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THIS laxity of honour would be more tolerable, if it could be reftrained to the tavern, the ball-room, or the card-table; yet, even there, it is fufficiently troublesome, and darkens thofe moments with expectation, suspense, uncertainty, and resentment, which are fet afide for the fofter pleasures of life, and from which, we naturally hope for unmingled enjoyment, and total relaxation. But he who fuffers the flighteft breach in his morality, can feldom tell what shall enter it, or how wide it shall be made: when a paffage is once opened, the influx of corruption, every moment, wears down oppofition, and, by flow degrees, deluges the heart.
ALIGER entered the world a youth of a lively imagination, extenfive views, and untainted principles. His curiofity incited him to range from place to place, and try all the varieties of converfation: his elegance of addrefs, and fertility of ideas, gained him friends wherever he appeared; or, at leaft, he found the general kindnefs of reception, always fhown to a young man, whofe birth and fortune give him a claim to notice, and who has, neither by vice nor folly, deftroyed his privileges. Aliger was pleased with this general fmile of mankind; and, being naturally gentle and flexible, was induftrious to preferve it, by compliance and officioufness: but did not fuffer his defire of pleasing, to vitiate his integrity. It was his established maxim, that a promife is never to be broken; nor was it without much reluctance, that he once fuffered himself to be drawn away, from a feftal engagement, by the importunity of another company.
HE spent the evening, as is ufual in the rudiments of vice, with perturbation, and imperfect enjoyment;
and met his disappointed friends, in the morning, with confufion, and excufes. His companions, not accustomed to fuch fcrupulous anxiety, laughed at his uneafinefs, compounded the offence for a bottle, gave him courage to break his word again, and again levied the penalty. He ventured the fame experiment upon another fociety, and found them equally ready to confider it as a venial fault, always incident to a man of quicknefs and gaiety; til, by degrees, he began to think himself at liberty to follow the laft invitation, and was no longer fhocked at the turpitude of falfehood. He made no difficulty to promise his prefence at different places; and, if liftleffnefs happened to creep in upon him, would fit at home with great tranquillity, and fink to fleep in a chair, while, perhaps, ten tables were held in continual expectation of his entrance.
He found it fo pleafant to live in perpetual vacancy, that he foon difmiffed his attention as an ufelefs incumbrance; and refigned himself to carelessnefs and diffipation, without any regard to the future or the paft, or any other motive of action, than the impulfe of a fudden defire, or the attraction of immediate pleasure. The abfent were immediately forgotten; and the hopes or fears of others, had no inHuence upon his conduct. He was, in fpeculation, completely juft; but never kept his promise to a creditor: he was benevolent; but always deceived those friends, whom he undertook to patronife or affift: he was prudent; but fuffered his affairs to be embarraffed, for want of fettling his accompts at ftated times. He courted a young lady; and, when the fettlements were drawn, took a ramble into the country, on the day appointed to fign them. He refolved to travel, and fent his chefts on fhipboard; but delayed to follow them, till he loft his paffage. He
was fummoned as an evidence in a cause of great importance; and loitered in the way, till the trial was paft. It is faid, that when he had, with great expence, formed an intereft in a borough, his opponent contrived, by fome agents, who knew his temper, to lure him away on the day of election.
His benevolence draws him into the commiffion of a thousand crimes, which others, lefs kind or civil, would escape. His courtesy invites application; his promifes produce dependence. He has his pockets filled with petitions, which he intends fome time to deliver and enforce; and his table covered with letters of request, with which he purposes to comply. But the time flips away imperceptibly: nothing is effected: his friends lofe their opportunities; and charge to his neglect, their mifcarriages and disappointments.
THIS character, however contemptible, is not peculiar to Aliger. They whofe activity of fancy is often shifting the fcenes of expectation, are frequently fubject to fuch fallies of caprice, as make all their actions fortuitous, deftroy the value of their friendhip, obftruct the efficacy of their virtues, and set them below the meaneft of those that perfift in their refolutions, execute what they defign, and perform what they have promised.
HE Elizabeth, an English man of war, would infallibly have been loft in the fhoals on the coaft of Florida, in 1746, had not Captain Edwards
ventured into the Havannah. It was in time of war, and the port belonged to the enemy. "I come (faid the captain to the governor)" to deliver up my "fhip, my failors, my foldiers, and myself, into 0 your hands: I only afk the lives of my men." "No-" (faid the Spanish commander) “ I will not "be guilty of fo difhonourable an action. Had we "taken you in fight, in open fea, or upon our "coafts, your fhip would have been ours, and you "would be our prifoners. But, as you are driven "in by stress of weather, and are come hither for "fear of being caft away, I do, and ought, to forget "that my nation is at war with yours. You are << men, and so are we: you are in distress, and have a right to our pity. You are at liberty to unload "and refit your veffel; and, if you want it, you "may trade in this port, to pay your charges: you 66 may then go away, and you will have a pass to "carry you fafe beyond the Bermudas. If, after "this, you are taken, you will be a lawful prize; "but, at this moment, I fee in Englishmen, only ftrangers, for whom humanity claims our affift
ISCRETION does not only fhew itself in words, but in all the circumftances of action; and is like an under-agent of Providence, to guide and direct us in the ordinary concerns of life.
THERE are many more fhining qualities in the mind of man; but there is none fo useful as difcretion. It is this, indeed, which gives a value to all the reft; which fets them at work, in their proper times and places; and turns them to the advantage of the person who is poffeffed of them. Without it, learning is pedantry, and wit impertinence; virtue itself looks like weakness; the best parts only qualify a man to be more fprightly in errors, and active to his own prejudice.
NOR does difcretion only make a man the mafter of his own parts, but of other mens. The discreet man finds out the talents of those he converses with, and knows how to apply them to proper ufes. Accordingly, if we look into particular communities and divifions of men, we may observe, that it is the discreet man, not the witty, nor the learned, nor the brave, who guides the conversation, and gives meafures to fociety. A man with great talents, but void of difcretion, is like Poliphemus in the fable; ftrong and blind, endued with an irrefiftible force, which, for want of fight, is of no use to him.
AT the fame time that I think difcretion the most ufeful talent a man can be mafter of, I look upon cunning to be the accomplishment of little, mean, ungenerous minds. Difcretion points out the nobleft ends to us, and purfues the most proper and laudable methods of attaining them: cunning has only private selfish aims, and sticks at nothing which may make them fucceed. Difcretion has large and extended views; and, like a well-formed eye, commands a whole horizon: cunning is a kind of fhort-fightednefs, that discovers the minuteft objects which are near at hand, but is not able to difcern things at a distance.