« PreviousContinue »
and for one week, till he had finished his essay, sat up and wrote at night, and lay a-bed in the morning. He could raise and correct in the day-time what he had written; but could not compose except at night. When his essay was finished, he returned to his early habits.
Now this is a decisive answer to those who say 'it is all custom; you write better at night, because that is the time yon have been accustomed to employ for study;' for here, the custom was just the reverse. And equally vain is the explanation, that 'the night hours are quiet, and you are sure of having no interruption.' For this student was sure of being quite free from interruption from five o'clock till chapel-time at eight. And the streets were much more still then than at midnight. And again: any explanation connected with daylight breaks down equally. For, as far as that is concerned, in the winter-time it makes no difference whether you have three hours more candle-light in the earlier part of the night, or before sunrise.
There is a something that remains to be explained, and it is better to confess ignorance than to offer an explanation that explains nothing.
One other circumstance connected with hours has not been hitherto accounted for—namely, the sudden cold which comes on just at the first peep of dawn. Some say the earth is gradually cooling after the sun has set; and consequently the cold must have reached its height just before the return of the sun. This theory sounds plausible to those who have had little or no personal experience of daybreak; but it does not agree with the fact. The cold does not gradually increase during the night; but the temperature grows alternately warmer and colder, according as the sky is clouded or clear. And all who have been accustomed to night-travelling must have often experienced many such alternations in a single night. And they also find that the cold at day-break comes on very suddenly: so much so, that in spring and autumn it often happens that it catches the earth-worms, which on mild nights lie out of their holes: and you may often see a whole grass-plat strewed with their frozen bodies in a frosty morning. If the cold had not come on very suddenly, they would have had time to withdraw into their holes.
And any one who is accustomed to go out before daylight will often, in the winter, find the roads full of liquid mud halfan-hour before dawn, and by sunrise as hard as a rock. Then those who had been in bed will often observe that 'it was a hard frost last night,' when in truth there had been no frost at all till day-break.
Who can explain all these phenomena? The subject is so curious, that the digression into which it has led, will, I trust, be pardoned.
'At for the passions and studies of the mind, avoid . . .'
Of persons who have led a temperate life, those will have the best chance of longevity who have done hardly anything else but live ;—what may be called the neuter verbs—not active or passive, but only being: who have had little to do, little to suffer; but have led a life of quiet retirement, without exertion of body or mind,—avoiding all troublesome enterprise, and seeking only a comfortable obscurity. Such men, if of a pretty strong constitution, and if they escape any remarkable calamities, are likely to live long. But much affliction, or much exertion, and, still more, both combined, will be sure to tell upon the j constitution—if not at once, yet at least, as years advance. One who is of the character of an active or passive verb, or, still more, both combined, though he may be said to have lived long in everything but years, will rarely reach the age of the neuters.
ESSAY XXXI. OF SUSPICION.
SUSPICIONS amongst thoughts are like bats amongst birds, —they ever fly by twilight. Certainly they are to be repressed, or, at the least, well guarded, for they cloud the mind, they lose friends, and they check with' business, whereby business cannot go on currently2 and constantly; they dispose kings to tyranny, husbands to jealousy, wise men to irresolution and melancholy; they are defects, not in the heart, but in the brain, for they take place in the stoutest natures, as in the example of Henry VII. of England. There was not a more suspicious man nor a more stout; and in such a composition' they do small hurt, for commonly they are not admitted but with examination whether they be likely or no; but in fearful natures they gain ground too fast . There is nothing makes a man suspect much, more than to know little; and, therefore, men should remedy suspicion by procuring to know more, and not to keep their suspicions in smother.4 AVhat would men have?—do they think those they employ and deal with are saints? do they not think they will have their own ends, and be truer to themselves than to them? therefore there is no better way to moderate suspicions, than to account upon such suspicions as true, and yet to bridle them as false; for so far a man ought to make use of suspicions, as to provide, as if that should be true that he suspects, yet it may do him no hurt Suspicions that the mind of itself gathers, a're but buzzes; but suspicions that are artificially nourished, and put into men's heads by the tales and whisperings of others, have stings. Certainly, the best mean5 to clear the way in this same wood of suspicion, is frankly to communicate them with6 the party that he suspects: for thereby he shall be sure to know more of the truth of them than he did before, and withal shall make that party more circumspect, not to give further co-use of suspicion; but this would1 not be done to men of base natures, for they, if they find themselves once suspected, will never be true, The Italian says, 'Sospetto licencia fede ;'2 as if suspicion did give a passport to faith; but it ought rather to kindle it to discharge itself.
