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acquiescing in, those gently soothing engagements, the due variety and succession of which are the only things that supply a vein or continued stream of happiness.
What I have been able to observe of that part of mankind whose professed pursuit is pleasure, and who are withheld in the pursuit by no restraints of fortune or scruples of conscience, corresponds sufficiently with this account. I have commonly remarked in such men a restless and inextinguishable passion for variety; a great part of their time to be vacant, and so much of it irksome; and that, with whatever eagerness and expectation they set out, they become by degrees fastidious in their choice of pleasure, languid in the enjoyment, yet miserable under the want of it.
The truth seems to be, that there is a limit at which these pleasures soon arrive, and from which they ever afterwards decline. They are by necessity of short duration, as the organs cannot hold on their emotions beyond a certain length of time; and if you endeavour to compensate for this imperfection in their nature by the frequency with which you repeat them, you suffer more than you gain, by the fatigue of the faculties and the diminution of sensibility.
We have said nothing in this account of the loss of opportunities, or the decay of faculties ; which, whenever they happen, leave the voluptuary destitute and desperate—teased by desires that can never be gratified, and the memory of pleasures which must return no more.
It will also be allowed by those who have experienced it, and perhaps by those alone, that pleasure which is purchased by the incumbrance of our fortune is purchased too dear; the pleasure never compensating for the perpetual irritation of embarrassed circumstances.
These pleasures, after all, have their value; and as the young are always too eager in their pursuit of them, the old are sometimes too remiss ; that is, too studious of their ease to be at the pains for them which they really deserve.
Secondly, Neither does happiness consist in an exemption from pain, labour, care business, suspense, molestation, and “those evils
which are without;" such a state being usually attended, not with ease, but with depression of spirits, a tastelessness in all our ideas, imaginary anxieties, and the whole train of hypochondriacal affections.
For which reason the expectations of those who retire from their shops and counting-houses, to enjoy the remainder of their days in leisure and tranquillity, are seldom answered by the effect; much less of such as, in a fit of chagrin, shut themselves up in cloisters and hermitages, or quit the world and their stations in it for solitude and repose.
Where there exists a known external cause of uneasiness, the cause may be removed, and the uneasiness will cease ; but those imaginary distresses which men feel for want of real ones (and which are equally tormenting, and so far equally real), as they depend upon no single or assignable subject of uneasiness, admit oftentimes of no application or relief.
Hence a moderate pain, upon which the attention may fasten and spend itself, is to many a refreshment; as a fit of the gout will sometimes cure the spleen. And the same of any less violent agitation of the mind; as a literary controversy, a law-suit, a contested election, and, above all, gaming-the passion for which, in men of fortune and liberal minds, is only to be accounted for on this principle.
Thirdly, Neither does happiness consist in greatness, rank, or elevated station.
Were it true that all superiority afforded pleasure, it would follow that by how much we were the greater—that is, the more persons we were superior to-in the same proportion, so far as depended upon this cause, we should be the happier; but so it is, that no superiority yields any satisfaction, save that which we possess or obtain over those with whom we immediately compare ourselves. The shepherd perceives no pleasure in his superiority over his dog; the farmer, in his superiority over the shepherd; the lord, in his superiority over the farmer; nor the king, lastly, in his superiority over the lord. Superiority, where there is no competition, is seldom contemplated—what most men are quite unconscious of.
But if the same shepherd can run, fight, or wrestle better than the peasants of his village; if the farmer can show better cattle, if he keep a better horse, or be supposed to have a longer purse, than any farmer in the hundred; if the lord have more interest in an election, greater favour at court, a better house or larger estate, than any nobleman in the county; if the king possess a more extensive territory, a more powerful fleet or army, a more splendid establishment, more loyal subjects, or more weight and authority in adjusting the affairs of nations, than any prince in Europe-in all these cases the parties feel an actual satisfaction in their superiority.
Now the conclusion that follows from hence is this,—that the pleasures of ambition, which are supposed to be peculiar to high stations, are in reality common to all conditions. The farrier who shoes a horse better, and who is in greater request for his skill, than any man within ten miles of him, possesses, for all that I can see, the delight of distinction and of excelling as truly and substantially as the statesman, the soldier, and the scholar, who have filled Europe with the reputation of their wisdom, their valour, or their knowledge.
