings. Even unfortunate captives,
who are doomed to perpetual imprisonment, may soften the rigors of their
fate, by resigning themselves, as far as their situation will permit, to
the ruling passion of their souls. Michael Ducret, the Swiss philosopher,
while he was confined in the castle of Aarburg, in the canton of Berne,
in Swisserland, measured the height of the Alps: and while the mind of
baron Trenck, during his imprisonment at Magdebourg, was with incessant
anxiety, fabricating projects to effect his escape, general Walrave,
the companion of his captivity, contentedly passed his time in feeding

The human mind, in proportion as it is deprived of external resources,
sedulously labors to find within itself the means of happiness, learns
to rely with confidence on its own exertions, and gains with greater
certainty the power of being happy.

A work, therefore, on the subject of solitude, appeared to me likely to
facilitate man in his search after true felicity.

Unworthy, however, as the dissipation and pleasures of the world appear
to me to be, of the avidity with which they are pursued, I equally
disapprove of the extravagant system which inculcates a total dereliction
of society; which will be found, when seriously examined, to be equally
romantic and impracticable. To be able to live independent of all
assistance, except from our own power, is, I acknowledge, a noble effort
of the human mind; but it is equally great and dignified to learn the art
of enjoying the comforts of society with happiness to ourselves, and with
utility to others.

While, therefore, I exhort my readers to listen to the advantages of
_occasional retirement_, I warn them against that dangerous excess into
which some of the disciples of this philosophy have fallen; an excess
equally repugnant to reason and religion. May I happily steer through
all the dangers with which my subject is surrounded; sacrifice nothing
to prejudice; offer no violation to truth; and gain the approbation
of the judicious and reflecting! If affliction shall feel one ray of
comfort, or melancholy, released from a portion of its horrors, raise its
down cast head; if I shall convince the lover of rural life, that all
the finer springs of pleasure dry up and decay in the intense joys of
crowded cities, and that the warmest emotions of the heart become there
cold and torpid; if I shall evince the superior pleasures of the country;
how many resources rural life affords against the langors of indolence;
what purity of sentiment, what peaceful repose, what exalted happiness,
is inspired by verdant meads, and the view of lively flocks quitting
their rich pastures to seek, with the declining sun, their evening
folds: how highly the romantic scenery of a wild and striking country,
interspersed with cottages, the habitations of a happy, free, contented
race of men, elevates the soul; how far more interesting to the heart are
the joyful occupations of rural industry, than the dull and tasteless
entertainments of a dissipated city; how much more easily, in short, the
most excruciating sorrows are pleasingly subdued on the fragrant border
of a peaceful stream, than in the midst of those treacherous delights
which occupy the courts of kings--all my wishes will be accomplished, and
my happiness complete.

Retirement from the world may prove peculiarly beneficial at two periods
of life: in youth, to acquire the rudiments of useful information, to lay
the foundation of the character intended to be pursued, and to obtain
that train of thought which is to guide us through life; in age, to
cast a retrospective view on the course we have run; to reflect on the
events we have observed, the vicissitudes we have experienced: to enjoy
the flowers we have gathered on the way, and to congratulate ourselves
upon the tempests we have survived. Lord Bolingbroke, in his “Idea of a
Patriot King,” says, there is not a more profound nor a finer observation
in all lord Bacon’s works, than the following: “We must choose betimes
such virtuous objects as are proportioned to the means we have of
pursuing them, and belong particularly to the stations we are in, and the
duties of those stations. We must determine and fix our minds in such
manner upon them, that the pursuit of them may become the business, and
the attainment of them the end of our whole lives. Thus we shall imitate
the great operations of nature, and not the feeble, slow, and imperfect
operations of art. We must not proceed in forming the moral character, as
a statuary proceeds in forming a statue, who works sometimes on the face,
sometimes on one part, and sometimes on an other; but we must proceed,
and it is in our power to proceed, as nature does in forming a flower, or
any other of her productions; _rudimenta partium omnium simul parit et
producit_: she throws out altogether, and at once, the whole system of
every being, and the rudiments of all the parts.”

It is, therefore, more especially to those youthful minds, who still
remain susceptible of virtuous impressions, that I here pretend to point
out the path which leads to true felicity. And if you acknowledge that
I have enlightened your mind, corrected your manners, and tranquillized
your heart, I shall congratulate myself on the success of my design, and
think my labors richly rewarded.

Believe me, all ye amiable youths, from whose minds the artifices
and gayeties of the world have not yet obliterated the precepts of a
virtuous education; who are yet uninfected with its inglorious vanities;
who, still ignorant of the tricks and blandishments of seduction, have
preserved the desire to perform some glorious action, and retained the
power to accomplish it; who, in the midst of feasting, dancing, and
assemblies, feel an inclination to escape from their unsatisfactory
delights; solitude will afford you a safe asylum. Let the voice of
experience recommend you to cultivate a fondness for domestic pleasures,
to incite and fortify your souls to noble deeds, to acquire that cool
judgment and intrepid spirit which enables you to form correct estimates
of the characters of mankind, and of the pleasures of society. But to
accomplish this high end, you must turn your eyes from those trifling and
insignificant examples which a degenerated race of men affords, and study
the illustrious characters of the ancient Greeks, the Romans, and the
Modern English. In what nation will you find more celebrated instances of
human greatness? What people possesses more valor, courage, firmness, and
knowledge; where do the arts and sciences shine with greater splendor, or
with more useful effect? But do not deceive yourselves by a belief that
you will acquire the character of an Englishman by wearing a cropped head
of hair; no, you must pluck the roots of vice from your mind, destroy
the seeds of weakness in your bosoms, and imitate the great examples of
heroic virtue which that nation so frequently affords. It is an ardent
love of liberty, undaunted courage, deep penetration, elevated sentiment,
and well cultivated understanding, that constitute the British character;
and not their cropped heads, half-boots, and round hats. It is virtue
alone, and not dress or titles, that can ennoble or adorn the human
character. Dress is an object too minute and trifling wholly to occupy
a rational mind; and an illustrious descent is only advantageous as it
renders the real merits of its immediate possessor more conspicuous.
Never, however, lose sight of this important truth, that _no one can be
truly great until he has gained a knowledge of himself_: a knowledge
which can only be acquired by _occasional retirement_.


_The influence of solitude upon the mind._

The true value of liberty can only be conceived by minds that are free:
slaves remain indolently contented in captivity. Men who have been long
tossed upon the troubled ocean of life, and have learned by severe
experience to entertain just notions of the world and its concerns, to
examine every object with unclouded and impartial eyes, to walk erect in
the strict and thorny paths of virtue, and to find their happiness in the
reflections of an honest mind, alone are _free_.

The path of virtue, indeed, is devious, dark and dreary; but though it
leads the traveller over hills of difficulty, it at length brings him
into the delightful and extensive plains of permanent happiness and
secure repose.

The love of solitude, when cultivated in the morn of life, elevates
the mind to a noble independence; but to acquire the advantage which
solitude is capable of affording, the mind must not be impelled to it by
melancholy and discontent, but by a real distaste to the idle pleasures
of the world, a rational contempt for the deceitful joys of life, and
just apprehensions of being corrupted and seduced by its insinuating and
destructive gayeties.

Many men have acquired and exercised in solitude that transcendent
greatness of mind which defies events; and, like the majestic cedar,
which braves the fury of the most violent tempest, have resisted, with
heroic courage, the severest storms of fate.

Solitude, indeed, sometimes renders the mind in a slight degree arrogant
and conceited; but these effects are easily removed by a judicious
intercourse with mankind. Misanthropy, contempt of folly, and pride of
spirit, are, in noble minds, changed by the maturity of age into dignity
of character; and that fear of the opinion of the world which awed the
weakness and inexperience of youth, is succeeded by firmness, and a high
disdain of those false notions by which it was dismayed: the observations
once so dreadful lose all their stings; the mind views objects not as
they are, but as they ought to be; and, feeling a contempt for vice,
rises into a noble enthusiasm for virtue, gaining from the conflict a
rational experience and a compassionate feeling which never decay.

The science of the heart, indeed, with which youth should be familiarized
as early as possible, is too frequently neglected. It removes the
asperities and polishes the rough surfaces of the mind. This science
is founded on that noble philosophy which regulates the characters of
men; and operating more by love than by rigid precept, corrects the cold
dictates of reason by the warm feelings of the heart; opens to view the
dangers to which they are exposed; animates the dormant faculties of the
mind, and prompts them to the practice of all the virtues.

Dion was educated in all the turpitude and servility of courts,
accustomed to a life of softness and effeminacy, and, what is still
worse, tainted by ostentation, luxury, and every species of vicious
pleasure; but no sooner did he listen to the divine Plato, and acquire
thereby a taste for that sublime philosophy which inculcates the practice
of virtue, than his whole soul became deeply enamored of its charms. The
same love of virtue with which Plato inspired the mind of Dion, may be
silently, and almost imperceptibly infused by every tender mother into
the mind of her child. Philosophy, from the lips of a wise and sensible
woman, glides quietly, but with strong effect, into the mind through the
feelings of the heart. Who is not fond of walking, even through the most
rough and difficult paths, when conducted by the hand of love? What
species of instruction can be more successful than soft lessons from a
female tongue, dictated by a mind profound in understanding, and elevated
in sentiment, where the heart feels all the affection that her precepts
inspire? Oh! may every mother, so endowed, be blessed with a child who
delights to listen in private to her edifying observations; who, with a
book in his hand, loves to seek among the rocks some sequestered spot
favorable to study; who when walking with his dogs and gun, frequently
reclines under the friendly shade of some majestic tree, and contemplates
the great and glorious characters which the pages of Plutarch present
to his view, instead of toiling through the thickest of the surrounding
woods hunting for game.

The wishes of a mother are accomplished when the silence and solitude of
the forests seize and animate the mind of her loved child; when he begins
to feel that he has seen sufficiently the pleasures of the world; when
he begins to perceive that there are greater and more valued characters
than noblemen or esquires, than ministers or kings; characters who enjoy
a more elevated sense of pleasure than gaming tables and assemblies are
capable of affording; who seek, at every interval of leisure, the shades
of solitude with rapturous delight; whose minds have been inspired with
a love of literature and philosophy from their earliest infancy; whose
bosoms have glowed with a love of science through every subsequent period
of their lives; and who, amidst the greatest calamities, are capable of
banishing, by a secret charm, the deepest melancholy and most profound

The advantages of solitude to a mind that feels a real disgust at the
tiresome intercourses of society, are inconceivable. Freed from the
world, the veil which obscured the intellect suddenly falls, the clouds
which dimmed the light of reason disappear, the painful burden which
oppressed the soul is alleviated; we no longer wrestle with surrounding
perils; the apprehension of danger vanishes; the sense of misfortune
becomes softened; the dispensations of Providence no longer excite the
murmur of discontent; and we enjoy the delightful pleasures of a calm,
serene and happy mind. Patience and resignation follow and reside with a
contented heart; every corroding care flies away on the wings of gayety;
and on every side agreeable and interesting scenes present themselves
to our view; the brilliant sun sinking behind the lofty mountains
tinging their snow-crowned turrets with golden rays; the feathered
choir hastening to seek within their mossy cells a soft, a silent, and
secure repose; the shrill crowing of the amorous cock; the solemn and
stately march of oxen returning from their daily toil, and the graceful
paces of the generous steed. But, amidst the vicious pleasures of a
great metropolis, where sense and truth are constantly despised, and
integrity and conscience thrown aside as inconvenient and oppressive, the
fairest forms of fancy are obscured, and the purest virtues of the heart

But the first and most incontestable advantage of solitude is, that
it accustoms the mind to think; the imagination becomes more vivid,
and the memory more faithful, while the sense remains undisturbed, and
no external object agitates the soul. Removed far from the tiresome
tumults of public society, where a multitude of heterogeneous objects
dance before our eyes and fill the mind with incoherent notions, we
learn to fix our attention to a single subject, and to contemplate that
alone. An author, whose works I could read with pleasure every hour of
my life, says, “It is the power of attention which, in a great measure
distinguishes the wise and great from the vulgar and trifling herd of
men. The latter are accustomed to think, or rather to dream, without
knowing the subject of their thoughts. In their unconnected rovings
they pursue no end, they follow no track. Every thing floats loose and
disjointed on the surface of their minds, like leaves scattered and blown
about on the face of the waters.”

The habit of thinking with steadiness and attention can only be acquired
by avoiding the distraction which a multiplicity of objects always
create; by turning our observation from external things, and seeking a
situation in which our daily occupations are not perpetually shifting
their course, and changing their direction.

Idleness and inattention soon destroy all the advantages of retirement;
for the most dangerous passions, when the mind is not properly employed,
rise into fermentation, and produce a variety of eccentric ideas and
irregular desires. It is necessary, also, to elevate our thoughts
above the mean consideration of sensual objects; the unincumbered mind
then recalls all that it has read; all that has pleased the eye or
delighted the ear; and reflecting on every idea which either observation,
experience, or discourse, has produced, gains new information by every
reflection, and conveys the purest pleasures to the soul. The intellect
contemplates all the former scenes of life; views by anticipation those
that are yet to come, and blends all ideas of past and future in the
actual enjoyment of the present moment. To keep, however, the mental
powers in proper tone, it is necessary to direct our attention invariably
toward some noble and interesting study.

It may, perhaps, excite a smile, when I assert, that solitude is the only
school in which the characters of men can be properly developed; but it
must be recollected, that, although the materials of this study must be
amassed in society, it is in solitude alone that we can apply them to
their proper use. The world is the great scene of our observations; but
to apply them with propriety to their respective objects is exclusively
the work of solitude. It is admitted that a knowledge of the nature of
man is necessary to our happiness; and therefore I cannot conceive how
it is possible to call those characters malignant and misanthropic, who
while they continue in the world, endeavor to discover even the faults,
foibles and imperfections of human kind. The pursuit of this species of
knowledge, which can only be gained by observation, is surely laudable,
and not deserving the obloquy that has been cast on it. Do I, in my
medical character, feel any malignity or hatred to the species, when
I study the nature, and explore the secret causes of those weaknesses
and disorders which are incidental to the human frame? When I examine
the subject with the closest inspection, and point out for the general
benefit, I hope, of mankind, as well as for my own satisfaction, all the
frail and imperfect parts in the anatomy of the human body?

But a difference is supposed to exist between the observations which
we are permitted to make upon the anatomy of the human body, and those
which we assume respecting the philosophy of the mind. The physician,
it is said, studies the maladies which are incidental to the human
frame, to apply such remedies as particular occasion may require: but
it is contended, that the moralist has a different end in view. This
distinction, however, is certainly without foundation. A sensible and
feeling philosopher views both the moral and physical defects of his
fellow creatures with an equal degree of regret. Why do moralists shun
mankind, by retiring into solitude, if it be not to avoid the contagion
of those vices which they perceive so prevalent in the world, and which
are not observed by those who are in the habit of seeing them daily
indulged without censure or restraint? The mind, without doubt feels a
considerable degree of pleasure in detecting the imperfections of human
nature; and where that detection may prove beneficial to mankind, without
doing an injury to any individual, to publish them to the world, to point
out their qualities, to place them, by a luminous description before the
eyes of men, is in my idea, a pleasure so far from being mischievous,
that I rather think, and I trust I shall continue to think so even in the
hour of death, it is the only real mode of discovering the machinations
of the devil, and destroying the effects of his work. Solitude,
therefore, as it tends to excite a disposition to think with effect, to
direct the attention to proper objects, to strengthen observation, and to
increase the natural sagacity of the mind, is the school in which a true
knowledge of the human character is most likely to be acquired.

Bonnet, in an affecting passage of the preface to his celebrated work on
the Nature of the Soul, relates the manner in which solitude rendered
even his defect of sight advantageous to him. “Solitude,” says he,
“necessarily leads the mind to meditation. The circumstances in which I
have hitherto lived, joined to the sorrows which have attended me for
many years, and from which I am not yet released, induced me to seek in
reflection those comforts which my unhappy condition rendered necessary;
and my mind is now become my constant retreat: from the enjoyments it
affords I derive pleasures which, like potent charms, dispel all my
afflictions.” At this period the virtuous Bonnet was almost blind.
Another excellent character, of a different kind, who devotes his time to
the education of youth, Pfeffel, at Colmar, supports himself under the
affliction of total blindness in a manner equally noble and affecting,
by a lifeless solitary indeed, but by the opportunities of frequent
leisure which he employs in the study of philosophy, the recreations
of poetry, and the exercises of humanity. There was formerly in Japan
a college of blind persons, who, in all probability, were endued with
quicker discernment than many members of more enlightened colleges.
These sightless academicians devoted their time to the study of history,
poetry, and music. The most celebrated traits in the annals of their
country became the subject of their muse; and the harmony of their verses
could only be excelled by the melody of their music. In reflecting upon
the idleness and dissipation in which a number of solitary persons pass
their time, we contemplate the conduct of these blind Japanese with
the highest pleasure. The _mind’s eye_ opened and afforded them ample
compensation for the loss of the corporeal organ. Light, life, and joy,
flowed into their minds through surrounding darkness, and blessed them
with high enjoyment of tranquil thought and innocent occupation.

Solitude teaches us to think, and thoughts become the principal spring
of human actions; for the _actions_ of men, it is truly said, are,
nothing more than their _thoughts_ embodied, and brought into substantial
existence. The mind, therefore, has only to examine with candor and
impartiality the idea which it feels the greatest inclination to pursue,
in order to penetrate and expound the mystery of the human character;
and he who has not been accustomed to self-examination, will upon such
a scrutiny, frequently discover truths of extreme importance to his
happiness, which the mists of worldly delusion had concealed totally from
his view.

Liberty and leisure are all that an active mind requires in solitude.
The moment such a character finds itself alone, all the energies of
his soul put themselves into motion, and rise to a height incomparably
greater than they could have reached under the impulse of a mind clogged
and oppressed by the encumbrances of society. Even plodding authors,
who only endeavor to improve the thoughts of others, and aim not at
originality for themselves, derive such advantages from solitude, as to
render them contented with their humble labors; but to superior minds,
how exquisite are the pleasures they feel when solitude inspires the idea
and facilitates the execution of works of virtue and public benefit!
works which constantly irritate the passions of the foolish, and confound
the guilty consciences of the wicked. The exuberance of a fine fertile
imagination is chastened by the surrounding tranquility of solitude: all
its diverging rays are concentrated to one certain point; and the mind
exalted to such powerful energy, that whenever it is inclined to strike,
the blow becomes tremendous and irresistible. Conscious of the extent
and force of his powers, a character thus collected cannot be dismayed
by legions of adversaries; and he waits, with judicious circumspection,
to render sooner or later, complete justice to the enemies of virtue.
The profligacy of the world, where vice usurps the seat of greatness,
hypocrisy assumes the face of candor, and prejudice overpowers the voice
of truth, must, indeed, sting his bosom with the keenest sensations
of mortification and regret; but cast his philosophic eye over the
disordered scene, he will separate what _ought to be indulged_ from _what
ought not to be endured_; and by a happy, well-timed stroke of satire
from his pen, will destroy the bloom of vice, disappoint machinations of
hipocrisy, and expose the fallacies on which prejudice is founded.

Truth unfolds her charms in solitude with superior splendor. A great and
good man; Dr. Blair, of Edinburgh, says, “The great and the worthy, the
pious and the virtuous, have ever been addicted to _serious retirement_.
It is the characteristic of little and frivolous minds to be wholly
occupied with the vulgar objects of life. These fill up their desires,
and supply all the entertainment which their coarse apprehensions can
relish. But a more refined and enlarged mind leaves the world behind it,
feels a call for higher pleasures, and seeks them in retreat. The man of
public spirit has recourse to it in order to reform plans for general
good; the man of genius in order to dwell on his favorite themes; the
philosopher to pursue his discoveries; and the saint to improve himself
in grace.”

Numa, the legislator of Rome, while he was only a private individual,
retired on the death of Tatia, his beloved wife, into the deep forests
of Aricia and wandered in solitary musings through the thickest groves
and most sequestered shades. Superstition imputed his lonely propensity,
not to disappointment, discontent, or hatred to mankind, but to a higher
cause: a wish silently to communicate with some protecting deity. A rumor
was circulated that the goddess Egeria, captivated by his virtues, had
united herself to him in the sacred bonds of love, and by enlightening
his mind, and storing it with superior wisdom, had led him to divine
felicity. The Druids also, who dwelt among the rocks, in the woods,
and in the most solitary places, are supposed to have instructed the
infant nobility of their respective nations in wisdom and in eloquence,
in the phenomena of nature, in astronomy, in the precepts of religion,
and the mysteries of eternity. The profound wisdom thus bestowed on the
characters of the Druids, although it was, like the story of Numa, the
mere effects of imagination, discovers with what enthusiasm every age and
country have revered those venerable characters who in the silence of the
groves, and in the tranquillity of solitude, have devoted their time and
talents to the improvement of the human mind, and the reformation of the

Genius frequently brings forth its finest fruit in solitude, merely by
the exertion of its own intrinsic powers, unaided by the patronage of the
great, the adulation of the multitude, or the hope of mercenary reward.
Flanders, amidst all the horrors of civil discord, produced painters as
rich in fame as they were poor in circumstances. The celebrated Correggio
had so seldom been rewarded during his life, that the paltry payment of
ten pistoles of German coin, and which he was obliged to travel as far
as Parma, to receive, created in his mind a joy so excessive, that it
caused his death. The self-approbation of conscious merit was the only
recompense these great artists received; they painted with the hope of
immortal fame; and posterity has done them justice.

Profound meditation in solitude and silence frequently exalts the mind
above its natural tone, fires the imagination, and produces the most
refined and sublime conceptions. The soul then tastes the purest and
most refined delight, and almost loses the idea of existence in the
intellectual pleasure it receives. The mind on every motion darts through
space into eternity; and raised, in his free enjoyment of its powers by
its own enthusiasm, strengthens itself in the habitude of contemplating
the noblest subjects, and of adopting the most heroic pursuits. It was in
a solitary retreat, amidst the shades of a lofty mountain near Byrmont,
that the foundation of one of the most extraordinary achievements of
the present age was laid. The king of Prussia, while on a visit to Spa,
withdrew himself from the company, and walked in silent solitude amongst
the most sequestered groves of this beautiful mountain, then adorned in
all the rude luxuriance of nature, and to this day distinguished by the
appellation of “_The Royal Mountain_”.[4] On this uninhabited spot, since
become the seat of dissipation, the youthful monarch, it is said first
formed the plan of conquering Silesia.

Solitude teaches with the happiest effect the important value of _time_,
of which the indolent, having no conception, can form no estimate. A man
who is ardently bent on employment, who is anxious not to live entirely
in vain, never observes the rapid movements of a stop watch, the true
image of transitory life, and most striking emblem of the flight of time,
without alarm and apprehension. Social intercourse, when it tends to
keep the mind and heart in a proper tone, when it contributes to enlarge
the sphere of knowledge, or to banish corroding care, cannot, indeed,
be considered a sacrifice of time. But where social intercourse, even
when attended with these happy effects engages all our attention, turns
the calmness of friendship into violence of love, transforms hours into
minutes, and drives away all ideas, except those which the object of
our affection inspires, year after year will roll unimproved away. Time
properly employed never appears tedious; on the contrary, to him who is
engaged in usefully discharging the duties of his station, according to
the best of his ability, it is light, and pleasantly transitory.

A certain young prince, by the assistance of a number of domestics,
seldom employs above five or six minutes in dressing. Of his carriage
it would be incorrect to say he _goes_ in it; for it _flies_. His table
is superb and hospitable, but the pleasures of it are short and frugal.
Princes, indeed, seem disposed to do every thing with rapidity. This
royal youth who possesses extraordinary talents, and uncommon dignity of
character, attends in his own person to every application, and affords
satisfaction and delight in every interview. His domestic establishment
engages his most scrupulous attention; and he employs seven hours every
day without exception, throughout the year, in reading the best English,
Italian, French, and German authors. It may therefore be truly said, that
this prince is well acquainted with the value of time.

The hours which a man of the world throws idly away, are in solitude
disposed of with profitable pleasure; and no pleasure can be more
profitable than that which results from the judicious use of time. Men
have many duties to perform: he, therefore, who wishes to discharge them
honorably, will vigilantly seize the earliest opportunity, if he does not
wish that any part of the passing moments should be torn like a useless
page from the book of life. Useful employment stops the career of time,
and prolongs our existence. To think and to work, is to live. Our ideas
never flow with more rapidity and abundance, or with greater gayety, than
in those hours which useful labor steals from idleness and dissipation.
To employ our time with economy, we should frequently reflect how many
hours escape from us against our inclination. A celebrated English author
says, “When we have deducted all that is absorbed in sleep, all that
is inevitably appropriated to the demands of nature, or irresistably
engrossed by the tyranny of custom; all that is passed in regulating the
superficial decorations of life, or is given up in the reciprocation
of civility to the disposal of others; all that is torn from us by the
violence of disease, or stolen imperceptibility away by lassitude and
langor; we shall find that part of our duration very small of which we
can truly call ourselves masters, or which we can spend wholly at our own
choice. Many of our hours are lost in a rotation of petty cares, in a
constant recurrence of the same employments, many of our provisions for
ease or happiness are always exhausted by the present day, and a great
part of our existence serves no other purpose than that of enabling us to
enjoy the rest.”

Time is never more misspent than while we declaim against the want of it;
all our actions are then tinctured with peevishness. The yoke of life is
certainly the least oppressive when we carry it with good humor; and in
the shades of rural retirement, when we have once acquired a resolution
to pass our hours with economy, sorrowful lamentations on the subject of
time misspent, and business neglected, never torture the mind.

Solitude, indeed, may prove more dangerous than all the dissipation of
the world, if the mind be not properly employed. Every man, from the
monarch on the throne to the peasant in the cottage, should have a daily
task, which he should feel it his duty to perform without delay. “_Carpe
diem_,” says Horace; and this recommendation will extend with equal
propriety to every hour of our lives.

The voluptuous of every description, the votaries of Bacchus and the sons
of Anacreon, exhort us to drive away corroding care, to promote incessant
gaiety, and to enjoy the fleeting hours as they pass; and these precepts,
when rightly understood, and properly applied, are founded in strong
sense and sound reason; but they must not be understood or applied in the
way these sensualists advise; they must not be consumed in drinking and
debauchery; but employed in steadily advancing toward the accomplishment
of the task which our respective duties require us to perform. “If,”
says Petrarch, “you feel any inclination to serve God, in which consists
the highest felicities of our nature; if you are disposed to elevate the
mind by the study of letters, which, next to religion, procures us the
truest pleasures; if by your sentiments and writings, you are anxious to
leave behind you something that will memorize your name with posterity;
stop the rapid progress of time, and prolong the course of this uncertain
life--fly, ah; fly, I beseech you, from the enjoyment of the _world_, and
pass the few remaining days you have to live in … _Solitude_.”

Solitude refines the taste, by affording the mind greater opportunities
to call and select the beauties of those objects which engage its
attention. There it depends entirely upon ourselves to make choice of
those employments which afford the highest pleasure; to read those
writings, and to encourage those reflections which tend mostly to purify
the mind, and store it with the richest variety of images. The false
notions which we so easily acquire in the world, by relying upon the
sentiments of others, instead of consulting our own, are in solitude
easily avoided. To be obliged constantly to say, “_I dare not think
otherwise_,” is insupportable. Why, alas! will not men strive to form
opinions of their own, rather than submit to be guided by the arbitrary
dictates of others? If a work please me, of what importance is it to me
whether the _beau monde_ approve of it or not?--What information do I
receive from you, ye cold and miserable critics?--Does your approbation
make me feel whatever is truly noble, great and good, with higher relish
or more refined delight?--How can I submit to the judgment of men who
always examine hastily, and generally determine wrong?

Men of enlightened minds, who are capable of correctly distinguishing
beauties from defects, whose bosoms feel the highest pleasure from the
works of genius, and the severest pain from dullness and depravity, while
they admire with enthusiasm, condemn with judgment and deliberation; and,
retiring from the vulgar herd, either alone or in the society of selected
friends, resign themselves to the delights of a tranquil intercourse
with the illustrious sages of antiquity, and with those writers who have
distinguished and adorned succeeding times.

Solitude, by enlarging the sphere of its information, by awakening a more
lively curiosity, by relieving fatigue, and by promoting application,
renders the mind more active, and multiplies the number of its ideas. A
man who is well acquainted with all these advantages, has said, that, “by
silent, solitary reflection, we exercise and strengthen all the powers
of the mind. The many obstacles which render it difficult to pursue our
path disperse and retire, and we return to a busy, social life, with
more cheerfulness and content. The sphere of our understanding becomes
enlarged by reflection; we have learned to survey more objects, and to
behold them more intellectually together; we carry a clearer sight, a
juster judgment, and firmer principles with us into the world in which
we are to live and act; and are then more able, even in the midst of all
its distractions, to preserve our attention, to think with accuracy, to
determine with judgment, in a degree proportioned to the preparations we
have made in the hours of retirement.” Alas! in the ordinary commerce
of the world, the curiosity of a rational mind soon decays, whilst in
solitude it hourly augments. The researches of a finite being necessarily
proceed by slow degrees. The mind links one proposition to another,
joins experience with observation, and from the discovery of one truth
proceeds in search of others. The astronomers who first observed the
course of the planets, little imagined how important their discoveries
would prove to the future interests and happiness of mankind. Attached
by the spangled splendor of the firmament, and observing that the stars
nightly changed their course, curiosity induced them to explore the
cause of this phenomenon, and led them to pursue the road of science.
It is thus that the soul, by silent activity, augments its powers;
and a contemplative mind advances in knowledge in proportion as it
investigates the various causes, the immediate effects, and the remote
consequences of an established truth. Reason, indeed, by impeding the
wings of the imagination, renders her flight less rapid, but it makes
the object of attainment more sure. Drawn aside by the charms of fancy,
the mind may construct new worlds; but they immediately burst, like airy
bubbles formed of soap and water; while reason examines the materials of
its projected fabric, and uses those only which are durable and good.

“The great art to learn much,” says Locke, “is to undertake a little at
a time.” Dr. Johnson, the celebrated English writer, has very forcibly
observed, that “all the performances of human art, at which we look with
praise or wonder, are instances of the resistless force of perseverance:
it is by this that the quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant
countries are united by canals. If a man was to compare the effect of a
single stroke with the pick-axe, or of one impression of a spade, with
the general design and last result, he would be overwhelmed with the
sense of their disproportion; yet those petty operations, incessantly
continued, in time surmount the greatest difficulties; and mountains are
levelled, and oceans bounded by the slender force of human beings. It
is therefore of the utmost importance that those who have any intention
of deviating from the beaten roads of life, and acquiring a reputation
superior to names hourly swept away by time among the refuse of fame,
should add to their reason and their spirit the power of persisting in
their purposes; acquire the art of sapping what they cannot batter; and
the habit of vanquishing obstinate resistance by obstinate attacks.”

It is activity of mind that gives life to the most dreary desert,
converts the solitary cell into a social world, gives immortal fame
to genius, and produces master-pieces of ingenuity to the artist. The
mind feels a pleasure in the exercise of its powers proportioned to the
difficulties it meets with, and the obstacles it has to surmount. When
Apelles was reproached for having painted so few pictures, and for the
incessant anxiety with which he retouched his works, he contented himself
with this observation, “_I paint for posterity_.”

The inactivity of monastic solitude, the sterile tranquillity of the
cloister, are ill suited to those who, after a serious preparation in
retirement, and an assiduous examination of their own powers, feel a
capacity and inclination to perform great and good actions for the
benefit of mankind. Princes cannot live the lives of monks; statesmen
are no longer sought for in monasteries and convents; generals are no
longer chosen from the members of the church. Petrarch, therefore,
very pertinently observes, “that solitude must not be inactive, nor
leisure uselessly employed. A character indolent, slothful, languid, and
detached from the affairs of life, must infallibly become melancholy and
miserable. From such a being no good can be expected; he cannot pursue
any useful science, or possess the faculties of a great man.”

The rich and luxurious may claim an exclusive right to those pleasures
which are capable of being purchased by pelf, in which the mind has
no enjoyment, and which only afford a temporary relief to langor, by
steeping the senses in forgetfulness; but in the precious pleasures
of intellect, so easily accessible by all mankind, the great have no
exclusive privilege; for such enjoyments are only to be procured by our
own industry, by serious reflection, profound thought, and deep research;
exertions which open hidden qualities to the mind, and lead it to the
knowledge of truth, and to the contemplation of our physical and moral

A Swiss preacher has in a German pulpit said, “The streams of mental
pleasures, of which all men may equally partake, flow from one to the
other; and that of which we have most frequently tasted, loses neither
its flavor nor its virtues, but frequently acquires new charms, and
conveys additional pleasure the oftener it is tasted. The subjects of
these pleasures are as unbounded as the reign of truth, as extensive as
the world, as unlimited as the divine perfections. Incorporeal pleasures,
therefore, are much more durable than all others; they neither disappear
with the light of the day, change with the external form of things, nor
descend with our bodies to the tomb; but continue with us while we exist;
accompany us under all the vicissitudes not only of our natural life, but
of that which is to come; secure us in the darkness of the night, and
compensate for all the miseries we are doomed to suffer.”

Great and exalted minds, therefore, have always, even in the bustle of
gaiety, or amidst the more agitated career of high ambition, preserved
a taste for intellectual pleasures. Engaged in affairs of the most
important consequence, notwithstanding the variety of objects by which
their attention was distracted, they were still faithful to the muses,
and fondly devoted their minds to works of genius. They disregarded the
false notion, that reading and knowledge are useless to great men; and
frequently condescended, without a blush, to become writers themselves.

Philip of Macedon, having invited Dionysius the younger to dine with him
at Corinth, attempted to deride the father of his royal guest, because
he had blended the characters of prince and poet, and had employed his
leisure in writing odes and tragedies. “How could the king find leisure,”
said Philip, “to write those trifles?” “In those hours,” answered
Dionysius, “which you and I spend in drunkenness and debauchery.”

Alexander who was passionately fond of reading and whilst the world
resounded with his victories, whilst blood and carnage marked his
progress, whilst he dragged captive monarchs at his chariot wheels, and
marched with increasing ardor over smoking towns and desolated provinces
in search of new objects of victory, felt during certain intervals,
the langors of unemployed time; and lamenting that Asia afforded no
books to amuse his leisure, he wrote to Harpalus to send him the works
of Philistus, the tragedies of Euripides, Sophocles, Æschylus, and the
dithyrambics of Thalestes.

Brutus, the avenger of the violated liberties of Rome, while serving in
the army under Pompey, employed among books all the moments he could
spare from the duties of his station; and was even thus employed during
the awful night which preceded the celebrated battle of Pharsalia, by
which the fate of the empire was decided. Oppressed by the excessive
heat of the day, and by the preparatory arrangement of the army, which
was encamped in the middle of summer on a marshy plain, he sought relief
from the bath, and retired to his tent, where, whilst others were locked
in the arms of sleep, or contemplating the event of the ensuing day, he
employed himself until the morning dawned, in drawing a plan from the
History of Polybius.

Cicero, who was more sensible of mental pleasures than any other
character, says, in his oration for the poet Archias, “Why should I be
ashamed to acknowledge pleasures like these, since for so many years the
enjoyment of them has never prevented me from relieving the wants of
others, or deprived me of the courage to attack vice and defend virtue?
Who can justly blame, who can censure me, if, while others are pursuing
the views of interest, gazing at festal shows and idle ceremonies,
exploring new pleasures, engaged in midnight revels, in the distraction
of gaming, the madness of intemperance, neither reposing the body, nor
recreating the mind, I spend the recollective hours in a pleasing review
of my past life, in dedicating my time to learning and the muses?”

Pliny the elder, full of the same spirit devoted every moment of his
life to learning. A person read to him during his meals; and he never
travelled without a book and a portable writing-desk by his side. He made
extracts from every work he read; and scarcely conceiving himself alive
while his faculties were absorbed in sleep, endeavored by his diligence,
to double the duration of his existence.

Pliny the younger, read upon all occasions, whether riding, walking, or
sitting, whenever a moment’s leisure afforded him the opportunity; but
he made it an invariable rule to prefer the discharge of the duties of
his station to those occupations which he followed only as amusement.
It was this disposition which so strongly inclined him to solitude and
retirement. “Shall I never,” exclaimed he in moments of vexation, “break
the fetters by which I am restrained? Are they indissoluble? Alas! I have
no hope of being gratified--every day brings new torments. No sooner is
one duty performed than another succeeds. The chains of business become
every hour more weighty and extensive.”

The mind of Petrarch was always gloomy and dejected, except when he was
reading, writing, or resigned to the agreeable illusions of poetry,
upon the banks of some inspiring stream, among the romantic rocks and
mountains, or the flower-enamelled vallies of the Alps. To avoid the
loss of time during his travels, he constantly wrote at every inn where
he stopped for refreshment. One of his friends, the bishop of Cavaillon,
being alarmed lest the intense application with which he studied at
Vaucluse might totally ruin a constitution already much impaired,
requested of him one day the key of his library. Petrarch immediately
gave it him without asking the reason of his request; when the good
bishop, instantly locking up his books and writing-desk, said, “Petrarch,
I hereby interdict you from the use of pen, ink, and paper, for the space
of ten days.” The sentence was severe; but the offender suppressed his
feelings, and submitted to his fate. The first day of his exile from his
favorite pursuits was tedious, the second accompanied with incessant
headache, and the third brought on symptoms of an approaching fever. The
bishop, observing his indisposition, kindly returned him the key, and
restored him to his health.

The late earl of Chatham, on his entering into the world, was a cornet in
a troop of horse dragoons. The regiment was quartered in a small village
in England. The duties of his station were the first objects of his
attention; but the moment these were discharged, he retired into solitude
during the remainder of the day, and devoted his mind to the study of
history. Subject from his infancy to an hereditary gout, he endeavored
to eradicate it by regularity and abstinence; and perhaps it was the
feeble state of his health which first led him into retirement; but,
however that may be, it was certainly in retirement that he had laid the
foundation of that glory which he afterwards acquired. Characters of this
description, it may be said, are no longer to be found; but in my opinion
both the idea and assertion would be erroneous. Was the earl of Chatham
inferior in greatness to a Roman? And will his son, who already, in the
earliest stage of manhood, thunders forth his eloquence in the senate,
like Demosthenes, and captivates like Pericles the hearts of all who hear
him: who is now, even in the five-and-twentieth year of his age, dreaded
abroad, and beloved at home, as prime minister of the British empire;
ever think, or act under any circumstances with less greatness, than
his illustrious father? What men have been, _man_ may always be. Europe
now produces characters as great as ever adorned a throne or commanded
a field. Wisdom and virtue may exist, by proper cultivation, as well in
public as in private life; and become as perfect in a crowded palace as
in a solitary cottage.

Solitude will ultimately render the mind superior to all the vicissitudes
and miseries of life. The man whose bosom neither riches, nor luxury,
nor grandeur can render happy, may, with a book in his hand, forget all
his torments under the friendly shade of every tree, and experience
pleasures as infinite as they are varied, as pure as they are lasting,
as lively as they are unfading, and as compatible with every public
duty as they are contributary to private happiness. The highest public
duty, indeed, is that of employing our faculties for the benefit of
mankind, and can no where be so advantageously discharged as in solitude.
To acquire a true notion of men and things, and boldly to announce
our opinions to the world, is an indispensible obligation on every
individual. The _press_ is the channel through which writers diffuse
the light of truth among _the people_, and display its radiance to the
eyes of _the great_. Good writers inspire the mind with courage to think
for itself; and the free communication of sentiments contributes to the
improvement and imperfection of human reason. It is this love of liberty
that leads men into solitude, where they may throw off the chains by
which they are fettered in the world. It is this disposition to be free,
that makes the man who thinks in solitude, boldly speak a language which,
in the corrupted intercourse of society, he would not have dared openly
to hazard. Courage is the companion of solitude. The man who does not
fear to seek his comforts in the peaceful shades of retirement, looks
with firmness on the pride and insolence of _the great_, and tears from
the face of despotism the mask by which it is concealed.

His mind, enriched by knowledge, may defy the frowns of fortune, and see
unmoved the various vicissitudes of life. When Demetrius had captured the
city of Megara, and the property of the inhabitants had been entirely
pillaged by the soldiers, he recollected that Stilpo, a philosopher of
great reputation, who sought only the retirement and tranquility of a
studious life, was among the number. Having sent for him, Demetrius
asked him if he had lost any thing during the pillage? “No,” replied the
philosopher, “_my property is safe, for it exists only in my mind_.”

Solitude encourages the disclosure of those sentiments and feelings which
the manners of the world compel us to conceal. The mind there unburthens
itself with ease and freedom. The pen, indeed, is not always taken up
because we are alone; but if we are inclined to write, we ought to be
alone. To cultivate philosophy, or court the muse with effect, the mind
must be free from all embarrassment. The incessant cries of children, or
the frequent intrusion of servants with messages of ceremony and cards
of compliment, distract attention. An author, whether walking in the
open air, seated in his closet, reclined under the shade of a spreading
tree, or stretched upon a sofa, must be free to follow all the impulses
of his mind, and indulge every bent and turn of his genius. To compose
with success, he must feel an irresistible inclination, and be able to
indulge his sentiments and emotions without obstacle or restraint. There
are, indeed, minds possessed of a divine inspiration, which is capable
of subduing every difficulty, and bearing down all opposition: and an
author should suspend his work until he feels this secret call within his
bosom, and watch for those propitious moments when the mind pours forth
its ideas with energy, and the heart feels the subject with increasing
warmth; for

                “… Nature’s kindling breath
    Must fire the chosen genius; Nature’s hand
    Must string his nerves and imp his eagle wings
    Impatient of the painful steep, to soar
    High as the summit; there to breath at large
    Ethereal air, with bards and sages old,
    Immortal sons of praise.…”

Petrarch felt this sacred impulse when he tore himself from Avignon,
the most vicious and corrupted city of the age, to which the pope had
recently transferred the papal chair; and although still young, noble,
ardent, honored by his holiness, respected by princes, courted by
cardinals, he voluntarily quitted the splendid tumults of this brilliant
court, and retired to the celebrated solitude of Vaucluse, at the
distance of six leagues from Avignon, with only one servant to attend
him, and no other possession than an humble cottage and its surrounding
garden. Charmed with the natural beauties of this rural retreat, he
adorned it with an excellent library, and dwelt, for many years, in wise
tranquillity and rational repose, employing his leisure in completing
and polishing his works: and producing more original compositions during
this period than at any other of his life. But, although he here devoted
much time and attention to his writings, it was long before he could be
persuaded to make them public. Virgil calls the leisure he enjoyed at
Naples, ignoble and obscure; but it was during this leisure that he wrote
the Georgics, the most perfect of all his works, and which evince, in
almost every line, that he wrote for immortality.

The suffrage of posterity, indeed, is a noble expectation, which every
excellent and great writer cherishes with enthusiasm. An inferior mind
contents itself with a more humble recompense, and sometimes obtains
its due reward. But writers both great and good, must withdraw from the
interruptions of society, and seeking the silence of the groves, and
the shades, retire into their own minds: for every thing they perform,
all that they produce, is the effect of solitude. To accomplish a work
capable of existing through future ages, or deserving the approbation
of contemporary sages, the love of solitude must entirely occupy their
souls; for there the mind reviews and arranges, with the happiest effect,
all the ideas and impressions it has gained in its observations in the
world: it is there alone that the dart of satire can be truly sharpened
against inveterate prejudices and infatuated opinions; it is there alone
that the vices and follies of mankind present themselves accurately to
the view of the moralist, and excite his ardent endeavors to correct and
reform them. The hope of immortality is certainly the highest with which
a great writer can possibly flatter his mind; but he must possess the
comprehensive genius of a Bacon: think with the acuteness of Voltaire:
compose with the ease and elegance of Rousseau; and, like them, produce
master-pieces worthy of posterity in order to obtain it.

The love of fame, as well in the cottage as on the throne, or in the
camp, stimulates the mind to the performance of those actions which are
most likely to survive mortality and live beyond the grave, and which
when achieved, render the evening of life as brilliant as its morning.
“The praises (says Plutarch,) bestowed upon great and exalted minds, only
spur on and rouse their emulation: like a rapid torrent, the glory which
they have already acquired, hurries them irresistibly on to every thing
that is great and noble.--They never consider themselves sufficiently
rewarded. Their present actions are only pledges of what may be expected
from them; and they would blush not to live faithful to their glory, and
to render it still more illustrious by the noblest actions.”

The ear which would be deaf to servile adulation and insipid compliment,
will listen with pleasure to the enthusiasm with which Cicero exclaims,
“Why should we dissemble what it is impossible for us to conceal? Why
should we not be proud of confessing candidly that we all aspire to
_fame_? The love of praise influences all mankind, and the greatest
minds are the most susceptible of it. The philosophers who most preach
up a contempt for fame, prefix their names to their works: and the very
performances in which they deny ostentation, are evident proofs of their
vanity and love of praise. Virtue requires no other reward for all the
toils and dangers to which she exposes herself than that of fame and
glory. Take away this flattering reward, and what would remain in the
narrow career of life to prompt her exertions? If the mind could not
launch into the prospect of futurity, or the operations of the soul were
to be limited to the space that bounds those of the body, she would not
weaken herself by constant fatigues, nor weary herself with continual
watchings and anxieties; she would not think even life itself worthy of
a struggle: but there lives in the breast of every good man a principle
which unceasingly prompts and inspirits him to the pursuit of a fame
beyond the present hour; a fame not commensurate to our mortal existence,
but co-extensive with the latest posterity. Can we, who every day expose
ourselves to dangers for our country, and have never passed one moment of
our lives without anxiety or trouble, meanly think that all consciousness
shall be buried with us in the grave? If the greatest men have been
careful to preserve their busts and their statues, those images, not
of their minds, but of their bodies, ought we not rather to transmit
to posterity the resemblance of our wisdom and virtue? For my part, at
least, I acknowledge, that in all my actions I conceived that I was
disseminating and transmitting my fame to the remotest corners and the
latest ages of the world. Whether, therefore, my consciousness of this
shall cease in the grave, or, as some have thought, shall survive as a
property of the soul, is of little importance. Of one thing I am certain,
that at this instant I feel from the reflection a flattering hope and a
delightful sensation.”

This is the true enthusiasm with which preceptors should inspire the
bosoms of their young pupils. Whoever shall be happy enough to light up
this generous flame, and increase it by constant application, will see
the object of his care voluntarily relinquish the pernicious pleasures of
youth, enter with virtuous dignity on the stage of life, and add, by the
performance of the noblest actions, new lustre to science, and brighter
rays to glory. The desire of extending our fame by noble deeds, and of
increasing the good opinion of mankind by a dignified conduct and real
greatness of soul, confers advantages which neither illustrious birth,
elevated rank, nor great fortune can bestow; and which, even on the
throne, are only to be acquired by a life of exemplary virtue, and an
anxious attention to the suffrages of posterity.

There is no character, indeed, more likely to acquire future fame than
the satirist, who dares to point out and condemn the follies, the
prejudices, and the growing vices of the age, in strong and nervous
language. Works of this description, however they may fail to reform the
prevailing manners of the times, will operate on succeeding generations,
and extend their influence and reputation to the latest posterity. True
greatness operates long after envy and malice have pursued the modest
merit which produced it to the grave. O, Lavater! those base corrupted
souls who only shine a moment, and are forever extinguished, will be
forgotten, while the memory of thy name is carefully cherished, and thy
virtues fondly beloved: thy foibles will be no longer remembered; and the
qualities which distinguished and adorned thy character will alone be
reviewed. The rich variety of thy language, the judgment with which thou
hast boldly intended and created new expressions, the nervous brevity of
thy style, and thy striking picture of human manners, will, as the author
of “The Characters of German Poets and Prose writers” has predicted,
extend the fame of thy “Fragments upon Physiognomy” to the remotest
posterity. The accusation that Lavater, who was capable of developing
such sublime truths, and of creating almost a new language, gave credit
to the juggles of Gesner, will then be forgot; and he will enjoy the life
after death, which Cicero seemed to hope for with so much enthusiasm.

Solitude, indeed, affords a pleasure to an author of which no one can
deprive him, and which far exceeds all the honors of the world. He not
only anticipates the effect his work will produce, but while it advances
towards completion, feels the delicious enjoyment of those hours of
serenity and composure which his labors procure. What continued and
tranquil delight flows from this successive composition! Sorrows fly
from this elegant occupation. O! I would not exchange one single hour
of such tranquillity and content, for all those flattering illusions of
public fame with which the mind of Tully was so incessantly intoxicated.
A difficulty surmounted, a happy moment seized, a proposition elucidated,
a sentence neatly and elegantly turned, or a thought happily expressed,
are salutary and healing balms, counter-poisons to melancholy, and belong
exclusively to a wise and well-formed solitude.

To enjoy himself without being dependant on the aid of others, to devote
to employments not perhaps entirely useless, those hours which sorrow and
chagrin would otherwise steal from the sum of life is the great advantage
of an author; and with this advantage alone I am perfectly contented.

Solitude not only elevates the mind, but adds new strength to its powers.
The man who has not courage to conquer the prejudices and despise
the manners of the world, whose greatest dread is the imputation of
singularity, who forms his opinion and regulates his conduct upon the
judgment and actions of others, will certainly never possess sufficient
strength of mind to devote himself to voluntary solitude; which, it has
been well observed, is as necessary to give a just, solid, firm, and
forcible tone to our thoughts, as an intercourse with the world is to
give them richness, brilliancy, and just appropriation.

The mind, employed on noble and interesting subjects, disdains
the indolence that stains the vacant breast. Enjoying freedom and
tranquillity, the soul feels the extent of its energies with greater
sensibility, and displays powers which it was before unconscious of
possessing: the faculties sharpen; the mind becomes more clear, luminous,
and extensive; the perception more distinct; the whole intellectual
system, in short, exacts more from itself in the leisure of solitude
than in the bustle of the world. But to produce these happy effects,
solitude must not be reduced to a state of tranquil idleness and inactive
ease, of mental numbness, or sensual stupor; it is not sufficient to
be continually gazing out of a window with a vacant mind, or gravely
walking up and down the study in a ragged _robe-de-chambre_ and worn-out
slippers; for the mere exterior of tranquillity cannot elevate or
increase the activity of the soul, which must feel an eager desire to
roam at large, before it can gain that delightful liberty and leisure,
which at the same instant improves the understanding and corrects the
imagination. The mind, indeed, is enabled, by the strength it acquires
under the shades of retirement, to attack prejudices, and combat
errors, with the unfailing prowess of the most athletic champion; for
the more it examines into the nature of things, the closer it brings
them to its view, and exposes, with unerring clearness, all the latent
properties they possess. An intrepid and reflecting mind, when retired
within itself, seizes with rapture on truth the moment it is discovered;
looks round with a smile of pity and contempt on those who despise its
charms; hears without dismay the invectives which envy and malice let
loose against him; and nobly disdains the hue and cry which the ignorant
multitude raise against him, the moment he elevates his hand to dart
against them one of the strongest and invincible truths he has discovered
in his retreat.

Solitude diminishes the variety of those troublesome passions
which disturb the tranquillity of the human mind, by combining and
forming a number of them into one great desire; for although it may
certainly become dangerous to the passions, it may also, thanks to
the dispensations of Providence! produce very salutary effects. If it
disorder the mind, it is capable of effecting its cure. It extracts
the various propensities of the human heart, and unites them into one.
By this process we feel and learn not only the nature, but the extent,
of all the passions which rise up against us like the angry waves of a
disordered ocean, to overwhelm us in the abyss; but philosophy flies
to our aid, divides their force, and, if we do not yield to them an
easy victory, by neglecting all opposition to their attacks, virtue and
self-denial bring gigantic reinforcements to our assistance, and ensure
success. Virtue and resolution, in short, are equal to every conflict,
the instant we learn that one passion is to be conquered by another.

The mind, exalted by the high and dignified sentiments it acquires by
lonely meditation, becomes proud of its superiority, withdraws itself
from every base and ignoble object, and avoids, with heroic virtue,
the effect of dangerous society. A noble mind observes the sons of
worldly pleasure mingling in scenes of riot and debauchery without being
seduced; hears it in vain echoed from every side, that incontinence is
among the first propensities of the human heart, and that every young
man of fashion and spirit must as necessarily indulge his appetite for
the fair sex, as the calls of hunger or of sleep. Such a mind perceives
that libertinism and dissipation not only enervate youth, and render the
feelings callous to the charms of virtue, and principles of honesty,
but that it destroys every manly resolution, renders the heart timid,
decreases exertion, damps the generous warmth and fine enthusiasm of the
soul, and in the end, totally annihilates all its powers. The youth,
therefore, who seriously wishes to sustain an honorable character on
the theatre of life, must forever renounce the habits of indolence and
luxury; and when he no longer impairs his intellectual faculties by
debauchery, or renders it necessary to attempt the renovation of his
languid and debilitated constitution by excess of wine and luxurious
living, he will soon be relieved from the necessity of consuming whole
mornings on horseback in a vain search of that health from change of
scene which temperance and exercise would immediately bestow.

All men without exception, have something to learn; whatever may be the
distinguished rank which they hold in society, they can never be truly
great but by their personal merit. The more the faculties of the mind
are exercised in the tranquillity of retirement, the more conspicuous
they appear; and should the pleasures of debauchery be the ruling
passion, learn, O young man! that nothing will so easily subdue it as an
increasing emulation in great and virtuous actions, a hatred of idleness
and frivolity, the study of the sciences, a frequent communication with
your own heart, and that high and dignified spirit which views with
disdain every thing that is vile and contemptible. This generous and
high disdain of vice, this fond and ardent love of virtue, discloses
itself in retirement with dignity and greatness, where the passion of
high achievement operates with greater force than in any other situation.
The same passion which carried Alexander into Asia, confined Diogenes to
his tub. Heraclius descended from his throne to devote his mind to the
search of truth. He who wishes to render his knowledge useful to mankind,
must first study the world; not too intensely, or for any long duration,
or with any fondness for its follies; for the follies of the world
enervate and destroy the vigor of the mind. Cesar tore himself from the
embraces of Cleopatra, and became the master of the world; while Antony
took her as a mistress to his bosom, sunk indolently into her arms, and
by his effeminacy lost not only his life, but the government of the Roman

Solitude, indeed, inspires the mind with notions too refined and exalted
for the level of common life. But a fondness for high conceptions, and a
lively, ardent disposition, discovers to the votaries of solitude, the
possibility of supporting themselves on heights which would derange the
intellects of ordinary men. Every object that surrounds the solitary
man enlarges the faculties of his mind, improves the feelings of his
heart, elevates him above the condition of the species, and inspires his
soul with views of immortality. Every day in the life of a man of the
world seems as if he expected it would be the last of his existence.
Solitude amply compensates for every privation, while the devotee of
worldly pleasures conceives himself lost if he is deprived of visiting a
fashionable assembly, of attending a favorite club, of seeing a new play,
of patronizing a celebrated boxer, or of admiring some foreign novelty
which the hand-bills of the day have announced.

I could never read without feeling the warmest emotions, the following
passage of Plutarch; “I live,” says he, “entirely upon history; and
while I contemplate the pictures it presents to my view, my mind enjoys
a rich repast from the representation of great and virtuous characters.
If the actions of men produce some instances of vice, corruption, and
dishonesty; I endeavor, nevertheless, to remove the impression, or to
defeat its effect. My mind withdraws itself from the scene, and free from
every ignoble passion, I attach myself to those high examples of virtue
which are so agreeable and satisfactory, and which accord so completely
with the genuine feelings of our nature.”

The soul, winged by these sublime images, flies from the earth, mounts
as it proceeds, and casts an eye of disdain on those surrounding clouds
which, as they gravitate to the earth, would impede its flight. At a
certain height the faculties of the mind expand, and the fibres of the
heart dilate. It is, indeed, in the power of every man to perform more
than he undertakes; and therefore it is both wise and praiseworthy to
attempt every thing that is morally within our reach. How many dormant
ideas may be awakened by exertion! and then, what a variety of early
impressions, which were seemingly forgot, revive, and present themselves
to our pens! We may always accomplish more than we conceive, provided
passion fans the flame which the imagination has lighted; for life is
insupportable when unanimated by the soft affections of the heart.

Solitude leads the mind to those sources from whence the grandest
conceptions are most likely to flow. But alas! it is not in the power of
every person to seize the advantages solitude bestows. Were every noble
mind sensible of the extensive information, of the lofty and sublime
ideas, of the exquisitely fine feelings which result from occasional
retirement, they would frequently quit the world, even in the earliest
periods of youth, to taste the sweets of solitude, and lay the foundation
for a wise old age.

In conducting the low and petty affairs of life, common sense is
certainly a more useful quality than even genius itself. Genius, indeed,
or that fine enthusiasm which carries the mind into its highest sphere,
is clogged and impeded in its ascent by the ordinary occupations of the
world, and seldom regains its natural liberty and pristine vigor except
in solitude. Minds anxious to reach the regions of philosophy and science
have, indeed, no other means of rescuing themselves from the burden and
thraldom of worldly affairs. Sickened and disgusted with the ridicule
and obloquy they experience from an ignorant and presumptuous multitude,
their faculties become, as it were, extinct, and mental exertion dies
away; for the desire of fame, that great incentive to intellectual
achievement, cannot long exist where merit is no longer rewarded by
praise. But, remove such minds from the oppression of ignorance, of envy,
of hatred, of malice; let them enjoy liberty and leisure; and with the
assistance of pen, ink, and paper, they will soon take an ample revenge,
and their productions excite the admiration of the world. How many
excellent understandings remain in obscurity, merely on account of the
possessor being condemned to follow worldly employments, in which little
or no use of the mind is required, and which, for that reason, ought to
be exclusively bestowed on the ignorant and illiterate vulgar! But this
circumstance can seldom happen in solitude, where the mental faculties,
enjoying their natural freedom, and roaming unconfined through all parts
and properties of nature, fix on those pursuits most congenial to their
powers, and most likely to carry them into their proper sphere.

The unwelcome reception which solitary men frequently meet with in the
world, becomes, when properly considered, a source of enviable happiness;
for to be universally beloved, would prove a great misfortune to him who
is meditating in tranquillity the performance of some great and important
work: every one would then be anxious to visit him, to solicit his visits
in return, and to press for his attendance on all parties. But though
philosophers are fortunately not in general the most favored guests in
fashionable societies, they have the satisfaction to recollect, that
it is not ordinary or common characters against whom the public hatred
and disgust are excited. There is always something great in that man
against whom the world exclaims, at whom every one throws a stone, and
on whose character all attempt to fix a thousand crimes, without being
able to prove one. The fate of a man of genius, who lives retired and
unknown, is certainly more enviable: for he will then enjoy the pleasure
of undisturbed retirement; and naturally imagining the multitude to
be ignorant of his character, will not be surprised that they should
continually misinterpret and pervert both his words and actions; or that
the efforts of his friends to undeceive the public with respect to his
merit should prove abortive.

Such was, in the mistaken view of the world, the fate of the celebrated
count Schaumbourg Lippe, better known by the appellation of count de
Buckebourg. No character, throughout Germany, was ever more traduced,
or so little understood; and yet he was worthy of being enrolled among
the highest names his age or country ever produced. When I first became
acquainted with him, he lived in almost total privacy, quite retired
from the world, on a small paternal farm, in the management of which
consisted all his pleasure and employment. His exterior appearance was
I confess, rather forbidding, and prevented superficial observers from
perceiving the extraordinary endowments of his brilliant and capacious
mind. The count de Lacy, formerly ambassador from the court of Madrid to
Petersburgh, related to me during his residence at Hanover, that he led
the Spanish army against the Portuguese at the time they were commanded
by the count de Buckebourg; and that when the officers discovered him as
they were reconnoitering the enemy with their glasses, the singularity of
his appearance struck them so forcibly, that they immediately exclaimed,
“Are the Portuguese commanded by Don Quixote?” The ambassador, however,
who possessed a liberal mind, did justice in the highest terms, to the
merit and good conduct of Buckebourg in Portugal; and praised, with
enthusiastic admiration, the goodness of his mind, and the greatness
of his character. Viewed at a distance, his appearance was certainly
romantic; and his heroic countenance, his flowing hair, his tall and
meagre figure, and particularly the extraordinary length of his visage,
might, in truth, recall some idea of the celebrated knight of La Mancha:
but, on a closer view, both his person and his manners dispelled the
idea; for his features, full of fire and animation, announced the
elevation, sagacity, penetration, kindness, virtue, and serenity of his
soul; and the most sublime and heroic sentiments were as familiar and
natural to his mind, as they were to the noblest characters of Greece and

The count was born in London, and possessed a disposition as whimsical as
it was extraordinary. The anecdotes concerning him, which I heard from
his relation, a German prince, are perhaps not generally known. Fond of
contending with the English in every thing, he laid a wager that he would
ride a horse from London to Edinburg backwards, that is, with the horse’s
head toward Edinburg, and the count’s face toward London; and in this
manner he actually rode through several counties in England, he travelled
through the greater part of that kingdom on foot in the disguise of a
common beggar. Being informed that part of the current of the Danube,
above Regensberg, was so strong and rapid, that no one dared to swim
across it; he made the attempt, and ventured so far that he nearly lost
his life. A great statesman and profound philosopher at Hanover related
to me, that during the war in which the count commanded the artillery
in the army of prince Ferdinand of Brunswick against the French, he one
day invited a number of Hanoverian officers to dine with him in his
tent. While the company were in the highest state of festive mirth and
gayety, a succession of cannon balls passed directly over the head of
the tent. “The French cannot be far off!” exclaimed the officers. “Oh! I
assure you,” replied the count, “they are not near us;” and he begged the
gentlemen would make themselves perfectly easy, resume their seats, and
finish their dinner. Soon afterwards a cannon ball carried away the top
of the tent, when the officers again rose precipitately from their seats,
exclaiming, “The enemy are here!” “No, no,” replied the count, “the enemy
are not here; therefore I must request, gentlemen, that you will place
yourselves at the table, and sit still, for you may rely on my word.” The
firing recommenced and the balls flew about in the same direction: the
officers, however, remained fixed to their seats; and while they ate and
drank in seeming tranquillity, whispered to each other their surmises
and conjectures on this singular entertainment. At length the count,
rising from his seat addressed the company in these words: “gentlemen,
I was willing to convince you how well I can rely upon the officers of
my artillery. I ordered them to fire, during the time we continued at
dinner, at the pinnacle of the tent; and you have observed with what
punctuality they obeyed my orders.”

Characteristic traits of a man anxious to inure himself and those
about him to arduous and difficult exploits will not be useless or
unentertaining to curious and speculative minds. Being one day in
company with the count at fort Wilhelmstein, by the side of a magazine
of gunpowder, which he had placed in the room immediately under that in
which he slept, I observed to him, that I should not be able to sleep
very contentedly there during some of the hot nights of summer. The
count, however, convinced me, though I do not now recollect by what
means, that _the greatest danger and no danger, are one and the same
thing_. When I first saw this extraordinary man, which was in the company
of two officers, the one English the other Portuguese, he entertained
me for two hours upon the physiology of Haller, whose works he knew by
heart. The ensuing morning he insisted on my accompanying him in a little
boat, which he rowed himself, to fort Wilhelmstein, built under his
direction in the middle of the water, from plans, which he showed me of
his own drawing. One Sunday, on the great parade at Pyrmont, surrounded
by a vast concourse of men and women occupied in music, dancing, and
gallantries, he entertained me during the course of two hours on the
same spot, and with as much serenity if we had been alone, by detailing
the various controversies respecting the existence of God, pointing out
their defective parts and convincing me that he surpassed every writer in
his knowledge of the subject. To prevent my escaping from this lecture,
he held me fast the whole time by one of the buttons of my coat. At his
country seat at Buckebourg, he showed me a large folio volume, in his own
hand-writing, upon “The Art of defending a small town against a great
force.” The work was completely finished and intended as a present to the
king of Portugal. There were many passages in it, which the count did me
the favor to read relating to Swisserland, a country and people which he
considered as invincible; pointing out to me not only all the important
places they might occupy against an enemy, but discovering passes before
unknown, and through which even a cat would scarce be able to crawl. I
do not believe that any thing was ever written of higher importance to
the interests of my country than this work; for it contains satisfactory
answers to every objection that ever has or can be made. My friend M.
Moyse Mendelsohm, to whom the cont read the preface to this work while
he resided at Pyrmont, considered it as a master-piece of fine style
and sound reasoning; for the count, when he pleased, wrote the French
language with nearly as much elegance and purity as Voltaire: while in
the German he was labored, perplexed, and diffuse. I must, however,
add this in his praise, that, on his return from Portugal, he studied
for many years under two of the most acute masters in Germany: first,
Abbt; and afterwards Herder. Many persons who, from a closer intimacy
and deeper penetration, have had greater opportunities of observing the
conduct and character of this truly great and extraordinary man, relate
of him a variety of anecdotes equally instructive and entertaining. I
shall only add one observation more respecting his character, availing
myself of the words of Shakspeare; the count Guilaume de Schaumbourg

                           “… carries no dagger.
    He has a lean and hungry look;
                    … but he’s not dangerous:
                            … he reads much:
    He is a great observer: and he looks
    Quite thro’ the deeds of men. He loves no plays
                            … he hears no music;
    Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort,
    As if he mock’d himself, and scorn’d his spirit,
    That could be mov’d to smile at any thing.”

Such was the character, always misunderstood, of this solitary man; and
such a character might fairly indulge a contemptuous smile, on perceiving
the mistaken sneers of an ignorant multitude. But what must be the shame
and confusion of the partial judges of mankind, when they behold the
monument which the great Mendelsohm has raised to his memory; and the
faithful history of his life and manners which a young author is about
to publish at Hanover; the profound sentiments, the elegant style, the
truth, and the sincerity of which will be discovered and acknowledged by
impartial posterity?

The men who, as I have frequently observed, are disposed to ridicule this
illustrious character on account of his long visage, his flowing hair,
his enormous hat, or his little sword, might be pardoned, if, like him,
they were philosophers or heroes. The mind of the count, however, was
too exalted to be moved by their insulting taunts, and he never smiled
upon the world, or upon men, either with spleen or with contempt. Feeling
no hatred, indulging no misanthropy, his looks beamed kindness on all
around him; and he enjoyed with dignified composure the tranquillity
of his rural retreat in the middle of a thick forest, either alone or
in the company of a fond and virtuous wife, whose death so sensibly
afflicted even his firm and constant mind, that it brought him almost
to an untimely grave. The people of Athens laughed at Themistocles, and
openly reviled him even in the streets, because he was ignorant of the
manners of the world, the _ton_ of good company, and that accomplishment
which is called good breeding. He retorted, however, upon these ignorant
railers with the keenest asperity: “It is true,” said he, “I never play
upon the lute; but I know how to raise a small and inconsiderable city to
greatness and to glory.”

