Page images

fiftance in Diftrefs. After great Importunity he yields to his Entreaties, but with fuch a fullen Air, and reluctant Countenance, as muft offend even the Receiver.—Who would not feel the Odioufnefs of granting a Requeft with fuch Circumftances of Indecency? Suppoie another Man conferring a Favour with fuch a pleafing Chearfulnefs and humane A4drefs, as makes the Giver appear to be the Perfon obliged—In this Cafe, it is impoffible for any, but the moft brutal and degenerate, not to be fenfible of the Comelinefs of fuch a Demeanor, and applaud this amiable Manner of heightening the Value of a generous Action.

In fuch Points of Behaviour then as thefe, which are the moft material Parts of Good-breeding, we have the fame Rule to form our Judgments, as in the imitative Arts. They depend not on the Caprice of Fafhion, or the varying Complexion of Times and Climates; but are founded on that internal Senfe of Decorum, that univerfal Humanity, common and natural to all Mankind; which is the Ground of our Love and Hatred, the Guide of our Approbation and Diflike.

If we proceed farther, and extend our Enquiries to Things of higher Importance, to the nobleft and moft eflential Beauty, the Purity of a moral Conduct.

That Culture of the Mind, interrupted Sopbronius,

which leads a Man to fee and feel the Comelinefs of

Virtue, has undoubtedly a fure Foundation, and an

infallible Standard in Nature. And as this kind of

. Refinement Refinement is of the higheft Concern to us, it muf t be allowed to have a juft Claim to our beft Attention and Regard. But here, PbilocLs, I muft, flop. Any thing, beyond this, feems to me a Misfortune rather than an Happinefs.

It has been juftly obferved, that Men of a delicate Frame are too fenfibly affe&ed with the Accidents of Life. Upon any profperous Event, their Spirits ate apt to be elevated beyond all Bounds: And in Aciverfity, their Grief pierces fo deep into the tender frame, that it becomes infupportable. It ispoffible, perhaps, that in lome Inftances they may have more lively Enjoyments than Men of a coarfer Mould; but then they have alfo more pungent Sorrows. Occurrences which would have no Effect upon a ftronwer Mind, afflict them to the laft Degree: the moft trivial Difappointment, the Omiffion of a Ceremony, a carekfs Word or Gefture, nay even a Look will difcompofe their Temper, and caft an heavy Gloom on their Minds.

This Obfervation, returned Pbilocles, is founded on a miftaken Notion of the true Character of Delicacy. If fine Stnfations are not fupported with ftrong Senfe, they dwindle into Effeminacy: nor had ever any Man an elegant Tafte, who had not alfo a found Underftanding. There is, indeed, in a delicate Frame, a certain Degree of Softnefs; but then it is only juft as much as fuffices to prevent the Inconveniences, that attend upon the rough and boifterous Paffions. Something, it muft be owned, there is in Z-4 it, it, not unlike a feminine Tendernefs; but no more than ferves to render the Mind fufceptible of the fine Impreffions of Beauty, and give Amiablenefs to that mafculine Strength, on which a delicate Tafte fo much depends, that it cannot poffiblyfubfift without it. To be able to form a right Judgment of Arts and Manners 3 to fee and t'e'el their Symmetry and Proportion ; there are, you muft be fenfible, fo many Views to be taken in, and fuch Variety of Circum'ftances to be compared ; that it is impoffible any one can arrive at true Refinement, who has not ftrong natural Abilities. There may, it is true, be good Senfe, where the Exquiutenefs of Tafte is wanting: but there can be no exquifue Tafte without good Senfe.

That Frame of Mind, therefore, which you reprefent as labouring under all the Inconveniences of nice and tender Senfations, I can by no Means allow to have any fair Pretenfions to the Character of Genuine Delicacy 5 which is never attended with thofe Confequences, that flow from an Imbecillity of Paffions,

Were I to allow this, returned Sopbranius, yet Delicacy, according to your own Idea of it, is certainly liable to many unhappy Confequences. Let me mention one; which, I think, fhould very much abate a Man's Ardour of obtaining this Quality. As it has fuch an "inviolable Attachment to every thing that "is elegant and polite; and fuch an Abhorrence of *' Inelegance and Coarfenefs [/>]; it rnuft neceflarily deprive a Man of that great Satisfaction in Life, the Frequency of focial Enjoyment. Seldom will he be able to find Company adapted to his Tafte; his Ex

[t] Vide p. 302, fupra.

pe&ations peftatiofts ton Mgh; ih'd tn'e Furid 'to fuppty them is extreme fcanty. Hotor few ire there, who tVer aim at fuch Refinement! How rmrcn fewer, who attain it! The Generality #f M«n wimt therefore be difagreeable and irkfome to him: and he will very rarely meet with one, from whofe Society he can receive any tolerable Degree of Entertainment.

What then has he gained by this faftidious Nicenefs? He has refined hirhfelf into 'a Difinclination to be pleafed with the Intercourfes of almoft all around him, and the'ordinary Satisfactions of his Being. Forfaking therefore, his own Kind, he refolves, in a Fit of Spleen, to fequefter himfelf from the World, as being too delicate to live amongft fuch uncultivated Mortals. But in vain does he feek Redrefs from Solitude : for, by this Eftrangement from human Commerce, he contrails, by Degrees, fuch an inveterate Peevifhnefs and'Severity, as imbitters his whole Life and ends, perhaps, at laft in a fettled Mifanthropy.

This, Fbibelei, may prove, and, I doubt not, has often proven', the X3orifequdnce of cultivating fuch a Delicacy of Sentiment.

And is this a defirable State? Is it any Symptom of a found Habit? On the contrary; are not thefe the fad Indications of a vitiated and difeafed Conftitution of Mind?

How different is the State of that Man, who is not over-nice and curious in his Demands of focia) Intercourfe! As he has not raifed his Ideas of human Nature to an-immoderate Height, he is content to take Mankind as-he finds them, with Allowances to


their Foibles and Imperfections. And, as he has not refined his Senfations into an Inaptitude of being pleafed, he can fcarce converfe with any of his Fellowcreatures, without fome Degree of Entertainment.

That Refinement then, which robs a Man of thefe ordinary Satisfactions, is furely rather to be avoided than purfued: and a Temper even the moft infenfible to every Beauty and Grace, is far preferable to a Difpofition fo hard to be pleafed, and which can be fo feldom gratified.

If this Delicacy of Tafte, replied Philocles, narrows the Circle of wur Friendfhips, it certainly renders them more perfect. An Indifference to the Company and Converfation of the many, will add Strength and Duration to our particular Attachments. It is very true, a Man of an unrefined Frame, how ftrong foever his Senfe may be, is not nice and exact in felecting his Acquaintance: almoft any are fufficient to anfwer his Demands. Such a Man has not Senfations fine enough to make an Election; and has therefore no Friends, becaufe he has no Delicacy. But is that a defireable State of Mind which excludes one of the greateft Ornaments and Joys of human Life? It muft be owned, that he who has digefted his Obfervations on Mankind, and formed his Mind to an Excellence and Elegance of Sentiment, cannot take any great Delight in mixt and undiftinguifhed Company; and will therefore be inclined to limit his Friendfhips and Acquaintance. But his Affections, being thus circumfcribed within narrow Bounds, will confequently rife to an higher P.tch, than if they were more diffufed. This is fo far from Icflening, that it increafes, the


« PreviousContinue »