Publick Employment, AND An Active Life Preferr'd to SOLITUDE.
IT was an ill Omen to the success of his Argument, that in ipso limine, the ve∣ry Threshold of his Essay, he should think to esta∣blish it upon so wide a mistake, as what is deriv'd from the sense of an impious Poet, and the sentences of a few Philosophers; insinuating by the unconcern'd and inactive life of Him who gives life and activity to all Beings, that to re∣semble God (wherein consists our greatest perfection) we should sit Page 2 still, and do nothing. Dissolvitur autem religio,*si credamus Epicuro illa dicenti: Be this our Faith, says Lactantius, and farewell Religion: And if Memmius be perswaded to gratifie his Ease, by being made believe that the supreme Arbiters of our actions would take little notice of them, it was no conclu∣sion to the more illuminated Chri∣stian, that to approch the tranquil∣lity of the Deity, men should pur∣sue their Ease, or hide their Ta∣lents in a Napkin. God is always so full of Employment, that the most accurate Definers of him, stile him to be Actus purus, to de∣note his eternal and incomprehen∣sible activity? Creating, Preserving, and Governing: alwaies doing Ju∣stice and giving Laws, rewarding the Vertuous, and defending the Innocent. For what Cicero affirms of the Philosophic life, relates to their Science, not their Solitude;Page 3 and so indeed the Conscience of our Duty, joined with our perfor∣mance of it, renders us like our Maker, and therefore rightly in∣ferr'd by Plutarch, that the lives of Great Persons should resemble that of the Gods, who delight in such actions as proceed from benefi∣cence, and doing good to others; since the contemplation of it alone was superior to all other satisfa∣ctions: But what if the same Ci∣cero tell us in another place, that those who do nothing considerable in this world, are to be reputed but as so many dead men in it?*Mihi enim qui nihil agit, esse omnino non videtur, says he; and what is yet more remarkable, as 'tis oppos'd to what he seems to press from the lazy Deity of Epicurus: Certainly, God that would not permit the World it self to remain in Idëa on∣ly, but publish'd and brought it forth to light by the very noblest Page 4 of all his actions (for such was its educing out of nothing,) and that of seven whole days and nights,* reposed but one himself; and has been ever since preserving and go∣verning what he made; shews us us by this, and by the continual motions of the Stars, and revo∣lutions of the heavenly Bodies, that to resemble him (which is the sum of felicity) we should alwaies be in action, and that there is no∣thing more agreeable to his na∣ture. If we have recourse to the mystick Theology of the Antients, we shall find there also, that even Minerva could not conceive with∣out the operations of Vulcan, which signifies labour and the active life, no more than Iupiter himself; and that Hercules was not admitted into the Coelestial Courts, 'till he had first produc'd the Tro∣phies of his heroic atchievements: To this all the Mythology of the Page 5Heathens refer; and therefore doubtless, if Beatitude be our sum∣mum bonum (as all consent it to be) 'twas well said of the Philoso∣pher,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 that Bea∣titude was Action,* and that Action by way of transcendency, was pro∣per only to Man.
But to pursue the method of our ingenious Author, whilest he is thus eloquently declaming against Publick Employment, Fame, Com∣mand, Riches, Pleasure, Conversa∣tion and all the topics of his Fron∣tispiece, and would perswade us wholly to retire from the active World; why is he at all con∣cern'd with the empty breath of Fame, and so very fond of it, that without remembring the known saying, Nemo eodem tempore assequi potest magnam famam, & magnam quietem, would have men celebra∣ted for doing nothing? Verily there is more of Ambition and Page 6 empty glory in some Solitudes, and affected Retreats, than in the most expos'd and conspicuous actions whatsoever: Ambition is not only in publick places, and pompous circumstances; but at home, and in the interior life; Heremits them∣selves are not recluse enough to seclude that subtile spirit, Vanity: Gloriari otio iners ambitio est,* 'Tis a most idle ambition to vaunt of idleness, and but a meer boast, to lie concealed too apparently; since it does but proclaim a desire of being observed: wouldst thou be indeed Retir'd, says the Philoso∣pher, let no man know it: Ambi∣tion is never buried; repress'd it may be, not extinguish'd.
Neocles brother to Epicurus, as Suidas tells us, was the Father of that wary expression, Latenter esse vivendum, whence Balzac assumed it: What says Plutarch? Even he that said it, said it that he might be Page 7 known: I will not add how se∣verely he pursues it (because our Author may be concern'd, that a second Impression has (I'm told) transmitted us his name) but if it be the property of those who are excessively ambitious themselves to redargue the glory and dignity of their Corrivals, that they alone may possess it; the resemblance was not inept, which compar'd those decriers of Publick Employ∣ment to the Slaves in Gallies,* whose faces are averse from the place to which they tend, and ad∣vance forward, whilest they seem to go backwards. That which ren∣ders Publick Employment culpable, is, that many affect Greatness, few Vertue, for which honours are a∣lone desirable; be good and you cannot be too popular, commu∣nity makes it better; for permit me to affirm, that there is an ho∣nourable and noble ambition, and Page 8 nothing I think which more di∣stinguishes man from brutes, their low and useless appetites; whilest this 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, this despi∣sing of glory is the mother of sloth, and of all unworthy actions: Well therefore did the Philoso∣pher assign its contrary,*Magnani∣mity, and even some sort of Ambiti∣on too, a kind of rank amongst the Virtues: and we know Contemptu famae, contemni virtutes, and that even life it self (if the circumstances be handsome) will be parted withall to preserve it.
But let us suppose the motives why men pursue greatness, to be some of the particulars here enu∣merated: may we not as well affirm Celador flies it for the appen∣dant burthen, and because 'tis ex∣pensive, out of closeness and ava∣rice, humour, or want of ability? some grow sullen and peevish that they be not advanc'd; others are Page 9 naturally Hypocondriacs and Sa∣turnine, tempers of the basest aloy: But when opulent & great persons (says he) undertake Publick Char∣ges, the very rabble have so much of prudence as to condemn them for mad: when Philosophers, they serve their Country, not their in∣clinations, &c. None indeed but the rabble make that judgment; for being commonly mad, they think all others like themselves; and when Philosophers pretend it, it seems by him they cease to be Philosophers, and then 'tis no mat∣ter what they say. The truth is, men then begin to praise Retire∣ment, when either no longer vigo∣rous and capable to act, that their spirits and bodies fail; through age, infirmity, and decay of senses; or when they cannot otherwise attain to what they aspire; which sufficiently justifies the preference of Employment; since to be thus Page 10 happy, they must first begin to dote. Nor does the Merchant traffick so dearly for Solitude, but for his Ease, and the difference is wide between them: If to be owner of a stately house, to be bravely furnish'd, to have a fair La∣dy, a rich Coach, and noble Reti∣nue; if to eat good meat, drink the most generous Wine, and make more noise amidst his jolly friends, than ever he did either at Sea, or the Camp, be a Merchant or a Soul∣diers Solitude; who would not desire the pretty Retreat which he describes? For this (I take it) 'tis that both Merchants plow the Seas, that Lawyers break their brains, and Souldiers fight battels: in sum, to live at ease, and splen∣didly; who before, and whilest employ'd, were the Pillars and Ornaments of their Country. When Caesar is brought for an in∣stance, aliquando licebit mihi Page 11 vivere, were it possible to wrest it to the sence of this argument; it ought yet so far to disswade us from the pursuit of his example, as 'tis perfectly opposite to an Evange∣lical, as well as moral position: No man (saith S. Paul) lives to himself:*No man, says Cicero, is born for himself: Certainly the great Au∣gustus had learn'd that lesson too well to affect repose for himself on∣ly; or with an intention to relax the excellent Government which rendred that age of his so happy above others: He knew Iustice and Fortitude were active Vertues, and that Princes are Shepherds, whose function 'tis not to play all day on the Pipe, and make love to Ama∣rillis; but to attend the good of their flock: Nor indeed should they trifle their hours in giving audience to Bouffoons, or sport with Apes: Would it become an Em∣peror, who should march before Page 12Legions, and give Laws to King∣doms, to play with Cockle-shells, or be stabbing Flys, when Ambas∣sadors are attending him, as Domi∣tian did? For what can this mihi vivere less signifie in a Prince, whose greatest glory proceeds from actions, profitable and pub∣lick, and to live for others, such as renown'd the memory of this gal∣lant Hero? whilest the rest aban∣doning themselves to ease, effemi∣nacy, and phantastick pleasures (like Tiberius in his Capriae) be∣came the pity of their age, and the subjects of Tragedy and Satyr: Caesar then breath'd after Retire∣ment for relaxation only, and that he might revert to his charge with the more courage and vigour: Thus Scipio and Lelius went apart, thus Cicero and Varro, and not to sing Verses to the Forests and Rocks, and dialogize with Echoes, the entertainments of Solitude.
Page 13 Neither does he less erre in pre∣ferring it to publick business in re∣spect of dignity; seeing that which takes care for the being of so many Societies, is infinitely more honou∣rable than what has only regard to it self; and if his Logic hold, quod effecit tale, est magis tale, those are most to be reputed happy, who render others so; since God and Nature come under the considera∣tion: Could his happy man remain in that desirable estate, without the active lives of others to protect him from rapine, feed and supply him with Bread, Cloaths, and de∣cent necessaries? For 'tis a grand mistake to conceive, that none are employ'd, but such as are all day on horse-back, fighting Battels, or sitting in Tribunals: What think you of Plow-men and Artificers? nay the labours of the brain that excogitates new Arts, and produce so many useful things for humane Page 14Society, opposed to our Gentleman-hawker and Hunter, who rises so early and takes so much pains to so little purpose? A good Architect may without great motion ope∣rate more than all the inferior Workmen, who toil in the Quarries and dip their hands in mortar; and when the Historian had sum'd up a world of gallant persons who fought bravely for their Country,* he did not esteem those to be less employed who serv'd it by their Counsel: The Common-wealth is an assembly regulated by active Laws, maintain'd by Commerce, disciplin'd by Vertue, cultivated by Arts, which would fall to universal con∣fusion and solitude indeed, with∣out continual care and publick in∣tendency; and he that governs as he ought, is Master of a good Trade in the best of Poets sense as well as mine: Page 15
We may with more justice con∣demn the ambition of Pyrrhus than derive any advantage from his re∣ply: For my part I think we are obliged to those glorious Conque∣rors for the repose, knowledge and morality they have imparted to us; when but for their Atchiev∣ments and heroic actions, more than half the World had still re∣mained barbarous, and the uni∣verse but one vast Solitude indeed. The Activity of men does best co∣ver their frailties: Arts and Indu∣stry having supplyed that which Nature has denyed us; and if Feli∣city consist in Perfection, certainly whatever makes us to approch it neerest, renders us most happy. But his Wise-mans wit consists it seems in repute only: I had ra∣ther be wise than so reputed; and then is this no more advantage Page 17 to Solitude, than the Melancholy and Silence he speaks of; the one being the basest of humors, and the other the most averse from In∣struction, which is the Parent of Virtue: whilst Felicity in this ar∣ticle, appears the result of cheat; and imposture, and in making men seem what indeed they are not; whereas active persons produce themselves to the world, and are sooner to be judged what they are by what they do, according to that well known test Officium in∣dicat virum. As therefore truth is preferable to hypocrisie, so is Em∣ployment before this Solitude: Had he affirm'd Peace was better than War, he had gain'd my suffrage even almost to an unjust one; but whilst his antitheta are Solitude and Employment to state the pe∣riod of Felicity, he as widely mi∣stakes, as one that should affirm from the Text, that the milk and Page 18honey of Canaan dropp'd into the mouths of the Israelites without a stroke for it; whilst it cost so ma∣ny years travels in the Desert, and bloudy battels, and that the wisest and happiest men in it, were the most active, and the most employ'd.