Solitude and philosophy may inspire sentiments which appear ludicrous
to the eye of worldly folly, but they banish all light and insignificant
ideas, and prepare the mind for the grandest and most sublime
conceptions. Those who are in the habit of studying great and exalted
characters, of cultivating refined and elevated sentiments, unavoidably
contract a singularity of manners which may furnish ample materials for
ridicule. Romantic characters always view things differently from what
they really are or can be; and the habit of invariably contemplating the
sublime and beautiful, renders them, in the eyes of the weak and wicked,
insipid and unsupportable. Men of this disposition always acquire a high
and dignified demeanor, which shocks the feelings of the vulgar; but it
is not on that account the less meritorious. Certain Indian philosophers
annually quitted their solitude to visit the palace of their sovereign,
where each of them, in his turn, delivered his advice upon the government
of the state, and upon the changes and limitations which might be made
in the laws; but he who three successive times communicated false or
unimportant observations, lost for one year, the privilege of appearing
in the presence-chamber. This practice is well calculated to prevent
the mind from growing romantic: but there are many philosophers of a
different description, who if they had the same opportunity, would not
meet with better success.

Plotinus requested the emperor Gallienus to confer on him a small city
in Campania, and the territory appendant to it, promising to retire to
it with his friends and followers, and to realise in the government of
it the Republic of Plato. It happened then, however, as it frequently
happens now in many courts, to philosophers much less chimerical than
Plotinus; the statesmen laughed at the proposal, and told the emperor
that the philosopher was a fool, in whose mind even experience had
produced no effect.

The history of the greatness and virtues of the ancients operate in
solitude with the happiest effect. Sparks of that bright flame which
warmed the bosoms of the great and good, frequently kindled unexpected
fires. A lady in the country, whose health was impaired by nervous
affections, was advised to read with attention the history of the Greek
and Roman empires. At the expiration of three months she wrote to me in
the following terms: “You have inspired my mind with a veneration for
the virtues of the ancients. What are the buzzing race of the present
day, when compared with those noble characters? History heretofore was
not my favorite study: but now I live only in its pages. While I read of
the transactions of Greece and Rome, I wish to become an actor in the
scenes. It has not only opened to me an inexhaustible source of pleasure,
but it has restored me to health. I could not have believed that my
library contained so inestimable a treasure: my books will now prove
more valuable to me than all the fortune I possess; in the course of six
months you will no longer be troubled with my complaints. Plutarch is
more delightful to me than the charms of dress, the triumphs of coquetry,
or the sentimental effusions which lovers address to those mistresses
who are inclined to be all heart; and with whom satan plays tricks of
love with the same address as a dilettante plays tricks of music on the
violin.” This lady, who is really learned, no longer fills her letters
with the transactions of her kitchen and poultry yard; she has recovered
her health; and will experience hereafter, I conjecture, as much pleasure
among her hens and chickens, as she did before from the pages of Plutarch.

But although the immediate effects of such writings cannot be constantly
perceived, except in solitude, or in the society of select friends,
yet they may remotely be productive of the happiest consequences. The
mind of a man of genius, during his solitary walks, is crowded with a
variety of ideas, which, on being disclosed, would appear ridiculous
to the common herd of mankind: a period, however, arrives, at which
they lead men to the performance of actions worthy of immortality. The
national songs composed by that ardent genius Lavater, appeared at a
moment when the republic was in a declining state, and the temper of
the times unfavorable to their reception. The Schintzuach society, by
whose persuasion they had been written, had given some offence to the
French ambassador; and from that time all the measures which the members
adopted were decried with the most factious virulence in every quarter.
Even the great Haller, who had been refused admission, considering them
as disciples of Rousseau, whom he hated; and as enemies to orthodoxy,
which he loved; pointed his epigrams against them in every letter I
received from him; and the committee for the reformation of literature
at Zurich expressly prohibited the publication of these excellent lyric
compositions, on the curious pretence, that it was dangerous and improper
to stir up a dunghill. No poet of Greece, however, ever wrote with more
fire and force in favor of his country than Lavater did in favor of
the liberties of Swisserland. I have heard children chaunt these songs
with patriotic enthusiasm; and seen the finest eyes filled with tears
of rapture while their ears listened to the singers. Joy glowed in the
breasts of the Swiss peasants to whom they were sung: their muscles
swelled, and the blood inflamed their cheeks. Fathers have, within my own
knowledge, carried their infant children to the chapel of the celebrated
William Tell, to join in full chorus the song which Lavater composed
upon the merits of that great man. I have myself made the rocks re-echo
to my voice, by singing these songs to the music which the feelings of
my heart composed for them while wandering over the fields, and climbing
among the famous mountains where those heroes, the ancestors of our
race, signalized themselves by their immortal valor. I fancied that I
saw them still armed with their knotted clubs, breaking to pieces the
crowned helmets of Germany; and although inferior in numbers, forcing
the proud nobility to seek their safety by a precipitate and ignominious
flight. These, it may be said, are romantic notions, and can only please
solitary and recluse men, who see things differently from the rest of
the world. But great ideas sometimes now make their way in spite of the
most obstinate opposition, and operating, particularly in republics, by
insensible degrees, sow the seeds of those principles and true opinions,
which, as they arrive to maturity, prove so efficacious in times of
political contest and public commotion.

Solitude, therefore, by instilling high sentiments of human nature,
and heroic resolutions in defence of its just privileges, unites all
the qualities which are necessary to raise the soul and fortify the
character, and forms an ample shield against the shafts of envy,
hatred or malice. Resolved to think and to act, upon every occasion in
opposition to the sentiments of narrow minds, the solitary man attends
to all the various opinions he meets with, but is astonished at none.
Without being ungrateful for the just and rational esteem his intimate
friends bestow upon him; remembering, too, that friends, always partial,
and inclined to judge too favorably, frequently, like enemies, suffer
their feelings to carry them too far; he boldly calls upon the public
voice to announce his character to the world at large: displays his just
pretensions before this impartial tribunal, and demands that justice
which is due.

But solitude, although it exalts the sentiments, is generally conceived
to render the mind unfit for business: this, however, is, in my opinion,
a great mistake. To avoid tottering through the walks of public duty,
it must be of great utility to have acquired a firm step, by exercising
the mind in solitude on those subjects which are likely to occur in
public life. The love of truth is best preserved in solitude, and virtue
there acquires greater consistency: but I confess truth is not always
convenient in business nor the rigid exercise of virtue propitious to
worldly success.

The _great_ and the _good_ however, of every clime, revere the simplicity
of manners, and the singleness of heart, which solitude produces. It was
these inestimable qualities which during the fury of the war between
England and France, obtained the philosophic Jean Andre de Luc the
reception he met with at the court of Versailles; and inspired the breast
of the virtuous, the immortal de Vergennes with the desire to reclaim, by
the mild precepts of a philosopher, the refractory citizens of Geneva,
which all his remonstrances, as prime minister of France, had been unable
to effect. De Luc, at the request of Vergennes made the attempt, but
failed of success; and France, as it is well known, was obliged to send
an army to subdue the Genevese. It was upon his favorite mountains that
this amiable philosopher acquired that simplicity of manners, which he
still preserves amidst all the luxuries and seductions of London; where
he endures with firmness all the wants, refuses all the indulgences, and
subdues all the desires of social life. While he resided at Hanover, I
only remarked one single instance of luxury in which he indulged himself;
when any thing vexed his mind, he chewed a small morsel of sugar, of
which he always carried a small supply in his pocket.

Solitude not only creates simplicity of manners, but prepares and
strengthens the faculties for the toils of busy life. Fostered in the
bosom of retirement, the mind becomes more active in the world and its
concerns, and retires again into tranquillity to repose itself, and
prepare for new conflicts. Pericles, Phocion, and Epaminondas, laid
the foundation of all their greatness in solitude, and acquired there
rudiments, which all the language of the schools cannot teach--the
rudiments of their future lives and actions. Pericles, while preparing
his mind for any important object, never appeared in public, but
immediately refrained from feasting, assemblies, and every species of
entertainment; and during the whole time that he administered the affairs
of the republic, he only went once to sup with a friend, and left him
at an early hour. Phocion immediately resigned himself to the study of
philosophy: not from the ostentatious motive of being called a _wise
man_, but to enable himself to conduct the business of the state with
greater resolution and effect. Epaminondas, who had passed his whole
life in the delights of literature, and in the improvement of his mind,
astonished the Thebans by the military skill and dexterity which he all
at once displayed at the battles of Mantinea and Leuctra, in the first of
which he rescued his friend Pelopidas: but it was owing to the frugal use
he made of his time, to the attention with which he devoted his mind to
every pursuit he adopted, and to that solitude which his relinquishment
of every public employment afforded him. His countrymen, however, forced
him to abandon his retreat, gave him the absolute command of the army;
and by his military skill, he saved the republic.

Petrarch, also a character I never contemplate but with increasing
sensibility, formed his mind, and rendered it capable of transacting
the most complicated political affairs, by the habit he acquired in
solitude. He was, indeed, what persons frequently become in solitude,
choleric, satirical, and petulant: and has been severely reproached
with having drawn the manners of his age with too harsh and sombrous a
pencil, particularly the scenes of infamy which were transacted at the
court of Avignon, under the pontificate of Clement VI.; but he was a
perfect master of the human heart, knew how to manage the passions with
uncommon dexterity, and to turn them directly to his purposes. The abbe
de Sades, the best historian of his life, says, “he is scarcely known,
except as a tender and elegant poet, who loved with ardor, and sung, in
all the harmony of verse, the charms of his mistress.” But was this in
reality the whole of his character?--Certainly not. Literature, long
buried in the ruins of barbarity, owes the highest obligations to his
pen; he rescued some of the finest works of antiquity from dust and
rottenness; and many of those precious treasures of learning, which have
since contributed to delight and instruct mankind, were discovered by
his industry, corrected by his learning and sagacity, and multiplied in
accurate copies at his expense. He was the great restorer of elegant
writing and true taste; and by his own compositions, equal to any that
ancient Rome, previous to its subjugation, produced, purified the public
mind, reformed the manners of the age, and extirpated the prejudices
of the times. Pursuing his studies with unremitting firmness to the
hour of his death, his last work surpassed all that had preceded it.
But he was not only a tender lover, an elegant poet, and a correct
and classical historian, but an able statesman also, to whom the most
celebrated sovereigns of his age confided every difficult negotiation,
and consulted in their most important concerns. He possessed, in the
fourteenth century, a degree of fame, credit, and influence, which
no man of the present day, however learned, has ever acquired. Three
popes, an emperor, a sovereign of France, a king of Naples, a crowd of
cardinals, the greatest princes, and the most illustrious nobility of
Italy, cultivated his friendship, and solicited his correspondence. In
the several capacities of statesman, minister, and ambassador, he was
employed in transacting the greatest affairs, and by that means was
enabled to acquire and disclose the most useful and important truths.
These high advantages he owed entirely to solitude, with the nature of
which as he was better acquainted than any other person, so he cherished
it with greater fondness, and resounded its praise with higher energy;
and at length preferred his leisure and liberty to all the enjoyments of
the world. Love, to which he had consecrated the prime of life, appeared,
indeed, for a long time, to enervate his mind; but suddenly abandoning
the soft and effeminate style in which he breathed his sighs at Laura’s
feet, he addressed kings, emperors, and popes, with manly boldness,
and with that confidence which splendid talents and a high reputation
always inspires. In an elegant oration, worthy of Demosthenes and Cicero,
he endeavored to compose the jarring interests of Italy; and exhorted
the contending powers to destroy with their confederated arms, the
barbarians, those common enemies of their country, who were ravaging its
very bosom, and preying on its vitals. The enterprises of Rienzi, who
seemed like an agent sent from heaven to restore the decayed metropolis
of the Roman empire to its former splendor, were suggested, encouraged,
directed, and supported by his abilities. A timid emperor was roused by
his eloquence to invade Italy, and induced to seize upon the reins of
government, as successor to the Cesars. The pope, by his advice, removed
_the holy chair_, which had been transported to the borders of the Rhine,
and replaced it on the banks of the Tiber; and at a moment even when
he confessed, in one of his letters, that his mind was distracted with
vexation, his heart torn with love, and his whole soul disgusted with
men and measures. Pope Clement VI, confided to his negotiation an affair
of great difficulty at the court of Naples, in which he succeeded to the
highest satisfaction of his employer. His residence at courts, indeed,
had rendered him ambitious, busy, and enterprising; and he candidly
acknowledged, that he felt a pleasure on perceiving a hermit, accustomed
to dwell only in woods, and to saunter over plains, running through the
magnificent palaces of cardinals with a crowd of courtiers in his suite.
When John Visconti, archbishop and prince of Milan, and sovereign of
Lombardy, who united the finest talents with ambition so insatiable,
that it threatened to swallow up all Italy, had the happiness to fix
Petrarch in his interests, by inducing him to accept of a seat in his
council, the friends of the philosopher whispered one among another,
“This stern republican who breathed no sentiments but those of liberty
and independence; this untamed bull, who roared so loud at the slightest
shadow of the yoke; who could endure no fetters but those of love, and
who even felt those too heavy: who has refused the first offices at
the court of Rome, because he disdained to wear golden chains; has at
length submitted to be shackled by the tyrant of Italy; and this great
apostle of solitude, who could no longer live except in the tranquillity
of the groves, now contentedly resides amidst the tumults of Milan.”
“My friends,” replied Petrarch, “have reason to arraign my conduct.
Man has not a greater enemy than himself. I acted against my taste and
inclination. Alas! through the whole course of our lives, we do those
things which we ought not to have done, and leave undone what most we
wish to do.” But Petrarch might have told his friends, “I was willing to
convince you how much a mind, long exercised in solitude, can perform
when engaged in the business of the world; how much a previous retirement
enables a man to transact the affairs of public life with ease, firmness,
dignity and effect.”

The courage which is necessary to combat the prejudices of the multitude,
is only to be acquired by a contempt of the frivolous transactions
of the world, and, of course is seldom possessed, except by solitary
men. Worldly pursuits, so far from adding strength to the mind, only
weaken it; in like manner as any particular enjoyment too frequently
repeated, dulls the edge of the appetite for every pleasure. How often
do the best contrived and most excellent schemes fail, merely for want
of sufficient courage to surmount the difficulty which attend their
execution!--How many happy thoughts have been stifled in their birth,
from an apprehension that they were too bold to be indulged!

An idea has prevailed, that truth can only be freely and boldly spoken
under a republican form of government; but this idea is certainly
without foundation. It is true, that in aristocracies, as well as under
a more open form of government, where a single demagogue unfortunately
possesses the sovereign power, common sense is too frequently construed
into public offence. Where this absurdity exists, the mind must be timid,
and the people in consequence deprived of their liberty. In a monarchy
every offence is punished by the sword of justice; but in a republic,
punishments are inflicted by prejudices, passions, and state necessity.
The first maxim which, under a republican form of government, parents
endeavor to instil into the minds of their children, is, _not to make
enemies_; and I remember, when I was very young, replying to this sage
counsel, “My dear mother, do you not know that he who has no enemies
is a poor man?” In a republic the citizens are under the authority and
jealous observation of a multitude of sovereigns; while in a monarchy the
reigning prince is the only man whom his subjects are bound to obey. The
idea of living under the control of a number of masters intimidates the
mind; whereas love and confidence in _one_ alone, raises the spirits and
renders the people happy.

But in all countries, and under every form of government, the rational
man, who renounces the useless conversation of the world, who lives a
retired life, and who, independently of all that he sees, of all that
he hears, forms his notions in tranquillity, by an intercourse with
the heroes of Greece, of Rome, and of Great Britain, will acquire a
steady and uniform character, obtain a noble style of thinking, and rise
superior to every vulgar prejudice.

These are the observations I had to make respecting the influence of
occasional solitude upon the mind. They disclose my real sentiments on
this subject: many of them, perhaps, undigested, and many more certainly
not well expressed. But I shall console myself for these defects, if
this chapter affords only a glimpse of those advantages, which, I am
persuaded, a rational solitude is capable of affording to the minds and
manners of men; and if that which follows shall excite a lively sensation
of the true, noble, and elevated pleasures retirement is capable of
producing by a tranquil and feeling contemplation of nature, and by an
exquisite sensibility for every thing that is good and fair.


_Influence of Solitude upon the Heart._

The highest happiness which is capable of being enjoyed in this world,
consists in _peace of mind_. The wise mortal who renounces the tumults
of the world, restrains his desires and inclinations, resigns himself to
the dispensations of his Creator, and looks with an eye of pity on the
frailties of his fellow creatures; whose greatest pleasure is to listen
among the rocks to the soft murmurs of a cascade; to inhale, as he walks
along the plains, the refreshing breezes of the zephyrs; and to dwell in
the surrounding woods, on the melodious accents of the aerial choristers;
may, by the simple feelings of his heart, obtain this invaluable blessing.

To taste the charms of retirement, it is not necessary to divest the
heart of its emotions. The world may be renounced without renouncing
the enjoyment which the tear of sensibility is capable of affording.
But to render the heart susceptible of this felicity, the mind must be
able to admire with equal pleasure nature in her sublimest beauties,
and in the modest flower that decks the vallies; to enjoy at the same
time that harmonious combination of parts which expands the soul, and
those detached portions of the whole which present the softest and most
agreeable images to the mind. Nor are these enjoyments exclusively
reserved for those strong and energetic bosoms whose sensations are as
lively as they are delicate, and in which, for that reason, the good
and the bad make the same impression: the purest happiness, the most
enchanting tranquillity, are also granted to men of colder feelings, and
whose imaginations are less bold and lively; but to such characters the
portraits must not be so highly colored, nor the tints so sharp; for as
the bad strikes them less, so also they are less susceptible of livelier

The high enjoyments which the heart feels in solitude are derived from
the imagination. The touching aspect of delightful nature, the variegated
verdure of the forests, the resounding echoes of an impetuous torrent,
the soft agitation of the foliage, the warblings of the tenants of the
groves, the beautiful scenery of a rich and extensive country, and all
those objects which compose an agreeable landscape, take such complete
possession of the soul, and so entirely absorb our faculties, that the
sentiments of the mind are by the charms of the imagination instantly
converted into sensations of the heart, and the softest emotions give
birth to the most virtuous and worthy sentiments. But to enable the
imagination thus to render every object fascinating and delightful, it
must act with freedom, and dwell amidst surrounding tranquillity. Oh! how
easy is it to renounce noisy pleasures and tumultuous assemblies for the
enjoyment of that philosophic melancholy which solitude inspires!

Religious awe and rapturous delight are alternately excited by the
deep gloom of forests, by the tremendous height of broken rocks, and
by the multiplicity of majestic and sublime objects which are combined
within the site of a delightful and extensive prospect. The most painful
sensations immediately yield to the serious, soft, and solitary reveries
to which the surrounding tranquillity invites the mind; while the
vast and awful silence of nature exhibits the happy contrast between
simplicity and grandeur; and as our feelings become more exquisite, so
our admiration becomes more intense, and our pleasures more complete.

I had been for many years familiar with all that nature is capable
of producing in her sublimest works, when I first saw a garden in
the vicinity of Hanover, and another upon a much larger scale at
Marienwerder, about three miles distant, cultivated in the English
style of rural ornament. I was not then apprized of the extent of that
art which sports with the most ungrateful soil, and, by a new species
of creation, converts barren mountains into fertile fields and smiling
landscapes. This magic art makes an astonishing impression on the mind,
and captivates every heart, not insensible to the delightful charms of
cultivated nature. I cannot recollect without shedding tears of gratitude
and joy, a single day of this early part of my residence in Hanover,
when, torn from the bosom of my country, from the embraces of my family,
and from every thing that I held dear in life, my mind, on entering
the little garden of my deceased friend, M. de Hinuber, near Hanover,
immediately revived, and I forgot, for the moment, both my country and my
grief. The charm was new to me. I had no conception that it was possible,
upon so small a plot of ground, to introduce at once the enchanting
variety and the noble simplicity of nature. But I was then convinced,
that her aspect alone is sufficient, at first view, to heal the wounded
feelings of the heart, to fill the bosom with the highest luxury, and to
create those sentiments in the mind, which can, of all others, render
life desirable.

This new re-union of art and nature, which was not invented in China, but
in England, is founded upon a rational and refined taste for the beauties
of nature, confirmed by experience, and by the sentiments which a chaste
fancy reflects on a feeling heart.

But in the gardens I have before mentioned, every point of view raises
the soul to heaven, and affords the mind sublime delight; every bank
presents a new and varied scene, which fills the heart with joy: nor,
while I feel the sensation which such scenes inspire, will I suffer my
delight to be diminished by discussing whether the arrangement might have
been made in a better way, or permit the dull rules of cold and senseless
masters to destroy my pleasure. Scenes of serenity, whether created by
tasteful art, or by the cunning hand of nature, always bestow, as a gift
from the imagination, tranquillity to the heart. While a soft silence
breathes around me, every object is pleasant to my view; rural scenery
fixes my attention, and dissipates the grief that lies heavy at my heart;
the loveliness of solitude enchants me, and, subduing every vexation,
inspires my soul with benevolence, gratitude, and content. I return
thanks to my Creator for endowing me with an imagination, which, though
it has frequently caused the trouble of my life, occasionally leads me,
in the hour of my retirement, to some friendly rock, on which I can
climb, and contemplate with greater composure the tempests I have escaped.

There are, indeed, many Anglicised gardens in Germany, laid out so
whimsically absurd, as to excite no other emotions than those of laughter
or disgust. How extremely ridiculous is it to see a forest of poplars,
scarcely sufficient to supply a chamber stove with fuel for a week; mere
molehills dignified with the name of mountains; caves and aviaries,
in which tame and savage animals, birds and amphibious creatures, are
attempted to be represented in their native grandeur; bridges, of various
kinds, thrown across rivers, which a couple of ducks would drink dry; and
wooden fishes swimming in canals, which the pump every morning supplies
with water! These unnatural beauties are incapable of affording any
pleasure to the imagination.

A celebrated English writer has said, that “solitude, on the first view
of it, inspires the mind with terror, because every thing that brings
with it the idea of privation is terrific, and therefore sublime like
space, darkness, and silence.”

The species of greatness which results from the idea of infinity, can
only be rendered delightful by being viewed at a proper distance. The
Alps, in Swisserland, and particularly near the canton of Berne, appear
inconceivably majestic; but on a near approach, they excite ideas
certainly sublime, yet mingled with a degree of terror. The eye, on
beholding those immense and enormous masses piled one upon the other,
forming one vast and uninterrupted chain of mountains, and rearing their
lofty summits to the skies, conveys to the heart the most rapturous
delight, while the succession of soft and lively shades which they
throw around the scene, tempers the impression, and renders the view as
agreeable as it is sublime. On the contrary, no feeling heart can on a
close view, behold this prodigious wall of rocks without experiencing
involuntary trembling. The mind contemplates with affright their
eternal snows, their steep ascents, their dark caverns, the torrents
which precipitate themselves with deafening clamor from their summits,
the black forests of firs that overhang their sides, and the enormous
fragments of rocks which time and tempests have torn away. How my heart
thrilled when I first climbed through a steep and narrow track upon these
sublime deserts, discovering every step I made, new mountains rising over
my head, while upon the least stumble, death menaced me in a thousand
shapes below! But the imagination immediately kindles when you perceive
yourself in the midst of this grand scene of nature, and reflect from
these heights on the weakness of human power, and the imbecility of the
greatest monarchs!

The history of Swisserland evinces, that the natives of these mountains
are not a degenerate race of men, and that their sentiments are as
generous as their feelings are warm. Bold and spirited by nature, the
liberty they enjoy gives wings to their souls, and they trample tyrants
and tyranny under their feet. Some of the inhabitants of Swisserland,
indeed, are not perfectly free; though they all possess notions of
liberty, love their country, and return thanks to the Almighty for that
happy tranquillity which permits each individual to live quietly under
his vine, and enjoy the shade of his fig-tree; but the most pure and
genuine liberty is always to be found among the inhabitants of these
stupendous mountains.

The Alps in Swisserland are inhabited by a race of men sometimes
unsocial, but always good and generous. The hardy and robust characters
given to them by the severity of their climate, is softened by pastoral
life. It is said by an English writer, that he who has never heard a
storm in the Alps, can form no idea of the continuity of the lightning,
the rolling and the burst of the thunder which roars round the horizon of
these immense mountains; and the people never enjoying better habitations
than their own cabins, nor seeing any other country than their own
rocks, believe the universe to be an unfinished work, and a scene of
unceasing tempest. But the skies do not always lower; the thunder does
not incessantly roll, nor the lightnings continually flash; immediately
after the most dreadful tempests, the hemisphere clears itself by slow
degrees, and becomes serene. The dispositions of the Swiss follow the
nature of their climate; kindness succeeds to violence, and generosity
to the most brutal fury: this may be easily proved, not only from the
records of history, but from recent facts.

General Redin, an inhabitant of the Alps, and a native of the canton of
Schwitz, enlisted very early in life into the Swiss Guards, and attained
the rank of lieutenant-general in that corps. His long residence at Paris
and Versailles, however, had not been able to change his character; he
still continued a true Swiss. The new regulation made by the king of
France, in the year 1764, relating to this corps, gave great discontent
to the canton of Schwitz. The citizens, considering it as an innovation
extremely prejudicial to their ancient privileges, threw all the odium
of the measures on the lieutenant-general, whose wife, at this period,
resided on his estate in the canton, where she endeavored to raise a
number of young recruits; but the sound of the French drum had become
so disgusting to the ears of the citizens, that they beheld with
indignation the white cockade placed in the hats of the deluded peasants.
The magistrate apprehensive that this ferment might ultimately cause
an insurrection among the people, felt it his duty to forbid madame de
Redin to continue her levies. The lady requested he would certify his
prohibition in writing; but the magistrate not being disposed to carry
matters to this extremity against the court of France, she continued to
beat up for the requested number of recruits. The inhabitants of the
canton, irritated by this bold defiance of the prohibition, summoned a
General Diet, and madame de Redin appeared before the Assembly of Four
Thousand. “The drum,” said she, “shall never cease to sound, until you
give me such a certificate as may justify my husband to the French court
for not completing the number of his men.” The Assembly accordingly
granted her the required certificate, and enjoining her to procure the
interest and interposition of her husband with the court in favor of her
injured country, waited in anxious expectation that his negotiation would
produce a favorable issue. Unhappily the court of Versailles rejected
all solicitation on the subject, and by this means drove the irritated
and impatient inhabitants beyond the bounds of restraint. The leading
men of the canton pretended that the new regulation endangered not only
their civil liberties, but, what was dearer to them, their religion. The
general discontent was at length fomented into popular fury. A General
Diet was again assembled, and it was publicly resolved not to furnish
the King of France in future with any troops. The treaty of alliance
concluded in the year 1713 was torn from the public register, and general
de Redin ordered instantly to return from France with the soldiers under
his command, upon pain, if he refused, of being irrevocably banished
from the republic. The obedient general obtained permission from the
king to depart with his regiment from France, and entering Schwitz,
the metropolis of the canton, at the head of his troops, with drums
beating and colors flying, marched immediately to the church, where he
deposited his standards upon the great altar, and falling on his knees,
offered up his thanks to God. Rising from the ground, and turning to his
affectionate soldiers, who were dissolved in tears, he discharged their
arrears of pay, gave them their uniforms and accoutrements, and bid
them forever farewell. The fury of the populace, on perceiving within
their power the man whom the whole country considered as the perfidious
abettor, and traitorous adviser, of the new regulation, by which the
court of Versailles had given such a mortal blow to the liberties of
the country, greatly increased; and he was ordered to disclose before
the General Assembly the origin of that measure, and the means by which
it had been carried on, in order that they might learn their relative
situation with France, and ascertain the degree of punishment that
was due to the offender. Redin, conscious that, under the existing
circumstances, eloquence would make no impression on minds so prejudiced
against him, contented himself with coolly declaring, in a few words,
that the cause of framing a new regulation was publicly known, and that
he was as innocent upon the subject as he was ignorant of the cause of
his dismission. “The traitor then will not confess!” exclaimed one of the
most furious members: “Hang him on the next tree--cut him to pieces.”
These menaces were instantly repeated throughout the Assembly; and while
the injured soldier continued perfectly tranquil and undismayed, a party
of the people, more daring than the rest, jumped upon the tribune, where
he stood surrounded by the judges. A young man, his godson, was holding
a _parapluie_ over his head, to shelter him from the rain, which at
this moment poured down in incessant torrents, when one of the enraged
multitude immediately broke the _parapluie_ in pieces with his stick,
exclaiming, “Let the traitor be uncovered!” This exclamation conveyed
a correspondent indignation into the bosom of the youth, who instantly
replied, “My god-father a betrayer of his country! Oh! I was ignorant,
I assure you, of the crime alleged against him; but since it is so,
let him perish! Where is the rope? I will be first to put it round the
traitor’s neck!” The magistrates instantly formed a circle round the
general, and with uplifted hands exhorted him to avert the impending
danger, by confessing that he had not opposed the measures of France
with sufficient zeal, and to offer to the offended people his whole
fortune as an atonement for his neglect; representing to him that these
were the only means of redeeming his liberty, and perhaps his life.
The undaunted soldier, with perfect tranquillity and composure, walked
through the surrounding circle to the side of the tribune, and while the
whole Assembly anxiously expected to hear an ample confession of his
guilt, made a sign of silence with his hand: “Fellow-citizens,” said
he, “you are not ignorant that I have been two-and-forty years in the
French establishment. You know, and many among you, who were with me in
the service, can testify its truth, how often I have faced the enemy,
and the manner in which I conducted myself in battle. I considered every
engagement as the last day of my life. But here I protest to you, in the
presence of that Almighty Being who knows all our hearts, who listens
to all our words, and who will hereafter judge all our actions, that I
never appeared before an enemy with a mind more pure, a conscience more
tranquil, a heart more innocent, than at present I possess; and if it
is your pleasure to condemn me because I refuse to confess a treachery
of which I have not been guilty, I am now ready to resign my life into
your hands.” The dignified demeanor with which the general made this
declaration, and the air of truth which accompanied his words, calmed the
fury of the Assembly, and saved his life. Both he and his wife, however,
immediately quitted the canton; she entering into a convent at Uri, and
he retiring to a cavern among the rocks, where he lived two years in
solitude. Time, at length, subdued the anger of the people, and softened
the general’s sense of their injustice. He returned to the bosom of
his country, rewarded its ingratitude by the most signal services, and
made every individual recollect and acknowledge the integrity of their
magnanimous countryman. To recompense him for the injuries and injustice
he had suffered, they elected him bailli, or chief officer of the canton;
and afforded him an almost singular instance of their constancy and
affection, by successively conferring on him three times this high and
important dignity. This is the characteristic disposition of the Swiss
who inhabit the Alps; alternately violent and mild: and experiencing, as
the extremes of a delighted or vexed imagination happen to prevail, the
same vicissitudes as their climate. The rude scenes of greatness which
these stupendous mountains and vast deserts afford, render the Swiss
violent in sentiment, and rough in manners; while the tranquillity of
their fields, and the smiling beauties of their vallies, soften their
minds, and render their hearts kind and benevolent.

English artists confess that the aspect of nature in Swisserland is too
sublime and majestic for the pencil of art faithfully to reach; but how
exquisite must be the enjoyments they feel upon those romantic hills,
in those delightful vallies, upon the charming borders of those still
and transparent lakes, where nature unfolds her various charms, and
appears in the highest pomp and splendor; where the majestic oaks, the
deep embowering elms, and dark green firs, which cover and adorn these
immense forests, are pleasingly interspersed with myrtles, almond trees,
jasmines, pomegranates, and vines, which offer their humbler beauties to
the view, and variegate the scene! Nature is in no country of the globe
more rich and various than in Swisserland. It was the scenery around
Zurich, and the beauties of its adjoining lake, that first inspired the
Idylls of the immortal Gessner.

These sublime beauties, while they elevate and inflame the heart, give
greater action and life to the imagination than softer scenes; in like
manner as a fine night affords a more august and solemn spectacle than
the mildest day.

In coming from Frescati, by the borders of the small lake of Nemi, which
lies in a deep valley, so closely sheltered by mountains and forest,
that the winds are scarcely permitted to disturb its surface, it is
impossible not to exclaim with an English poet, that here--

    “Black melancholy sits, and round her throws
    A death-like silence, and a dread repose:
    Her gloomy presence saddens all the scene,
    Shades every flower, and darkens every green;
    Deepens the murmurs of the falling floods,
    And breathes a browner horror on the woods.”

But how the soul expands, and every thought becomes serene and free,
when, from the garden of the Capuchins, near Albano, the eye suddenly
discovers the little melancholy lake, with Frescati and all its rural
vallies on one side: on the other, the handsome city of Albano, the
village and castle of Riccia and Gensano, with their hills beautifully
adorned with clusters of the richest vines: below, the extensive plains
of Campania, in the middle of which Rome, formerly the mistress of the
world, raises its majestic head; and lastly, beyond all these objects,
the hills of Tivoli, the Appenines, and the Mediterranean sea!

How often, on the approach of spring, has the magnificent valley, where
the ruins of the residence of Rodolpho de Hapsburg rise upon the side
of a hill, crowned with woods of variegated verdure, afforded me the
purest and most ineffable delight! There the rapid Aar descends in
torrents from the lofty mountains; sometimes forming a vast basin in the
vale; at others, precipitating through the narrow passages across the
rocks, winding its course majestically through the middle of the vast
and fertile plains: on the other side the Ruffs, and, lower down, the
Limmat, bring their tributary streams, and peaceably unite them with
the waters of the Aar. In the middle of this rich and verdant scene, I
beheld the Royal Solitude, where the remains of the emperor Albert I.
repose in silence, with those of many princes of the house of Austria,
counts, knights, and gentlemen, killed in battle by the gallant Swiss. At
a distance I discovered the valley where lie the ruins of the celebrated
city of Vindonissa, upon which I have frequently sat, and reflected upon
the vanity of human greatness. Beyond this magnificent country, ancient
castles raise their lofty heads upon the hills! and the far distant
horizon is terminated by the sublime summits of the Alps. In the midst of
all this grand scenery, my eyes were instinctively cast down into the
deep valley immediately below me, and continually fixed upon the little
village where I first drew my breath. It is thus that the sublime or
beautiful operates differently on the heart! the one exciting fear and
terror, the other creating only soft and agreeable sensations; but both
tending to enlarge the sphere of the imagination, and enabling us more
completely to seek enjoyment within ourselves.

Pleasures of this description may, indeed be enjoyed, without visiting
the romantic solitudes of either Swisserland or Italy. There is no
person who may not, while he is quietly traversing the hills and dales,
learn to feel how much the aspect of nature may, by the assistance of
the imagination, affect the heart. A fine view, the freshness of the
air, an unclouded sky, and the joys of the chase, give sensations of
health, and make every step seem too short. The privation of all ideas
of dependance, accompanied by domestic comfort, useful employments, and
innocent recreations, produce a strength of thought, and fertility of
imagination, which present to the mind the most agreeable images, and
touch the heart with the most delightful sensations. It is certainly
true, that a person possessed of a fine imagination may be much happier
in prison, than he could possibly be without imagination amidst the
most magnificent scenery. But even to a mind deprived of this happy
faculty, the lowest enjoyments of rural life, even the common scenery of
harvest time, is capable of performing miracles on his heart. Alas! who
has not experienced, in the hours of langor and disgust, the powerful
effects which a contemplation of the pleasures that surround the poorest
peasant’s cot is capable of affording! How fondly the heart participates
in all his homely joys! With what freedom, cordiality, and kindness, we
take him by the hand, and listen to his innocent and artless tales!--How
suddenly do we feel an interest in all his little concerns; an interest
which, while it unveils, refines and meliorates the latent inclinations
of our hearts!

The tranquillity of retired life, and the view of rural scenes,
frequently produce a quietude of disposition, which, while it renders
the noisy pleasures of the world insipid, enables the heart to seek the
charms of solitude with increased delight.

The happy indolence peculiar to Italians, who, under the pleasures of
a clear, unclouded sky, are always poor but never miserable, greatly
augments the feelings of the heart: the mildness of the climate, the
fertility of their soil, their peaceful religion, and their contented
nature, compensate for every thing. Dr. Moore, an English traveller,
whose works afford me great delight, says, that “the Italians are the
greatest loungers in the world; and while walking in the fields, or
stretched in the shade, seem to enjoy the serenity and genial warmth
of their climate with a degree of luxurious indulgence peculiar to
themselves. Without ever running into the daring excesses of the English,
or displaying the frisky vivacity of the French, or the stubborn phlegm
of the Germans, the Italian populace discover a species of sedate
sensibility to every source of enjoyment, from which, perhaps, they
derive a greater degree of happiness than any of the others.”

Relieved from every afflicting and tormenting object, it is, perhaps,
impossible for the mind not to resign itself to agreeable chimeras
and romantic sentiments: but this situation notwithstanding these
disadvantages, has its fair side. Romantic speculations may lead the mind
into certain extravagancies and errors from whence base and contemptible
passions may be engendered; may habituate it to a light and frivolous
style of thinking; and, by preventing it from directing its faculties
to rational ends, may obscure the prospect of true happiness; for the
soul cannot easily quit the illusion on which it dwells with such fond
delight; the ordinary duties of life, with its more noble and substantial
pleasures, are perhaps thereby obstructed: but it is very certain that
romantic sentiments do not always render the mind that possesses them
unhappy. Who, alas! is so completely happy in reality as he frequently
has been in imagination!

Rousseau, who, in the early part of his life, was extremely fond of
romances, feeling his mind hurried away by the love of those imaginary
objects with which that species of composition abounds, and perceiving
the facility with which they may be enjoyed, withdrew his attention from
every thing about him, and by this circumstance laid the foundation of
that taste for solitude which he preserved to an advanced period of
his life; a taste in appearance dictated by depression and disgust,
and attributed by him to the irresistible impulse of an affectionate,
fond, and tender heart, which, not being able to find in the regions of
philosophy and truth sentiments sufficiently warm and animated, was
constrained to seek its enjoyments in the sphere of fiction.

But the imagination, may, in retirement, indulge its wanderings to a
certain degree without the risk of injuring either the sentiments of the
mind or the sensations of the heart. Oh! if the friends of my youth in
Swisserland knew how frequently, during the silence of the night, I pass
with them those hours which are allotted to sleep; if they were apprized
that neither time nor absence can efface the remembrance of their former
kindness from my mind, and that this pleasing recollection tends to
dissipate my grief, and to cast the veil of oblivion over my woes; they
would, perhaps, also rejoice to find that I still live among them in
imagination, though I may be dead to them in reality.

The solitary man, whose heart is warmed with refined and noble
sentiments, cannot be unhappy.--While the stupid and vulgar bewail his
fate, and conceive him to be the victim of corroding care and loathed
melancholy, he frequently tastes the most delightful pleasure. The French
entertained a notion that Rousseau was a man of a gloomy and dejected
disposition; but he was certainly not so for many years of his life,
particularly when he wrote to M. de Malesherbes, the chancellor’s son,
in the following terms: “I cannot express to you, Sir, how sensibly I am
affected by perceiving that you think me the most unhappy of mankind;
for as the public will, no doubt, entertain the same sentiment of me as
you do, it is to me a source of real affliction!--Oh! if my sentiments
were really known, every individual would endeavor to follow my example.
Peace would then reign throughout the world; men would no longer seek to
destroy each other; and wickedness, by removing the great incentives to
it, no longer exist. But it may be asked, how I could find employment
in solitude?--I answer, in my own mind; in the whole universe; in every
thing that dies, in every thing that can exist; in all that the eye finds
beautiful in the real, or the imagination in the intellectual world.
I assembled about me every thing that is flattering to the heart, and
regulated my pleasures by the moderation of my desires. No! The most
voluptuous have never experienced such refined delights; and I have
always enjoyed my chimeras much more than if they had been realized.”

This is certainly the language of enthusiasm; but, ye stupid vulgar!
who would not prefer the warm fancy of this amiable philosopher to your
cold and creeping understandings?--Who would not willingly renounce your
vague conversation, your deceitful felicities, your boasted urbanity,
your noisy assemblies, puerile pastimes, and inveterate prejudices, for a
quiet and contented life in the bosom of a happy family?--Who would not
rather seek in the silence of the woods, or upon the daisied borders of a
peaceful lake, those pure and simple pleasures of nature, so delicious in
recollection, and productive of joys so pure, so affecting, so different
from your own?

Eclogues, which are representatives of rural happiness in its highest
perfection, are also fictions; but they are fictions of the most pleasing
and agreeable kind. True felicity must be sought in retirement, where
the soul, disengaged from the torments of the world, no longer feels
those artificial desires which render it unhappy both in prospect and
fruition. Content with little, satisfied with all, surrounded by love
and innocence, we perceive in retirement, the golden age, as described
by the poets, revived; while in the world every one regrets its loss.
The regret however, is unjust; for those enjoyments were not peculiar to
that happy period; and each individual may, whenever he pleases, form his
own Arcadia. The beauties of a crystal spring, a silent grove, a daisied
meadow, chasten the feelings of the heart, and afford at all times, to
those who have a taste for nature, a permanent and pure delight.

“The origin of poetry,” says Pope, “is ascribed to that age which
succeeded the creation of the world: as the keeping of flocks seems to
have been the first employment of mankind, the most ancient sort of
poetry was pastoral. It is natural to imagine, that the leisure of these
ancient shepherds admitting and inviting some diversion, none was so
proper to that solitary and sedentary life as singing, and that in their
songs they took occasion to celebrate their own felicity. From hence a
poem was invented, and afterward improved to a perfect image of that
happy time, which, by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former
age, might recommend them to the present.”

These agreeable though fictitious descriptions of the age of innocence
and virtue, communicate joy and gladness to our hearts; and we bless
the poet, who, in the ecstacy of his felicity contributes to render
others as happy as himself. Sicily and Zurich have produced two of these
benefactors to mankind. The aspect of nature never appears more charming,
the bosom never heaves with such sweet delight, the heart never beats
more pleasantly, the soul never feels more perfect happiness than is
produced by reading the Idylls of Theocritus and Gessner.

By these easy simple modes the beauties of nature are made, by the
assistance of the imagination, to operate forcibly on the heart. The
mind, indeed, drawn away by these agreeable images, often resigns itself
too easily to the illusions of romance; but the ideas they create
generally amend the heart without injuring the understanding, and spread
some of the sweetest flowers along the most thorny paths of human life.

Leisure, the highest happiness upon earth, is seldom enjoyed with perfect
satisfaction, except in solitude. Indolence and indifference do not
always afford leisure: for true leisure is frequently found in that
interval of relaxation which divides a painful duty from the agreeable
occupations of literature and philosophy. P. Scipio was of this opinion
when he said, that _he was never less idle when he had most leisure_, and
that _he was never less alone than when he was alone_. Leisure is not
to be considered a state of intellectual torpidity, but a new incentive
to further activity; it is sought by strong and energetic minds, not
as _an end_, but as _a means_ of restoring lost activity; for whoever
seeks happiness in a situation merely quiescent, seeks for a phantom
that will elude his grasp. Leisure will never be found in mere rest; but
will follow those who seize the first impulse to activity; in which,
however, such employments as best suit the extent and nature of different
capacities, must be preferred to those which promise compensation without
labor, and enjoyment without pain.

Thus rural retirement dries up those streams of discontent which flow so
plentifully through public life; changes most frequently the bitterest
feeling into the sweetest pleasures; and inspires an ecstacy and content
unknown to the votaries of the world. The tranquillity of nature buries
in oblivion the criminal inclinations of the heart; renders it blithe,
tender, open, and confident; and, by wisely managing the passions, and
preventing an overheated imagination from fabricating fancied woes,
strengthens in it every virtuous sensation.

In towns, the solitude which is necessary to produce this advantage
cannot be conveniently practised. It seems indeed, no very difficult task
for a man to retire into his chamber, and by silent contemplation, to
raise his mind above the mean consideration of sensual objects; but few
men have sufficient resolution to perform it; for, within doors, matters
of business every moment occur, and interrupt the chain of reflection;
and without, whether alone or in company, a variety of accidents may
occasionally happen, which will confound our vain wisdom, aggravate the
painful feelings of the heart, and weaken the finer powers of the mind.

Rousseau was always miserable during his residence at Paris. This
extraordinary genius, it is true, wrote his immortal works in that
agitated metropolis; but the moment he quitted his study, and
wandered through the streets, his mind was bewildered by a variety of
heterogeneous sentiments, his recollection vanished; and this brilliant
writer and profound philosopher, who was so intimately acquainted with
the most intricate labyrinths of the human heart, was reduced to the
condition of a child. But in the country we issue from the house in
perfect safety, and feel increasing cheerfulness and satisfaction. Tired
with meditation, the rural recluse has only to open the doors of his
study, and enjoy his walk, while tranquillity attends his steps, and new
pleasures present themselves to his view on every turn. Beloved by all
around him, he extends his hand with cordial affection to every man he
meets. Nothing occurs to vex and irritate his mind. He runs no risk of
being tortured by the supercilious behavior of some haughty female proud
of her descent, or of enduring the arrogant egotism of an upstart peer:
is in no danger of being crushed beneath the rolling carriages of Indian
nabobs: nor dares frontless vice, on the authority of mouldy parchments,
attack his property, or presumptuous ignorance offer the least indignity
to his modest virtue.

A man, indeed, by avoiding the tumultuous intercourse of society, and
deriving his comforts from his own breast, may, even in Paris, or any
other metropolis, avoid these unpleasant apprehensions, if his nerves be
firm, and his constitution strong: for to a frame disjointed by nervous
affections every object is irritating, and every passion tremblingly
alive. The passions are the gales by which man must steer his course
through the troubled ocean of life; they fill the sails which give motion
to the soul; and when they become turbulent and impetuous, the vessel
is always in danger, and generally runs aground. The petty cares and
trifling vexations of life, however, give but shortlived disturbance
to a heart free from remorse. Philosophy teaches us to forget past
uneasiness, to forbear idle speculations of approaching felicity, and to
rest contented with present comforts, without refining away our existing
happiness by wishing that which is really good to be still better.
Every thing is much better than we imagine. A mind too anxious in the
expectation of happiness is seldom satisfied, and generally mixes with
its highest fruition a certain portion of discontent. The stream of
content must flow from a deliberate disposition in our minds to learn
what is good, and a determined resolution to seek for and enjoy it,
however small the portion may be.

The content, however, which men in general so confidently expect to find
in rural retirement, is not to be acquired by viewing objects either with
indiscriminate admiration or supine indifference. He who without labor,
and without a system of conduct previously digested and arranged, hopes
for happiness in solitude, will yawn with equal fatigue at his cottage
in the country and his mansion in town; while he who keeps himself
continually employed, may in the deepest solitude, by the mere dint of
labor, attain true tranquillity and happiness.

Petrarch, in his solitude at Vaucluse, would have experienced this
tranquillity, if his bosom had not been disturbed by love; for he
perfectly understood the art of managing his time. “I rise,” said he,
“before the sun, and on the approach of day wander contemplatively
along the fields, or retire to study. I read, I write, I think, I
vanquish indolence, banish sleep, avoid luxury, and forget sensuality.
From morning till night I climb the barren mountains, traverse the
humid vallies, seek the deepest caves, or walk, accompanied only by my
thoughts, along the banks of my river. I have no society to distract my
mind; and men daily become less annoying to me; for I place them either
far before or far behind me. I recollect what is past, and contemplate
on what is to come. I have found an excellent expedient to detach my mind
from the world. I cultivate a fondness for my place of residence, and I
am persuaded that I could be happy any where except at Avignon. In my
retreat at Vaucluse, where I am at present, I occasionally find Athens,
Rome, or Florence, as the one or the other of those places happens
to please the prevailing disposition of my mind. Here I enjoy all my
friends, as well as those who have long since entered the vale of death,
and of whom I have no knowledge, but what their works afford.”

What character, however luxurious, ever felt the same content at any
splendid entertainment, as Rousseau experienced in his humble meal! “I
return home,” says he, “with tired feet, but with a contented mind, and
experience the calmest repose in resigning myself to the impression of
objects, without exercising thought, indulging imagination, or doing any
thing to interrupt the peaceful felicity of my station. The table is
ready spread on my lawn, and furnished with refreshments. Surrounded by
my small and happy family, I eat my supper with healthy appetite, and
without any appearance of servitude or dependance to annoy the love and
kindness by which we are united. My faithful dog is not a subservient
slave, but a firm friend, from whom, as we always feel the same
inclination, I never exact obedience. The gaiety of the mind throughout
the evening testifies that I live alone throughout the day; for, being
seldom pleased with others, and never, when visiters have disturbed me,
with myself, I sit, during the whole evening of the day when company
has interrupted me, either grumbling or in silence: so at least my good
housekeeper has remarked; and since she mentioned it, I have from my
own observation found it universally true. Having thus made my humble
and cheerful meal, I take a few turns round my little garden, or play
some favorite air upon my spinette, and experience upon my pillow a soft
content, more sweet, if possible, than even undisturbed repose.”

At the village of Richterswyl, situated a few leagues from Zurich, and
surrounded by every object the most smiling, beautiful, and romantic
that Swisserland presents, dwells a celebrated physician. His soul, like
the scenery of nature which surrounds him, is tranquil and sublime.
His habitation is the temple of health, of friendship, and of every
peaceful virtue. The village rises on the borders of the lake, at a place
where two projecting points form a fine bay of nearly half a league. On
the opposite shores, the lake, which is not quite a league in extent,
is enclosed from the north to the east by pleasant hills covered with
vineyards, intermixed with fertile meadows, orchards, fields, groves, and
thickets, with little hamlets, churches, villas, and cottages scattered
up and down the scene. A wide and magnificent amphitheatre, which no
artist has yet attempted to paint, except in detached scenes, opens
itself from the east to the south. The view towards the higher part of
the lake, which on this side is four leagues long, presents to the eye
jutting points of land, detached aytes, the little town of Rapperschwyl,
built on the side of a hill, and a bridge which reaches from one side
of the lake to the other. Beyond the town the inexhaustible valley
extends itself in a half circle to the sight; and upon the foreground
rises a peak of land which swells as it extends into beautiful hills.
Behind them, at the distance of about half a league, is a range of
mountains covered with trees and verdure, and interspersed with villages
and detached houses; beyond which, at a still greater distance, are
discovered the fertile and majestic Alps, twisted one among the other,
and exhibiting, alternately, shades of the lightest and darkest azure:
and in the back ground high rocks, covered with eternal snows, lift
their towering heads, and touch the skies. On the south side of this
rich, enchanting, and incomparable scene, the amphitheatre is extended
by another range of mountains reaching toward the west; and at the
feet of these mountains, on the borders of the lake, lies the village
of Richterswyl, surrounded by rich fallows and fertile pastures, and
overhung by forests of firs. The streets of the village, which in itself
is extremely clean, are nearly paved; and the houses, which are mostly
built of stone, are painted on the outside. Pleasant walks are formed
along the banks of the lake, and lead quite round the town, through
groves of fruit-trees and shady forests, up to the very summit of the
hills. The traveller, struck with the sublime and beautiful scenery that
every where surrounds him, stops to contemplate with eager curiosity
the increasing beauties which ravish his sight; and while his bosom
swells with excess of pleasure, his suspended breath bespeaks his fear
of interrupting the fulness of his delight. Every acre of this charming
country is in the highest state of cultivation and improvement. Every
hand is at work; and men, women, and children, of every age and of every
description, are all usefully employed.

The two houses of the physician are each of them surrounded by a garden;
and although situated in the centre of the village, are as rurally
sequestered as if they had been built in the bosom of the country.
Through the gardens, and close beneath the chamber of my valued friend,
runs a pure and limpid stream, on the opposite of which, at an agreeable
distance, is the high road; where, almost daily, numbers of pilgrims
successively pass in their way to the hermitage. From the windows of
these houses, and from every part of the gardens, you behold, toward the
south, at the distance of about a league, the majestic Ezelberg rear its
lofty head, which is concealed in forests of deep green firs; while on
its declivity hangs a neat little village, with a handsome church, upon
the steeple of which the sun suspends his departing rays, and shows its
career is nearly finished. In the front is the lake of Zurich, whose
peaceful water is secured from the violence of tempests, and whose
transparent surface reflects the beauties of its delightful banks.

During the silence of the night, if you repair to the chamber windows
of this enchanting mansion, or walk through its gardens, to taste the
exhaling fragrance of the shrubs and flowers, while the moon, rising
in unclouded majesty over the summit of the mountains, reflects on the
smooth surface of the water a broad beam of light, you hear, during this
awful sleep of nature, the sound of the village clocks, echoing from the
opposite shores; and, on the Richterswyl side, the shrill proclamation
of the watchmen, blended occasionally with the barkings of the faithful
house-dog. At a distance you hear the boats gliding gently along the
stream, dividing the water with their oars, and perceive them, as they
cross the moon’s translucent beam, playing among the sparkling waves.

Riches and luxury are no where to be seen in the happy habitation of this
wise philanthropist. His chairs are made of straw; his tables are worked
from the wood of the country; and the plates and dishes on which he
entertains his friends are all of earthen-ware. Neatness and convenience
reign throughout. Drawings, paintings, and engravings, of which he has a
large well-chosen collection, are his sole expense. The earliest beams
of Aurora light the humble apartment where this philosophic sage sleeps
in undisturbed repose, and awake him to new enjoyments every day. As he
rises from his bed, the cooing of the turtle-doves, and the morning songs
of various kinds of birds, who make their nightly nests in an adjoining
aviary, salute his ears, and welcome his approach. The first hour of the
morning, and the last at night, are sacred to himself; but he devotes all
the intermediate hours of every day to a sick and afflicted multitude,
who daily attend him for advice and assistance. The benevolent exercise
of his professional skill, indeed, engrosses almost every moment of his
life, but it constitutes his highest happiness and joy. The inhabitants
of the mountains of Swisserland, and of the vallies of the Alps, flock to
his house, and endeavor in vain to find language capable of expressing
to him the grateful feelings of their hearts for the favors they receive
from him. Convinced of his affection, satisfied of his medical skill,
and believing that the good doctor is equally well acquainted with every
subject, they listen with the deepest attention to his words, answer
all his inquiries without the least hesitation or reserve, treasure up
his advice and counsel with more solicitude than if they were grains
of gold, and depart from his presence with more regret, comfort, hope,
resignation, and virtuous feelings, than if they had quitted their
confessor at the hermitage. It may perhaps be conceived, that after a day
spent in this manner, the happiness which this friend to mankind must
feel cannot in any degree be increased. But, when a simple, innocent,
and ingenuous country girl, whose mind has been almost distracted by the
fear of losing her beloved husband, enters his study, and seizing him
with transport by the hand, joyfully exclaims, “Oh! Sir, my dear husband,
ill as he was only two days since, is now quite recovered! Oh! my dear
Sir, how, how shall I thank you!” this philanthropic character feels that
transcending felicity, which ought to fill the bosom of a monarch in
rendering happiness to his people.

Of this description is the country of Swisserland, where doctor Hotze,
the ablest physician of the present age, resides; a physician and
philosopher, whose variety of knowledge, profound judgment, and great
experience, have raised him to an equal eminence with Trissot and
Hirtzel, the dearest friends of my heart. It is in this manner that he
passes the hours of his life, with uniformity and happiness. Surrounded,
except during the two hours I have already mentioned, by a crowd of
unfortunate fellow-creatures, who look up to him for relief, his mind,
active and full of vigor, never knows repose; but his labors are richly
rewarded by the high and refined felicity which fills his heart. Palaces,
alas! seldom contain such characters. Individuals, however, of every
description may cultivate and enjoy an equal degree of felicity, although
they do not reside among scenes so delightful as those which surround my
beloved Hotze at Richterswyl, as those of the convent of Capuchins near
Albano, or as those which surround the rural retreat of my sovereign
George III. at Windsor.

Content can only be found in the tranquillity of the heart; and in
solitude the bosom gladly opens to receive the wished-for inmate, and to
welcome its attendant virtues. While nature smiles around us, decorated
in all its beauties, the heart expands to the cheering scene; every
object appears in the most favorable and pleasing point of view; our
souls overflow with kind affections; the antipathies created by the
ingratitude of the world instantly vanish; we even forget the vain, the
wicked, the profligate characters with whom we were mixed; and being
perfectly at peace with ourselves, we feel ourselves at peace with all
mankind. But in society the rancorous contention which jarring interests
daily create, the heavy yoke which subordination is continually imposing,
“the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,” and the shocks which
reason and good sense hourly receive from fools in power, and insolent
superiors, spread torrents of misery over human life, embitter the
happiness of their more worthy though inferior fellow-creatures, poison
all pleasure, break through social order, spread thorns in the paths of
virtue, and render the world a vale of tears.

Blockheads in power are of all other characters, the most baneful and
injurious; they confound all just distinctions, mistake one quality
for another; degrade every person and thing to their own level; and
in short, change white into black, and black into white. To escape
from the persecution of such characters, men even of fine talents and
ingenious dispositions must act like the fox of Saadi, of the Persian
poet. A person one day observing a fox running with uncommon speed to
earth, called out to him, “Reynard, where are you running in so great a
hurry! Have you been doing any mischief, for which you are apprehensive
of punishment?”--“No, Sir,” replied the fox, “my conscience is perfectly
clear, and does not reproach me with any thing; but I have just overheard
the hunters wish that they had _a camel_ to hunt this morning.”--“Well,
but how does that concern you? you are not _a camel_.”--“Oh, my good
Sir,” replied the fox, “are you not aware that sagacious heads have
always enemies at their heels? and if any one should point me out to
those sportsmen, and cry, _there runs a camel_, they would immediately
seize me without examining whether I was really the kind of animal the
informer had described me to be.” Reynard was certainly right in his
conclusion; for men are in general wicked in proportion as they are
ignorant or envious, and the only means of eluding their mischievous
intentions is to keep out of their way.

The simplicity, regularity, and serenity which accompany retirement,
moderate the warmest tempers, guard the heart against the intrusion of
inordinate desires, and at length render it invulnerable to the shafts of
malice and detraction; while the self-examination it necessarily imposes,
teaches us, by exhibiting to our view our own defects, to do justice
to the superior merit of others. The delightful solitudes of Lausanne
exhibit every where captivating examples of domestic felicity. The
industrious citizen, after having faithfully performed his daily task, is
sure of experiencing, on his return at evening to his wife and children,
real comfort and unalloyed content. The voice of slander, the neglect
of ingratitude, the contempt of superiors, and all the mortifications
attendant upon worldly intercourse, are forgot the moment he beholds his
happy family ready with open arms to receive him, and to bestow upon
their friend and benefactor the fond caresses he so justly merits. With
what exquisite delight his beating bosom feels their rapturous affection.
If his mind has been vexed by the crosses of life, the ostentation of
courts, the insolence of riches, the arrogance of power, or his temper
irritated and soured by the base practices of fraud, falsehood, or
hypocrisy, he no sooner mixes with those whom he cherishes and supports,
than a genial warmth reanimates his dejected heart, the tenderest
sentiments inspire his soul, and the truth, the freedom, the probity,
and the innocence by which he is surrounded, tranquillize his mind, and
reconcile him to his humble lot. Oh! observe him, all ye who are placed
in more elevated stations, whether ye enjoy the confidence of statesmen,
are the beloved companions of the great, the admired favorites of the
fair, the envied leaders of the public taste, of high birth, or of ample
fortunes; for if your rich and splendid homes be the seats of jealousy
and discord, and the bosoms of your families strangers to that content
which the wise and virtuous feel within walls of clay, and under roofs of
humble thatch, you are, in comparison, poor indeed.

Characters enervated by prosperity feel the smallest inconvenience as
a serious calamity, and, unable to bear the touch of rude and violent
hands, require to be treated, like young and tender flowers, with
delicacy, and attention; while those who have been educated in the
rough school of adversity, walk over the thorns of life with a firm
and intrepid step, and kick them from the path with indifference and
contempt. Superior to the false opinions and prejudices of the world,
they bear with patient fortitude the blow of misfortune, disregard all
trifling injuries, and look down with proud contempt on the malice of
their enemies, and the infidelity of their friends.

The lofty zephyr, the transparent spring, the well-stored river,
the umbrageous forest, the cooling grotto, and the daisied field,
however, are not always necessary to enable us to despise or forget the
consequences of adversity. The man who firmly keeps his course, and has
courage to live according to his own taste and inclinations, cannot be
affected by the little crosses of life, or by the obloquy or injustice
of mankind. What we do voluntarily always affords us more pleasure than
that which we do by compulsion. The restraints of the world and the
obligations of society, disgust liberal minds, and deprive them, even in
the midst of all their splendor and fortune, of that content they seek so
anxiously to obtain.

Solitude, indeed, not only tranquillizes the heart, renders it kind and
virtuous, and raises it above the malevolence of envy, wickedness,
and conceited ignorance, but affords advantages still more valuable.
Liberty, true liberty, flies from the tumultuous crowd, and the forced
connexions of the world. It has been truly observed, that in solitude man
recovers from the distraction which had torn him from himself; feels a
clear conception of what he once was, and may yet become; explores the
nature, and discovers the extent, of his freeborn character: rejects
every thing artificial; is guided by his own sentiments; no longer dreads
a severe master or imperious tyrant; and neither suffers the constraints
of business or the blandishments of pleasure, to disturb his repose;
but, breaking boldly through the shackles of servile habit and arbitrary
custom, thinks for himself with confidence and courage, and improves the
sensibility of his heart by the sentiments of his mind.

Madame de Stael considered it a great error, to imagine that freedom and
liberty could be indulged at court, where the mind, even on the most
trifling occasions, is obliged to observe a multitude of ceremonies,
where it is impossible to speak one’s thoughts, where our sentiments must
be adapted to those around us, where every person assumes a control over
us, and where we never have the smallest enjoyment of ourselves. “To
enjoy ourselves,” says she, “we must seek solitude. It was in the Bastile
that I first became acquainted with myself.”

A courtier, fearful of every person around him, is continually upon the
watch, and tormented incessantly by suspicion; but while his heart is
thus a prey to corroding anxiety, he is obliged to appear contented and
serene, and, like the old lady, is always lighting one taper to Michael
the archangel, and another to the devil, because he does not know for
which of them he may have most occasion. A man of a liberal, enlightened
mind, is as little calculated to perform the office of master of the
ceremonies, or to conduct the etiquette of a court, as a woman is to be
_a religieuse_.

Liberty and leisure render a rational and active mind indifferent to
every other kind of happiness. It was the love of liberty and solitude
which rendered the riches and honors of the world so odious to Petrarch.
Solicited at an advanced period of his life, to act as secretary to
several popes, under the tempting offer of great emolument, he replied,
“Riches when acquired at the expense of liberty, become the source of
real misery. A yoke formed of gold and silver is not less galling and
restrictive than one made of wood or iron.” And he frankly told his
friends and patrons, that to him there was no quantity of wealth equal in
value to his ease and liberty: that, as he had despised riches at a time
when he was most in need of them, it would be shameful in him to seek
them now, when he could more conveniently live without them: that every
man ought to apportion the provision for his journey according to the
distance he had to travel; and that, having almost reached the end of his
course, he ought to think more of his _reception at the inn_, than of his
_expenses on the road_.

Petrarch, disgusted by the vicious manners which surrounded the papal
chair, retired into solitude when he was only three-and-twenty years of
age, and in possession of that exterior, both with respect to person
and dress, which forms so essential a part in the character of an
accomplished courtier. Nature had decorated him with every pleasing
attribute. His fine form struck observers so forcibly, that they stopped
as he passed along to admire and point out his symmetry. His eyes were
bright and full of fire; his lively countenance proclaimed the vivacity
of the mind; the freshest color glowed on his cheeks; his features were
uncommonly expressive; and his whole appearance was manly, elegant,
and noble. The natural disposition of his heart, increased by the warm
climate of Italy, the fire of youth, the seductive charms of the various
beauties who resorted to the papal court, from every nation of Europe,
and especially the prevailing dissipation of the age, attached him,
very early in life, to the society of women. The decoration of dress
deeply engaged his attention; and the least spot or improper fold on
his garments, which were always of the lightest color, seemed to give
him real uneasiness. Every form which appeared inelegant was carefully
avoided, even in the fashion of his shoes; which were so extremely tight,
and cramped him to such a degree, that he would soon have been deprived
of the use of his feet, if he had not wisely recollected, that it was
much better to displease the eyes of the ladies than to make himself a
cripple. To prevent the dress of his hair from being discomposed, he
protected it with anxiety from the rudeness of the winds as he passed
along the streets. Devoted, however, as he was to the service of the
sex, he maintained a rival fondness for literature, and an inviolable
attachment to moral sentiment; and while he celebrated the charms of
his fair favorites in choice Italian, he reserved his knowledge of the
learned languages for subjects more serious and important. Nor did
he permit the warmth of his constitution, or the sensibility of his
heart, great and exquisite as they were, to debauch his mind, or betray
him into the most trifling indiscretion, without feeling the keenest
compunction and repentance. “I wish,” said he, “that I had a heart as
hard as adamant, rather than be so continually tormented by such seducing
passions.” The heart of this amiable young man, was, indeed, continually
assailed by the crowd of beauties that adorned the papal court; and the
power of their charms, and the facility with which his situation enabled
them to enjoy his company, rendered him in some degree their captive;
but, alarmed by the approaching torments and disquietudes of love, he
cautiously avoided their pleasing snares, and continued, previous to the
sight of his beloved Laura, to roam “free and unconquered through the
wilds of love.”

The practice of the civil law was at this period the only road to
eminence at Avignon; but Petrarch detested the venality of the
profession; and though he practised at the bar, and gained many causes
by his eloquence, he afterwards reproached himself with it. “In my
youth,” says he, “I devoted myself to the trade of selling words, or
rather fabricating falsehoods; but that which we do against our own
inclinations, is seldom attended with success; my fondness was for
solitude, and therefore I attended the practice of the bar with aversion
and disgust.” The secret consciousness however, which he entertained
of his own merit, gave him all the confidence natural to youth; and,
filling his mind with that lofty spirit which begets the presumption
of being equal to the highest achievements, he relinquished the _bar_
for the _church_; but his inveterate hatred of the manners of the
Episcopal court prevented his exertions, and retarded his promotion. “I
have no hope,” said he, in the thirty-fifth year of his age, “of making
my fortune in the court of the vicar of Jesus Christ; to accomplish
that, I must assiduously attend the palaces of the great, and practise
flattery, falsehood, and deceit.” A task of this kind was too painful
to his feelings to perform; not because he either hated the society of
men, or disliked advancement, but because he detested the means he must
necessarily have used to gratify his ambition. Glory was his warmest
wish, and he ardently endeavored to obtain it; not, indeed, by the ways
in which it is usually obtained, but by delighting to walk in the most
unfrequented paths, and of course, by retiring from the world. The
sacrifices he made to solitude were great and important; but his mind and
his heart were formed to enjoy the advantages it affords with a superior
degree of delight; a happiness which resulted to him from his hatred of a
profligate court, and from his love of liberty.

