Henry Knight Miller (ed.), The Wesleyan Edition of the Works of Henry Fielding: Miscellanies by Henry Fielding, Esq, Vol. 1
pg 212OF THE REMEDY OF AFFLICTIONFor the LOSS of our FRIENDS1
1It would be a strange Consideration (saith Cicero)2 that while 2so many excellent Remedies have been discovered for the several 3Diseases of the human Body, the Mind should be left without 4any Assistance to alleviate and repel the Disorders which befal it. 5The contrary of this he asserts to be true, and prescribes Philo-6sophy to us, as a certain and infallible Method to asswage and 7remove all those Perturbations which are liable to affect this 8nobler Part of Man.
9Of the same Opinion were all those wise and illustrious 10Antients, whose Writings and Sayings on this Subject have been 11transmitted to us.3 And when Seneca tells us, that Virtue is suffi-12cient to subdue all our Passions, he means no other (as he explains 13it in many Parts of his Works) than that exalted divine Philosophy, 14which consisted not in vain Pomp, or useless Curiosity, nor even 15in the Search of more profitable Knowledge, but in acquiring 16solid lasting Habits of Virtue, and ingrafting them into our 17Character.4 It was not the bare knowing the right Way, but the pg 2131constant and steady walking in it, which those glorious Writers 2recommended and dignified by the august Names of Philosophy 3and Virtue; which two Words, if they did not always use in a 4synonimous Sense, yet they all agreed in this, that Virtue was 5the Consummation of true Philosophy.
6Now that this Supreme Philosophy, this Habit of Virtue, 7which strengthened the Mind of a Socrates, or a Brutus, is really 8superior to every Evil which can attack us, I make no doubt: 9but in Truth, this is to have a sound, not a sickly Constitution. 10With all proper Deference therefore to such great Authorities, 11they seem to me to assert no more, than that Health is a Remedy 12against Disease:1 for a Soul once possessed of that Degree of Virtue, 13which can without Emotion look on Poverty, Pain, Disgrace, and 14Death, as Things indifferent: A Soul, as Horace expresses it,
- 15Totus teres atque rotundus.2
16or, according to Seneca, which derives all its Comfort from within, 17not from without: which can look down on all the ruffling 18Billows of Fortune, as from a Rock on Shore, we survey a tem-19pestuous Sea, with Unconcern;3 such a Soul is surely in a State 20of Health, which no Vigour of Bodily Constitution can resemble.
21And as this Health of the Mind exceeds that of the Body in 22Degree, so doth it in Constancy or Duration. In the latter, the 23Transition from perfect Health to Sickness is easy, and often 24sudden; whereas the former being once firmly established in 25the robust State above described, is never afterwards liable to be 26shocked by any Accident, or Impulse of Fortune.
27It must be confessed indeed, that those great Masters have 28pointed out the Way to this Philosophy, and have endeavoured 29to allure and perswade others into it: but as it is certain, that few 30of their Disciples have been able to arrive at its Perfection; nay, 31as several of the Masters themselves have done little Honour 32to their Precepts, by their Examples,4 there seems still great pg 2141Occasion for a mental Physician,1 who should consider the 2human Mind (as is often the Case of the Body) in too weak and 3depraved a Situation to be restored to firm Vigour and Sanity, 4and should propose rather to palliate and lessen its Disorders, 5than absolutely to cure them.2
6To consider the whole Catalogue of Diseases, to which our 7Minds are liable, and to prescribe proper Remedies for them all, 8would require a much longer Treatise than what I now intend; 9I shall confine myself therefore to one only, and to a particular 10Species of that one, viz. to Affliction for the Death of our Friends.
11This is a Malady to which the best and worthiest of Men are 12chiefly liable. It is, like a Fever, the Distemper of a rich and 13generous Constitution.3 Indeed we may say of those base Tem-14pers, which are totally incapable of being affected with it, what 15a witty Physician of the last Age4 said of a shattered and rotten 16Carcase, that they are not worth preserving.
