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How various were those sufferings of Ulysses, in his long continued wanderings, when he became the slave of women (if you consider Circe and Calypso as such): and in all he said he sought to be complaisant and agreeable to every body, nay, put up with abuses from slaves and handmaidens at home, that he might at length compass what he desired ; lut with the spirit with which he is represented, Ajax would have preferred a thousand deaths to suffering such indignities.
In the contemplation of which each ought to consider what is peculiar to himself, and to regulate those peculiarities, without making any experiments how another man's become them; for that manner which is most peculiarly a man's own always becomes him best.
Every man ought, therefore, to study his own genius, so as to become an impartial judge of his own good and bad qualities, otherwise the players will discover better sense than we; for they don't choose for themselves those parts that are the most excellent, but those which are best adapted to them. Those who rely on their voices choose the part of Epigonas or Medus; the best actors that of Menalippa or Clytemnestra. Rupilius, who I remember, always selected that of Antiopa ; Esopus seldom chose that of Ajax. Shall a player, then, observe this upon the stage, and shall a wise man not observe it in the conduct of life? Let us, therefore, most earnestly apply to those parts for which we are best fitted; but should necessity degrade us into characters which it does not forbid, but which every one knows to be wicked. But in reality it does forbid it. Every exhortation which it gives to be patient, every encouragement to trust in God, every consideration which it urges as a support under affliction and distress, is a virtual prohibition of suicide ; because if a man commits suicide he rejects every such advice and encouragement, and disregards every such motive.
“To him who believes either in revealed or natural religion, there is a certain folly in the commission of suicide ; for from what does he fly? from his present sufferings, while death, for aught that he has reason to expect, or at any rate for aught that he knows, may only be the portal to sufferings more intense. Natural religion, I think, gives no countenance to the supposition that suicide can be approved by the Deity, because it proceeds upon the belief that, in another state of existence, ho will compensate good men for the sufferings of the present. At the best, and under either religion, it is a desperate stake. He that commits murder may repent, and, we hope, be forgiven ; but he that destroys himself, while he incurs a load of guilt, cuts off by the act the power of repentance.”-Dymond's Essays, Essay ii. chap. 16.
unsuitable to our genius, let us employ all our care, attention, and industry, in endeavoring to perform them, if not with propriety, with as little impropriety as possible : nor should wo. strive so much to attain excellencies which have not been conferred on us, as to avoid defects.
XXXII. To the two characters above described is added a third, which either accident or occasion imposes on us; and even a fourth, which we accommodate to ourselves by our own judgment and choice. Now kingdoms, governments, honors, dignities, riches, interest, and whatever are the qualities contrary to them, happen through accident, and are directed by occasions; but what part we ourselves should wish to act, originates from our own will. Some, therefore, apply to philosophy, to the civil law, and some to eloquence; and of the virtues themselves some endeavor to shine in one, and some in another.
Men generally are ambitious of distinguishing themselves in that kind of excellence in which their fathers or their ancestors were most famous : for instance, Quintus, the son of Publius Mucius, in the civil law; Africanus, the son of Paulus, in the art of war. Some, however, increase, by merits of their own, that glory which they have received from their fathers; for the same Africanus crowned his military glory with the practice of eloquence. In like manner, Timotheus, the son of Conon, who equaled his father in the duties of the field, but added to them the glory of genius and learning. Sometimes, however, it happens that men, laying aside the imitation of their ancestors, follow a purpose of their own; and this is most commonly the case with such men who, though descended from obscure ancestors, purpose to themselves great aims.
In our search, then, after what is graceful, all those particulars ought to be embraced in our contemplation and study. In the first place, we are to determine who and what manner of men we are to be, and what mode of life we are to adopt—a consideration which is the most difficult of all; for, in our early youth, there is the greatest weakness of judgment, every one chooses to himself that kind of life which he has most fancied. He, therefore, is trepanned into some fixed and settled course of living before he is capable to judge what is the most proper.
* "I have often thought those happy that have been fixed from the first
For the Hercules of Prodicus, as we learn from Xenophon, in his early puberty (an age appointed by nature for every man's choosing his scheme of life) is said to have gone into a solitude, and there sitting down, to have deliberated within himself much, and for a long time, whether of two paths that he saw before him it was better to enter on, the one of pleasure, the other of virtue. This might, indeed, happen to a Jovebegotten Hercules; but not so with us, who imitate those whom we have an opinion of, and are thereby drawn into their pursuits and purposes : for generally prepossessed by the principles of our parents, we are drawn away to their customs and habits. Others, swayed by the judgment of the multitude, are . passionately fond of those things which seem best to the majority. A few, however, either through some good fortune, or a certain excellency of nature, or through the training of their parents, pursue the right path of life.