1 Check with. Interfere with. See page in.
5 Currently. With, continued progression. 'Time, ns it currently goes on, establishes a custom.'—Hayward.
3 Composition. Temperament. 'A very proud or a very suspicious temper, falseness,, or, sensuality .... these are the ingredients in the compositim of that man whom we call a scoroer.'—Atterbury.
* Smother. A state of being stifled. See page 306. •Mean. Means. See page 216.
• Communicate with. Imparl to. See page 305.
ANTITHETA ON SUSPICION.
* * 'Suspicio fldem, absolvit.
'Merita ejus fides suspccta est, quaro 'lie sdio U suspected U not on his
su-spicio labef.icit. honour.''
'The fidelity which suspicion overthrow, deserves to be suspected.'
'Suspicions amongst thoughts are like bats amongst birds,—they ever Jiy by twilight.'
As there are dim-sighted persons, who live in a sort of perpetual tioilight, so there are some who, having neither much clearness of head, nor a very elevated tone of morality, are perpetually haunted by suspicions of everybody and everything. Such a man attributes—judging in great measure from himself -—interested and selfish motives to every one. Accordingly, having no great confidence in his own penetration, he gives no one credit for an open and straightforward character, and will always suspect some underhand dealings in every one, even when he is unable to perceive any motive for such conduct, and wben the character of the party affords no ground for suspicion. - ('Ill-doers are ill-deemers.'3) One,.on the contrary, who hag a fair share of intelligence, and is himself thoroughly upright, will be comparatively exempt from this torment . He knows, from consciousness, that there is one honest man in the world; and he will consider it very improbable that there should be but one. He will therefore look carefully to the general character and conduct of those he has to deal with; suspecting those—and those only—who have given some indications of a want of openness and sincerity, trusting those who have given proof of an opposite character, and keeping his judgment suspended as to those of whom he has not sufficient knowledge.
'Would. Sliould. 'As for perrolntion, which belongeth to separation,, trid srould be made by clarifying, by a clarion of milk put into warm beer.'—Bacon's Hat. History.
- ' Suspicion releases faith.' s See Troserhs for Copy-lines.
Such a man has (as was observed in the note on the Essay on 'Cunning') a better knowledge of human nature than another just equal to him in experience and sagacity, whose tone of morality is low. For he knows that there are knaves in the world; and he knows also that there are honest men; while the other can hardly be brought to believe in the existence of thorough-going honesty.
And the frank and simple-hearted will deal better, on the whole, than the suspicious, even with those who are not of the very highest moral character. For these, if they find that they have credit for speaking truth, when there is no good ground for suspecting the contrary, and that insidious designs are not imputed to them without reason, will feel that they have a character to keep up or to lose: and will be, as it were, put upon their honour. But these same persons, perhaps, if they find themselves always suspected, will feel like the foxes in one of Gay's fables, who, finding that they had an incurably bad name for stealing poultry, thought that they might as well go on with the practice, which would, at any rate, be imputed to them.
A dean of a college, at one of our universities, told an undergraduate, who was startled and shocked at finding his word doubted, that he could not trust the young men for speaking truth, for that they regarded a lie to the dean as no lie. And, probably, this was really the case with the majority of them. For when they found that a man's word was not believed by him, they had no scruple about saying to him what was untrue; on the ground that where no confidence was reposed, none could be violated. And these same men, when the office of dean -was held by another Fellow, of opposite character, who put them ou