The love of liberty was the secret cause which gave the mind of Rousseau
so inveterate a disgust to society, and became in solitude the spring
of all his pleasures. His Letters to Malesherbes are as remarkable for
the discovery they make of his real disposition, as his Confessions,
which have been as much misunderstood as his character. “I mistook
for a great length of time,” says he, in one of these letters, “the
cause of that invincible disgust which I always felt in my intercourse
with the world. I attributed it to the mortification of not possessing
that quick and ready talent necessary to display in conversation the
little knowledge I possessed; and this reflected an idea, that I did
not hold that reputation in the opinion of mankind which I conceived
I merited. But although, after scribbling many ridiculous things, and
perceiving myself sought after by all the world, and honored with much
more consideration than even my own ridiculous vanity would have led me
to expect, I found that I was in no danger of being taken for a fool;
yet, still feeling the same disgust rather augmented than diminished, I
concluded that it must arise from some other cause, and that these were
not the kind of enjoyments which I must look for. What then, in fact,
was the cause of it? It was no other than that invincible spirit of
liberty which nothing can overcome, and in competition with which, honor,
fortune, and even fame itself, are to me as nothing. It is certain that
this spirit of liberty is engendered less by pride than by indolence; but
this indolence is incredible; it is alarmed at every thing; it renders
the most trifling duties of civil life insupportable. To be obliged to
speak a word, to write a letter, or to pay a visit, are to me, from
the moment the obligation arises, the severest punishments. This is the
reason why, although the ordinary commerce of men is odious to me, the
pleasures of private friendship are so dear to my heart; for in the
indulgence of private friendships there are no duties to perform; we have
only to follow the feelings of the heart, and all is done. This is the
reason also why I have so much dreaded to accept of favors; for every
act of kindness demands an acknowledgment, and I feel that my heart is
ungrateful only because gratitude becomes a duty. The kind of happiness,
in short, which pleases me best, does not consist so much in doing what
I wish, as in avoiding that which is disagreeable to me. Active life
affords no temptations to me. I would much rather do nothing at all than
that which I dislike; and I have frequently thought that I should not
have lived very unhappily even in the Bastile, provided I was free from
any other constraint than that of merely residing within the walls.”

An English author asks, “Why are the inhabitants of the rich plains of
Lombardy, where nature pours her gifts in such profusion, less opulent
than those of the mountains of Swisserland?--Because freedom, whose
influence is more benign than sunshine and zephyrs; who covers the rugged
rock with soil, drains the sickly swamp, and clothes the brown heath
in verdure; who dresses the laborer’s face with smiles, and makes him
behold his increasing family with delight and exultation--Freedom has
abandoned the fertile fields of Lombardy, and dwells among the mountains
of Swisserland.” This observation, though dressed in such enthusiastic
expressions, is literally true at Uri, Schwitz, Underwalde, Zug, Glaris,
and Appenzel; for those who have more than their wants require are
_rich_; and those who are enabled to think, to speak, and to act as
inclination may dictate, are _free_.

Competency and liberty, therefore, are the true sweeteners of life. That
state of mind, so rarely possessed, in which a man can sincerely say, _I
have enough_, is the highest attainment of philosophy. Happiness does
not consist in having much, but in having sufficient. This is the reason
why kings and princes are seldom happy; for they always desire more than
they possess, and are urged incessantly to attempt more than it is in
their power to achieve. He who wants little has always enough. “I am
contented,” says Petrarch, in a letter to his friends, the cardinals
Talleyrand and Bologna: “I desire nothing more; I enjoy every thing that
is necessary to life. Cincinnatus, Curtius, Fabricius, and Regulus, after
having conquered nations, and led kings in triumph, were not so rich as I
am. But I should always be poor if I were to open a door to my passions.
Luxury, ambition, avarice know no bounds, and desire is an unfathomable
abyss. I have clothes to cover me; victuals to support me; horses to
carry me; lands to lie down or walk upon while I live, and to receive my
remains when I die. What more was any Roman emperor possessed of?--My
body is healthy; and being engaged in toil, is less rebellious against my
mind. I have books of every kind, which are to me inestimable treasures;
they fill my soul with a voluptuous delight, untinctured with remorse.
I have friends whom I consider more precious than any thing I possess,
provided their counsels do not tend to abridge my liberty: and I know of
no other enemies than those which envy has raised against me.”

Solitude not only restrains inordinate desires, but discovers to mankind
their real wants; and where a simplicity of manners prevails, the real
wants of men are not only few, but easily satisfied; for being ignorant
of those desires which luxury creates, they can have no idea of indulging
them. An old country curate, who had all his life resided upon a lofty
mountain near the lake of Thun, in the canton of Berne, was one day
presented with a moor-cock. The good old man, ignorant that such a bird
existed, consulted with his cook-maid in what manner this rarity was to
be disposed of, and they both agreed to bury it in the garden. If we were
all, alas! as ignorant of the delicious flavor of moor-cocks, we might be
all as happy and contented as the simple pastor of the mountain near the
lake of Thun.

The man who confines his desires to his real wants, is more wise, more
rich, and more contented, than any other mortal existing. The system
upon which he acts is, like his soul, replete with simplicity and true
greatness; and seeking his felicity in innocent obscurity and peaceful
retirement, he devotes his mind to the love of truth, and finds his
highest happiness in a contented heart.

A calm and tranquil life renders the indulgence of sensual pleasures
less dangerous. The theatre of sensuality exhibits scenes of waste and
brutality, of noisy mirth and tumultuous riot; presents to observation
pernicious goblets, overloaded tables, lascivious dancing, receptacles
for disease, tombs with faded roses, and all the dismal haunts of pain.
But to him who retires in detestation from such gross delights, the joys
of sense are of a more elevated kind; soft, sublime, pure, permanent, and

Petrarch one day inviting his friend, the cardinal Colonna, to visit his
retirement at Vaucluse, wrote to him, “If you prefer the tranquillity
of the country to the noise of the town, come here and enjoy yourself.
Do not be alarmed by the simplicity of my table, or the hardness of my
beds. Kings themselves are frequently disgusted by the luxury in which
they live, and sigh for comforts of a more homely kind. Change of scene
is always pleasing; and pleasures, by occasional interruption, frequently
become more lively. If, however, you should not accord with these
sentiments you may bring with you the most exquisite viands, the wines of
Vesuvius, silver dishes, and every thing else that the indulgence of your
senses requires. Leave the rest to me. I promise to provide you with a
bed of the finest turf, a cooling shade, the music of the nightingales,
figs, raisins, water drawn from the freshest springs; and, in short,
every thing that the hand of Nature prepares for the lap of genuine

Ah! who would not willingly renounce those things which only produce
disquietude in the mind, for those which render it contented! The art of
occasionally diverting the imagination, taste, and passions, affords new
and unknown enjoyments to the mind and confers pleasure without pain,
and luxury without repentance. The senses deadened by satiety, revive
to new enjoyments. The lively twitter of the groves, and the murmur of
the brooks, yield a more delicious pleasure to the ear than the music of
the opera, or the compositions of the ablest masters. The eye reposes
more agreeably on the concave firmament, on an expanse of waters, on
mountains covered with rocks, than it does on all the glare of balls and
assemblies. In short, the mind enjoys in solitude objects which were
before insupportable, and reclining on the bosom of simplicity, easily
renounces every vain delight. Petrarch wrote from Vaucluse to one of
his friends, “I have made war against my corporeal powers, for I find
they are my enemies. My eyes, which have rendered me guilty of so many
follies, are now confined to the view of a single woman, old, black, and
sunburnt. If Helen, or Lucretia had possessed such a face, Troy would
never have been reduced to ashes, nor Tarquin driven from the empire of
the world. But, to compensate these defects, she is faithful, submissive,
and industrious. She passes whole days in the fields, her shrivelled
skin defying the hottest rays of the sun. My wardrobe still contains
fine clothes, but I never wear them; and you would take me for a common
laborer or a simple shepherd; I, who formerly was so anxious about my
dress. But the reasons which then prevailed, no longer exist: the fetters
by which I was enslaved are broken: the eyes which I was anxious to
please are shut; and if they were still open, they would not perhaps, now
be able to maintain the same empire over my heart.”

Solitude, by stripping worldly objects of the false splendor in which
fancy arrays them, dispels all vain ambition from the mind. Accustomed to
rural delights and indifferent to every other kind of pleasure, a wise
man no longer thinks high offices and worldly advancement worthy of his
desires. A noble Roman was overwhelmed with tears on being obliged to
accept of the consulship, because it would deprive him for one year of
the opportunity of cultivating his fields. Cincinnatus, who was called
from the plough to the supreme command of the Roman legions, defeated the
enemies of his country, added to it new provinces, made his triumphal
entry into Rome, and at the expiration of sixteen days returned to his
plough. It is true, that the inmate of an humble cottage, who is forced
to earn his daily bread by labor, and the owner of a spacious mansion,
for whom every luxury is provided, are not held in equal estimation by
mankind. But let the man who has experienced both these situations,
be asked under which of them he felt the most content. The cares and
inquietudes of the palace are innumerably greater than those of the
cottage. In the former, discontent poisons every enjoyment; and its
superfluity is only misery in disguise. The princes of Germany do not
digest all the palatable poison which their cooks prepare, so well as a
peasant upon the heaths of Limbourg digests his buck-wheat pie. And those
who may differ from me in this opinion, will be forced to acknowledge,
that there is great truth in the reply which a pretty French country
girl, made to a young nobleman, who solicited her to abandon her rustic
taste, and retire with him to Paris: “Ah! my lord, the further we remove
from ourselves, the greater is our distance from happiness.”

Solitude, by moderating the selfish desires of the heart, and expelling
ambition from the breast, becomes a real asylum to the disappointed
statesman or discarded minister; for it is not every public minister who
can retire, like Neckar, through the portals of everlasting fame. Every
person, indeed, without distinction, ought to raise his grateful hands to
heaven, on being dismissed from the troubles of public life, to the calm
repose which the cultivation of his native fields, and the care of his
flocks and herds, afford. In France, however, when a minister, who has
incurred the displeasure of his sovereign, is ordered to _retire_, and
thereby enabled to visit an estate which he has decorated in the highest
style of rural elegance, this delightful retreat, alas! being considered
a place of exile, becomes intolerable to his mind: he no longer
fancies himself its master; is incapable of relishing its enchanting
beauties; repose flies from his pillow; and turning with aversion from
every object, he dies at length, the victim of spleen, petulance, and
dejection. But in England it is just the reverse. There a minister is
congratulated on retiring, like a man who has happily escaped from a
dangerous malady. He feels himself still surrounded by many friends much
more worthy than his adherents while in power; for while those were
bound to him by temporary considerations of interest, these are attached
to him by real and permanent esteem. Thanks, generous Britons! for the
examples you have given to us of men sufficiently bold and independent
to weigh events in the scales of reason, and to guide themselves by the
intrinsic and real merits of each case: for notwithstanding the freedom
with which many Englishmen have arraigned the dispensations of the
Supreme Being; notwithstanding the mockery and ridicule with which they
have so frequently insulted virtue, good manners, and decorum; there are
many more among them, who, especially at an advanced period of their
lives, perfectly understand the art of living by themselves; and in their
tranquil and delightful villas think with more dignity, and live with
more real happiness, than the haughtiest noble in the zenith of his power.

Of the ministers who retire from the administration of public affairs,
the majority finish their days in cultivating their gardens, in improving
their estates, and, like the excellent de la Roche, at Spire, certainly
possess more content with the shovel and the rake, than they enjoyed in
the most prosperous hours in their administration.

It has, indeed, been said, that observations like these are common to
persons who, ignorant of the manners of the world, and the characters of
men, love to moralize on, and recommend a contempt of, human greatness;
but that rural innocence, the pure and simple pleasures of nature, and
an uninterrupted repose, are very seldom the companions of this boasted
solitude. Those who maintain this opinion, assert, that man, though
surrounded with difficulties, and obliged to employ every art and cunning
to attain his ends, feels with his success the pleasing power which
attaches to the character of master, and fondly indulges in the exercise
of sovereignty. Enabled to create and to destroy, to plant and to root
up, to make alterations when and where he pleases, he may grub up a
vineyard, and plant an English grove on its site; erect hills where hills
never were seen; level eminences to the ground; compel the stream to flow
as his inclination shall direct; force woods and shrubberies to grow
where he pleases; graft or lop as it shall strike his fancy; open views
and shut out boundaries; construct ruins where buildings never existed;
erect temples of which he alone is the high priest; and build hermitages
in which he may seclude himself at pleasure. It is said, however, that
this is not a reward for the restraints he formerly experienced, but a
natural inclination; for that a minister must be, from the habits of his
life, fond of command and sovereignty, whether he continues at the head
of an extensive empire, or directs the management of a poultry yard.

It would most undoubtedly discover a great ignorance of the world, and
of the nature of man, to contend that it is necessary to renounce all
the inclinations of the human heart, in order to enjoy the advantages of
solitude. That which nature has implanted in the human breast must there
remain. If, therefore a minister, in his retirement, is not satiated
with the exercise of power and authority, but still fondly wishes for
command, let him require obedience from his chickens, provided such a
gratification is essential to his happiness and tends to suppress the
desire of again exposing himself to those tempests and shipwrecks which
he can only avoid in the safe harbor of rural life. An ex-minister must
sooner or later, learn to despise the appearances of human greatness,
when he discovers that true greatness frequently begins at that period of
life which statesmen are apt to consider a dreary void; that the regret
of being no longer able to do more good, is only ambition in disguise;
and that the inhabitants of the country, in cultivating their cabbages
and potatoes, are a hundred times happier than the greatest minister.

Nothing contributes more to the advancement of earthly felicity, than a
reliance on those maxims which teach us to _do as much good as possible_,
and _to take things just as we find them_; for it is certainly true
that no characters are so unhappy as those who are continually finding
fault with every thing they see. My barber at Hanover, while he was
preparing to shave me, exclaimed, with a deep sigh, “_It is terribly hot
to day_,” “You place heaven,” said I to him, “in great difficulties.
For these nine months last past, you have regularly told me every other
day, _It is terribly cold to day_.” Cannot the Almighty, then any longer
govern the universe, without these gentlemen barbers finding something
to be discontented with? “Is it not,” I asked him, “much better to take
the seasons as they change, and to receive with equal gratitude, from
the hand of God, the winter’s cold, and the summer’s warmth?” “Oh!
certainly,” replied the barber.

Competency, and content, therefore, may in general, be considered as the
basis of earthly happiness; and solitude, in many instances, favors both
the one and the other.

Solitude not only refines the enjoyments of friendship, but enables us to
acquire friends from whom nothing can alienate our souls, and to whose
arms we never fly in vain.

The friends of Petrarch sometimes apologized to him for their long
absence. “It is impossible for us,” said they, “to follow your example;
the life you lead at Vaucluse is contrary to human nature. In winter
you sit like an owl in the chimney corner. In summer you are running
incessantly about the fields.” Petrarch smiled at these observations.
“These people,” said he, “consider the pleasures of the world as the
supreme good; and cannot bear the idea of renouncing them. I have friends
whose society is extremely agreeable to me: they are of all ages, and of
every country. They have distinguished themselves both in the cabinet
and in the field, and obtained high honors for their knowledge of the
sciences. It is easy to gain access to them, for they are always at
my service; and I admit them to my company, and dismiss them from it
whenever I please. They are never troublesome, but immediately answer
every question I ask them. Some relate to me the events of past ages,
while others reveal to me the secrets of nature. Some teach me how to
live, and others how to die. Some, by their vivacity, drive away my
cares, and exhilarate my spirits; while others give fortitude to my
mind, and teach me the important lesson how to restrain my desires, and
to depend on myself. They open to me, in short, the various avenues of
all the arts and sciences; and upon their information I safely rely in
all emergencies. In return for all these services, they only ask me to
accommodate them with a convenient chamber in some corner of my humble
habitation, where they may repose in peace: for these friends are more
delighted with the tranquillity of retirement, than with the tumults of

Love! the most precious gift of heaven,

    “The cordial drop Heav’n in our cup has thrown,
    To make the bitter load of life go down,”

appears to merit a distinguished rank among the advantages of solitude.

Love voluntarily unites itself with the aspect of beautiful nature. The
view of a pleasing landscape makes the heart beat with the tenderest
emotions. The lonely mountain and the silent grove increase the
susceptibility of the female bosom, inspire the mind with rapturous
enthusiasm, and, sooner or later, draw aside and subjugate the heart.

Women feel the pure and tranquil pleasures of rural life with a higher
sensibility than men. They enjoy more exquisitely the beauties of a
lonely walk, the freshness of a shady forest, and admire with higher
ecstacy the charms of nature. Solitude is to them the school of true
philosophy. In England, at least, where the face of the country is so
beautiful, and where the taste of its inhabitants is hourly adding to it
new embellishments, the love of rural solitude is certainly stronger in
the women than the men. A nobleman who employs the day in riding over
his estates or in following the hounds, does not enjoy the pleasures
of rural life with the same delight as his lady, who devotes her time,
in her romantic pleasure grounds, to needle work, or to the reading of
some instructive, interesting work. In this happy country, indeed, where
the people, in general, love the enjoyments of the mind, the calm of
rural retirement is doubly valuable, and its delights more exquisite.
The learning which has of late years so considerably increased among
the ladies of Germany, is certainly to be attributed to their love of
retirement: for, among those who pass their time in the country, we find
much more true wit and rational sentiment, than among the _beaux esprits_
of the metropolis.

Minds, indeed, apparently insensible in the atmosphere of a metropolis,
unfold themselves with rapture in the country. This is the reason why
the return of spring fills every tender breast with love. “What can more
resemble love,” says a celebrated German philosopher, “than the feeling
with which my soul is inspired at the sight of this magnificent valley,
thus illuminated by the setting sun!” Rousseau felt an inexpressible
delight on viewing the first appearances of spring: the earliest blossoms
of that charming season gave new life and vigor to his mind; the
tenderest dispositions of his heart were awakened and augmented by the
soft verdure it presented to his eyes; and the charms of his mistress
were assimilated with the beauties that surrounded him on every side. The
view of an extensive and pleasing prospect softened his sorrows; and he
breathed his sighs with exquisite delight amidst the rising flowers of
his garden, and the rich fruits of his orchard.

Lovers constantly seek the rural grove to indulge, in the tranquillity
of retirement, the uninterrupted contemplation of the beloved object
which forms the sole happiness of their lives. Of what importance to them
are all the transactions of the world, or, indeed, any thing that does
not tend to indulge the passion that fills their hearts? Silent groves,
embowering glades, or the lonely borders of murmuring streams, where they
may freely resign themselves to their fond reflections, are the only
confidants of their souls. A lovely shepherdess, offering her fostering
bosom to the infant she is nursing, while at her side her well-beloved
partner sits dividing with her his morsel of hard black bread, is an
hundred times more happy than all the fops of the town: for love inspires
his mind, in the highest degree, with all that is elevated, delightful
and affecting in nature; and warms the coldest bosoms with the greatest
sensibility and the highest rapture.

Love’s softest images spring up anew in solitude. The remembrance of
these emotions which the first blush of conscious tenderness, the first
gentle pressure of the hand, the first dread of interruption, create,
recurs incessantly! Time, it is said, extinguishes the flame of love;
but solitude renews the fire, and calls forth those agents which lie
long concealed, and only wait a favorable moment to display their
powers. The whole course of youthful feeling again beams forth; and the
mind--delicious recollection!--fondly retracing the first affection
of the heart, fills the bosom with an indelible sense of those high
ecstacies which a connoisseur has said, with as much truth as energy,
proclaim, for the first time, that happy discovery, that fortunate
moment, when two lovers first perceive their mutual fondness.

Herder mentions a certain cast of people in Asia, whose mythology thus
divided the felicities of eternity. “That men, after death, were, in the
celestial regions, immediately the objects of female love during the
course of a thousand years; first by tender looks, then by a balmy kiss,
and afterwards, by immediate alliance.”

It was this noble and sublime species of affection that Wieland, in the
warmest moments of impassioned youth felt for an amiable, sensible, and
beautiful lady of Zurich; for that extraordinary genius was perfectly
satisfied, that the metaphysical effects of love, begin with the first
sigh, and expire, to a certain degree, with the first kiss. I one day
asked this young lady when it was that Wieland had saluted her for the
first time? “Wieland,” replied the amiable girl, “did not kiss my hand
for the first time until four years after our acquaintance commenced.”

Young persons, in general, however, do not, like Wieland, adopt the
mystic refinements of love. Yielding to the sentiments which the passion
inspires, and less acquainted with its metaphysical nature, they feel
at an earlier age, in the tranquillity of solitude, that irresistible
impulse to the union of the sexes which the God of nature has so strongly
implanted in the human breast.

A lady who resided in great retirement, at a romantic cottage upon the
banks of the lake of Geneva, had three innocent and lovely daughters.
The eldest was about fourteen years of age, the youngest was about nine,
when they were presented with a tame bird, which hopped and flew about
the chamber the whole day, and formed the sole amusement and pleasure
of their lives. Placing themselves on their knees, they offered, with
unwearied delight, their little favorite, pieces of biscuit from their
fingers, and endeavored, by every means, to induce him to fly to, and
nestle in, their bosoms; but the bird, the moment he had got the biscuit,
with cunning coyness eluded their hopes, and hopped away. The little
favorite at length died. A year after this event, the youngest of the
three sisters said to her mother, “Oh, I remember that dear little bird!
I wish, mamma, you could procure me such a one to play with.” “Oh! no,”
replied her elder sister, “I should like to have a little dog to play
with better than any thing. I could catch a little dog, take him on my
knee, hug him in my arms. A bird affords me no pleasure; he perches a
little while on my finger, then flies away, and there is no catching him
again: but a little dog, oh! what pleasure.…”

I shall never forget the poor _religieuse_ in whose apartment I found
a breeding cage of canary birds, nor forgive myself for having burst
into a fit of laughter at the discovery. It was, alas! the suggestion of
nature; and who can resist what nature suggests? This mystic wandering of
religious minds, this celestial epilepsy of love, this premature effect
of solitude, is only the fond application of natural inclination raised
superior to all others.

Absence and tranquillity appear so favorable to the indulgence of this
pleasing passion, that lovers frequently quit the beloved object, to
reflect in solitude on her charms. Who does not recollect to have read,
in the Confessions of Rousseau, the story related by Madame de Luxemberg,
of a lover who quitted the presence of his mistress, only that he might
have the pleasure of writing to her. Rousseau replied to Madame de
Luxemberg, that he wished he had been that man; and his wish was founded
on a perfect knowledge of the passion: for who has ever been in love,
and does not know that there are moments when the pen is capable of
expressing the fine feelings of the heart with much greater effect than
the voice, with its miserable organ of speech? The tongue, even in its
happiest elocution, is never so persuasive as the speaking eyes, when
lovers gaze with silent ecstacy on each other’s charms.

Lovers not only express, but feel their passion with higher ecstacy and
happiness in solitude than in any other situation. What fashionable
lover ever painted his passion for a lovely mistress with such laconic
tenderness and effect, as the village chorister of Hanover did on the
death of a young and beautiful country girl with whom he was enamored,
when, after erecting in the cemetery of the cathedral, a sepulchral stone
to her memory, he carved, in an artless manner, the figure of a blooming
rose on its front, and inscribed beneath it these words: _C’est ainsi
qu’elle fut_.

It was at the feet of those rocks which overhung the celebrated retreat
at Vaucluse, that Petrarch composed his finest sonnets to deplore the
absence, or to complain of the cruelty of his beloved Laura. The Italians
are of opinion, that when love inspired his muse, his poetry soared far
beyond that of any poet who ever wrote before or since his time, either
in the Greek, the Latin, or the Tuscan languages. “Ah! how soft and
tender is this language of the heart!” they exclaim. “Petrarch alone was
acquainted with its power: he has added to the three graces a fourth--the
grace of delicacy.”

Love, however, when indulged in rural solitude or amidst the romantic
scenery of an ancient castle, and, assisted by the ardent imagination of
impetuous youth, frequently assumes a more bold and violent character.
Religious enthusiasm, blended with a saturnine disposition, forms, in
effervescent minds, a sublime and extraordinary compound of the feelings
of the heart. A youthful lover of this description, when deprived of the
smiles of his mistress, takes his first declaration of love from the text
of the apocalypse and thinks his passion an eternal melancholy; but when
he is inclined to sharpen the dart within his breast, his inspired mind
views in the beloved object the fairest model of divine perfection.

The lovers of this romantic cast, placed in some ancient solitary
castle, soar far beyond the common tribe, and, as their ideas refine,
their passions become proportionably sublime. Surrounded by stupendous
rocks, and impressed by the awful stilness of the scene, the beloved
youth is considered not merely as an amiable and virtuous man, but as a
god. The inspired mind of the fond female fancies her bosom to be the
sanctuary of love, and conceives her affection for the youthful idol of
her heart to be an emanation from heaven: a ray of the Divine Presence.
Ordinary lovers, without doubt, in spite of absence, unite their souls,
write by every post, seize all occasions to converse with, or hear from,
each other; but our more sublime and exalted female introduces into her
romance of passion every butterfly she meets with, and all the feathered
songsters of the groves; and, except in the object of her love, no longer
sees any thing as it really is. Reason and sense no longer guide: the
refinements of love direct all her movements; she tears the world from
its poles, and the sun from its axis; and to prove that all she does is
right, establishes for herself and her lover a new gospel, and a new
system of morality.

A lover, separated, perhaps, forever, from a mistress who has made the
most important sacrifices to his happiness; who was his only consolation
in affliction, his only comfort in calamity; whose kindness supported
his sinking fortitude; who remained his faithful and his only friend
in dire adversity and domestic sorrow; seeks, as his sole resource, a
slothful solitude. Nights passed in sleepless agonies; a distaste of
life, a desire of death, an abhorrence of all society, and a love of
dreary seclusion, drive him, day, after day, wandering, as chance may
direct, though the most solitary retirements far from the hated traces
of mankind. Were he, however, to wander from the Elbe to the lake of
Geneva; were he to seek relief in the frozen confines of the north, or
the burning regions of the west, to the utmost extremities of the earth
or seas, he would still be like the hind described by Virgil:

    “Stung with the stroke and madding with the pain
    She wildly flies from wood to wood in vain;
    Shoots o’er the Cretan lawn with many a bound,
    The cleaving dart still rankling in the wound.”

Petrarch, on returning to Vaucluse, felt with new and increasing stings
the passion which perturbed his breast. Immediately on his arrival at
this sequestered spot, the image of his beloved Laura incessantly haunted
his imagination. He beheld her at all times, in every place, and under a
thousand different forms. “Three times in the middle of the night when
every door was closed, she appeared to me,” says he, “at the feet of my
bed, with a steadfast look, as if confident of the power of her charms.
Fear spread a chilling dew over all my limbs. My blood thrilled through
my veins towards my heart. If any one had then entered my apartment with
a candle, they would have beheld me as pale as death, with every mark of
terror on my face. Rising before the break of day, with trembling limbs,
from my disordered bed, and hastily leaving my house, where every thing
created alarm, I climbed to the summit of the rocks, and ran wildly
through the woods, casting my eyes incessantly on every side, to see if
the form which had haunted my repose, still pursued me. Alas! I could
find no asylum. Places the most sequestered, where I fondly flattered
myself that I should be alone, presented her continually to my mind; and
I beheld her sometimes issuing from the hollow trunk of a tree, from the
concealed source of a spring, or from the dark cavity of a broken rock.
Fear rendered me insensible, and I neither know what I did, or where I

The heart of Petrarch was frequently stimulated by ideas of voluptuous
pleasure, even among the rocks of Vaucluse, where he sought an asylum
from love and Laura. He soon, however, banished sensuality from his mind,
and, by refining his passion, acquired that vivacity and heavenly purity
which breathes in every line of those immortal lyrics he composed among
the rocks. But the city of Avignon, in which the object thus tenderly
beloved resided, was not sufficiently distant from the place of his
retreat, and he visited it too frequently. A passion indeed, like that
which Petrarch felt, leaves the bosom, even when uncorrupted, totally
incapable of tranquillity. It is a violent fever of the soul, which
inflicts upon the body a complication of painful disorders. Let lovers,
therefore, while they possess some control over the passion which fills
their breasts, seat themselves on the borders of a river, and reflect
that love, like the stream, sometimes precipitates itself with violence
down the rocks; and sometimes flowing with soft tranquillity along the
plain, meanders through meadows, and loses itself beneath the peaceful
shades of solitary bowers.

The tranquillity of solitude, however, may, to a mind disposed to
resign itself with humility to all the dispensations of heaven, be
found not disadvantageous to the perturbations of love. A lover whom
death has bereaved of the dear object of his affection, seeks only
those places which his favorite inhabited; considers every other as
desert and forlorn; and expects that death alone is able to stop the
torrent of his tears. Such an indulgence of sorrow, however, cannot be
called a resignation to the will of God. A lover of this description is
attached solely to the irrecoverable object of his increasing sorrows.
His distracted mind fondly hopes that she may still return; he thinks
he hears her soft enchanting voice in every breeze; he sees her lovely
form approaching, and opens his expecting arms to clasp her once again
to his still throbbing breast. But he finds, alas! his hopes are vain:
the fancy-breathing form eludes his grasp, and convinces him that the
delightful vision was only the light and love-formed phantom of his
sorrow-sickened mind. A sad remembrance of her departed spirit is the
only comfort of his lingering life: he flies to the tomb where her mortal
remains were deposited, plants roses round her shrine, waters them with
his tears, cultivates them with the tenderest care, kisses them as
emblems of her blushing cheeks, and tastes, with sighing transports,
their balmy fragrance as the fancied odor of her ruby lips.

It must afford infinite pleasure to every philosophic mind, to reflect
on the victory which the virtuous Petrarch gained over the passion that
assailed his heart. During his retreat into Italy from love and Laura,
his friends in France used every endeavor to induce him to return. One
of them wrote to him:--“What demon possesses you;--How could you quit
a country in which you indulged all the propensities of youth, and
where the graceful figure which you formerly adorned with so much care,
procured you such unbounded admiration?--How can you live thus exiled
from Laura, whom you love with so much tenderness, and whose heart is so
deeply afflicted by your absence?”

Petrarch replied: “Your anxiety is vain: I am resolved to continue where
I am. I ride here safely at anchor; and all the hurricanes of eloquence
shall never drive me from it. How then can you expect to persuade me to
change this resolution, merely by placing before my eyes the deviations
of my youth which I ought to forget; by describing an illicit passion
which left me no other resource than a precipitate flight; and by
extolling the meretricious advantages of a handsome person, which too
long occupied my attention. These are follies I must no longer think
of. I am now rapidly approaching toward the last goal on the course
of life. Objects more serious and important now occupy my thoughts.
God forbid, that, listening to your flattering observations, I should
again throw myself into the snares of love, again put on a yoke which
so severely galled me!--The natural levity of youth apologizes, in some
degree, for the indiscretions it creates; but I should despise myself,
if I could now be tempted to revisit either the bower of love, or the
theatre of ambition. Your suggestions, however, have produced a proper
effect; for I consider them as the oblique censures of a friend upon my
past misconduct. The solicitudes of the gay and busy world no longer
disturb my mind; for my heart has tenaciously rooted all its fibres in
this delightful solitude, where I rove at large, free and unconstrained,
without inquietude or care. In summer I repose upon the verdant turf
beneath the shade of some embowering tree, or saunter along the enamelled
boarders of a cool, refreshing stream. At the approach of autumn I
seek the woods, and join the muses’ train. This mode of life is surely
preferable to a life at court, where nothing but disgusting jealousies
and corroding cares exist. I have now, in short, no wish, except that,
when death relieves me both from pleasure and from pain, I may recline
my head upon the bosom of a friend, whose eyes, while he performs the
last office of closing mine, will drop a deploring tear upon my departing
spirit, and convey my remains, with friendly care, to a decent tomb in my
native country.”

These were the sentiments of _the philosopher_: but, after a short
interval _the man_ returned once again to the city of Avignon, and only
visited his retreat at Vaucluse occasionally.

Petrarch, however, by these continued endeavors to subdue the violence
of his passion, acquired a sublimity and richness of imagination, which
distinguished his character, and gave him an ascendency over the age in
which he lived, greater than any of the literati have since attained.
To use the expression of the poet, he was capable of passing, with the
happiest facility,

    “From grave to gay, from lively to severe:”

and was enabled, as occasion required, to conceive the boldest
enterprises, and to execute them with the most heroic courage. He who
languished, sighed, and even wept with unmanly softness, at the feet
of his mistress, breathing only the tender and affectionate language
of gentle love, no sooner turned his thoughts toward the transactions
of Rome, than he assumed a higher tone, and not only wrote, but acted
with all the strength and spirit of the Augustan age. Monarchs have
relinquished the calls of hunger, and the charms of rest, to indulge
the tender luxuries his love-lorn muse afforded. But at a more advanced
age he was no longer a sighing minstrel, chaunting amorous verses to a
relentless fair; he was no longer an effeminate slave, that kissed the
chains of an imperious mistress, who treated him with disdain: he became
a zealous republican, who spread by his writings the spirit of liberty
throughout Italy, and sounded a loud alarm against tyranny and tyrants.
Great as a statesman, profound and judicious as a public minister, he
was consulted in the most important political transactions of Europe,
and frequently employed in the most arduous and difficult negotiations.
Zealously active in the cause of humanity, he anxiously endeavored, on
occasions, to extinguish the torch of discord. The greatest princes,
conscious of his extraordinary genius, solicited his company, and
endeavored, by listening to his precepts, to learn the noble art of
rendering their countries respectable, and their people happy.

These traits of Petrarch’s character clearly evince that, oppressed as he
was by the passion of love, he derived great advantages from solitude.
The retirement at Vaucluse was not, as is commonly imagined, a pretence
to be nearer the person of Laura, for Laura resided altogether at
Avignon; but a means of avoiding the frown of his mistress, and of flying
from the contagion of a corrupt court. Seated in his little garden,
which was situated at the foot of a lofty mountain, and surrounded by
a rapid stream, his soul rose superior to the adversities of his fate.
His disposition, indeed, was naturally restless and unquiet; but in his
tranquil moments, a sound judgment, joined to an exquisite sensibility,
enabled him to enjoy the delights of solitude with singular advantage;
and to find in his retreat at Vaucluse, the temple of peace, the
residence of calm repose, and a safe harbor against all the tempests of
the soul.

The flame of love, therefore, although it cannot be entirely
extinguished, may be greatly purified and refined by solitude. Man
indeed, ought not to extirpate the passions which the God of nature has
planted in the human heart, but to direct them to their proper ends.

To avoid such miseries as Petrarch endured, the pleasures of retirement
should be shared with some amiable female, who, better than the cold
precepts of philosophy, will beguile or banish, by the charms of
conversation, all the cares and torments of life.

It has been said by a very sensible author, that “the presence of one
thinking being like ourselves, whose bosom glows with sympathy, and whose
affection we possess, so far from destroying the advantages of solitude,
renders them more favorable. If, like me you owe your happiness to the
fond attention of a wife, you will soon be induced, by her kindness, by
her tender and unreserved communication of every sentiment of her mind,
every feeling of her heart, to forget the society of the world; and your
happiness will be as pleasingly diversified, as the employments and
vicissitudes of your lives.”

The orator who speaks so eloquently must have felt with exquisite
sensibility the pleasures he describes; “Here,” says he, “every kind
expression is remembered; the emotions of one heart correspond with
those of the other; every thought is treasured up; every testimony of
affection is returned; the happy pair enjoy in each other’s company
all the pleasures of the mind; and there is no felicity which does
not communicate itself to their hearts. To beings thus united by the
sincerest affection, and the closest friendship, every thing that is
said or done, every wish, and every event, becomes mutually important.
No jealous fears, no envious stings, disturb their happiness; faults are
pointed out with cautious tenderness and good nature; looks bespeak the
inclinations of the soul; every wish and every desire is anticipated;
every view and intention assimilated; and, the sentiments of one,
conforming to those of the other, each rejoices with cordiality at the
smallest advantage which the other acquires.”

Thus it is that the solitude which we share with an amiable object
produces tranquillity, satisfaction, and heartfelt joy; and makes the
humblest cottage a dwelling place of the purest pleasure.

Love, in the shades of retirement, while the mind and the heart are in
harmony with each other, inspires the noblest sentiments; raises the
understanding to the highest sphere of intellect: fills the bosom with
increased benevolence; destroys all the seeds of vice, and meliorates
and extends all the virtues. By its delightful influence the attack
of ill-humor is resisted; the violence of our passions abated; the
bitter cup of human affliction sweetened; all the injuries of the world
alleviated; and the sweetest flowers plentifully strewed along the
thorny paths of life. Every unhappy sufferer, whether the malady be of
the body or the mind, derives from this source extraordinary comfort
and consolation. At a time, alas! when every thing displeased me, when
every object was disgusting, when my sufferings had destroyed all the
energy and vigor of my soul, when grief had shut from my streaming eyes
the beauties of nature, and rendered the whole universe a dreary tomb,
the kind attentions of a wife were capable of conveying a secret charm,
a silent consolation to my mind. Oh! nothing can render the bowers of
retirement so serene and comfortable, or can so sweetly soften all our
woes, as a conviction that woman is not indifferent to our fate.

Solitude, it is true, will not completely heal every wound which this
imperious passion is capable of inflicting on the human heart; but it
teaches us to endure our pains without wishing for relief, and enables us
to convert them into soft sorrow and plaintive grief.

Both sexes in early youth, but particularly females from fifteen to
eighteen years of age, who possess high sensibilities, and lively
imaginations, generally feel during the solitude of rural retirement,
a soft and pleasing melancholy, when their bosoms begin to heave with
the first propensities of love. They wander every where in search of a
beloved object, and sigh for one alone, long before the heart is fixed in
its affection, or the mind conscious of its latent inclination. I have
frequently observed this disposition unaccompanied by any symptom of ill
health. It is an original malady. Rousseau felt its influence at Vevay,
upon the borders of the lake of Geneva. “My heart,” says he, “rushed
with ardor from my bosom into a thousand innocent felicities; and melting
into tenderness, I sighed and wept like a child. How frequently, stopping
to indulge my feelings, and seating myself on a piece of broken rock, did
I amuse myself with seeing my tears drop into the stream!”

Retirement, however, is not equally favorable to every species of
affliction. Some bosoms are so exquisitely alive to the sense of
misfortune, that the indelible remembrance of the object of their
affection preys upon their minds: the reading of a single line written
by the hand they loved, freezes their blood; the very sight of the tomb
which has swallowed up the remains of all their soul held dear, is
intolerable to their eyes. On such beings, alas! the heavens smile in
vain: to them the new-born flowers and the twittering groves, proclaiming
the approach of spring and the regeneration of vegetable nature, bring
no charms; the garden’s variegated hues irritate their feelings; and the
silent retreats, from which they once expected consolation, only increase
their pains. Such refined and exquisite feelings, the offspring of warm
and generous passion, are real misfortunes; and the malady they engender
requires to be treated with the mildest attention and the tenderest care.

But to minds of softer temper solitude possesses many powerful charms,
although the losses they deplore are equally great. Such characters feel,
indeed, a sense of their misfortune in its utmost possible extent, but
they soften its acuteness by yielding to the natural mildness of their
dispositions: they plant upon the fatal tomb the weeping willow and the
ephemeral rose; they erect _mausolea_; compose funeral dirges; and render
the very emblems of death, the means of consolation. Their hearts are
continually occupied by the idea of those whom their eyes deplore; and
they exist under the sensations of the truest and most sincere sorrow, in
a kind of middle state between earth and heaven. This species of sorrow
is of the happiest kind. Far be it from me to suppose it in the least
degree affected. But I call such characters happy mourners; because, from
the very frame and texture of their constitutions, grief does not destroy
the energy of their minds, but permits them to find consolation in those
things which, to minds differently constructed, would create aversion.
They feel a heavenly joy in pursuing employments which preserve the
memory of those who are the subjects of their sorrow.

Solitude will enable the heart to vanquish the most painful sense of
adversity, provided the mind will generously lend its aid, and fix its
attention to a different object. If men think there is any misfortune
from which they have no other resource than despair or death they deceive
themselves; for despair is no resource. Let such men retire to their
studies, and there seriously trace out a series of important and settled
truths, and their tears will no longer fall; but the weight of their
misfortunes will grow light, and sorrow fly from their breasts.

Solitude, by encouraging the enjoyments of the heart, by promoting
domestic felicity, and by creating a taste for rural scenery, subdues
impatience, and drives away ill-humor. Impatience is a stifled anger,
which men silently manifest by looks and gestures, and weak minds
ordinarily reveal by a shower of complaints. A grumbler is never further
from his proper sphere than when he is in company; solitude is his
only asylum. Ill-humor is an uneasy and insupportable condition, which
the soul frequently falls into when soured by a number of those petty
vexations which we daily experience in every step of our progress through
life; but we need only to shut the door against improper and disagreeable
intrusions, to avoid this scourge of happiness.

Vexations, indeed, of every kind, are much sooner quieted in the silence
of retirement than in the noise of the world. A cheerful disposition,
a placid temper, and well-regulated passions, will prevent worldly
vexations from interrupting our happiness. By these attainments, the
deepest melancholy, and most settled uneasiness of life, have been
frequently banished from the heart. It is true, that the progress in this
case is much more rapid in women than in men. The mind of a lively female
flies immediately to happiness, while that of a melancholy man still
creeps on with pain: the yielding bosoms of the fair are easily elevated
or depressed. These effects, it is true, may be produced by means less
abstracted than solitude; by any thing that strikes the senses, and
penetrates the heart. Men, on the contrary, augment the disease, and fix
it more firmly in the bosom, by brooding over its cause and consequences,
and are obliged to apply the most efficacious remedies, with unshaken
constancy, to effect a cure; for feeble prescriptions are, in such
cases, of no avail. The only chance, indeed, of success, is by exerting
every endeavor to place the body under the regimen of the mind. Vigorous
minds frequently banish the most inveterate evils, or form a powerful
shield against all the darts of fate, and, by braving every danger, drive
away those feelings by which others are irritated and destroyed; they
boldly turn their eyes from what things are, to what they ought to be;
and with determined resolution support the bodies they are designed to
animate; while weak minds surrender every thing committed to their care.

The soul, however, always follows what is most agreeable to its
ruling passion. Worldly men generally delight in gaming, feasting,
and debauchery; while those who are fond of solitude feel, from a
consciousness of its advantages, no enjoyments equal to those its
peaceful shades afford.

I now conclude my reflections upon the advantages of Solitude to
_the Heart_. May they give greater currency to useful sentiments,
to consolatory truths, and contribute in some degree to diffuse the
enjoyment of a happiness which is so much within our reach!


_The General Advantages of Retirement._

Retirement engages the affections of men whenever it holds up a picture
of tranquillity to their view.

The doleful and monotonous sound of the clock of a sequestered monastery,
the silence of nature in a still night, the pure air on the summit of
a high mountain, the thick darkness of an aged forest, the sight of a
temple fallen into ruins, inspire the soul with a soft melancholy, and
banish all recollection of the world and its concerns.

The man who cannot hold a friendly correspondence with his own heart; who
derives no comfort from the reflections of his mind; who dreads the idea
of meditation, and is fearful of passing a single moment with himself,
looks with equal dread on solitude and on death. He endeavors to enjoy
all the voluptuousness which the world affords; drains the pernicious
cup of pleasure to its dregs; and, until the dreadful moment approaches
when he beholds his nerves shattered, and all the powers of his soul
destroyed, has not the courage to make the delayed confession, “I am
tired of the world and all its idle follies!”

The legions of fantastic fashions to which a man of pleasure is obliged
to sacrifice his time, impair the rational faculties of his mind, and
destroy the native energies of his soul. Forced continually to lend
himself to the performance of a thousand little trifles, a thousand mean
absurdities, he becomes by habit frivolous and absurd. The face of things
no longer wears its true and genuine aspect; and his depraved taste
loses all relish for rational entertainment or substantial pleasure. The
infatuation seizes on his brain, and his corrupted heart teems with idle
fancies and vain imaginations.

The inevitable consequences of this ardent pursuit of entertainments and
diversions are langor and dissatisfaction. He has drained the cup of
pleasure to the last drop, who is at length obliged to confess that all
his hopes are fled; who finds disappointment and disgust mingled with
every enjoyment; who feels astonished at his own insensibility, and who
no longer possesses the magic of the enchantress, imagination, to gild
and decorate the scene, calls in vain to his assistance the daughters of
sensuality and intemperance: their caresses can no longer delight his
dark and melancholy mind: the soft and syren song of luxury no longer can
dispel the cloud of discontent that hovers round his head.

Behold that debilitated weak old man running after pleasures he can no
longer enjoy. The airs of gayety which he affects render him ridiculous;
his attempts to shine expose him to derision; his endeavors to display
the wit and eloquence of youth betray him into the garrulity of old
age. His conversation, filled with repetition and tiresome narrative,
creates disgust, and only forces the smile of pity from the lips of his
youthful rivals. To the eye of wisdom, however, who observed him through
all the former periods of his life, sparkling in the noisy circles of
extravagance and vice, his character always appeared the same.

The wise man, in the midst of the most tumultuous pleasures, frequently
retires within himself, and silently compares what he might do with what
he is doing. Surrounded by, and even when accidentally engaged in, the
excesses of intoxication, he associates only with those warm and generous
souls whose highly elevated minds are drawn toward each other by the most
virtuous inclinations and sublime sentiments. The silent retreat of the
mind within itself, has more than once given birth to enterprizes of the
greatest importance and utility; and it is not difficult to imagine, that
some of the most celebrated actions of mankind were first inspired among
the sounds of music, or conceived amidst the mazes of the dance. Sensible
and elevated minds never commune more closely with themselves than in
those places of public resort in which the low and vulgar, surrendering
themselves to illusion and caprice, become incapable of reflection, and
blindly suffer themselves to be overwhelmed by the surrounding torrent of
folly and distraction.

The unceasing pursuit of sensual enjoyment is merely a mean used by
the votaries of worldly pleasure, of flying from themselves; they
seize with avidity upon any object that promises to occupy the present
hour agreeably, and provide entertainment for the day that is passing
over their heads. To such characters the man who can invent hour after
hour new schemes of pleasure and open day after day fresh sources of
amusement, is a valuable companion indeed; he is their best, their only
friend. Are then these lazy and luxurious votaries of sensual pleasures
destitute of those abilities which might prevent this sacrifice of time,
and, if properly exerted, afford them relief? Certainly not. But, having
been continually led from object to object in the pursuit of pleasure,
the assistance of others has habitually become the first want and
greatest necessity of their lives: they have insensibly lost all power of
acting for themselves, and depend, for every object they see, for every
sensation they feel, for every sentiment they entertain, on those by
whom they are attended. This is the reason why the rich, who are seldom
acquainted with any other pleasures than those of sense, are, in general,
the most miserable of mankind.

The nobility and courtiers of France think their enjoyments appear vain
and ridiculous only to those who have not the opportunity of partaking in
them; but I am of a different opinion. Returning one Sunday from Trianon
to Versailles, I perceived at a distance a number of people assembled
upon the terrace of the castle; and on a nearer approach, I beheld Louis
XV. surrounded by his court, at the windows of his palace. A man very
richly dressed, with a large pair of branching antlers fastened upon his
head, whom they called the stag, was pursued by about a dozen others who
composed the pack. The pursued and the pursuers leaped into the great
canal, scrambled out again, and ran wildly round and round, amidst the
acclamations of the assembly, who loudly clapped their hands to testify
their delight, and to encourage the diversion. “What can all this mean?”
said I to a French gentleman who stood near me. “Sir,” he replied, with
a very serious countenance, “it is for the entertainment of the court.”
The most obscure and indigent individuals may certainly be much happier
than these masters of mankind with their melancholy slaves and miserable

Direful condition! Is there then no occupation whatsoever, no useful
employment, no rational recreation sufficiently high and dignified for
such characters?--Are they reduced to the melancholy condition of not
being able to perform one good and virtuous action during the intervals
of suspended pleasure? Can they render no services to friendship, to
their country, to themselves? Are there no poor and miserable beings to
whose bosom they might afford charitable comfort and relief? Is it, in
short, impossible for such characters in any way to improve themselves in
wisdom or in virtue?

The powers of the human mind are of greater extent than is generally
imagined. He who, either from taste or necessity, exercises them
frequently, soon finds that the highest felicities of which our nature is
capable, reside entirely within ourselves. The wants of life are, for the
greater part, merely artificial; and although sensual objects contribute
most efficaciously to our happiness and delight, it is not because they
are indispensably necessary for this purpose, but because they have been
rendered desirable by habit; and, from the pleasures they produce, we
flatter ourselves that they are absolutely necessary to our felicity. If,
however, we had fortitude to resist their charms, and courage to seek our
happiness in ourselves, we should frequently find in our own bosoms a
greater variety of resources than all the objects of sense are capable of

Amusements, indeed, may sometimes be found in those places to which the
sexes resort merely to see and to be seen. The eye may be occasionally
gratified by the sight of objects really agreeable; the ear may listen
to observations truly flattering. Lively thoughts and sensible remarks
now and then prevail. Characters equally amiable and interesting
occasionally mix among the group. We may form acquaintance with men of
distinguished merit, whom we should not otherwise have had an opportunity
of knowing; and meet with women of amiable qualities, and irreproachable
conduct, whose refined conversation ravishes the ear with a delight
equal to that with which their exquisite beauty captivates the heart.
But by what a number of painful sensations must the chance of receiving
these pleasures be purchased! Those whom reason or disgust restrain from
mixing in the idle dissipations of life, cannot see without a sigh, the
gay conceit, the airy confidence, the blind arrogance, and the bold
loquacity, with which these votaries of worldly pleasure proclaim a
felicity which is almost invariably deceitful; nor observe without a
sigh, the extravagant joy of so many great men, and the absurd airs of so
many gray-headed children.

Honor, fame, and pleasure are conceived to accompany an invitation to
the board of luxury; although disease, with leaden sceptre, is known to
preside; and reproach and calumny are indiscriminately cast upon the
purest characters. But he who feels the least energy of mind, turns
with aversion from all society which tends to weaken its effect; and
finds the simplest fare, enjoyed with freedom and content amidst a happy
and affectionate family, ten thousand times more agreeable than the
rarest dainty, and the richest wine, with a society where he must sit
ceremoniously silent in compliment to some reputed wit, from whose lips
nothing but absurdities and nonsense proceed.

The spiritless and crowded societies of the world, where a round of low
and trifling amusements fills the hour of entertainment, and where to
display a pomp of dress and levity of manners is the only ambition, may
afford some pleasure to those light and empty minds who are impatient of
the weight of idleness; but the wise man, who occasionally resorts to
them in search of rational conversation or temporary amusement, and only
finds a dull unvaried jargon, and a tiresome round of compliments, will
turn with aversion from these temples of false delight, and exclaim, in
the language of the poet,

    “I envy none their pageantry and show,
    I envy none the gilding of their wo.
    Give me, indulgent gods! with mind serene,
    And guiltless heart, to range the sylvan scene;
    No splendid poverty, no smiling care,
    No well-bred hate or servile grandeur there:
    The pleasing objects useful thoughts suggest;
    The sense is ravish’d and the soul is blest:
    On every thorn, delightful wisdom glows,
    In every rill a sweet instruction flows.”

True social pleasure is founded on unlimited confidence, on an
affectionate and reciprocal interchange of sentiment and opinions. A
tender, faithful, refined, and rational friendship, renders the pleasures
of the world spiritless and disgusting. How joyfully do we disencumber
ourselves from the shackles of society, for that close and sublime
intercourse in which our inclinations are free, our feelings generous,
our sentiments unbiassed; where a mutuality of thought and action, of
pleasure and of pains uninterruptedly prevail; where the gentle hand
of love conducts us along the paths of truth and virtue; where every
thought is anticipated before it escapes from the lips; where advice,
consolation, and succor, are reciprocally given and received in all
the accidents and in all the misfortunes of life! The soul, touched
by the charms of friendship, springs from its apathy and dejection,
and views the enlivening beam of hope awakening it to activity. The
happy pair, casting a retrospective glance on the time passed, mutually
exclaim with the tenderest emotions, “Oh the delights that we have
already experienced!--Oh the joys that we have already felt!” If the
tear of affliction steal down the cheek of the one, the other with
affection wipes it tenderly away. The sorrows of one are felt with equal
sensibility by the other: and what sorrow will not an intercourse of
hearts so closely and affectionately united, entirely subdue!--Day after
day they communicate to each other all they have seen, all they have
heard, all that they feel, and every thing that they know. Time flies
before them on his swiftest pinions. They are never tired of each other’s
company and conversation. The only misfortune they fear, the greatest
indeed they can possibly experience, is the misfortune of being separated
by occasional absence or untimely death.

But human happiness is continually exposed to interruption. At the very
moment alas; when we vainly think ourselves the most secure, fate, by
a sudden blow, strikes its unhappy victim even in our arms. All the
pleasure of life then seems forever extinguished, every object alarms
our mind, and every place seems desert and forlorn. In vain are our
arms extended to embrace our loved, though lost companion; in vain do
we invoke her return. Her well known step still seems to beat upon the
listening ear, and promise her approach; but suspended sense returns,
and the delusive sounds are heard no more. A death-like silence reigns
around, and involves us in the shades of dreary solitude, unconscious of
every thing but our bleeding hearts. Wearied and dejected, we imagine
ourselves no longer capable of loving or of being beloved; and life
without love, to the heart that has once felt its pleasures, is more
terrible than death. So sudden a transition from the highest happiness
to the deepest misery overpowers the mind. No kind friend appears to
assuage our sufferings, or seems capable of forming an adequate idea
of our distress. The pangs, indeed, which such a loss inflicts, cannot
be conceived, unless they have been felt. The only consolation of the
unhappy sufferer is to live in solitude, and his only wish to die
alone. But it is under circumstances like these that solitude enjoys
its greatest triumph, and the afflicted sufferer receives the greatest
benefits; for there is no sorrow, however great, no pang, however
powerful, that it will not, when wisely indulged, at first soften, and
at length subdue. The remedy which solitude “administers to a mind
diseased,” is slow and gradual; for the art of living alone requires much
experience, is subject to so many casualties, and depends so materially
upon the temperament of the patient, that it is necessary we should
attain a complete maturity before any great advantages can be derived
from it. But he who is able to throw off the galling yoke of prejudice,
and possesses a natural esteem and fondness for retirement, will not be
embarrassed as to the choice he ought to make under such circumstances.
Indifferent to external objects, and averse from the dissipations of the
world, he will rely on the powers of his mind, and will never be less
alone than when he is in the company of himself.

Men of genius are frequently condemned to employments as disagreeable
to the turn and temper of their minds, as the most nauseous medicine
must be to an empty stomach. Confined to toil on a dry and disgusting
subject, fixed to a particular spot, and harassed by subordinate duties,
they relinquish all expectation of tranquillity on this side the grave.
Deprived of enjoying the common pleasures of nature, every object
increases their disgust. “It is not for us,” they exclaim, “that the
youthful zephyrs call forth the budding foliage with their caressing
breath; that the feathered choir chant in enlivening strains their rural
songs; that the verdant meadows are decked with fragrant flowers.” But
set these complainers free, give them liberty and leisure to think for
themselves, and the enthusiasm of their minds will soon regenerate, and
soar into the highest regions of intellectual happiness, with the bold
wing and penetrating eye of the bird of Jove.

If solitude be capable of dissipating the afflictions of persons thus
circumstanced, what may not be expected from its influence on those who
are enabled to retire, at pleasure, to its friendly shades, and who
have no other wish than to enjoy pure air and domestic felicity! When
Antisthenes was asked what advantages philosophy had afforded him, he
answered, “_It has taught me to subdue myself._” Pope says, he never laid
his head upon his pillow, without acknowledging that the most important
lesson of life is to learn the art of being happy within ourselves. And
it seems to me that we shall all find what Pope looked for, when home
is our content, and every thing about us, even to the dog and the cat,
partakes of our affection.

Health is certainly essential to happiness, and yet there are
circumstances and situations, under which the privation of it may be
attended with tranquillity.

How frequently have I returned thanks to God, when indisposition has
prevented me from going abroad, and enabled me to recruit my weakened
powers in solitude and silence! Obliged to drag through the streets
of the metropolis day after day during a number of years, feeble in
constitution, weak in limbs; susceptible, on feeling the smallest cold,
to the same sensation as if knives were separating the flesh from the
bone; continually surrounded, in the course of my profession, with the
most afflicting sorrows; it is not surprising that I should thank the
Almighty with tears of gratitude, on experiencing even the relief which
a confinement by indisposition procured. A physician, if he possesses
sensibility, must, in his anxiety to relieve the sufferings of others,
frequently forget his own. But, alas! how frequently must he feel all the
horrors of his situation, when he is summoned to attend patients whose
maladies are beyond the reach of medicine! Under such circumstances, the
indisposition which excuses my attendance, and leaves me the powers of
thought, affords me comparatively a sweet repose; and, provided I am not
disturbed by the polite interruptions of ceremonious visiters, I enjoy a
pleasing solitude. One single day passed undisturbed at home in literary
leisure, affords to the mind more real pleasure than all the circles of
fashionable entertainment are able to bestow.

The fear of being alone is no longer felt either by the young or old,
whenever the mind has acquired the power of employing itself in some
useful or agreeable study. Ill humor may be banished by adopting a
regular course of reading. Books, indeed, cannot be inspected without
producing a beneficial effect, provided we always read with a pen or
pencil in our hand, and note down the new ideas that may occur, or the
observations which confirm the knowledge we before possessed; for reading
becomes not only useless, but fatiguing, unless we apply the information
it affords either to our own characters, or to those of other men. This
habit, however, may be easily acquired; and then books become one of
the most safe and certain antidotes to lassitude and discontent. By
this means a man becomes his own companion, and finds his best and most
cheerful friend in his own heart.

Pleasures of this kind certainly surpass in a great degree all those
which result merely from the indulgence of the senses. The pleasures of
the mind, generally speaking, signify sublime meditation, the profound
deductions of reason, and the brilliant effusions of the imagination;
but there are also others, for the perfect enjoyment of which, neither
extensive knowledge nor extraordinary talents are necessary. Such are
the pleasures which result from active labor; pleasures equally within
the reach of the ignorant and learned, and not less exquisite than
those which result from the mind. Manual exertions, therefore, ought
never to be despised. I am acquainted with gentlemen who understand the
mechanism of their watches, who are able to work as painters, locksmiths,
carpenters, and who are not only possessed of the tools and implements
of every trade, but know how to use them. Such men never feel the least
disquietude from the want of society, and are in general the happiest
characters in existence.

Mental pleasures are within the reach of all persons who, free,
tranquil, and affectionate, are contented with themselves, and at peace
with their fellow-creatures. The mind contemplates the pranks of school,
the sprightly aberrations of our boyish days, the wanton stories of
early youth, our plays and pastimes, and all the little hopes and fears
of infancy, with fond delight. Oh! with what approving smiles and soft
regret, the aged cast their eyes upon those happy times when youthful
inclination prompted all their actions, when every enterprise was
undertaken with lively vigor, and executed with undaunted courage; when
difficulties were sought merely for the purpose of surmounting them! Let
us compare what we were formerly with what we are at present; or rather,
by giving our thoughts a freer range, reflect on the various events we
have experienced or observed; upon the means that the Almighty employs
to raise or sink the prosperity of empires; upon the rapid progress
made, even in our time, in every art and science; upon the diffusion of
useful knowledge, and the destruction of dangerous prejudices; upon the
empire which barbarism and superstition have gained, notwithstanding the
exertions of genius and reason to prevent them; upon the sublime power
of the human mind and its inefficient productions; and languor will
instantly disappear, and tranquillity, peace, and good humor prevail.

Thus advantage may in solitude be attained and relished at every period
of our lives; at the most advanced age, as well as during the vigor of
youth. He who to an unbroken constitution joins a free and contented
mind, and assiduously cultivates the powers of his understanding,
will, if his heart be innocent, at all times enjoy the purest and most
unalterable pleasures. Employment animates all the functions of the soul,
and calls forth their highest energies. It is the secret consciousness
which every person of a lively imagination possesses, of the powers of
the mind, and the dignity they are capable of attaining, that creates the
noble anxiety and ardor, which carries their efforts to the sublimest
heights. But if, either by duty or situation, we maintain too close an
intercourse with society, if we are obliged, in spite of inclination, to
submit to frivolous and fatiguing dissipations, it is only by quitting
the tumult, and entering into silent meditation, that we feel that
effervescence, that desire to break from bondage, to fly from past
errors, and avoid in future every noisy and tumultuous pleasure.

The mind never feels with more energy and satisfaction that it lives,
that it is rational, great, active, free, and immortal, than during those
moments in which it excludes idle and impertinent intruders.

Of all the vexations of life, there are none so insupportable, as those
insipid visits, those annoying partialities, which occupy the time of
frivolous and fashionable characters. “My thoughts,” says Rousseau, “will
only come when they please, and not when I choose:” and therefore the
intrusions of strangers, or of mere acquaintances, were always extremely
odious to him. It was for this reason alone that this extraordinary
character, who seldom experienced an hour of tranquillity, felt such
indignation against the importunate civilities and empty compliments
of common conversation, whilst he enjoyed the rational intercourse of
sensible and well-informed minds with the highest delight. How frequently
are the brightest beams of intellect obscured by associating with low
and little minds! How frequently do the soundest understandings become
frivolous, by keeping frivolous company! For, although these bright beams
are immediate emanations from the Deity on the mind of man, they must be
matured by meditation and reflection, before they can give elevation to
genius, and consistency to character.

Virtues to which the mind cannot rise even when assisted by the most
advantageous intercourse, are frequently the fruits of solitude. Deprived
for ever of the company and conversation of those whom we love and
esteem, we endeavor to charm the uneasy void by every effort in our
power; but while love and friendship lead us by the hand, and cherish us
by their care, we lean incessantly on their bosoms, and remain inert.
Solitude, were it for this reason alone, is indispensably necessary to
the human character; for when men are enabled to depend on themselves
alone, the soul, tossed about by the tempest of life, acquires new vigor;
learns to bear with constancy, or avoid with address, those dangerous
rocks on which vulgar minds are inevitably wrecked; and discovers
continually new resources, by which the mind resists, with stoic courage,
the rigors of its fate.

Weak minds always conceive it most safe to adopt the sentiments of the
multitude. They never venture to express an opinion upon any subject
until the majority have decided; and blindly follow the sentiments of
the many, whether upon men or things, without troubling themselves to
inquire who are right, or on which side truth preponderates. A love of
equity and truth, indeed, is seldom found, except in those who have no
dread of solitude. Men of dissipation never protect the weak, or avenge
the oppressed. If the various and powerful hosts of knaves and fools are
your enemies; if you have been injured in your property by injustice, or
traduced in your fame by calumny, you must not fly for protection and
redress to men of light and dissipated characters; for they are merely
the organs of error, and the conduit pipes of prejudice.

The knowledge of ourselves is in solitude more easily and effectually
acquired than in any other situation; for we there live in habits of
the strictest intimacy with our own bosoms. It is certainly possible
for men to be deliberate and wise, even amidst all the tumultuous folly
of the world, especially if their principles be well fixed before they
enter on the stage of life; but integrity is undoubtedly more easily
preserved in the innocent simplicity of solitude, than in the corrupted
intercourses of society. In the world how many men please only by their
vices! How many profligate villains, and unprincipled adventurers of
insinuating manners, are well received only because they have learnt the
art of administering to the follies, the weaknesses, and the vices of
others! The mind, intoxicated with the fumes of that incense which artful
flattery is continually offering to it, is rendered incapable of justly
appreciating the characters of men. On the contrary, we truly discover in
the silence of solitude, the inward complexion of the heart; and learn
not only what the characters of men are, but what in truth and nature
they ought to be.

How many new and useful discoveries may be made by occasionally forcing
ourselves from the vortex of the world, and retiring to the calm
enjoyments of study and reflection! To accomplish this end, it is only
necessary to commence seriously with our hearts, and to examine our
actions with impartiality. The worldly-minded man, indeed, has reason
to avoid this self-examination, for the result would in all probability
be painful to his feelings; as he who only judges of himself by the
flattering opinions which others may have expressed of his character,
will, in such a scrutiny, behold with surprise that he is the miserable
slave of habit and public opinion; submitting himself with scrupulous
exactness, and the best possible grace, to the tyranny of fashion and
established ceremony; never venturing to oppose their influence, however
ridiculous and absurd it may be; and obsequiously following the example
of others, without daring to resist pursuits which every one seems so
highly to approve. He will perceive, that almost all his thoughts and
actions are engendered by a base fear of himself, or arise from a servile
complaisance to others; that he only seeks to flatter the vanities, and
indulge the caprices of his superiors, and becomes the contemptible
minister of these men, without daring to offer them the smallest
contradiction, or hazard an opinion that is likely to give them the least
displeasure. Whoever, with calm consideration, views this terrifying
picture, will feel, in the silent emotions of his heart, the necessity
of occasionally retiring into solitude, and seeking society with men of
nobler sentiments and purer principles.

Let every one, therefore, who wishes to think with dignity, or live
with ease, seek the retreats of solitude, and enter into a friendly
intercourse with his own heart. How small a portion of true philosophy,
with an enlightened understanding, will render it humble and compliant!
But in the mists of prejudice, dazzled by the intellectual glimmer of
false lights, every one mistakes the true path, and seeks for happiness
in the shades of darkness, and in the labyrinths of obscurity. The
habits of retirement and tranquillity can alone enable us to make
a just estimate of men and things, and it is by renouncing all the
prepossessions which the corruptions of society have implanted in the
mind, that we make the first advances toward the restoration of reason,
and the attainment of felicity.

We have hitherto only pointed out one class of the general advantages
which may be derived from rational solitude, but there are many others
which apply still more closely to men’s business and bosoms. Who, alas!
is there that has not experienced its comforting influence in the
keenest adversities of life? Who is there that does not seek relief from
its friendly shades in the langors of convalescence, in the pangs of
affliction, and even in that distressful moment when death deprives us of
those whose company was the charm and solace of our lives? Happy are they
who know the advantages of a religious retirement, of that holy rest in
which the virtues rivet themselves more closely to the soul, and in which
every man, when he is on the bed of death, devoutly wishes he had lived.