To instance in the passion of States-men, breathing after self-en∣joyment, and that to posses it a moment, they are even ready to disoblige their dearest interest; is not certainly to commend Re∣tirement, but declame against it. Had David been well employ'd, fair Bathsheba had wash'd in her Garden securely, and poor Vriah out-liv'd many a hard Siege: 'Tis an old saying, and a true one, Quem Diabolus non invenit occupatum, ip∣se occupat, the Devil never leaves the Idle unbusied: But if Nature, Inclination and Pleasure vote (as is pretended) for Solitude; even the most contemplative men will Page 19 tell us, as well as Philosophers and Divines, that Nature is deprav'd, Inclination propense to Evil, and Pleasure it self, if not simply evil, no moral Virtue. Publick employ∣ment is not unnatural in its ascent; for there are degrees and methods to it: but if ambitious men will needs leap when they may safely walk, or run themselves out of breath, when they may take time and consider; the fault is not in the steps, but the intemperance of the Person: Those who indeed arive to greatness by their Vices, sit in slippery places, whilst Virtue only is able to secure her favo∣rites: and in these sublimer Orbs, if men continue humble, and go∣vern their passions, amidst the temptations of Pride and Inso∣lence; if they remain generous, chast, and patient against all the affaults of avarice, dissolution, and the importunity of Clients; Page 20 how does such a Persons example improve the world, illustrate, and adorn his station? how infinitely exceed the Misers Diamond and all his tinsell, which shines indeed, but is lock'd up in the dark, and like the Candle is set under a bu∣shel? Men of Parts should pro∣duce their talents, and not enclo∣sing themselves as Conjurers within their Circles, raise a thousand me∣lancholy devils that pervert their abilities, and render them, if not dangerous, useless to their genera∣tion. Anaxagoras was a wary Per∣son, yet he convers'd with Peri∣cles; Plato with Dion; Panetius with Scipio; Cato with Athenodo∣rus, and Pythagoras with all the World: Would Philosophers be more active and Socratical; Prin∣ces and Great-men would become Philosophers, and States consum∣mately happy; You know who said it: The truth is, a Wise man is a Page 21 perpetual Magistrate, and never a private Person; Not one City,* or place, but the World is his domi∣nion: whilst those who introduce the example of Dioclesian, and the fift Charles, to justifie the honour and delices of Retirement, take for the One a proscrib'd Prince, whose former tyrannies had de∣priv'd him of a Kingdom, and his fears of a resumption; and for the Other, a decrepid old Emperor, whose hands were so unable to manage a Scepter, that, as one tells us, he had not strength enough to open a letter; not to insist on his other infirmities, and suspicion which induc'd the more partial Historians to write; he did it plainly to prevent an ungrateful violence; or (as others) out of indignation to see himself so far outdone by our English*Harry.Page 22 Whatever motive it were (for there are more assign'd) so far was this felicity from smiling on those who acted the Scene; that the ve∣ry grimaces of fortune alone, so af∣frighted them from society and the publick, as to unking themselves whilst they were living. I will say nothing of another Pageantry resembling this, which has hap∣ned in our own times; because the frailty of the Sex carries more of excuse with it. But it seems no retreat can secure Great∣ness from the Censures and Revenge of those they have once injur'd; and therefore even Solitude it self is not the Asylum pretended: But that which can best protect us, is, and that certainly is Grandeur, as more out of reach, and neerest Olympus top. Aeleas the King of Scythia was wont to say ingenuous∣ly, that whilst he was doing no∣thing, he differ'd nothing from his Page 23Groom; and Plutarch exceedingly reproves this shameful abdication of Princes without cause: What a dishonour (says he) had it been for Agesilaus, Numa, Darius, Peri∣cles, Solon, or Cato to have cast off their Diadems, torn their Purple, and broken their Scepters in pieces for the despondency of a Dioclesi∣an? or to have given place to proud and aspiring Boys? How was Caius Gracchus reproch'd but for retiring from his Charge a lit∣tle, though on the death of his own Brother? If ever such Retreats be justifiable, 'tis when Tyrants are at Helm, and the Common-wealth in the power of cruel persons: When the wicked (says Solomon) rise, men hide themselves:* then, bene vixit, bene qui latuit: if it were not yet infinitely more laudable with De∣mosthenes, even then to be most active, and endeavour its rescue: For things can never arive at that Page 24 pass, ut nulli actioni honestae sit lo∣cus; 'tis Seneca's inference from the bravery of Socrates, who re∣sisted no less than thirty of those Athenian Monsters together: and how many thirtys more our glo∣rious Prince did not desist to op∣pose, we have liv'd to see in the fruits of our present felicity; and to the eternal renown of that il∣lustrious Duke, who so resolutely unnestled the late Iuncto of Iniqui∣ty. Turpe est cedere oneri, 'tis a weakness to truckle under a bur∣then, and be weary of what we have with good advice underta∣ken: He is neither worthy nor valiant, that flies business, but whose spirit advances in courage, with the pressure and difficulties of his Charge: Were it not gallant ad∣vice (says Plutarch) to disswade Epaminondas from taking care of the Army? bid Lycurgus enact no more wholesome Laws? and So∣cratesPage 25 to teach Wisdom no longer? Would you bring Vertue into Obli∣vion? should not Arts improve? becomes it Doctors to be silent? This were taking light out of the world, and pulling the Sun from his glorious Orbe; would dissolve Laws, humane Sciences, and even Government it self: But he pro∣ceeds, Had Themistocles been never known of the Athenians, Greece had never given Xerxes a repulse: Had the Romans still slighted Ca∣millus, where had that renowned City been? If Plato had not known Dion, Sicily had yet groan'd under Tyranny: But as the light not on∣ly makes us known to each other, but also renders us mutually useful; so the being publick, and conspi∣cuous to the World, does not on∣ly acquire glory, but presents us means of illustrating our Virtues; whilst those who through sloth, or dissidence never exercise them∣selves, Page 26 though they possibly may have good in them, yet they do none.
Indeed the Petalism in Sicily cau∣sed the most able Statesmen to re∣tire themselves; because they would not be subject to the aspi∣ring humour of those pragmatical spirits who affected a rotation in the Publick Affairs; by which means experienced persons being laid aside, those Pretenders to the Politics, had in a short time so con∣founded things together, that the very People who assisted to the Change, were the first that courted them to resume their power; ab∣rogating that foolish Law which themselves had more foolishly enacted: To the like condition had the Athenian Ostracisme neer reduced that once glorious Repub∣lick: and what had like to be the Catastrophe even of this our Nation, upon the same model (when every Page 27 man forsooth would be a Magi∣strate) sad has been the experience. Men may be employed, though not all as Senators and Kings; eve∣ry Wheel in a Watch has its opera∣tion in the movement, without be∣ing all of them springs: Let eve∣ry man (says Epicurus) well exa∣mine his own Genius, and pursue that kind of life which he is best furnished for: if he be of a sloth∣ful nature, he is not for action; if active, he will never become a good Private-man: For as to the one rest is business, and action labour; so to the other, Otium is labour, and activity the most desirable re∣pose.
I am now arived to the second period, which commences with the anxiety of great and Publick Per∣sons, upon the least subtraction of their past enjoyments: To this I rejoin, That we can produce so many pregnant instances of the Page 28 contrary, even in this age of ours, as all Antiquity can hardly parallel: Never was adverse Fortune en∣countred with greater fortitude and gallantry, than when so ma∣ny brave men suffered patiently the spoiling of their Goods, sequestring their Estates, dissipating their sub∣stance, imprisoning their bodies, ex∣iling their Relations, and all that can be named Calamity, to preserve their Loyalty and their Religion: In sum, when our Princes submit∣ted to the Axe, and our Heros to the Haltar; whilest we beheld people of meaner Fortunes, and private condition, lovers of Solitude and Ease, (repining at every inconside∣rable loss) prostitute both their Ho∣nour and Conscience, to preserve or recover, what they but feared the loss of, and this Elogy is due to thousands of them yet surviving. I acknowlege that the ambitious person is in his sense a bottomless-pit;Page 29 and that Ingratitude and Treason are too often pay'd for favour and good Offices: Though I have like∣wise asserted in what circumstances even Ambition it self is laudable, and may be stiled a Vertue: But have Private men no thoughts of amplifying their Fortunes, and of purchasing the next Lorship? Mar∣rying, not to say sacrificing their Children to the next rich Heir, and marketing for the Portion? Is there not in the best governed Fa∣milies of Country Gentlemen, as much purloyning, ingratitude, and infidelity amongst their few Ser∣vants and small Retinue (not to mention ungracious and disobedi∣ent Children) as in the greater Oe∣conomy of a Commonwealth, pro∣portionably speaking? Where is there more emulation, contention, and canvasing, than in the remoter Villages, or next good Towns? They sell us repose too dearly (says Page 30Plutarch)* which we must purchase at the rate of idleness; and adds a pretty instance: If, says he, those who least meddle in Publick Em∣ployment, enjoy the greatest sere∣nity of mind, then should doubt∣less Women be of all other the quietest lambs in the world, and far exceed men in peaceableness and tranquillity, since they seldom stir out of their Houses; yet we find the contrary so notorious, and this gentle Sex (whom so much as the wind dares not blow on) as full of envy, anger, anxiety, jea∣lousie, and pride, as those who most of all converse in Publick, and are men of business. And therefore we are not to measure felicity and repose from the multi∣tude and number of Affairs, but from the temper and Vertue of the subject; besides that, 'tis often as criminal to omit the doing well, as to commit evil, and some wise Page 31 States have accounted them alike. Indeed if all the world inhabited the Desarts, and could propagate like Plants without a fair Compa∣nion; had we goods in common, and the primitive fervour of those new made Proselites;* were we to be governed by instinct; in a word, were all the Vniverse one ample Convent, we might all be content∣ed, and all be happy; but this is an Idea no where existant on this side Heaven; and the Hand may as well say,*I have no need of the Feet, and the Ears, I have no need of the Eye, as the World be governed without these necessary subordinations. Men must be pro∣hibited all rational Conversation, and so come under the Category of brutes, to have no appetites be∣sides eating and drinking; no pas∣sions, save the sensual: I have known as great animosities among the vulgar sort, as much bitterness Page 32 of spirit, partiality, sense of inju∣ry, and revenge upon trifling occa∣sions and suggestions, as ever I ob∣served in the greater and more bu∣sied world: 'Twas evident that the Lacedemonians were more proud of their mean Apparel at the Olympic Courses, than the most splendid Rhodians in all their bra∣very and clinquant; and Socrates soon espied the insolence of a slovenly Philosopher through his tatter'd mantle: The Gynic in his Tub currishly flouted the Eastern Monarch, and despised his purple that secluded him from the com∣mon beams of the Sun. He ought to be a wise and good man indeed that dares trust himself alone; for Ambition and Malice, Lust and Su∣perstition are in Solitude, as in their Kingdom: Peritstulto, says Seneca, Recess is lost to a Fool, or an ill man; and how many weak heads are there in the world for one dis∣creet Page 33 Person! It was Crates the Disciple of Stilpon, that bid the morose walker, take heed he talk∣ed not with a Fool: some men, says Epictetns, like unskilfull Musitians sing no where tolerably but in Con∣sort; and 'tis noted he must have an excellent voice that can charm the ear alone, which renders them so difficult to be entreated. There are few Plants that can nourish themselves with their own juice; Every man grinds indeed, but the mill that has no Corn in it, grinds either chaff, or sets fire on it self.