17For this Reason the calm Demeanor of Stilpo the Philosopher, 18who, when he had lost his Children at the taking Megara by 19Demetrius, concluded, he had lost nothing, for that he carried all 20which was his own about him,5 hath no Charms for me. I am more 21apt to impute such sudden Tranquility, at so great a Loss, to 22Ostentation or Obduracy, than to consummate Virtue. It is 23rather wanting the Affection, than conquering it. To overcome 24the Affliction arising from the Loss of our Friends, is great and pg 2151praise-worthy; but it requires some Reason and Time. This 2sudden unruffled Composure is owing to meer Insensibility; 3to a Depravity of the Heart, not Goodness of the Understanding.
4But in a Mind of a different Cast, in one susceptible of a tender 5Affection, Fortune can make no other Ravage equal to such 6a Loss. It is tearing the Heart, the Soul from the Body; not by 7a momentary Operation, like that by which the most cruel 8Tormentors of the Body soon destroy the Subject of their 9Cruelty; but by a continued, tedious, though violent Agitation: 10the Soul having this double unfortunate Superiority to the Body; 11that its Agonies, as they are more exquisite, so they are more 12lasting.
13If however this Calamity be not in a more humane Disposition 14to be presently or totally removed, an Attempt to lessen it is, 15however, worth our Attention. He who could reduce the Tor-16ments of the Gout to one Half or a Third of the Pain, would, 17I apprehend, be a Physician in much Vogue and Request; and 18surely, some palliative Remedies are as much worth our seeking 19in the mental Disorder; especially if this latter should (as appears 20to me who have felt both) exceed the former in its Anguish 21a hundred fold.
22I will proceed therefore, without further Apology, to present 23my Reader with the best Prescriptions I am capable of furnishing; 24many of which have this uncommon Recommendation, that I 25have tried them upon myself with some Success.1 And if Montagne 26be right in his Choice of a Physician, who had himself had the 27Disease which he undertook to cure,2 I shall at least have that 28Pretension to some Confidence and Regard.
29And first, by way of Preparative: while we yet enjoy our 30Friends, and no immediate Danger threatens us of losing them, 31nothing can be wholsomer than frequent Reflections on the 32Certainty of this Loss, however distant it may then appear to us: 33for if it be worth our while to prepare the Body for Diseases 34which may possibly (or at most probably) attack us; how much 35more necessary must it seem to furnish the Mind with every 36Assistance to encounter a Calamity, which our own Death only, pg 2161or the previous Determination of our Friendship, can prevent 2from happening to us.1
3It hath been mentioned as one of the first Ingredients of 4a wise Man, that nothing befals him entirely unforeseen, and 5unexpected. And this is surely the principal Means of taking his 6Happiness or Misery out of the Hands of Fortune.2 Pleasure 7or Pain, which sieze us unprepared, and by Surprize, have 8a double Force, and are both more capable of subduing the Mind, 9than when they come upon us looking for them, and prepared 10to receive them. That Pleasure is heighten'd by long Expectation, 11appears to me a great though vulgar Error. The Mind, by con12stant Premeditation on either, lessens the Sweetness of the one, 13and Bitterness of the other. It hath been well said of Lovers, 14who for a long time procrastinate and delay their Happiness, 15that they have loved themselves out before they come to the 16actual Enjoyment:3 this is as true in the more ungrateful Article 17of Affliction. The Objects of our Passions, as well as of our 18Appetites, may be, in great measure, devoured by Imagination; 19and Grief, like Hunger, may be so palled and abated by Expecta-20tion, that it may retain no Sharpness when its Food is set before it.
21The Thoughts which are to engage our Consideration on this 22Head, are too various, and many of them too obvious to be 23enumerated: the principal are surely, First, the Certainty of the 24Dissolution of this Alliance, however sweet it be to us, or however 25closely the Knot be tied. Secondly, the extreme Shortness of its 26Duration, even at the best. And, Thirdly, the many Accidents 27by which it is daily and hourly liable of being brought to an End.