But these advantages become more conspicuous, when we compare the manner
of thinking which employs the mind of a solitary philosopher with that of
a worldly sensualist; the tiresome tumultuous life of the one, with the
ease and tranquillity of the other; the horrors which disturb the death
bed of vice, with the calm sigh which accompanies the expiring soul of
virtue. This is the awful moment in which we feel how important it is
to commune morally with ourselves, and religiously with our Creator; to
enable us to bear the sufferings of life with dignity, and the pains of
death with ease.

The sick, the sorrowful, and the discontented, may find equal relief
in solitude; it administers a balm to their tortured souls, heals the
deep and painful wounds they have received, and in time restores them
to their pristine health and vigor. The deceitful shrine in which the
intoxication of sensuality involved health and happiness disappears,
and they behold, in the place of imaginary joys, those objects only
which afford real pleasure. Prosperity arrays every object in the most
glowing and delightful colors; but to adversity every thing appears black
and dismal. Nor are the errors of these contrary extremes discovered
until the moment when the curtain drops, and dissipates the illusion:
the deceitful dream continues until the imagination is silenced. The
unhappy then perceive that the Almighty was watching over them, even when
they conceived themselves entirely abandoned: the happy then discover
the vanity of those pleasures and amusements to which they surrendered
themselves so implicitly during the intoxication of the world, and
reflect seriously upon their misconduct; upon their present state and
future destiny; and upon the modes most likely to conduct them to true
felicity. How miserable should we be, were the Divine Providence to grant
us every thing we desire! At the very instant when we conceive all the
happiness of our lives annihilated, God, perhaps, is performing something
extraordinary in our favor. Certain it is, that patience and perseverance
will, in solitude, convert the deepest sorrow into tranquillity and joy.
Those objects which, at a distance, appear menacing, lose, on a nearer
approach, their disagreeable aspect, and, in the event, frequently
produce the most agreeable pleasures. He who tries every expedient, who
boldly opposes himself to every difficulty, who steadily resists every
obstacle, who neglects no exertion within his power, and relies with
confidence on the assistance of God, extracts from affliction both its
poison and its sting, and deprives misfortune of its victory.

Sorrow, misfortune, and sickness, soon render solitude easy and familiar
to our minds. How willingly do we renounce the world, and become
indifferent to all its pleasures, when the insidious eloquence of the
passions is silenced, and our powers are debilitated by vexation or ill
health! It is then we perceive the weakness of those succors which the
world affords. How many useful truths, alas! has the bed of sickness
and sorrow instilled even into the minds of kings and princes! truths
which, in the hour of health, they would have been unable to learn amidst
the deceitful counsels of their pretended friends. The time, indeed, in
which a valetudinarian is capable of employing his powers with facility
and success, in a manner conformable to his designs, is short, and runs
rapidly away. Those only who enjoy robust health can exclaim, “Time is
my own;” for he who labors under continual sickness and suffering, and
whose avocations depend on the public necessity or caprice, can never
say that he has one moment to himself. He must watch the fleeting hours
as they pass, and seize an interval of leisure when and where he can.
Necessity, as well as reason, convinces him that he must, in spite of his
daily sufferings, his wearied body, or his harassed mind, firmly resist
his accumulating troubles; and, if he would save himself from becoming
the victim of dejection, he must manfully combat the difficulties by
which he is attacked. The more we enervate ourselves, the more we become
the prey of ill health; but determined courage, and obstinate resistance,
frequently renovate our powers; and he who, in the calm of solitude,
vigorously wrestles with misfortune, is, in the event, sure of gaining
the victory.

The influence of the mind upon the body is a consolatory truth to
those who are subject to constitutional complaints. Supported by this
reflection, the efforts of reason continue unsubdued; the influence of
religion maintains its empire; and the lamentable truth, that men of
the finest sensibility, and most cultivated understanding, frequently
possess less fortitude under affliction than the most vulgar of mankind,
remains unknown. Campanella, incredible as it may seem, suffered by the
indulgence of melancholy reflections, a species of mental torture more
painful than any bodily torture could have produced. I can, however,
from my own experience, assert, that, even in the extremity of distress,
every object which diverts the attention, softens the evils we endure,
and frequently drives them entirely away. By diverting the attention,
many celebrated philosophers have been able not only to preserve a
tranquil mind in the midst of the most poignant sufferings, but have
even increased the strength of their intellectual faculties, in spite of
their corporeal pains. Rousseau composed the greater part of his immortal
works under the continual pressure of sickness and sorrow. Gellert,
who, by his mild, agreeable, and instructive writings, has become the
preceptor of Germany, certainly found, in this interesting occupation,
the secret remedy against melancholy. Mendelsohm, at an age far advanced
in life, and not, in general, subject to dejection, was for a long time
oppressed by an almost inconceivable derangement of the nervous system;
but, by submitting with patience and docility to his sufferings, he still
maintains all the noble and high advantages of youth. Garve, who was
for several years unable to read, to write, or even to think, has since
produced his treatise upon Cicero, in which this profound writer, so
circumspect in all his expressions that he appears hurt if any improper
word escapes his pen, thanks the Almighty, with a sort of rapture,
for the weakness of his constitution, because it had taught him the
extraordinary influence which the powers of the mind have over those of
the body.

Solitude is not merely desirable, but absolutely necessary, to those
characters who possess sensibilities too quick, and imaginations too
ardent, to live quietly in the world, and who are incessantly inveighing
against men and things. Those who suffer their minds to be subdued by
circumstances which would scarcely produce an emotion in other bosoms;
who complain of the severity of their misfortunes on occasions which
others would not feel; who are dispirited by every occurrence which does
not produce immediate satisfaction and pleasure; who are incessantly
tormented by the illusion of fancy; who are unhinged and dejected the
moment prosperity is out of their view; who repine at what they possess,
from an ignorance of what they really want; whose minds are for ever
veering from one vain wish to another; who are alarmed at every thing,
and enjoy nothing; are not formed for society, and, if solitude have no
power to heal their wounded spirits, are certainly incurable.

Men who in other respects possess rational minds and pious dispositions,
frequently fall into low spirits and despair; but it is in general almost
entirely their own fault. If it proceed, as is generally the case, from
unfounded fears; if they love to torment themselves and others on every
trivial disappointment or slight indisposition; if they constantly resort
to medicine for that relief which reason alone can bestow; if they fondly
indulge, instead of repressing, these idle fancies; if, after having
endured the most excruciating pains with patience, and supported the
greatest misfortunes with fortitude, they neither can nor will learn to
bear the puncture of the smallest pin, or those trifling adversities to
which human life is unavoidably subject; they can only attribute their
unhappy condition to their own misconduct; and, although they might,
by no very irksome effort of their understandings, look with an eye of
composure and tranquillity on the multiplied and fatal fires issuing from
the dreadful cannon’s mouth, will continue shamefully subdued by the idle
apprehensions of being fired at by pop-guns.

All these qualities of the soul, fortitude, firmness, and stoic
inflexibility, are much sooner acquired by silent meditation than
amidst the noisy intercourse of mankind, where innumerable difficulties
continually oppose us; where ceremony, servility, flattery, and fear,
contaminate our dispositions; where every occurrence opposes our
endeavors; and where, for this reason, men of the weakest minds, and
the most contracted notions, become more active and popular, gain more
attention, and are better received, than men of feeling hearts and
liberal understandings.

The mind, in short, fortifies itself with impregnable strength in the
bowers of solitary retirement against every species of suffering and
affliction. The frivolous attachments which, in the world, divert the
soul from its proper objects, and drive it wandering, as chance may
direct, into an eccentric void, die away. Contented, from experience,
with the little which nature requires, rejecting every superfluous
desire, and having acquired a complete knowledge of ourselves, the
visitations of the Almighty, when he chastises us with affliction,
humbles our presumptuous pride, disappoints our vain conceits, restrains
the violence of our passions, and makes us sensible of our inanity and
weakness, are received with composure and felt without surprise. How
many important truths do we here learn, of which the worldly minded man
has no idea! Casting the eye of calm reflection on ourselves, and on
the objects around us, how resigned we become to the lot of humanity!
How different every object appears! The heart expands to every noble
sentiment; the bloom of conscious virtue brightens on the cheek; the mind
teems with sublime conceptions; and, boldly taking the right path, we at
length reach the bowers of innocence, and the plains of peace.

On the death of a beloved friend, we constantly feel a strong desire to
withdraw from society; but our worldly acquaintances unite in general to
destroy this laudable inclination. Conceiving it improper to mention the
subject of our grief, our companions, cold and indifferent to the event,
surround us, and think their duties sufficiently discharged by paying the
tributary visit, and amusing us with the current topics of the town. Such
idle pleasantries cannot convey a balm of comfort into the wounded heart.

When I, alas! within two years after my arrival in Germany, lost the
lovely idol of my heart, the amiable companion of my former days, I
exclaimed a thousand times to my surrounding friends, _Oh! leave me
to myself!_ Her departed spirit still hovers round me: the tender
recollection of her society, the afflicting remembrance of her sufferings
on my account, are always present to my mind. What mildness and
affability! Her death was as calm and resigned as her life was pure and
virtuous. During five long months, the lingering pangs of dissolution
hung continually around her. One day, as she reclined upon her pillow,
while I read to her “_The Death of Christ_,” by Rammler, she cast her
eyes over the page, and silently pointed out to me the following passage;
“My breath grows weak, my days are shortened, my heart is full of
affliction, and my soul prepares to take its flight.” Alas! when I recall
all those circumstances to my mind, and recollect how impossible it was
for me to abandon the world at that moment of anguish and distress,
when I carried the seeds of death within my bosom; when I had neither
fortitude to bear my afflictions, nor courage to resist them, while I was
yet pursued by malice, and traduced by calumny; I can easily conceive,
in such a situation, that my exclamation might be, _leave me to myself_.
To a heart thus torn by too rigorous a destiny from the bosom that was
opened for its reception; from a bosom in which it fondly dwelt; from an
object that it dearly loved, detached from every object, at a loss where
to fix its affections or communicate its feelings, solitude alone can
administer comfort.

Solitude, when it has ripened and preserved the tender and humane
feelings of the heart, and created in the mind a salutary distrust of
our vain reason and boasted abilities, may be considered to have brought
us nearer to God. Humility is the first lesson we learn from reflection,
and self distrust the first proof we give of having obtained a knowledge
of ourselves. When, in attending the duties of my profession, I behold,
on the bed of sickness, the efforts of the soul to oppose its impending
dissolution, and discover, by the increasing torments of the patient, the
rapid advances of death; when I see the unhappy sufferer extend his cold
and trembling hands to thank the Almighty for the smallest mitigation of
his pains; when I hear his utterance choked by intermingled groans, and
view the tender looks, the silent anguish of his attending friends; all
my fortitude abandons me; my heart bleeds; and I tear myself from the
sorrowful scene, only to pour my tears more freely over the lamentable
lot of humanity, to regret the inefficacy of those medical powers which
I am supposed only to have sought with so much anxiety as a mean of
prolonging my own miserable existence,

    “When in this vale of years I backward look,
    And miss such numbers, numbers too of such,
    Firmer in health, and greener in their age,
    And stricter on their guard, and fitter far
    To play life’s subtle game, I scarce believe
    I still survive: and am I fond of life
    Who scarce can think it possible I live?
    Alive by miracle! If I am still alive,
    Who long have buried what gives life to live.”

The wisdom that teaches us to avoid the snares of the world, is not to be
acquired by the incessant pursuit of entertainments; by flying, without
reflection, from one party to another; by continual conversation on low
and trifling subjects; by undertaking every thing and doing nothing. “He
who would acquire true wisdom,” says a celebrated philosopher, “must
learn to live in solitude.” An uninterrupted course of dissipation
stifles every virtuous sentiment. The dominion of reason is lost amidst
the intoxications of pleasure; its voice is no longer heard; its
authority is no longer obeyed; the mind no longer strives to surmount
temptations; but instead of shunning the perils which the passions
scatter in our way, we run eagerly to find them. The idea of God, and the
precepts of his holy religion, are never so little remembered as in the
ordinary intercourses of society. Engaged in a multiplicity of absurd
pursuits, entranced in the delirium of gayety, inflamed by the continual
ebriety which raises the passions and stimulates the desires, every
connexion between God and man is dissolved; the bright and noble faculty
of reason obscured; and even the great and important duties of religion,
the only source of true felicity, totally obliterated from the mind,
or remembered only with levity and indifference. On the contrary, he
who, entering into a serious self-examination, elevates his thoughts in
silence toward his God; who consults the theatre of nature, the spangled
firmament of heaven, the meadows enamelled with flowers, the stupendous
mountains, and the silent groves, as the temples of the Divinity; who
directs the emotions of his heart to the great Author and Conductor of
every thing; who has his enlightened providence continually before his
eyes, must, most assuredly, have already lived in pious solitude and
religious retirement.

The pious disposition which a zealous devotion to God engenders in
solitude, may, it is true, in certain characters, and under particular
circumstances, degenerate into the gloom of superstition, or rise
into the phrenzy of fanaticism; but these excesses soon abate; and,
compared with that fatal supineness which extinguishes every virtue,
are really advantageous. The sophistry of the passions is silent during
the serious hours of self-examination, and the perturbations we feel on
the discovery of our errors and defects, is converted by the light of a
pure and rational faith, into happy ease and perfect tranquillity. The
fanatic enthusiast presents himself before the Almighty much oftener
than the supercilious wit who derides an holy religion, and calls piety
a weakness. Philosophy and morality become in solitude the handmaids of
religion, and join their powers to conduct us into the bowers of eternal
peace. They teach us to examine our hearts, and exhort us to guard
against the dangers of fanaticism. But if virtue cannot be instilled
into the soul without convulsive efforts, they also admonish us not to
be intimidated by the apprehension of danger. It is not in the moment of
joy, when we turn our eyes from God and our thoughts from eternity, that
we experience those salutary fervors of the soul, which even religion,
with all her powers, cannot produce so soon as a mental affliction
or a corporeal malady. The celebrated M. Grave, one of the greatest
philosophers of Germany, exclaimed to Dr. Spalding and myself, “I am
indebted to my malady for having led me to make a closer scrutiny and
more accurate observation on my own character.”

In the last moments of life, it is certain that we all wish we had passed
our days in greater privacy and solitude, in stricter intimacy with
ourselves, and in closer communion with God. Pressed by the recollection
of our errors, we then clearly perceive that they were occasioned by
not having shunned the snares of the world, and by not having watched
with sufficient care over the inclinations of our hearts. Oppose the
sentiments of a solitary man, who has passed his life in pious conference
with God, to those which occupy a worldly mind, forgetful of its
Creator, and sacrificing its dearest interests to the enjoyment of the
moment: compare the character of a wise man, who reflects in silence
on the importance of eternity, with that of a fashionable being, who
consumes all his time at ridottos, balls, and assemblies; and we shall
then perceive that solitude, dignified retirement, select friendships,
and rational society, can alone afford true pleasure, and give us what
all the vain enjoyments of the world will never bestow, consolation in
death, and hope of everlasting life. But the bed of death discovers most
clearly the difference between the just man, who has quietly passed his
days in religious contemplation, and the man of the world, whose thoughts
have only been employed to feed his passions and gratify his desires. A
life passed amidst the tumultuous dissipations of the world, even when
unsullied by the commission of any positive crime, concludes, alas! very
differently from that which has been spent in the bowers of solitude,
adorned by innocence, and rewarded by virtue.

But, as example teaches more effectually than precept, and curiosity is
more alive to recent facts than remote illustrations, I shall here relate
the history of a man of family and fashion, who a few years since shot
himself in London; from which it will appear, that men possessed even of
the best feelings of the heart, may be rendered extremely miserable, by
suffering their principles to be corrupted by the practice of the world.

The honorable Mr. Damer, the eldest son of Lord Milton, was five and
thirty years of age when he put a period to his existence by means
perfectly correspondent to the principles in which he had lived. He was
married to a rich lady, the daughter-in-law of General Conway. Nature had
endowed him with extraordinary talents; but a most infatuated fondness
for excessive dissipation obscured the brightest faculties of his mind,
and perverted many of the excellent qualities of the heart. His houses,
his carriages, his horses, and his liveries, surpassed in splendor
and magnificence every thing sumptuous and costly even in the superb
and extravagant metropolis of Great Britain. The fortune he possessed
was great; but the variety of lavish expenditures in which he engaged
exceeded his income, and he was reduced at length to the necessity of
borrowing money. He raised, in different ways, near forty thousand
pounds, the greater part of which he employed with improvident generosity
in relieving the distresses of his less opulent companions; for his
heart overflowed with tenderness and compassion; but this exquisite
sensibility, which was ever alive to the misfortunes of others, was at
length awakened to his own embarrassed situation; and his mind driven by
the seeming irretrievable condition of his affairs, to the utmost verge
of despair. Retiring to a common brothel, he sent for four women of
the town, and passed several hours in their company with apparent good
spirits and unencumbered gayety; but, when the dead of night arrived, he
requested of them, with visible dejection, to retire; and immediately
afterward drawing from his pocket a pistol, which he had carried about
him the whole afternoon, blew out his brains. It appeared that he had
passed the evening with these women in the same manner as he had been
used to pass many others with different women of the same description,
without demanding favours which they would most willingly have granted,
and only desiring, in return for the money he lavished on them, the
dissipation of their discourse, or at most, the ceremony of a salute, to
divert the sorrow that preyed upon his tortured mind. But the gratitude
he felt for the temporary oblivion which these intercourses afforded,
sometimes ripened into feelings of the warmest friendship. A celebrated
actress of the London theatre, whose conversations had already drained
him of considerable sums of money, requested of him, only three days
before his death, to send her five and twenty guineas. At that moment he
had only ten guineas about him; but he sent her, with an apology for his
inability to comply immediately with her request, all he had, and soon
afterward borrowed the remainder of the money, and sent it to her without
delay. This unhappy young man, shortly before the fatal catastrophe, had
written to his father, and disclosed to him the distressed situation he
was in; and the very night on which he terminated his existence, his
affectionate parent, the good Lord Milton, arrived in London, for the
purpose of discharging all the debts, and arranging the affairs of his
unhappy son. Thus lived and died this destitute and dissipated man! How
different from that life which the innocent live, or that death which the
virtuous die!

I hope I may be permitted in this place to relate the story of a young
lady whose memory I am extremely anxious to preserve; for I can with
great truth say of her, as Petrarch said of his beloved Laura, “the world
was unacquainted with the excellence of her character: for she was only
known to those whom she has left behind to bewail her loss.” Solitude
was all the world she knew; for her only pleasures were those which a
retired and virtuous life affords. Submitting with pious resignation
to the dispensations of heaven, her weak frame sustained, with steady
fortitude, every affliction of mortality. Mild, good, and tender, she
endured her sufferings without a murmur or sigh; and although naturally
timid and reserved, disclosed the feelings of her soul with all the
warmth of filial enthusiasm. Of this description was the superior
character of whom I now write; a character who convinced me, by her
fortitude under the severest misfortunes, how much strength solitude is
capable of conveying to the mind even of the feeblest being. Diffident
of her own powers, she listened to the precepts of a fond parent, and
relied with perfect confidence on the goodness of God. Taught by my
experience, submitting to my judgment, she entertained for me the most
ardent affection; and convinced me, not by professions, but by actions,
of her sincerity. Willingly would I have sacrificed my life to have
saved her; and I am satisfied that she would as willingly have given up
her own for me. I had no pleasure but in pleasing her, and my endeavors
for that purpose were most gratefully returned. A rose was my favorite
flower, and she presented one to me almost daily during the season. I
received it from her hand with the highest delight, and cherished it as
the richest treasure. A malady of almost a singular kind, a hæmorrhage
in the lungs, suddenly deprived me of the comfort of this beloved child,
and tore her from my protecting arms. From the knowledge I had of her
constitution, I immediately perceived that the disorder was mortal. How
frequently during that fatal day did my wounded, bleeding heart, bend me
on my knees before God to supplicate for her recovery. But I concealed my
feelings from her observation. Although sensible of her danger, she never
discovered the least apprehension of its approach. Smiles played around
her pallid cheeks whenever I entered or quitted the room; and when worn
down by the fatal distemper, a prey to the most corroding grief, a victim
to the sharpest and most intolerable pains, she made no complaint; but
mildly answered all my questions by some short sentence, without entering
into any detail. Her decay and impending dissolution became obvious to
the eye; but to the last moment of her life, her countenance preserved a
serenity correspondent to the purity of her mind, and the affectionate
tenderness of her heart. Thus I beheld my dear and only daughter, at
the age of five and twenty, after a lingering suffering of nine long,
long months, expire in my arms. So long and so severe an attack was not
necessary to the conquest: she had been the submissive victim of ill
health from her earliest infancy; her appetite was almost gone when we
left Swisserland: a residence which she quitted with her usual sweetness
of temper, and without discovering the smallest regret: although a young
man, as handsome in his person as he was amiable in the qualities of his
mind, the object of her first, her only affection, a few weeks afterward
put a period to his existence. During the few happy days we passed at
Hanover, where she rendered herself universally respected and beloved,
she amused herself by composing religious prayers, which were afterward
found among her papers, and in which she implores death to afford her a
speedy relief from her pains. During the same period she wrote also many
letters, always affecting, and frequently sublime. They were couched
in expressions of the same desire speedily to reunite her soul with
the Author of her days. The last words that my dear, my beloved child
uttered, amidst the most painful agonies, were these--“To-day I shall
taste the joys of heaven!”

How unworthy of this bright example should we be, if, after having seen
the severest sufferings sustained by a female in the earliest period
of life, and of the weakest constitution, we permitted our minds to be
dejected by misfortunes which courage might enable us to surmount! A
female who under the anguish of inexpressible torments, never permitted
a sigh or complaint to escape from her lips, but submitted with silent
resignation to the will of heaven, in hope of meeting with reward
hereafter. She was ever active, invariably mild, and always compassionate
to the miseries of others. But we, who have before our eyes the sublime
instructions which a character thus virtuous and noble has here given us;
we, who like her, aspire to a seat in the mansions of the blessed, refuse
the smallest sacrifice, make no endeavor to stem with courage the torrent
of adversity, or to acquire that degree of patience and resignation,
which a strict examination of our own hearts, and silent communion with
God, would certainly afford.

Sensible and unfortunate beings! The slight misfortunes by which you
are now oppressed, and driven to despair (for slight, indeed, they
are, when compared with mine,) will ultimately raise your minds above
the low considerations of the world, and give a strength to your power
which you now conceive to be impossible. You now think yourselves sunk
into the deepest abyss of suffering and sorrow; but the time will soon
arrive when you will perceive yourselves in that happy state in which
the mind verges from earth and fixes its attention on heaven. You will
then enjoy a calm repose, be susceptible of pleasures equally substantial
and sublime, and possess in lieu of tumultuous anxieties for life, the
serene and comfortable hope of immortality. Blessed, supremely blessed,
is he who knows the value of retirement and tranquillity, who is capable
of enjoying the silence of the groves, and all the pleasures of rural
solitude. The soul then tastes celestial delight even under the deepest
impressions of sorrow and dejection; regains its strength, collects new
courage, and acts with perfect freedom. The eye then looks with fortitude
on the transient sufferings of disease; the mind no longer feels the
dread of being alone; and we learn to cultivate, during the remainder of
our lives, a bed of roses round even the tomb of death.


_Advantages of solitude in exile._

The advantages of solitude are not confined to rank, or fortune, or to
circumstances. Fragrant breezes, magnificent forests, richly tinted
meadows, and that endless variety of beautiful objects which the birth of
spring spreads over the face of nature, enchant not only philosophers,
kings, and heroes, but ravish the mind of the meanest spectator with
exquisite delight. An English author has very justly observed, that
“it is not necessary that he who looks with pleasure on the color of a
flower, should study the principles of vegetation; or that the Ptolemaic
and Copernican systems should be compared, before the light of the sun
can gladden, or its warmth invigorate. Novelty in itself is a source
of gratification; and Milton justly observes, that to him who has been
long pent up in cities, no rural object can be presented which will not
delight or refresh some of his senses.”

Exiles themselves frequently experience the advantages and enjoyments of
solitude. Instead of the world from which they are banished, they form,
in the tranquillity of retirement, a new world for themselves; forget the
false joys and fictitious pleasures which they followed in the zenith
of greatness, habituate their minds to others of a nobler kind, more
worthy the attention of rational beings; and to pass their days with
tranquillity, invent a variety of innocent felicities, which are only
thought of at a distance from society, far removed from all consolation,
far from their country, their families, and their friends.

But exiles, if they wish to insure happiness in retirement, must, like
other men, fix their minds upon some one object, and adopt the pursuit
of it in such a way as to revive their buried hopes, or to excite the
prospect of approaching pleasure.

Maurice, prince of Isenbourg, distinguished himself by his courage
during a service of twenty years under Ferdinand, duke of Brunswick,
and Marshal Broglio, and in the war between the Russians and the Turks.
Health and repose were sacrificed to the gratification of his ambition
and love of glory. During his service in the Russian army, he fell under
the displeasure of the empress, and was sent into exile. The calamitous
condition to which persons exiled by this government are reduced is well
known; but this philosophic prince contrived to render even a Russian
banishment agreeable. While oppressed both in body and mind by the
painful reflections which his situation at first created, and reduced by
his anxieties to a mere skeleton, he accidentally met with the little
essay written by Lord Bolingbroke on the subject of Exile. He read it
several times, and, “in proportion to the number of times I read,” said
the prince, in the preface to the elegant and nervous translation he made
of this work, “I felt all my sorrows and disquietudes vanish.”

This essay by Lord Bolingbroke upon exile, is a master-piece of stoic
philosophy and fine writing. He there boldly examines all the adversities
of life. “Let us,” says he, “set all our past and present afflictions at
once before our eyes: let us resolve to overcome them instead of flying
from them, or wearing out the sense of them with long and ignominious
patience. Instead of palliating remedies, let us use the incision knife
and the caustic, search the wound to the bottom, and work an immediate
and radical cure.”

Perpetual banishment, like uninterrupted solitude, certainly strengthens
the powers of the mind, and enables the sufferer to collect sufficient
force to support his misfortunes. Solitude, indeed, becomes an easy
situation to those exiles who are inclined to indulge the pleasing
sympathies of the heart; for they then experience pleasures that were
before unknown, and from that moment forget those they tasted in the more
flourishing and prosperous conditions of life.

Brutus, when he visited the banished Marcellus in his retreat at
Mitylene, found him enjoying the highest felicities of which human
nature is susceptible, and devoting his time, as before his banishment,
to the study of every useful science. Deeply impressed by the example
this unexpected scene afforded, he felt, on his return, that it was
Brutus who was exiled, and not Marcellus whom he left behind. Quintus
Metellus Numidicus had experienced the like fate a few years before.
While the Roman people, under the guidance of Marius were laying the
foundation of that tyranny which Cesar afterward completed, Metellus,
singly, in the midst of an alarmed senate, and surrounded by an enraged
populace, refused to take the oath imposed by the pernicious laws of
the tribune Saturnius; and his intrepid conduct was converted, by the
voice of faction, into a high crime against the state; for which he
was dragged from his senatorial seat by the licentious rabble, exposed
to the indignity of a public impeachment, and sentenced to perpetual
exile. The more virtuous citizens, however, took arms in his defence, and
generously resolved rather to perish than behold their country unjustly
deprived of so much merit: but this magnanimous Roman, whom no persuasion
could induce to do wrong, declined to increase the confusion of the
commonwealth by encouraging resistance, conceiving it a duty he owed
to the laws, not to suffer any sedition to take place on his account.
Contenting himself with protesting his innocence, and sincerely lamenting
the public phrenzy, he exclaimed, as Plato had done before during the
distractions of the Athenian commonwealth, “If the times should mend,
I shall recover my station; if not, it is a happiness to be absent
from Rome;” and departed without regret into exile, fully convinced of
its advantages to a mind incapable of finding repose except on foreign
shores, and which at Rome must have been incessantly tortured by the
hourly sight of a sickly state and an expiring republic.

Rutilius also, feeling the same contempt for the sentiments and manners
of the age, voluntarily withdrew himself from the corrupted metropolis of
the republic. Asia had been defended by his integrity and courage against
the ruinous and oppressive extortion of the publicans. These noble and
spirited exertions, which he was prompted to make not only from his high
sense of justice, but in the honourable discharge of the particular
duties of his office, drew on him the indignation of the equestrian
order, and excited the animosity of the faction which supported the
interests of Marius. They induced the vile and infamous Apicius to become
the instrument of his destruction. He was accused of corruption; and as
the authors and abettors of this false accusation sat as judges on his
trial, Rutilius, the most innocent and virtuous citizen of the republic,
was of course condemned: for, indeed, he scarcely condescended to
defend the cause. Seeking an asylum in the east, this truly respectable
Roman, whose merits were not only overlooked, but traduced, by his
ungrateful country, was every where received with profound veneration
and unqualified applause. He had however, before the term of his exile
expired, an opportunity of exhibiting the just contempt he felt for
the treatment he had received; for when Sylla earnestly solicited him
to return to Rome, he not only refused to comply with his request, but
removed his residence to a greater distance from his infatuated country.

Cicero, however, who possessed in an eminent degree all the resources
and sentiments which are necessary to render solitude pleasant and
advantageous, is a memorable exception to these instances of happy
and contented exiles. This eloquent patriot, who had been publicly
proclaimed, “the saviour of his country,” who had pursued his measures
with undaunted perseverance, in defiance of the open menaces of a
desperate faction, and the concealed daggers of hired assassins, sunk
into dejection and dismay under a sentence of exile. The strength of his
constitution had long been impaired by incessant anxiety and fatigue;
and the terrors of banishment so oppressed his mind, that he lost all
his powers, and became, from the deep melancholy into which it plunged
him, totally incapable of adopting just sentiments, or pursuing spirited
measures. By this weak and unmanly conduct he disgraced an event by which
Providence intended to render his glory complete. Undetermined where
to go, or what to do, he lamented, with effeminate sighs and childish
tears, that he could now no longer enjoy the luxuries of his fortune,
the splendor of his rank, or the charms of his popularity. Weeping over
the ruins of his magnificent mansion, which Clodius levelled with the
ground, and groaning for the absence of his wife, Terentia, whom he soon
afterward repudiated, he suffered the deepest melancholy to seize upon
his mind: became a prey to the most inveterate grief; complained with
bitter anguish of wants, which, if supplied, would have afforded him no
enjoyment; and acted, in short, so ridiculously, that both his friends
and his enemies concluded that adversity had deranged his mind. Cesar
beheld with secret and malignant pleasure, the man who had refused to act
as his lieutenant, suffering under the scourge of Clodius. Pompey hoped
that all sense of _his_ ingratitude would be effaced by the contempt and
derision to which a benefactor, whom he had shamefully abandoned, thus
meanly exposed his character. Atticus himself, whose mind was bent on
magnificence and money, and who, by his temporizing talents, endeavored
to preserve the friendship of all parties, without enlisting in any,
blushed for the unmanly conduct of Cicero; and in the censorial style of
Cato, instead of his own plausible dialect, severely reproached him for
continuing so meanly attached to his former fortunes. Solitude had no
influence over a mind so weak and depressed as to turn the worst side of
every subject to its view. He died, however, with greater heroism than he
lived; “approach, old soldier!” cried he, from his litter, to Popilius
Lœnas, his former client and present murderer, “and, if you have the
courage, take my life.”

“These instances,” says Lord Bolingbroke, “show that as change of place,
simply considered, can render no man unhappy; so the other evils which
are objected to exile, either cannot happen to wise and virtuous men, or,
if they do happen to them, cannot render them miserable. Stones are hard,
and cakes of ice are cold, and all who feel them feel alike; but the good
or the bad events which fortune brings upon us, are felt according to the
qualities that we, not they, possess. They are in themselves indifferent
and common accidents, and they acquire strength by nothing but our vice
or our weakness. Fortune can dispense neither felicity nor infelicity,
unless we co-operate with her. Few men who are unhappy under the loss of
an estate, would be happy in the possession of it; and those who deserve
to enjoy the advantages which exile takes away, will not be unhappy when
they are deprived of them.”

An exile, however, cannot hope to see his days glide quietly away in
rural delights and philosophic repose, except he has conscientiously
discharged those duties which he owed to the world, and given that
example of rectitude to future ages which every character exhibits who
is as great after his fall as he was at the most brilliant period of his


_Advantages of solitude in old age; and on the bed of death._

The decline of life, and particularly the condition of old age, derive
from solitude the purest sources of uninterrupted enjoyment. Old age
when considered as a period of comparative quietude and repose, as a
serious and contemplative interval between a transitory existence and an
approaching immortality, is, perhaps, the most agreeable condition of
human life: a condition to which solitude affords a secure harbor against
those shattering tempests to which the frail bark of man is continually
exposed in the short but dangerous voyage of the world; a harbor from
whence he may securely view the rocks and quicksands which threatened his
destruction, and which he has happily escaped.

Men are by nature disposed to investigate the various properties of
distant objects before they think of contemplating their own characters;
like modern travellers who visit foreign countries before they are
acquainted with their own. But prudence will exhort the young, and
experience teach the aged, to conduct themselves on very different
principles; and both the one and the other will find that solitude and
self-examination are the beginning and the end of true wisdom.

    Oh! lost to virtue, lost to manly thought,
    Lost to the noble sallies of the soul!
    Who think in solitude to be alone.
    Communion sweet; communion large and high.
    Our reason, guardian angel, and our God:
    The nearest these when others most remote;
    And all, ere long, shall be remote but these.

The levity of youth, by this communion large and high, will be repressed,
and the depression which sometimes accompanies old age entirely removed.
An unceasing succession of gay hopes, fond desires, ardent wishes, high
delights, and unfounded fancies, form the character of our early years;
but those which follow are marked with melancholy and increasing sorrows.
A mind, however that is invigorated by observation and experience,
remains dauntless and unmoved, amidst both the prosperities and
adversities of life. He who is no longer forced to exert his powers, and
who at an early period of his life has well studied the manners of men,
will complain very little of the ingratitude with which his favors and
anxieties have been requited. All he asks is, that the world will let him
alone: and having a thorough knowledge not only of his own character, but
of mankind, he is enabled to enjoy the comforts of repose.

It is finely remarked by a celebrated German, that there are political
as well as religious Carthusians, and that both orders are sometimes
composed of most excellent and pious characters. “It is,” says this
admirable writer, “in the deepest and most sequestered recesses of
forests that we meet with the peaceful sage, the calm observer, the
friend of truth, and the lover of his country, who renders himself
beloved by his wisdom, revered for his knowledge, respected for his
veracity, and adored for his benevolence; whose confidence and friendship
every one is anxious to gain; and who excites admiration by the eloquence
of his conversation, and esteem by the virtue of his actions, while
he raises wonder by the obscurity of his name, and the mode of his
existence. The giddy multitude solicit him to relinquish his solitude,
and seat himself on the throne: but they perceive inscribed on his
forehead, beaming with sacred fire, _odi profanum vulgus et arceo_; and
instead of being his seducers, become his disciples.” But, alas! this
extraordinary character, whom I saw some years ago in Weteravia, who
inspired me with filial reverence and affection, and whose animated
countenance announced the superior wisdom and happy tranquillity of his
mind, is now no more. There did not perhaps at that time exist in any
court a more profound statesman: he was intimately acquainted with all,
and corresponded personally with some of the most celebrated sovereigns
of Europe. I never met with an observer who penetrated with such quick
and accurate sagacity into the minds and characters of men, who formed
such true opinions of the world, or criticised with such discerning
accuracy the actions of those who were playing important parts on its
various theatres. There never was a mind more free, more enlarged, more
powerful, or more engaging; or an eye more lively and inquisitive. He
was the man, of all others, in whose company I could have lived with
the highest pleasure, and died with the greatest comfort. The rural
habitation in which he lived, was simple in its structure, and modest in
its attire; the surrounding grounds and gardens laid out in the happy
simplicity of nature; and his fare healthy and frugal. I never felt a
charm more powerful than that which filled my bosom while I contemplated
the happy solitude of the venerable Baron de Schautenbach at Weteravia.

Rousseau, feeling his end approach, also passed the few remaining years
of an uneasy life in solitude. It was during old age that he composed
the best and greater part of his admirable works; but, although he
employed his time with judicious activity, his feelings had been too
deeply wounded by the persecutions of the world, to enable him to find
complete tranquillity in the bowers of retirement. Unhappily he continued
ignorant of the danger of his situation, until the vexations of his mind,
the disorders of his body, and his unpardonable neglect of health, had
rendered his recovery impossible. It was not until he had been many years
tormented by physicians, and racked by a painful malady, that he took up
his pen; and his years increased only to increase the visible effect of
his mental and corporeal afflictions, which at length became so acute,
that he frequently raved wildly or fainted away under the excess of his

It is observed by one of our refined critics, that “all Rousseau wrote
during his old age is the effect of madness.” “Yes,” replied his fair
friend, with greater truth, “but he raved so pleasantly, that we are
delighted to run mad with him.”

The mind becomes more disposed to seek its “guardian angel and its God,”
the nearer it approaches the confines of mortality. When the ardent
fire of youth is extinguished, and the meridian heat of life’s short
day subsides into the soft tranquillity and refreshing quietude of its
evening, we feel the important necessity of devoting some few hours to
pious meditation before we close our eyes in endless night; and the very
idea of being able to possess this interval of holy leisure, and to hold
this sacred communion with God, recreates the mind, like the approach of
spring after a dull, a dreary, and a distressing winter.

Petrarch scarcely perceived the approaches of old age. By constant
activity he contrived to render retirement always happy, and year after
year rolled unperceived away in pleasures and tranquillity. Seated in
a verdant arbor in the vicinity of a Carthusian monastery, about three
miles from Milan, he wrote to his friend Settimo with a simplicity of
heart unknown in modern times. “Like a wearied traveller, I increase
my pace in proportion as I approach the end of my journey, I pass my
days and nights in reading and writing; these agreeable occupations
alternately relieve each other, and are the only sources from whence I
derive my pleasures. I lie awake and think, and divert my mind by every
means in my power; and my ardor increases as new difficulties arise.
Novelties incite, and obstacles sharpen, my resistance. The labors I
endure are certain, for my hand is tired of holding my pen: but whether
I shall reap the harvest of my toils I cannot tell. I am anxious to
transmit my name to posterity: but if I am disappointed in this wish I
am satisfied the age in which I live, or at least my friends, will know
me, and this fame will satisfy me. My health is so good, my constitution
so robust, and my temperament so warm, that neither the advance of years
nor the most serious occupation, have power to conquer the rebellious
enemy by which I am incessantly attacked. I should certainly become its
victim, as I have frequently been, if Providence did not protect me. On
the approach of spring, I take up arms against the flesh, and am even at
this moment struggling for my liberty against this dangerous enemy.”

A rural retreat, however lonely or obscure, contributes to increase the
fame of those great and noble characters who relinquish the world at an
advanced period of their lives, and pass the remainder of their days in
solitude: their lustre beams from their retirement with brighter rays
than those which shone around them in their earliest days, and on the
theatre of their glory. “It is in solitude, in exile, and on the bed of
death,” says Pope, “that the noblest characters of antiquity shone with
the greatest splendor; it was then they performed the greatest services;
for it was during those periods that they became useful examples.” And
Rousseau appears to have entertained the same opinion: “It is noble,”
says he, “to exhibit to the eyes of men an example of the life they
ought to lead. The man who, when age or ill health has deprived him of
activity, dares to resound from his retreat the voice of truth, and
to announce to mankind the folly of those opinions which render them
miserable, is a public benefactor. I should be of much less use to my
countrymen, were I to live among them, than I can possibly be in my
retreat. Of what importance can it be, whether I live in one place or in
another, provided I discharge my duties properly?”

A certain young lady of Germany, however, was of opinion that Rousseau
was not entitled to praise. She maintained that he was a dangerous
corrupter of the youthful mind, and that he had very improperly
discharged his duties, by discovering in his Confessions the moral
defects and vicious inclinations of his heart. “Such a work written by
a man of virtue,” said she, “would render him an object of abhorrence:
but Rousseau, whose writings are circulated to captivate the wicked,
proves, by his story of the Ruban Vole, that he possesses a heart of the
blackest dye. It is evident, from many passages in that publication, that
it was vanity alone which guided his pen; and from many others, that he
felt himself conscious he was disclosing falsehoods. There is nothing,
in short, throughout the work that bears the stamp of truth; and all
it informs us of is, that Madame de Warens was the original from which
he drew the character of Julia. These unjustly celebrated Confessions
contain, generally speaking, a great many fine words, and but very few
good thoughts. If, instead of rejecting every opportunity of advancing
himself in life, he had engaged in some industrious profession, he might
have been more useful to the world than he has been by the publication of
his dangerous writings.”

This incomparable criticism upon Rousseau merits preservation; for, in my
opinion, it is the only one of its kind. The Confessions of Rousseau is a
work certainly not proper for the eye of youth; but to me it appears one
of the most remarkable philosophic publications that the present age has
produced. The fine style and enchanting colors in which it is written are
its least merits. The most distant posterity will read it with rapture,
without inquiring what age the venerable author had attained when he gave
to the world this last proof of his sincerity.

Age, however advanced, is capable of enjoying real pleasure. A virtuous
old man passes his days with serene gayety, and receives, in the
happiness he feels from the benedictions of all around him, a rich reward
for the rectitude and integrity of his past life; for the mind reviews
with joyful satisfaction its honorable and self-approving transactions:
nor does the near prospect of the tomb give fearful emotion to his
undismayed and steady soul.

The empress Maria Theresa has caused her own mausoleum to be erected,
and frequently, accompanied by her family, visits with serenity and
composure, a monumental depository, the idea of which conveys such
painful apprehension to almost every mind. Pointing it out to the
observation of her children, “Ought we to be proud or arrogant,” says
she, “when we here behold the tomb in which, after a few years, the poor
remains of royalty must quietly repose?”

There are few men capable of thinking with so much sublimity. Every
one, however, is capable of retiring, at least occasionally, from the
corruptions of the world; and if, during this calm retreat, they shall
happily learn to estimate their past days with propriety, and to live the
remainder in private virtue and public utility, the tomb will lose its
menacing aspect, and death appear like the calm evening of a fine and
well spent day.

    “Blest be that hand divine, which gently laid
    My heart at rest beneath this humble shed.
    The world’s a stately bark on dang’rous seas,
    With pleasure seen, but boarded at our peril;
    Here, on a single plank, thrown safe ashore,
    I hear the tumult of the distant throng,
    As that of seas remote, or dying storms;
    And meditate on scenes more silent still;
    Pursue my theme, and fight the fear of death.
    Here, like a shepherd gazing from his hut,
    Touching his reed, or leaning on his staff,
    Eager ambition’s fiery chase I see;
    I see the circling hunt of noisy men
    Burst law’s enclosure, leap the mounds of right,
    Pursuing and pursued, each other’s prey,
    As wolves for rapine; as the fox for wiles;
    Till death, that mighty hunter, earths them all.”

When Addison perceived that he was given over by his physicians, and
felt his end approaching, he sent for Lord Warwick, a young man of very
irregular life and loose opinions, whom he had diligently, but vainly
endeavored to reclaim, but who by no means wanted respect for the
person of his preceptor, and was sensible of the loss he was about to
sustain. When he entered the chamber of his dying friend, Addison, who
was extremely feeble, and whose life at that moment hung quivering on
his lips, observed a profound silence. The youth, after a long and awful
pause, at length said, in low and trembling accents, “Sir, you desired to
see me: signify your commands, and be assured I will execute them with
religious fidelity.” Addison took him by the hand, and with his expiring
breath replied, “observe with what tranquillity a Christian can die.”
Such is the consolation which springs from a due sense of the principles,
and a proper practice of the precepts of our holy religion: such is the
high reward a life of simplicity and innocence bestows.

He who during the retirement of the day seriously studies, and during
the silence of the night piously contemplates the august doctrines of
revelation, will be convinced of their power by experiencing their
effect. He will review with composure his past errors in society,
perceive with satisfaction his present comfort in solitude, and aspire
with hope to future happiness in heaven. He will think with the freedom
of a philosopher, live with the piety of a Christian, and renounce with
ease the poisonous pleasures of society from a conviction that they
weaken the energies of his mind, and prevent his heart from raising
itself toward his God. Disgusted with the vanities and follies of public
life, he will retire into privacy, and contemplate the importance
of eternity. Even if he be still obliged occasionally to venture on
the stormy sea of busy life, he will avoid with greater skill and
prudence the rocks and sands by which he is surrounded, and steer with
greater certainty and effect from the tempests which most threaten his
destruction; rejoicing less at the pleasant course which a favorable wind
and clear sky may afford him, than at his having happily eluded such a
multitude of dangers.

The hours consecrated to God in solitude, are not only the most
important, but when we are habituated to this holy communion, the
happiest of our lives. Every time we silently elevate our thoughts toward
the great Author of our being, we recur to a contemplation of ourselves:
and being rendered sensible of our nearer approach, not only in idea, but
in reality, to the seat of eternal felicity, we retire, without regret,
from the noisy multitude of the world. A philosophic view and complete
knowledge of the nature of the species creep by degrees upon the mind:
we scrutinize our characters with greater severity; feel with redoubled
force the necessity of a reformation; and reflect with substantial effect
on the glorious end for which we were created. Conscious that human
actions are acceptable to the Almighty mind only in proportion as they
are prompted by motives of the purest virtue, men ought benevolently
to suppose that every good work springs from an untainted source and
is performed merely for the benefit of mankind; but human actions are
exposed to the influence of a variety of secondary causes, and cannot
always be the pure production of an unbiassed heart. Good works, however,
from whatever motive they arise, always convey a certain satisfaction and
complacency to the mind. But when the real merit of the performer is to
be actually investigated, the inquiry must always be, whether the mind
was not actuated by sinister views, by the hope of gratifying a momentary
passion, by the feelings of self love, rather than by the sympathies
of brotherly affection: and these subtle and important questions are
certainly discussed with closer scrutiny, and the motives of the heart
explored and developed with greater sincerity, during those hours when we
are alone before God than in any other situation.

Firm and untainted virtue, indeed, cannot be so easily and efficaciously
acquired, as by practising the precepts of Christianity in the bowers of
solitude. Religion refines our moral sentiments, disengages the heart
from every vain desire, renders it tranquil under misfortunes, humble
in the presence of God, and steady in the society of men. A life passed
in the practice of every virtue, affords us a rich reward for all the
hours we have consecrated to its duties, and enables us in the silence of
solitude to raise our pure hands and chaste hearts in pious adoration to
our Almighty Father!

How “low, flat, stale, and unprofitable, seem all the uses of this
world,” when the mind, boldly soaring beyond this lower sphere, indulges
the idea that the pleasures which result from a life of innocence and
virtue may be faintly analogous to the felicities of heaven! At least,
I trust we may be permitted unoffendingly to conceive, according to our
worldly apprehensions, that a free and unbounded liberty of thought
and action, a high admiration of the universal system of nature, a
participation of the divine essence, a perfect communion of friendship,
and a pure interchange of love, may be a portion of the enjoyments we
hope to experience in those regions of peace and happiness where no
impure or improper sentiment can taint the mind. But notions like these,
although they agreeably flatter our imaginations, shed at present but
a glimmering light upon this awful subject, and must continue, like
dreams and visions of the mind, until the clouds and thick darkness which
surrounded the tomb of mortality no longer obscure the bright glories of
everlasting life; until the veil shall be rent asunder, and the Eternal
shall reveal those things which no eye hath seen, no ear has heard, and,
which passeth all understanding. For I acknowledge, with awful reverence
and silent submission, that the knowledge of eternity is to the human
intellect like that which the color of crimson appeared to be in the mind
of a blind man, who compared it to the sound of a trumpet. I cannot,
however, conceive, that a notion more comfortable can be entertained,
than that eternity promises a constant and uninterrupted tranquillity;
although I am perfectly conscious that it is impossible to form an
adequate idea of the nature of that enjoyment which is produced by
happiness without end. An everlasting tranquillity is, in my imagination,
the highest possible felicity, because I know of no felicity upon earth
higher than that which a peaceful mind and contented heart afford.

Since, therefore, internal and external tranquillity is, upon earth,
an incontestable commencement of beatitude, it may be extremely useful
to believe, that a rational and qualified seclusion from the tumults
of the world, may so highly rectify the faculties of the human soul,
as to enable us to acquire in “blissful solitude” the elements of that
happiness we expect to enjoy in the world to come.

    He is the happy man, whose life e’en now,
    Shows somewhat of that happier life to come:
    Who, doom’d to an obscure but tranquil state,
    Is pleas’d with it, and, were he free to choose
    Would make his fate his choice: whom peace, the fruit
    Of virtue, and whom virtue, fruit of faith,
    Prepare for happiness; bespeak him one
    Content, indeed, to sojourn while he must
    Below the skies, but having there his home,
    The world o’erlooks him in her busy search
    Of objects more illustrious in her view;
    And occupied as earnestly as she;
    Though more sublimely, he o’erlooks the world.
    She scorns his pleasures, for she knows them not;
    He seeks not hers, for he has proved them vain.
    He cannot skim the ground like such rare birds
    Pursuing gilded flies, and such he deems
    Her honors, her emoluments, her joys.
    Therefore in contemplation is his bliss,
    Whose power is such, that whom she lifts from earth
    She makes familiar with a heaven unseen,
    And shows him glories yet to be reveal’d.







Solitude, in its strict and literal acceptation, is equally unfriendly
to the happiness, and foreign to the nature of mankind. An inclination
to exercise the faculty of speech, to interchange the sentiments of the
mind, to indulge the affections of the heart, and to receive themselves,
while they bestow on others, a kind assistance and support, drives
men, by an ever active, and almost irresistible impulse, from solitude
to society: and teaches them that the highest temporal felicity they
are capable of enjoying, must be sought for in a suitable union of
the sexes, and in a friendly intercourse with their fellow creatures.
The profoundest deductions of reason, the highest flights of fancy,
the finest sensibilities of the heart, the happiest discoveries of
science, and the most valuable productions of art, are feebly felt, and
imperfectly enjoyed, in the cold and cheerless regions of solitude.
It is not to the senseless rock, or to the passing gale, that we can
satisfactorily communicate our pleasures and our pains. The heavy sighs
which incessantly transpire from the vacant bosoms of the solitary
hermit and the surly misanthropist, indicate the absence of those high
delights which ever accompany congenial sentiment and mutual affection.
The soul sinks under a situation in which there are no kindred bosoms to
participate its joys, and sympathise in its sorrows; and feels, strongly
feels, that the beneficent Creator has so framed and moulded the temper
of our minds, that society is the earliest impulse and the most powerful
inclination of our hearts.

Society, however, although it is thus pointed out to us, as it were
by the finger of the Almighty, as the means of reaching our highest
possible state of earthly felicity, is so pregnant with dangers, that it
depends entirely on ourselves, whether the indulgence of this instinctive
propensity shall be productive of happiness or misery.

The pleasures of society, like pleasures of every other kind, must, to be
pure and permanent, be temperate and discreet. While passion animates,
and sensibility cherishes, reason must direct, and virtue be the object
of our course. Those who search for happiness in a vague, desultory, and
indiscriminate intercourse with the world; who imagine the palace of
pleasure to be surrounded by the gay, unthinking, and volatile part of
the species; who conceive that the rays of all human delight beam from
places of public festivity and resort;

    “Who all their joys in mean profusion waste,
    Without reflection, management, or taste;
    Careless of all that virtue gives to please;
    For thought too active, and too mad for ease;
    Who give each appetite too loose a rein,
    Push all enjoyment to the verge of pain;
    Impetuous follow where the passions call,
    And live in rapture or not live at all;”

will, instead of lasting and satisfactory fruition, meet only with
sorrowful disappointment. This mode of seeking society is not a rational
indulgence of that natural passion which heaven, in its benevolence to
man, has planted in the human heart; but merely a factitious desire,
an habitual pruriency, produced by restless leisure, and encouraged
by vanity and dissipation. Social happiness, true and essential
social happiness, resides only in the bosom of love and in the arms
of friendship, and can only be really enjoyed by congenial hearts
and kindred minds, in the domestic bowers of privacy and retirement.
Affectionate intercourse produces an inexhaustible fund of delight. It
is the perennial sunshine of the mind. With what extreme anxiety do we
all endeavor to find an amiable being with whom we may form a tender
tie and close attachment, who may inspire us with unfading bliss, and
receive increase of happiness from our endearments and attention! How
greatly do such connexions increase the kind and benevolent dispositions
of the heart! and how greatly do such dispositions, while they lead the
mind to the enjoyment of domestic happiness, awaken all the virtues, and
call forth the best and strongest energies of the soul! Deprived of the
chaste and endearing sympathies of love and friendship, the species sink
into gross sensuality or mute indifference, neglect the improvement of
their faculties, and renounce all anxiety to please; but incited by these
propensities, the sexes mutually exert their powers, cultivate their
talents, call every intellectual energy into action; and, by endeavoring
to promote each other’s happiness, mutually secure their own.

Adverse circumstances, however, frequently prevent well disposed
characters, not only from making the election which their hearts would
prompt, and their understandings approve, but force them into alliances
which both reason and sensibility reject. It is from the disappointments
of love or of ambition that the sexes are generally repelled from society
to solitude. The affection, the tenderness, the sensibility of the heart,
are but too often torn and outraged by the cruelty and malevolence of an
unfeeling world, in which vice bears on its audacious front the mask of
virtue, and betrays innocence into the snares of unsuspected guilt. The
victims, however, whether of love or of ambition, who retire from society
to recruit their depressed spirits, and repair their disordered minds,
cannot, without injustice, be stigmatized as misanthropists, or arraigned
as anti-social characters. All relish for scenes of social happiness may
be lost by an extreme and over ardent passion for the enjoyments of them;
but it is only those who seek retirement from an aversion to the company
of their fellow creatures, that can be said to have renounced, or be
destitute of, the common sympathies of nature.

The present age, however, is not likely to produce many such unnatural
characters, for the manners of the whole world, and particularly of
Europe, were never, perhaps, more disposed to company. The rage for
public entertainments seems to have infected all the classes of society.
The pleasures of private life seem to be held in universal detestation
and contempt; opprobrious epithets, defame the humble enjoyments of
domestic love, and those whose hours are not consumed in unmeaning
visits, or unsocial parties, are regarded as censors of the common
conduct of the world, or as enemies to their fellow creatures; but
although mankind appear so extremely social, they certainly were never
less friendly and affectionate. Neither rank, nor sex, nor age, is free
from this pernicious habit. Infants, before they can well lisp the
rudiments of speech, are initiated into the idle ceremonies and parade of
company: and can scarcely meet their parents or their playmates without
being obliged to perform a punctilious salutation. Formal card parties,
and petty treats, engross the time that should be devoted to healthful
exercise and manly recreation. The manners of the metropolis are imitated
with inferior splendor, but with greater absurdity, in the country; every
village has its routs and its assemblies, in which the curled darlings
of the place blaze forth in feathered lustre and awkward magnificence;
and while the charming simplicity of one sex is destroyed by affectation,
the honest virtues of the other by dissolute gallantry, and the passions
of both inflamed by vicious and indecent mirth, the grave elders of the
districts are trying their tempers and impoverishing their purses at
sixpenny whist and cassino.

The spirit of dissipation has reached even the vagrant tribe. The
Gypsies of Germany suspend their predatory excursions, and on one
previously-appointed evening in every week, assemble to enjoy their
guilty spoils in the fumes of strong waters and tobacco. The place of
rendezvous is generally the vicinity of a mill, the proprietor of which,
by affording to these wandering tribes an undisturbed asylum, not only
secures his property from their depredations, but, by the idle tales
with which they contrive to amuse his ear, respecting the characters
and conduct of his neighbors, furnishes himself with new subjects of
conversation for his next evening coterie.

Minds that derive all their pleasure from the levity and mirth of
promiscuous company, are seldom able to contribute, in any high degree,
to their own amusement. Characters like these search every place
for entertainment, except their own bosoms and the bosoms of their
surrounding families, where by proper cultivation, real happiness, the
happiness arising from love and friendship, is alone capable of being

The wearied pleasurist, sinking under the weight that preys upon his
spirits, flies to scenes of public gayety or private splendor, in fond
but vain expectation that they will dispel his discontent, and recreate
his mind; but he finds, alas! that the fancied asylum affords him no
rest. The ever-craving appetite for pastime grows by what it feeds
on; and the worm, which devoured his delight amidst his sylvan scenery
of solitude, still accompanies him to crowded halls of elegance and
festivity. While he eagerly embraces every object that promises to supply
the dreadful vacancy of his mind, he exhausts his remaining strength;
enlarges the wound he is so anxiously endeavoring to heal; and by too
eagerly grasping at the phantom pleasure, loses, perhaps for ever, the
substantial power of being happy.

Men whose minds are capable of higher enjoyments always feel these
perturbed sensations, when deluded into a fashionable party, they find
nothing to excite curiosity, or interest their feelings! and where they
are pestered by the frivolous importunities of those for whom they cannot
entertain either friendship or esteem. How, indeed, is it possible for a
sensible mind to feel the slightest approbation, when a coxcomb enamored
of his own eloquence, and swoln with the pride of self-conceited merit,
tires by his loquacious nonsense, all around him?

The great Leibnitz was observed by his servant frequently to take notes
while he sat at church; and the domestic very rationally conceived that
he was making observations on the subject of the sermon: but it is more
consistent with the character of this philosopher to conclude, that he
was indulging the powers of his own capacious and excursive mind, when
those of the preacher ceased to interest him. Thus it happens, that
while the multitude are driven from solitude to society, by being tired
of themselves, there are some, and those not a few, who seek refuge in
rational retirement from the frivolous dissipation of company.

An indolent mind is as irksome to itself as it is intolerable to others;
but an active mind feels inexhaustible resources in its own power.
The first is forced to fly from itself for enjoyment, while the other
calmly resigns itself to its own suggestions, and always meets with the
happiness it has vainly sought for in its communion with the world.

To rouse the soul from that lethargy into which its powers are so apt to
drop from the tediousness of life, it is necessary to apply a stimulus
both to the head and to the heart. Something must be contrived to strike
the senses and interest the mind. But it is much more difficult to convey
pleasure to others, than to receive it ourselves; and while the many wait
in anxious hope of being entertained, they find but few who are capable
of entertaining. Disappointment increases the eagerness of desire; and
the uneasy multitude rush to places of public resort, endeavoring,
by noise and bustle, festive gratification, elegant decoration, rich
dresses, splendid illuminations, sportive dances, and sprightly music,
to awaken the dormant faculties, and agitate the stagnant sensibilities
of the soul. These scenes may be considered the machineries of pleasure;
they produce a temporary effect, without requiring much effort or
co-operation to obtain it; while those higher delights, of which
retirement is capable, cannot be truly enjoyed without a certain degree
of intellectual exertion. There are, indeed, many minds so totally
corrupted by the unceasing pursuits of these vain and empty pleasures,
that they are utterly incapable of relishing intellectual delight; which,
as it affords an enjoyment totally unconnected with, and independent of,
common society, requires a disposition and capacity which common company
can never bestow. Retirement, therefore, and its attendant enjoyments,
are of a nature too refined for the gross and vulgar capacities of the
multitude, who are more disposed to gratify their intellectual indolence,
by receiving a species of entertainment which does not require from
them the exertion of thought, than to enjoy pleasures of a nobler kind,
which can only be procured by a rational restraint of the passions, and
a proper exercise of the powers of the mind. Violent and tumultuous
impressions can alone gratify such characters, whose pleasures like
those of the slothful Sybarites, only indicate the pain they undergo in
striving to be happy.

Men, eager for the enjoyment of worldly pleasures, seldom attain the
object they pursue. Dissatisfied with the enjoyments of the moment,
they long for absent delight, which seems to promise a more poignant
gratification. Their joys are like those of Tantalus, always in view, but
never within reach. The activity of such characters lead to no beneficial
end; they are perpetually in motion, without making any progress: they
spur on “the lazy foot of time,” and then complain of the rapidity of its
flight, only because they have made no good use of its presence: they
“take no note of time but by its loss;” and year follows year, only to
increase their uneasiness. If the bright beam of Aurora wake them from
their perturbed repose, it is only to create new anxiety how they are to
drag through the passing day. The change of season produces no change in
their wearied dispositions; and every hour comes and goes with equal
indifference and discontent.

The pleasures of society, however, although they are attended with such
unhappy effects, and pernicious consequences, to men of weak heads and
corrupted hearts, who only follow them for the purpose of indulging
the follies, and gratifying the vices, to which they have given birth,
are yet capable of affording to the wise and the virtuous, a high,
rational, sublime, and satisfactory enjoyment. The world is the only
theatre upon which great and noble actions can be performed, or the
heights of moral and intellectual excellence usefully attained. The
society of the wise and good, exclusive of the pleasing relaxation it
affords from the anxieties of business, and the cares of life, conveys
valuable information to the mind, and virtuous feelings to the breast.
There experience imparts its wisdom in a manner equally engaging and
impressive; the faculties are improved, and knowledge increased. Youth
and age reciprocally contribute to the happiness of each other. Such a
society, while it adds firmness to the character, gives fashion to the
manners; and opens immediately to the view the delightful models of
wisdom and integrity. It is only in such society that man can rationally
hope to exercise, with any prospect of success, the latent principle,
which continually prompts him to pursue the high felicity of which he
feels his nature capable, and of which the Creator has permitted him to
form a faint idea.

    “In every human heart there lies reclined
    Some atom pregnant with ethereal mind;
    Some plastic power, some intellectual ray,
    Some genial sunbeam from the source of day;
    Something that warms, and restless to aspire,
    Wakes the young heart, and sets the soul on fire;
    And bids us all our inborn powers employ
    To catch the phantom of ideal joy.”

Sorrow frequently drives its unhappy victims from solitude into the
vortex of society as a means of relief; for solitude is terrible to those
whose minds are torn with anguish for the loss of some dear friend,
whom death has, perhaps, taken untimely from their arms; and who would
willingly renounce all worldly joys to hear one accent of that beloved
voice, which used, in calm retirement, to fill his ear with harmony, and
his heart with rapture.

Solitude also is terrible to those whose felicity is founded on popular
applause; who have acquired a degree of fame by intrigue, and actions of
counterfeited virtue; and who suffer the most excruciating anxiety to
preserve their spurious fame. Conscious of the fraudulent means by which
they acquire possession of it, and of the weak foundation on which it is
built, it appears continually to totter, and always ready to overwhelm
them in its ruins. Their attention is sedulously called to every quarter;
and, in order to prop up the unsubstantial fabric, they bend with mean
submission to the pride of power; flatter the vanity, and accommodate
themselves to the vices of the great; censure the genius that provokes
their jealousy; ridicule the virtue that shames the conduct of their
patrons; submit to all the follies of the age; take advantage of its
errors; cherish its prejudices; applaud its superstition, and defend its
vices. The fashionable circles may, perhaps, welcome such characters as
their best supporters and highest ornaments; but to them the calm and
tranquil pleasures of retirement are dreary and disgusting.

To all those, indeed, whom vice has betrayed into guilt, and whose bosoms
are stung by the adders of remorse, solitude is doubly terrible; and they
fly from its shades to scenes of worldly pleasure, in the hope of being
able to silence the keen reproaches of violated conscience in the tumults
of society. Vain attempt!

Solitude, indeed, as well as religion, has been represented in such
dismal, disagreeable colors, by those who were incapable of tasting
its sweets, and enjoying its advantages, that many dismiss it totally
from all their schemes of happiness, and fly to it only to alleviate
the bitterness of some momentary passion, or temporary adversity, or to
hide the blushes of approaching shame. But there are advantages to be
derived from solitude, even under such circumstances, by those who are
otherwise incapable of enjoying them. Those who know the most delightful
comforts, and satisfactory enjoyments, of which a well regulated solitude
is productive, like those who are acquainted with the solid benefits
to be derived from religion, will seek retirement, in the hours of
prosperity and content, as the only means by which they can be enjoyed
in true perfection. The tranquillity of its shades will give richness
to their joys; its uninterrupted quietude will enable them to expatiate
on the fullness of their felicity; and they will turn their eyes with
soft compassion on the miseries of the world, when compared with the
blessings they enjoy.

Strongly, therefore, as the social principle operates in our breast; and
necessary as it is, when properly regulated, to the improvement of our
minds, the refinement of our manners, and the melioration of our hearts;
yet some portion of our time ought to be devoted to rational retirement:
and we must not conclude that those who occasionally abstain from the
tumultuous pleasures, and promiscuous enjoyments of the world, are morose
characters, or of peevish dispositions; nor stigmatize those who appear
to prefer the calm delights of solitude to the tumultuous pleasures of
the world, as unnatural and anti-social.

    “Whoever thinks, must see that man was made
    To face the storm, not languish in the shade:
    Action’s his sphere, and for that sphere design’d,
    Eternal pleasures open on his mind.
    For this fair hope leads on th’ impassion’d soul
    Through life’s wild lab’rinths to her distant goal,
    Paints in each dream, to fan the genial flame,
    The pomp of riches, and the pride of fame;
    Or fondly gives reflection’s cooler eye
    In solitude, an image of a future sky.”


_Of the motives to solitude._

The motives which induce men to exchange the tumultuous joys of society,
for the calm and temperate pleasures of solitude, are various and
accidental; but whatever may be the final cause of such an exchange, it
is generally founded on an inclination to escape from some present or
impending constraint; to shake off the shackles of the world; to taste
the sweets of soft repose; to enjoy the free and undisturbed exertion of
the intellectual faculties; or to perform, beyond the reach of ridicule,
the important duties of religion. But the busy pursuits of worldly minded
men prevent the greater part of the species from feeling these motives,
and, of course, from tasting the sweets of unmolested existence. Their
pleasures are pursued in paths which lead to very different goals: and
the real, constant, and unaffected lover of retirement is a character
so rarely found, that it seems to prove the truth of lord Verulam’s
observation, that he who is really attached to solitude, must be either
more or less than man; and certain it is, that while the wise and
virtuous discover in retirement an uncommon and transcending brightness
of character, the vicious and the ignorant are buried under its weight,
and sink even beneath their ordinary level. Retirement gives additional
firmness to the principles of those who seek it from a noble love of
independence, but loosens the feeble consistency of those who only seek
it from novelty and caprice.

To render solitude serviceable, the powers of the mind, and the
sensibilities of the heart, must be co-equal, and reciprocally regulate
each other; weakness of intellect, when joined with quick feelings,
hurries its possessor into all the tumult of worldly pleasure; and when
mingled with torpid insensibility, impels him to the cloister. Extremes,
both in solitude and in society, are equally baneful.