No superiority appears to be of any account but superiority over a rival. This, it is manifest, may exist wherever rivalships do; and rivalships fall out amongst men of all ranks and degrees. The object of emulation, the dignity or magnitude of this object, makes no difference; as it is not what either possesses that constitutes the pleasure, but what one possesses more than the other.
Philosophy smiles at the contempt with which the rich and great speak of the petty strifes and competitions of the poor; not reflecting that these strifes and competitions are just as reasonable as their own, and the pleasure which success affords the same.
Our position is, that happiness does not consist in greatness. And this position we make out by showing, that even what are supposed to be the peculiar advantages of greatness, the pleasures of ambition and superiority, are in reality common to all conditions. But whether the pursuits of ambition be ever wise, whether they contribute more to the happiness or misery of the pursuers, is a different question, and a question concerning which we may be allowed to entertain great doubt. The pleasure of success is exquisite; so also is the anxiety of the pursuit, and the pain of disappointment: and, what is the worst part of the account, the pleasure is short-lived. We soon cease to look back upon those whom we have left behind; new contests are engaged in, new prospects unfold themselves : a succession of struggles is kept up, whilst there is a rival left within the compass of our views and profession; and when there is none, the pleasure with the pursuit is at an end.
II. We have seen what happiness does not consist in. We are next to consider in what it does consist.
In the conduct of life, the great matter is, to know beforehand what will please us, and what pleasure will hold out. So far as we know this, our choice will be justified by the event. And this knowledge is more scarce and difficult than at first sight it may seem to be: for sometimes pleasures which are wonderfully alluring and flattering in the prospect, turn out in the possession extremely insipid, or do not hold out as we expected: at other times, pleasures start up which never entered into our calculation, and which we might have missed of by not foreseeing; whence we have reason to believe that we actually do miss of many pleasures from the same cause. I say, to know "beforehand;" for, after the experiment is tried, it is commonly impracticable to retreat or change; besides that shifting and changing is apt to generate a habit of restlessness, which is destructive of the happiness of every condition.
By reason of the original diversity of taste, capacity, and constitution, observable in the human species, and the still greater variety which habit and fashion have introduced in these particulars, it is impossible to propose any plan of happiness which will succeed to all, or any method of life which is universally eligible or practicable.
All that can be said is, that there remains a presumption in favour of those conditions of life in which men generally appear most cheerful and contented. For though the apparent happiness of mankind be not always a true measure of their real happiness, it is the best measure we have.
Taking this for my guide, I am inclined to believe that happiness consists,
First, In the exercise of the social affections.
Those persons commonly possess good spirits who have about them many objects of affection and endearment, as wife, children, kindred, friends. And to the want of these may be imputed the peevishness of monks, and of such as lead a monastic life.
Of the same nature with the indulgence of our domestic affections, and equally refreshing to the spirits, is the pleasure which results from acts of bounty and beneficence, exercised either in giving money, or in imparting to those who want it the assistance of our skill and profession.
Another main article of human happiness is,
Secondly, The exercise of our faculties, either of body or mind, in the pursuit of some engaging end.
It seems to be true, that no plenitude of present gratifications can make the possessor happy for a continuance, unless he have something in reserve, something to hope for and look forward to. This I conclude to be the case, from comparing the alacrity and spirits of men who are engaged in any pursuit which interests them, with the dejection and ennui of almost all who are either born to so much that they want nothing more, or who have used up their satisfactions too soon, and drained the sources of them.
It is this intolerable vacuity of mind which carries the rich and great to the horse-course and the gaming-table; and often engages them in contests and pursuits, of which the success bears no proportion to the solicitude and expense with which it is sought. An election for a disputed borough shall cost the parties twenty or thirty thousand pounds each-to say nothing of the anxiety, humiliation, and fatigue of the canvass ; when a seat in the House of Commons, of exactly the same value, may be had for a tenth part of the money, and with no trouble. I do not mention this to blame the rich and great, (perhaps they cannot do better,) but in confirmation of what I have advanced.
Hope, which thus appears to be of so much importance to our