28Had not the wise Man frequently meditated on these Subjects, 29he would not have cooly answered the Person who acquainted 30him with the Death of his Son—I knew I had begot a Mortal.4 31Whereas by the Behaviour of some on these Occasions, we 32might be almost induced to suspect they were disappointed pg 2171in their Hopes of their Friend's Immortality; that something 2uncommon, and beyond the general Fate of Men, had happened 3to them. In a Word, that they had flattered their Fondness for 4their Children and Friends as enthusiastically as the Poets have 5their Works, which
- 6 —nec Jovis Ira nec Ignis,
- 7Nec poterit Ferrum, nec edax abolere vetustas.1
8Nor is there any Dissuasive from such Contemplation: It is no 9Breach of Friendship, nor Violence of Paternal Fondness; for 10the Event we dread and detest, is not by these Means forwarded, 11as simple Persons think their own Death would be by making 12a Will.2 On the contrary, the sweetest and most rapturous 13Enjoyments are thus promoted and encouraged: for what can 14be a more delightful Thought than to assure ourselves, after 15such Reflections, that the Evil we apprehend, and which might 16so probably have happened, hath been yet fortunately escaped. 17If it be true, that the Loss of a Blessing teaches us its true Value,3 18will not these Ruminations on the Certainty of losing our Friends, 19and the Incertainty of our Enjoyment of them, add a Relish to 20the present Possession? Shall we not, in a Word, return to their 21Conversation, after such Reflections, with the same Eagerness 22and Extasy, with which we receive those we love into our Arms, 23when we first wake from a Dream which hath terrified us with 24their Deaths?
25Thus then we have a double Incentive to these Meditations; 26as they serve as well to heighten our present Enjoyment, as to 27lessen our future Loss, and to fortify us against it. I shall now 28proceed to give my Reader some Instructions for his Conduct, 29when this dreadful Catastrophe hath actually befallen him.
30And here I address myself to common Men, and who partake 31of the more amiable Weaknesses of Human Nature; not to those 32elevated Souls whom the Consummation of Virtue and Philosophy 33hath raised to a divine Pitch of Excellence, and placed beyond the 34Reach of human Calamity: for which Reason I do not expect 35this Loss shall be received with the Composure of Stilpo. Nay, pg 2181I shall not regard Tears, Lamentations, or any other Indulgence 2to the first Agonies of our Grief on so dreadful an Occasion, as 3Marks of Effeminacy; but shall rather esteem them as the Symp-4toms of a laudable Tenderness, than of a contemptible Imbecility 5of Heart.
6However, though I admit the first Emotions of our Grief to 7be so far irresistible, that they are not to be instantly and abso-8lutely overcome, yet we are not, on the other Side, totally to 9abandon ourselves to them.1 Wisdom is our Shield against all 10Calamity, and This we are not cowardly to throw away, though 11some of the sharper Darts of Fortune may have pierced us 12through it. The Mind of a wise Man may be ruffled and dis-13ordered, but cannot be subdued:2 in the former it differs from 14the Perfection of the Deity; in the latter, from the abject Con-15dition of a Fool.
16With whatever Violence our Passions at first attack us, they 17will in Time subside. It is then that Reason is to be called to our 18Assistance, and we should use every Suggestion which it can 19lend to our Relief; our utmost Force being to be exerted to 20repel and subdue an Enemy when he begins to retreat: This 21indeed, one would imagine, should want little or no Persuasion 22to recommend it; inasmuch as we all naturally pursue Happiness 23and avoid Misery.3
24There are, however, two Causes of our Unwillingness to 25hearken to the Voice of Reason on this Occasion. The first is, 26a foolish Opinion, that Friendship requires an exorbitant Afflic-27tion of us; that we are thus discharging our Duty to the Dead, 28and offering (according to the Superstition of the Ancients) an 29agreeable Sacrifice to their Manes:4 the other, and perhaps the 30commoner Motive is, the immediate Satisfaction we ourselves 31feel in this Indulgence; which, though attended with very dreadful 32Consequences, gives the same present Relief to a tender Disposi-33tion, that Air or Water brings to one in a high Fever.
pg 2191Now what can possibly, on the least Examination, appear more 2absurd than the former of these? When the Grave, beyond which 3we can enter into no Engagement with one another, hath dissolved 4all Bonds of Friendship between us, and removed the Object of 5our Affection far from the Reach of any of our Offices; Can any 6thing be more vain and ridiculous, than to nourish an Affliction 7to our own Misery, by which we can convey neither Profit nor 8Pleasure to our Friend! But I shall not dwell on an Absurdity so 9monstrous in itself, that the bare first Mention throws it in 10a Light, which no Illustration nor Argument can heighten.