A strong sense of shame, the keen compunctions of conscience, a deep
regret for past follies, the mortification arising from disappointed
hopes, and the dejection which accompanies disordered health, sometimes
so affect the spirits, and destroy the energies of the mind, that the
soul shrinks back upon itself at the very approach of company, and
withdraws to the shades of solitude, only to brood and languish in
obscurity. The inclination to retire, in cases of this description,
arises from a fear of meeting the reproaches or disregard of an unpitying
and unreflecting world, and not from that erect spirit which disposes the
mind to self enjoyment.

The disgust arising from satiety of worldly pleasures, frequently induces
a temporary desire for solitude. The dark and gloomy nature, indeed, of
this disposition, is such as neither the splendors of a throne, nor the
light of philosophy, are able to irradiate and dispel. The austere and
petulant Heraclitus abandoned all the pleasures and comforts of society,
in the vain hope of being able to gratify his discontented mind, by
indulging an antipathy against his fellow creatures; flying from their
presence he retired, like his predecessor Timon, to a high mountain,
where he lived for many years among the beasts of the desert, on the
rude produce of the earth, regardless of all the comforts a civilized
society is capable of bestowing. Such a temper of mind proceeds from a
sickened intellect and disordered sensibility, and indicates the loss
of that fine, but firm sense of pleasure, from which alone all real
enjoyment must spring. He who having tasted all that can delight the
senses, warm the heart, and satisfy the mind, secretly sighs over the
vanity of his enjoyments, and beholds all the cheering objects of life
with indifference, is, indeed, a melancholy example of the sad effects
which result from an intemperate pursuit of worldly pleasures. Such a man
may, perhaps, abandon society, for it is no longer capable of affording
him delight; but he will be debarred from all rational solitude, because
he is incapable of enjoying it, and a refuge to the brute creation seems
his only resource. I have, indeed, observed even noblemen and princes
in the midst of abundance, and surrounded by all the splendor that
successful ambition, high state, vast riches, and varying pleasures can
confer, sinking the sad victims of satiety; disgusted with their glories;
and dissatisfied with all those enjoyments which are supposed to give
a higher relish to the soul; but they had happily enriched their minds
with notions far superior to all those which flow from the corrupted
scenes of vitiated pleasures; and they found, in solitude, a soft and
tranquil pillow, which invited their perturbed minds, and at length
lulled their feelings into calm repose. These characters were betrayed
for a time by the circumstances which surrounded their exalted stations
into an excess of enjoyment; but they were able to relish the simple
occupations, and to enjoy the tranquil amusements of retirement, with as
much satisfaction as they had formerly pursued the political intrigues of
the cabinet, the hostile glories of the field, or the softer indulgences
of peaceful luxury; and were thereby rendered capable of deriving comfort
and consolation from that source which seems only to heighten and
exasperate the miseries of those whose minds are totally absorbed in the
dissipations of life.

The motives, indeed, which lead men either to temporary retirement, or
absolute solitude, are innumerably various. Minds delicately susceptible
to the impressions of virtue, frequently avoid society, only to avoid
the pain they feel in observing the vices and follies of the world.
Minds active and vigorous, frequently retire to avoid the clogs and
incumbrances by which the tumults and engagements of society distract and
impede the free and full enjoyment of their faculties. The basis, indeed,
of every inclination to solitude is the love of liberty, either mental
or corporeal; a freedom from all constraint and interruption: but the
form in which the inclination displays itself, varies according to the
character and circumstances of the individual.

Men who are engaged in pursuits foreign to the natural inclination of
their minds, sigh continually for retirement, as the only means of
recruiting their fatigued spirits, and procuring a comfortable repose.
Scenes of tranquillity can alone afford them any idea of enjoyment.
A refined sense of duty, indeed, frequently induces noble minds to
sacrifice all personal pleasures to the great interests of the public,
or the private benefits of their fellow creatures; and they resist
every opposing obstacle with courage, and bear every adversity with
fortitude, under those cheering sentiments, and proud delights, which
result from the pursuits of active charity and benevolence, even
though their career be thwarted by those whose advantages they design
to promote. The exhilarating idea of being instrumental in affording
relief to suffering humanity, reconciles every difficulty, however
great: prompts to new exertions, however fruitless; and sustains them
in those arduous conflicts, in which all who aspire to promote the
interest, and improve the happiness of mankind, must occasionally engage,
especially when opposed by the pride and profligacy of the rich and
great, and the obstinacy and caprice of the ignorant and unfeeling. But
the most virtuous and steady minds cannot always bear up against “a sea
of troubles, or by opposing, end them:” and, depressed by temporary
adversities, will arraign the cruelty of their condition, and sigh for
the shades of peace and tranquillity. How transcendent must be the
enjoyment of a great and good minister who, after having anxiously
attended to the important business of the state, and disengaged himself
from the necessary but irksome occupation of official detail, refreshes
his mind in the calm of some delightful retreat, with works of taste, and
thoughts of fancy and imagination! A change, indeed, both of scene and
sentiment, is absolutely necessary, not only in the serious and important
employments, but even in the common occupations and idle amusements of
life. Pleasure springs from contrast. The most charming object loses a
portion of its power to delight, by being continually beheld. Alternate
society and solitude are necessary to the full enjoyment of both the
pleasures of the world and the delights of retirement. It is, however,
asserted that the celebrated Pascal, whose life was far from being
inactive, that quietude is a beam of the original purity of our nature,
and that the height of human happiness is in solitude and tranquillity.
Tranquillity, indeed, is the wish of all: the good, while pursuing the
track of virtue; the great while following the star of glory; and the
little, while creeping in the styes of dissipation, sigh for tranquillity
and make it the great object which they ultimately hope to attain. How
anxiously does the sailor, on the high and giddy mast, when rolling
through tempestuous seas, cast his eyes over the foaming billows, and
anticipate the calm security he hopes to enjoy when he reaches the wished
for shore! Even kings grow weary of their splendid slavery, and nobles
sicken under increasing dignities. All, in short, feel less delight in
the actual enjoyment of worldly pursuits, however great and honorable
they may be, than in the idea of their being able to relinquish them and
retire to

          “… some calm sequestered spot;
    The world forgetting, by the world forgot.”

The restless and ambitious Pyrrhus hoped that ease and tranquillity
would be the ultimate reward of his enterprising conquests. Frederic the
great, discovered, perhaps unintentionally, how pleasing and satisfactory
the idea of tranquillity was to his mind, when immediately after he
had gained a glorious and important victory, he exclaimed on the field
of battle, “Oh that my anxieties may now be ended!” The emperor Joseph
also displayed the predominancy of his passion for tranquillity and
retirement, when on asking the famous German pedestrian, Baron Grothaus,
what countries he next intended to traverse, was told a long number in
rapid succession. “And what then?” continued the emperor. “Why then,”
replied the baron, “I intend to retire to the place of my nativity, and
enjoy myself in rural quietude, and the cultivation of my patrimonial
farm.” “Ah, my good friend,” exclaimed the emperor, “if you will trust
the voice of sad experience, you had better neglect the walk, and retire
before it is too late, to the quietude and tranquillity you propose.”

Publius Scipio, surnamed Africanus, during the time that he was invested
with the highest offices of Rome, and immediately engaged in the most
important concerns of the empire, withdrew whenever an opportunity
occurred, from public observation, to peaceful privacy; and though
not devoted, like Tully, to the elegant occupations of literature and
philosophy, declared that “he was never less alone than when alone.” He
was, says Plutarch, incomparably the first both in virtue and power,
of the Romans of his time; but in his highest tide of fortune, he
voluntarily abandoned the scene of his glory, and calmly retired to his
beautiful villa in the midst of a romantic forest, near Liturnum, where
he closed, in philosophic tranquillity, the last years of a long and
splendid life.

Cicero, in the plenitude of his power, at a time when his influence over
the minds of his fellow citizens was at its height, retired, with the
retiring liberties of his country, to his Tusculum villa, to deplore the
approaching fate of his beloved city, and to ease, in soothing solitude,
the anguish of his heart.

Horace, also, the gay and elegant favorite of the great Augustus, even in
the meridian rays of royal favor, renounced the smiles of greatness, and
all the seductive blandishments of an imperial court, to enjoy his happy
muse among the romantic wilds of his sequestered villa of Tibur, near the
lake Albunea.

But there are few characters who have passed the concluding scenes
of life with more real dignity than the emperor Dioclesian. In the
twenty-first year of his reign, though he had never practised the lessons
of philosophy either in the attainment or the use of supreme power, and
although his reign had flowed with a tide of uninterrupted success, he
executed his memorable resolution of abdicating the empire, and gave
the world the first example of a resignation which has not been very
frequently imitated by succeeding monarchs. Dioclesian was at this
period only fifty-nine years of age, and in the full possession of his
mental faculties; but he had vanquished all his enemies, and executed
all his designs; and his active life, his wars, his journeys, the
cares of royalty, and his application to business having impaired his
constitution, and brought on the infirmities of a premature old age, he
resolved to pass the remainder of his days in honorable repose; to place
his glory beyond the reach of fortune, and to relinquish the theatre
of the world to his younger and more active associates. The ceremony
of his abdication was performed in a spacious plain, about three miles
from Nicomedia. The emperor ascended a lofty throne, and, in a speech
full of reason and dignity, declared his intention both to the people
and to the soldiers, who were assembled on this extraordinary occasion.
As soon as he had divested himself of the purple, he withdrew from the
gazing multitude; and traversing the city in a covered chariot, proceeded
without delay to the favorite retirement which he had chosen in his
native country of Dalmatia. The emperor, who, from a servile origin, had
raised himself to the throne, passed the last nine years of his life in
a private condition at Salona. Reason had dictated, and content seems to
have accompanied, his retreat, in which he enjoyed for a long time the
respect of those princes to whom he had resigned the possession of the
world. It is seldom that minds long exercised in business have formed
any habits of conversing with themselves, and in the loss of power, they
principally regret the want of occupation. The amusements of letters and
of devotion, which afford so many resources in solitude, were incapable
of fixing the attention of Dioclesian: but he had preserved, or, at
least, he soon recovered, a taste for the most innocent as well as
natural pleasures; and his leisure hours were sufficiently employed in
building, planting, and gardening. His answer to Maximian is deservedly
celebrated. He was solicited by that restless old man to resume the
reins of government and the imperial purple. He rejected the temptation
with a smile of pity, calmly observing, that if he could show Maximian
the cabbages he had planted at Salona, he should be no longer urged
to relinquish the enjoyment of happiness for the pursuit of power. In
his conversations with his friends he frequently acknowledged, that of
all the arts the most difficult was that of reigning; and he expressed
himself on that favorite topic with a degree of warmth which could be
the result only of experience. “How often,” was he accustomed to say,
“is it the interest of four or five ministers to combine together to
deceive the sovereign! Secluded from mankind by his exalted dignity,
the truth is concealed from his knowledge: he can only see with their
eyes; he hears nothing but their misrepresentations. He confers the most
important offices upon vice and weakness, and disgraces the most virtuous
and deserving among his subjects; and by such infamous acts the best and
wisest princes are sold to the venal corruption of their courtiers.” A
just estimate of greatness, and the assurance of immortal fame, improve
our relish for the pleasures of retirement.

Zenobia, the celebrated queen of Palmyra and the east; a female whose
superior genius broke through the servile indolence imposed on her sex
by the climate and manners of Asia, the most lovely as well as the
most heroic of her sex, who spread the terror of her arms over Arabia,
Armenia, and Persia, and kept even the legions of the Roman empire in
awe, was, after the two great battles of Antioch and Emesa, at length
subdued, and made the illustrious captive of the emperor Aurelian; but
the conqueror, respecting the sex, the beauty, the courage and endowments
of the Syrian queen, not only preserved her life, but presented her
with an elegant villa at Tibur or Tivoli, about twenty miles from Rome;
where, in happy tranquillity, she fed the greatness of her soul with the
noble images of Homer, and the exalted precepts of Plato; supported the
adversity of her fortunes with fortitude and resignation; and learnt
that the anxieties attendant on ambition are happily exchanged for the
enjoyments of ease and the comforts of philosophy.

Charles V. resigned the government of the empire to his brother the king
of the Romans; and transferred all claims of obedience and allegiance
to him from the Germanic body, in order that he might no longer be
detained from that retreat for which he long had languished. In passing,
some years before, from Valladolid to Placentia, in the Province of
Estremadura, he was struck with the delightful situation of the monastery
of St. Justus, belonging to the order of St. Jerome, not many miles
distant from the town; and observed to some of his attendants, that
this was a spot to which Dioclesian might have retired with pleasure.
The impression remained upon his mind, and he determined to make it the
place of his own retreat. It was seated in a vale of no great extent,
watered by a small brook, and surrounded by rising grounds covered with
lofty trees; and from the nature of the soil, as well as the temperature
of the climate, was esteemed the most healthful and delicious situation
in Spain. Some months before his resignation, he had sent an architect
thither to add a new apartment to the monastery for his accommodation;
but he gave strict orders that the style of the building should be
such as suited his present station rather than his former dignity. It
consisted only of six rooms; four of them in the form of friar’s cells,
with naked walls; the other two, each twenty feet square, were hung with
brown cloth, and furnished in the most simple manner; they were all
on a level with the ground, with a door on one side into a garden of
which Charles himself had given the plan, and had filled it with various
plants, which he intended to cultivate with his own hands. On the other
side they communicated with the chapel of the monastery, in which he
was to perform his devotions. In this humble retreat, hardly sufficient
for the comfortable accommodation of a private gentleman, did Charles
enter with twelve domestics only, and buried in solitude and silence his
grandeur, his ambition, and all those vast projects which, during almost
half a century, had alarmed and agitated Europe; filling every kingdom in
it by turns with the terror of his arms, and the dread of being subdued
by his power.

These instances of resignation and retirement, to which many others
might have been added, sufficiently prove that a desire to live in free
leisure, independent of the restraints of society, is one of the most
powerful affections of the human mind; and that solitude, judiciously and
rationally employed, amply compensates all that is sacrificed for the
purpose of enjoying it.

But there are many other resources from whence an anti-social disposition
may arise, which merits consideration. That terrible malady, the
hypocondria, frequently renders the unhappy sufferer not only averse
to society in general, but even fearful of meeting a human being; and
the still more dreadful malady a wounded heart, increases our antipathy
to mankind. The fear of unfounded calumny also sometimes drives weak
and dejected minds into the imaginary shelter of obscurity; and even
strong and honest characters, prone to disclose their real sentiments,
are disgusted at the world from a consciousness of its being unable
to listen temperately to the voice of truth. The obstinacy with which
mankind persist in habitual errors, and the violence with which they
indulge inveterate passions, a deep regret for their follies, and
the horror which their vices create, drives us frequently from their
presence. The love of science, a fondness for the arts, and an attachment
to the immortal works of genius, induce, I trust, not a few to neglect
all anxiety to learn the common news of the day, and keep them in some
calm, sequestered retreat far from the unmeaning manners of the noisy
world, improving the genuine feelings of their hearts, and storing their
minds with the principles of true philosophy. There are others, though
I fear they are few, who, impressed by a strong sense of the duties of
religion, and feeling how incompatible with their practice are most, if
not all, the factitious joys of social life, retire from the corrupted
scene, to contemplate, in sacred privacy, the attributes of a Being
unalterably pure, and infinitely good; to impress upon their minds so
strong a sense of the importance of obedience to the divine will, of the
value of the reward promised to virtue, and the terrors of the punishment
denounced against crimes, as may overbear all temptations which temporal
hope or fear can bring in their way, and enable them to bid equal
defiance to joy and sorrow; to turn away at one time from the allurements
of ambition, and press forward at another against the threats of calamity.

The dejection occasioned by the hypochondria renders the mind not
only averse from, but wholly incapable of, any pleasure, and induces
the unhappy sufferer to seek a solitude by which it is increased. The
influence of this dreadful malady is so powerful, that it destroys all
hope of remedy, and prevents those exertions, by which alone, we are told
it can be cured.

    To cure the mind’s wrong bias--spleen,
    Some recommend the bowling-green;
    Some, hilly walks; all, exercise;
    Fling but a stone, the giant dies;
    Laugh, and be well. Monkies have been
    Extreme good doctors for the spleen;
    And kittens, if the humor hit,
    Have harlequined away the fit.

But, alas! the heart shuts itself against every pleasing sensation, and
the mind dismisses every cheering sentiment. Joy opens in vain its festal
arms to receive him; and he shuns embraces, whose light and mirthful
air would only serve to increase the melancholy of his dreary and
distempered mind. Even the tender, affectionate offices of friendship,
in endeavoring to sooth and divert his mind by lively conversation and
social intercourse, appear officious and ill-timed. His spirits are
quite dejected; his faculties become torpid; and his sense of enjoyment
is annihilated. The charming air which breathes to us the sweetest
fragrance, and most invigorating delights, feels to him like a pestilent
congregation of vapors.

    His pensive spirit takes the lonely grove
    Nightly he visits all the sylvan scenes,
    Where, far remote, a melancholy moon
    Raising her head, serene and shorn of beams,
    Throws here and there the glimmerings through the trees,
    To make more awful darkness.

Conscious that his frame is totally unstrung, and that his pulse is
incapable of beating in any pleasant unison with the feelings of his
healthful friends, he withers into sorrowful decay. Every object around
him appears to be at enmity with his feelings, and comes shapeless and
discolored to his disordered eyes. The gentle voice of pity grates
his ears with harsh and hollow sounds, and seems to reproach him with
insulting tones. Stricken by his dreadful malady, the lamentable effects
of which a cruel and unfeeling world so often ridicule and despise, and
constantly tearing open the wound it has occasioned, the afflicted spirit
flies from every scene of social joy and animating pleasure, seeks as a
sole resource, to hide its sorrows in solitary seclusion, and awaits, in
lingering sufferance, the stroke of death.

The erroneous opinions, perverse dispositions, and inveterate prejudices
of the world, are sometimes the causes which induce men to retire from
society, and seek in solitude the enjoyments of innocence and truth.
Careless of a commerce with those for whom they can entertain no esteem,
their minds naturally incline toward those scenes in which their
fancy paints the fairest form of felicity. He, indeed, whose free and
independent spirit is resolved to permit his mind to think for itself;
who disdains to form his feelings, and to fashion his opinions, upon
the capricious notions of the world; who is too candid to expect that
others should be guided by his notions, and sufficiently firm not to
obey implicitly the hasty notions of others; who seeks to cultivate the
just and manly feelings of the heart, and to pursue truth in the paths
of science, must detach himself from the degenerate crowd, and seek his
enjoyments in retirement. For to those who love to consult their own
ideas, to form opinions upon their own reasonings and discernment, and
to express only such sentiments as they really feel, a society whose
judgments are borrowed, whose literature is only specious, and whose
principles are unfounded, must not only be irksomely insipid, but morally
dangerous. The firm and noble minded disdain to bow their necks to
the slavish yoke of vulgar prejudice, and appeal, in support of their
opinions, to the higher tribunal of sense and reason, from the partial
and ill-formed sentences of conceited critics, who, destitute themselves
of any sterling merit, endeavor to depreciate the value of that coin
whose weight and purity render it current, and to substitute their own
base and varnished compositions in its stead. Those self-created who
proudly place themselves in the professor’s chair, look with an envious
and malignant eye on all the works of genius, taste, and sense; and as
their interests are intimately blended with the destruction of every
sublime and elegant production, their cries are raised against them the
moment they appear. To blast the fame of merit is their chief object and
their highest joy: and their lives are industriously employed to stifle
the discoveries, to impede the advancement, to condemn the excellency,
and to pervert the meaning of their more ingenious contemporaries. Like
loathsome toads, they grovel on the ground, and, as they move along,
emit a nasty slime, or frothy venom, on the sweetest shrubs and fairest
flowers of the fields.

From the society of such characters, who seem to consider the noble
productions of superior intellect, the fine and vigorous flights of
fancy, the brilliant effusions of a sublime imagination, and the refined
feelings of the heart, as fancied conceits or wild deliriums, those who
examine them by a better standard than that of fashion or common taste,
fly with delight.

The reign of envy, however, although it is perpetual as to the existence
of the passion, is only transitory as to the objects of its tyranny; and
the merit which has fallen the victim of its rage, is frequently raised
by the hand of truth, and placed on the throne of public applause. A
production of genius, however the ears of its author were deafened,
during his life, by the clamors of calumny, and hisses of ignorance, is
reviewed with impartiality when he dies, and revived by the acclamations
of ingenuous applause. The reproach which the life of a great and good
man is continually casting on his mean and degenerate contemporaries,
is silenced by his death. He is remembered only in the character of his
works; and his fame increases with the successive generations, which his
sentiments and opinions contribute to enlighten and adorn.

The history of the celebrated English philosopher, David Hume, affords,
perhaps, a stronger instance of the dangers to which wit and learning are
exposed from the malicious shafts of envy, ignorance, and intolerance,
than that of any other author. The tax indeed, is common to authors of
every description, but it frequently falls the heaviest on the highest
heads. This profound philosopher and elegant historian, possessed a
mild temper; a lively, social disposition; a high sense of friendship,
and incorruptible integrity. His manners, indeed, appeared, at first
sight, cold and repulsive; for he had sacrificed little to the graces:
but his mind was invariably cheerful, and his affections uncommonly warm
and generous: and neither his ardent desire of fame, nor the gross and
unfounded calumnies of his enemies, were capable of disturbing the happy
tranquillity of his heart. His life was passed in the constant exercise
of humanity and benevolence; and even those who had been seduced, by the
jealous and vindictive artifices of others, wantonly to attack his fame
and character with obloquy and reproach, experienced his kindness, and
acknowledged his virtues. He would never indeed confess that his friends
had ever had occasion to vindicate any one circumstance of his character
or conduct, or that he had ever been attacked either by the baleful
tooth of envy, or the rage of civil or religious faction. His company,
indeed, was equally agreeable to all classes of society; and young and
old, rich and poor, listened with pleasure to his conversation, and
quitted his company with regret; for although he was deeply learned, and
his discourses replete with sagacity and science, he had the happy art
of delivering his sentiments upon all subjects without the appearance of
ostentation, or in any way offending the feelings of his hearers.

The interests of religion are said to have suffered by the abuse of his
talents; but the precepts of Christianity were never more powerfully
recommended, than by the integrity of his morals, and the purity of his
life. His benign and gentle spirit, attached to virtue, and averse from
every species of vice, essentially promoted the practice of piety, and
the duties of a religious mind; and did not, as is always the case with
the zeal of persecution and martyrdom, tear away the very foundation of
that fabric which it pretends to support. The excellency, indeed, both
of the head and the heart of this great and good man, enabled him not
only to enjoy himself with perfect felicity, but to contribute to the
improvement, and increase the happiness of mankind. This is the opinion
now generally entertained of the character of Hume; but far different
were the sentiments of his contemporaries upon this subject. It was
neither in a barbarous country, or in an unenlightened age, that he
lived; but although the land was free, the people philosophical, and the
spirit of the times provoked the minds of learned men to metaphysical
inquiry, the fame of Hume was wrecked upon his moral and religious
writings. He was charged with being a sceptic; but from the propagation
of certain doctrines, and the freedom of inquiry which had then gone
forth, it is impossible to attribute his disappointments to this cause.
A kind of natural prejudice, indeed, prevailed in England at this period
against the Scots; but as he did not experience much favor from his own
countrymen, no conclusion can be fairly drawn from this circumstance;
and the extraordinary History of his Literary Transactions, a work
written by himself, cannot be perused without an equal degree of surprise
and concern. The contemptuous repulses which his several compositions
received from the public, appear incredible; but the facts he relates
are undoubtedly authentic; and while they raise a sorrowful regret for
the fate of Hume in particular, they most unhappily tend to diminish the
ardor of the student, who contemplates the various dangers to which his
desire of fame may be exposed, and may, perhaps, induce him to quit the
pursuit of an object “so hard to gain, so easy to be lost.”

The melancholy history of the literary career of the celebrated Hume,
as appears from the short sketch he made of _his own life_, while he
calmly waited, under an incurable disorder, the moment of approaching
dissolution; a work which proclaims the mildness, the modesty, and the
resignation of his temper, as clearly as his other works demonstrate
the power and extent of his mind. The history, indeed, of every man who
attempts to destroy the reigning prejudices, or correct the prevailing
errors, of his age and country, is nearly the same. He who has the
happiness to see objects of any description with greater perspicuity than
his contemporaries, and presumes to disseminate his superior knowledge,
by the unreserved publication of his opinions, sets himself up as a
common mark for the shafts of envy and resentment to pierce, and seldom
escapes from being charged with wicked designs against the interests of
mankind. A writer, whatever his character, station, or talents may be,
will find that he has a host of malevolent inferiors ready to seize every
opportunity of gratifying their humbled pride, by attempting to level
his superior merits, and subdue his rising fame. Even the compassionate
few, who are ever ready to furnish food to the hungry, clothing to the
naked, and consolation to the afflicted, seldom feel any other sensation
than that of jealousy on beholding the wreath of merit placed on the
brow of a deserving rival. The Ephesians, with republican pride, being
unable to endure the reproach which they felt from the pre-eminency of
any individual, banished to some other state, the citizen who presumed
to excel the generality of his countrymen. It would be, in some measure,
adopting this egregious and tyrannical folly, were I to exhort the man
whose merits transcend those who are his equals in rank, or station,
to break off all intercourse and connexion with them; but I am certain
that he might, by an occasional retirement, elude the effects of their
envy, and avoid those provocations to which, by his superiority, he will
otherwise be continually exposed.

To treat the frailties of our fellow creatures with tenderness, to
correct their errors with kindness, to view even their vices with pity,
and to induce, by every friendly attention, a mutual complacency and good
will, is not only an important moral duty, but a means of increasing the
sum of earthly happiness. It is, indeed, difficult to prevent an honest
mind from bursting forth with generous indignation against those artful
hypocrites who, by specious and plausible practices, obtain the false
character of being wise and good, and obtrude their flimsy and heterodox
opinions upon the unthinking world, as the fair and genuine sentiments
of truth and virtue. The anger which arises in a generous and ardent
mind, on hearing a noble action calumniated, or a useful work illiberally
attacked, is not easily restrained; but such feelings should be checked
and regulated with a greater degree of caution than even if they were
less virtuous and praiseworthy; for, if they are indulged with frequency,
their natural violence may weaken the common charities of the mind, and
convert its very goodness and love of virtue into a mournful misanthropy,
or virulent detestation of mankind.

Let not the man, whose exalted mind, improved by study and observation,
surveys with a discriminating eye the moral depravities and mental
weaknesses of human nature, submit to treat his envious inferiors with
inveterate anger, and undistinguishing revenge. Their envy as a tribute
of approbation to his greatness. Let him look with the gentle eye of
pity upon those who err rather from the wicked suggestions of others,
than from the malevolence of their own hearts: let him not confound
the weak and innocent reptile with the scorpion and the viper; let him
listen, without emotion, to the malignant barking and envious hissings
that everywhere attend the footsteps of transcendent merit; let him
disregard, with philosophic dignity, the senseless clamors of those noisy
adversaries who are blinded by prejudice, and deaf to the arguments
of sense and reason: let him rather, by a mild and forbearing temper,
endeavor to make some impression on their hearts; and if he should find
their bosoms susceptible, he may hope in time to convince them of their
errors, and, without violence or compulsion, bring back their deluded
understandings to a sense of truth, and the practice of virtue; but, if
experience convince him that every endeavor to reform them is fruitless
and vain, let him--

    Neglect the grumblers of an envious age,
    Vapid in spleen, or brisk in frothy rage;
    Critics, who, ere they understand, defame;
    And seeming friends who only do not blame,
    And puppet prattlers, whose unconscious throat
    Transmits what the pert witling prompts by rote:
    Let him neglect this blind and babbling crowd,
    To enjoy the favor of the wise and good.

Slander, however, by fixing her talons on the most virtuous characters,
generally defeats her own malice, and proclaims their merit. It may,
indeed, tend to diminish their inclination for general society, and to
render them, in some degree, apprehensive of the danger of even well
deserved fame. “Durable fame,” says Petrarch, “is only to be derived from
the practice of virtue, and from such works as are worthy of descending
from generation to generation. As to praters, gowned gentlemen, that
walk in their silks, glitter in their jewels, and are pointed at by the
people, all their bravery and pomp, their show of knowledge, and their
thundering speeches, last only with their lungs, and then vanish into
thin smoke; for the acquisition of wealth, and the desires of ambition,
are no witnesses of true desert. I think I shall have fame after my
death; and that is a fame from which no profit is derived; but, on the
contrary, frequently injures, while alive, the person who is to enjoy it
when dead. What procured the destruction of Cicero, Demosthenes, and
Zeno, but foul and haggard envy of their fame? What brought the chosen
men of the great ship Argos to Colchis, but the fame of that king’s
riches? For what else was signified by the Golden Fleece, but the riches
seized by these marauders, destitute of true riches, and who were clad
with fleeces not their own?” Many, indeed, whose merits have cast a
radiance around their characters, have hidden its splendors with the
shades of retirement to avoid giving uneasiness to envy; and, by being
deprived of that warm and aspiring tribute of applause which they had
gloriously and justly earned, have, in some instances at least, indulged
too keen a sense of the depravity of mankind. Solon, after having in vain
exhorted the Athenians to resist the tyranny of Pisistratus, and save the
liberties of that country, on which he had conferred such distinguished
services, returned to his own house, and placing his weapons at the
street door, exclaimed, as a last effort, “_I have done all in my power
to save my country and defend its laws!_” and then retired from the
tumults of public life, to weep in silence over the servility of the
Athenians, and the fate of Athens. History affords many illustrious
instances, both ancient and modern, of the like kind: for there never
was a statesman, who possessed a great mind and manly feelings, that did
not, even during the plentitude of his power, occasionally wish to escape
from the incorrigible vices which prevail in courts, to the enjoyment
of the more innocent pleasures and humble virtues which surround the
cottage. Such exalted characters cannot observe, without the highest
disgust, and keenest indignation, the virtues of the best, and the
services of the bravest men of the nation, blasted by the envious breath
of brainless placemen, or the insidious insinuations of female favorites,
whose whole time is employed in caressing their monkies and paroquets,
or in aspersing the merits of those who boldly seek their fortune by
the open and manly road of true desert, and not by the deep, dark, and
crooked paths of flattery and intrigue. Can such a man behold the double
dealing and deceitful artifices by which the excellency of princes is
corrupted, their imaginations dazzled, their discernment blinded, and
their minds led astray without feeling uncommon indignation? Certainly
not. But however acutely his bosom may feel, or tongue express his
sense of such prevailing practices, he must still be forced to see,
with even a more contemptuous and painful sensation, that envious rage
and jealous asperity, which burst from the cringing crowd of mean and
abject courtiers, on hearing the monarch, in the grateful feelings of
his heart, applaud the eminent and faithful services of some gallant
officer. Dion was the principal statesman at the court of Dionysius, and
the deliverer of Sicily. When the younger Dionysius succeeded to the
throne of his father, Dion, in the first council that he held, spoke
with so much propriety on the existing state of affairs, and on the
measures which ought to be taken, that the surrounding courtiers appeared
to be mere children in comparison. By the freedom of his counsels he
exposed, in a strong light, the slavish principles of those who, through
a timorous disingenuity, advised such measures as they thought would
please their prince, rather than such as might advance his interest. But
what alarmed them most, were the steps he proposed to take with regard to
the impending war with Carthage; for he offered either to go in person
to Carthage, and settle an honorable peace with the Carthagenians, or,
if war should be inevitable, to fit out and maintain fifty gallies at
his own expense. Dionysius was pleased with the magnificence of his
spirit; but his courtiers felt that it made them appear little; and
agreeing that, at all events, Dion was to be crushed, they spared for
that purpose no calumny that malice could suggest. They represented to
the king that this favorite certainly meant to make himself master by
sea, and by that means to obtain the kingdom for his sister’s children.
There was, moreover, another and obvious cause of their hatred to him, in
the reserve of his manners, and the sobriety of his life. They led the
young and ill-educated king through every species of debauchery, and were
the shameless panders of his wrong directed passions. Their enmity to
Dion, who had no taste for luxurious enjoyments, was a thing of course;
and as he refused to partake with them in their vices, they resolved
to strip him of his virtues; to which they gave the name of such vices
as are supposed to resemble them. His gravity of manners they called
pride; his freedom of speech, insolence; his declining to join in their
licentiousness, contempt. It is true, there was a natural haughtiness
in his deportment and an asperity that was unsociable, and difficult
of access; so that it was not to be wondered at if he found no ready
admission to the ears of a young king, already spoiled by flattery.
Willing to impute the irregularities of Dionysius to ignorance and bad
education, Dion endeavored to engage him in a course of liberal studies,
and to give him a taste for those sciences which have a tendency to moral
improvement. But in this wise and virtuous resolution he was opposed by
all the artifices of court intrigue.

Men, in proportion as their minds are dignified with noble sentiments,
and their hearts susceptible of refined sensibility, feel a justifiable
aversion to the society of such characters, and shrink from the scenes
they frequent; but they should cautiously guard against the intrusions
of that austerity and moroseness with which such a conduct is but too
apt to inspire the most benevolent minds. Disgusted by the vices and
follies of the age, the mind becomes insensibly impressed with a hatred
toward the species, and loses, by degrees, that mild and humane temper
which is so indispensably necessary to the enjoyment of social happiness.
Even he who merely observes the weak or vicious frailties of his fellow
creatures with an intention to study philosophically the nature and
disposition of man, cannot avoid remembering their defects with severity,
and viewing the character he contemplates with contempt, especially if
he happens to be the object of their artifices, and the dupe of their
villanies. Contempt is closely allied with hatred; and hatred of mankind
will corrupt, in time, the fairest mind: it tinges, by degrees, every
object with the bile of misanthropy; perverts the judgment; and at length
looks indiscriminately with an evil eye on the good and bad, engenders
suspicion, fear, jealousy, revenge, and all the black catalogue of
unworthy and malignant passions: and when these dreadful enemies have
extirpated every generous sentiment from the breast, the unhappy victim
abhors society, disclaims his species, sighs, like St. Hyacinth, for
some distant and secluded island, and with savage barbarity, defends the
inviolability of its boundaries by the cruel repulsion, and, perhaps, the
death of those unhappy mortals whom misfortune may drive, hapless and
unpitied, to its inhospitable shores.

But if misanthropy be capable of producing such direful effects on well
disposed minds, how shocking must be the character whose disposition,
naturally rancorous, is heightened and inflamed by an habitual hatred and
malignancy toward his fellow creatures! In Swisserland, I once beheld
a monster of this description; I was compelled to visit him by the
duties of my profession; but I shudder while I recollect the enormity of
his character. His body was almost as deformed as his mind. Enmity was
seated on his distorted brow. Scales of livid incrustation, the joint
produce of his corrupted body and distempered mind, covered his face. His
horrid figure made me fancy that I saw Medusa’s serpents wreathing their
baleful folds among the black and matted locks of his dishevelled hair;
while his red and fiery eyes glared like malignant meteors through the
obscurity of his impending eyebrows. Mischief was his sole delight, his
greatest luxury, and his highest joy. To sow discord among his neighbors,
and to tear open the closing wounds of misery, was his only occupation.
His residence was the resort of the disorderly, the receptacle of
the vicious, and the asylum of the guilty. Collecting around him the
turbulent and discontented of every description, he became the patron
of injustice, the protector of villany, the perpetrator of malice, the
inventer of fraud, the propagator of calumny, and the zealous champion
of cruelty and revenge; directing, with malignant aim, the barbed shafts
of his adherents equally against the comforts of private peace and the
blessings of public tranquillity. The bent and inclination of his nature
had been so aggravated and confirmed by the “multiplying villanies of
his life,” that it was impossible for him to refrain one moment from the
practice of them, without feeling uneasiness and discontent; and he never
appeared perfectly happy, but when new opportunities occurred to glut his
infernal soul with the spectacle of human miseries.

The Timon of Lucian was in some measure excusable for his excessive
hatred to mankind, by the unparallelled wrongs they had heaped upon
him. The inexorable antipathy he entertained against the species had
been provoked by injuries almost too great for the common fortitude of
humanity to endure. His probity humanity, and charity to the poor, had
been the ruin of him; or rather his own folly, easiness of disposition,
and want of judgment in his choice of friends. He never discovered that
he was giving away his all to wolves and ravens. Whilst these vultures
were preying on his liver, he thought them his best friends, and that
they fed upon him out of pure love and affection. After they had gnawed
him all round, ate his bones bare, and whilst there was any marrow in
them, sucked it carefully out, they left him cut down to the roots
and withered; and so far from relieving him, or assisting him in their
turns, would not so much as know or look upon him. This made him turn a
common laborer; and, dressed in his skin garment, he tilled the earth
for hire; ashamed to show himself in the city, and venting his rage
against the ingratitude of those who, enriched, as they had been by
him now proudly passed along without noticing him. But although such a
character is not to be despised or neglected, no provocation, however
great can justify the violent and excessive invectives which he profanely
bellowed forth from the bottom of Hymettus; “this spot of earth shall
be my only habitation while I live; and when I am dead, my sepulchre.
From this time forth, it is my fixed resolution to have no commerce or
connexion with mankind; but to despise them, and avoid it. I will pay
no regard to acquaintance, friendship, pity or compassion. To pity the
distressed, or to relieve the indigent, I shall consider as a weakness,
nay, as a crime; my life, like that of the beasts of the field, shall
be spent in solitude; and Timon alone shall be Timon’s friend. I will
treat all beside as enemies and betrayers. To converse with them were
profanation! to herd with them impiety. Accursed be the day that brings
them to my sight! I will look upon men, in short, as no more than so
many statues of brass or stone; will make no truce, have no connexion
with them. My retreat shall be the boundary to separate us for ever.
Relations, friends, and country, are empty names, respected by fools
alone. Let Timon only be rich and despise all the world beside. Abhorring
idle praise, and odious flattery, he shall be delighted with himself
alone. Alone shall he sacrifice to the gods, feast alone, be his own
neighbor, and his own companion. I am determined to be alone for life;
and when I die, to place the crown upon my own head. The fairest name I
would be distinguished by is that of a misanthrope. I would be known and
marked out by my asperity of manners; by moroseness, cruelty, anger, and
inhumanity. Were I to see a man perishing in the flames, and imploring
me to extinguish them, I would throw pitch or oil into the fire to
increase it; or, if the winter flood should overwhelm another, who, with
out-stretched hands should beg me to assist him, I would plunge him still
deeper in the stream, that he might never rise again. Thus shall I be
revenged of mankind. This is Timon’s law, and this hath Timon ratified.
I should be glad, however, that all might know how I abound in riches,
because that I know will make them miserable.”

The moral to be drawn from this dialogue of the celebrated Grecian
philosopher, is the extreme danger to which the best and most benevolent
characters may be exposed, by an indiscreet and unchecked indulgence
of those painful feelings with which the baseness and ingratitude of
the world are apt to wound the heart. There are, however, those who,
without having received ill treatment from the world, foster in their
bosoms a splenetic animosity against society, and secretly exult in the
miseries and misfortunes of their fellow creatures. Indulging themselves
in the indolent habits of vice and vanity, and feeling a mortification
in being disappointed of those rewards which virtuous industry can alone
bestow, they seek a gloomy solitude to hide them from those lights which
equally discover the errors of vice and the rectitude of virtue. Unable
to attain glory for themselves, and incapable of enduring the lustre of
it in others, they creep into discontented retirement, from which they
only emerge to envy the satisfaction which accompanies real merit, to
calumniate the character to which it belongs; and, like satan, on the
view of paradise, to “see undelighted all delight.”

There are, however, a class of a very different description, who,
unoppressed by moody melancholy, untinctured by petulance or spleen,
free from resentment, and replete with every generous thought and
manly sentiment, calmly and contentedly retire from society, to enjoy,
uninterruptedly, a happy communion with those high and enlightened minds,
who have adorned by their actions the page of history, enlarged by their
talents the powers of the human mind, and increased by their virtues the
happiness of mankind.

Retirement, however solitary it may be, when entered into with such a
temper of mind, instead of creating or encouraging any hatred toward
the species, raises our ideas of the possible dignity of human nature;
disposes our hearts to feel, and our hands to relieve, the misfortunes
and necessities of our fellow creatures; calls to our minds what high
capacious powers lie folded up in man; and giving to every part of
creation its finest forms, and richest colors, exhibits to our admiration
its brightest glories and highest perfections, and induces us to
transplant the charm which exists in our own bosoms into the bosoms of

                    … The spacious west,
    And all the teeming regions of the south,
    Hold not a quarry, to the curious flight
    Of knowledge, half so tempting, or so fair,
    As man to man: nor only where the smiles
    Of love invite; nor only where the applause
    Of cordial honor turns the attentive eye
    On virtue’s graceful deeds; for since the course
    Of things external acts in different ways
    On human apprehension, as the hand
    Of nature tempered to a different frame
    Peculiar minds, so haply where the powers
    Of fancy neither lessen nor enlarge
    The images of things, but paint, in all
    Their genuine hues, the features which they wear
    In nature, there opinions will be true,
    And action right.…

A rational solitude, while it corrects the passions, improves the
benevolent dispositions of the heart, increases the energies of the mind,
and draws forth its latent powers. The Athenian orator, Callistratus,
was to plead in the cause which the city of Oropus had depending; and
the expectation of the public was greatly raised, both by the powers of
the orator, which were then in the highest repute, and the importance
of the trial. Demosthenes, hearing the governors and tutors agree among
themselves to attend the trial, with much importunity prevailed on
his master to take him to hear the pleaders. The master having some
acquaintance with the officer who opened the court, got his young pupil a
seat where he could hear the orators without being seen. Callistratus had
great success, and his abilities were extremely admired. Demosthenes was
fired with the spirit of emulation. When he saw with what distinction the
orator was conducted home, and complimented by the people, he was struck
still more with the power of that commanding eloquence which would carry
all before it. From this time, therefore, he bade adieu to the other
studies and exercises in which boys are engaged, and applied himself
with great assiduity to declaiming, in hope of being one day numbered
among the orators. Satyrus, the player who was an acquaintance of his,
and to whom he lamented, after having been for some time called to the
bar, “that though he had almost sacrificed his health to his studies, he
could gain no favor with the people,” promised to provide him with a
remedy, if he would repeat some speech in Euripides or Sophocles. When
Demosthenes had finished his recitation, Satyrus pronounced the same
speech; and he did it with such propriety of action, and so much in
character, that it appeared to the orator quite a different passage; and
Demosthenes now understanding how much grace and dignity of action adds
to the best oration, quitted the practice of composition, and, building a
subterraneous study repaired thither, for two or three months together,
to form his action, and exercise his voice; and, by this means formed
that strong, impassioned, and irresistible eloquence, which rendered
him the glory of Athens, and the admiration of the world. Most of the
exalted heroes, both of Greece and Rome, who devoted their attention to
arts and to arms, acquired their chief excellency in their respective
pursuits, by retiring from public observation, and cultivating their
talents in the silence of solitude. St. Jerome, the most learned of all
the Latin fathers, and son of the celebrated Eusebius, retired from the
persecution of religious fury into an obscure and dreary desert in Syria,
where he attained that rich, animated, and sublime style of eloquence,
which afterward so essentially contributed to support the rising church,
and to enlighten while it dazzled the Christian world. The Druids, or
ministers of religion among the ancient Gauls, Britons, and Germans,
retired, in the intervals of their sacred functions, into awful forests
and consecrated groves, where they passed their time in useful study and
pious prayers; and while they acquired a complete knowledge of astrology,
geometry, natural philosophy, politics, geography, morals, and religion,
rendered themselves happy and revered, and produced, by the wise
instruction they were capable of affording to others, but particularly
to youth, whose education they superintended, a bright succession of
priests, legislators, counsellors, judges, physicians, philosophers, and
tutors, to the respective nations in which they resided.

The modern Julian, the justly celebrated Frederic, king of Prussia,
derives the highest advantages from his disguised retirement at Sans
Souci, where he contrives the means of hurling inevitable destruction
against the enemies of his country; listens to and relieves with all the
anxiety of a tender parent, the complaints and injuries of his meanest
subjects; and recreates his excursive mind, by revising and correcting
his immortal works for the admiration of posterity. Philosophy, poetry,
and politics, are the successive objects of his attention; and while he
extends his views, and strengthens his understanding, by the study of
ancient wisdom, he meliorates his heart by the delightful offerings of
the muses, and increases the public strength by the wise and economical
management of his resources. An awful silence, interrupted only by gentle
airs with which it is refreshed, pervades this delightful retreat. It
was during the twilight of an autumnal evening that I visited this
solemn scene. As I approached the apartment of this philosophic hero,
I discovered him sitting, “nobly pensive,” near a small table, from
which shone the feeble rays of a common taper. No jealous sentinels, or
ceremonious chamberlain, impeded my progress by scrutinizing inquiries
of suspicion and mistrust; and I walked free and unchecked, except by
respect and veneration, through the humble unostentatious retreat of this
extraordinary man. All characters, however high and illustrious they may
be, who wish to attain a comprehensive view of things, and to shine in
the highest spheres of virtue, must learn the rudiments of glory under
the discipline of occasional retirement.

Solitude is frequently sought from an inclination to extend the knowledge
of our talents and characters to those with whom we have no opportunity
of being immediately acquainted; by preparing with greater care, and
closer application, for the inspection of our contemporaries, works
worthy of the fame we are so anxious to acquire: but it seldom happens,
alas! that those whose labors are most pregnant with instruction and
delight, have received, from the age or country in which they lived,
or even from the companions with whom they associated, the tribute of
kindness or applause that is justly due to their merits. The work which
is stigmatized and traduced by the envy, ignorance, or local prejudices
of a country, for whose delight and instruction it was particularly
intended, frequently receives from the generous suffrages of impartial
and unprejudiced strangers, the highest tribute of applause. Even those
pretended friends, under whose auspices it was at first undertaken, upon
whose advice it proceeded, and upon whose judgment it was at length
published, no sooner hear its praises resounded from distant quarters,
than they permit the poisoned shafts of calumny to fly unaverted around
the unsuspecting author, and warrant, by their silence, or assist, by
their sneers, every insidious insinuation against his motives or his
principles. This species of malevolence has been feelingly painted by
the celebrated Petrarch. “No sooner had my fame,” says he, “risen above
the level of that which my contemporaries had acquired, than every
tongue babbled, and every pen was brandished against me: those who had
before appeared to be my dearest friends, instantly became my deadliest
enemies: the shafts of envy were industriously directed against me from
every quarter: the critics, to whom my poetry had before been much more
familiar than their psalms or their prayers, seized, with malignant
delight, every opportunity of traducing my morals; and those with whom
I had been most intimate, were the most eager to injure my character,
and destroy my fame.” The student, however, ought not to be discouraged
by this instance of envy and ingratitude. He who, conscious of his
merit, learns to depend only on himself for support, will forget the
injustice of the world, and draw his comfort and satisfaction from more
infallible sources: like the truly benevolent and great, he will confer
his favors on the public without the expectation of a return; and look
with perfect indifference upon all the efforts his treacherous friends,
or open enemies, are capable of using. He will, like Petrarch, appeal to
posterity for his reward; and the justice and generosity of future ages
will preserve his fame to succeeding generations, heightened and adorned
in proportion as it has been contemporaneously mutilated and depressed.

The genius of many noble minded authors, particularly in Germany,
are obscured and blighted by the thick and baneful fogs with which
ignorance and envy overwhelm their works. Unable to withstand the
incessant opposition they meet with, the powers of the mind grow feeble
and relaxed; and many a fair design and virtuous pursuit is quitted
in despair. How frequently does the desponding mind exclaim, “I feel
my powers influenced by the affections of the heart. I am certainly
incapable of doing to any individual an intentional injury, and I seek
with anxiety every opportunity of doing good; but, alas! my motives are
perverted, my designs misrepresented, my endeavors counteracted, my very
person ridiculed, and my character defamed.” There are, indeed, those
whose courage and fortitude no opposition can damp, and no adversity
subdue; whose firm and steady minds proceed with determined resolution
to accomplish their designs in defiance of all resistance; and whose
bright talents drive away the clouds of surrounding dulness, like
fogs before the sun. Wieland, the happy Wieland, the adopted child of
every muse, the favorite pupil of the graces, formed the powers of his
extraordinary mind in a lonely and obscure retreat, the little village of
Biberach, in the circle of Suabia, and thereby laid the foundation for
that indisputable glory he has since attained. In solitude and silence
he enriched his mind with all the stores that art and science could
produce, and enabled himself to delight and instruct mankind, by adorning
the sober mien of philosophy, and the lively smiles of wit, with the
true spirit and irresistible charms of poetry. Retirement is the true
parent of the great and good, and the kind nurse of nature’s powers. It
is to occasional retirement that politics owe the ablest statesmen, and
philosophy the most celebrated sages. Did Aristotle, the peripatetic
chief, compose his profound systems in the tumultuous court of Philip, or
were the sublime theories of his master conceived among the noisy feasts
of the tyrant Dionysius? No. The celebrated groves of the Academy, and
the shades of Atarnya, bear witness of the important advantages which,
in the opinion of both Plato and Aristotle, learning may derive from a
rational retirement. These great men, like all others who preceded or
have followed them, found in the ease and quietude of retirement the
best means of forming their minds and extending their discoveries. The
celebrated Leibnitz, to whom the world is deeply indebted, passed a great
part of every year at an humble, quiet, retired, and beautiful villa
which he possessed in the vicinity of Hanover.

To this catalogue of causes, conducing to a love of solitude, or hatred
of society, we may add religion and fanaticism. The benign genius
of religion leads the mind to a love of retirement from motives the
highest, the most noble, and most really interesting, that can possibly
be conceived, and produces the most perfect state of human happiness,
by instilling into the heart the most virtuous propensities, and
inspiring the mind with its finest energies: but fanaticism must ever be
unhappy: for it proceeds from a subversion of nature itself, is formed
on a perversion of reason, and a violation of truth; it is the vice of
low and little understandings, is produced by an ignorance of human
nature, a misapprehension of the Deity, and cannot be practised without
renunciation of real virtue. The passion of retirement, which a sense
of religion enforces, rises in proportion as the heart is pure, and the
mind correct; but the disposition to solitude, which fanaticism creates,
arises from a wild enthusiastic notion of inspiration, and increases in
proportion as the heart is corrupt, and the mind deranged. Religion is
the offspring of truth and love, and the parent of benevolence, hope,
and joy: but the monster fanaticism is the child of discontent, and
her followers are fear and sorrow. Religion is not confined to cells
and closets, nor restrained to sullen retirement; these are the gloomy
retreats of fanaticism, by which she endeavors to break those chains
of benevolence and social affection that link the welfare of every
individual with that of the whole. The greatest honor we can pay to the
Author of our being, is such a cheerful behavior as discovers a mind
satisfied with his dispensations. But this temper of mind is most likely
to be attained by a rational retirement from the cares and pleasures of
the world.

The disposition to solitude, however, of whatever kind or complexion it
may be, is greatly influenced by the temper and constitution of the body,
as well as by the frame and turn of the mind. The action of those causes
proceeds, perhaps, by slow and insensible degrees, and varies in its
form and manner in each individual; but though gradual or multiform, it
at length reaches its point, and confirms the subject of it in habits of
rational retreat, or unnatural solitude.

The motives which conduce to a love of solitude might, without doubt,
be assigned to other causes; but a discussion of all the refined
operations to which the mind may be exposed, and its bent and inclination
determined, by the two great powers of sensation and reflection, would
be more curious than useful. Relinquishing all inquiry into the primary
or remote causes of human action, to those who are fond of the useless
subtilties of metaphysics, and confining our researches to those final or
immediate causes which produce this disposition to enjoy the benefits of
rational retirement, or encounter the mischiefs of irrational solitude,
we shall proceed to show the mischiefs which may result from the one, in
order that they may be contrasted with the advantages which, in the first
part, we have already shown may be derived from the other.


_The disadvantages of solitude._

The retirement which is not the result of cool and deliberate reason,
so far from improving the feelings of the heart, or strengthening the
powers of the mind, generally renders men less able to discharge the
duties and endure the burdens of life. The wisest and best formed system
of retirement is, indeed, surrounded with a variety of dangers, which
are not, without the greatest care and caution, easily avoided. But in
every species of total solitude, the perils are not only innumerable, but
almost irresistible. It would, however, be erroneous to impute all the
defects which may characterize such a recluse merely to the loneliness
of his situation. There are original defects implanted by the hand
of nature in every constitution, which no species of retirement and
discipline can totally eradicate: there are certain vices, the seeds of
which are so inherent, that no care, however great, can totally destroy.
The advantages or disadvantages arising from retirement, will always be
proportionate to the degrees of virtue and vice which prevail in the
character of the recluse. It is certain that an occasional retreat from
the business of the world will greatly improve the virtues, and increase
the happiness, of him on whom nature has bestowed a sound understanding
and a sensible heart; but when the heart is corrupt, the understanding
weak, the imagination flighty, and the disposition depraved, solitude
only tends to increase the evil and to render the character more rank
and vicious; for whatever be the culture, the produce will unavoidably
partake of the quality of the seeds and the nature of the soil; and
solitude, by allowing a weak and wicked mind leisure to brood over its
own suggestions, recreates and rears the mischief it was intended to

    “… Where solitude, sad nurse of care,
    To sickly musing gives the pensive mind,
    There madness enters: and the dim-eyed fiend,
    Lorn melancholy, night and day provokes
    Her own eternal wound. The sun grows pale;
    A mournful visionary light o’erspreads
    The cheerful face of nature; earth becomes
    A dreary desert; and the heavens frown above.
    The various shapes of cursed illusion rise;
    Whate’er the wretched fear, creating fear
    Forms out of nothing; and with monsters teems
    Unknown in hell. The prostrate soul beneath
    A load of huge imagination heaves:
    And all the horrors that the guilty feel,
    With anxious flutterings wake the guilty breast.
    From other cares absolved, the busy mind
    Finds in itself a theme to pore upon;
    And finds it miserable, or makes it so.”

To enable the mind, however, to form an accurate judgment of the
probable consequences of solitude, it is, perhaps, necessary to have
seen instances both of its advantageous and detrimental effects. The
consequences vary with the subject on which it operates; and the same
species of solitude which to one character would be injurious, will
prove to another of the highest benefit and advantage. The same person,
indeed, may at different periods, as his disposition changes, experience,
under similar circumstances of retirement, very different effects.
Certain, however, it is, that an occasional retreat from the tumultuous
intercourses of society, or a judicious and well arranged retirement,
cannot be prejudicial. To have pointed out the train of virtues it is
capable of producing, and to have been silent upon the black catalogue of
vices that may result from extreme seclusion, would have been the more
pleasing task; but I have undertaken to draw the character of solitude
impartially, and must therefore point out its possible defects.

Man in a sate of solitary indolence and inactivity, sinks by degrees
like stagnant water into impurity and corruption. The body suffers with
the mind’s decay. It is more fatal than excess of action. It is a malady
that renders every hope of recovery vain and visionary. To sink from
action into rest, is only indulging the common course of nature; but to
rise from long continued indolence to voluntary activity, is extremely
difficult, and almost impracticable. A celebrated poet has finely
described this class of unhappy beings in the following lines:

    “Then look’d, and saw a lazy lolling sort,
    Unseen at church, at senate, or at court,
    Of ever listless loiterers, that attend
    No cause, no trust, no duty, and no friend.
    Thee, too, my Paridel! she mark’d thee there,
    Stretch’d on the rack of a too easy chair,
    And heard the everlasting yawn confess
    The pains and penalties of idleness.”

To preserve the proper strength, both of the body and the mind, labor
must be regularly and seasonably mingled with rest. Each of them require
their suited exercise and relaxations. Philosophers, who aim at the
attainment of every superior excellency, do not indulge themselves in
ease, and securely and indolently wait for the cruelties of fortune
to attack them in their retirement; but, for fear she should surprise
them in the state of inexperienced and raw soldiers, undisciplined for
the battle they sally out to meet her, and put themselves into regular
training, and even upon the proof of hardships. Those only who observe a
proper interchange of exercise and rest, can expect to enjoy health of
body, or cheerfulness of mind. It is the only means by which the economy
of the human frame can be regularly preserved.

He, therefore, who does not possess sufficient activity to keep the body
and mind in proper exercise; he who is unacquainted with the art of
varying his amusements, of changing the subjects of his contemplation,
and of finding within himself all the materials of enjoyment, will
soon feel solitude not only burdensome, but insupportable. To such
a character, solitude will not only be disagreeable, but dangerous;
for the moment the temporary passion which draws him from society has
subsided, he will sink into languor and indifference; and this temper is
always unfavorable to moral sentiment. The world, perhaps, with all its
disadvantages, is less likely to be injurious to such a man, than the
calm and silent shades of unenjoyed retirement.

Solitude also, particularly when carried to an extreme, is apt to render
the character of the recluse rigid, austere, and inflexible, and of
course, unsuited to the enjoyments of society. The notions he contracts
are as singular and abstracted as his situation: he adheres to them
with inflexible pertinacity: his mind moves only in the accustomed
track: he cherishes his preconceived errors and prejudices with fond
attachment, and despises those whose sentiments are contrary to his
own. A promiscuous intercourse with society has the effect of rendering
the mind docile, and his judgment of men and things correct: for in
the world every subject is closely examined, every question critically
discussed; and, while the spirit of controversy and opposition elicits
truth, the mind is led into a train of rational investigation, and its
powers strengthened and enlarged; but the mind of the recluse being
uninterruptedly confined to its own course of reasoning, and to the habit
of viewing objects on one side, it is unable to appreciate the respective
weights which different arguments may deserve, or to judge in doubtful
cases, on which side, truth is most likely to be found. A commixture
of different opinions, on any particular subject, provokes a free and
liberal discussion of it, an advantage which the prepossession engendered
by solitude uniformly prevents.

Solitude, while it establishes a dangerous confidence in the powers
and opinions of its votaries, not only fastens on the characters the
errors and imperfections it has produced and fostered, but recommends
them strongly to their esteem. How frequently do we observe, even in
persons of rank and fortune, who reside continually on their own estates,
a haughty manner and arbitrary disposition, totally incompatible with
that candid conduct, that open minded behavior, that condescending
urbanity, that free spirit, which mark the character of the polite and
liberal minded gentleman, and render him the veneration and delight of
all around him! “Obstinacy and pride,” says Plato, “are the inevitable
consequences of a solitary life;” and the frequency of the fact certainly
justifies the observation. Retired, secluded characters, having no
opportunity of encountering the opinions of others, or of listening to
any other judgment than their own, establish a species of tyranny over
their understandings, and check that free excursion of the intellect
which the discovery of truth requires. They reject, with disdain, the
close investigations of logic, and repel all attempts to examine their
arguments, and expose their fallacies. Their preconceived opinions, which
they dignify with the appellation of settled truths, and mistake for
indisputable axioms, have infixed themselves so deeply in their minds
that they cannot endure the idea of their being rooted out or removed:
and they are fearful of submitting them to the test of controversy, only
because they were originally received without due examination, and have
been confirmed by the implicit consent and approbation of their inferiors
and dependants.

Solitude also, even the solitude which poets and philosophers have so
feelingly described as blissful and beneficial, has frequently proved
injurious to its delighted votaries. Men of letters are, in general, too
inattentive to those easy and captivating manners which give such high
spirit to the address, and splendid decoration to the characters, of well
bred men. They seldom qualify the awkwardness of scholastic habits by a
free and intimate intercourse either with the world or with each other;
but being secluded from society, and engaged in abstracted pursuits,
adopt a pedantic phraseology, an unaccommodating address, formal notions,
and a partial attachment to their recondite pursuits. The common topics
of conversation, and usual entertainment of company, they treat with
high, but unjustifiable disdain; and, blinded by fogs of pride, and ideal
superiority, are rendered incapable of discerning their errors.

The correction of this disposition in authors has been thought of so
much importance to the interests of morals, and to the manners of the
rising generation, that scholars in general have been exhorted, in the
highest strains of eloquence, by one of the most powerful preachers of
Germany, from the pulpit of the politest city in the empire, to guard
with unceasing vigilance against those defects which are so apt to mingle
with the habits of the profession, and which tend to sully the brightness
of their characters. The orator invokes them to shake off that distant
demeanor, that unsocial reserve, that supercilious behavior and almost
express contempt, from which few of them are free, and which most of them
practise when in unlettered company; and to treat their fellow citizens,
however inferior they may be in erudition and scholastic knowledge,
with affability and attention; to listen to their conversation with
politeness; to regard their errors with lenity; to view their failings
with compassion, and their defects with liberality; to lead them into the
paths of truth and science by mild persuasion, to lure them to knowledge
by gentle means, and, by reducing their conversation and subjects
of discourse to a level with the unlettered understandings of their
auditors, to please the heart while they instruct the mind.

    Good sense and learning may esteem obtain,
    Humor and wit a laugh, if rightly ta’en:
    Fair virtue admiration may impart;
    But ’tis good nature only wins the heart:
    It moulds the body to an easy grace,
    And brightens every feature of the face:
    It smooths th’ unpolish’d tongue with eloquence,
    And adds persuasion to the finest sense.

Learning and good sense, indeed, to whatever degree they may be
possessed, can only render the possessor happy in proportion as he
employs them to increase the happiness of others. To effect this, he must
occasionally endure the jokes of dullness without petulance, and listen
with complacency to the observations of ignorance, but, above all, he
must carefully avoid all inclination to exhibit his own superiority, and
to shine at the expense of others.

Learning and wisdom, indeed, however they may be confounded by arrogant
and self-conceited scholars, are in no respects synonymous terms; but,
on the contrary, are not unfrequently quite at variance with each other.
The high admiration which scholars are too apt to entertain of the
excellency of their own talents, and the vast importance they generally
ascribe to their own characters and merit, instead of producing that
sound judgment upon men and things which constitutes true wisdom, only
engenders an effervescence in the imagination, the effect of which
is in general, the most frothy folly. Many of those who thus pride
themselves on the pursuits of literature, having nothing to boast of
but an indefatigable attention to some idle and unprofitable study; a
study which, perhaps only tends to contract the feelings of the heart,
and impoverish the powers of the mind. True wisdom and genuine virtue
are the produce of those enlarged views which arise from a general
and comprehensive knowledge both of books and men: but scholars, who
confine their attention entirely to books, and feel no interest or
concern for the world, despise every object that does not lie within the
range of their respective studies. By poring over obsolete works, they
acquire sentiments quite foreign to the manners of the age in which we
live; form opinions as ridiculous as they are unfashionable; fabricate
systems incomprehensible to the rest of mankind; and maintain arguments
so offensive and absurd, that whenever they venture to display their
acquirements in society, they are, like the bird of night, hooted back
with derision into their daily obscurity. Many studious characters are
so puffed up by arrogance, presumption, self-conceit, and vanity, that
they can scarcely speak upon any subject without hurting the feelings
of their friends and giving cause of triumph to their enemies. The
counsel and instruction they affect to give is so mixed with ostentatious
pedantry, that they destroy the very end they wish to promote: and,
instead of acquiring honorable approbation, cover themselves with merited
disgrace. Plato, the illustrious chief of the academic set of Athenian
philosophers was so totally free from this vice of inferior minds, that
it was impossible to discover in him by ordinary and casual conversation,
that sublime imagination and almost divine intellect, which rendered him
the idol of his age, and the admiration of succeeding generations. On his
return from Syracuse, to which place he had been invited by Dionysius
the younger, he visited Olympia, to be present at the performance of the
Olympic games; and he was placed on the seat appropriated to foreigners
of the highest distinction, but to whom he was not personally known. Some
of them were so pleased with the ease, politeness, wisdom, and vivacity
of his conversation, that they accompanied him to Athens, and, on their
arrival in that city, requested him to procure them an interview with
Plato. But how pleasing and satisfactory was their surprise, when, on his
replying with a smile, “_I am the person whom you wish to see_,” they
discovered that this affable and entertaining companion, with whom they
had travelled without discerning his excellency, was the most learned and
profound philosopher at that time existing in the world! The studious
and retired life of this extraordinary character had not decreased his
urbanity and politeness, nor deprived him of the exercise of those easy
and seducing manners which so entirely engage the affection and win the
heart. He wisely prevented seclusion from robbing him of that amenity and
unassuming ease so necessary to the enjoyment of society. Like those two
eminent philosophers of the present day, the wise Mendelsohm, and the
amiable Garve, he derived from solitude all the benefits it is capable
of conferring, without suffering any of those injuries which it too
frequently inflicts on less powerful minds.

Culpable, however, as studious characters in general are, by neglecting
to cultivate that social address, and to observe that civility of
manners, and urbane attention, which an intercourse not only with
the world, but even with private society, so indispensably requires,
certain it is, that men of fashion expect from them a more refined good
breeding, and a nicer attention to the forms of politeness, than all
their endeavors can produce. The fashionable world, indeed, are blamable
for their constant attempts to deride the awkwardness of their more
erudite and abstracted companions. The severity with which they treat the
defective manners of a scholastic visitor, is a violation of the first
rules of true politeness, which consists entirely of a happy combination
of good sense and good nature, both of which dictate a different conduct,
and induce rather a friendly concealment than a triumphant exposure
of such venial failings. The inexperienced scholastic is entitled to
indulgence, for he cannot be expected nicely to practice customs which
he has had no opportunity to learn. To the eye of polished life, his
austerity, his reserve, his mistakes, his indecorums, may, perhaps,
appear ridiculous; but to expose him to derision on this subject is
destructive to the general interests of society, inasmuch as it tends to
repress and damp endeavors to please. How is it possible that men who
devote the greater portion of their time to the solitary and abstracted
pursuits of literature, can possess that promptitude of thought, that
variety of expression, those easy manners, and that varying humor, which
prevail so agreeably in mixed society, and which can only be acquired
by a constant intercourse with the world? It was not only cruel, but
unjust, of the Swedish courtiers to divert themselves with the confusion
and embarrassments into which Miebom and Naude, two celebrated writers
on the music and dances of the ancients were thrown, when the celebrated
Christina desired the one to sing and the other to dance in public, for
the entertainment of the court. Still less excusable were those imps of
fashion in France, who exposed the celebrated mathematician, Nicole,
to the derision of a large company, for the misapplication of a word.
A fashionable female at Paris, having heard that Nicole, who had then
lately written a profound and highly approved treatise on the doctrine
of curves, was greatly celebrated in all the circles of science, and
affecting to be thought the patroness and intimate of all persons of
distinguished merit, sent him such an invitation to one of her parties
that he could not refuse to accept of. The abstracted geometrician, who
had never before been present at an assembly of the kind, received the
civilities of his fair hostess, and her illustrious friends, with all the
awkwardness and confusion which such a scene must naturally create. After
passing an uncomfortable evening, in answering the observations of those
who addressed him, in which he experienced much greater difficulties than
he would have found in solving the most intricate problem, he prepared
to take his leave, and pouring out a profusion of declarations to the
lady of the house, of the grateful sense he entertained of the high honor
she had conferred on him, by her generous invitation, distinguishing
attention, polite regard, and extraordinary civility, rose to the climax
of his compliments, by assuring her, that the _lovely little eyes of
his fair entertainer had made an impression which never could be erased
from his breast_, and immediately departed. But a kind friend, who was
accompanying him home, whispering in his ear, as they were passing the
stairs, that he had paid the lady a very ill compliment, by telling
her that her eyes were little, for that little eyes were universally
understood by the whole sex to be a great defect. Nicole, mortified to
an extreme by the mistake he had thus innocently made, and resolving
to apologize to the lady whom he conceived he had offended, returned
abruptly to the company, and entreated her with great humility, to pardon
the error into which his confusion had betrayed him of imputing any thing
like _littleness_ to so high, so elegant, so distinguished a character,
declaring that he had never beheld _such fine large eyes, such fine large
lips, such fine large hands, or so fine and large a person altogether_,
in the whole course of his life!