But he declames only against the most conspicuous Vices; and eve∣ry defect in the brighter Lumina∣ries is observed, whilest the lewd recesses of Tyberius eclipsed none of his prodigious debaucheries:* So true is that of the Philosopher, wherever men abscond themselves humane miseries, or their vices find Page 34 them out and ataque them: Mul∣ta intus (says he) many things within us enslave us, even in the midst of Solitude. Were not the greatest Philosophers, nay the very Fathers of them severely taxed for the lowest pleasures, and the sins not to be named? Seneca himself escaped not the censure of Covetous and Ambition; Pliny of excess of Curiosity; Epicurus of Riot; Socrates of Paederastie; The∣mistocles of Morosity; all of them of Vanity, Contempt and Fastidi∣ousness.
To the instance of great mens submissions to the commands of Princes, be they just or unjust, it holds well had the discourse con∣cern'd Tyrants only and Barbari∣ans; but to produce that Exam∣ple of Parmenio, and Cleander, is to quit the subject, and borrow the extravagance of a mad-man and a drunkard, to decry PrincesPage 35 and States-men, who are the most conspicuous examples of tempe∣rance: But I proceed to the Ma∣xime: If nothing be morally good which labours of the least defect, then so long as his Celador is not an Angel, he does no more come within the first part of the Defini∣tion, than the greatest and most employ'd Person living; and if he insist upon degrees, I answer; he lyes not under the same temptati∣on, and therefore neither can he pretend to approch his merit: but if I prove the most diabolical Arts, and cursed Machinations to have been forg'd by Persons of the most obscure condition, and hatch'd by the Sons of night, recluse, and little conversant in affairs, I shall infinitely distress that opinion of its virtue or advantage; for being either happy in it self, or render∣ing others so. The Monkes have been so dextrous at the Knife, and Page 36 other arts of mischief, that they have not trembled to make the holy and salutary Eucharist the ve∣hicle of destruction, when they had any Kings to dispatch and put out of the way; and have made such havock of the French Henrys, that but for these solitary birds, those Princes might have surviv'd all their sad misfortunes: It was not for nothing that Ieroboham withdrew so long into Aegypt,* (that Kingdom of Darkness) when he contriv'd the defection of no less than ten whole Tribes at a clap; and how much mischief, sin, and bloodshed it caus'd, the Sa∣cred Story has accurately record∣ed: The blackest treasons have been forged in the Closets and gloomy recesles; Who is not a∣maz'd at the very image and thought of the Gun-powder Con∣spiracy! carried on and excogita∣ted by the Devil, and a pack of Page 37 these Solitary Spirits! 'Twas but an Arian Monk, and an obscure Iew who first encourag'd and in∣structed that mighty Impostor, oc∣casioning more evil in the Christian Church and State than was ever done by all the Tyrants since it be∣gan: for it spawn'd not only an Heresy, but Blasphemy; razing the Christian name out of almost half the World: and the issues of the Cell are to this day conspicuous in the Fire and the Sword which has destroy'd not Cities only, but whole Empires, and made more Fatherless and Widows, more deso∣lation and confusion, and done more harm to Letters, than can be recounted; nor did the uttermost machination of the greatest Person in Employment, ever approch what one Monk set on foot out of his holy Den, that ever I could read in story; and what are all our tru∣culent Champions of the Fift-Mo∣narchyPage 38 amongst us at this day, but so many Persons who seem to be the most self-denying people, and the highest affected with Solitude and devout Enthusiasme, despising Honors, and publick Charges, whilst they breathe nothing save ruine and destruction? They are the close, stagnate and cover'd Waters which stink most, and are fullest of mud and ordure, how calm and peaceable soever they seem upon the surface; whilst men of action, and publick spirits, descending as from the highest rocks and emi∣nences, though they sometimes make a noise, have no leisure to corrupt, but run pure and with∣out mixture: There is an heavy Wo denounc'd in Scripture to those who thus setle on their Lees: Phy∣sitians tell us the body is no longer in health,* than the bloud is in mo∣tion and duely circulates: Action is the salt of life, and diligence the Page 39life of Action: All things in hea∣ven are in motion, and though 'tis there only that we can promise re∣pose to our selves; yet neither dare I say, we shall do nothing there; since the admiration of the beatifical Vision will certainly take up and employ all our faculties, and set them in operation; nor whilst we shall there be in perpetu∣al Exstasie, shall we live to our selves, but to God alone. There is then doubtless no such thing as rest (unless it be that from earthly toil, anxieties, and the works of sin, which is that repose mention'd by the Apostle) since Action is so essential to our lives,* that it con∣stitutes our Beings; and even in all Theory and Contemplation it self, there is a kind of Action, as Philo∣sophers do universally agree.
Let it be confess'd the Court is a Stage of continual Masquerade, and where most men walk incognito;Page 40 where the art of dissimulation (which Donna Olympia has nam'd the Keys of the Vatican) is avow'd; yet it cannot be deny'd, but there are some in that warm Climate too, as perfectly sincere, as in the Coun∣try; and where Virtue shines with as much lustre as in the closest Re∣tirements, where if it give any light, it is but in a dark lanthorn: And to be so innocent there, where there is so much temptation, is so much the greater merit: Believe it, to conserve ones self in Court, is to become an absolute Hero; and what place more becoming Heros than the Courts of Princes? for not only to vanquish Armies in the field, defend our Country, and free the oppressed, are the glori∣cus actions of those Demi-Gods; but to conflict with the regnant Vices, and overcome our selves, greater exploits than the win∣ning of inchanted Castles and kill∣ing Page 41 of Gyants: For what violence must be apply'd to be humble in the midst of so much flattery; chast amongst such licence, where there is so much fire, and so much tin∣der, and not to look towards the fruit which in that Paradise is so glorious to the eye, and so delici∣ous to the taste? what a dispositi∣on to purity, to come forth white from the region of Smoke, and where even the Stars themselves are not without their spots? in sum, not to fall into the nets which the noon-day Devils spread under our feet, above our heads, and about us; and who pursue those that flye, and bear down those who resist? But, as I said, if the difficulties be so great, how much greater the glory? whilst pretending to no such temptation in his Solitude, there is less exercise for his Virtue; it being rather a privation from Evil, than any real Page 42habit to Good. Certainly, there is not in the Country, that admira∣ble simplicity pretended, nor do they altogether transact with that integrity: For is there not among them as much iniquity in buying and selling? as much over-reach∣ing in the purchase of a Cow, or a score of Sheep? as much conten∣tion about the incrochment of a dirty fence? as much regreating with the Farmer, keeping up the price of Corn, when the poor are sterving? How many Oaths and Execrations are spent to put off a diseas'd horse? Have we not seen as much ambition and state where the Country Iustices convene on the Market-days at the petty Towns, to have the Caps and the Knees of the Bumkins? as much canvasing for Suffrages and Voices? not to insist on the prodigious de∣bauches, drinkings, emulation, and perjuries at Elections? and even Page 43 greater pride, deadly feud, railing and traducing amongst the She-Pharisees, or little things of the Neighbourhood, for the upmost place in the Church-pew, or at a Goshiping-meeting, as at Court, and in the City between the Ladies of the best quality? and all this while we grow weary of the Pub∣lick, and resolve against Employ∣ment, and the sound of affairs; repenting of the lost moments that are past in Conversation: and yet in every Cave, and every Cottage, there is a chair for ambition, and a bed for luxury, and a table for riot, though hell be raining out of hea∣ven: and it may be observ'd that we do not hear the least evil of Lot, or the virtue of his daugh∣ters, whilst they liv'd in the midst of Sodom it self,* 'till abandoning even his little Zoar to his more so∣litary and cavernous recess, he fell into those prodigious crimes of Page 44ebriety and incest. Verily, that is truly great to retire from our Vi∣ces, not from Cities, or Conversa∣tion: If you be Virtuous, let your Example profit; if Vitious, repent and amend; Strive not so much to conceal your passions, as to re∣form them: for little do solitary persons profit, without a mind a∣dapted for it; Wise men only enjoy themselves, not the voluptuous or morose; and I have seen some live discontented even in houses of pleasure, and so in their Soli∣tudes, as if none were more full of business.
When he celebrates Recess for the little it wants, he gratifies the Cinick; He could attribute as much to his Tub, and the treen dish that he drank in, which was all the house and furniture we read of; and an Owl and a Pelican want as little as the Philosopher; but he does not say by this, that SolitudePage 45 is fertile: it is not from the abun∣dance that it supplies then, but from its sterility and defects, which if it be a commendation to that, is so to nothing else in Nature.