11And as to the Second, it is, as I have said, like those Indul-12gencies, which however pleasant they may be to the Distemper, 13serve only to encrease it, and for which we are sure to pay the 14bitterest Agonies in the End. Nothing can indeed betray a 15weaker or more childish Temper of Mind than this Conduct; 16by which, like Infants, we reject a Remedy, if it be the least 17distasteful; and are ready to receive any grateful Food, without 18regarding the Nourishment which at the same Time we con-19tribute to the Disease.
20Without staying therefore longer to argue with such, I shall 21first recommend to my Disciple or Patient, of another Com-22plexion, carefully to avoid all Circumstances which may revive 23the Memory of the Deceased, whom it is now his Business to 24forget as fast, and as much as possible; whereas, such is the 25Perverseness of our Natures, we are constantly endeavouring, at 26every Opportunity, to recal to our Remembrance the Words, 27Looks, Gestures, and other Particularities of a Friend. One 28carries about with him the Picture; a second the Hair; and others, 29some little Gift or Token of the Dead, as a Memorial of their 30Loss. What is all this less than being Self-Tormentors, and play-31ing with Affliction?1 Indeed Time is the truest and best Physician 32on these Occasions; and our wisest Part is to lend him the utmost 33Assistance we can: whereas by pursuing the Methods I have 34here objected to, we withstand with all our Might the Aid and 35Comfort which that great Reliever of human Misery so kindly 36offers us.
pg 2201Diversions of the lightest Kind have been recommended as 2a Remedy for Affliction: but for my Part, I rather conceive they 3will encrease than diminish it; especially where Music is to make 4up any Part of the Entertainment: for the Nature of this is to 5soothe or inflame, not to alter our Passions. Indeed I should 6rather propose such Diversions by way of Trial than of Cure: 7for when they can be pursued with any good Effect, our Affliction 8is, I apprehend, very little grievous or dangerous.1
9To say the Truth, the Physic for this, as well as every other 10mental Disorder, is to be dispensed to us by Philosophy and 11Religion. The former of these Words (however unhappily it 12hath contracted the Contempt of the pretty Gentlemen and 13fine Ladies) doth surely convey to those who understand it, no 14very ridiculous Idea. Philosophy, in its purer and stricter Sense, 15means no more than the Love of Wisdom; but in its common and 16vulgar Acceptation it signifies, the Search after Wisdom; or 17often, Wisdom itself: For to distinguish between Wisdom and 18Philosophy (says a great Writer) is rather Matter of vain Curiosity, 19than of real Utility.2
20Now from this Fountain (call it by which of the Names we 21please) may be drawn the following Considerations.
22First, the Injustice of our Complaint, who have been only 23obliged to fulfil the Condition on which we first received the 24Good, whose Loss we deplore, viz. that of parting with it again. 25We are Tenants at Will to Fortune, and as we have advanced no 26Consideration on our Side, can have no Right to accuse her 27Caprice in determining our Estate.3 However short-lived our 28Possession hath been, it was still more than she promised, or we 29could demand. We are already obliged to her for more than we 30can pay; but, like ungrateful Persons, with whom one Denial 31effaces the Remembrance of an Hundred Benefits, we forget 32what we have already received; and rail at her, because she is not 33pleased to continue those Favours, which of her own Free-Will 34she hath so long bestowed on us.
pg 2211Again, as we might have been called on to fulfil the Condition 2of our Tenure long before, so, sooner, or later, of Necessity we 3must have done it. The longest Term we could hope for is 4extremely short, and compared by Solomon himself to the Length 5of a Span.1 Of what Duration is this Life of Man computed? 6A Scrivener who sells his Annuity2 at fourteen Years and a half, 7rejoices in his Cunning, and thinks he hath outwitted you, at 8least half a Year in the Bargain.
9But who will insure these fourteen Years? No Man. On the 10contrary, how great is the Premium for insuring you one? And 11great as it is, he who accepts it is often a Loser.
12I shall not go into the hackneyed Common-place of the 13numberless Avenues to Death: a Road almost as much beaten 14by Writers, as those Avenues to Death are by Mankind: Tibullus 15sums 'em up in half a Verse.
- 16—Leti mille repente viæ.3
17Surely no Accident can befal our Friend which should so little 18surprize us; for there is no other which he may not escape. In 19Poverty, Pain, or other Instances, his Lot may be harder than 20his Neighbours. In this the happiest and most miserable, the 21greatest and lowest, richest and poorest of Mankind share all 22alike.