The professional pursuits of students confine them, during the early
periods of life, to retirement and seclusion, and prevent them in
general, from attempting to mix in the society of the world until age, or
professional habits, have rendered them unfit for this scene. Discouraged
by the neglect they experience, and by the ridicule to which they are
exposed, on their first introduction into active life, from persevering
in their attempts to shake off the uncouth manner they have acquired,
they immediately shrink from the displeasing prospect into their original
obscurity, in despair of ever attaining the talents necessary to render
them agreeable to the elegant and gay. There are, indeed, some men, who,
on attempting to change the calm and rational enjoyments of a retired and
studious life, for the more lively and loquacious pleasures of public
society, perceive the manners and maxims of the world so repugnant to
their principles, and so disagreeable to their taste and inclinations,
that they instantly abandon society, and, renouncing all future attempts
to enter into its vortex, calmly and contentedly return to their beloved
retreat under an idea that it is wrong for persons of such different
dispositions to intermix or invade the provinces of each other. There
are also many studious characters who avoid society, under an idea that
they have transferred their whole minds into their own compositions;
that they have exhausted all that they possessed of either instruction
or entertainment; and that they would, like empty bottles, or squeezed
oranges, be thrown aside with disregard, and, perhaps, with contempt, as
persons no longer capable of contributing to companionable pleasures.
But there are others of sounder sense and better judgment, who gladly
relinquish the noisy assemblies of public life, and joyfully retire to
the sweet and tranquil scenes of rural solitude, because they seldom meet
among the candidates for public approbation, a single individual capable
of enjoying a just thought, or making a rational reflection; but, on the
contrary, have to encounter a host of vain, frivolous pretenders to wit
and learning, who herd together, like the anarchs of insurrection, to
oppose with noise and violence, the progress of truth and the exertions
of reason.

Sentiments like these too frequently banish from the circles of society
characters of useful knowledge and of distinguished genius, and from
whose endowments mankind might receive both instruction and delight.
The loss, in such a case, to the individual is, perhaps, trifling; his
comforts may possibly be increased by his seclusion; but the interests of
truth and good sense are thereby considerably injured: for the mind of
man, however powerful and informed it may be in itself, cannot employ its
energies and acquisitions with the same advantage and effect, as when it
is whetted by a collision with other minds, and polished by the manners
of the world. An acquaintance with the living characters and manners of
the world, teaches the mind to direct its powers to their proper and
most useful points: exhibits the means and furnishes the instruments,
by which the best exertions of virtue can attain her ends; gives morals
their brightest color, taste its highest refinement, and truth its
fairest objects. The wisest and best philosophers have acknowledged
the obligations they were under to society for the knowledge they
acquired in its extensive, though dangerous school, and have strongly
recommended the study of mankind, by viewing all the various classes with
a discriminating eye, as the best means of becoming acquainted with the
beauties of _virtue_, and the deformities of _vice_, and, of course, as
the best means of discovering the true road to earthly happiness; for--

    Virtue, immortal virtue! born to please,
    The child of nature and the source of ease,
    Bids every bliss on human life attend;
    To every rank a kind and faithful friend;
    Inspirits nature ’midst the scenes of toil,
    Smooths languor’s cheek, and bids fell want recoil:
    Shines from the mitre with unsullied rays,
    Glares on the crest, and gives the star to blaze;
    Supports distinction, spreads ambition’s wings,
    Forms saints of queens, and demi-gods of kings;
    O’er grief, oppression, envy, scorn, prevails,
    And makes a cottage greater than Versailles.

A free, open, unconstrained intercourse with mankind, has also the
advantage of reconciling us to the peculiarities of others, and of
teaching us the important lesson how to accommodate our minds and
manners to such principles, opinions, and dispositions, as may differ
from our own. The learned and enlightened cannot maintain an intercourse
with the illiterate, without exercising an extraordinary degree of
patience, conceding many points which appear unnatural, and forbearing
to feel those little vexations so adherent to characters who have
lived in retirement. The philosopher, in order to teach virtue to the
world with any hope of success, must humor its vices to a certain
degree, and sometimes even adopt the follies he intends to destroy. To
inculcate wisdom, it is necessary to follow the examples of Socrates and
Wieland, and, separating from morals all that is harsh, repulsive, and
anti-social, adopt only the kind and complacent tenets of the science. A
German author of the present day, whom I glory to call both my countryman
and my friend, observes, with the sagacity and discrimination of a
critic, in his “Remarks on the Writings and Genius of Franklin,” that
the compositions of that great and extraordinary character are totally
free from that pomp of style and parade of erudition, which so frequently
disfigure the writings of other authors, and defeat their intended
effect. The pen of Franklin renders the most abstract principles easy
and familiar. He conveys his instructions in pleasing narrations, lively
adventures, or humorous observations; and while his manner wins upon
the heart, by the friendly interest he appears to take in the concerns
of mankind, his matter instils into the mind the soundest principles
of morals and good policy. He makes fancy the handmaid to reason in
her researches into science, and penetrates the understanding through
the medium of the affections. A secret charm pervades every part of his
works. He rivets the attention by the strength of his observations, and
relieves it by the variety of pleasing images with which he embellishes
his subject. The perspicuity of his style, and the equally easy and
eloquent turn of his periods, give life and energy to his thoughts; and,
while the reader feels his heart bounding with delight, he finds his mind
impregnated with instruction. These high advantages resulted entirely
from his having studied the world, and gained an accurate knowledge
of mankind. An author, indeed, may acquire an extraordinary fund of
knowledge in solitude; but it is in society alone that he can learn how
to render it useful. Before he can instruct the world, he must be enabled
to view its fooleries and vices with calm inspection; to contemplate
them without anger, as the unavoidable consequences of human infirmity;
to treat them with tenderness; and to avoid exasperating the feelings of
those whose depravity he is attempting to correct. A moral censor whose
disposition is kind and benevolent, never suffers his superior virtue,
knowledge, or talents, however great they may be, to offend the feelings
of others; but, like Socrates, he will appear as if he were receiving
himself the instruction he is imparting. It is a fine observation of the
celebrated Goethe, that kindness is the golden chain by which society
is bound together: those who have had the happiness to converse with
that extraordinary man, must have perceived the anxiety with which he
endeavors to temper the strength of his genius by the mildness and
amenity of his conversation.

Men of letters, however awkward the habits of seclusion may have rendered
them, would, I am convinced, be, in general, if not always, treated with
great politeness and attention, if they would be careful to treat others
with the common candor which humanity requires, and with that indulgence
and affability which true liberality of sentiment will ever dictate; but
how few, alas! are there who, by complacency and condescension, entitle
themselves to the kindness and civility of which they stand so much in
need, and so arrogantly expect! How is it possible for those who are
vigilantly anxious to depress the rising merit of others, ever to gain
their friendship or esteem? Friendship can only be acquired by an open,
sincere, liberal, and manly conduct; but he whose breast is filled with
envy and jealousy, who cautiously examines, before he speaks, every
sentiment and feeling, lest his tongue should betray the meanness of his
heart, and the poverty of his mind; who seizes every light indiscretion,
or trifling error, that many inadvertently escape from his companions;
who silently repines at every excellency, both moral and intellectual,
which they may discover; who, even when surrounded by those who wish him
well, continues with guarded circumspection, and suspicious caution,
to weigh the motives of their actions and conversation, as if he were
surrounded by the bitterest enemies, must be utterly incapable of
esteeming others, or being esteemed himself; and to suppose that the
generous flame of friendship, that holy fire which, under the deepest
adversity, so comfortably warms and cheers the heart, can ever spring
up from such cold materials, and ashy embers, would be extravagant and

The delight which the heart experiences in pouring forth the fulness
of its feelings, with honest confidence, into the bosom of a faithful
friend, is permanent and unbounded. The pleasures which spring from
the acquisition of fame, whether resulting from the generous voice of
an approving public, or extorted from the reluctant tongues of envious
rivals and contemporaries, will bear no comparison with those which
thrill through the exulting bosom of him who can justly exclaim, “To the
heart of this unhappy man I have given returning hopes, and made him
look forward with confidence to the enjoyment of peace; to his wounded
spirit I have imparted the balm of comfort and tranquillity; and from
the bleeding bosom of my friend have driven despair!” But to perform
such offices as these, it is indispensably necessary that we should have
recommended ourselves to the confidence, and have gained the affections
of those we intend to serve. This great and necessary property, however,
those who live secluded lives very seldom possess: but, much as they may
in general disdain to practise this high virtue, it is necessary that
they should know that it tends more to ennoble the sentiments of the
mind, and to raise the feelings of the heart, than their most successful
researches to discover something before unheard of in the regions of
science, and which they pursue with as much avidity as if truth were
liable to decay, unless sustained by the aid of novelty.

It is justly and beautifully said by one of the apocryphal writers, that
_a faithful friend is the medicine of life_. A variety of occasions
happen, when to pour forth the heart to one whom we love and trust, is
the chief comfort, perhaps the only relief we can enjoy. Miserable is
he who, shut up within the narrow inclosure of selfish interest, has
no person to whom he can at all times, with full confidence, expand
his soul. But he who can only feel an affection for such as listen
continually to the suggestions of vanity, as applaud indiscriminately
the imaginary prodigies of his wit, or never contradict the egotism of
his opinions, is totally unfit for friendship, and utterly unworthy
of respect. It is men of learning and of retired habits, who are most
likely to adopt this disengaging disposition. There are, I am sorry to
say it, many men, distinguished in the paths of science, who affect to
possess the most refined sensibility, and whose tongues are continually
proclaiming the virtues of benevolence, but who, when they are called
upon to practise those virtues in behalf of some distressed companion,
turn a deaf ear to the appeal, form some poor excuse for not interfering,
and, if pressed to come forward with some promised assistance, deny to
afford it, because the unhappy sufferer has neglected to approve of
some extravagant conjecture, or to adopt all the visionary notions and
Utopian systems they may have framed. He who neglects to perform the
common charities of life, because his idle vanity may have been offended
by the neglect or indifference of his companions, will never find, and
cannot become, a real friend. There is also an inferior order of fops
in literature, (if any order can be inferior to that which I have last
described,) who carry with them, wherever they go, a collection of their
latest compositions, and by importunately reading them to every one they
meet, and expecting an unreserved approbation of their merits, render
themselves so unpleasantly troublesome on all occasions that, instead of
conciliating the least regard or esteem, their very approach is dreaded
as much as a pestilence or a famine. Every man of real genius will shun
this false ambition of gratifying vanity by forced applause; because he
will immediately perceive, that instead of gaining the hearts of his
auditors, he only exposes himself to the ridicule, and loses all chance
of their esteem.

The disadvantages, however, which studious characters have been described
to experience from habits of solitary seclusion, and by neglecting the
manners of society, must not be indiscriminately applied. It is the
morose and surly pedant, who sits silently in his solitary study, and
endeavors to enforce a character for genius in opposition to nature, who
adopts the mean and unworthy arts of jealousy, suspicion, and dishonest
praise. Far different the calm, happy, and honorable life of him who,
devoted to the cultivation of a strong understanding, and the improvement
of a feeling heart, is enabled, by his application and genius, to
direct the taste of the age by his liberality of spirit, to look on his
equals without jealousy, and his superiors with admiration; and, by his
benevolence, to feel for the multitude he instructs, indulgence and
affection; who, relying on the real greatness of his temper, makes no
attempt to increase his importance by low raillery or unfounded satire;
whose firm temper never sinks into supine indolence, or grovelling
melancholy; who only considers his profession as the means of meliorating
mankind; who perseveres in the cause of truth with cheerful rectitude,
and virtuous dignity; whose intellectual resources satisfactorily supply
the absence of society; whose capacious mind enables him to increase
his stores of useful knowledge; whose discriminating powers enable him
to elucidate the subject he explores; who feels as great a delight in
promoting the beneficial discoveries of others, as in executing his own;
and who regards his professional contemporaries, not as jealous rivals,
but as generous friends, striving to emulate each other in the noble
pursuits of science, and in the laudable task of endeavoring to improve
the morals of mankind.

Characters of this description, equally venerable and happy, are numerous
in Europe, both within and without the shades of academic bowers,
and afford examples which, notwithstanding the tribe of errors and
absurdities solitude occasionally engenders, should induce men of worldly
pleasures to repress the antipathies they are in general inclined to feel
against persons of studious and retired lives.


_The influence of solitude on the imagination._

The powers of imagination are great; and the effects produced by them,
under certain circumstances, upon the minds of men of warm and sensible
tempers, extraordinary and surprising. Multitudes have been induced by
perturbed imaginations, to abandon the gay and cheerful haunts of men,
and to seek, in dreary desolation, comfort and repose. To such extremes
has this faculty, when distorted, hurried its unhappy subjects, that they
have endured the severest mortification, denied themselves the common
benefits of nature, exposed themselves to the keenest edge of winter’s
cold, and the most scorching rays of summer’s heat, and indulged their
distempered fancies in the wildest chimeras. These dreadful effects
appear, on a first view, to be owing to some supernatural cause, and they
agitate our senses, and confuse the understanding, as phenomena beyond
the comprehension of reason; but the wonder vanishes when the cause is
coolly and carefully explored; and the extravagances are traced up to
their real source, and natural organization of man. The wild ideas of
the hermit Anthony, who, in his gloomy retreat, fancied that Beelzebub
appeared to him in the form of a beautiful female to torture his
senses, and disturb his repose, originated in his natural character and
disposition. His distempered fancy conjured up a fiend, which, in fact,
existed in his unsubdued passions and incontinent desires.

              … From the enchanting cup
    Which fancy holds to all, the unwary thirst
    Of youth oft swallows a Circæan draught,
    That sheds a baleful tincture o’er the eye
    Of reason, till no longer he discerns,
    And only lives to err: then revel forth
    A furious band, that spurn him from the throne,
    And all is uproar. Hence the fevered heart
    Pants with delirious hope for tinsel charms.

Solitude excites and strengthens the powers of the imagination to an
uncommon degree, and thereby enfeebles the effect of the controlling
powers of reason. The office of the latter faculty of the mind is, to
examine with nice discernment and scrupulous attention, to compare the
several properties of thoughts and things with each other, and to
acquire, by cool and deliberate investigation, correct ideas of their
combinations and effects. The exercise of their power suspends the
vehemence of action, and abates the ardor of desire; but fancy performs
her airy excursions upon light and vagrant wings, and flying around
her objects without examination, embraces every pleasing image with
increasing delight. Judgment separates and associates the ideas the
mind has gained by sensation and reflection, and by determining their
agreement or disagreement, searches after truth through the medium of
probability; but the imagination employs itself in raising unsubstantial
images, and portraying the form of things unknown in nature, and foreign
to truth. It has, indeed, like memory, the power of reviving in the mind
the ideas which, after having been imprinted there, have disappeared; but
it differs from that faculty by altering, enlarging, diversifying, and
frequently distorting, the subjects of its power.

    It bodies forth the form of things unknown,
    And gives to airy nothings
    A local habitation and a name.

But the irregular and wild desires which seize upon the mind through
the avenues of an untamed fancy and disordered imagination, are not
exclusively the produce of solitude. The choice of wisdom or folly is
offered to us in all places, and under every circumstance; but the
mind of man is unhappily prone to that which is least worthy of it. I
shall therefore endeavor to show, by some general observations, in what
instances solitude is most likely to create those flights of imagination
which mislead the mind, and corrupt the heart.

Imagination is said to be the simple apprehension of corporeal objects
when they are absent; which absence of the object it contemplates,
distinguishes this faculty from _sensation_, and has occasioned some
metaphysicians to call it _recorded sensation_. Upon the due regulation,
and proper management, of this great and extraordinary power of the mind,
depends, in a great measure, the happiness or misery of life. It ought
to consist of a happy combination of those ideas we receive through the
organs of bodily sense, and those which we derive from the faculties
of moral perception; but it too frequently consists of a capricious
and ill-formed mixture of heterogeneous images, which though true in
themselves, are false in the way they are applied. Thus a person, the
circulation of whose blood in any particular member is suddenly stopped,
_imagines_ that needles are pricking the disordered part. The sensation
in this case is real, but the conclusion from it is fallacious. So in
every mental illusion, imagination, when she first begins to exercise
her powers, seizes on some fact, of the real nature of which the mind
has but an obscure idea, and, for want of tracing it through all its
connexions and dependences, misleads reason into the darkest paths of
error. The wild conjectures, and extravagant opinions which have issued
from this source are innumerable. The imagination receives every impulse
with eagerness, while the passions crowd around her splendid throne,
obedient to her dictates. They act, indeed, reciprocally on each other.
The imagination pours a concourse of contrary ideas into the mind, and
easily disregards, or reconciles their incongruities. The voice of the
calm inquirer, reason, is incapable of being heard amidst the tumult; and
the favorite image is animated and enlarged by the glowing fire of the
passions. No power remains to control or regulate, much less to subdue,
this mental ray, which inflames the whole soul, and exalts it into the
fervor of enthusiasm, hurries it into the extravagance of superstition:
or precipitates it into the furious frenzies of fanaticism.

    The powerful tumult reigns in every part,
    Pants in the breast, and swells the rising heart.

Enthusiasm is that ecstacy of the mind, that lively transport of the
soul, which is excited by the pursuit or contemplation of some great
and noble object, the novelty of which awakens attention, the truth of
which fixes the understanding, and the grandeur of which, by firing the
fancy, engages the aid of every passion, and prompts the mind to the
highest undertakings. A just and rightly formed enthusiasm is founded in
reason, and supported by nature, and carries the mind above its ordinary
level, into the unexplored regions of art and science. The rational
enthusiast, indeed, rises to an elevation so far above the distinct view
of vulgar eyes, that common understandings are apt to treat him either
with blind admiration, or cool contempt, only because they are incapable
of comprehending his real character; and while some bow to him as an
extraordinary genius, others rail at him as an unhappy lunatic. The
powers of enthusiasm, however, when founded upon proper principles, so
strengthen and invigorate the faculties of the mind, as to enable it
to resist danger undismayed, and to surmount difficulties that appear
irresistible. Those, indeed, who have possessed themselves of this power
to any extraordinary degree, have been considered as _inspired_, and
their great achievements conceived to have been directed by councils,
and sustained by energies of a divine or super-mundane nature. Certain
it is, that we owe to the spirit of enthusiasm whatever is great in art,
sublime in science, or noble in the human character: and the elegant and
philosophic Lord Shaftsbury, while he ridicules the absurdities of this
wonderfully powerful and extensive quality, admits that it is impossible
to forbear ascribing to it whatever is greatly performed by heroes,
statesmen, poets, orators, and even philosophers themselves: and who
that is not contented to wallow in the mire of gross sensuality, would
not quit the noisy scenes of tumultuous dissipation, and repair with
joy and gladness to solitary shades, to the bower of tranquillity, and
the fountain of peace, to majestic forests, and to verdant groves, to
acquire this necessary ingredient to perfect excellence? Who would not
willingly pierce the pensive gloom, or dwell among the brighter glories
of the golden age, to acquire by a warm and glowing, but correct and
chaste contemplation of the beautiful and sublime works of nature, these
ravishing sensations, and gain this noble fervor of the imagination? A
proper study of the works of nature amidst the romantic scenery of sylvan
solitude, is certainly the most likely means of inspiring the mind with
true enthusiasm, and leading genius to her most exalted heights; but
the attempt is dangerous. There are few men in whose minds airy notions
do not sometimes tyrannize. “To indulge the power of fiction,” says a
celebrated writer, “and send imagination out upon the wing, is often the
sport of those who delight too much in silent speculation. When we are
alone, we are not always busy; the labor of excogitation is too violent
to last long; the ardor of inquiry will sometimes give way to idleness
or satiety. He who has nothing external that can divert him, must find
pleasure in his own thoughts, and must conceive himself what he is not;
for who is pleased with what he is? He then expatiates in boundless
futurity, and culls from all imaginable conditions that which for the
present moment he should most desire, amuses his desires with impossible
enjoyments, and confers upon his pride unattainable dominion. The mind
dances from scene to scene, unites all pleasures in all combinations,
riots in delights which nature and fortune, with all their bounty, cannot
bestow. In time some particular train of ideas fixes the attention; all
other intellectual gratifications are rejected; the mind in weariness or
leisure, recurs constantly to the favorite conception, and feasts on the
luscious falsehood whenever she is offended with the bitterness of truth.
By degrees the reign of fancy is confirmed; she grows first imperious,
and in time despotic: then fictions begin to operate as realities, false
opinions fasten on the mind, and life passes in dreams of rapture or of
anguish. This is one of the dangers of solitude.”

These observations lead us to consider the character of the fanatical
visionary, who feels, like the happy enthusiast, the same agitation of
passion, and the same inflammation of mind; but as the feelings of one
are founded upon knowledge, truth, and nature, so the feelings of the
other are the result of ignorance and error, and all the glittering
meteors of his brain the effects of imposture and deception. Of this
species of enthusiasm Mr. Locke gives the following description: “In all
ages men in whom melancholy has mixed with devotion, or whose conceit
of themselves has raised them into an opinion of a greater familiarity
with God, and a nearer admittance to his favors, than is afforded to
others, have often flattered themselves with a persuasion of an immediate
intercourse with the Deity, and frequent communication with his divine
spirit. Their minds being thus prepared, whatever groundless opinion
comes to settle itself strongly upon their fancies, is an illumination
from the Spirit of God, and whatever odd action they find in themselves
a strong inclination to do, that impulse is concluded to be a call or
direction from heaven, and must be obeyed; it is a commission from above,
and they cannot err in executing it. This species of enthusiasm, though
arising from the conceit of a warm and overweening brain, works, when it
once gets footing, more powerfully on the persuasions and actions of men
than either reason, revelation, or both together; men being forwardly
obedient to all the impulses they receive from themselves.” The fantastic
images, indeed, which the wildness of his imagination creates, subdues
his reason, and destroys the best affections of his heart, while his
passions take the part of their furious assailants, and render him the
victim of his visionary conceptions. It is not, however, from sources of
fanatical devotion, or irrational solitude, that this vicious species of
enthusiasm alone arises. The follies of faquiers, the extravagance of
orgaists, the absurdities of hermits, and the mummery of monks, are not
more enthusiastically injurious to the true interests of mankind, or more
pregnant with all the calamitous effects of this baleful vice, than those
unprincipled systems of politics and morals which have been of late years
obtruded on the world, and in which good sense is sacrificed, and true
science disgraced.

The growth of fanaticism, whether moral, political, religious, or
scientific, is not confined exclusively to any age or country; the seeds
of it have been but too plentifully sown in all the regions of the earth;
and it is almost equally baneful and injurious in whatever soil they
spring. Every bold, turbulent, and intriguing spirit, who has sufficient
artifice to inflame the passions of the inconstant multitude, the moment
he calls the demon of fanatacism to his aid, becomes troublesome, and
frequently dangerous, to the government under which he lives. Even the
affectation of this powerful but pernicious quality, is able to produce
fermentations, highly detrimental to the peace of society. In the very
metropolis of Great Britain, and among the enlightened inhabitants of
that kingdom, Lord George Gordon, in the present age, was enabled, by
assuming the hypocritical appearance of piety, and standing forth as
a champion of a religious sect, to convulse the nation, and endanger
its safety. In the twenty-first year of the reign of his Britannic
Majesty, the present powerful and illustrious King George III. an act
of parliament was passed to relieve the Roman Catholics residing in
England from the penalties and disabilities which had been imposed on
them at the revolution. An extension of the same relief to the Catholics
of Scotland was also said to be intended by parliament. The report
spread an immediate alarm throughout the country; societies were formed
for the defence of the Protestant faith; committees appointed, books
dispersed, and, in short, every method taken to inflame the zeal of the
people. These attempts being totally neglected by government, and but
feebly resisted by the more liberal minded in the country, produced all
their effects. A furious spirit of bigotry and persecution soon showed
itself, and broke out into the most outrageous acts of violence against
the Papists at Edinburgh, Glasgow, and elsewhere; but as government did
not think it advisable to repress this spirit by force, the just and
benevolent intentions of the legislature were laid aside. The successful
resistance of the zealots in Scotland to any relaxation of the penal
laws against the Papists, seems to have given the first rise to the
Protestant Association in England; for about the same time bills were
dispersed, and advertisements inserted in the newspapers, inviting those
who wished well to the cause to unite under that title; and Lord George
Gordon, who had been active at the head of the malcontents in Scotland,
was chosen their President. The ferment was suffered to increase during
a course of several years. His lordship was a member of the senate, and
his extraordinary conduct in the house, and frequent interruption he gave
to the business of parliament, as well as the unaccountable manner in
which he continually brought in and treated matters relative to religion
and the danger of popery, and the caprice with which he divided the house
upon questions wherein he stood nearly or entirely alone, were passed
over, along with other singularities in his dress and manners, rather as
subjects of pleasantry than of serious notice or reprehension. On Monday,
the 29th of May, 1780, a meeting was held at Coachmaker’s Hall, pursuant
to a public advertisement, in order to consider of the mode of presenting
a petition to the House of Commons. Lord George Gordon took the chair;
and, after a long inflammatory harangue, in which he endeavoured to
persuade his hearers of the rapid and alarming progress that popery was
making in the kingdom, he proceeded to observe, that the only way to
stop it, was going in a firm, manly, and resolute manner to the house
and showing their representatives that they were determined to preserve
their religious freedom with their lives; that, for his part, he would
run all hazards with the people; and if the people were too lukewarm to
run all hazards with him, when their conscience and their country called
them forth, they might get another president, for that he would tell them
candidly, he was not a lukewarm man himself; and that, if they meant to
spend their time in mock debate, and idle opposition, they might get
another leader. This speech was received with the loudest applause, and
his lordship then moved the following resolution: “That the whole body
of the Protestant Association do attend in St. George’s Fields, on Friday
next, at ten o’clock in the morning, to accompany their president to the
House of Commons at the delivery of the Protestant petition;” which was
carried unanimously. His Lordship then informed them, that if less than
twenty thousand of his fellow citizens attended him on that day, he would
not present their petition. Accordingly, on Friday, the 2d day of June,
1780, at ten in the forenoon, several thousands assembled at the place
appointed, marshalling themselves in ranks, and waiting for their leader,
who arrived about an hour afterward, and they all proceeded to the houses
of parliament. Here they began to exercise the most arbitrary power over
both lords and commons, by obliging almost all the members to put blue
cockades on their hats, and call out “no popery!” Some they compelled
to take oaths to vote for the repeal of this obnoxious act; others they
insulted in the most indecent and insolent manner. They took possession
of all the avenues up to the very door of both houses of parliament,
which they twice attempted to force open, and committed many outrages on
the persons of the members. Nor were they dispersed, or the remaining
members able to leave their seats, until a military force arrived. The
houses were adjourned to the 19th of June. But so dreadful a spectacle
of calamity and horror was never known in any age or country, as that
which the metropolis of England exhibited on the evening and the day
which succeeded this seditious congregation. These astonishing effects
produced by the real or pretended fanaticism of a simple individual,
sufficiently display the power of this dangerous quality, when artfully
employed to inflame the passions of the unthinking multitude. But it is
worthy of observation, that while this incendiary sustained among his
followers the character of a pious patriot, of a man without the smallest
spot or blemish, of being, in short, the most virtuous guardian of the
established religion of the country, he regularly indulged his holy
fervors, and sanctified appearances, every evening, in the company of
common prostitutes, or professed wantons.

The fire of fanaticism is, indeed, so subtilely powerful, that it is
capable of inflaming the coldest mind. The mildest and the most rational
dispositions have been occasionally injured by its heat. The rapidity of
its progress certainly depends, in a great degree, on the nature of the
materials on which it acts; but, like every dangerous conflagration, its
first appearances should be watched, and every means taken to extinguish
its flames. The extinction is, perhaps, most happily and readily effected
by those counteractions which the common occupations, and daily duties
of life produce on the mind, when judiciously opposed to this flagrant
evil. Of the advantages, at least, of this resource, a circumstance in
the history of the late Dr. Fothergill affords a remarkable example. This
celebrated physician possessed the greatest tranquillity of mind, and
had obtained so complete a dominion over his passions, that he declared
to a friend, recently before his death, that he could not recollect a
single instance, during the whole course of his life, in which they had
been improperly disturbed. This temper, which perfectly suited to the
character of the religion he professed, the tenets of which he strictly
practised, he maintained on all occasions; nor was there any thing in his
general conduct or manner that betrayed to his most familiar friends the
least propensity toward enthusiasm; and yet, distant as the suspicion
must be, under these circumstances, that he should ever be under the
influence of superstition, it is well known, that while he was a student
at Edinburgh, where he was distinguished for the mildness of his manners
and the regularity of his conduct, he one day, in an eccentric sally
of fanaticism ran, almost entirely naked through the streets of that
city, warning all its inhabitants of the impending wrath of heaven;
and exhorting them in the most solemn manner, to avert the approaching
danger, by humbly imploring the mercy of the offended Deity; but this
religious paroxysm was of short duration. He was at this time in habits
of intimacy with the great characters who then filled the professional
chairs of the university, and ardently engaged in the pursuits of study;
and the exercises which his daily tasks required, together with the
company and conversation of these rational, well-informed, and thinking
men, preserved his reason, and soon restored him to the full and free
enjoyment of those faculties, from which both science and humanity
afterward derived so many benefits.

The conduct of St. Francis, commonly called the holy Francis of Assisi,
was in some degree similar; excepting that the madness of this fanatic
continued throughout his life, while the delirium of Fothergill
lasted but a day. This saint was born at Assisi, in the province of
Umbria, in the year 1182. His real name of baptism was John; but, on
account of the facility with which he acquired the French language, so
necessary at that time in Italy, especially for the business for which
he was intended, he was called Francis. He is said to have been born
with the figure of a cross on his right shoulder, and to have dreamt
that he was designed by heaven to promote the interests of that holy
sign. His disposition was naturally mild, his comprehension quick,
his feelings acute, his manners easy, his imagination vivid, and his
passions inordinately warm. A careless and unrestrained indulgence of the
propensities of youth had led him into a variety of vicious habits and
libertine extravagances, until the solitude to which a fit of sickness
confined him, brought him to a recollection, and forced him to reflect
upon the dangerous tendency of his past misconduct. His mind started with
horror at the dreadful scene his retrospection presented to his view;
and he resolved to quit the company of his former associates, to reform
the profligacy of his life, to restore his character, and to save, by
penitence and prayer, his guilty soul. These serious reflections wrought
so powerfully on his dejected mind, that he fell into an extravagant
kind of devotion, more resembling madness than religion. Fixing on a
passage in St. Matthew, in which our Saviour desires his apostles to
_provide neither gold nor silver, nor brass in their purses; nor scrip
for their journey; neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves_,
he was led to consider a voluntary and absolute poverty as the essence
of the gospel, and to prescribe this poverty as a sacred rule, both to
himself and to the few who followed him. He accordingly wandered through
the streets of Assisi, in garments that scarcely concealed his nakedness,
in order, as he said, to inure himself to the taunts and ridicule of
his former companions, whom he now called the children of sin, and
followers of satan. The father of the young saint, supposing, from these
extravagances, that the sickness under which he had so long labored had
disordered his intellects, prepared to provide him with some proper
place of confinement, until time or medical regimen should restore him
to his right senses; but the saint, having been informed of his father’s
friendly intention, declined his parental care, and quitting his house,
sought a sanctuary in the palace of the bishop of Assisi. The diocesan
immediately sent to the father of the fugitive, and, after hearing him
upon the subject of his right to provide for the safety of his son, he
turned calmly to the son and desired him to reply. The son immediately
tore off the tattered garments which he then wore, and casting them with
scorn and indignation at the feet of his astonished parent exclaimed,
“_there, take back all your property. You were, indeed, my earthly
father; but henceforth I disclaim you; for I own no father but him who
is in heaven._” The bishop, either really or affectedly delighted with
this unnatural rant of the young enthusiast, threw his own mantle over
the saint, and exhorted him to persevere in his holy resolution, and
to cherish with increasing ardor, the divine inspiration of his pious
mind. The frantic youth, animated by the warm approbation of the bishop
proceeded in his religious course, and abandoning the city, retired
into the deepest gloom of an adjacent forest, to indulge the fervors of
that false enthusiasm which had overpowered his brain. In this retreat
a second vision confirmed him in his holy office; and being encouraged
by pope Innocent III, and Honorius, he established, in the year 1209,
the Order of Saint Francis. If this ridiculous enthusiast had corrected
the extravagances of his overheated imagination, by a cool and temperate
exercise of his reason, by studying, like the celebrated physician we
have just mentioned, some liberal science, he might, with the talents he
possessed, have become a really useful member of society. But these wild
shoots, if suffered to grow to any height, cannot afterward be easily
eradicated: and even Fothergill, if he had lived like Francis, in an age
of superstitious delusion, and had been encouraged to believe the truth
of his fanatic conceptions, his temporary frenzy might have continued
through life; and his character, instead of being revered as a promoter
of an useful science, have been held up by an ignorant multitude to the
contempt and ridicule of posterity.

The vacancy of solitude, by leaving the mind to its own ideas, encourages
to a great excess these wild and eccentric sallies of the imagination.
He who has an opportunity to indulge, without interruption or restraint
the delightful musings of an excursive fancy, will soon lose all relish
for every other pleasure, and neglect every employment which tends to
interrupt the gratification of such an enchanting though dangerous
propensity. During the quietude of a sequestered life, imagination
usurps the throne of reason, and all the feeble faculties of the mind
obey her dictates, until her voice becomes despotic. If the high powers
be exercised on the agreeable appearances of nature, and the various
entertainments, poetry, painting, music, or any of the elegant arts, are
capable of affording,

            … Then the inexpressive strain
    Diffuses its enchantment; fancy dreams
    Of sacred fountains, and elysian groves,
    And vales of bliss; the intellectual Power
    Bends from his awful throne a wandering ear,
    And smiles; the passions, gently smoothed away,
    Sink to divine repose, and love and joy
    Alone are waking.

But if the mind, as in the solitude of monastic seclusion, fixes its
attention on ascetic subjects, and fires the fancy with unnatural
legends, the soul, instead of sinking to divine repose, feels a morbid
melancholy and discontented torpor, which extinguishes all rational
reflection, and engenders the most fantastic visions.

Men even of strong natural understandings, highly improved by education,
have, in some instances, not been able to resist the fatal effects of
intense application, and long continued solitude. The learned Molanus,
having, during a course of many years, detached his mind from all objects
of sense, neglected all seasonable and salutary devotion, and giving
an uncontrolled license to his imagination fancied, in the latter part
of his life, that he was a _barley corn_; and although he received his
friends with great courtesy and politeness, and conversed upon subjects
both of science and devotion with great ease and ingenuity, he could
never afterward be persuaded to stir from home, lest, as he expressed his
apprehension, he should be picked up in the street, and swallowed by a

The female mind is still more subject to these delusions of disordered
fancy; for, as their feelings are more exquisite, their passions warmer,
and their imaginations more active than those of the other sex, solitude,
when carried to excess, affects them in a much greater degree. Their
bosoms are much more susceptible to the injurious influence of seclusion,
to the contagion of example, and to the dangers of illusion. This may,
perhaps, in some degree, account for the similarity of disposition which
prevails in cloisters, and other institutions which confine women
entirely to the company of each other. The force of example and habit is,
indeed, in such retreats, surprisingly powerful. A French medical writer,
of great merit, and undoubted veracity, relates, that in a convent of
nuns, where the sisterhood was unusually numerous, one of those secluded
fair ones was seized with a strange impulse to mew like a cat; that
several others of the nuns in a short time followed her example; and
that at length this unaccountable propensity became general throughout
the convent; the whole sisterhood joined, at stated periods, in the
practice of mewing, and continued it for several hours. But of all the
extraordinary fancies recorded of the sex, none can exceed that which
Cardan relates to have happened in one of the convents of Germany, during
the fifteenth century. One of the nuns, who had long been secluded from
the sight of man, was seized with the strange propensity to bite all her
companions; and extraordinary as it may seem, this disposition spread
until the whole house was infected with the same fury. The account,
indeed, states, that this mania extended even beyond the walls of the
convent, and that the disease was conveyed to such a degree from cloister
to cloister, throughout Germany, Holland, and Italy, that the practice at
length prevailed in every female convent in Europe.

The instances of the pernicious influence of a total dereliction of
society, may possibly appear to the understandings of the present
generation extravagant and incredible; but they are certainly true; and
many others of a similar nature might be adduced from the most authentic
histories of the times. The species, when prevented from enjoying a free
intercourse and rational society with each other, almost change their
nature; and the mind, feeding continually on the melancholy musings
of the imagination, in the cold and cheerless regions of solitude,
engenders humors of the most eccentric cast. Excluded from those social
communications which nature enjoins, with the means of gratifying the
understanding, amusing the senses, or interesting the affections, fancy
roves at large into unknown spheres, and endeavors to find in ideal forms
entertainment and delight. Angelic visions, infernal phantoms, amazing
prodigies, the delusions of alchemy, the frenzies of philosophy, and the
madness of metaphysics, fill the disordered brain. The intellect fastens
upon some absurd idea, and fosters it with the fondest affection,
until its increasing magnitude subdues the remaining powers of sense
and reason. The slightest retrospect into the conduct of the solitary
professors of every religious system, proves the lamentable dangers to
which they expose their mental faculties, by excluding themselves from
the intercourse of rational society. From the prolific womb of solitude
sprung all the mysterious ravings and senseless doctrines of the New
Platonists. The same cause devoted the monks and anchorites of the
Christian church to folly and fanaticism. Fakirs, Bramins, and every
other tribe of religious enthusiasts, originated from the same source.
By abandoning the pleasures of society, and renouncing the feelings
of nature, they sacrificed reason upon the altar of superstition, and
supplied its place with ecstatic fancies, and melancholy musings. There
is nothing more evident, than that our holy religion, in its original
constitution, was set so far apart from all refined speculations, that it
seemed in a manner diametrically opposite to them. The great founder of
Christianity gave one simple rule of life to all men; but his disciples,
anxious to indulge the natural vanity of the human mind, and misled, in
some degree, by the false philosophy which at that period overspread the
heathen world, introduced various doctrines of salvation, and new schemes
of faith. Bigotry, a species of superstition never known before, took
place in men’s affections, and armed them with new jealousies against
each other: barbarous terms and idioms were every day invented; monstrous
definitions imposed, and hostilities, the fiercest imaginable, exercised
on each other by the contending parties. Fanaticism, with all the
train of visions, prophecies, dreams, charms, miracles, and exorcises,
succeeded; and spiritual feats, of the most absurd and ridiculous nature,
were performed in monasteries, or up and down, by their mendicant or
itinerant priests and ghostly missionaries. Solitude impressed the
principles upon which these extravagances were founded, with uncommon
force on the imagination; and the mind, working itself into holy fervors
and inspirations, give birth to new extravagances. The causes which
operated on the minds of men to produce such ridiculous effects, acted
with double force on the ardent temper, warm imagination, and excessive
sensibility of the female world. That which was mere fantasy with the
one sex, became frenzy with the other. Women, indeed, are, according
to the opinion of Plato, the nurses of fanaticism; and their favorite
theme is that which has been dignified by the appellation of _a sublime
passion for poetry_: an ardent, refined love of heaven; but which, in
fact, is only the natural effects of the heart, swollen intumescently
by an unreined, prolific, and too ardent imagination. Instances of this
kind are discoverable in all the accounts that have been published of the
holy fervors of these penitents, particularly in those of Catherine of
Sienna, of Joan of Cambray, of Angelina of Foligny, of Matilda of Saxony,
of Maria of the Incarnation, of Mary Magdalen of Pazzio, of Gertrude of
Saxony, and many others. The celebrated Armelle, who was born in the year
1606, at Campenac, in the diocese of St. Malo, and who died at Vannes in
the year 1671, possessed great personal beauty, a quick and lively mind,
and an uncommon tenderness of heart. Her parents, who were honest and
industrious villagers, placed her as a menial servant in the house of
a neighboring gentleman, with whom she lived for five and thirty years
in the practice of the most exemplary piety and extraordinary virtue,
at least, according to the accounts which he gave from time to time of
her conduct. During the time she resided with this gentleman, his groom,
finding the kitchen door fastened, had the curiosity to peep through the
key-hole, where he discovered the pious maid, in a paroxysm of divine
ecstacy, performing the humble office of spitting a capon. The agitation
of this holy spirit so affected the mind of the astonished youth, that,
it is said by the Ursuline sister who has written the life of this great
luminary of French sanctity, under the title of _The school for the love
of God_, he became immediately enamored with the beauties of religion,
and renouncing the pomps and vanities of the world, entered into a
monastery, at the same time that his holy companion thought proper to
withdraw from future observation into the convent of Vannes, where she
devoted the remainder of her life, and died, as it is reported, in an
excess of divine love. The youthful days of Armelle had been passed in
almost total solitude; for her occupation at the house in which she was
placed by her parents, was confined entirely to the kitchen, and she
had scarcely any other intercourse than with its furniture. It appears,
however, from the history of her life, that she was from her childhood
excessively fond of reciting an _ave_ or _paternoster_; and while
occupied in tending the flocks, her original employment, amused herself
in telling her rosary; “by which means,” says the Ursuline sister, “she
made, even in her pastoral state of simplicity and ignorance, such great
advances in divine love that, the first moment she was allowed to pay her
adoration to the crucifix the fervency of her pious passion burst forth
with such ecstacy, that she eagerly snatched the holy object to her arms,
and embraced it with a transport so warmly affectionate, that streams of
tenderness rushed from her eyes.”

It is truly said by a celebrated English writer, to be “of the utmost
importance to guard against extremes of every kind in religion. We must
beware lest by seeking to avoid one rock we split upon another. It has
been long the subject of remark, that superstition and enthusiasm are two
capital sources of delusion: superstition, on the one hand, attaching
men with immoderate zeal to the ritual and external points of religion;
and enthusiasm, on the other, directing their whole attention to
internal emotions and mystical communications with the spiritual world;
while neither the one nor the other had paid sufficient regard to the
great moral duties of the Christian life. But running with intemperate
eagerness from these two great abuses of religion, men have neglected
to observe that there are extremes opposite to each of them, into which
they are in hazard of precipitating themselves. Thus the horror of
superstition has sometimes reached so far as to produce contempt for all
external institutions; as if it were possible for religion to subsist in
the world without forms of worship, or public acknowledgment of God. It
has also happened, that some, who, in the main are well affected to the
cause of goodness, observing that persons of a devout turn have at times
been carried away by warm affections into unjustifiable excesses, have
thence hastily concluded that all devotion was akin to enthusiasm; and
separating religion totally from the heart and affections, have reduced
it to a frigid observance of what they call the rules of virtue.” These
extremes are to be carefully avoided. True devotion is rational and well
founded; and consists in the lively exercise of that affection which we
owe to the Supreme Being, comprehending several emotions of the heart,
which all terminate in the same great object.

These are among the evils which an irrational solitude is capable of
producing upon an unrestrained and misdirected imagination; but I do
not mean to contend indiscriminately, that solitude is generally to be
considered as dangerous to the free indulgence of this delightful faculty
of the mind. Solitude, well chosen, and rationally pursued, is so far
from being either the open enemy, or the treacherous friend of a firm
and fine imagination, that it ripens its earliest shoots, strengthens
their growth, and contributes to the production of its richest and most
valuable fruits. To him who has acquired the happy art of enjoying in
solitude the charms of nature, and of indulging the powers of fancy
without impairing the faculty of reason

          … Whate’er adorns
    The princely dome, the column, and the arch,
    The breathing marble, and the sculptured gold,
    Beyond the proud possessor’s narrow claim,
    His happy breast enjoys. For him the spring
    Distils her dews, and from the silken gem
    Its lucid leaves unfolds: for him the hand
    Of autumn tinges every fertile branch
    With blooming gold, and blushes like the morn.
    Each passing hour sheds tribute from her wings;
    And still new beauties meet his lonely walk,
    And loves unfelt attract him. Not a breeze
    Flies o’er the meadow; not a cloud imbibes
    The setting sun’s effulgence; not a strain
    From all the tenants of the warbling shade
    Ascends, but whence his bosom can partake
    Fresh pleasure, unreproved. Nor thence partake
    Fresh pleasure only: for the attentive mind,
    By this harmonious action on her powers,
    Becomes herself harmonious.


_The effects of solitude on a melancholy mind._

A disposition to enjoy the silence of sequestered solitude, and a glowing
distaste of the noisy tumults of public life, are the earliest and most
general symptoms of approaching melancholy. The heart, on which felicity
was used to sit enthroned, becomes senseless to the touch of pleasure;
the airy wing of high delight sinks prostrate to the earth on broken
pinions: and care and anxiety, chagrin, and regret, load the mind with
distempering ideas, and render it cheerless and forlorn. The dawning sun,
and heaven lighted day, give no pleasure to the sickened senses of the
unhappy sufferer. His only pleasure is to “commune with his own griefs;”
and for this purpose he seeks some gloomy glen,

    “Where bitter boding melancholy reigns
    O’er heavy sighs and care disordered thoughts.”

But a mind thus disposed, however it may for a time console its sorrows,
by retiring from the world, thereby becomes more weak and helpless.
Solitude in such cases, increases the disorder, while it softens its
effects. To eradicate the seeds of this dreadful malady, the imagination
should be impressed with some new, contrary, and more powerful bias than
that which sways the mind, which can only be turned from its course of
thought by shifting the object of its reflection, and giving entrance to
new desires. A melancholy mind therefore, should be weaned by degrees
from its disposition to solitude, should be agreeably interrupted in its
musings, and be induced to relish the varying pleasures of the world.
But, above all, those scenes and subjects which have any connexion,
however remotely, with the cause of the complaint, must be cautiously
avoided. The seeds of this dreadful malady are, in general, very deeply
planted in the constitution of the patient, however accidental the
circumstances may be when relieved from its oppression, is, if left
to itself, always in danger of relapsing into its former habit. This
circumstance alone is sufficient to show how unfriendly solitude must be
to the cure of this complaint. If, indeed, the patient be so far gone
as to leave no hope of recovery; if his desponding heart be incapable
of any new impression; if his mind forgoes all custom of mirth; if he
refuse to partake of any healthful exercise or agreeable recreation:
and the soul sinks day after day into deeper dejection, and threatens
nature with madness or with death, solitude is the only resource. When
melancholy seizes, to a certain degree, the mind of an Englishman, it
almost uniformly leads him to put a period to his existence; while
the worst effect it produces on a Frenchman, is to induce him to turn
Carthusian. Such dissimilar effects, proceeding from the operation of
the same cause, in different persons, can only be accounted for from the
greater opportunities which there is in France than in England to hide
the sorrows of the mind from the inspection of the world. An English
hypochondriac would, perhaps, seldom destroy himself, if there were in
England any monastic institution to which he could fly from the eye of
public observation.

The mind, in proportion as it loses its proper tone, and natural
elasticity, decreases in its attachments to society, and wishes to recede
from the world and its concerns. There is no disorder of the mind, among
all the various causes by which it may be affected, that destroys its
force and activity so entirely as melancholy. It unties, as it were,
all the relations, both physical and moral, of which society, in its
most perfect state, consists, and sets the soul free from all sense of
obligation. The private link which unites the species is destroyed;
all inclination to the common intercourse of life is lost; and the
only remaining disposition is for solitude. It is for this reason that
melancholy persons are continually advised to frequent the theatres,
masquerades, operas, balls, and other places of public diversion; to
amuse themselves at home with cards, dice, or other games; or to infuse
from the eyes of female beauty new life into their drooping souls.
Certain it is, that great advantages may be derived by detaching the
mind from those objects by which it is tortured and consumed; but to run
indiscriminately, and with injudicious eagerness, into the pursuit of
pleasures, without any predisposition to enjoy them, may rather tend to
augment than diminish the disease.

The eye of melancholy views every object on its darkest and most
unfavorable side, and apprehends disastrous consequences from every
occurrence. These gloomy perceptions, which increase as the feelings
become more indolent, and the constitution more morbid, bring on habitual
uneasiness and chagrin upon the mind, and render every injury, however
small and trifling it may be, irksome and insupportable. A settled
dejection ensues; and the miserable patient avoids every scene in which
his musings may be liable to interruption; the few enjoyments he is yet
capable of feeling in any degree impeded; or which may call upon him to
make the slightest exertion; and by withdrawing himself from society
into solitude, neglects the exercises and recreations by which his
disease might be relieved. Instead of endeavoring to enlighten the dark
gloom which involves his mind, and subdues his soul, by regarding with
a favorable eye all that gives a true value and high relish to men of
sound minds and lively dispositions, he fondly follows the phantom which
misleads him, and thereby sinks himself more deeply into the moody fanes
of irremediable melancholy: and if the bright rays of life and happiness
penetrate by chance into the obscurity of his retreat instead of feeling
any satisfaction from the perception of cheerfulness and content, he
quarrels with the possessor of them, and converts their enjoyments into
subjects of grievance, in order to torment himself.

Unfavorable, however, as a dreary and disconsolate solitude certainly
is to the recovery of a mind labouring under this grievous affliction,
it is far preferable to the society of licentious companions, and to
wild scenes of inebriating dissipation. Worldly pleasures, and sensual
gratifications of every description, when intemperately pursued, only
drive a melancholy mind into a more abject state of dejection. It is from
rational recreation, and temperate pleasures alone, that an afflicted
mind can receive amusement and delight. The only scenes by which the
mudded current of his mind can be cleared, or his stagnated system of
pleasure refreshed, must be calm, cheerful, and temperate, not gay.
Melancholy is of a sedate and pensive character, and flies from whatever
is hurrying and tumultuous. How frequently do men of contemplative
dispositions conceive a distaste for the world, only because they have
unthinkingly engaged so ardently in the pursuits of pleasure, or of
business, that they have been prevented for a length of time, from
collecting their scattered ideas, and indulging their natural habits of
reflection! But in striving to reclaim a melancholy mind, it is necessary
to attend to the feelings of the heart, as well as the peculiar temper
of the mind. A gloomy, disturbed, unquiet mind, is highly irritated, and
its disease of course increased, by the company and conversation of those
whose senseless bosoms are incapable of feeling the griefs it endures,
or the complaints it utters. This, indeed, is another cause which drives
melancholy persons from society into solitude; for how few are there
whose tenderness leads them to sympathize with a brother in distress,
or to contribute a kind aid to eradicate the thorns which rankle in
his heart! Robust characters, in whose bosoms nature has planted the
impenetrable shield of unvarying health, as well as those whose minds are
engrossed by the charms of uninterrupted prosperity, can form no idea
of the secret but severe agonies which shake the system of valetudinary
men: nor feel any compassion for the tortures which accompany a
wounded and afflicted spirit, until the convulsive frame proclaims the
dreadful malady, or increasing melancholy sacrifices its victim on the
altar of self-destruction. The gay associates of the unfeeling world
view a companion suffering under the worst of nature’s evils, with
cold indifference, or affected concern; or, in the career of pleasure,
overlook the miseries he feels until they hear that exhausted wo has
induced him to brave the anger of the Almighty, and to rush from mortal
misery, uncalled, into the awful presence of his Creator. Dreadful state!
The secrecy and silence, indeed, with which persons of this description
conceal the pangs that torture their minds, is among the most dangerous
symptoms of the disease. It is not, indeed, easy to hide from the anxious
and attentive eye of real friendship the feelings of the heart; but to
the careless and indifferent multitude of common acquaintances, the
countenance may wear the appearance not only of composure, but even of
gayety, while the soul is inwardly suffering the keenest anguish of
unutterable wo. The celebrated Carlini, a French actor of great merit,
and in high reputation with the public, for the life, whim, frolic,
and vivacity with which he nightly entertained the Parisian audiences,
applied to a physician to whom he was not personally known, for advice,
and represented to him that he was subject to attacks of the deepest
melancholy. The physician advised him to amuse his mind by scenes of
pleasure, and particularly directed him to frequent the Italian Comedy;
“for,” continued he, “your distemper must be rooted, indeed, if the
acting of the lively Carlini does not remove it.” “Alas!” exclaimed the
unhappy patient, “I am the very Carlini whom you recommend me to see; and
while I am capable of filling Paris with mirth and laughter, I am myself
the dejected victim of melancholy and chagrin.”

Painful as it may be to a person who is laboring under the oppression of
melancholy, to associate with those who are incapable of sympathizing
with his feelings, or who neglect to compassionate his sufferings, yet
he should not fly from the presence of men into solitude; for solitude
will unavoidably aggravate and augment his distress inasmuch as it tends
to encourage that musing and soliloquy to which melancholy is invariably
prone. It is the most dangerous resource to which he can fly; for, while
it seems to promise the fairest hope of relief, it betrays the confidence
reposed in it; and instead of shielding its votary from that conflict
which disturbs his repose, it renders him defenceless, and delivers him
unarmed to his bitterest enemy.

The boldest spirits and firmest nerves cannot withstand the inroads of
melancholy merely by their own strength. It damps the courage of the
most enterprising mind, and makes him who was before upon all occasions,
fearless and unawed, shrink even from the presence of his fellow
creatures. Company of every description becomes displeasing to him; he
dreads the idea of visiting; and if he is induced to quit the domestic
solitude into which he retires, it is only when the glorious, but to him
offensive, light of heaven is concealed in congenial darkness; and the
shades of night hide him from the observation of man. An invitation to
social entertainment alarms his mind; the visit even of a friend becomes
painful to his feelings; and he detests every thing which lightens the
gloom in which he wishes to live, or which tends to disturb his privacy,
or remove him from his retreat.

Rousseau, toward the latter part of his life, abandoned all intercourse
with society under a notion, which was the effect of his melancholy
disposition, that the world had conceived an unconquerable antipathy
against him; and that his former friends, particularly Hume, and some
philosophers in France, not only had entered into confederacy to
destroy his glory and repose, but to take away his life. On departing
from England, he passed through Amiens, where he met with Gresset,
who interrogated him about his misfortunes, and the controversies in
which he had been engaged; but Rousseau only answered, “You have got
the art of making a parrot speak, but you are not yet possessed of the
secret of giving language to a bear:” and when the magistrates of the
city wished to confer on him some marks of their esteem, he refused
all their offers, and considered these flattering civilities like the
insults which were lavished in the same form on the celebrated Sancho
in the island of Barataria. To such extent, indeed, did his disordered
imagination carry him, that he thought one part of the people looked upon
him like Lazarillo de Tormes, who being fixed to the bottom of a tub,
with only his head out of water, was carried from one town to another to
amuse the vulgar. His bad health, a strong and melancholy imagination,
a too nice sensibility, a jealous disposition, joined with philosophic
vanity, and his uncommon devotion to solitude, tended to prepossess
him with those wrong and whimsical ideas. But it must be confessed that
the opposition he met with from different ranks of persons, at several
periods of his life, was extremely severe. He was driven at one time
from France, in which he had before been distinguished by his writings,
and highly honored. At another time he was chased from Geneva, the
place of his nativity, and of his warmest affection. He was exiled from
Berne with disgrace; expelled, with some appearance of injustice, from
Neufchatel; and even banished from his tranquil solitude on the borders
of the lake of Bienne. His disposition therefore to avoid society, must
not be entirely attributed to his melancholy disposition; nor his love
of solitude to a misanthropic mind. Every acute and scientific observer
of the life and character of this extraordinary man will immediately
perceive that the seeds of that melancholy disposition, and fretful
temper, which through life destroyed his repose, were sown by nature in
his constitution. He confesses indeed, to use his own words, that “a
proud misanthropy, and peculiar contempt for the riches and pleasures of
the world, constituted the chief traits of his character.” This proud
spirit and contemptuous mind were mixed with an extreme sensibility of
heart, and an excessive indolence of disposition; and his body, which
was naturally feeble, suffered, from ill health, the keenest agonies,
and most excruciating disorders, to which the human frame is incident.
Persecution also had levelled the most pointed and severely barbed shafts
against him; and he was forced to endure, amidst the pangs of poverty,
and the sorrows of sickness, all that envy, hatred, and malice, could
inflict. It has been said, that the persecutions he experienced were not
so much excited by the new dogmas, or eccentric paradoxes, which, both
on politics and religion, pervade all his writings, as by the refinement
of his extraordinary talents, the wonderful splendor of his eloquence,
and the increasing extent of his fame. His adversaries certainly pursued
him, not only with bigotry and intolerance, but with an inconsistency
which revealed, in a great degree, the secret motives by which they were
actuated; for they condemned, with the sharpest virulence, the freedom
of his religious tenets, even in places where the religious creed of
Voltaire was held in the highest admiration, and where atheism had
collected the most learned advocates, and displayed the very standard
of infidelity and disbelief. Harassed by the frowns of fortune, and
pursued with unrelenting enmity by men whose sympathy and kindness he
had anxiously endeavored to obtain, it is scarcely surprising that the
cheerfulness of his disposition, and the kindness of his heart, should be
subdued by those sentiments of aversion and antipathy which he fancied
most of his intimates entertained against him: and the invectives
from the pen of his former friend and confidant, Voltaire, together
with many others that might be adduced, particularly the letter which
was fabricated in the name of the king of Prussia, for the purpose of
exposing him to ridicule, prove that his suspicions on the subject were
not unfounded. The voice, indeed of mankind, seems ready to exclaim that
this eccentric philosopher was not only a misanthrope, but a madman;
but those who are charitably disposed, will recollect that he was a
martyr to ill health; that nature had bestowed upon him a discontented
mind; that his nerves were in a continued state of irritation; and that
to preserve equanimity of temper when goaded by the shafts of calumny
and malice, requires such an extraordinary degree of fortitude and
passive courage as few individuals are found to possess. His faults are
remembered, while the wonderful bloom and uncommon vigor of his genius,
are forgotten or concealed. The production from which his merits are in
general estimated, is that which is called “The Confessions:” a work
written under the pressure of calamity, in sickness and in sorrow; amidst
fears, distresses, and sufferings; when the infirmities which accompany
old age, and the debility which attends continued ill health, had injured
the tone of his mind, overpowered his reason, and perverted his feelings
to such a degree, as to create an almost total transformation of the
character of the man, and deprive him of his identity: but this degrading
work ought, in candor, to be considered as a deplorable instance of the
weakness of human nature, and how unable it is to support its own dignity
when attacked by the adversities of fortune, and the malice of mankind.
The greatness of Rousseau ought to be erected on a different basis: for
his earliest works are certainly sufficient to support the extent of his
fame as an author, however they may, on particular subjects, expose his
integrity as a man.

The anxieties which a vehemence of imagination, and a tender texture of
the nervous system at all times produce, are highly injurious to the
faculties of the mind; and, when accompanied by sickness or by sorrow,
wear out the intellect in proportion to its vigor and activity. To use
the popular metaphor upon this subject, “The sword becomes too sharp for
the scabbard;” and the body and the mind are thereby exposed to mutual

Religious melancholy is, of all other descriptions of this dreadful
disease, most heightened and aggravated by solitude. The dreadful idea
of having irretrievably lost the divine favor, and of being an object
unworthy of the intercession of our Saviour, incessantly haunts the mind,
laboring under religious despondency; and the imagination being left, in
solitude, entirely to its own workings, increases the horrors which such
thoughts must unavoidably inspire.

    Her lash Tisiphone that moment shakes,
    The mind she scourges with a thousand snakes,
    And to her aid, with many a thundering yell;
    Calls her dire sisters from the gulf of hell!

These mutual tortures, even when heightened by the gloominess of
solitude, are frequently still further increased by the mischievous
doctrines of bigoted priests, who by mistaking the effects of nervous
derangement, or theological errors, for the compunctious visitings of
a guilty mind, establish and mature, by the injudicious application of
scriptural texts, and precepts of casuistry, the very disease which they
thus ignorantly and presumptuously endeavor to remove. The wound, thus
tainted by the most virulent and corrosive of the intellectual poisons,
becomes extremely difficult to cure. The pure and uncontaminated tenets
of the Christian faith furnishes, perhaps, the surest antidotes; and
when these balms of true comfort are infused by such enlightened and
discerning minds as Luther, Tillotson, and Clark, the most rational hope
may be entertained of a speedy recovery. The writings of those holy
teachers confirm the truth of the observation, that the deleterious gloom
of superstition assumes a darker aspect in the shades of retirement, and
they uniformly exhort the unhappy victims of this religious error to
avoid solitude as the most certain enemy of this dreadful infirmity.

Solitude, however, is not the only soil in which this noxious weed
springs up, spreading around its baleful glooms; it sometimes appears
with deeply rooted violence in minds unused to retirement of every
kind. In the course of my practice as a physician, I was called upon
to attend a young lady, whose natural disposition had been extremely
cheerful, until a severe fit of sickness damped her spirits, and rendered
her averse to all those lively pleasures which fascinate the youthful
mind. The debility of her frame, and the change of her temper were not
sufficiently attended to in the early stages of her convalescence. The
anxiety of her mind was visible in the altered features of her face; and
she was frequently heard to express a melancholy regret that she had
consumed so many hours in the frivolous, though innocent, amusements
of the age. Time increased, by almost imperceptible degrees, these
symptoms of approaching melancholy; and at length exhibited themselves
by penitential lamentations of the sin she had committed with respect to
the most trifling actions of her life, and in which no shadow of offence
could possibly be found. At the time I was called in, this superstitious
melancholy was attended with certain indications of mental derangement.
The distemper clearly originated in the indisposition of the body, and
the gloomy apprehensions which disease and pain, had introduced into the
mind, during a period of many months. This once lively, handsome, but now
almost insane female, was daily attacked with such violent paroxysms of
her complaint, that she lost all sense of her situation, and exclaimed,
in horrid distraction and deep despair, that her perdition was already
accomplished, and that _the fiends were waiting to receive her soul,
and plunge it into the bitterest torments of hell_. Her constitution,
however, still fortunately retained sufficient strength to enable me, by
the power of medicine, gradually to change its temperament, and to reduce
the violence of the fever which had been long preying upon her life.
Her mind became more calm in proportion as her nerves recovered their
former tone; and when her intellectual powers were in a condition to be
acted on with effect, I successfully counteracted the baleful effects of
superstition by the wholesome infusion of real religion, and restored by
degrees, a lovely, young, and virtuous woman, to her family and herself.

Another instance of a similar nature occurred very recently, in which
the patient experienced all those symptoms, which prognosticate the
approach of religious melancholy, and the completion of whose sorrow and
despondency would quickly have been effected, if good fortune had not
deprived her of the advice of an ignorant and bigoted priest, to whom
her friends, when I was called in, had resolved to apply. This young
lady, whose mind remained pure and uncorrupted amidst all the luxuries
and dissipations which usually accompany illustrious birth and elevated
station, possessed by nature great tranquillity of disposition, and lived
with quietude and content, far retired from the pleasures of the world.
I had been long acquainted with her family, and entertained for them
the warmest esteem. The dangerous condition of her health gave me great
anxiety and concern; for whenever she was left one moment to herself,
and even in company, whenever she closed her eyes, a thousand horrid
spectres presented themselves to her disordered mind, and seemed ready
to devour her from every corner of the apartment. I inquired whether
these imaginary spectres made any impression upon the affections of her
heart: but she answered in the negative, and described the horrors which
she felt from the supposed fierceness of their eyes, and the threatening
gesticulations of their bodies. I endeavored to compose her by assuring
her that they were the creatures of fancy, the wild chimeras of a
weakened brain; that her long course of ill health had affected her mind;
and that when a proper course of medicine, dietic regimen, and gentle
exercise, had restored her strength, these dreadful appearances would
give way to the most delightful visions. The course I pursued succeeded
in a short time beyond my most sanguinary expectations, and I raised
her languid powers to health and happiness. But if she had confided
the anxieties of her mind to her confessor, instead of her physician,
the holy father would, in all probability, have ascribed her gloomy
apprehensions to the machinations of the devil, and have used nothing
but pure spiritual antidotes to destroy them, which would have increased
the melancholy, and possibly have thrown her into the darkest abyss of
madness and despair.