He proceeds again to the passi∣ons of great men, which are indeed more conspicuous, as lightning and Thunder are amongst the Meteors, and in the Air; but we do not take notice of the Corruscations, con∣flicts, and emotions which are eve∣ry day in the bowels of the Earth: How impatient and unjust are some of your Country Gentlemen to their Domestics? how griping to their Tenants? how unnatural to their Children, and uncivil to their Wives? Pardon me these refle∣ctions, he has compell'd me: and it is for your justification (O ye Great Ones) that I find my self ob∣liged to produce these odious com∣parisons; whilest I could give Ce∣ladors friend such an example in Page 46 our first Charles of blessed memo∣ry, Philip the second of Spain, Alphonso of Aragon, and divers of the later Emperors, for acts of the highest Patience, Fortitude, Devo∣tion, Constancy, and Humanity, as would shame all the pretenders to moral Vertues, in his so cele∣brated Retirements and private persons: With what constancy, spirit, and resignation did our Royal Martyr unjustly suffer from the machinations of the most insolent and implacable of his Vassals, is not certainly to be pa∣rallel'd by any thing 〈◊〉 has recorded, save that grand Exem∣plar our blessed Saviour, who was a King too, but more than man: from whose emulous pattern he has transmitted to us not only all the perfections of the most inno∣cent private persons; but the Ver∣tues of the most eminent Saints. He was imprison'd, and revil'd, spit Page 47 on, and injuriously accused; he was arraign'd, and by a barbarous contradiction condemn'd and di∣spoil'd of three Kingdoms by the most nefarious Parricide that ever the Sun beheld, and that before his own very Palace: Tell me yet you admirers of Solitude, in what corner of your Recesses dwelt there a more excellent soul, ab∣stracted from all the circumstan∣ces of his birth and sacred Chara∣cter, and considered only as a pri∣vate person? Where was there a more sincere man in his actions? a more constant devote to his Reli∣gion? more faithful Husband to his Wife? and a more pious Father to his Children? in a word, a more accomplished and consummate Christian? Look on him then as a King, to be superlatively all this, and all that a good and a most ver∣tuous Prince can be to his Subjects, and you have the Pourtraicture of Page 48 our Charles opposed to all the pet∣ty Images of your solitary Gentle∣men, and decryers of Publick Em∣ployment. One day that Philip the second, had been penning a te∣dious Dispatch, importing some high affair of State, which em∣ployed him almost the whole day; he bid the Secretary that waited by him, to throw some dust on the paper; he instead of the Sand snatching up the Ink-bottle, poured it all on the letters: The King taking a large sheet of clean paper wrote it verbatim over again, and when he had finished, calmly deli∣vering it to the confounded Secre∣tary, bid him dry it; but, says the Prince, take notice that this is the Ink, and this the Sand-box; which was all the reproof he gave him: I instance in this (because of the rest of those Vertues I have enu∣merated, there are such Volumes of Examples) to put to silence all Page 49 that can be produc'd, upon the ac∣count of that passion, which is so frequently charg'd on Great Per∣sons; but which indeed upon the most trifling occasions, use to dis∣compose the most retired persons: And what if amongst these, besides many others, I should instance in S. Hierome himself, and other Fa∣thers of the Church, as recluse and private as they were known to be Religious.
As to the comparative exem∣ption of Solitude from Vice for want of opportunity; the advan∣tage is very slender; since (with what I have already furnish'd to e∣vince it) it implies only what mon∣sters it would else produce; and indeed the most formidable that were ever hatch'd, have thence had their original; as I have abun∣dantly prov'd by the dark and in∣fernal machinations of Solitary Persons: so as his Happy-man seems Page 50 at best to be but a starv'd, or Chai∣ned Lyon, who would do mischief enough had he liberty, and a pow∣er equal to his will: 'Tis instanc'd in the madness of some few Hea∣then Emperors; but he passes by the salutary Laws promulg'd by them for the universal good: Nor were there so many debauch'd and Vicious of the Roman heretofore, but I can name you as many Chri∣stian Princes religious to miracle and without reproch, if what is already said be not sufficiently ir∣replicable. As for the rest, what∣ever they might once have been in their ascent; it was said of Caesar, that either he should never have aspir'd to dominion, or hav∣ing once attain'd it, been immor∣tal; so just, so equal, and so merci∣ful was his successive Reign: Never was it pronounc'd of any private Person, that he was a man after Gods own heart; but we know it Page 51 was so of a King, and that from the Almighty himself. And not to mention Hezekias, Iosias, Iehosa∣phat and many others recorded in holy Writ: I durst oppose an Au∣gustus, a Titus, a Trajan, Antoninus, Aurelius; to omit Constantine, The∣odosius, Iustinian, Charles the Great, S. Edward, S. Lewes, both the Alphonsos and divers more of the Crowned heads, before any, or all he can produce: Its true, they all dyed not in their beds; no more do all in his Solitude; for they often hang themselves, linger in Consumptions, break their necks in hunting, inflame themselves with tipling; perish of the unactive Scorbut; Country Agues and Ca∣tharrs: And if he speak it out, who they were that stabb'd the two Henrys, and our gallant Buck∣ingham whom he mentions; it must be avow'd they were all murther'd by private persons: But Page 52 whilst he is thus exact in recording all the Vices of ill Princes; be∣cause the spots in the Sun are so ea∣sily discern'd by his optic; he takes no notice of the light it universal∣ly diffuses, and is silent of the Virtues of the good and the bene∣ficent, who have both in all ages rewarded, cherished and protected gallant men: But when he shall have pass'd through all the Exam∣ples of the Great-ones who are come to ruine and destruction, he does not examine how many pri∣vate men, Gentlemen and others, remain in any one Country, whose patrimonial Estates are not im∣pair'd by as trifling contests, neg∣lects, prodigality and ill-husbandry, as any he charges upon those emi∣nent Persons.
If Solitude be assistant to Reli∣gion and Devotion, how much more is Society?*Where two or three are assembled together in my Page 53 name, there am I in the midst of them: I know no Text, where acts of Religion are commended for being solitary: It is true, our bles∣sed Saviour went apart into desart places* to avoid the importunities of a malicious and incredulous people: but he was tempted there,* as well as in the City; and though he sometimes retired to pray;* and which was commonly in the night, when conversation with the world was less seasonable; he was all day teaching in the Temple,* or continu∣ally going about doing good,* and healing all manner of diseases among the people, giving counsel to, and instructing his Disciples, whom he dispersed over the world to Evan∣gelize his holy Doctrine.* We are indeed bid to offer up our prayers to our heavenly Father in secret,* and to do our Almes without a Trumpet; not because it adds to the dignity of the service, but to Page 54 avoid the temptation of hypocrisie, and because we have infirmities; whilest we are yet in another place commanded to render our Works so illustrious, that both men may see them,* and God may have the glory. Certainly, the most in∣structive motives to Religion are from our imitation of others, and the incentives of devout Congre∣gations, as they approach the neerest resemblance to the Church Catholick Militant here on earth, so doubtless do they to the Communion of Saints Triumphant in Heaven: Is there then no devotion save in Con∣venticles and Cells? and yet even the most recluse Carthusian spend eight hours of the twelve in divine Offices together: The commenda∣tion of a true Christian consists in doing, not in meditating only; and it were doubtless an admirable compendium of all our notional disputes in Religion, if less were Page 55believed, and more were practised. 'Tis true Mary's sitting at the feet of our Saviour, and hearkning to his instructions, was preferr'd be∣fore busie Martha's employment; but the man who laid up his Ma∣sters Talent,* and actively improv'd it not, did worse;*she was gently reprov'd, he severely condemn'd.
But he adds, that most tempta∣tions are in Solitude disarm'd of the chains which render them for∣midable to us in Publick, as there wanting the presence of an in∣flaming object, &c. But what if I sustain that absence does often∣times augment the passion he speaks of, and that our fansies operate more eagerly when alone, than when we are possess'd of the object?
Thus we are ever the most in∣quisitive after mysteries and hidden things, whilest those we enjoy, we neglect or grow weary of: But I proceed: The most superstitious of men have been the greatest Eremites, and besides the little good they do by their Example, there is not in the world a life more repugnant to nature, and the opportunities of doing our duty; since even the strongest Faith without Works will not save us: For how can he that's immur'd perform those acts of misericord, which shall be so severely exacted of us at the last Iudgment; to feedPage 57 the hungry, visit, the sick,*cloath the naked, unless it be in the mock∣sense of St. Iames,*Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled, &c. whilst they give neither meat nor Cloaths to refresh the miserable? But I am altogether astonished at his instance in David again, as prompted to his lust and murther by the ill fate of his publick Chara∣cter; when 'tis evident, had he been employ'd, or but in good com∣pany, he had never fallen into so sad a crime: Let it be remembred that he was alone upon the Battle∣ments of his Palace,* and then all the water in Bathsheba's Fountain was not cold enough to extinguish his desires; so mighty a protectress is Society from that particular temptation, that even the pre∣sence of a Child has frustrated an opportunity of being wanton. If it were Gods own verdict,* that to be alone was an evil state, how Page 58 come we to have Adams society blam'd? for even Adam, he says, could not live innocent a day in it: But, besides that the short durati∣on of his felicity is but a conje∣cture; I have some where read, that but for Eves curiosity, which prompted her to stray from the company and presence of her Hus∣band, the Serpent (as subtle as he was) had never found an opportu∣nity to tempt her: He was indeed too easily enticed by her example, and no marvel, he was himself alone; God had forsaken his sweet associate, and then the first effects of both their shame and disobedience was their dark retirement:* Doubt∣less there are many heinous sins which Company preserves us from, for it is even a shame to speak of some things, which are done by men in secret.
I suppose it was no Widow (as he speaks her to be) who so hospi∣tably Page 59 entertained the great Elisha, but a married Lady,* and of an am∣ple Fortune: For the Text calls her a great woman; and we find her speaking to her Husband in another place, concerning the building and furniture of the Pro∣phets Chamber: Nor does the an∣swer she return'd him, at all imply her wants; she plainly needed no∣thing that the Court could confer upon her; only an Heir she want∣ed to inherit: she lived amongst her People, and had company enough. And verily we shall find the Soli∣tude of the same Prophet to be the effect of a Persecution, not of his pre∣ferring it before Society; & we meet the holy man much oftner at Court, in the Camp, at the Colledge, & perpe∣tually employ'd, than either in the mountains or in the Wilderness. But let us grant that some Devotions are best performed in our Closets, yet does the life of a Christian con∣sist Page 60 only in wearing the marbles with our knees? I have already shew'd that there are Works of Charity, that can no where be so well performed as in company: nor can I assent that the being alone contributes half so much to our zeal, as the examples of Con∣versation: How frequently does David repeat his ardent affections, and address to the Tabernacle,* and the great Congregation? And though the Country about Sinai, were a howling desart;* yet had it at one time in it, no less than six hundred thousand fighting men together,* whereof the most devout were the most publickly employed: Witness Moses, Aaron, Ioshua, Ca∣leb, Phineas, &c. which being but in the minority and pupillage of that Church, were all this while but preparing for Gods publick Worship, and the constitution of a People in the world the most Page 61 busie and employed.