23It is not then, it cannot be Death itself (which is a Part of 24Life) that we lament should happen to our Friend, but it is the 25Time of his dying. We desire not a Pardon, we desire a Reprieve 26only. A Reprieve, for how long? Sine Die.4 But if he could escape 27this Fever, this Small-Pox, this Inflammation of the Bowels, he 28may live twenty Years. He may so: but it is more probable he will 29not live ten: it is very possible, not one. But suppose he should 30have twenty, nay thirty Years to come. In Prospect, it is true, pg 2221the Term seems to have some Duration; but cast your Eyes 2backwards, and how contemptible the Span appears: for it 3happens in Life (however pleasant the Journey may be) as to a 4weary Traveller, the Plain he is yet to pass extends itself much 5larger to his Eye than that which he hath already conquered.
6And suppose Fortune should be so generous to indulge us in 7the Possession of our Wish, and give us this twenty Years 8longer Possession of our Friend, should we be then contented to 9resign? Or shall we not, in Imitation of a Child who desires its 10Mamma to stay five Minutes, and it will take the Potion, be still 11as unwilling as ever? I am afraid the latter will be the Case; 12seeing that neither our Calamity, nor the Child's Physic becomes 13less nauseous by the Delay.
14But admitting this Condition to be never so hard, will not 15Philosophy shew us the Folly of immoderate Affliction? Can all 16our Sorrow mend our Case? Can we wash back our Friend with our 17Tears, or waft him back with our Sighs and Lamentations?1 It is a 18foolish Mean-spiritedness in a Criminal, to blubber to his Judge 19when he knows he shall not prevail by it; and it is natural to admire 20those more who meet their Fate with a decent Constancy and 21Resignation. Were the Sentences of Fate capable of Remission; 22could our Sorrows or Sufferings restore our Friends to us, I would 23commend him who out-did the fabled Niobe in weeping:2 but since 24no such Event is to be expected; since from that Bourne no Traveller 25returns,3 surely it is the Part of a wise Man, to bring himself to be 26content in a Situation which no Wit or Wisdom, Labour or Art, 27Trouble or Pain, can alter.
28And let us seriously examine our Hearts, whether it is for the 29Sake of our Friends, or ourselves, that we grieve.4 I am ready 30to agree with a celebrated French Writer; that the Lamentation ex31pressed for the Loss of our dearest Friends, is often, in Reality, for 32ourselves; that we are concerned at being less happy, less easy, and of 33less Consequence than we were before; and thus the Dead enjoy the 34Honour of those Tears which are truly shed on Account of the Living: pg 2231concluding,—that in these Afflictions Men impose on themselves.1 2Now if on the Enquiry this should be found to be our Case, I 3shall leave the Patient to seek his Remedy elsewhere; having first 4recommended to him, an Assembly, a Ball, an Opera, a Play, 5an Amour, or, if he please, all of them, which will very speedily 6produce his Cure. But, on the contrary, if after the strictest 7Examination, it should appear (as I make no doubt is sometimes 8the Case) that our Sorrow arises from that pure and disinterested 9Affection which many Minds are so far from being capable of 10entertaining, that they can have no Idea of it: in a Word, if it Critical Apparatus11be manifest that our Tears are justly to be imputed to our Friend's 12Account, it may be then worth our while to consider the Nature 13and Degree of this Misfortune which hath happened to him: 14and if, on duly considering it, we should be able to demonstrate 15to ourselves, that this supposed dreadful Calamity should exist 16only in Opinion, and all its Horrors vanish, on being closely and 17nearly examined; then, I apprehend, the very Foundation of our 18Grief will be removed, and it must, of necessary Consequence, 19immediately cease.
20I shall not attempt to make an Estimate of Human Life, which 21to do in the most concise Manner, would fill more Pages than 22I can here allow it; nor will it be necessary for me, since admitting 23there was more real Happiness in Life than the wisest Men have 24allowed; as the weakest and simplest will be ready to confess 25that there is much Evil in it likewise; and as I conceive every 26impartial Man will, on casting up the whole, acknowledge that 27the latter is more than a Ballance for the former, I apprehend it 28will appear sufficiently for my Purpose, that Death is not that 29King of Terrors, as he is represented to be.
