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without destroying the inhabitants; for, as long as there are any left, they will maintain their ground.
“I had almost forgot to tell you, Sir, that Mercury has hitherto proved a mortal poison for them; and and that it is the most effectual way of destroying those insects. I can do something for them in this case; perhaps you will hear, in a little time, that I have reconciled them to Mercury.”
No. 158. FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 11.
Gnossius hæc Rhadamanthus habet durissima regna:
VIRG. I was yesterday pursuing the hint which I mentioned in my last paper, and comparing together the industry of man with that of other creatures; in which I could not but observe, that, notwithstanding we are obliged by duty to keep ourselves in constant employ, after the same manner as inferior animals are prompted to it by instinct, we fall very short of them in this particular. We are here the more inexcusable, because there is a greater variety of business to which we may apply ourselves. Reason opens to us a large field of affairs, which other creatures are not capable of. Beasts of prey, and I believe of all other kinds, in their natural state of being, divide their time between action and rest. They are always at work or asleep. In short, their waking hours are wholly taken up in seeking after their food, or in consuming it. The human species only, to the great reproach of our natures, are filled with complaints, that the day hangs heavy on them,” that.“they do not know what to do with themselves,” that “they are at a loss how to pass away their time,” with many of the like shameful murmurs, which we often find in the mouths of those who are styled reasonable beings. How monstrous are such expressions among creatures, who have the labours of the mind, as well as those of the body, to furnish them with proper employments, who, besides the business of their proper callings and professions, can apply themselves to the duties of religion, to meditation, to the reading of useful books, to discourse; in a word, who may exercise themselves in the unbounded pursuits of know. ledge and virtue, and every hour of their lives make themselves wiser or better than they were before.
After having been taken up for some time in this course of thought, I diverted myself with a book, ac- . cording to my usual custom, in order to unbend my mind before I went to sleep. The book I made use of on this occasion was Lucian, where I amused my thoughts for about an hour among the dialogues of the dead, which, in all probability, produced the following dream.
I was conveyed, methought, into the entrance of the infernal regions, where I saw Rhadamanthus, one of the judges of the dead, seated on his tribunal. On his left hand stood the keeper of Erebus, on his right the keeper of Elysium. I was told that he sat upon women that day, there being several of the sex lately arrived, who had not yet their mansions assigned them. I was surprised to hear him ask every one of them the same question, namely, “What they had been doing?” Upon this question being proposed to the whole assembly, they stared one upon another, as not knowing what to answer. He then interrogated each of them separately. 'Madam,' says he, to the first of them,
you have been upon the earth about fifty years, what have you been doing there all this while? Doing!! says she, 'really I do not know what I have been do ing: I desire I may have time given me to recollect.' After about half an hour's pause, she told him, that she had been playing at crimp; upon which RhadamanVol. IV.
thus beckoned to the keeper on his left hand, to take her into custody. And you, Madam,' says the judge,
that look with such a soft and languishing air; I think you set out for this place in your nine and twentieth
year, what have you been doing all this while?' 'I had a great deal of business on my hands,' says she, "being taken up the first twelve
life in dressing a jointed baby, and all the remaining part of it in reading plays and romances.“Very well,' says he, ‘you have employed your time to good purpose, Away with her.' The next was a plain country woman: 'Well
, mistress,' says Rhadamanthus, 'and what have you been doing?' An't please your worship,' says she, 'I did not live quite forty years; and in that time brought my husband seven daughters, made him nine thousand cheeses, and left my eldest girl with him, to look after his house in my absence, and who, I may venture to say, is as pretty a housewife as any in the country.' Rhadamanthus smiled at the simplicity of the good woman, and ordered the keeper of Elysium to take her into his care. 'And you, fair lady,' says he, "what have you been doing these five and thirty years? 'I have been doing no hurt, I assure you, Sir,' said she. “That is well, said he, but what good have you been doing?' The lady was in great confusion at this question, and not knowing what to answer, the two keepers leaped out to seize her at the same time; the one took her by the hand to convey her to Elysium, the other caught hold of her to carry her away to Erebus. But Rhadamanthus, observing an ingenuous modesty in her countenance and behaviour, bid them both let her loose, and set her aside for re-examination, when he was more at leisure. An old woman, of a proud and sour look, presented herself next at the bar, and being asked what she had been doing; "Truly,' says she, “I lived three score and ten years in a very wicked world, and was so angry at the behaviour of a parcel of that I passed most of my last years in condemning the
follies of the times; I was every day blaming the silly conduct of people about me, in order to deter those I conversed with from falling into the like errors and miscarriages.' “Very well,' says Rhadamanthus; 'but did you keep the same watchful eye over your own actions?". "Why, truly,' says she, “I was so taken up in publishing the faults of others, that I had no time to consider my own.' 'Madam,' says Rhadamanthus, be pleased to file off to the left, and make room for the venerable matron that stands behind you.' Old gentlewoman,' says he, “I think you are four score; you have heard the question; what have you been do. ing so long in the world ?' 'Ah, Sir!' says she, ‘I have been doing what I should not have done; but I had made a firm resolution to have changed my life, if I had not been snatched off by an untimely end.'
Madam,' says he, you will please to follow your leader;' and spying another of the same age, interrogated her in the same form. To which the matron replied, 'I have been the wife of a husband who was as dear to me in his old age as in his youth. I have been a mother, and very happy in my children, whom I endeavoured to bring up in every thing that is good. My eldest son is blessed by the poor, and beloved by every one that knows him. I lived within my own family, and left it much more wealthy than I found it.' Rhadamanthus, who knew the value of the old lady, smiled upon her in such a manner, that the keeper. of Elysium, who knew his office, reached out his hand to her. He no sooner touched her, but her wrinkles vanished, her eyes sparkled, her cheeks glowed with blushes, and she appeared in full bloom and beauty. A young woman, observing that this officer, who conducted the happy to Elysium, was so great a beautifier, longed to be in his hands, so, thạt pressing through the crowd, she was the next that appeared at the bar; and, being asked what she had been doing the five and twenty years that she had passed in the world? I have endeavoured,' says she, ever since I came to
years of discretion, to make myself lovely and gain adinirers. In order to it, I passed my time in bottling up May dew, inventing white-washes, mixing colours, cutting out patches, consulting my glass, suiting my complexion, tearing off my tucker, sinking my stays Rhadamanthus, without hearing her out, gave the sign to take her off. Upon the approach of the keeper of Erebus, her colour faded, her face was puckered up with wrinkles, and her whole person lost in deformity.
I was then surprised with a distant sound of a whole troop of females that came forward laughing, singing, and dancing. I was very desirous to know the reception they would meet with, and, withal, was very apprehensive, that Rhadamanthus would spoil their mirth; but, at their nearer approach, the noise grew so very great that it awaked me.
I lay some time, reflecting in myself on the oddness of this dream, and could not forbear asking my own heart, what I was doing? I answered myself, that I was writing Guardians. If my readers make as good a use of this work as I design they should, I hope it will never be imputed to me as a work that is vain and unprofitable.
I shall conclude this paper with recommending to them the same short self-examination. If every one of them frequently lays his hand upon his heart, and considers what he is doing, it will check him in all the idle, or, what is worse, the vicious moments of life; lift up his mind when it is running on in a series of indifferent actions, and encourage him when he is engaged in those which are virtuous and laudable. In a word, it will very much alleviate that guilt which the best of men have reason to acknowledge in their daily confessions, of leaving undone those things which they ought to have done, and of doing those things which they ought not to have done.'