To the Text in Hosea 2. 14. where God says he will comfort his Church in the Wilderness: I oppose his innumerable sweet compella∣tions under the type of the Daugh∣ter of Zion, which was a great and most eminent part of that popu∣lous City, and that glorious acces∣sion of the Gentiles describ'd by Isaiah. The Tabernacle was indeed for a time in the Wilderness;* but neither did that, nor the extraor∣dinary presence of God in it, re∣strain a rebellious people from committing more crimes and inso∣lences in it, in forty years, than in four hundred before, when they dwelt in the Cities of Aegypt: For (as the Psalm) Lust came upon them in the Wilderness,*and they tempted God in the Desart. It is well known that the first occasion of the Mona∣stical life, we because men could no longer live quietly in the more Page 62frequented places, by reason of the heat of Persecution; and yet even in their remotest recesses, he that looks into St. Hieroms description of it,* shall find that they were in such numbers, and so neer to one another, that they were almost perpetually in Company; nor does any, I think, consider the stories of Onuphius, Anthony, Simon Sty∣lites and the rest of that Spirit, but as hypocondriacs, singular per∣sons, and Authors of much super∣stition and unprofitable severity: The invasion of the Gothes on the Roman Empire, drove multitudes of those holy persons to these La∣tebrae,* and the present distress (to use St. Paul's expression) might sometimes be a sufficient argument to recommend, if not prefer, the Coelibate before the Conjugal estate, and the barba∣rity of that age to the extraordi∣nary mode of living, which from Page 63 compulsion and a certain cruel ne∣cessity, became afterwards to be of choice and a voluntary obligation. But does he think to derive any force to his darling Solitude, from the servile and busie occupations, which none save Heathens and Ma∣humitans teach, shall be among in∣fernal torments? Turks and scof∣fing Lucians may possibly broach those Fancies of the impertinent employments of Alexander and Caesar in the other World; but I presume he takes them but for the dreams of that Philosophical drol, and to have no solid foundation besides their scoffing and Atheisti∣cal Wits. He is now pleased again, to imagine that there is nothing which does more prevail with men to affect Grandure, than what he thinks due only to Phantosms and Ghosts: Though Fame be indeed a bubble in the estimation of those who are not much concerned for Page 64 the future; I find yet how impos∣sible it was for him to secure any praise even to Solitude it self, by the neglect of it; whilest he so carefully has consecrated to poste∣rity the Names and Elogies of so many as seemingly despis'd it, on purpose to obtain it: But this stra∣tagem is very thin and transpa∣rent: For such as he mentions not, I presume never were, and those he does record, have pur∣chas'd more by that artifice, than if they had continu'd men of the busiest Employment; Charles the fifth and the rest he ennumerates, being more celebrated for their supposed voluntary abdication (whatever the true motive were) than for all the most glorious pas∣sages of their former Reigns: But however these great men are be∣holden to their Patron, I con∣fess the Pedants (as he calls them) and the Poets are not less obliged Page 65 to him for the power he attributes them of being able to make great whomsoever they please: But those persons I should think, to have little merited of Posterity, whose memory has no other de∣pendance then their ayrie suffra∣ges; when it is from the sober Pens, and the veritable Memoires of Grave and Faithful Historians, that the Heroick lives of deserving men receive life and immortality after death. Let the Pedants and the Poets then celebrate the soft and weakest circumstances of the reignes of those Princes he would justifie; the Pens of great and Illustrious Authors shall eternize those who persever'd in their gran∣dure, and publick Charges to the end: for such were Xenophon, Poly∣bius, Tacitus, Livy, and even Caesar himself, besides many others as well of antient as modern times, from whose writings we have re∣ceived Page 66 the noblest Characters of their Virtues: And if it be retor∣ted, that whilst they actually writ, they were retired; I grant it; but if men had not done things worthy Writing, where had been either the use, or fame of what they so bravely acted, and trans∣mitted to Posterity? In the mean time I acknowledge, that the greatest Empire is to command ones self, and that the Courts of Princes have alwaies had this of ungrate∣ful to generous Souls; that they but too frequently subject gallant men to caparizon'd Asses; gay, but vitious, or insipid: Princes are not alwaies happy in their choice of Favourites: But as it is not universally so, and that it is in the breast of the same Prince to turn them off, or lay by the Counters, to advance Good men, and bring Virtue into reputation, these external submissions may the Page 67 better be supported: For wise men do not bend the knee to the Beast (we have the example of Morde∣cai) but to the Shrine it bears,* as those who adored Isis upon the back of the Animal that carried it: And so the Sunne may shine on a Dung-hill unpolluted, and thus it shall be done to the man whom the King is pleas'd to honour; which though it denotes obedience in the observer, does no real dignity to the recipient, nor can they themselves but believe it with some useful re∣flection as oft as they see a respect paid them, which they must needs be conscious to themselves they do not deserve. I cannot there∣fore accuse the deferent of so much adulation, as praise him for his obe∣dience, so long as he offers no di∣vine, or Consumptive Oblations to the Idol, and offends not God: For there is certainly no man meerly by being a Courtier, obliged to Page 68 imitate their vices, or subject them∣selves to the unworthy complyan∣ces he would insinuate; since in that case, a fair retreat is alwaies in ones power; and if on that score, or the experience of his per∣sonal frailty, he be prompted to it, how infinitely more glorious will be the example of quitting those specious advantages, which can neither be conserved, or at∣tain'd without succumbing under a temptation? And when he dis∣courses of society, instancing in the trisling conversation of idle per∣sons, and Knights of the Carpet, who consume their precious mo∣ments at the feet of some insipid female, or in pursuit of the plea∣sures of the lower belly; I heartily assent: There are a sort of Bouf∣foons and Parasites which are the very excrements of Conversation, as well in Country as Courts; and to be therefore treated as such, wip'd Page 69 off, and cast from us; and there are worthier diversions for men of refin'd sense, when they feel them∣selves exhausted with business, and weary of action: Certainly, those who either know the value of themselves, or their imployments, may find useful entertainments, without retiring into Wildernesses, immuring themselves, renouncing the World, and deserting publick affairs; and when ever you see a great person abandon'd to these dirty and mean familiarities; he is an object of pity, and has but a little Soul; nothing being more true, Noscitur ex socio, qui non cognoscitur ex se. But God be thanked, the age is not yet so bar∣ren of ingenuous spirits, but that men may find Virtue with faceti∣ousnesse, and worthy conversati∣ons without morosity to entertain the time with: He has else been strangely unhappy in his acquisiti∣ons, Page 70 who is to seek for good com∣pany to passe an hour with, if ever he sought one of the sweetest con∣diments of life: and doubtlesse, did great persons but once taste the difference which is between the refined conversation of some Virtu∣ous men, who can be infinitely witty, and yet inoffensive; they would send some of their damn'd familiars with a Dog-whip out of their Companies; because a man of honour (to use Iobs expression) would disdain to set them with the dogs of his flock:* For after their prostituted and flavish sense and contrivances are spent upon the praise or acquisition of some fair sinner, or the derision of what is more excellent then themselves, to supply their want of furniture, fill their emptinesse, and keep up a worthy and truely recreative and profitable conversation, they de∣generate into flatness and shame, and Page 71 are objects rather of pity then envy. Men of businesse do not sell their moments to these triflers; Conversation should whet and a∣dorn our good parts, and the most excellent endowments both of nature, industry and grace would grow dull and effete with∣out culture and exercise: let men chuse their company as they ought, and let them keep as much as they please; it is but to sit on a bright place, and the Camelion it self is all shining: Men will con∣tract both Colour and perfume from the qualities of their associates: This made Moses's face to glister, and the Conversation of good men as well as bad, is alike contagious.
But 'tis objected that familia∣rity creates contempt. I reply, it was never seen amongst those who know truely what it signified: 'tis one thing to be civil, and affable, useful and accessible, without being Page 72impudent, rustick or cheap in our addresses: They skill little of the pleasure and delices of a worthy friendship, who know not how to enjoy, or preserve it without sati∣ety; that's left to the meaner sort, and was indeed not to have been instanc'd in so generous a discourse. There is no better means to pre∣serve our esteem with others, then by setting a value on our selves.
To what's alledg'd of the variety private persons enjoy in their own cogitations, and the reading of other mens books, so much superior to Conversation, and the reading of men; One of the greatest Book∣writers in the world will tell you;* that should a man ascend as high as Heaven it self, not by contempla∣tion, only but ocular intuition, and survey all the beauty and goodly motions of the Starrs; it would be little delight or satisfaction to him, unlesse he had some body Page 73 to communicate his speculations to; Sic natura solitarium nihil a∣mat; whence he nobly inferrs, how highly necessary Conversation is to friendship; & that he must certainly be of no good nature, who does not preferre it before all other en∣joyments of life whatsoever: We know who it is has pronounc'd the Vae soli,* and how necessary God found the Conjngations of Man∣kind, without which nor had the Earth been inhabited with Men, nor Heaven fill'd with Saints: So∣lomon says Two are better then One, and a threefold cord is not easily bro∣ken;* and Plutarch tells us that of old they were wont to call men Photo, which imports light; not only for the vehement desire which there is in him to know and be known; but (as I would add) for it's universal communication; there being few of whom it may be af∣firm'd, as 'twas of Scipio, that he Page 74 was never lesse idle, than when a∣lone, and which as the oratour has it, do in Otio de negotiis cogi∣tare, & in solitudine secum loqui; But thus did those great persons neither affect nor use it, other then as the greater Vessels and beat∣en Ships after a storme, who go aside to trim and repair, and pass out again: So he, tanquam in portum, and therefore by that Ma∣ster of Eloquence, infinitely prefer'd to those who quite retir'd out of business for ease and self indul∣gence only: Seneca in his Book De Otio Sapientis totally con∣demns this cogitative virtue, as a life without action, an imperfect and languishing good; and in the same Chapter: Why does a Wise∣man retire himself but as a Bow is unbent ut cessando majora? in∣stancing the recess of Zeno and Chrysippus, whose very repose was it seems more busie than other mens Page 75actions: But let us hear him speak;* what, says he! Solitude makes us love our selves, Conversation others; the one to comfort, the other to heal; the one allays, the other whets and adds new vigour: Nothing pleases alwaies; and therefore God who has built us for labour, pro∣vides us also refreshments: Socra∣tes himself was not ashamed to play the Child with Children; se∣vere Cato took sometimes a chirp∣ing Cup; and Asinius Pollio di∣verted himself after Pleading; and the wisest Legislators ordain'd Ho∣ly-days, and some grave men took their pastime at Dinner, or walk∣ing in their Gardens, and among their facetious friends, when the greatest Persons laid off their State, constraint and other circumstances which their Characters oblig'd them to personate; but they did never grow angry with business, and depose themselves, for Multum Page 76 interest, remittas aliquid an solvas, there's a wide difference 'twixt relaxation and absolute relinquish∣ing; and to imagine that great persons have little repose, when twixt-every stroke of the Anvil the very Smith has leisure to breathe, is an egregious mistake: The Compass which moves in the largest Circle, has a limb of it fix'd to the Center; and do we think that Honour, Victory, and Riches (which render all things suppor∣table, besides the benefits which it is in the power of great Ones, to place on worthy persons) are not pleasures equal to all other refresh∣ments of the spirits? For my part, I believe the capacity of being able to do good to deserving men, so excessive a delight, that as 'tis neerest the life of God himself, so no earthly felicity approches it; wherefore wisely (says Plutarch) did the Ancients impose those Page 77 names upon the Graces, to shew that the joy of him that does a kindness, exceeds that of the Beneficiary; many (says he) blush∣ing when they receive favours, but never when they bestow them.
