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The Importance of Punctuality. [Rambler, N°. 20.1.] T is in the
of the ex
Icellency of manufactures, and facility of labour,
would be much promoted, if the various expedients. and contrivances which lie concealed in private hands, were by reciprocal communications made generally known, for there are few operations that are not performed by one or other with fome peculiar advantages, which though fingly of little importance, would by conjunction and concurrence open new inlets to knowledge, and give new powers to diligence.
There are in like manner feveral moral excellencies diftributed among the various claffes of mankind, which he that converfes in the world fhould endeavour to affemble in himself. It was faid by the learned Cujacius, that he never read more than one book, by which he was not inftructed; and he that fhall enquire after virtue with ardor and attention, will feldom find a man by whofe example or fentiments he may not be improved.
Every profeffion has fome effential and appropriate virtue, without which there can be no hope of honour or fuccefs, and which as it is more or lefs cultivated, confers within its fphere of activity different degrees of merit and reputation. As the aftrologers range the fubdivifions of mankind under the planets which they fuppofe to influence their lives, the moralift may diftribute them according to the virtues which they neceffarily practise, and confider them as diftinguished by prudence or fortitude, diligence or patience.
So much are the modes of excellence fettled by time and place, that men may be heard boafting in one street of that which they would anxiously conceal in another. The grounds of fcorn and efteem, the topics of praile and fatire are varied according to the feveral virtues or vices which the courfe of our lives has difpofed us to admire or abhor; but he who is folicitous for his own improvement, must not fuffer his endeavours to be limited by local reputation, but felect from every tribe of
of mortals their characteristical virtues, and conftellate in himself the scattered graces which fhine fingle in other men.
The chief praise to which a trader generally afpires in that of punctuality, or an exact and rigorous obfervance of commercial promifes and engagements; nor is there any vice of which he fo much dreads the imputation, as of negligence and inftability. This is a quality which the intereft of mankind requires to be diffufed through all the ranks of life, but which, however ufeful and valuable, many feem content to want; it is confidered as a vulgar and ignoble virtue, below the ambition of greatness or attention of wit, fcarcely re quifite among men of gaiety and spirit, and fold at its highest rate when it is facrificed to a frolick or a jest.
Every man has daily occafion to remark what vexations and inconveniencies arife from this privilege of deceiving one another. The active and vivacious have fo long difdained the reftraints of truth, that promifes and appointments have loft their cogency, and both parties neglect their flipulations, because each concludes. that they will be broken by the other.
Negligence is firft admitted in trivial affairs, and ftrengthened by petty indulgencies. He that is not yet hardened by cuftom ventures not on the violation of important engagements, but thinks himself bound by his word in cafes of property or danger, though he allows himself to forget at what time he is to meet ladies in the park, or at what tavern his friends are expecting him.
This laxity of honour would be more tolerable if it could be restrained to the play-houfe, the ball-room, or the card-table; yet even there it is fufficiently troublefome, and darkens thofe moments with expectation, fufpenfe, uncertainty, and refentment, which are fet afide for the fofter pleasures of life, and from which we naturally hope for unmingled enjoyment, and total relaxation. But he that fuffers the flightest breach in his morality, can feldom tell what shall enter it, or how wide it shall be made; when a paffage is opened, the
influx of corruption is every moment wearing down oppofition, and by flow degrees deluges the heart.
Aliger entered the world a youth of 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 whereever he appeared; or at least he found the general kindnefs of reception always fhewn to a young man whose birth and fortune gave him a claim to notice, and who has neither by vice or folly deftroyed his privileges. Aliger was pleafed with this general fmile of mankind, and being naturally gentle and flexible, was induftrious to preferve it by compliance and officioufnefs, but did not fuffer his defire of pleafing to vitiate his integrity. It was his established maxim, that a promife is never to be broken; nor was it without long reluctance that he once fuffered himself to be drawn away from a festal 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 accuftomed 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 quickness and gaiety; till by degrees he began to think himself at liberty to follow the laft invitation, and was no longer fhocked at the turpitude of falfhood. H made no difficulty to promife his prefence at diftant places, and if liftleffness happened to creep upon him, would fit at home with great tranquillity, and has often, while he funk to fleep in a chair, held ten tables in continual expectation of his entrance.
He found it fo pleasant to live in perpetual vacancy, that he foon difmified his attention as an useless incumbrance, and refigned himself to careleffnefs and diffi pation, without any regard to the future or the past,
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 influence upon his conduct. He was in fpeculation completely juft, but never kept his promife to a creditor; he was benevolent, but always deceived thofe friends whom he undertook to patronize or affist; he was prudent, but fuffered his affairs to be embarraffed for want of fettling his accounts 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 caufe of great importance, and loitered in the way till the trial was paft. It is said, that when he had with great expence formed an interest in a borough, his opponent contrived by some agents, who knew his temper, to lure him away on the day of election.
His benevolence draws him into the commission of a thousand crimes, which others, less kind or civil, would efcape. His courtefy 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 purpofes to comply; but time flips im2 perceptibly away, while he is either idle or bufy: kis friends lofe their opportunities, and charge upon him their miscarriages and calamities.
This character, however contemptible, is not peculiar to Aliger. They whofe activity of imagination 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 friendship, obftruct the efficacy of their virtues, and fet them below the meaneft of thofe that perfift in their refolutions, execute what they defign, and perform what they have pro mifed.
ODILY labour is of two kinds, either that which a man fubmits to for his livelihood, or that which he undergoes for his pleasure. The latter of them generally changes the name of labour for that of exercise, but differs only from ordinary labour as it rifes from another motive.
A country life abounds in both thefe kinds of labour, and for that reafon gives a man a greater flock of health, and confequently a more perfect enjoyment of himself, than any other way of life. I confider the body as a fyftem of tubes and glands, or to use a more ruftic phrafe, a bundle of pipes and ftrainers, fitted to one another after fo wonderful a manner as to make a proper engine for the foul to work with. This defcription does not only comprehend the bowels, bones, tendons, veins, nerves, and arteries, but every muscle and every ligature, which is a compofition of fibres, that are fo many imperceptible tubes or pipes interwoven on all fides with invifible glands or ftrainers.
This general idea of a human body, without confidering it in its niceties of anatomy, lets us fee how abfolutely neceffary labour is for the right prefervation of it. There must be frequent motions and agitations, to mix, digeft, and feparate the juices contained in it, as well as to clear and cleanse that infinitude of pipes and trainers of which it is compofed, and to give their folid parts a more firm and lafting tone. Labour or exercise ferments the humours, cafts them into their proper channels, throws off redundancies, and helps. nature in thofe fecret diftributions, without which the body cannot fubfift in its vigour, nor the foul act with chearfulness.
. I might here mention the effects, which this has upon all the faculties of the mind, by keeping the understanding clear, the imagination untroubled, and refining thofe fpirits that are neceffary for the proper exertion of our intellectual faculties, during the prefent laws of