30Death is nothing more than the Negation of Life. If therefore 31Life be no general Good, Death is no general Evil. Now if this 32be a Point in Judgment, who shall decide it? Shall we prefer 33the Judgment of Women and Children, or of wise Men? If of the 34latter, shall I not have all their Suffrages with me? Thales, the 35chief of the Sages, held Life and Death as Things indifferent. 36Socrates, the greatest of all the Philosophers, speaks of Death as 37of a Deliverance. Solomon, who had tasted all the Sweets of Life, 38condemns the whole as Vanity and Vexation: and Cicero (to 39name no more) whose Life had been a very fortunate one, assures pg 2241us in his Old Age, that if any of the Gods would frankly offer him 2to renew his Infancy, and live his Life over again, he would strenuously 3refuse it.1
4But if we will be hardy enough to fly in the Face of these and 5numberless other such Authorities; if we will still maintain that the 6Pleasures of Life have in them something truly solid, and worthy 7our Regard and Desire, we shall not, however, be bold enough 8to say, that these Pleasures are lasting, certain, or the Portion 9of many among us. We shall not, I apprehend, insure the Pos-10session of them to our Friend, nor secure him from all those Evils, 11which, as I have before said, none have ever denied the real Exis-12tence of: nor shall we surely contend, that he may not more likely 13have escaped the latter, than have been deprived of the former.2
14I remember the most excellent of Women, and tenderest of 15Mothers,3 when, after a painful and dangerous Delivery, she 16was told she had a Daughter, answering; Good God! have I pro-17duced a Creature who is to undergo what I have suffered! Some 18Years afterwards, I heard the same Woman, on the Death of that 19very Child, then one of the loveliest Creatures ever seen, com-20forting herself with reflecting, that her Child could never know 21what is was to feel such a Loss as she then lamented.
22In Reality, she was right in both Instances: and however 23Instinct, Youth, a Flow of Spirits, violent Attachments, and above 24all, Folly may blind us, the Day of Death is (to most People at 25least) a Day of more Happiness than that of our Birth, as it puts 26an End to all those Evils which the other gave a Beginning to. 27So just is that Sentiment of Solon, which Cræsus afterwards 28experienced the Truth of, and which is couched in these Lines.
32If therefore Death be no Evil, there is certainly no Reason pg 2251why we should lament its having happened to our Friend: but 2if there be any whom neither his own Observation, nor what 3Plato hath advanced in his Apology for Socrates, in his Crito, 4and his Phædon;1 or Cicero, in the first and third Books of his 5Tusculan Questions; or Montagne, (if he hath a Contempt for the 6Ancients) can convince, that Death is not an Evil worthy our 7Lamentation, let such a Man comfort himself, that the Evil 8which his Friend hath suffered, he shall himself shortly have his 9Share in. As nothing can be a greater Consolation to a delicate 10Friendship than this, so there is nothing we may so surely 11depend on. A few Days may, and a few Years most infallibly will 12bring this about, and we shall then reap one Benefit from the 13Cause of our present Affliction, that we are not then to be torn 14from the Person we love.
15These are, I think, the chief Comforts which the Voice of 16human Philosophy can administer to us on this Occasion. Religion 17goes much farther, and gives us a most delightful Assurance, 18that our Friend is not barely no Loser, but a Gainer by his 19Dissolution; that those Virtues and good Qualities which were 20the Objects of our Affection on Earth, are now become the 21Foundation of his Happiness and Reward in a better World.
22Lastly; It gives a Hope, the sweetest, most endearing, and 23ravishing, which can enter into a Mind capable of, and inflamed 24with, Friendship. The Hope of again meeting the beloved 25Person, of renewing and cementing the dear Union in Bliss 26everlasting. This is a Rapture which leaves the warmest Imagina-27tion at a Distance. Who can conceive (says Sherlock, in his Dis-28course on Death) the melting Caresses of two Souls in Paradice?2 29What are all the Trash and Trifles, the Bubbles, Bawbles and 30Gewgaws of this Life, to such a Meeting? This is a Hope which 31no Reasoning shall ever argue me out of, nor Millions of such 32Worlds as this should purchase: nor can any Man shew me its 33absolute Impossibility, 'till he can demonstrate that it is not in 34the Power of the Almighty to bestow it on me.3