This grievous malady, indeed, is not the exclusive offspring of mistaken
piety and religious zeal; for it frequently invades minds powerful by
nature, improved by science, and assisted by rational society. Health,
learning, conversation, highly advantageous as they unquestionably are to
the powers both of the body and the mind, have, in particular instances,
been found incapable of resisting the influence of intense speculation,
an atrabilarius constitution, and a superstitious habit. I have already
mentioned the thick cloud of melancholy which obscured the latter days
of the great and justly celebrated Haller, which were passed under the
oppression of a religious despondency, that robbed him not only of all
enjoyment, but almost of life itself. During the long period of four
years, immediately antecedent to his death, he lived (if such a state
could be called existence) in continual misery; except, indeed, at those
short intervals when the returning powers of his mind enabled him, by
the employment of his pen, to experience a temporary relief. A long
course of ill health had forced him into an excessive use of opium, and
by taking gradually increased quantities of that inspissated juice, he
kept himself continually fluctuating between a state of mind naturally
elevated and deeply dejected; for the first effects of this powerful
drug are like those of a strong stimulating cordial, but they are soon
succeeded by universal langour, or irresistable propensity to sleep,
attended with dreams of the most agitated and enthusiastic nature. I
was myself an eyewitness of the dreary melancholy into which this great
and good man was plunged about two years before the kind, but cold, and
though friendly, yet unwelcome hand of death, released him from his
pains. The society, which, during that time, he was most solicitous to
obtain, was that of priests and ecclesiastics of every description:
he was uneasy when they were not with him: nor was he always happy in
his choice of these spiritual comforters; for though, at times, he was
attended by some of the most enlightened and orthodox divines of the
age and country in which he lived, he was at others surrounded by those
whom nothing but the reduced and abject state of his faculties would
have suffered him to endure. But during even this terrible subversion
of his intellectual powers, his love of glory still survived in its
original radiance, and defied all the terrors both of hell and earth
to destroy or diminish their force. Haller had embraced very deep and
serious notions of the importance of Christianity to the salvation of
the soul, and the redemption of mankind, which, by the ardency of his
temper, and the saturnine disposition of his mind, were carried into a
mistaken zeal and apprehension; and, instead of affording the comfort
and consolation its tenets and principles are so eminently calculated to
inspire, aggravated his feelings and destroyed his repose. In a letter
which he wrote a few days before his death, to his great and good friend,
the celebrated Heyne, of Gottingen, in which he announces the deep sense
he entertained from his great age and multiplied infirmities, of his
impending dissolution, he expressed his firm belief of revelation, and
his faith in the mercy of God, and the intercession of Jesus Christ;
but hints his fears lest the manifold sins, and the various errors and
transgressions which the natural frailty of man must have accumulated
during a course of seventy years, should have rendered his soul too
guilty to expect the promised mercy to repentant sinners, and earnestly
requests of him to inquire of his acquaintance Less, the virtuous
divine of that place, whether he could not furnish him with some pious
work that might tend to decrease the terrors he felt from the idea of
approaching death, and relieve his tortured spirit from the apprehension
of eternal punishment. The sentiments which occupied the mind of this
pious philosopher when the dreaded hour actually arrived, whether it was
comforted by the bright rays of hope, or dismayed into total eclipse by
the dark clouds of despair, those who surrounded his dying couch have not
communicated to the world. Death, while it released both his body and
his mind from the painful infirmities and delusions under which they had
so long and so severely suffered, left his fame, which, while living,
he had valued much dearer than his life, exposed to the cruel shafts of
slander and malevolence. A young nobleman of the canton of Berne, either
moved by his own malice, or made an instrument of the malice of others,
asserted in a letter, which was for a long time publicly exhibited in
the university of Gottingen, that Haller had in his last moments denied
his belief of the truth of Christianity. But those by whom he was then
surrounded, betray, by the propagation of this falsehood, the fears they
entertain of the firm support which his approbation would have given to
that pure and pious system of religion, which they, it is well known,
are so disposed to destroy. For certain it is, that Haller never doubted
any of the attributes of the Deity, except his mercy; and this doubt was
not the offspring of infidelity, but a crude abortion of that morbid
melancholy which, during his latter days, settled so severely on his
distempered mind. The same dread which he entertained of death, has been
felt with equal if not greater horror, by minds as powerful and less
superstitious. He candidly confessed the important and abstruse point
upon which he had not been able to satisfy himself. His high sense of
virtue made even his own almost exemplary and unblemished life appear,
in his too refined speculations, grossly vicious. Mercy, he knew, must
unavoidably, be correlative with justice; and he unfortunately conceived
that no repentance, however sincere, could so purify the sinful, and, as
he imagined, deplorable corruption of his soul, as to render it worthy
of divine grace. So utterly had the melancholy dejection of his mind
deprived him of a just sense of his character, and perfect knowledge of
the nature of the Almighty. The mournful propensity of this great man
must, if he had passed his days either in pious abstinence, or irrational
solitude, have hurried him rapidly into irrecoverable frenzy; but Haller
enjoyed the patronage of the great, the conversation of the learned,
the company of the polite; and he not only suspended the effects of his
malady, and of the medicines by which he attempted to relieve it, by
these advantages, but by the sciences, which he so dearly loved and so
successfully cultivated. The horrible evil, however, bowed him down in
spite of all his efforts, and particularly oppressed him whenever he
relaxed from his literary pursuits, or consulted his ghostly comforters
on the lost condition of his soul.

Solitude, to a mind laboring under these erroneous notions of religion,
operates like a rack, by which the imagination inflicts the severest
tortures on the soul. A native of Geneva, a young man of very elegant
manners, and a highly cultivated mind, some time since consulted me
upon the subject of a nervous complaint, which I immediately discovered
to be the consequence of a mistaken zeal for religion, a disposition
naturally sedentary, and a habit which is too frequently indulged in
solitude by unthinking youth. These circumstances had already made the
most dreadful inroads both on his body and his mind. His emaciated
frame was daily enfeebled by his paralyzed intellects, and he at length
fell into a settled melancholy, which continued four years to defy the
power of medicine, and finally destroyed his nervous system. A strong
conviction of the heinous sin into which the blindness of his passion
and evil example, had led him, at length flashed suddenly on his mind,
and he felt, with the keenest compunctions of a wounded conscience, how
impious he must appear to the all-seeing eye of the great Creator.
Consternation and dismay seized his guilty mind; and the sense of virtue
and religion, which he was naturally disposed to entertain, served only
to increase his horror and distraction. He would have sought a refuge
from the arrows of remorse under the protecting shields of penitence
and prayer, but a scrupulous apprehension interposed the idea that it
would be profanation in so guilty a sinner to exercise the offices of a
pure and holy religion. He at length, however, proceeded to confession;
but recollecting, after every disclosure, that he had still omitted
many of his transgressions, additional horror seized upon his mind and
tortured his feelings on the irrecoverable condition of his guilty soul.
At intervals, indeed, he was able to perceive that the perturbations
of his mind were the produce of his disorganized frame and disordered
spirit; and he endeavored to recruit the one by air and exercise, and to
dissipate the other by scenes of festivity and mirth: but his disorder
had fixed his fibres too deeply in his constitution to be eradicated by
such slight and temporary remedies. From the inefficacious antidotes
of social pleasure and worldly dissipation, he was induced to try the
calm and sedentary effects of solitary study; but his faculties were
incapable of tasting the refined and elegant occupations of learning and
the muse; his powers of reasoning were destroyed; his sensibilities,
excepting on the subject of his complaint, were dried up; and neither the
sober investigations of science, nor the more lively charms of poetry,
were capable of affording him the least consolation. Into so abject a
state, indeed, did his intellectual faculties at length fall, that he
had not, during one period, sufficient ability to compute the change
due to him from any piece of coin in the common transactions of life;
and he confessed that he had been frequently tempted, by the deepness
of his distress, to release both his body and his mind from their cruel
sufferings, and “to shake impatiently his great affliction off” by self
destruction; but the idea of heaping new punishment on his soul, by the
perpetration of this additional crime, continually interposed, and saved
him from the guilty deed. During this state of mental derangement, he
fortunately met with a liberal minded and rational divine, who, free
from the errors of priestcraft, and possessed of a profound knowledge of
the virtues of religion and the structure of the human mind, undertook
the arduous but humane and truly philosophic task, of endeavoring to
bring back his mind to a rational sense of its guilt, and to a firm
hope of pardon through the intercession of our Saviour. Religion, that
sweet and certain comforter of human woes, at length effected a partial
recovery, and restored him to a degree of tranquillity and repose; but
he still continued to suffer, for years afterward, so great a misery
from the shattered condition of his nerves, that he could not even
compose a letter upon the most trifling and indifferent subject without
the greatest labor and pain. As his feelings had never been hurt by any
sense of injury received from mankind, he entertained no antipathy to
his species; but as he was conscious that his reduced state of health
prevented him from keeping up any rational or pleasing intercourse
with them, he felt a sort of abhorrence to society, and refused, even
when advised by his physicians and intimate friends, to mingle in its
pleasures, or engage in its concerns. The proposal, indeed, appeared
as extravagant and absurd to his feelings, as if a man, almost choking
under the convulsion of a confirmed asthma, had been told that it was
only necessary for him to breathe freely in order to acquire perfect
ease. This deplorable state of health induced him to consult several
Italian and English physicians; and being advised to try the effects of
a sea voyage, he set sail for Riga, where he safely arrived; but, after
a residence of six months, found himself unaltered, and precisely in the
same dreadful condition in which he had set sail. On his return, I was
called in to his assistance. There were at this period but very few of
those gloomy and noxious vapors of superstition which had so tormented
his mind, remaining; but his body, and particularly his nervous system,
was still racked with agonizing pains. I had the good fortune to afford
him great relief; and when at times his sufferings were suspended, and
his spirits enlivened by pleasing conversation, he was certainly one
of the most entertaining men, both as to the vivacity of his wit, the
shrewdness of his observations, the powers of his reasoning, and the
solidity of his judgment, that I had ever known.

These instances clearly evince how dangerous solitude may prove to
minds predisposed, by accident or nature, to indulge a misdirected
imagination, either upon the common subjects of life, or upon the more
important and affecting topic of religion; but it must not be concluded
from the observations I have already made, that a rational retirement
from the vices, the vanities, and the vexations of the world, is equally
unfriendly, under all circumstances, to a sickly mind. The cool and quiet
repose which seclusion affords, is frequently the most advantageous
remedy which can be adopted for the recovery of a disturbed imagination.
It would indeed be the height of absurdity to recommend to a person
suffering under a derangement of the nervous system, the diversions and
dissipations of public life, when it is known, by sad experience, as well
as by daily observation, that the least hurry disorders their frame,
and the gentlest intercourse palpitates their hearts, and shakes their
brains, almost to distraction. The healthy and robust can have no idea
how violent the slightest touch vibrates through the trembling nerves
of the dejected valetudinarian. The gay and healthy, therefore, seldom
sympathize with the sorrowful and the sick. This, indeed, is one reason
why those who, having lost the firm and vigorous tone of mind which is
so essentially necessary in the intercourses of the world, generally
abandon society, and seek in the softness of solitude a solace for their
cares and anxieties; for there they frequently find a kind asylum,
where the soul rests free from disturbance, and in time appeases the
violence of its emotions: for “the foster nurse of nature is repose.”
Experience, alas! sad experience, has but too well qualified me to treat
of this subject. In the fond expectation of being able to re-establish
my nervous system, and to regain that health which I had broken down,
and almost destroyed by intense application, I repaired to the Circle of
Westphalia, in order to taste the waters of Pyrmont, and to divert the
melancholy of my mind by the company which resorts to that celebrated
spring: but, alas! I was unable to enjoy the lively scene; and I walked
through multitudes of the great, the elegant, and the gay, in painful
stupor, scarcely recognizing the features of my friends, and fearful of
being noticed by those who knew me. The charms of wit, and the splendors
of youthful beauty, were to me as unalluring as age and ugliness, when
joined to the deformities of vice, and the fatiguing prate of senseless
folly. During this miserable impotence of soul, and while I vainly sought
a temporary relief of my own calamity, I was hourly assailed by a crowd
of wretched souls, who implored me to afford them my professional aid, to
alleviate those pains which time, alas! had fixed in their constitutions
and which depended more on the management and reformation of their own
minds, than on the powers of medicine to cure. For--

    I could not minister to a mind diseased,
    Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
    Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
    And, with a sweet oblivious antidote,
    Cleanse the stuff’d bosom of that perilous stuff
    Which weighed upon the heart.

To avoid these painful importunities, I flew from the tasteless scenes
with abrupt and angry violence; and confining myself to the solitude of
my apartments, passed the lingering day in dreary dejection, musing on
the melancholy group from which I had just escaped. But my home did not
long afford me an asylum. I was on the ensuing day assailed by a host of
hypochondriacs, attended by their respective advisers, who, while my own
nervous malady was raging at its full height, stunned me with the various
details of their imaginary woes, and excruciated me the whole day with
their unfounded ails and tormenting lamentations. The friendly approach
of night at length relieved me from their importunities; but my spirits
had been exhausted, my feelings so vexed, my patience so tried, and the
sensibilities of my mind so aggravated, by the persecution I had endured,

    “Tir’d nature’s sweet restorer, balmly sleep,”

fled from my eyes; and I lay restless upon my couch, alive only to my
miseries, in a state of anguish more insupportable than my bitterest
enemies would, I hope, have inflicted on me. About noon, on the ensuing
day, while I was endeavoring to procure on the sofa a short repose,
the princess Orlow, accompanied by two other very agreeable Russian
ladies, whose company and conversation it was both my pride and my
pleasure frequently to enjoy, suddenly entered my apartment, to inquire
after my health, of the state of which they had received an account
only a few hours before; but such was the petulance of temper into
which my disordered mind had betrayed me, that I immediately rose, and
with uncivil vehemence, requested they would not disturb me. The fair
intruders instantly left the room. About an hour afterward, and while
I was reflecting on the impropriety of my conduct, the prince himself
honored me with a visit. He placed himself on a chair close by the couch
on which I lay, and, with that kind affection which belongs to his
character, inquired, with the tenderest and most sympathizing concern,
into the cause of my disorder. There was a charm in his kindness and
attention that softened, in some degree, the violence of my pains. He
continued his visit for some time; and when he was about to leave me,
after premising that I knew him too well to suspect that superstition had
any influence in his mind, said, “Let me advise you, whenever you find
yourself in so waspish and petulant a mood, as you must have been in when
you turned the princess and her companions out of the room, to endeavor
to check the violence of your temper; and I think you will find it an
excellent expedient for this purpose, if, while any friend is kindly
inquiring after your health, however averse you may be at the moment to
such an inquiry, instead of driving him so uncivilly away, you would
employ yourself in a silent mental repetition of the Lord’s prayer: it
might prove very salutary, and would certainly be much more satisfactory
to your mind.” No advice could be better imagined than this was to
divert the emotions of impatience, by creating in the mind new objects
of attention, and turning the raging current of distempered thought into
a more pure and peaceful channel. Experience, indeed, has enabled me to
announce the efficacy and virtue of this expedient. I have frequently,
by the practice of it, defeated the fury of petulant passions, and
completely subdued many of those absurdities which vex and tease us in
the hours of grief and during the sorrows of sickness. Others also to
whom I have recommended it, have experienced from it similar effects.
The prince, “my guide, philosopher, and friend,” a few weeks after he
had given me this wise and salutary advice, consulted me respecting the
difficulty he frequently labored under in suppressing the violence of
those transports of affection which he bore toward his young and amiable
consort, and which, in a previous conversation on philosophic subjects,
I had seriously exhorted him to check, under a conviction, that a steady
flame is more permanent and pure than a raging fire. He asked me with
some concern what expedient I could recommend to him as most likely to
control those emotions which happy lovers are so anxious to indulge. “My
dear friend,” I replied, “there is no expedient can surpass your own;
and whenever the intemperance of passion is in danger of subverting the
dictates of reason, repeat the Lord’s prayer, and I have no doubt you
will foil its fury.”

When the mind is thus enabled to check and regulate the effects of the
passions, and bring back the temper to its proper tone and rational
basis, the serenity and calmness of solitude assists the achievement,
and completes the victory. It is then so far from infusing into the mind
the virulent passions we have before described, that it affords a soft
and pleasing balm to the soul; and instead of being its greatest enemy,
becomes its highest blessing and its warmest friend.

Solitude, indeed, as I have already observed, is far from betraying
well-regulated minds either into the miseries of melancholy, or the
danger of eccentricism. It raises a healthy and vigorous imagination
to its noblest production, elevates it when dejected, calms it when
disturbed, and restores it, when partially disordered, to its natural
tone. It is as in every other matter, whether physical or moral, the
abuse of solitude which renders it dangerous; like every powerful
medicine, it is attended, when misapplied, with most mischievous
consequences: but when properly administered, is pleasant in its taste,
and highly salutary in its effects. He who knows how to enjoy it can

                          … truly tell
    To live in solitude is with truth to dwell;
    Where gay content with healthy temperance meets,
    And learning intermixes all its sweets;
    Where friendship, elegance, and arts unite
    To make the hours glide social, easy, bright:
    He tastes the converse of the purest mind:
    Though mild, yet manly: and though plain, refined;
    And through the moral world expatiates wide
    Truth as his end, and virtue as his guide.


_The influence of solitude on the passions._

The passions lose in solitude a certain portion of that regulating weight
by which in society they are guided and controlled; the counteracting
effects produced by variety, the restraints imposed by the obligations
of civility, and the checks which arise from the calls of humanity,
occur much less frequently in retirement than amidst the multifarious
transactions of a busy world. The desires and sensibilities of the
heart having no real objects on which their vibrations can pendulate,
are stimulated and increased by the powers of imagination. All the
propensities of the soul, indeed, experience a degree of restlessness and
vehemence greater than they ever feel while diverted by the pleasures,
subdued by the surrounding distresses, and engaged by the business of
active and social life.

The calm which seems to accompany the mind in its retreat is deceitful;
the passions are secretly at work within the heart; the imagination is
continually heaping fuel on the latent fire, and at length the laboring
desire bursts forth, and glows with volcanic heat and fury. The temporary
inactivity and inertness which retirement seems to impose, may check,
but cannot subdue the energies of spirit. The high pride and lofty
ideas of great and independent minds may be, for a while, lulled into
repose; but the moment the feelings of such a character are awakened by
indignity or outrage, its anger springs like an elastic body drawn from
its centre, and pierces with vigorous severity the object that provoked
it. The perils of solitude, indeed, always increase in proportion as
the sensibilities, imaginations, and passions of its votaries are
quick, excursive, and violent. The man may be the inmate of a cottage,
but the same passions and inclinations still lodge within his heart:
_his_ mansion may be changed, but _their_ residence is the same; and
though they appear to be silent and undisturbed, they are secretly
influencing all the propensities of his heart. Whatever be the cause
of his retirement, whether it be a sense of undeserved misfortune, the
ingratitude of supposed friends, the pangs of despised love, or the
disappointment of ambition, memory prevents the wound from healing, and
stings the soul with indignation and resentment. The image of departed
pleasures haunts the mind, and robs it of its wished tranquillity. The
ruling passion still subsists; it fixes itself more strongly on the
fancy; moves with greater agitation; and becomes, in retirement, in
proportion as it is inclined to vice or virtue, either a horrid and
tormenting spectre, inflicting apprehension and dismay, or a delightful
and supporting angel, irradiating the countenance with smiles of joy, and
filling the heart with peace and gladness.

    Blest is the man, as far as earth can bless,
    Whose measur’d passions reach no wild excess;
    Who, urged by nature’s voice, her gifts enjoys,
    Nor other means than nature’s force employs.
    While warm with youth the sprightly current flows,
    Each vivid sense with vigorous rapture glows;
    And when he droops beneath the hand of age,
    No vicious habit stings with fruitless rage;
    Gradual his strength and gay sensations cease,
    While joys tumultuous sink in silent peace.

The extraordinary power which the passions assume, and the improper
channel in which they are apt to flow in retired situations, is
conspicuous from the greater acrimony with which they are in general
tainted in small villages than in large towns. It is true, indeed, that
they do not always explode in such situations with the open and daring
violence which they exhibit in the metropolis; but lie buried as it
were, and mouldering in the bosom with a more malignant flame. To those
who only observe the listlessness and languor which distinguish the
characters of those who reside in small provincial towns, the slow and
uniform rotation of amusements which fills up the leisure of their lives;
the confused wildness of their cares; the poor subterfuges to which they
are continually resorting, in order to avoid the clouds of discontent
that impend in angry darkness, over their heads; the lagging current
of their drooping spirits; the miserable poverty of their intellectual
powers; the eagerness with which they strive to raise a card party; the
transports they enjoy on the prospect of any new diversion or occasional
exhibition; the haste with which they run toward any sudden, unexpected
noise that interrupts the deep silence of their situation; and the
patient industry with which, from day to day, they watch each other’s
conduct, and circulate reports of every action of each other’s lives,
will scarcely imagine that any virulence of passion can disturb the
bosoms of persons who live in so quiet and seemingly composed a state.
But the unoccupied time and barren minds of such characters cause the
faintest emotions, and most common desires, to act with all the violence
of high and untamed passions. The lowest diversions, a cock fighting, or
a pony race, make the bosom of a country ’squire beat with the highest
rapture; while the inability to attend the monthly ball fills the minds
of his wife and daughter with the keenest anguish. Circumstances, which
scarcely make any impression on those who reside in the metropolis,
plunge every description of residents in a country village into all
the extravagances of joy, or the dejection of sorrow; from the peer to
the peasant, from the duchess to the dairy maid, all is rapture and
convulsion. Competition is carried on for the humble honors and petty
interests of a sequestered town, or miserable hamlet, with as much heat
and rancor, as it is for the highest dignities and greatest emoluments
of the state. Upon many occasions, indeed, ambition, envy, revenge, and
all the disorderly and malignant passions, are felt and exercised with a
greater degree of violence and obstinacy amidst the little contentions of
claybuilt cottages, than ever prevailed amidst the highest commotions of
courts. Plutarch relates that when Cæsar, after his appointment to the
government of Spain, came to a little town, as he was passing the Alps,
his friends, by way of mirth, took occasion to say, “Can there here be
any disputes for offices, any contentions for precedency, or such envy
and ambition as we behold among the great in all the transactions of
imperial Rome?” The idea betrayed their ignorance of human nature; while
the celebrated reply of their great commander, that _he would rather be
the first man in this little town, than the second even in the imperial
city_, spoke the language, not of an individual, but of the species;
and instructed them that there is no place, however insignificant, in
which the same passions do not proportionately prevail. The humble
competitors for village honors, however low and subordinate they may
be, feel as great anxiety for pre-eminence, as much jealousy of rivals,
and as violent envy against superiors, as agitate the bosoms of the
most ambitious statesmen in contending for the highest prize of glory,
of riches, or of power. The manner, perhaps, in which these inferior
candidates exert their passions may be less artful, and the objects of
them less noble, but they are certainly not less virulent. “Having,” says
Euphelia, who had quitted London, to enjoy the quietude and happiness
of a rural village, “been driven by the mere necessity of escaping from
absolute inactivity, to make myself more acquainted with the affairs
and happiness of this place, I am now no longer a stranger to _rural
conversation_ and employments; but am far from discerning in them more
innocence or wisdom than in the sentiments or conduct of those with whom
I have passed more cheerful and more fashionable hours. It is common
to reproach the tea table and the park, with giving opportunities and
encouragement to scandal I cannot wholly clear them from the charge, but
must, however, observe, in favor of the modish prattlers, that if not by
principle, we are at least by accident, less guilty of defamation than
the country ladies. For, having greater numbers to observe and censure,
we are commonly content to charge them only with their own faults or
follies, and seldom give way to malevolence, but such as arises from
injury or affront, real or imaginary, offered to ourselves. But in those
distant provinces, where the same families inhabit the same houses from
age to age, they transmit and recount the faults of a whole succession.
I have been informed how every estate in the neighborhood was originally
got, and find, if I may credit the accounts given me, that there is
not a single acre in the hands of the right owner. I have been told of
intrigues between beaus and toasts, that have been now three centuries
in their quiet graves; and am often entertained with traditional scandal
on persons of whose names there would have been no remembrance, had they
not committed somewhat that might disgrace their descendants. If once
there happens a quarrel between the principal persons of two families,
the malignity is continued without end; and it is common for old maids
to fall out about some election in which their grandfathers were
competitors. Thus malice and hatred descend here with an inheritance; and
it is necessary to be well versed in history, that the various factions
of the country may be understood. You cannot expect to be on good
terms with families who are resolved to love nothing in common; and in
selecting your intimates, you are, perhaps, to consider which party you
most favor in the barons’ wars.”

Resentments and enmities burn with a much more furious flame among
the thinly-scattered inhabitants of a petty village, than amidst the
ever varying concourse of a great metropolis. The objects by which the
passions are set on fire are hidden from our view by the tumults which
prevail in a crowded city, and the bosom willingly loses the pains which
such emotions excite when the causes which occasioned them are forgot:
but in country villages, the thorns by which the feelings have been hurt
are continually before our eyes, and preserve on every approach toward
them, a remembrance of the injuries sustained. An extreme devout and
highly religious lady, who resided in a retired hamlet in Swisserland,
once told me, in a conversation on this subject, that she had completely
suppressed all indignation against the envy, the hatred, and the malice
of her surrounding neighbors; for that she found they were so deeply dyed
in sin, that a rational remonstrance was lost upon them; and that the
only vexation she felt from a sense of their wretchedness arose from the
idea that her soul would at the last day be obliged to keep company with
such incorrigible wretches.

The inhabitants of the country, indeed, both of the lower and middling
classes, cannot be expected to possess characters of a very respectable
kind, when we look at the conduct of those who set them the example. A
country magistrate, who has certainly great opportunities of forming the
manners and morals of the district over which he presides, is in general
puffed up with high and extravagant conceptions of the superiority of
his wisdom, and the extent of his power; and raising his idea of the
greatness of his character in an inverse proportion to his notions of
the insignificance and littleness of those around him, he sits enthroned
with fancied pre-eminence, the disdainful tyrant, rather than the kind
protector of his neighbors. Deprived of all liberal and instructive
society, confined in their knowledge both of men and things, the slaves
of prejudice and the pupils of folly; with contracted hearts and degraded
faculties the inhabitants of a country village feel all the base and
ignoble passions, sordid rapacity, mean envy, and insulting ostentation
more forcibly than they are felt either in the enlarged society of the
metropolis, or even in the confined circle of the monastery.

The social virtues, indeed, are almost totally excluded from cloisters,
as well as from every other kind of solitary institution: for when the
habits, interests, and pleasures of the species are pent up by any
means within a narrow compass, mutual jealousies and exasperations
must prevail; every trifling immunity, petty privilege, and paltry
distinction, becomes an object of the most violent contention; and
increasing animosities at length reach to such a degree of virulence,
that the pious flock is converted into a herd of famished wolves, eager
to worry and devour each other.

The laws of every convent strictly enjoin the holy sisterhood to
live in Christian charity and sincere affection with each other. I
have, however, when attending these fair recluses in my professional
character, observed many of them with wrinkles, that seemed rather the
effect of angry perturbation, than of peaceful age, with aspects formed
rather by envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness, than by mild
benevolence and singleness of heart. But I should do injustice if I
did not declare, that I have seen some few who were strangers to such
unworthy passions; whose countenances were unindented by their effects:
and whose beauty and comeliness still shone in their native lustre and
simplicity. It was, indeed, painful to reflect upon the sufferings which
these lovely innocents must endure, until the thoughts of their lost
hopes, defeated happiness, and unmerited wrongs, should have changed
the milky kindness of their virtuous dispositions into the gall-like
bitterness of vexation and despair; until the brightness of their
charming features should be darkened by the clouds of discontent, which
their continued imprisonment would create; and until their cheerful and
easy tempers should be perverted by the corrosions of those vindictive
passions which the jealous furies, with whom they were immured, and
to whom they formed so striking a contrast, must in time so cruelly
inflict. These lovely mourners, on entering the walls of a convent, are
obliged to submit to the tyranny of an envious superior, or the jealousy
of the older inmates, whose angry passions arise in proportion as they
perceive others less miserable than themselves; and retiring, at the
stated periods, from their joint persecution, they find that the gloomy
solitude to which they have flown, only tends to aggravate and widen
the wound it was expected to cure. It is, indeed, almost impossible
for any female, however amiable, to preserve in the joyless gloom of
conventual solitude the cheering sympathies of nature. A retrospect of
her past life most probably exhibits to her tortured fancy, superstition
stinging with scorpion like severity her pious mind; love sacrificed
on the altar of family pride; or fortune ruined by the avarice of a
perfidious guardian; while the future presents to her view the dreary
prospect of an eternal and melancholy separation from all the enjoyments
of society, and a continual exposure to the petulance and ill humor of
the dissatisfied sisterhood. What disposition, however mild and gentle
by nature, can preserve itself amidst such confluent dangers? How is
it possible to prevent the most amiable tenderness of heart, the most
lively and sensible mind from becoming, under such circumstances, a prey
to the bitterness of affliction and malevolence? Those who have had
an opportunity to observe the operation of the passions on the habits,
humors, and dispositions of recluse females, have perceived with horror
the cruel and unrelenting fury with which they goad the soul, and with
what an imperious and irresistible voice they command obedience to their

The passion of love, in particular, acts with much greater force upon the
mind that endeavors to escape from its effects by retirement, than it
does when it is either resisted or indulged.

Retirement, under such circumstances, is a childish expedient; it is
expecting to achieve that, by means of a fearful flight, which it is
frequently too much for the courage and the constancy of heroes to
subdue. Retirement is the very nest and harbor of this powerful passion.
How many abandon the gay and jovial circles of the world, renounce even
the most calm and satisfactory delights of friendship, and quit, without
a sigh, the most delicious and highest seasoned pleasures of society, to
seek in retirement the superior joys of love! a passion in whose high
and tender delights the insolence of power, the treachery of friendship,
and the most vindictive malice, is immediately forgot. It is a passion,
when pure, that can never experience the least decay; no course of
time, no change of place, no alteration of circumstances, can erase or
lessen the ideas of that bliss which it has once imprinted on the heart.
Its characters are indelible. Solitude, in its most charming state,
and surrounded by its amplest, powers, affords no resource against its
anxieties, its jealous fears, its tender alarms, its soft sorrows, or its
inspiringly tumultuous joys. The bosom that is once deeply wounded by the
barbed dart of real love, seldom recovers its tranquillity, but enjoys,
if happy, the highest of human delights; and if miserable, the deepest
of human torments. But, although the love-sick shepherd fills the lonely
vallies, and the verdant groves, with the softest sighs, or severest
sorrows, and the cells of the monasteries and convents resound with heavy
groans and deep-toned curses against the malignity of this passion,
solitude may perhaps, for a while suspend, if it cannot extinguish its
fury. Of the truth of this observation, the history of those unfortunate,
but real lovers, Abelard and Eloisa, furnishes a memorable instance.

In the twelfth century, and while Louis the Gross filled the throne
of France, was born in the retired village of Palais, in Brittany, the
celebrated Peter Abelard. Nature had lavished the highest perfections
both on his person and his mind: a liberal education improved to their
utmost possible extent the gifts of nature; and he became in a few years
the most learned, elegant, and polite gentleman of his age and country.
Philosophy and divinity were his favorite studies: and lest the affairs
of the world should prevent him from becoming a proficient in them,
he surrendered his birthright to his younger brethren, and travelled
to Paris, in order to cultivate his mind under that great professor,
William des Champeaux. The eminence he attained as a professor, while
it procured him the esteem of the rational and discerning, excited the
envy of his rivals. But, beside his uncommon merit as a scholar, he
possessed a greatness of soul which nothing could subdue. He looked
upon riches and grandeur with contempt; and his only ambition was to
render his name famous among learned men, and to acquire the reputation
of the greatest doctor of his age. But when he had attained his seven
and twentieth year of age, all his philosophy could not guard him
against the shafts of love. Not far from the place where Abelard read
his lectures, lived a canon of the church of Notre Dame, named Fulbert,
whose niece, the celebrated Eloisa, had been educated under his own eye
with the greatest care and attention. Her person was well proportioned,
her features regular, her eyes sparkling, her lips vermilion and well
formed, her complexion animated, her air fine, and her aspect sweet and
agreeable. She possessed a surprising quickness of wit, an incredible
memory, and a considerable share of learning, joined with great humility
and tenderness of disposition: and all these accomplishments were
attended with something so graceful and moving, that it was impossible
for those who saw her not to love her. The eye of Abelard was charmed,
and his whole soul intoxicated in the passion of love, the moment he
beheld and conversed with this extraordinary woman; and he laid aside
all other engagements to attend to his passion. He was deaf to the calls
both reason and philosophy, and thought of nothing but her company and
conversation. An opportunity, fortunate for his love, but fatal to his
happiness, soon occurred. Fulbert, whose affection for his niece was
unbounded, willing to improve to the highest degree the excellency of
those talents which nature had so bountifully bestowed on her, engaged
Abelard as her preceptor, and received him in that character into his
house. A mutual passion strongly infused itself into the hearts of both
pupil and preceptor. She consented to become his mistress, but, for a
long time, refused to become his wife. The secret of their loves could
not remain long concealed from the eyes of Fulbert, and the lover was
dismissed from his house: but Eloisa flew with rapture to his arms, and
was placed under the protection of his sister, where she remained; until,
from the cruel vengeance which her uncle exercised on the unfortunate
Abelard, she was induced at his request to enter into the convent of
Argenteuil, and he into the monastery of St. Gildas. In this cloister,
the base of which was washed by the waves of a sea less turbulent
than the passions which disturbed his soul, the unfortunate Abelard,
endeavored by the exercises of religion and study, to obliterate all
remembrance of his love; but his virtue was too feeble for the great
attempt. A course of many years, however, had passed in penitence and
mortification, without any communication between them, and further time
might possibly have calmed in a still greater degree the violence of
their feelings; but a letter which Abelard wrote to his friend Philintus,
in order to comfort him under some affliction which had befallen him, in
which he related his affection for Eloisa with great tenderness, fell
into her hands, and induced her to break through the silence which had
so long prevailed, by writing to him a letter, the contents of which
revived in his mind all the former furies of his passion. Time, absence,
solitude, and prayer, had in no degree diminished the amiable tenderness
of the still lovely Eloisa, or augmented the fortitude of the unfortunate
Abelard. The composing influence of religion seems to have made an
earlier impression upon his feelings than it did upon those of Eloisa;
but he continually counteracted its effects, by comparing his former
felicity with his present torments; and he answered Eloisa’s letter, not
as a moral preceptor, or holy confessor, but as a still fond and adoring
lover; as a man whose wounded feelings were in some degree alleviated by
a recollection of his former joys; and who could only console the sorrows
of his mistress, by avowing an equal tenderness, and confessing the
anguish with which their separation rent his soul. The walls of Paraclete
resounded his sighs less frequently, and re-echoed less fervently with
his sorrows, than those of St. Gildas; for his continued solitude, so
far from affording him relief, had administered an aggravating medicine
to his disease; and afforded that vulture, grief, greater leisure to
tear and prey upon his disordered heart. “Religion,” says he, “commands
me to pursue virtue since I have nothing to hope for from love; but
love still asserts its dominion in my fancy, and entertains itself with
past pleasures; memory supplies the place of a mistress. Piety and duty
are not always the fruits of retirement. Even in deserts, when the dew
of heaven falls not on us, we love what we ought no longer to love.
The passions, stirred up by solitude, fill those regions of death and
silence; and it is very seldom that what ought to be is truly followed
there, and that God only is loved and served.”

The letters of Eloisa were soft, gentle, and endearing; but they breathed
the warmest language of tenderness and unconquerable passion. “I have
your picture,” says she, “in my room. I never pass by it without stopping
to look at it; and yet when you were present with me, I scarce even
cast my eyes upon it. If a picture, which is but a mute representation
of an object, can give such pleasure, what cannot letters inspire?
Letters have souls; they have in them all that force which expresses the
transports of the heart: they have all the fire of our passions; they
can raise them as much as if the persons themselves were present; they
have all the softness and delicacy of speech, and sometimes a boldness
of expression even beyond it. We may write to each other; so innocent a
pleasure is not forbidden us. Let us not lose, through negligence, the
only happiness which is left to us, and the only one perhaps, which the
malice of our enemies can never ravish from us. I shall read that you
are my husband, and you shall see me address you as a wife. In spite
of all your misfortunes, you may be what you please in your letters.
Letters were first invented for comforting such solitary wretches as
myself. Having lost the pleasure of seeing you, I shall compensate this
loss by the satisfaction I shall find in your writings: there I shall
read your most secret thoughts: I shall carry them always about me; I
shall kiss them every moment. If you can be capable of jealousy, let it
be for the fond curiosity I shall bestow on your letters, and envy only
the happiness of those rivals. That writing may be no trouble to you,
write always to me carelessly and without study: I had rather read the
dictates of the heart than of the brain. I cannot live, if you do not
tell me you always love me. You cannot but remember, (for what do not
lovers remember?) with what pleasure I have passed whole days in hearing
you discourse; how, when you was absent, I shut myself up from every one
to write to you; how uneasy I was till my letter had come to your hands;
what artful management was required to engage confidants. This detail,
perhaps, surprises you, and you are in pain for what will follow: but
I am no longer ashamed that my passion has had no bounds for you; for
I have done more than all this: I have hated myself that I might love
you. I came hither to ruin myself in a perpetual imprisonment, that I
might make you live quiet and easy. Nothing but virtue, joined to a love
perfectly disengaged from the commerce of the senses, could have produced
such effects. Vice never inspires any thing like this. How did I deceive
myself with the hopes that you would be wholly mine when I took the
veil, and engaged myself to live for ever under your laws! For, in being
professed, I vowed no more than to be yours only; and I obliged myself
voluntarily to a confinement in which you denied to place me. Death only
can make me leave the place where you have fixed me; and then too my
ashes shall rest here, and wait for yours, in order to show my obedience
and devotedness to you to the latest moment possible.”

Abelard, while he strove, in his reply, to adhere to the dictates of
reason, betrayed the lurking tenderness of his heart. “Deliver yourself,
Eloisa,” says he, “from the shameful remains of a passion which has
taken too deep root. Remember that the least thought for any other than
God is an adultery. If you could see me here, pale, meagre, melancholy,
surrounded by a band of persecuting monks, who feel my reputation for
learning as a reproach of their stupidity and ignorance, my emaciated
figure as a slander on their gross and sensual corpulency, and my prayers
as an example for their reformation, what would you say to the unmanly
sighs, and unavailing tears, by which they are deceived? Alas! I am bowed
down by the oppressive weight of love, rather than contrition for past
offences. Oh, my Eloisa, pity me, and endeavor to free my laboring soul
from its captivity! If your vocation be, as you say, my wish, deprive me
not of the merit of it by your continual inquietudes: tell me that you
will honor the habit which covers you by an inward retirement. Fear God
that you may be delivered from your frailties. Love him, if you would
advance in virtue. Be not uneasy in the cloister, for it is the dwelling
of saints; embrace your bands, they are the chains of Jesus, and he
will lighten them, and bear with you, if you bear them with humility
and repentance. Consider me no more, I entreat you, as a founder, or as
a person in any way deserving your esteem; for your encomiums do but
ill agree with the multiplying weakness of my heart. I am a miserable
sinner, prostrate before my Judge; and when the rays of grace break on my
troubled soul, I press the earth with my lips, and mingle my sighs and
tears in the dust. Couldest thou survey thy wretched lover thus lost and
forlorn, thou wouldest no longer solicit his affection. The tenderness of
thy heart would not permit thee to interpose an earthly passion, which
can only tend to deprive him of all hopes of heavenly grace and future
comfort. Thou wouldest not wish to be the object of sighs and tears,
which ought to be directed to God alone. Canst thou, my Eloisa, become
the confederate of my evil genius, and be the instrument to promote sin’s
yet unfinished conquest? What, alas! couldest thou not achieve with a
heart, the weaknesses of which you so well know? But, oh! let me conjure
you, by all the sacred ties, to forget for ever the wretched Abelard, and
thereby contribute to his salvation. Let me entreat you by our former
joys, and by our now common misfortunes, not to abet my destruction. The
highest affection you can now show me, is to hide your tenderness from my
view and to renounce me for ever. Oh, Eloisa! be devoted to God alone;
for I here release you from all engagements to me.”

The conflict between love and religion tore the soul of Eloisa with pangs
far more violent and destructive. There is scarcely a line of her reply
to Abelard, that does not show the dangerous influence which solitude had
given to the concealed, but unsmothered, passion that glowed within her
breast. “Veiled as I am,” she exclaims, “behold in what a disorder you
have plunged me! How difficult it is to fight always for duty against
inclination! I know the obligation which this sacred veil has imposed
on me; but feel more strongly the power which a long and habitual
passion has gained over my heart. I am the victim of almighty love: my
passion troubles my mind, and disorders my senses. My soul is sometimes
influenced by the sentiments of piety which my reflections inspire, but
the next moment I yield myself up to the tenderness of my feelings,
and to the suggestions of my affection. My imagination riots with wild
excursion in the scenes of past delights. I disclose to you one moment
what I would not have told you a moment before. I resolve no longer
to love you; I consider the solemnity of the vow I have made, and the
awfulness of the veil I have taken; but there arises, unexpectedly, from
the bottom of my heart, a passion which triumphs over all these notions,
and, while it darkens my reason, destroys my devotion. You reign in all
the close and inward retreats of my soul; and I know not how nor where
to attack you with any prospect of success. When I endeavor to break the
chains which bind me so closely to you, I only deceive myself, and all
my efforts serve only to confirm my captivity, and to rivet our hearts
more firmly to each other. Oh! for pity’s sake, comply with my request;
and endeavor by this means, to make me renounce my desires, by showing
me the obligation I am under to renounce you. If you are still a lover,
or a father, oh! help a mistress, and give comfort to the distraction
of an afflicted child. Surely these dear and tender names will excite
the emotion either of pity or of love. Gratify my request; only continue
to write to me, and I shall continue to perform the hard duties of my
station without profaning that character which my love for you induced
me to assume. Under your advice and admonition I shall willingly humble
myself, and submit with penitence and resignation to the wonderful
providence of God, who does all things for our sanctification; who, by
his grace purifies all that is vicious and corrupt in our natures; and,
by the inconceivable riches of his mercy, draws us to himself against
our wishes, and by degrees opens our eyes to discern the greatness of
that bounty which at first we are incapable of understanding. Virtue
is too amiable not to be embraced when you reveal her charms, and vice
too hideous not to be avoided when you show her deformities. When you
are pleased, every thing seems lovely to me. Nothing is frightful
or difficult when you are by. I am only weak when I am alone, and
unsupported by you; and therefore it depends on you alone that I may be
such as you desire. Oh! that you had not so powerful an influence over
all my soul! It is your fears, surely, that make you thus deaf to my
entreaties, and negligent of my desires: but what is there for you to
fear? When we lived happily together you might have doubted whether it
was pleasure or affection that united me to you; but the place from which
I now indite my lamentations must have removed that idea, if it ever
could find a place in your mind. Even within these gloomy walls, my heart
springs toward you with more affection than it felt, if possible, in the
gay and glittering world. Had pleasure been my guide, the world would
have been the theatre of my joys. Two and twenty years only of my life
had worn away, when the lover on whom my soul doated was cruelly torn
from my arms; and at that age female charms are not generally despised;
but, instead of seeking to indulge the pleasures of youth, your Eloisa,
when deprived of thee, renounced the world, suppressed the emotions of
sense, at a time when the pulses beat with the warmest ardor, and buried
herself within the cold and cheerless region of the cloister. To you she
consecrated the flower of her charms; to you she now devotes the poor
remains of faded beauty; and dedicates to heaven and to you, her tedious
days and widowed nights in solitude and sorrow.”

The passion, alas! which Eloisa thus fondly nourished in her bosom, like
an adder, to goad and sting her peace of mind, was very little of a
spiritual nature; and the walls of Paraclete only re-echoed more fervent
sighs than she had before breathed, and witnessed a more abundant flow
of tears than she had shed in the cells of Argenteuil, over the memory
of departed joys with her beloved Abelard. Her letters, indeed, show
with what toilsome but ineffectual anxiety she endeavored to chasten her
mind, and support her fainting virtue, as well by her own reasoning and
reflection, as by his counsels and exhortations; but the passion had
tenaciously rooted itself at the very bottom of her heart; and it was
not until the close of life that she was able to repress the transports
of her imagination, and subdue the wild sallies of her fond and fertile
fancy. Personally separated from each other, she indulged a notion that
her love could not be otherwise than pure and spiritual; but there are
many parts of letters which show how much she was deceived by this idea;
for in all the fancied chastity of their tender and too ardent loves,

    “Back thro’ the pleasing maze of sense she ran,
    And felt within the slave of love and man.”

The wild and extravagant excesses to which the fancy and the feelings
of Eloisa were carried, was not occasioned merely by the warm impulses
of unchecked nature; but were forced, to the injury of virtue, and the
distraction of reason, by the rank hot bed of monastic solitude. The
story of these celebrated lovers, when calmly examined, and properly
understood, proves how dangerous it is to recede entirely from the
pleasures and occupations of social life, and how deeply the imagination
may be corrupted, and the passions inflamed, during a splenetic and
ill-prepared retirement from the world. The frenzies which follow
disappointed love, are of all others the most likely to settle into
habits of the deepest melancholy. The finest sensibilities of the heart,
the purest tenderness of the soul, when joined with a warm constitution,
and an ardent imagination, experience from interruption and control the
highest possible state of exasperation. Solitude confirms the feelings
such a situation creates; and the passions and inclinations of a person
laboring under such impressions are more likely to be corrupted and
inflamed by the leisure of retirement, than they would be even by
engaging in all the lazy opulence and wanton plenty of a debauched

The affection which Petrarch entertained for Laura was refined, elevated,
and virtuous, and differed, in almost every ingredient of it, from
the luxurious fondness of the unfortunate Eloisa; but circumstances
separated him from the beloved object; and he labored during many years
of his life, under the oppression of that grievous melancholy which
disappointment uniformly inflicts. He first beheld her as she was going
to the church of the monastery of St. Claire. She was dressed in green,
and her gown was embroidered with violets. Her face, her air, her gait,
appeared something more than mortal. Her person was delicate, her eyes
tender and sparkling, and her eyebrows black as ebony. Golden locks waved
over her shoulders whiter than snow, and the ringlets were woven by the
fingers of love. Her neck was well formed, and her complexion animated
by the tints of nature, which art vainly attempts to imitate. When she
opened her mouth, you perceived the beauty of pearls, and the sweetness
of roses. She was full of graces. Nothing was so soft as her looks, so
modest as her carriage, so touching as the sound of her voice. An air
of gayety and tenderness breathed around her; but so pure and happily
tempered, as to inspire every beholder with the sentiments of virtue;
for she was chaste as the spangled dewdrop on the thorn. Such was the
description given of this divine creature by her enslaved lover. But,
unfortunately for his happiness, she was at this time married to Hugues
de Sade, whose family was originally of Avignon, and held the first
offices there. Notwithstanding the sufferings he underwent from the
natural agitation of an affection so tender as that which now engrossed
his soul, he owns that Laura behaved to him with kindness so long as he
concealed his passion; but when she discovered that he was captivated
with her charms, she treated him with great severity; avoiding every
place it was likely he would frequent, and concealing her face under a
large veil whenever they accidentally met. The whole soul of Petrarch was
overthrown by this disastrous passion; and he felt all the visitation
of unfortunate love as grievously as if it had been founded upon less
virtuous principles. He endeavored to calm and tranquillize the troubles
of his breast by retiring to the celebrated solitude of Vaucluse, a
place in which nature delighted to appear under a form the most singular
and romantic; “But, alas!” says he, “I knew not what I was doing. The
resource was ill suited to the safety I sought. Solitude was incapable
of mitigating the severity of my sorrows. The griefs that hung around
my heart, consumed me like a devouring flame. I had no means of flying
from their attacks. I was alone, without consolation, and in the deepest
distress, without even the counsel of a friend to assist me. Melancholy
and despair shot their poisoned arrows against my defenceless breast, and
I filled the unsoothing and romantic vale with my sighs and lamentations.
The muse indeed, conveyed my sufferings to the world; but while the poet
was praised, the unhappy lover remained unpitied and forlorn.”

The love which inspired the lays of Petrarch was a pure and perfect
passion of the heart; and his sufferings were rendered peculiarly
poignant by a melancholy sense of the impossibility of ever being united
with the object of it; but the love of Abelard and Eloisa was a furious
heat of wild desire. This passion flows clear or muddied, peaceful or
violent, in proportion to the sources from which it springs. When it
arises from pure and unpolluted sources, its stream is clear, peaceful,
and surrounded with delights: but when its source is foul, and its
course improperly directed, it foams and rages, overswells its banks,
and destroys the scenes which nature intended it to fertilize and adorn.
The different effects produced by the different kinds of this powerful
passion, have, on observing how differently the character of the same
person appears when influenced by the one or the other of them, given
rise to an idea that the human species are possessed of two souls; the
one leading to vice, and the other conducting to virtue. A celebrated
philosopher has illustrated this notion by the following story:

A virtuous young prince, of an heroic soul, capable of love and
friendship, made war upon a tyrant, who was in every respect his reverse.
It was the happiness of our prince to be as great a conqueror by his
clemency and bounty, as by his arms and military virtue. Already he had
won over to his party several potentates and princes, who had before
been subject to the tyrant. Among those who still adhered to the enemy
there was a prince, who, having all the advantages of person and merit,
had lately been made happy in the possession and mutual love of the most
beautiful princess in the world. It happened that the occasion of the war
called the new married prince to a distance from his beloved princess.
He left her secure as he thought, in a strong castle, far within the
country; but, in his absence, the place was taken by surprise, and the
princess brought a captive to the quarters of the heroic prince. There
was in the camp a young nobleman the favorite of the prince; one who
had been educated with him, and was still treated by him with perfect
familiarity. Him he immediately sent for, and with strict injunctions,
committed the captive princess to his charge; resolving she should be
treated with that respect which was due to her rank and merit. It was the
same young lord who had discovered her disguised among the prisoners,
and learnt her story; the particulars of which he now related to the
prince. He spoke in ecstacy on this occasion; telling the prince how
beautiful she appeared even in the midst of sorrow; and though disguised
under the meanest habit, yet how distinguished by her air and manner from
every other beauty of her sex. But what appeared strange to our young
nobleman was, that the prince, during this whole relation, discovered
not the least intention of seeing the lady, or satisfying that curiosity
which seemed so natural on such an occasion. He pressed him, but without
success. “Not see her, sir!” said he wondering, “when she is so much
handsomer than any woman you have yet seen!” “For that very reason,”
replied the prince, “I would rather decline the interview; for should I,
upon this bare report of her beauty, be so charmed as to make the first
visit at this urgent time of business, I may upon sight, with better
reason, be induced, perhaps, to visit her when I am more at leisure;
and so again and again, until at last I may have no leisure left for my
affairs.” “Would you, sir, persuade me then,” said the young nobleman,
smiling, “that a fair face can have such power as to force the will
itself, and constrain a man in any respect to act contrary to what he
thinks becoming him? Are we to hearken to the poets, in what they tell
us of that incendiary love and his irresistible flames? A real flame, we
see, burns all alike; but that imaginary one of beauty hurts only those
that are consenting. It affects no otherwise than as we ourselves are
pleased to allow it. In many cases we absolutely command it, as when
relation and consanguinity are in the nearest degree. Authority and law
we see can master it; but it would be vain, as well as unjust, for any
law to intermeddle or prescribe, was not the case voluntary, and our
will entirely free.” “How comes it then,” replied the prince, “that if
we are thus masters of our choice, and free at first to admire and love
where we approve, we cannot afterward as well cease to love whenever we
see cause? This latter liberty you will hardly defend; for I doubt not
you have heard of many who, though they were used to set the highest
value on liberty before they loved, yet, afterward, were necessitated
to serve in the most abject manner, finding themselves constrained,
and bound by a stronger chain than any of iron or of adamant.” “Such
wretches,” replied the youth, “I have often heard complain, who, if you
will believe them, are wretched indeed, without means or power to help
themselves. You may hear them in the same manner complain grievously of
life itself; but though there are doors enough at which to go out of
life, they find it convenient to keep still where they are. They are the
very same pretenders who, through this plea of irresistible necessity,
make bold with what is another’s, and attempt unlawful beds; but the law,
I perceive, makes bold with them in its turn, as with other invaders
of property. Neither is it your custom, sir, to pardon such offences.
So that beauty itself, you must allow, is innocent and harmless, and
cannot compel any one to do amiss. The debauched compel themselves, and
unjustly charge their guilt on love. They who are honest and just can
admire and love whatever is beautiful, without offering at any thing
beyond what is allowed. How then is it possible, sir, that one of your
virtue should be in pain on any such account, or fear such a temptation?
You see, sir, I am sound and whole after having beheld the princess. I
have conversed with her; I have admired her in the highest degree; yet
I am myself still, and in my duty, and shall be ever in the same manner
at your command.” “It is well,” replied the prince; “keep yourself so:
be ever the same man, and look to your fair charge carefully, as becomes
you; for it may so happen, in the present situation of the war that
this beautiful captive may stand us in good stead.” The young nobleman
then departed to execute his commission; and immediately took such care
of the captive princess that she seemed as perfectly obeyed, and had
every thing which belonged to her in as great splendor as in her own
principality, and in the height of her fortune. He found her in every
respect deserving, and saw in her a generosity of soul exceeding even her
other charms. His studies to oblige her and to soften her distress, made
her, in return, desirous to express her gratitude. He soon discovered the
feelings of her mind; for she showed, on every occasion, a real concern
for his interest; and when he happened to fall ill, she took such tender
care of him herself, and by her servants, that he seemed to owe his
recovery entirely to her friendship. From these beginnings, insensibly,
and by natural degrees, as may easily be conceived, the youth fell
desperately in love. At first he offered not to make the least mention
of his passion to the princess, for he scarce dared believe it himself.
But time, and the increasing ardor of his passion, subdued his fears,
and she received his declaration with an unaffected trouble, and real
concern. She reasoned with him as a friend, and endeavored to persuade
him to subdue so improper and extravagant a flame. But in a short time
he became outrageous, and talked to her of _force_. The princess was
alarmed by his audacity, and immediately sent to the prince to implore
his protection. The prince received the information with the appearance
of more than ordinary attention; sent instantly for one of his first
ministers, and directed him to return with the princess’ domestic, and
tell the young nobleman that _force_ was not to be used to such a lady;
but that he might use _persuasion_, if he thought it was proper so to
do. The minister, who was of course the inveterate enemy of his prince’s
favorite, aggravated the message, inveighed publicly against the young
nobleman for the grossness of his misconduct, and even reproached him to
his face with having been a traitor to the confidence of his prince, and
a disgrace to his nation. The minister, in short, conveyed the message
of his master in such virulent and angry terms, that the youth looked on
his case as desperate; fell into the deepest melancholy; and prepared
himself for that fate which he was conscious he well deserved. While he
was thus impressed with a sense of his misconduct, and the danger to
which it had exposed him, the prince commanded him to attend a private
audience. The youth entered the closet of the prince covered with the
deepest confusion. “I find,” said he, “that I am now become dreadful to
you indeed, since you can neither see me without shame, nor imagine me
to be without resentment. But away with all these thoughts from this
time forward! I know how much you have suffered on this occasion. I know
the power of love; and am no otherwise safe myself, than by keeping out
of the way of beauty. I alone am to blame; for it was I who unhappily
matched you with that unequal adversary; who gave you that impracticable
task; who imposed on you that hard adventure, which no one yet was ever
strong enough to accomplish.” “In this, sir, as in all else,” replied the
youth, “you express that goodness which is so natural to you. You have
compassion, and can allow for human frailties; but the rest of mankind
will never cease to upbraid me: nor shall I ever be forgiven, even were I
able ever to forgive myself. I am reproached by my nearest friends; and I
must be odious to all mankind wherever I am known. The least punishment
I can think due to me is banishment for ever from your presence; for I
am no longer worthy of being called your friend.” “You must not think of
banishing yourself for ever,” replied the prince: “but trust me, if you
will retire only for a while, I shall so order matters, that you shall
return with the applause even of those who are now your enemies, when
they find what a considerable service you shall have rendered both to
them and me.” Such a hint was sufficient to revive the spirits of the
despairing youth. He was transported to think that his misfortunes could
be turned in any way to the advantage of his prince. He entered with
joy into the scheme his royal friend had contrived for the purpose of
restoring him to his former fame and happiness, and appeared eager to
depart and execute the directions that were given to him. “Can you then,”
said the prince, “resolve to quit the charming princess?” “O, sir,”
replied the youth, with tears in his eyes, “I am now well satisfied that
I have in reality within me two distinct separate souls. This lesson of
philosophy I have learnt from that villanous sophister love; for it is
impossible to believe that, having one and the same soul, it should be
actually both good and bad; passionate for virtue and vice, desirous of
contraries. No; there must of necessity be two; and when the good soul
prevails, we are happy; but when the bad prevails, we are miserable. Such
was my case. Lately the ill soul was wholly master, and I was miserable;
but now the good prevails, by your assistance, and I am plainly a new
creature, with quite another apprehension, another reason, and another

He who would be master of his appetites, must not only avoid temptation,
but vigilantly restrain the earliest shoots of fancy, and destroy the
first blooms of a warm imagination. It is the very nature of confidence
to be always in danger. To permit the mind to riot in scenes of fancied
delights, under an idea that reason will be able to extinguish the
flames of desire, is to nurse and foster the sensual appetites, which,
when guided by the cool and temperate voice of nature alone, are seldom
raised to an improper height. The natural current of the blood, even in
the warmest constitutions, and under the most torrid zone, would keep an
even, temperate course, were it not accelerated by such incentives. Youth
indeed despises this species of reasoning, and imputes it to the sickness
of satiety, or the coldness of old age. I have, however, in general,
observed, that those who seek these incitements to what they improperly
call love, possess a rayless eye, a hollow cheek, a palsied hand, a
pallid countenance; and these symptoms of faded splendour and withered
strength, unquestionably prove that they have not consulted nature in
their gay pursuits; for nature has not planted any propensities in the
human frame which lead it to early ruin, or premature decay. The blame
which is so unjustly thrown upon temperament and constitution, belongs
to the indulgence of false and clamorous passions, those which sensual
fancies, and lascivious ideas have raised to the destruction of chastity
and health.

Monastic institutions produce, in this respect, incalculable mischiefs.
The sexes, whom these religious prisons seclude from the free and
unconfined intercourses of society, suffer their imaginations to riot
without restraint or discipline, in proportion to the violence imposed
on their actions. A thousand boyish fancies, eager appetites and warm
desires, are perpetually playing truant, and the chastity of the soul
is corrupted. To effect the conquest of the passion of love, it is
absolutely necessary that the evil suggestions of the imagination should
be first silenced; and he who succeeds in quelling the insurrections
of that turbulent inmate, or in quieting its commotions, achieves an
enterprise at once difficult and glorious. The holy Jerome checked the
progress of many disorderly passions which he found rising in his breast;
but the passion of love resisted all his opposition, and followed him,
with increasing fury, even into the frightful cavern to which he retired
to implore, in humble prayer and solitary abstraction, the mercies of
his God. The solitude, however remote, to which the demon of sensuality
is admitted, is soon crowded with legions of tormenting fiends. John,
the anchorite of the deserts of Thebais, wisely addressed his solitary
brethren, “If there be any among you who in his pride, conceives that
he has entirely renounced the devil and all his works, he should learn
that it is not sufficient to have done this merely by his lips, by having
resigned his worldly dignities, and by dividing his possessions among
the poor; for, unless he has also abandoned his sensual appetites, his
salvation cannot be secure. It is only by purifying our bosoms from the
pernicious influence of this master passion, that we can ever hope to
counteract the machinations of satan, and to guard our hearts from his
dangerous practices. Sin always introduces itself under the guidance
of some guilty passion; some fond desire; some pleasing inclination,
which we willingly indulge, and by that means suffer the enemy of peace
to establish his unruly dominion in our souls. Then tranquillity and
real happiness quit their abode in our hearts, and all is uproar and
anarchy within. This must be the fate of all who permit an evil spirit
to seat itself on the throne of their hearts, and to scatter around
the poisonous seeds of wild desire and vicious inclinations.” But love
once indulged in bright and rapturous fancies, fills the mind with
such high and transporting ideas of supreme bliss, that the powers
of reason are seldom, if ever, capable of making head against its
fascinations. The hermit and the monk, who, from the nature of their
situations, cannot taste its real charms, ought, if it were for that
reason alone, to stifle at their birth the earliest emotions of this
inspiring passion; for the indulgence of it must prove fatal to the
virtue, and of course destructive to the peace of every recluse. The
impossibility that such characters can listen with any propriety to
the dictates of this delightful passion, shows in the strongest manner
the impolicy and absurdity of those institutions, on the members of
which celibacy is enjoined. The happiness of every individual, as well
as the civil and religious interests of society, are best promoted by
inducing the endearments of sense to improve the sympathies, tenderness,
and affections of the human heart. But these blessings are denied to
the solitary fanatic, who is condemned to endure the suppression of
his passions, and prevented from indulging without endangering his
principles, both the desires of sense, and the dreams of fancy. He
cannot form that delightful union of the sexes, where sentiments of
admiration are increased by prospects of personal advantage; where
private enjoyment arises from a sense of mutual merit; and the warmest
beams of love are tempered by the refreshing gales of friendship. The
grosser parts of this innate and glowing passion can alone occupy his
fancy; and the sentiments it instils, instead of refining his desires,
and meliorating his affections, tend, through the operation of his soul
and corrupted imagination, to render his appetites still more depraved.
He is as ignorant of its benefits as he is of its chaste and dignified
pleasures; and totally unacquainted with its fine sensibilities, and
varied emotions, his bosom burns with the most violent rage; his mind
wallows in images of sensuality; and his temper frets itself, by unjustly
accusing the tempter as the author of his misery. If the luxurious
cogitations of such a character were dissipated by the pleasures and
pursuits of busy life; if the violence of his passions were checked by
laborious exercises; and if habits of rational study enabled him to vary
the uniformity of retirement, and to substitute the excursions of mental
curiosity, and moral reflections, instead of that perpetual recurrence
of animal desire by which he is infected, the danger we have described
would certainly be reduced; but without such aids, his self-denials, his
penitence, his prayers, and all the austere discipline of the monkish
and ascetic school, will be ineffectual. Celibacy, indeed, instead of
assisting, as their disciples mistakingly conceive, to clear the soul
from its earthly impurities, and to raise it to divine brightness and
sublimity, drags it down to the basest appetites and lowest desires.
But matrimony, or that suitable and appropriate union of the sexes
which prevails under different circumstances, according to the manner
and custom of different societies, leads, when properly formed, to the
highest goal of human bliss.

The mischievous effects which the celibacy and solitude of monastic
institutions produce on that passion which arises so spontaneously
between the sexes in the human heart, will appear unavoidable, when it
is considered how absurdly the founders of these religious retreats have
frequently endeavored to guard against the danger. The partitions which
divide virtues from their opposite vices are so slender and conjoined,
that we scarcely reach the limits of the one before we enter to a certain
degree, the confines of the other. How ridiculous, therefore, is it
to conceive, that frequent meditation on forbidden pleasures, should
be at all likely to eradicate impure ideas from the mind. And yet the
Egyptian monastics were enjoined to have these rules constantly in their
contemplation: first, that their bosoms must remain unagitated by the
thoughts of love; that they should never permit their fancies to loiter
on voluptuous images; that female beauty, in its fairest form, and most
glowing charms, should be incapable of exciting in their hearts the least
sensation; and that, even during the hours of sleep, their minds should
continue untainted by such impure affections. The chastity of these
solitary beings was, on some occasions, actually tried by experiment; but
the consequences which resulted from such irrational discipline, were
directly the reverse of those it was intended to produce. The imagination
was vitiated, and the inclination rendered so corrupt, that neither
the examples nor the precepts of the more enlightened ages were able
to correct their manners, or reclaim them from the machinations of the
unclean spirit. Numberless indeed, and horrid, are the instances recorded
by Ruffinus, and other writers, of the perversions of all sense and
reason, of all delicacy and refinement, of all virtue and true holiness,
which prevailed in the ascetic solitudes of every description, while the
nuptial state was held incompatible with the duties of religion, and the
sexes separated from each other, that they might more piously, and with
less interruption, follow its dictates. Some of the fathers of the church
defined female celibacy to be the only means of living a chaste and godly
life amidst the impurities of a sinful world, and regaining, during the
perdition of gross mortality, the resemblance of the soul’s celestial
origin. The holy, happy tie of matrimony they considered as a cloak to
the indulgence of impure desires, and launched their anathemas against it
as an hateful institution. Even the eloquent and pious Chrysostom says,
“that a double purpose was intended to be attained by the institution of
marriage, _viz._ the propagation of the species, and the gratification
of sexual affection; but that, as population had sufficiently covered
the face of the earth, the first had become no longer necessary; and
that it was the duty of the sexes rather to conquer their affections
by abstinence and prayer, than indulge them under so thin a disguise.”
The human soul, he admits, must, in a state of celibacy, subsist under
a perpetual warfare and the faculties be in continual ferment; but
contends, that piety exists in proportion to the difficulties which the
sufferer surmounts. The holy fathers seem, from the whole strain of
their exhortations and reasonings, to have considered female chastity
in a very serious point of view; and there can be no doubt but that it
is the brightest jewel and most becoming ornament of the sex; but these
reverend teachers were so blinded by their zeal, that they lost all
sight of nature, and mistakingly conceived that the Great Creator had
planted affections in our hearts, and passions in our breasts, only to
try our tempers in suppressing their turbulence, rather than promote
our happiness, and to answer the ends of his creation, by a sober and
rational indulgence of them.

But nature will not be argued out of her rights; and these absurd
doctrines introduced into every monastic institution throughout Europe
a private intercourse, hostile, from its evil example to the interests
both of morality and religion. The nuns of the convent of Argenteuil,
who chose Eloisa for their Abbess, were in all probability, influenced
in their choice by the recollections of her former frailty, and their
knowledge of the present ruling passion of her heart; they meant to
provide the abbey with a superior who, if she were not inclined to
promote, would feel no disposition to interrupt their intrigues. The fact
certainly was, that during the time Eloisa presided over the convent,
the conduct of the nuns was so extremely licentious, that Sugger, abbot
of St. Dennis, complained of their irregularities to Pope Honorius, in
such a manner as to induce his holiness to give the abbot possession of
it; and he immediately expelled the negligent prioress and her intriguing
sisters, and established in their place a monastery of his own order.
Strong suspicions may, perhaps, prevail against the virtue and integrity
of Eloisa’s character, from the dissoluteness which existed in this
society; but she was certainly not included by name in the articles of
accusation which the abbot of St. Dennis transmitted upon this subject
to the court of Rome; and there is every reason to believe that these
irregularities were carefully concealed from her knowledge. When this
lovely victim was presented with the veil, some persons who pitied her
youth, and admired her beauty, represented to her the cruel sacrifice she
would make of herself by accepting it: but she immediately exclaimed, in
the words of Cornelia, after the death of Pompey the great--

    “Oh my loved lord! our fatal marriage draws
    On thee this doom, and I the guilty cause:
    Then while thou go’st th’ extremes of fate to prove,
    I’ll share that fate, and expiate thus my love!”

and accepted the fatal present with a constancy not to have been expected
in a woman who had so high a taste for pleasures which she might still
enjoy. It will therefore, be easily conceived, that her distress, on
being ignominiously expelled from this retreat, was exceedingly severe.
She applied to Abelard to procure her some permanent asylum, where
she might have the opportunity of estranging herself from all earthly
weaknesses and passions; and he, by the permission of the bishop of
Troyes, resigned to her the house and the chapel of Paraclete, with its
appendages, where she settled with a few sisters, and became herself the
foundress of a nunnery. Of this monastery she continued the superior
until she died; and whatever her conduct was among the licentious nuns of
Argenteuil, she lived so regular in this her new and last retreat, and
conducted herself with such exemplary prudence, zeal, and piety, that all
her former failings were forgot, her character adored by all who knew
her, and her monastery in a short time enriched with so great a variety
of donations, that she was celebrated as the ablest cultivator of the
virtues of forgiveness and Christian charity then existing. The bishop
of the district behaved to her as if she had been his own daughter; the
neighboring priors and abbots treated her with all the tenderness and
attention of a real sister: and those who were distressed and poor,
revered her as their mother. But all her cares, and all her virtues,
could not protect her against the returning weakness of her heart.
“Solitude,” says she, “is insupportable to a mind that is ill at ease;
its troubles increase in the midst of silence, and retirement heightens
them. Since I have been shut up within these walls, I have done nothing
but weep for our misfortunes: this cloister has resounded with my cries,
and like a wretch condemned to eternal slavery, I have worn out my days
in grief and sighing.”