XXXIII. The rarest class is composed of those who, endowed with an exalted genius, or with excellent education and learning, or possessing both, have had scope enough for deliberating as to what course of life they would be most willing to adopt. Every design, in such a deliberation, ought to be referred to the natural powers of the individual; for since, as I said before, we discover this propriety in every act which is performed, by reference to the qualities with which a man is born, 60, in fixing the plan of our future life, we ought to be still much more careful in that respect, that we may be consistent throughout the duration of life with ourselves, and not deficient in any one duty.
But because nature in this possesses the chief power, and dawn of thought, in a determination to some state of life, by the choice of one whose authority may preclude caprice, and whose influence may prejudice them in favor of his opinion. The general precept of consulting the genius is of little use, unless we are told how the genius can bo known. If it is to be discovered only by experiment, life will be lost before the resolution can be fixed; if any other indications are to be found, they may, perhaps, be very early discerned. At least, if to miscarry in an attempt be a proof of having mistaken the direction of the genius, men appear not less frequently deceived with regard to themselves than to others; and therefore no one has much reason to complain that his life was planned out by his friends, or to be confident that he should have had either more honor or happiness, by being abandoned to the chance of his own fancy."- Dr. Johnson's “ Rambler," No. 19.
fortune the next, we ought to pay regard to both in fixing our scheme of life ; but chiefly to nature, as she is much more firm and constant, insomuch that the struggle sometimes between nature and fortune, seems to be between a mortal and an immortal being. The man, therefore, who adapts his whole system of living to his undepraved nature, let him maintain his constancy; for that, above all things, becomes a man, provided he come not to learn that he has been mistaken in his choice of a mode of life. Should that occur, as it possibly may, a change must be made in all his habits and purposes which, if circumstances shall be favorable, we shall inore easily and readily effect; but, should it happen otherwise, it must be done slowly and gradually. Thus, men of sense think it more suitable that friendships which are disagreeable or not approved should be gradually detached, rather than suddenly cut off. Still, upon altering our scheme of life, we ought to take the utmost care to make it appear that we have done it upon good grounds.
But if, as I said above, we are to imitate our ancestors, this should be first excepted that their bad qualities must not be imitated. In the next place, if nature does not qualify us to imitate them in some things, we are not to attempt it: for instance, the son of the elder Africanus, who adopted the younger son of Paulus, could not, from infirmity of health, resemble his father so much as his father did his grandfather. If, therefore, a man is unable to defend causes, to entertain the people, by haranguing, or to wage war, yet still he ought to do what is in his power; he ought to practice justice, honor, generosity, modesty, and temperance, that what is wanting may be the less required of him. Now, the best inheritance à parent can leave a child—more excellent than any patrimony—is the glory of his virtue and his deeds; to bring disgrace on which ought to be regarded as wicked and monstrous.
XXXIV. And as the same moral duties are not suited to the different periods of life, some belonging to the young, others to the old, we must likewise say somewhat on this distinction. It is the duty of a young man to reverence his elders, and among them to select the best and the worthiest, on whose advice and authority to rely. For the inexperience of youth ought to be instructed and conducted by the wisdom
of the aged. Above all things, the young man ought to be restrained from lawless desires, and exercised in endurance and labor both of body and mind, that by persevering in them, he may be efficient in the duties both of war and peace. Nay, when they even unbend their minds and give themselves up to mirth, they ought to avoid intemperance, and never lose sight of inorality; and this will be the more easy if even upon such occasions they desire that their elders should be associated with them.
As to old men, their bodily labors seem to require diminution, but the exercises of their mind ought even to be increased. Their care should be to assist their friends, the youth, and above all their country, to the utmost of their ability by their advice and experience. Now there is nothing that old age ought more carefully to guard against, than giving itself up to listleszness and indolence. As to luxury, though it is shameful in every stage of life, in old age it is detestable ; but if to that is added intemperance in lawless desires, the evil is doubled; because old age itself thereby incurs disgrace; and makes the excesses of the young more shameless.
Neither is it foreign to my purpose to touch upon the duties of magistrates, of private citizens, and of strangers. It is then the peculiar duty of a magistrate to bear in mind that he represents the state, and that he ought, therefore, to maintain its dignity and glory, to preserve its constitution, to act by its laws, and to remember that these things are committed to his fidel
1 So Dr. South describes joy as exhibited by Adam in the state of innocence, in the most remarkable of his productions, the sermon entitled “Man created in God's image.", "It was (says he) refreshing, but composed, like the gayety of youth tempered with the gravity of age, or the mirth of a festival managed with the silence of contemplation.” The course here prescribed was adopted in the institutions of Lycurgus, and recommended by Plato.
2 "It may very reasonably be suspected that the old draw upon themselves the greatest parts of those insults which they so much lament, and that age is rarely despised but when it is contemptible. If men imagine that excessive debauchery can be made reverend by timo, that knowledge is the consequence of long life, however idly and thoughtlessly employed, that priority of birth will supply the want of steadiness or honesty, can it raise much wonder that their hopes are disappointed, and that they see their posterity rather willing to trust their own eyes in their progress into life, than enlist themselves under guides who have lost their way ?"-Dr. Johnson.