As for Books, I acknowledge with the Philosopher,*Otium sine literis, to be the greatest infelici∣ty in the world; but on the other side, not to read men, and con∣verse with living Libraries, is to deprive our selves of the most useful and profitable of Studies: This is that deplorable defect which universally renders our bookish men so pedantically morose and impolish'd, and in a word, so very ridiculous: For, believe it Sir, the Wisest men are not made in chambers and Closets crowded with shelves; but by habitudes and active Conversations: There is nothing more stupid than some of these 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉letter-struckPage 78 men; for 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Learning should not do men ill Offices: Action is the pro∣per fruit of Science, and therefore they should quit the education of the colledge, when fit to appear in business, and take Seneca's advice, Tamdiu istis immorandum, quam∣diu nihil agere animus majus potest; rudimenta sunt nostra, non opera: and I am able to prove that Per∣sons of the most publick note for great Affairs, have stored the world with the most of what it knows, even out of Books themselves: for such were Caesar, Cicero, Seneca, both the plinys, Aristotle, Aesculus, Sophocles, Plato, Xenophon, Polybius, not to omit these of later ages, and reaching even to our own doors, in our Sidny, Verulam, Raleigh, the Count of Mirandula, Scaliger the Father, Ticho Brache, Thuanus, Gro∣tius, &c. profound men of letters, and so active in their lives, as we Page 79 shall find them to have managed the greatest of Publick Charges, not only of their native Coun∣tries, but some of them of the World it self: Aelian has employ∣ed two entire Chapters expresly to vindicate Philosophers from the prejudices and aspersions of those (who like our Antagonist) deem'd the study of it inconsistent with their administration of Publick Affairs: There he shews us that Zeleucus both constituted and re∣formed the Locrian Republick;*Charondas that of Catana, and af∣ter his Exile that of Rhegium: The Tarentine was exceedingly im∣prov'd by Archytas: Solon go∣verned the Athenians; Bias and Thales much benefited Ionia, Chilon the Lacedemonians, and Pittacus that of Mitylena: The Rhodians Cleobulus: and Anaxi∣mander planted a Colony at Apol∣lonia from Miletus: Xenophon was Page 80 renowned for his military ex∣ploits, and approv'd himself the greatest Captain amongst all the Greeks in the expedition of Cyrus, who with many others perish'd: for when they were in a strait for want of one to make good their retreat, he alone undertook and effected it. Plato the Son of Ari∣sto brought back Dio into Sicily; instructing him how he should subvert the Tyranny of Dionysius: Only Socrates indeed deserted the care of the Athenian Democraty, for that it more resembled a Ty∣ranny; and therefore refused to give his suffrage for the condemn∣ing those ten gallant Commanders, nor would he by any means coun∣tenance the thirty Tyrants in any of their flagitious actions: But when his dear Country lay at stake, then he cheerfully took up Arms, and fought bravely against Delium, Amphipolis and Potidea: Page 81 Aristotle when his Country was not only reduc'd to a very low ebb, but almost utterly ruin'd, restored her again: Demetrius Pha∣lerius govern'd Athens with extra∣ordinary renown 'till their won∣ted malice expell'd him; and yet after that, he enacted many whole∣some Laws, whilst he sojourn'd with King Ptolomy in Aegypt: Who will deny Pericles son of Xanthippus to have been a most profound philosopher? or Epaminondas, Pho∣cion, Aristides and Ephialtes the sons of Polymnes, Phocus, Lysander and Sophonidas, and some time after Carneades and Critolans? who were employ'd Embassadours to Rome, and obtained a Peace, pre∣vailing so far by their Eloquence and discreet behaviour, as that they us'd to say, the Athenians had sent Embassadours not to per∣swade them to what they pleased but to compel them: Now can we Page 82 omit Perseus his knowledge in Po∣litics who instructed Antigonus; nor that of the great Aristotle, who instituted the young, but af∣terward great Alexander in the study of Letters; Lysis the Disci∣ple of Pythagoras instructed Epa∣minondas: I shall not need to im∣portune you with more recitals (though he resumes the same in∣stances in the 14. Chapter of his 7th Book) to celebrate the re∣nown of Learned Men for their knowledge and success in armes, as well as in civil government, where he tells us of Plato's exploit at Tanagra, and many other great Scholars; but shew you rather how he concludes: He (says AEli∣an, for it seems there were some admirers of solitude too before our days) that shall affirm Philo∣sophers to be*unfit for pub∣lick employment, and businesse, talks childishly, and like an ignorant: Page 83 and Seneca gives so harsh a term to those who pretended that publick affairs did hinder the progresse of Letters,* and the enjoyment of our selves, that the language would be hardly sufferable from any save a stoic; Mentiuntur, says he Wise men do not subject themselves to the employments they undertake, but accommodate and lend them∣selves to them only: So as our An∣tagonist could not have chosen a Topic lesse to the advantage of solitude, or the humor of his hap∣py Celador, whilst being confin'd to specnlation and Books alone, he deprives himself of that pleasing variety which he contends for. These great men were men of Action, and men of Knowledge too, and so may persons of the busiest employments, were they as careful to improve their time and opportunities, as those glorious Heroes were: Which puts Page 84 me in mind of what I have heard solmnly reported; that 'tis an ordinary thing at Amsterdam to find the same Merchant who in the morning was the busiest man in the World at Exchange-time, to be reading Plato or Xenophon in Greek, or some other of the learnedst Authors and Poets, at home in the afternoon. And there is no man (says my Lord Bacon) can be so straitned, and oppress'd with bu∣sinesse, and an active course of life, but he may reserve many vacant times of leasure (if he be diligent to observe it, and how much he gives to play, insignificant discourses, and other impertinences) whilst he expects the returns, and tides of affairs; and his own Exam∣ple has sufficiently illustrated what he writes, whose stu∣dies and productions have been so obliging to the Learned World, as have deservedly immortaliz'd his name to Posterity.
Page 85 But he proceeds, and indeed in∣genuously acknowledges that men of letters are in constraint, when they speak before great persons, and in Company: And can you praise solitude for this virtue? Oh prodigious effect of Learning, That those who have studied all their lives time to Speak, should then be mute, when they have most occa∣sion to speak! Loquere ut te vide∣am said the philosopher; but he would have men dumb and invisi∣ble too: The truth is, 'tis the only reproch of men of Letters, that for want of liberal conversation some of them appear in the world like so many fantosmes in black, and by declining a seasonable ex∣erting of themselves, and their handsome talents, which Vse and Conversation would cultivate and infinitely adorn; they leave oc∣casion for so many insipid and empty fopps to usurp their rights, Page 86 and dash them out of Counte∣nance.
Francis the first, that great and incomparable Prince,* (as Slei∣dan calls him) was never brought up to Letters, yet by the read∣ing of good Translations, the de∣light he took to hear learned Discourses, and his inviting of Scho∣lars to converse freely with him upon all subjects and occasions; he became not only very Eloquent, but singularly knowing: For this doubtless it was, that Plutarch compos'd that express Treatise a∣mongst his Morals, Philosophan∣dum esse cum Principibus, where he produces us several rich Examples of these profitable effects: And in∣deed (says one) a Philosopher ought not to be blam'd for being a Cour∣tier, and that we now and then find them in the company of great and opulent Persons; nor imports it that you seldom see their visitsPage 87 return'd; since 'tis a mark he knows what he wants of accom∣plishments, and of their ignorance, who are so indifferent for the ad∣vantages they may derive from their Conversations. But I might proceed and shew you, not only what makes our learned book-worms come forth of their Cells with so ill a grace into Company, but present you likewise with some of the most specious Fruits of their so celebrated Recesses; were it not better to receive what I would say from the lively Character which Seneca has long since given us of them: In earnest, marvellous is the pains which some of them take after an empty criticisme, to have all the points of Martial and Iuvenal ad uuguem, the scraps of the ancient Poets to produce up∣on occasion: some are for Roots, Genealogies, and Blazons; can tell you who married who, what his Page 88 great Grandfather was, and the Portion that came by his Aunt: This was of old (says Seneca) the E∣pidemical disease,* for men to crack their brains to discover how many Oars Vlysses Gally carried; whe∣ther it were first written Ilias or Odyssea; and a profound Student amongst the learned Romans would recount to you who was the first Victor at Sea; when Ele∣phants came into use at Triumphs; and wounderful is the concern a∣bout Caudex, for the derivation of Codices, Caudicarius, &c. Gellius or Agellius, Vergilius or Virgilius, with the like trifles that make men idly busie indeed, not better: yet are these amongst the considera∣ble effects and rare productions of Recess, Solitude, and Books, and some have grown old in the learn∣ing, and been greatly admired for it: But what says our Philosopher to it? Cujus isti errores minuent? Page 89 Cujus cupiditates prement, quem fortiorem, quem justiorem, quem li∣beraliorem facient? Who's the better, less Covetous, more Valiant, Iust, or Liberal for them? I tell you Fabianus preferr'd Ignorance before this unprofitable Science; and certainly therefore useful and Publick Employment is infinitely superior to it: If needs we will be Learned out of Books only, let it be in something more useful; Qui fructuosa, non qui multa scit, sapit; for 'tis no Paradox to affirm, a man may be learned and know but lit∣tle, and that the greatest Clerks, are not alwaies the wisest men.* The Greek Orator gives us this descri∣ption of usefully knowing men: Reckon not those (says he) for Philosophers, whom you find to be acute Disputants, and that can con∣test about every minute scruple; but those who discourse pertinent∣ly of the most important Affairs:Page 90 who do not entertain men about a felicity, to which they can never ar∣rive; but such as speak modestly of themselves, and neither want Cou∣rage nor address on all emergencies; that are not in the least discompo∣sed with the common accidents of life, but that stand unshaken amidst all vicissitudes, and can with Mode∣ration support both Good and Ad∣verse Fortune; In sum, those who are fit for action, not discouraged, or meditating retreats upon every cross adventure: to this purpose the Orator: But neither would I by this be thought to discounte∣nance even this kind of Erudition, which more than any other is the effect of Solitude, and very great leisure, not to call it Pedantry; much less Bookish and Studious persons, who would prove the most dear to Princes and Great men of all other Conversations, had they such generous encouragements, as Page 91 might sometimes invite them to leave their beloved Recesses, as did those great Philosophers whom we have brought on the Stage: But we bestow more now a days in painting a Scene, and the ex∣pence of a ridiculous farce, than in rewarding of the Poet, or a good Historian, whose Laurels no longer thrive and are verdant, then they are irriguous and under showrs of Gold, and the constella∣tions of Crowns, for which they give immortality even to Crowns themselves: For what would there remain of so many Pyramids and Obeliscs of Marble, so many Am∣phitheaters, Circs, Colosses, and enormous Pomps, if Books and Book-men aere perenniores, did not preserve them to posterity? If under Heaven then there be any thing Great, and that approches Eternity, it is from their hands who have manag'd the Pen: 'Tis from their Page 92 labors (Ye Great Ones) that you seek to live, and are not forgotten as the dust you lie mingled with: Never had we heard of Achilles but for poor Homer; never of the Exploits of thousands more, but from the Books and Writings of Learned men, who have it in their power, to give more lustre to their Heros, than their Crowns, and Purple; and can with one dash of their pen, kill more dead, then a stab, with a Stiletto.
