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That is in other words, “ The same employments and in clinations which were the entertainment of virtuous men upon earth, make up their happiness in elysium.”
After the mind has been employed on contemplations suitable to its greatness, it is unnatural to run into sudden mirth or levity, but we must let the soul subside as it rose, by proper degrees. My late considerations .... impressed a certain gravity upon my mind, which is much above the little gratification received from starts of humour and fancy, and threw me into a pleasing sadness. In this state of thought I have been looking at the fire, and in a pensive manner reflecting upon
the great misfortunes and calamities incident to human life, among which there are none that touch fo fensibly as those which befal persons who eminently love and meet with fatal interruptions of their happiness, when they least expect it. The piety of children to parents, and the affection of parents to their children, are the effects of instinct : but the affection between lovers and friends is founded on reason and choice, which has always made me think the sorrows of the latter much more to be pitied than those of the former. The contemplation of distresses of this sort softens the mind of man and makes the heart better. It extinguishes the seeds of envy and ill-will towards mankind, corrects the pride of prosperity, and beats down all that fierceness and insolence which are apt to get into the minds of the daring and fortunate.
For this reason the wise Athenians, in their theatrical performances, laid before the eyes of the people the greatest affictions which could befal human life, and insensibly polished their tempers by such representations. Among the moderns, indeed, there has arisen a chimerical method of disposing the fortune of the persons represented, according to what they call poetical justice, and letting none be unhappy but those who deserve it. In such cases, an intelligent spectator, if he is concerned, knows he ought not to be so, and can learn nothing from such a tenderness, but that he is a weak creature, whose passions cannot follow the dictates of his understanding. It is very natural when one is got into such a way of thinking, to recollect those examples of forrow which have made the strongest impression upon our imaginations. An instance or two of such you'll give me leave to communicate.
A young gentleman and lady of ancient and honourable houses in Cornwall, had from their childhood entertained for each other a generous and noble paffion, which had been long opposed by their friends, by reason of the inequality of their fortunes; but their constancy to each other, and obedience to those on whom they depended, wrought so much upon their relations, that these celebrated lovers were at length joined in marriage. Soon after their nuptials, the bridegroom was obliged to go into a foreign country to take care of a confiderable fortune which was left him by a relation, and came very opportunely to improve their moderate circumstances. They received the congratulations of all the country on this occasion; and I remember it was a common sentence in every one's mouth, “ You see how faithful love is rewarded.”
He took this agreeable voyage, and sent home every post fresh accounts of his success in his affairs abroad; but åt last (though he designed to return with the next ship) he lamented in his letters, that business would detain him some time longer from home, because he would give himself the pleasure of an unexpected arrival.
The young lady, after the heat of the day, walked every evening on the sea-shore, near which she lived, with a familiar friend, her husband's kinswoman, and diverted herself with what objects they met there, or upon discourse of the future methods of life, in the happy change of their circumstances. They stood one evening on the shore together in a perfect tranquillity, observing the setting of the sun, the calm face of the deep, and the silent heaving of the waves, which gently rolled towards them, and broke at their feet; when at a distance her kinswoman saw something float on the waters, which The fancied was a chest, and with a smile told her, she saw it first, and if it came ashore full of jewels, she had a right to it. They both fixed their eyes upon it and entertained themselves with the subject of the wreck, the cousin still asserting her right, but promising, if it was a prize, to give her a very rich coral for the child of which she was then big, provided the
might be godmother. Their mirth foon abated, when they observed upon the nearer approach, that it was a human body. The young lady who had a heart naturally filled with pity and compassion, made many melancholy reflections on the occasion. “Who knows," said she, “but this man may be the only hope and heir of a wealthy house? the darling of indulgent parents, who are now in impertinent mirth, and pleasing themselves with the thoughts of offering him a bride they have got ready for him ? or may he not be the master of a family that wholly depended upon his life? There may, for ought we know, be half a dozen fatherless children and a tender wife now exposed to poverty by his death. What pleasure might he have promised himself in the different welcome he was to have from her and them? But let us go away, 'tis a dreadful fight! The best office we can do is to take care that the poor man, whoever he is, may be decently buried.” She turned away when a wave threw the carcass on the shore. The kinswoman immediately shrieked out, « Oh, my cousin !” and fell upon the ground. The unhappy wife went to help her friend, when she saw her own husband at her feet, and dropped in a swoon upon the body. An old woman, who had been the gentleman's nurse, came out about this time to call the ladies in to supper, and found her child (as she always called him) dead on the shore, her mistress and kinswoman both lying dead by him. Her loud lamentations, and calling her young master to life, foon awoke the friend from her trance: but the wife was gone for ever.
When the family and neighbourhood got together round the bodies, no one asked any question, but the objects before them told the story.
Incidents of this nature are the more moving when they are drawn by persons concerned in the catastrophe, notwithstanding they are often oppressed beyond the power of giving them in a distinct light, except we gather their sorrow from their inability to speak it.
I have two original letters, written both on the same day, which are to me exquisite in their different kinds. The occasion was this : a gentleman who had courted a most agreeable