The useful regulations imposed by the wisdom of St. Benedict upon the
votaries of monastic retirement, were soon neglected. Abstinence and
prayer were succeeded by luxury and impiety. The revenues of the several
orders had, by the increased value of property, become so great, that
they were expended in purchasing a remission of those duties which
their founders had enjoined. The admission of the poor laity relieved
the initiated members from the toil of cultivating the demesne lands,
and produced a system of indolence and laziness. They exchanged their
long fast and unsavory diet, for frequent feasts, and the richest
repasts; substituted indolent pride for laborious humility; and lost
entirely their original piety and virtue. Abelard, indeed, and some few
other abbots of the tenth century, endeavored to restore the ancient
discipline, but they were reviled and persecuted with the most vindictive
malice by their contemporaries. The duke of Brittany, in order to secure
Abelard from the rage with which he was pursued, for exercising qualities
which ought to have procured him admiration and esteem, gave him the
convent of St. Gildas, as an asylum from their hatred. The high character
which this monastery comparatively enjoyed for regularity and good
order, excited a hope that he might there find rest from his vexations,
and consolation for his griefs. But instead of finding it the seat of
wisdom and piety, and the mansion of tranquillity, he discovered the
most dissolute manners and abandoned conduct prevailing in every part of
the convent. His mild and rational attempts to reclaim these disorderly
brethren, were so far from producing the desired effect upon their minds,
that it only provoked their rage, and gave new edge to their malice.
Foiled in their endeavors, by conspiracy and calumny, to dispossess him
of his situation, they attempted, several times at their common repasts,
to infuse poison into his victuals: and at length, dreadful to relate!
actually administered, in the sacramental cup, the poisoned chalice to
his lips, but which he was miraculously prevented from tasting. It is,
indeed, impossible to read the description he has given of his dreadful
situation in this wild and savage community, without shuddering at the
idea how much an irrational solitude tends to corrupt the manners and
deprave the heart. “I live,” says he, in his letter to Philintus, “in a
barbarous country, the language of which I do not understand. I have no
conversation but with the rudest people. My walks are on the inaccessible
shore of a sea which is perpetually stormy. My monks are only known by
their dissoluteness, and living without any rule or order. Ah! Philintus,
were you to see my habitation, you would rather think it a slaughter
house than a convent. The doors and walks are without any ornament except
the heads of wild boars, the antlers of stags, the feet of foxes and the
hides of other animals, which are nailed up against them. The cells are
hung with the skins of victims destroyed in the chase. The monks have not
so much as a bell to wake them, and are only roused from their drowsiness
by the howling of dogs and the croaking of ravens. Nothing disturbs
their laziness or languor but the rude noises of hunting; and their only
alternatives are riot and rest. But I should return my thanks to heaven
if that were their only fault. I endeavor in vain to recall them to their
duty; they all combine against me; and I only expose myself to continual
vexations and dangers. I imagine I see every moment a naked sword hanging
over my head. Sometimes they surround me, and load me with the vilest
abuse; and even when they abandon me, I am still left to my own dreadful
tormenting thoughts.” This single example would be sufficient to prove
the extraordinary dominion which solitude has over the human mind. It
is, indeed, unless it be managed with great good sense, the complete
nursery of mischief. The mind is without those numerous incentives to
action which are continually occurring in the busy world; and nothing
can contribute to produce irregular and disorderly passions more than
the want of some pursuit by which the heart is interested and the mind
employed. The minds of idle persons are always restless; their hearts
never at perfect ease; their spirits continually on the fret; and their
passions goaded to the most unwarrantable excess.

Idleness, even in social life, inflicts the severest torments on the
soul; destroys the repose of individuals; and, when general, frequently
endangers the safety of the state. Timotheus, an Egyptian monk, surnamed
the Cat, a short time after the Eutychian Controversy, in the year
457, felt an ambition to fill the episcopal and patriarchal chair.
The splenetic restlessness which prevailed among the monks in their
several monastic solitudes, seemed to present to his observing eye
proper instruments for the execution of his scheme. He was conscious,
from his profound knowledge of the human character, that if men who
had so long remained in uneasy and dissatisfied indolence, could be
provoked to activity, their zeal would be as turbulent as their former
life had been lazy and supine; and that their dispositions might be
easily turned to the accomplishment of his wishes. The better to effect
his purpose, he clothed himself in a white garment, crept silently in
the dead of night to the cells of his companions, and, through a tube,
which concealed his voice while it magnified the sound of it, hailed
every monk by his name. The sound seemed to convey the voice of heaven
to the superstitious ears of the awakened auditors; and the sagacious
and enterprising trumpeter did not fail to announce himself as an
ambassador of heaven, sent in the name of the Almighty to command the
monks to assemble immediately, to consult on the most likely mode of
deposing the Nestorian heretic Proterus, and of raising the favored
and orthodox Timotheus to the episcopal throne. The idea of being thus
elected to execute this pious rebellion, roused all the sleeping powers
of these solitary and hitherto idle fanatics; they rose tumultuously
at the sacred signal; proclaimed him as a heaven elected patriarch;
solicited him with friendly violence, not to refuse the promised boon;
and burning with all the ardor of expected success, marched, in a
few days under the banner of the imposter, to Alexandria, where they
inspired the members of other monasteries with their own delusion, and
created throughout Egypt the wildest and most tremendous commotions.
The populace caught the religious frenzy, and joined in vast numbers the
monastic rout. Assisted by this desperate rabble, Timotheus proceeded
to the principal church of Alexandria, where he was, by a preconcerted
arrangement, pompously received by two deposed bishops, and ordained the
metropolitan of the whole Egyptian territory. Proterus was astonished
at this sudden irruption, and hurled his anathemas with great art and
dexterity against the impious audacity of the obscure monastic who had
thus dared to depart from the humility of his station, and to invade
with his indolent brethren, the rights of sovereignty; but being well
aware of the fury with which this description of men generally act when
they are once set in motion, and being informed of the vast multitude by
which they had been joined, he thought it prudent to quit his palace, and
to retire to the sacred shelter of the church of St. Quirinus. Heathens
and barbarians had heretofore respected this venerable sanctuary; but,
upon the present occasion, it was incapable of giving safety to its aged
refugee. The furious troops of the holy imposter burst with irresistible
violence through the walls of this consecrated edifice, and with their
daggers drank the blood of the innocent pontiff, even upon that altar,
the very sight of which ought to have paralyzed the hand of guilt. His
surrounding and numerous friends, particularly six ecclesiastics of
great eminence, learning, and piety, shared the fate of their unhappy
master, and were found, when the dreadful massacre was over, clinging
with fondness, in the arms of death, round his mangled body. But it was
necessary for the murderers to calumniate the purity of that life which
they had thus violently and injuriously destroyed. They accordingly
dragged the corpse of this virtuous patriarch to the most public part
of the city, and, after the grossest abuse of his character, and most
scandalous misrepresentation of his conduct, hung it on an elevated
cross, and exposed it to the brutal insults of the misguided and deluded
populace. To complete this unmanly outrage, they at length committed the
torn and mangled remains of this excellent prelate to the flames, and
hurled his ashes, amidst the most opprobrious and insulting epithets,
into the darkened air; exclaiming with horrid imprecations, that the
mortal part of such a wretch was not entitled to the right of sepulchre,
or even the tears of friends. So furious and undaunted, indeed, were
all the oriental monks, when once roused from their monastic lethargy,
that even the soldiers of the Greek emperors cautiously avoided meeting
them in the field. The fury by which they were actuated was so blind,
that the pious Chrysostom, the warmest and most zealous advocate for
monastic institutions, trembled at his approach. This celebrated father
of the church was born in the year 344, of one of the first families of
the city of Antioch, and added new lustre to their fame by his virtues
and his eloquence. Having finished his studies with wonderful success,
under Libanus, the greatest rhetorician of the age, he devoted himself to
the study of the law; but religion having planted itself deeply in his
mind, he quitted all secular concerns, and retired into solitude among
the mountains in the vicinity of the city, where, in the dreary caves, he
devoted two entire years to penitence and prayer. Ill health, however,
obliged him to return to Antioch; he began to preach the Word, and was
soon followed by a host of disciples. The life of this excellent pastor
was an example to his whole flock. He endeavored to drive away the wolves
from the folds, and sent missionaries even into Scythia, to convert its
inhabitants to Christianity. These missions, and his various charities,
required either considerable revenues or the most rigid economy; and
the holy patriarch was contented to live in the extremest poverty, that
he might have the better opportunity of relieving the sufferings of his
fellow creatures. The character and conduct of this virtuous pontiff soon
gained him the hearts of his people, and he set himself earnestly to
reform the many abuses which at this time prevailed at Constantinople.
The severity and vehemence, however, with which he declaimed against
the pride, the luxury, and the rapacity of the great; the zeal with
which he endeavored to reform the vices and misconduct of the clergy;
and the eagerness he discovered for the conversion of heretics, created
him a multitude of enemies; and Eutropius, the favorite of the Emperor
Arcadius; Gainas, the tyrant to whom he had refused protection for the
Arians; Theophilus, of Alexandria, the patron of the Origenists; and
the disciples of Arius, whom he banished from Constantinople, entered
into a conspiracy against him; and an occasion soon happened, which gave
them the opportunity of taking ample vengeance. The intrepid preacher,
convinced that while he declaimed against vice in general, the peculiar
vices which prevailed in the court of the Empress Eudoxia, and the
personal misconduct of the Empress herself, called aloud for his severest
animadversions, he took every opportunity of exposing them to the public
abhorrence. The resentment of the court encouraged the discontent of
the clergy and monks of Constantinople, who had been very severely
disciplined by the zeal of the archbishop. He had condemned from the
pulpit the domestic females of the clergy of Constantinople, who, under
the name of servants or sisters, afforded a perpetual occasion either
of sin or scandal. The silent and solitary ascetics, who had secluded
themselves from the world, were entitled to the warmest appprobation of
Chrysostom; but he despised and stigmatized, as the disgrace of their
holy profession, the crowd of degenerate monks, who from some unworthy
motives of pleasure or profit, so frequently infested the streets of the
metropolis. To the voice of persuasion, the archbishop was obliged to
add the lesson of authority; and in his visitation through the Asiatic
provinces, he deposed thirteen bishops of Lydia and Phrygia; and declared
that a deep corruption of simony and licentiousness had infected the
whole episcopal order. These bishops also entered into the confederacy
above mentioned, and the excellent Chrysostom was studiously represented
as the intolerable tyrant of the eastern church. This ecclesiastical
conspiracy was managed by the archbishop of Alexandria, who, by the
invitation of Eudoxia, landed at Constantinople with a stout body of
Egyptian mariners, to encounter the populace, and a train of dependant
bishops, to secure, by their voices, a majority of a synod. The synod
was convened in the suburbs of Chalcedon, and was called the Oak; in
which Chrysostom, was accused of treason against the empress; rudely
arrested, and driven into exile; from whence, however, he was in two
days recalled; but, upon a repetition of his imputed offences, was again
banished to the remote and desolate town of Cucusus among the ridges
of mount Taurus, in the Lesser Armenia. On his way to this place, he
was detained by sickness at Cesarea, and at length confined to his bed.
The bishop of Cesarea, who had long entertained a secret enmity against
him, unmoved by his fallen fortunes and helpless state, stirred up the
lazy monks of the surrounding monasteries to vengeance against him. The
fury with which they issued from their respective cells was incredible;
like the sleeping powder of the present age, they burst into immediate
conflagration and explosion at the touch of that hand by which they were
fired, and directing their heated animosity against the dying Chrysostom,
surrounded his house and threatened, that if he did not immediately
depart, they would involve it in flames, and bury him in its ruins. The
soldiers of the garrison were called out to protect the life of this
virtuous ecclesiastic; and, on their arrival at the scene of action,
very courteously requested the enraged monks to be quiet and depart; but
the request was treated with contempt and defiance; and it was by the
humane resolution of Chrysostom himself that this tumult was quelled;
for, rather than the blood of his fellow creatures should be shed on
his account, he desired a litter might be procured, into which, in his
almost expiring state, he was roughly laid, and, by his departure from
the city, escaped the fury which thus assailed his life. It is evident,
from these facts, that the irrational solitude of monastic institutions,
particularly that which prevailed in the early ages of Christianity
in the eastern parts of the converted world, instead of rendering the
votaries of it mild, complacent and humane, filled their minds with the
wildest notions, and the most uncharitable and acrimonious passions,
and fostered in their hearts the most dangerous and destructive vices.
It is truly said, by a very elegant writer and profound observer of men
and manners, that monastic institutions unavoidably contract and fetter
the human mind; that the partial attachment of a monk to the interest of
his order, which is often incompatible with that of other citizens, the
habit of implicit obedience to the will of a superior, together with the
frequent return of the wearisome and frivolous duties of the cloister,
debase his faculties, and extinguish that generosity of sentiment and
spirit which qualifies men for thinking and feeling justly, with respect
to what is proper in life and conduct; and that father Paul of Venice
was, perhaps, the only person educated in a cloister, that ever was
altogether superior to its prejudices, or who viewed the transactions of
men, and reasoned concerning the interests of society, with the enlarged
sentiments of a philosopher, with the discernment of a man conversant
in affairs, and with the liberality of a gentleman. Depraved, however,
as this order of men has ever been, it was to their prayers and masses
that all the princes and potentates of more than half the discovered
regions of the earth confided their salvation, and expected from their
intercession, divine favor from the fountain of all goodness and truth.
But the fears which these artful and intriguing ecclesiastics raised
in the weak or guilty minds of their contemporaries, instead of being
quieted by the conciliatory and comforting doctrines of the gospel of
Christ, were converted to the purposes of their own sordid avarice, and
made subservient to the enjoyment of their vices, and the advancement
of their power. They inculcated the notion, that the surest passport to
eternal bliss was to overwhelm them with riches, and to indulge them with
extraordinary privileges; and every haughty noble, or despotic sovereign,
who was anxious to gratify his own wanton pleasures, and capricious
vices, at the expense of his people’s prosperity and happiness,
endeavored to reconcile himself to his offended God, by bribing these
ambitious and greedy monastics to grant them absolution for their deepest
crimes. Their history exhibits, in full view, the melancholy truth, that
their hearts were corrupted by the worst passions that disgrace humanity,
and that the discipline of the convent was seldom productive of a single
virtue. Enthusiasts, indeed, of every description, whose sentiments
and feelings are continually at war with the dictates of nature, and
who renounce all the pleasing sympathies, gentle endearments, kind
connexions, and rational enjoyments of life, are not likely to entertain
any great anxiety for the interest or happiness of others, or to feel the
least commiseration for their sorrows. Occupied by sordid and selfish
pursuits, they must hate and despise a society, to the lively enjoyments
of which they look back with such keen regret. When the mind, alas! has
numbed its sense of social joys, and become a stranger to the delightful
charms of sweet domestic love; when all affection for the world and
its concerns has been studiously expelled from the bosom, and no kind
feeling or social inclination suffered to fill the vacant heart; when
man has separated himself from his species, and has not united his soul
with his Creator, he has lost all power of being happy himself, or of
communicating happiness to others.

The bishop exceeded the inferior clergy in every kind of profligacy,
as much as in opulence and power; and, of course, their superintending
and visitorial authority was not exerted to lessen or restrain the
prevalence of those vices which their evil example contributed so greatly
to increase. Time and chance sometimes produce extraordinary events;
and if a really pious, vigilant, and austere prelate arose amidst the
general dissoluteness of the age, his single effort to reclaim these
solitary ecclesiastics was seldom attended with success. These fathers,
indeed, frequently scrutinized with great minuteness into the practices
of the convents; and as they were not so able to detect the guilt of
incontinency, as some philosophers of the present age pretend to be, by
the lines and features of the face, they proceeded upon evidence less
delicate, perhaps, but certainly more demonstrative and unerring.

The celebrated Boccace has, by his witty and ingenious tales, very
severely satirized the licentiousness and immorality which prevailed
during his time in the Italian monasteries; but, by exposing the
scandalous lives, and lashing the vices, of the monks, nuns, and other
orders of the Catholic clergy, he has been decried as a contemner of
religion, and as an enemy to true piety. Contemporary historians have
also delivered the most disgusting accounts of their intemperance and
debauchery. The frailty, indeed, of the female monastics was even an
article of regular taxation; and the holy father did not disdain to fill
his coffers with the price of their impurities. The frail nun, whether
she had become immured within a convent, or still resided without its
walls, might redeem her lost honor, and be reinstated in her former
dignity and virtue, for a few ducats. This scandalous traffic was
carried to an extent that soon destroyed all sense of morality, and
heightened the hue of vice. Ambrosius, bishop of Camadoli, a prelate
of extraordinary virtue, visited various convents in his diocese, but,
on inspecting their proceedings, he found no traces of virtue, or even
of decency remaining in any one of them; nor was he able, with all the
sagacity he exercised on the subject, to reinfuse the smallest particle
of these qualities into the degenerated minds of the sisterhood.

The reform of the nunneries was the first step that distinguished the
government of Sextus IV. after he ascended the papal throne, at the close
of the fifteenth century. Bossus, a celebrated canon, of the strictest
principles, and most inflexible disposition, was the agent selected by
his holiness for this arduous achievement. The Genoese convents, where
the nuns lived in open defiance of all the rules of decency and precepts
of religion, were the first objects of his attention. The orations which
he publicly uttered from the pulpit, as well as the private lectures
and exhortations which he delivered to the nuns from the confessional
chair, were fine models, not only of his zeal and probity, but of his
literature and eloquence. They breathed, in the most impressive manner,
the true spirit of Christian purity; but his glowing representations
of the bright beauties of virtue, and the dark deformities of vice
made little impression upon their corrupt hearts. Despising the open
calumnies of the envious, and the secret hostilities of the guilty, he
proceeded, in spite of all discouragement and opposition, in his highly
honorable pursuit; and at length, by his wisdom and assiduity, beheld
the fairest prospects of success daily opening to his view. The rays of
hope, however, had scarcely beamed upon his endeavors, when they were
immediately overclouded by disappointment. The arm of magistracy, which
he had wisely called upon to aid the accomplishment of his design, was
enervated by the venality of its hand; and the incorrigible objects of
his solicitude having freed themselves by bribery from the terror of the
civil power, contemned the reformer’s denunciation of eternal vengeance
hereafter, and relapsed into their former licentiousness and depravity.
A few, indeed, among the great number of nuns who inhabited these guilty
convents, were converted by the force of his eloquent remonstrances,
and became afterward highly exemplary by the virtue and piety of their
lives; but the rest abandoned themselves to their impious courses; and
though more vigorous methods were, in a short time, adopted against the
refractory monastics, they set all attempts to reform them at defiance.
The modes, perhaps, in which their vices were indulged, changed with
the character of the age; and as manners grew more refined, the gross
and shameful indulgences of the monks and nuns were changed into a more
elegant and decent style of enjoyment. Fashion might render them more
prudent and reserved in their intrigues; but their passions were not less
vicious, nor their dispositions less corrupt.

The disorderly manners of these solitary devotees were among the
principal causes that produced the reformation. There is a point beyond
which even depravity cannot go in corrupting the manners of the age.
The number and power of the monastics, or, as they were at that time
called, the regular clergy, was certainly great, and their resistance
to the approaches of reformation obstinate; but the temper of the times
had changed, and the glorious and beneficial event was at length
accomplished. The Catholics viewed the dismemberment of their church
as a fatal stroke to their interest and power; but it has since been
confessed, by every candid and rational member of this communion to be
an event which has contributed to advance morals to a higher degree of
perfection than they had ever before attained since the introduction of
Christianity, and to restore the discipline of the church to some portion
of its original purity.

The pure spirit of the gospel of Christ breathes forth a holy religion,
founded on meekness, charity, kindness, and brotherly love; but
fanaticism, when joined to a systematic and irrational solitude, only
produces the rank and poisonous fruits we have already described. The
trivial, querulous, and intolerant superstitions, which, during so
many ages, eclipsed the reason and morals of mankind, and obscured, in
clouds of lust and cruelty, the bright rays of evangelical truth, were
the sad effects of irrational solitude. The best affections of nature
were perverted or suppressed; all the gentle offices of humanity were
neglected; moral sentiments despised; and the angel voice of piety
unheard, or converted into the violent vociferations of hatred, and the
cries of persecution. The loud clangors of pretended orthodoxy resounded
with sanguinary hostilities from shore to shore; the earth was deluged
with the blood of those who dared to deny, or even to doubt the absurd
and idle dogmas which the monks every where invented: and their horrid
barbarities were attempted to be justified by propagating the notion that
severity with heretics was the only mode of preserving the true faith.
Oh! how blind is human folly! How obdurate are hearts vitiated by pride!
How can that be the true faith which tears asunder every social tie;
annihilates all the feelings of nature; places cruelty and horror on the
throne of humanity and love, and scatters ferocious fury and insatiable
hatred through the paths of life? But we may now indulge a pleasing hope,
that the period is at hand, when the sacred temple of religion, purified
by the labors of learned and truly pious men, from the foul stains with
which fanaticism and ambition have so long defaced it, shall be restored
to its own divine simplicity; and only the voice of gentleness, of love,
of peace of virtue, and of goodness, be heard within its walls. Then
will every Christian be truly taught the only means by which his days
may be useful and his life happy; and Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists,
Protestants, and every really religious class of men, will unite in acts
of sincere benevolence and universal peace. No austere, gloomy, and
dispiriting duties: no irrational penances and unnatural mortification,
will be enjoined; no intolerant cruelties be inflicted; no unsocial
institutions established; no rites of solitary selfishness be required;
but reason and religion in divine perfection, will reassume their reign;
and unaffected and sincere devotion will occupy every mind; the Almighty
will be worshipped _in spirit_ and _in truth_; and we shall be convinced
that “the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest; but that
the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness,
quietude and assurance for ever.” To effect this, a rational retirement
from the tumults of the world will be occasionally necessary, in order to
_commune with our own hearts, and be still_, and to dispose our minds to
such a train of thinking, as shall prepare us, when the giddy whirl of
life is finished for the society of more exalted spirits.

    Oh! would mankind but make fair truth their guide,
    And force the helm from prejudice and pride,
    Were once these maxims fix’d, that God’s our friend,
    Virtue our good, and happiness our end,
    How soon must reason o’er the world prevail,
    And error, fraud and superstition fail!
    None would hereafter, then, with groundless fear,
    Describe th’ Almighty cruel and severe;
    Predestinating some, without pretence,
    To heaven; and some to hell, for no offence;
    Inflicting endless pains for transient crimes,
    And favoring sects or nations, men or times.
    To please him, none would foolishly forbear,
    Or food, or rest, or itch in shirts of hair:
    Or deem it merit to believe, or teach,
    What reason contradicts or cannot reach.
    None would fierce zeal for piety mistake,
    Or malice, for whatever tenet’s sake;
    Or think salvation to one sect confin’d,
    And heaven too narrow to contain mankind.
    No more would brutal rage disturb our peace,
    But envy, hatred, war, and discord cease;
    Our own and others’ good each hour employ,
    And all things smile with universal joy;
    Fair virtue then, with pure religion join’d,
    Would regulate and bless the human mind,
    And man be what his Maker first design’d.


_Of the danger of idleness in solitude._

Idleness is truly said to be the root of all evil; and solitude certainly
encourages in the generality of its votaries this baneful disposition.
Nature has so framed the character of man, that his happiness essentially
depends on his passions being properly interested, his imagination
busied, and his faculties employed; but these engagements are seldom
found in the vacant scenes and tedious hours of retirement from the
world, except by those who have acquired the great and happy art of
furnishing their own amusements; an art which, as we have already shown,
can never be learnt in the irrational solitude of caves and cells.

The idleness which solitude is so apt to induce, is dangerous in
proportion to the natural strength, activity, and spirit of the mind;
for it is observed, that the highest characters are frequently goaded
by that restlessness which accompanies leisure, to acts of the wildest
outrage and greatest enormity. The ancient legislators were so conscious
that indolence, whether indulged in solitude or in society, is the nurse
of civil commotion, and the chief instigator of moral turpitude, that
they wisely framed their laws to prevent its existence. Solon, observing
that the city was filled with persons who assembled from all parts on
account of the great security in which the people lived in Attica,
that the country withal was poor and barren, and being conscious that
merchants, who traffic by sea, do not use to transport their goods where
they can have nothing in exchange, turned the attention of the citizens
to manufactures; and for this purpose made a law, that he who was three
times convicted of idleness, should be deemed _infamous_; that no son
should be obliged to maintain his father if he had not taught him a
trade; that trade should be accounted _honorable_; and that the council
of the Areopagus should examine into every man’s means of living, and
chastise the idle with the greatest severity. Draco conceived it so
necessary to prevent the prevalency of a vice to which man is by nature
prone, and which is so destructive to his character, and ruinous to his
manners, that he punished idleness with death. The tyrant Pisistratus, as
Theophrastus relates, was so convinced of the importance of preventing
idleness among his subjects, that he made a law against it, which
produced at once industry in the country, and tranquillity in the city.
Pericles, who, in order to relieve Athens from a number of lazy citizens,
whose lives were neither employed in virtuous actions, nor guarded from
guilt by habits of industry, planted colonies in Chersonesus, Naxos,
Andros, Thrace, and even in Italy, and sent them thither; for this
sagacious statesman saw the danger of indulging this growing vice, and
wisely took precautions to prevent it. Nothing, indeed, contributes more
essentially to the tranquillity of a nation, and to the peaceful demeanor
of its inhabitants, than those artificial wants which luxury introduces;
for, by creating a demand for the fashionable articles, they engage the
attention, and employ the hands of a multitude of manufacturers and
artificers, who, if they were left in that restless indolence which the
want of work creates, would certainly be unhappy themselves, and in
all probability would be fomenting mischief in the minds of others. To
suspend only for one week, the vast multitudes that are employed in the
several mechanical trades and manufactories in Great Britain, would be
to run the risk of involving the metropolis of that great, flourishing,
and powerful country, once more in flames; for it would be converting
the populace into an aptly disposed train of combustible matter, which
being kindled by the least spark of accidental enthusiasm, by the heat
of political faction, or, indeed, by their own internal fermentation,
would explode into the most flagrant enormities. Nature, it is said,
abhors a _vacuum_; and this old peripatetic principle may be properly
applied to the intellect, which will embrace any thing, however absurd
or criminal, rather than be wholly without an object. The same author
also observes, that every man may date the predominance of those desires
that disturb his life, and contaminate his conscience, from some unhappy
hour when too much leisure exposed him to their incursions; for that _he_
has lived with little observation, either on himself or others, who does
not know that to be idle is to be vicious. “Many writers of eminence in
physic,” continues this eminent writer, whose works not only disclose
his general acquaintance with life and manners, but a profound knowledge
of human nature, “have laid out their diligence upon the consideration
of those distempers to which men are exposed by particular states of
life; and very learned treatises have been produced upon the maladies
of the camp, the sea, and the mines. There are, indeed, few employments
which a man accustomed to academical inquiries and medical refinements,
would not find reason for declining, as dangerous to health, did not
his learning or experience inform him, that almost every occupation,
however inconvenient or formidable, is happier and safer than _a life
of sloth_. The necessity of action is not only demonstrable from the
fabric of the body, but evident from observation of the universal
practice of mankind; who for the preservation of health in those whose
rank or wealth exempts them from the necessity of lucrative labors, have
invented sports and diversions, though not of equal use to the world
with manual trades, yet of equal fatigue to those who practice them,
and differing only from the drudgery of the husbandman or manufacturer,
as they are acts of choice, and therefore performed without the painful
sense of compulsion. The huntsman rises early, pursues his game through
all the dangers and obstructions of the chase, swims rivers, and scales
precipices, till he returns home, no less harassed than the soldier,
and has, perhaps, sometimes incurred as great hazard of wounds and
death; yet he has no motive to excite his ardor; he is neither subject
to the command of a general, nor dreads the penalties of neglect or
disobedience: he has neither profits nor honors to expect from his perils
and conquests: but acts with the hope of mural or civic garlands, and
must content himself with the praise of his tenants and companions. But
such is the constitution of man, that _labor is its own reward_; nor
will any external incitements be requisite, if it be considered how
much happiness is gained, and how much misery escaped, by frequent and
violent agitation of the body. Ease is the most that can be hoped from a
sedentary and inactive habit; but ease is a mere neutral state, between
pain and pleasure. The dance of spirits, the bound of vigor, readiness
of enterprise, and defiance of fatigue, are reserved for him that braces
his nerves, and hardens his fibres; that keeps his limbs pliant with
motion; and, by frequent exposure fortifies his frame against the common
accidents of cold and heat. With ease, however, if it could be secured,
many would be content; but nothing terrestrial can be kept at a stand.
Ease, if it is not rising into pleasure, will be settling into pain;
and whatever hopes the dreams of speculation may suggest, of observing
the proportion between retirement and labor, and keeping the body in a
healthy state by supplies exactly equal to its weight, we know that, in
effect, the vital powers, unexcited by motion, grow gradually languid,
decay, and die. It is necessary to that perfection of which our present
state is capable, that the mind and body should both be kept in action;
that neither the faculties of the one nor the other should be suffered to
grow lax or torpid for want of use; that neither health can be purchased
by voluntary submission to ignorance, nor knowledge cultivated at the
expense of that health, which must enable it either to give pleasure to
its possessor, or assistance to others. It is too frequently the pride of
students, to despise those amusements which give to the rest of mankind
strength of limbs and cheerfulness of heart. Solitude and contemplation
are, indeed, seldom consistent with such skill in common exercises or
sports, as is necessary to make them practised with delight; and no
man is willing to do that of which the necessity is not pressing, when
he knows that his awkwardness but makes him ridiculous. I have always
admired the wisdom of those by whom our female education was instituted,
for having contrived that all women, of whatever condition, should be
taught some arts of manufacture, by which the vacuities of recluse and
domestic leisure may be filled up. These arts are more necessary, as
the weakness of their sex, and the general system of life, debar ladies
from many enjoyments, which, by diversifying the circumstances of men,
preserve them from being cankered by the rust of their own thoughts. I
know not how much of the virtue and happiness of the world may be the
consequence of this judicious regulation. Perhaps the most powerful
fancy might be unable to figure the confusion and slaughter that would
be produced by so many piercing eyes and vivid understandings, turned
loose upon mankind, with no other business than to sparkle and intrigue,
to perplex and destroy. For my own part, whenever chance brings within
my observation a knot of misses busy at their needles, I consider myself
as in the school of virtue; and though I have no extraordinary skill
in plain work, or embroidery, look upon their operations with as much
satisfaction as their governess, because I regard them as providing a
security against the most dangerous ensnarers of the soul, by enabling
them to exclude idleness from their solitary moments, and with idleness,
her attendant train of passions, fancies, chimeras, fears, sorrows,
and desires. Ovid and Cervantes will inform them that love has no power
but on those whom he catches unemployed: and Hector, in the Iliad, when
he sees Andromache overwhelmed with tears, sends her for consolation
to the loom and the distaff. Certain it is, that wild wishes, and vain
imaginations, never take such firm possession of the mind, as when it is
found empty and unemployed.”

Idleness, indeed, was the spreading root from which all the vices and
crimes of the oriental nuns so luxuriantly branched. Few of them had any
taste for science, or were enabled by the habits either of reflection, or
industry to charm away the tediousness of solitude, or to relieve that
weariness which must necessarily accompany their abstracted situation.
The talents with which nature had endowed them were uncultivated; the
glimmering lights of reason were obscured by a blind and headlong zeal;
and their temper soured by the circumstances of their forlorn conditions.
Certain it is, that the only means of avoiding unhappiness and misery in
solitude, and perhaps in society also, is to keep the mind continually
engaged in, or occupied by, some laudable pursuit. The earliest
professors of a life of solitude, although they removed themselves far
from the haunts of men, among “caverns deep and deserts idle,” where
nature denied her sons the most common of her blessings, employed
themselves in endeavoring to cultivate the rude and barren soil during
those intervals in which they were not occupied in the ordinary labors
of religion; and even those whose extraordinary sanctity confined them
the whole day in their cells, found the necessity of filling up their
leisure, by exercising the manual arts for which they were respectively
suited. The rules, indeed, which were originally established in most of
the convents, ordained that the time and attention of a monk should never
be for a moment vacant or unemployed: but this excellent precept was
soon rendered obsolete; and the sad consequences which resulted from its
non-observance, we have already, in some degree, described.



The anxiety with which I have endeavored to describe the advantages
and the disadvantages which, under particular circumstances, and in
particular situations, are likely to be experienced by those who devote
themselves to solitary retirement, may perhaps, occasion me to be viewed
by some as its romantic panegyrist, and by others as its uncandid censor.
I shall therefore endeavor, in this concluding chapter, to prevent a
misconstruction of my opinion, by explicitly declaring the inferences
which ought, in fairness, to be drawn from what I have said.

The advocates for a life of uninterrupted society will, in all
probability, accuse me of being a morose and gloomy philosopher; an
inveterate enemy to social intercourse; who, by recommending a melancholy
and sullen seclusion, and interdicting mankind from enjoying the
pleasures of life, would sour their tempers, subdue their affections,
annihilate the best feelings of the heart, pervert the noble faculty of
reason, and thereby once more plunge the world into that dark abyss of
barbarism, from which it has been so happily rescued by the establishment
and civilization of society.

The advocates for a life of continual solitude will most probably, on the
other hand, accuse me of a design to deprive the species of one of the
most pleasing and satisfactory delights, by exciting an unjust antipathy,
raising an unfounded alarm, depreciating the uses, and aggravating the
abuses, of solitude; and by these means endeavoring to encourage that
spirit of licentiousness and dissipation which so strongly mark the
degeneracy, and tend to promote the vices of the age.

The respective advocates for these opinions, however, equally mistake
the intent and view I had in composing this treatise. I do sincerely
assure them, that it was very far from my intention to cause a relaxation
of the exercise of any of the civil duties of life; to impair in any
degree, the social dispositions of the human heart; to lessen any
inclination to rational retirement: or to prevent the beneficent practice
of _self-communion_, which solitude is best calculated to promote.
The fine and generous philanthropy of that mind which, entertaining
notions of universal benevolence, seeks to feel a love for, and to
promote the good of, the whole human race, can never be injured by an
attachment to domestic pleasures, or by cultivating the soft and gentle
affections which are only to be found in the small circles of private
life, and can never be truly enjoyed, except in the bosom of love, or
the arms of friendship: nor will an occasional and rational retirement
from the tumults of the world lessen any of the noble sympathies of the
human heart: but on the contrary, by enlarging those ideas and feelings
which have sprung from the connexions and dependencies which its votary
may have formed with individuals, and by generalizing his particular
interests and concerns, may enable him to extend the _social principle_
and increase the circle of his benevolence.

    God loves from whole to parts; but human soul
    Must rise from _individual_ to _whole_.
    Self love but serves the virtuous mind to wake,
    As the small pebble stirs the peaceful lake;
    The centre mov’d, a circle straight succeeds;
    Another still, and still another spreads;
    Friend, parent, neighbor, first it will embrace;
    His country next; and next, all human race.

The chief design of this work was, to exhibit the necessity of combining
the uses of solitude with those of society; to show, in the strongest
light, the advantages they may mutually derive from each other; to
convince mankind of the danger of running into either extreme; to teach
the advocate for uninterrupted society, how highly all the social virtues
may be improved, and its vices easily abandoned, by habits of solitary
abstraction; and the advocate for continual solitude, how much that
indocility and arrogance of character which is contracted by a total
absence from the world, may be corrected by the urbanity of society, and
by the company and conversation of the learned and polite.

Petrarch, while in the prime of life, and amidst the happiest exertions
of his extraordinary genius, quitted all the seducing charms of society,
and retired from love and Avignon, to indulge his mind in literary
pursuits, and to relieve his heart, from the unfortunate passion by which
it was enthralled. No situation, he conceived, was so favorable for these
purposes as the highly romantic and delightful solitude of Vaucluse. It
was situated within view of the Mediterranean sea, in a little valley,
inclosed by a semicircular barrier of rocks, on a plain as beautiful
as the vale of Tempe. The rocks were high, bold, and grotesque; and the
valley was divided by a river, along the banks of which were meadows
and pastures of a perpetual verdure. A path on the left side of the
river, led, by gentle windings, to the head of this vast amphitheatre.
At the foot of the highest rock, and directly in front of the valley,
was a prodigious cavern, hollowed by the hand of nature, from whence
arose a spring almost as celebrated as that of Helicon. The gloom of the
cavern, which was accessible when the waters were low, was tremendous.
It consisted of two excavations; the one forming an arch of sixty feet
high; and the other, which was within, of thirty feet. In the centre of
this subterraneous rock was an oval basin, of one hundred and eight feet
diameter, into which that copious stream which forms the river Sorgia
rises silently, without even a jet or bubble. The depth of this basin
has eluded all attempts to fathom it. In this charming retreat, while he
vainly endeavored, during a period of twenty years, to forget, he enabled
himself to endure the absence of his beloved Laura, and to compare,
with the highest satisfaction, the pure pleasures of rural retirement
with the false joys of a vicious and corrupted court, the manners and
principles of which, indeed, he had always had good sense enough to
discover and despise. But this solitude, with all its charms, could not
at length prevent him from returning to the more splendid and busy scenes
of public life. The advantages he had derived from a retreat of twenty
years, would, he conceived, enable him to mix with the world without the
danger of being corrupted by its vices; and after reasoning with himself
for some time in this way, he suddenly abandoned the peaceful privacy of
Vaucluse, and precipitated himself into the gayest and most active scenes
of a luxurious city. The inhabitants of Avignon were amazed to behold
the hermit of Vaucluse, the tender fugitive from love, the philosophic
contemner of society, who could scarcely exist, except in the midst of
romantic rocks and flowery forests, shining all at once the bright star
of the fashionable hemisphere, and the choice spirit of every private and
public entertainment.

    We’re sadly ignorant, when we hope to find
    In shades a med’cine for a troubled mind;
    Wan grief will haunt us wheresoe’er we go,
    Sigh in the breeze, and in the streamlet flow:
    There pale inaction pines his life away,
    And satiate, curses the return of day;
    There love, insatiate, rages wild with pain,
    Endures the blast, or plunges in the main;
    There superstition broods o’er all her fears
    And yells of demons in the zephyr hears
    He who a hermit is resolv’d to dwell,
    And bids a social life a long farewell,
    Is impious.

It has already been observed, upon the authority of a very accurate and
profound observer of nature, that a very extraordinary temperament of
mind and constitution of body are required to sustain, with tranquillity
and endurance, the various fatigues of continued solitude; and certain
it is, that a human creature who is constantly pent up in seclusion,
must, if he be not of a very exalted character, soon become melancholy
and miserable. Happiness, like every other valuable quality, cannot be
completely possessed, without encountering many dangers, and conquering
many difficulties. The prize is great, but the task is arduous. A healthy
body, and vigorous mind, are as essentially necessary to the enterprise,
as equal courage and fortitude are to its success. The bold adventurer,
who, destitute of these resources, quits the bays and harbors of society,
shallow, rocky, and dangerous, as they undoubtedly are, and commits
himself to the wild and expansive sea of solitude, will sink into its
deep and disastrous bed without a hold to save him from destruction. The
few instances we have already given, to which many more might easily be
added, furnish unequivocal testimony of the truth of this grand precept,
_it is not good for man to be alone_: which was given by the great Author
of nature, and imprinted in characters sufficiently legible on the human

    God never made a solitary man:
    ’Twould jar the concord of his general plan.
    Should man through nature solitary roam,
    His will his sovereign, every where his home,
    What force would guard him from the lion’s jaw?
    What swiftness save him from the panther’s paw?
    Or should fate lead him to some safer shore,
    Where panthers never prowl, nor lions roar,
    Where liberal nature all her charms bestows,
    Suns shine, birds sing, flowers bloom, and water flows,
    Still discontented, though such glories shone
    He’d sigh and murmur to be there alone.

Content cannot be procured, except by social intercourse, or a judicious
communion with those whom congenial tastes, and similar talent and
dispositions, point out for our companions. The civilization of man,
from whence the species derive such happy consequences, results entirely
from a proper management of the _social principles_; even the source
of his support, the melioration of the otherwise rude and unprofitable
earth, can only be attained by social combination. How erroneous a
notion, therefore, must the minds of those men have formed of “their
being’s end and aim,” and how strong must their antipathies to the
species be, who like a certain celebrated French hermit, would choose a
station among the craters of Vesuvius, as a place which afforded them
greater security than the society of mankind! The idea of being able
to produce our own happiness from the stores of amusement and delight
which we ourselves may possess, independently of all communication
with, or assistance from others, is certainly extremely flattering to
the natural pride of man; but even if this were possible, and that a
solitary enthusiast could work up his feelings to a higher and more
lasting degree of felicity, than an active inhabitant of the world, amid
all its seducing vices and enchanting follies, is capable of enjoying,
it would not follow that society is not the province of all those whom
peculiar circumstances have not unfitted for its duties and enjoyments.
It is, indeed, a false and deceitful notion, that a purer stream of
happiness is to be found in the delightful bowers of solitude than in
the busy walks of men. Neither of these stations enjoy exclusively this
envied stream: for it flows along the vale of peace, which lies between
the two extremes; and those who follow it with a steady pace, without
deviating too widely from its brink on either side, will reach its
source, and taste it at its spring. But devious, to a certain degree,
must be the walk; for the enjoyments of life are best attained by being
varied with judgment and discretion. The finest joys grow nauseous to
the taste when the cup of pleasure is drained to its dregs. The highest
delight loses its attraction by too frequent recurrence. It is only by a
proper mixture and combination of the pleasures of society with those of
solitude, of the gay and lively recreations of the world with the serene
and tranquil satisfactions of retirement, that we can enjoy each in its
highest relish. Life is intolerable without society; and society loses
half its charms by being too eagerly and constantly pursued. Society,
indeed, by bringing men of congenial minds and similar dispositions
together, uniting them by a community of pursuits, and a reciprocal
sympathy of interests, may greatly assist the cause of truth and virtue,
by advancing the means of human knowledge and multiplying the ties of
human affections; and so far as the festive board, the lively dance,
the brilliant coterie, and other elegant and fashionable pastimes,
contribute to these ends, they are truly valuable, and deserve, not only
encouragement, but approbation. On this principle, the various clubs
which are formed by artizans, and other inferior orders in society, ought
to be respected. The mind, in order to preserve its useful activity
and proper tone, must be occasionally relaxed, which cannot be so
beneficially effected as by means of associations founded on the pursuit
of common pleasure. A friendly meeting, or a social entertainment,
exhilarates the spirits, exercises the faculties of the mind; calls
forth the feelings of the heart, and creates, when properly formed and
indulged, a reciprocity of kindness, confidence, and esteem. It softens
the severity of virtue, while it strengthens and enforces its effects.
I therefore sincerely exhort my disciples not to absent themselves
morosely from public places, nor to avoid the social throng; which
cannot fail to afford to judicious, rational, and feeling minds, many
subjects both of amusement and instruction. It is true, that we cannot
relish the pleasures, and taste the advantages of society, without being
able to give a patient hearing to the tongue of folly, to excuse error,
to bear with infirmity, to view mediocrity of talents without scorn,
and illiberality of sentiment without retort; to indulge frivolity of
behavior, and even to forgive rudeness of manners: but the performance of
these conditions meets with its own reward; for it is scarcely credible,
how very much our own tempers and dispositions are meliorated, and our
understandings improved, by bearing with the different tempers, and
humoring the perverse dispositions of others; we experience by such a
conduct the high delight of pleasing others, and the great advantage of
improving ourselves.

Delightful, however, as social pleasures naturally are to the human
mind; necessary as they certainly are, under proper regulations, to the
preservation of the spirits; and beneficial as they may undoubtedly be
rendered, by judicious choice and wise reflection, it is not every person
who withdraws himself from the highly colored scenes of public life,
to the shades of privacy and retirement, that deserves the imputation
generally cast on such characters, of being inclined to sullenness and
misanthropy. There are many who seek the retreats of solitude, for the
very purpose of rendering their efforts more useful to society; many
who relinquish the endearments of private friendship, and the applauses
of public approbation, only the more nobly to deserve them; and many,
whose souls are so bitterly tormented by the anguish of misfortune,
and the sickness of sorrow, that they find no relief from society, and
recede from its scenes to avoid giving disturbance to that gayety which
they are incapable of enjoying, and to prevent their fractious feelings
from molesting any but themselves. There are others who retire from the
world to pursue objects the most glorious to the individual, and most
useful to mankind; the attainment of which can only be hoped for from the
advantages which solitude affords. Glowing with a sublime and generous
spirit, they sacrifice the joys of life, the charms of society, and even
the advantages of health, to show their attachment to the species; and,
immured from the sight of this world, toil, with indefatigable industry,
for its benefit, without expecting any other reward than the satisfaction
resulting from the sense of having promoted the interest, and advanced
the happiness of their fellow creatures. So also,

    Sage reflection, bent with years;
    Conscious virtue, void of fears;
    Muffled silence, wood-nymph shy;
    Meditation’s piercing eye;
    Halcyon peace on moss reclin’d;
    Retrospect, that sears the mind;
    Rapt, earth-gazing reverie;
    Blushing, artless modesty;
    Health, that snuffs the morning air;
    Full-ey’d truth, with bosom bare;
    Inspiration, nature’s child,
    Seek the solitary wild.

The state of the mind, if properly consulted, will discover whether
solitude may be safely indulged. The bosom that, amidst the gay delights
and luxurious pleasures of the world, feels a rising discontent and
uneasiness, may try the retreats of solitude without danger: and if,
after a certain period, an attachment to its mild and tranquil scenes
continues, and the heart enjoys that quietude and content which it
before so vainly wished to experience, society may be advantageously
relinquished. The patient may, under such circumstances, safely indulge
the natural inclinations of the mind, and gratify the habitual feelings
of his heart: he may then exclaim in the language of the poet,

    “Oh! snatch me swift from those tumultuous scenes,
    To lonely groves and sweetly verdant greens,
    To where religion, peace, and comfort dwell,
    And cheer with heavenly rays the lonely cell:
    To where no ruffling winds, no raging seas,
    Disturb the mind amidst its pensive ease:
    Each passion calm; where mild affections shine,
    The soul-enjoying quietude divine:
    Unknown in private or in public strife,
    Soft sailing down the placid stream of life:
    Aw’d by no terrors, by no cares perplex’d;
    My life a gentle passage to the next.”

But when that delightful tranquillity of mind, which an excess of social
pleasure has impaired or destroyed, is not restored to its original
purity by the uninterrupted quietude of seclusion, it may fairly be
concluded, that there is some natural and constitutional defect, that
defeats the remedy, and prevents the soul from tasting that serenity
which is so essential to the enjoyment of human happiness. Under such
circumstances it is dangerous to indulge the pleasures of solitude; the
sufferer should fly back to society; cultivate the duties of active life,
and solicit, with temperate indulgence, its more agreeable enjoyments.
For, although the pleasures and occupations of the world cannot eradicate
this species of intellectual disease, they may, by being judiciously
followed, suspend its progress, and alleviate its pangs. That case must
always be desperate, when the antidote is too weak to reach the poison,
or to counteract its operation. A pious resignation to his fate can alone
afford relief.

    “Oh! as it pleases thee, thou Power Supreme,
    To drive my bark thro’ life’s more rapid stream,
    If lowering storms my destin’d course attend,
    And ocean rage ’til this black voyage shall end,
    Let ocean rage, and storms indignant roar,
    I bow submissive and resign’d adore:
    Resign’d adore, in various changes tri’d;
    Thy own lov’d Son my anchor and my guide:
    Resign’d adore, whate’er thy will decree;
    My faith in Jesus, and my hope in Thee;
    And humbly wait ’til, through a sea of woes,
    I reach the wish’d-for harbor of repose.”

There are, however, circumstances under which it is absolutely necessary
to retire from the world, in order to avoid the recurrence of sentiments
and feelings that are pregnant with unhappiness. To a mind that feels
unconquerable disgust of the manners and maxims of a world which it
cannot reform; to a heart that turns with horror from the various sights
the world exhibits of human wo, which he is incapable of relieving;
to a bosom that is stung by the various vices which he cannot prevent
or restrain, and which are hourly practised among the sons of men,
retirement becomes an obligation which the justice that every good
man owes to his own felicity demands. The impulse of solitude may in
such cases be conscientiously indulged, in the firmest confidence of
its rectitude. It is a retreat necessary to the preservation, not only
of happiness but of virtue; and the world itself may be benefited by
its effects. Removed from the sad scenes of inactivity, wretchedness,
and guilt, the tender feelings of pity are regulated with composure;
the mind views its own operations with nicer discrimination; the high
sense of virtue is rendered less indignant; and the hatred against vice
more temperate and discerning. The violent emotions which created the
disgusting pain gently subside; and as our reflections on the condition
of human nature prevail, the soul feels how incumbent it is to endeavor
to bear with the follies, to alleviate the miseries, and to reform the
vices of mankind; while the leisure and quietude which solitude affords,
enables a man, who has thus retired, to point out the most likely means
of accomplishing the ends which his lonely meditation, and philanthropic
feelings, have generally inspired.

    “With aspect mild, and elevated eye,
    Behold him seated on a mount serene,
    Above the fogs of sense, and passion’s storm.
    All the black cares and tumults of this life,
    Like harmless thunder breaking at his feet,
    Excite his pity, nor impair his peace.
    Earth’s genuine sons, the sceptred and the slave,
    A mingled mob! a wandering herd! he sees,
    Bewilder’d in the vale; in all unlike,
    His full reverse in all! What higher praise
    What stronger demonstration of the right?
    Himself too much he prizes to be proud,
    And nothing thinks so great in man as man.
    Too dear he holds man’s interest to neglect
    Another’s welfare, or his right invade.
    Wrong he sustains with temper, looks on heav’n,
    Nor stoops to think his injurer his foe;
    But looks with gentle pity round, to find
    How he can best relieve another’s wo,
    Or hush the vicious passions into peace.”

Those who have passed their lives in the domestic privacies of
retirement; who have been only used to the soft and gentle offices of
friendship, and to the tender endearments of love; who have formed their
notion of virtue from those bright images which the purity of religion,
the perfection of moral sentiments, and the feelings of an affectionate
heart, have planted in their minds, are too apt to yield to the
abhorrence and disgust they must unavoidably feel on a first view of the
artificial manners and unblushing vices of the world. Issuing from the
calm retreats of simplicity and innocence, and fondly hoping to meet with
more enlarged perfection in the world, their amiable, just and benevolent
dispositions are shocked at the sour severities, the sordid selfishness,
the gross injustice, the base artifices, and the inhuman cruelties,
which deform the fairest features of social life, and disgrace the best
famed fabric of human polity. Revolting, however, as this disappointment
must certainly be, and grievously as the feelings of such characters be
wounded on their entering the world, it is a cowardly desertion of their
duty to shrink from the task, and withdraw their services from their
fellow creatures. Constituted as society is, human happiness, and the
improvement of the species, materially depend upon the active concurrence
of every individual in the general scheme of nature; and the man who
withholds his assistance to promote the public good, loosens or destroys
a link in that chain of things, by which the whole is intended to be kept
together and preserved. The doctrine, therefore cannot be too forcibly
inculcated, that is indispensably incumbent on every individual so to
accommodate himself to the manners of his contemporaries, and the temper
of the times, that he may have an opportunity of promoting the happiness
of others, while he increases, his own; of extending the scale of human
knowledge by his social industry; of relieving distress by his bounty;
and of exhibiting the deformities of vice, and the beauties of virtue,
both by his precept and example. And this sacred obligation, by which
every good man feels himself so firmly bound to promote the welfare and
happiness of his fellow creatures, of course enjoins him to shun, with
equal perseverance, the giddy multitude in their pursuits of lawless
pleasure, and to avoid the thoughtless votaries, and baneful orgies, of
wit, intemperance, and sensual debauchery. This is best effected by every
individual forming a rational scheme of domestic enjoyment, and engaging
in some useful occupation, in which neither the frivolous pursuits of the
vainly busy, the ostentatious parade of the richly proud, the faithless
pleasures of the unthinking gay, the insatiable anxieties of avarice, nor
the distracting compunctions of vice, shall form any part; but in which,
with a few amiable and faithful friends, he shall pass the intervals of
virtuous industry, or charitable exertion, in the bosom of a fond and
cheerful family, whose mutual endearments and affections will confer on
each other the highest happiness human nature is capable of enjoying.

    Active in indolence, abroad who roam
    In quest of happiness, which dwells at home,
    With vain pursuits fatigued, at length will find
    Its real dwelling is a virtuous mind.

Retirement, however, when it is not inconsistent with our duties to
society, or injurious to those family interests which it is one of our
principal foundations of happiness to promote, is capable of producing
the most beneficial effects on our minds. The self-communion which must
accompany a wise and rational solitude, not only fosters and confirms our
virtuous inclinations, but detects and expels those latent vices which
have secretly crept into and corrupted the heart. It induces a habit of
contemplation, which invigorates the faculties of the soul; raises them
to the highest energies, and directs them to purposes more elevated and
noble than it was possible for them, amidst the business and pleasures
of public life, to attain. It tends, indeed, to unfold the powers of the
mind to so great an extent, that we are ashamed of having thought that
our talents were confined within the limits we had prescribed, and blush
at the ignorance and cowardice by which we were deceived. The activity of
genius is unlimited, and the measure of its effects depends entirely upon
a steady exertion of its powers. A courageous and persevering industry
is capable of surmounting every difficulty, and of performing the
highest achievements. A sense of intellectual weakness so far from being
indulged, ought to be combated with fortitude and resolution, until
it is completely destroyed. The human mind, like a noble tree, extends
its branches widely round, and raises them to the skies, in proportion
as the soil on which it grows is more or less cultivated and manured:
but not being fixed to any certain spot, its growth may be improved to
any size, by transplanting it to the soil in which it most delights to
dwell. By that firm reliance on its natural strength, that indefatigable
exertion of its improved powers, that steady observance of its successful
operations, that warm and active zeal for excellence to which it is
invited by the advantages, and encouraged by the opportunities, which
seclusion affords, it will ascend from one stage of improvement to
another, from acquisition to acquisition; and, by a gradual and steady
progress, reach a comprehensive elevation, as great and surprising as it
was once thought visionary and unattainable. To these sublime and noble
effects of human intellect, solitude is the sincerest guide and most
powerful auxiliary; and he who aspires to mental and moral excellence,
whose soul is anxious to become both great and good, will, of course,
seek its inspiring shades.

Solitude, indeed, under any circumstances, can only become injurious
by being carried to excess, or by being misapplied; and what is there
that will not, by being abused, or misapplied, be rendered equally
injurious? The highest advantages society is capable of conferring, the
loftiest flights of fancy, the best affections of the heart, the greatest
strength of body, the happiest activity of the mind, the elements of fire
and water, the blessings of liberty, and, in short, all the excellent
gifts of Providence, as well as all the ingenious contrivances of man,
may, by these means be perverted, their uses destroyed, their ends and
objects defeated, and their operations and effects rendered extensively
mischievous and detrimental.

The general disadvantages which solitude is certainly capable of
producing, cannot be lessened by conceding to its adversaries, that it
is, when sought under unfavorable circumstances, inauspicious to human
happiness. It would be overstepping the sacred boundaries of truth, and
violating the rights of candor, not to admit that irrational solitude
frequently overclouds the reason, contracts the understanding, vitiates
the manners, inflames the passions, corrupts the imagination, sours
the temper, and debases the whole character of its votaries. Nor is it
necessary to deny, that many of them instead of employing the delightful
leisure which retirement affords, to hush the jarring passions, to
chastise the fancy, to elevate and adorn the mind, and to reform and
meliorate the heart, have been too often occupied in the most frivolous
pursuits, and in the indulgence of the most sordid and criminal desires.

But these instances in which the pure and peaceful retreats of solitude
have been tainted and disturbed by the vicious and turbulent desires of
the world, only demonstrate the infirm, corrupt, and imperfect nature
of the species, and not in the smallest degree, depreciate the value of
those high advantages which result from occasional and well regulated

It is said, by a celebrated German writer, in a poetical personification
of solitude, that she holds in one hand a cup of bliss, in which she
presents unceasing sweets to the lips of the happy; and in the other
grasps an envenomed dagger, which she plants with increasing tortures in
the bosom of the wretched; but this must be considered as the language
of the muse, and mere flight of poetic fancy; except, indeed, so far as
it tends to enforce the idea, that virtue will always be happy, and vice
forever miserable; for retirement, while it pours the balm of comfort
into the aching bosom of the unfortunate, and offers a cordial, cheering
as nectar, to the drooping spirits of the wise and virtuous, only
operates as a corrosive, agonizing poison, on the constitutions of the
weak and vicious.

It is a gross mistake, to suppose that the pleasures of social life are
incompatible with the benefits to be derived from solitude. They may not
only be intermingled with, but made mutually to aid and augment each
other. Solitude may surely be enjoyed without undergoing an exile from
the world; and society may be freely mixed with, without absolutely
renouncing the pleasures of retirement. The circumstances of life,
indeed, call loudly on every mind to interchange the pursuits of activity
and scenes of quietude and repose. The alliance of solitude and society
is necessary to the perfection not only of the intellectual character,
but to the corporeal constitution of man. To conclude that the duties of
life must necessarily be neglected by devoting a portion of our time to
solitude, is much more erroneous than to conclude that those duties are
not always fulfilled amidst the pleasures or business of society.

Daily observation proves most clearly, that many of the charms, and some
of the benefits, of rural retreat, may be enjoyed without retiring to
any very considerable distance from the metropolis, the seat of social
joys and interested activity. Petrarch, during his residence in the city
of Parma, though extremely flattered by the friendship shown him, was
glad to steal from public life as often as he could, and to indulge the
high delight he naturally felt in wandering through the fields and woods
which surrounded the metropolis. One day, led by his love of exercise,
he passed the river of Lenza, which is three miles from Parma, and found
himself in the territory of Rhegio, in a forest which is called Sylva
Plana, or Low Wood: though it is situated upon a hill, from whence are
discovered the Alps, and all Cisalpine Gaul. Aged oaks, whose heads
seemed to touch the clouds, sheltered the avenues of the forest from
the rays of the sun: while the fresh breezes which descended from the
neighboring mountains, and the little rivulets which brawled along its
skirts, tempered the meridian heats of the day, and preserved to the
earth, even in the greatest droughts, a soft verdure, enamelled with the
finest flowers. Birds of every kind warbled forth their rural songs from
the thick coverts, while deer, and every animal of the chase, sported
through the purlieus. In the middle of this beautiful forest nature had
formed a romantic theatre, which, from its enchanting decorations, she
seemed to have designed for the residence of the muses. The charms
of this delightful retreat struck the mind of Petrarch with a sort of
inspiration, and revived so strongly his original taste for solitude
that on his return to Parma, he endeavored to procure some spot near
the environs of the city, to which he might occasionally retire from
the fatigues of his archdeaconry, and indulge his mind in the blessings
of innocence, and the delights of rural repose. The industry of his
inquiries soon furnished him with a small cottage, exactly suited to his
wishes, situated at the end of the city, near the abbey of St. Anthony.
To this place he fondly and frequently retired, whenever he could escape
from the duties of his church, and the invitations of his friends. The
superiority of his talents had at this time attracted the attention
and applause of mankind; and his engaging manners secured to him the
respect and esteem of the nobles of Parma, who besieged him with the
most friendly and flattering importunities to partake of their daily
parties of pleasure. Petrarch, however, had formed notions of happiness
very foreign to those which result from the society of luxurious lords
or fashionable females, to whom, in general poetry afforded no delight,
nor philosophy instruction; and the companions to whom he could afford
neither amusement nor information, were not likely to afford him much
satisfaction. The quiet and simple pleasures of retirement were more
delightful to his mind than all the elegances and splendors of Parma; but
this partiality to retirement did not induce him to renounce the rational
society which a few select friends, with whom he had closely connected
himself, was occasionally capable of affording him. “So conveniently,”
says he, “is this delightful cottage situated, that I enjoy all the
advantages of rural retirement, and yet retain within my reach all the
pleasures with which this gay and elegant city abounds. The society of
a few select friends recreates my mind whenever it is distracted by the
anxieties of study, or stagnated by the stilness of solitude; and when
I am satiated with the pleasures of the town, I fly with rapture to the
sweet repose, and to all the interesting and endearing occupations of
this charming retreat. Oh! may the kindness of fortune long indulge me
in the enjoyment of this neutral state; this happy alternation of rural
tranquillity and convivial solace! a state of felicity to which neither
the anchorites of Egypt, nor the philosophers of Greece, ever attained.
In this humble abode, let me quietly pass the remainder of my days,
unseduced by the charms of greatness, and uninterrupted by the pleasures
of the world. Fly, all ye vain delusions and fantastic dreams, from
this cottage of content, and seek your native territories, the palaces
of princes, and the altars of ambition!” The voice of wisdom and virtue
calls aloud on every man to adopt the scheme of happiness which Petrarch
so successfully practised. By thus dividing our time between the busy
cares and innocent amusements of public life, and the studious and
tranquil pleasures of retirement, between the gay pursuits of personal
gratifications, and the more noble and elevated exercises of intellect,
we may avoid the dangers of contracting, on the one hand, a passion for
light and frivolous dissipation, and on the other a joyless disposition
to misanthropic severity; and may shun the most, if not all the evil
consequences which either solitude or society is capable of producing,
which when indulged irrationally, or indiscreetly, in general prove the
Scylla or Charybdis of our lives.

These are the observations which it has occurred to me to make upon the
advantages or disadvantages with which those important means of human
happiness are respectively pregnant. I can truly say, that I have felt,
whenever the cares of life, and the duties of my profession, have allowed
me leisure to retire, the most sublime and satisfactory enjoyment from
solitude; and I sincerely wish that every one who is disposed to taste
it, may receive the same comfort and pleasure from its charms. But I
exhort them, while they enjoy the sacred blessings of repose, not to
neglect the social virtues, the consolations of friendship, or the
endearments of love; but so manage the wants of nature, and arrange
the business and concerns of life, as to find an adequate portion of
leisure for the noble duties of retirement, as well as for company and
conversation of the world. May they in short, enjoy the admiration
and esteem of their friends, and a complacent approbation of their
own conduct, without losing that relish for the pleasures of rational
retirement, by which alone these high advantages are most likely to be

To love all mankind, and to promote, to the utmost of our power, the
happiness of all those with whom we are more intimately connected, is
the highest injunction both of morality and religion. But this important
duty certainly does not require that we should surrender ourselves with
servile obedience, or abject submission, to any one, however superior
he may be, either in talents, in station, or in merit. On the contrary,
it is the duty of every one, not only to cultivate the inclination, but
to reserve the power of retiring occasionally from the world, without
indulging a disposition to renounce its society or contemn its manners.

While we assert, with manly resolution, the independent spirit of human
nature, our happiness may be considerably augmented, by extracting from
the multitudinous affairs of the world, the various enjoyments and wise
instructions it is capable of affording. Society is the school of wisdom,
and solitude the temple of virtue. In the one we learn the art of living
with comfort among our fellow creatures, and in the other, of living
with quietude by ourselves. A total retreat from the world would place
us aside from that part which Providence chiefly intended us to act; but
without occasional retreat it is certain that we must act that part very
ill. There will be neither consistency in the conduct, nor dignity in the
character, of one who sets apart no share of his time for meditation and
reflection. “In the heat and bustle of life,” says an eloquent preacher,
“while passion is every moment throwing false colors on the objects
around us, nothing can be viewed in a just light. If you wish that reason
should exert her native power, you must step aside from the crowd into
the cold and silent shade. It is thus that with sober and steady eye
she examines what is good or ill, what is wise or foolish, in human
conduct: she looks back on the past; she looks forward to a future: and
forms plans not for the present moment only, but for the whole life. How
should that man discharge any part of his duty aright, who never suffers
his passions to cool? And how should his passions cool, who is engaged,
without interruption, in the tumults of the world? This incessant stir
may be called the _perpetual drunkenness of life_. It raises that eager
fermentation of spirit, which will be ever sending forth the dangerous
fumes of rashness and folly. Whereas he who mingles rational retreat
with worldly affairs, remains calm and master of himself. He is not
whirled round, and rendered giddy by the agitation of the world: but from
that sacred retirement, in which he has been conversant among higher
objects, comes forth into the world with manly tranquillity, fortified by
principles which he has formed, and prepared for whatever may befal.”

    Sweet solitude! when life’s gay hours are past,
    Howe’er we range, in thee we fix at last.
    Tossed through tempestuous seas, the voyage o’er,
    Pale we look back and bless the friendly shore.
    Our own strict judges, our past life we scan
    And ask if glory hath enlarged the span;
    If bright the prospect we the grave defy,
    Trust future ages, and contented die.



[1] Dissertatio Physiologica de irritabilitate quam publice defendet.
Joh. Georgius Zimmerman. Goett. 4to. 1751.

[2] The following is a correct list of his writings, in the order in
which they appear to have been published:

     1. Dissertatio Inauguralis de Irritabilitate, 4to. Gottingen,

     2. The life of Professor Haller, 8vo. Zurich, 1755.

     3. Thoughts on the earthquake which was felt on the 9th of
        December, 1755, in Swisserland, 4to. 1756.

     4. The Subversion of Lisbon, a Poem, 4to. 1776.

     5. Meditations on Solitude, 8vo. 1756.

     6. Essay on National Pride, 8vo. Zurich, 1764.

     7. Treatise on Experience in Physic, 8vo. Zurich, 1764.

     8. Treatise on the Dysentery, 8vo. Zurich, 1767.

     9. Essay on Solitude, 4to. 1773.

    10. Essay on Lavator’s Phisiognomy. Hanover, 1778.

    11. Essays, consisting of agreeable and instructive Tales, 8vo.

    12. Conversations with the king of Prussia.

    13. Treatise on Frederick the Great, 1788.

    14. Select views of the Life, Reign and Character of Frederick
        the Great.

    15. A variety of works published in the Helvetic Journal and in
        the Journals of the Physiological Society at Zurich.

    16. A Work on Zoology.

[3] The king only survived the departure of his physician five weeks; he
died on the 11th of August, 1786.

[4] Hœnigsberg.

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