There is no man alive that more affects a Country life then my self, no man it may be, who has more experienc'd the delices of it: But even those without action were intollerable: You will say it is not publick: If it contribute and tend to it, what wants it but the name and the sound? For he does not mean by business to re∣side only in Cities or Courts; since without that of the Country, there would neither be Court nor City:Page 93 But if he would have this life spent only in Theory and Fancy, Ex∣tasie and Abstractions, 'twere fitter for Bedlam, and a potion of Hele∣bor, then for sober men, whose lives and healths, wits and under∣standing were given them for acti∣on, and not to sit with their arms a crosse, and converse with sha∣dows; whilst the fates of Pytha∣goras, Archimedes and Pliny, whose curiosity cost them their lives, may well be ranked amongst those whom he is pleas'd to name the nobly senselesse, as far indeed trans∣ported beyond themselves, as they had transported themselves be∣yond the world: But
It is after he has celebrated the Pedant for being inchanted at the story of Pompey, that he again introduces the Country Gentleman, whose easie and insignificant life is preferr'd before that of the hap∣piest favourite; and can be as well Page 94 pleas'd with a few bawling Currs, or what he calls an happy chase, as with the acquisition of the most useful Office in the State. But does he call this solitude and recesse?* 'Tis exceeding pretty what Seneca observes of Servillus Vatia, who, it seems, had long retired himself to the most pleasant part of the Baiae: There it was (says he) that this Gentleman pass'd his time, and had never been known but from his famous solitude: No man eat, nor drank better: He had rare fish-ponds and Parks (I suppose he kept good Hawks, and excellent Dogs) in sum, he was thought the only happy man; for arrive what would, as to change in the Commonwealth, Vatia still enjoy'd himself; and ô Vatia (they us'd to say) tu solus scis vivere: For my part (adds my Author) I never pass'd by his house, but I cry'd Va∣tia hîc situs est; Here lies Vatia;Page 95 esteeming him as dead and buried, whom others thought the only man alive:* But he proceeds; There are a number (says he) who seem to have abandon'd the World, that are as full of businesse in their Villas, and Rural retirements, as other men who live in Towns and Cities; and trouble themselves extreamly in their very solitude: Though there be no body with them, yet are they never in Re∣pose: Of these we must not say their life is idle, but an idle Occu∣pation: Do you fancy him retir'd that goes a madding after Medals and Curiosities, and spends his time in raking a Tinkers Shop for a rusty piece of Copper? or that is dieting and breathing his Jockies for the next Running-match? or that consumes his time trifling a∣mongst Barbers, razing and spru∣cing himself, Powdering, Comb∣ing, and summoning a Council Page 96 upon every Hair; raging like an Hector at a slip of the Scissars, or a lock out of curl? and of which sort of wretches there are some who had rather see the Common∣wealth out of order, than one of their hairs: Call you these Retir'd and at Rest, who are so eternally inter pectinem speculumque occu∣pati? or those who are alwaies humming or whistling of a Tune as they go about? These Persons (says Seneca) are not in Repose, but impertinently active: If at any time they make a Feast, there's nothing more pretty than to ob∣serve but the grave consultations about plaiting of the Nappery, or∣dering the Plate and Glasses, and setting out the Services: O how sollicitous shall you have them, that the Courses come up in time, that the Fowl be skilfully carv'd, and the Sauces exquisitely made! and all this forsooth, that men Page 97 may say; Such a one knows how to treat, lives handsomely and at his Ease, &c. when, God knows, all this while, they are of all other in the most miserable anxiety: There were of these soft and reti∣red Gentlemen, that had their Offi∣cers to mind them when 'twas time to go to Supper, and abandoned themselves so prodigiously to their ease, that they hardly knew when they were hungry: I read of one of them, who when he was lifted out of his Bath and put on his Cushion, asked his attendants, whether he sate or stood, and was so buried in sloth, that he could not tell it without Witnesses: Such another we have in Stobaeus that was wont to demand of his men, if he had wash'd, and whether he had din'd or no? 'Twere endless to proceed with the like instances of retired Persons, and who seem to be so full of self-enjoyment, and Page 98 yet whose very pleasures are of the lowest and the sordid'st a∣ctions of our life: What shall we then say of our lazy Game∣sters, who sit long at the Cards, the Wine and the smoke, with∣out a grain of Sense from din∣ner to midnight? because they are all of them slothful diversi∣ons, inactive, and oppos'd to Pub∣lick Employment; since those who are qualified with Business, and have any thing to do in the world, cannot part with such portions of their time to so little purpose: By all which we see, that Ease and Solitude presents us with some pleasures that are not altogether so fit for our recreation, and as little suitable to our reason and stoical indifferency; nor seldom less dan∣gerous and ridiculous in their ob∣jects than the most Publick Employ∣ment: For I find that one of the Page 99 chief Prerogatives of our happy∣man (and whom by a contradi∣ction to his Argument, he thinks ill defin'd by being tearm'd a little World) is by the advantage of his recess to mould Idëas of a thou∣sand Species, never yet in being; and to use his own expression, pro∣duce more Monsters than Africa it self, more Novelties than Ame∣rica; to fancy Building, Navies, Courts, Cities, and Castles in the Air.
On the other side, do we think that men of Business never vacate to admire the Works of Nature, be∣cause they possess so many Works of Art? I have sufficiently shew'd how competent Philosophy is with Publick Employment; and instanc'd in as great Persons as ever the World produc'd; and yet I said nothing of Moses, learn'd in all that Aegypt knew;* nor of Solomon,Page 100 to whom God gave Wisdom and Vnderstanding exceeding much;* that spake of Trees and Plants; of Beasts, Fowls, Fishes, and Reptiles; those fruitful subjects of natural experience: And as to that of Astrology, and those other parts of Mathematics which he mentions, we have deriv'd to us more Sci∣ence from Princes, Chaldean, Ara∣bian, and Aegyptians, than from all the World besides. The great Caesar was so skilful, that with ad∣mirable success he reformed the Year, when to perfect that sub∣lime knowledge, he was wont (even when his Army lay in the Field) to spend so much of his time in studious pernoctations.
But if the unmeasurable pursuit of Riches have plung'd so many great Ones into Vices, and fre∣quently become their ruine; we may find more private Persons, who neither Built, Feasted, nor Gam'd, as greedy and oppressive; defrauding even their own bellies, and living in steeples, squalid Cot∣tages and sordid Corners to grati∣fie an unsatiable avarice; and that have no other testimony to prove they have liv'd long, besides their Page 102Ease, their avarice, and the number of their Years: None to appearance more Wise and Religious than these Wretches, whose Apology is com∣monly their declining of power, and contempt of worldly vanities: The sole difference which seems to be between them, is, that the great Rich-man disposes of his Estate in building some august Fa∣brick or Publick Work, which cul∣tivates, Art, and employs a world of poor men that earn their bread; and that the other unprofitably hoards it up: Besides, that Cove∣tousness seldom goes unaccompa∣nied with other secret and exter∣minating Vices. But the wisest of men has said so much, and so well concerning this Evil under the Sun,* that I shall only need address you to his Book of Vanities: As for the Recreative part of Solitude, which he again resolves here into Hunting, Hawking, Angling, and Page 103 the like: Would any man think it in earnest when he undertakes to oppose them to an useful and active life? But even as to these also, who is it more enjoy them than those that can best support them? where∣as they are Pleasures which for the most part undo private Persons, and draw expences along with them, to the ruine of some no in∣considerable Families.
For the rest which he mentions as sinful and of so ill report, I cannot suppose that all Great men affect them, because I know of many who detest them; nor that all private Persons use them not, because I know of too many which do.
The greatest Persons of Employ∣ment are frequently the simplest and plainest in their Apparrel, and enjoy that prerogative above the meaner sort, that they make their Ease indeed their Mode, and can Page 104adopt it into Fashion without any note of singularity: Herein there∣fore they are worthy of imitation; for I suppose he will not rank the Gallants of the Anti-chambers and Hectors of the Town amongst the Garbati and Men of Fashion in the sense of his Essay: For my part, I take no more notice of these gay things, than of so many feathers & painted Kixes that the giddy air tosses about; and therefore can∣not so much as consider them in a Paragraph. The same may I affirm of Food, as of Cloaths: For though great men keep nobler Tables (or at least should do) yet no man constrains them to intemperance; and if they be persons of real em∣ployment indeed, they will procure as good an appetite to their meat, as those who Thrash, and do the most laborious exercise: And the affairs of many are so methodical and regular, that there is nothing Page 105 more admirable then their excel∣lent Oeconomy;* besides the honour of their hospitality,* which I take to be an Evangelical and shining Virtue;* not to praetermit the be∣nefit which even a whole Country receives by liberal Tables;* for so the Grazier and the Farmer are made able to pay their Rents, assist the Publick and support their Fa∣milies.
So that when he has done all, and run through all the topics of his promising Frontispiece; turn'd it to all sides and lights, he is at last, I find, oblig'd to acknow∣ledge, that Publick Employment and an active life is at least necessary, nay preferrable even in his own estimation of it. For, if (as he says) it be the object of our duty, it is undoubtedly to be preferr'd before our choice; since the de∣pravedness of our Nature, tenders that (for the most part) amiss. We seldom elect the best.
Page 106 He would have men in Employ∣ment, only he would have them drawn to it (like Bears to the stake) or never to serve their Country, till it were sinking; as if a States-man or a Pilot could be made on an instant, and emerge a Politici∣an, a Secretary of State or a Soul∣dier like Cincinnatus from the Plough: But no man certainly is made an artificer so soon: Nemo repentè says the Proverb; and I suppose there is requir'd as much dexterity, at least, to the making of a States-man, as to the making of a Shooe, and yet no man sets up that mystery without a an Ap∣prentiship: The truth is, and I confess, this petulant and hasty pre∣tending of men to places of Charge in the Commonwealth, without a natural aptitude, a praevious and solid disposition to business is the bane of States; Men should not immoderately press into employ∣ment;Page 107 'tis a sacred thing, and con∣cerns the well-being of so great a body, as nothing can be more pre∣judicial to it than the ignorant ex∣periments of State Emperics, and raw Counsellors; though I do not deny that some young persons are of early hopes, and have in all Ages been admitted to no mean degrees of access; Augustus, Tyberius and Nero enter'd very young into af∣fairs, and Pompey we know Tri∣umph'd betimes: Let men be early Great on Gods name, if men be early fit for it; they shall have my vote, and 'twas wittily said of one of the Scipios (who was another young Gentleman of early matu∣rity) se sat annorum habiturum, si P. Ro. voluerit, that he should soon be old enough, if the people pleas'd: and accordingly the people thought fit to send him General into Spain, which he reduc'd into a Roman Prov•nce by his valour and discre∣tion, Page 108 when so many older men re∣fus'd the charge for the difficulty of the enterprise, and the miscar∣riage of their predecessors: Great men therefore should not like over∣grown Trees, too much shade the subnascent plants, and young Imps, who would grow modestly under their influence; but receive, protect and encourage them by inductive opportunities & favourable entran∣ces to inform and produce their good parts, preserving the more arduous difficulties to the Aged and more Experienc'd. This noble and worthy Comity of Great men in place, Plutarch has much commen∣ded in that excellent discourse of his, Anseni gerenda sit Repub. But as I said, it became not every one to aspire; so I cannot but pro∣nounce it glorious to those, who are accomplish'd for it, and can be useful to their generation in the most important affairs, and aleviation Page 109 of the common burthen: But if all Wise persons who have qualified Geniu's, cannot attain to be (as it were) Intelligences in these sub∣limer Orbs of publick administra∣tion; let them gratifie themselves yet with this, that (as the Philoso∣pher says) every virtuous man is a Magistrate; and that Seneca, Zeno, Chrysippus and infinite others, have done as much for the publick by their Writings and Conversation only, as the greatest Politicians of their times; and withal consider, how difficult a Province he assumes, who does at all engage himself in publick business; since if he go∣vern ill, he shall displease God, if well, the people: At least call to mind that prudent answer of Antisthenes, who being demanded quomodo ad Rempub. accedendum? how he should address himself to Publick Affairs; replyed, as to the Fire; neither too neer for fear of Page 110scorching, nor yet too far off, lest he be starv'd with cold: And I confess the suffrage is so Axiomatical with me, that I know no mediocrity I would sooner recommend to a person whom I lov'd, whilest as to an absolute and final retreat, though it appear indeed great in story, provided the resignation be not of compulsion, I should in few cases approve the action; 'tis (as Seneca has it) Ex vivorum nu∣mero exire antequam morieris, to die even before death, and as after∣ward he adds, ultimum malorum: Counsel is with the gray-head;* & for men whom Experience in publick Affairs has ripn'd and consumma∣ted, to withdraw aside, praesages ill: With reverence be it spoken; No man putting his hand to that Plow,* and looking back is fit for so high a Service.
I know whose advice it is; That since Governors of States, and Page 111 men of Action,* Favourites, and Prime Ministers cannot always se∣cure themselves of Envy and Com∣petifion, they should so order Cir∣cumstances, as sometimes to hold the People in kind of appetite for them; by letting them a little feel the want of their influence and addresses, to solve and dispatch the weighty and knotty affairs of State. For thus did the African Scipio retire into the Country to alay his emulous delators, and some others have more voluntari∣ly receded; but frequently with∣out success: For as Envy never makes Holy-day; so, nor does di∣stance of place protect men from her malignity; and therefore Se∣neca,* does some where describe with what flying colours Men of business (even in the greatest infe∣licities of times, and when it may be there is a kind of necessity of more caution) should manage their Page 112retreat from action. But in the mean time let those who desire to take their turns, attend, in the name of God, till it fairly invites them; I am not for this praepo∣strous rotation suggested in our Essay; 'twas born to Oceana, and I hope shall never manage scepter, save in her Romantick Common∣wealth since, should great men foresee their Employments were sure to determine in so short a space; the temptation to rapine, and injustice (which he there in∣stances in) would prove infinitely more prejudicial: Frequent changes of Officers, are but like so many thirsty spunges, which affect only to be fill'd, and invite to be squeez'd; and therefore 'twas wittily insinu∣ated by the Apologue, That the Fox would not suffer the Hedge-hog to chase away the Flies, and Ticks that sucked him, lest when those were replete, more hungry ones Page 113 should succeed in their places. But the rest is clos'd with a florid Aplogy for Ease (not to give it a less tender adjunst) in the specious pre∣tences of Contemplation and Phi∣losophy, oppos'd to those little in∣different circumstances, which the vainer people, who yet converse with the world without any consi∣derable design, are obnoxious to; whilst there's no notice taken of the vanity of some mens Contem∣plations, the dangers and tempta∣tion of Solitude, which has no o∣ther occupation superior to that of Animals, but that it thinks more, and acts less, and cannot in his estimate be wise or happy with∣out being morose and uncivil: Doubtless Action is the enamel of virtue; and if any instance pro∣duc'd in that large Paragraph me∣rit the consideration, it is when it exerts it self in something profita∣ble to others; since those who Page 114 have deriv'd knowledge the most nicely, according to the Philosophy he so amply pleads for, to degrade man of his most political capacity,* (ranking him beneath Bees, Ants, and Pigeons, who affect not com∣pany more passionately than man;) allow him Society as one of the main ingredients of his definition: and 'tis plain immanity says Cicero to flie the congress and the conversati∣on of others, when even Timon was not able to endure himself alone; no, though man had all that Na∣ture could afford him to render him happy, Society only deny'd him; quis tam esset ferreus? who could have the heart to support it? Solitude alone would imbitter the fruits of all his satisfactions: And verily Solitude is repugnant to Nature; and whilst we abandon the Society of others, we many times converse with the worst of men, our selves. But neither is the Page 115 life and employment of our Soci∣able Creature taken up (as has suf∣ficiently been shew'd) in those empty impertinencies he reckons; nor as a Christian in Idëas on∣ly, but in useful practice; and Wis∣dom is the result of experience; ex∣perience of repeated acts.
Let us therefore rather celebrate Publick Employment and an Active Life, which renders us so neerly al∣ly'd to Virtue, defines and maintains our Being, supports Societys, preserves Kingdoms in peace, protect them in War; has discover'd new Worlds, planted the Gospel, encreases Know∣ledge, cultivates Arts, relieves the afflicted; and in sum, without which, the whole Vniverse it self had been still but a rude and indigested Cäos: Or if (to vie Landskips with our Celador) you had rather see it re∣presented in Picture: Behold here a Sovereign sitting in his august As∣sembly of Parliament enacting Page 116 wholesome Laws: next him my Lord Chancellor and the rest of the reverend Iudges and Magistrates dispensing them for the good of the People: Figure to your self a Se∣cretary of State, making his di∣spatches and receiving intelligence; a Statesman countermining some pernicious Plot against the com∣mon-wealth: Here a General brave∣ly Embattailing his Forces and van∣quishing an Enemy: There a Colo∣ny planting an Island, and a bar∣barous and solitary Nation re∣duc'd to Civility; Cities, Houses, Forts, Ships building for Socie∣ty, shelter, defence, and Commerce. In another Table, the poor relieved and set at work, the naked clad, the oppress'd deliver'd, the Male∣factor punish'd, the Labourer busi∣ed, and the whole World employed for the benefit of Mankind: In a word, behold him in the neerest resem•lance to his Almighty maker,Page 117 always in action, and always doing good.
On the reverse now, represent to your self, the goodliest piece of the Creation, sitting on a Cushion pick∣ing his teeth, His Country-Gentle∣man taking Tobacco, and sleeping af∣ter a gorgeous meal: There walks a Contemplator like a Ghost in a Church-yard, or sits poring on a book whiles his family starves: Here lies a Gallant at the foot of his pretty female, sighing and looking babies in her eyes, whilst she is reading the last new Romance and laughs at his folly: On yonder rock an An∣chorite at his beads: There one picking daisies, another playing at push-pin, and abroad the young Potcher with his dog and kite break∣ing his neighbours hedges, or tram∣pling o're his corn for a Bird not worth six-pence: This, sitts lowsing himself in the Sun, that, quivering in the cold: Here one Page 118drinks poyson, another hangs him∣self; for all these, and a thousand more seem to prefer solitude and an inactive life as the most happy and eligible state of it: And thus have you Land-skip for your Land-skip.
The result of all is, Solitude produces ignorance, renders us barbarous, feeds revenge, disposes to envy, creates Witches, dispeo∣ples the World, renders it a desart, and would soon dissolve it: And if after all this yet, he admit not an Active life to be by in∣finite degrees more noble; let the Gentleman whose first Contempla∣••ve piece he produces to esta∣blish his his Discourse,*confute him by his Example; since I am con∣fident, there lives not a Person in the World, whose moments are more employ'd then Mr. Boyles, and that more confirms his contem∣plations by his actions and expe∣rience:Page 119 And if it be objected, that his employments are not pub∣lick, I can assure him, there is no∣thing more publick, than the good he's always doing.
How happy in the mean time were it for this ingenious Adven∣ture, could it produce us more such examples; were they but such as himself; for I cannot imagine, but that he who. Writes so well, must Act well; and that he who declames against Publick Employ∣ment in Essay, would refuse to Essay a Publick Employment that were worthy him. These Notices are not the result of inactive con∣templation only, but of a publick, refin'd and generous spirit: Or if in truth I be mistaken, I wish him store of Proselytes, and that we had more such solitary Gentlemen that could render an account of their Retirements, and whilst they argue against ConversationPage 120 (which is the last of the Appana∣ges he disputes against) prove the sweetest Conversation in the World.