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With such a man then it is in the first place indispensibly necessary, that he should have various successive occupations. There is no one study or intellectual enquiry to which a man can apply sixteen hours consecutively, unless in some extraordinary instances which can occur but seldom in the course of a life. And even then the attention will from time to time relax, and the freshness of mental zeal and activity give way, though perhaps, after the lapse of a few minutes, they may be revived and brought into action again.
In the ordinary series of human existence it is desirable that, in the course of the same day, a man should have various successive occupations. I myself for the most part read in one language at one part of the day, and in another at another. I am then in the best health and tone of spirits, when I employ two or three hours, and no more, in the act of writing and composition. There must also in the sixteen hours be a time for meals. There should be a time for fresh air and bodily exercise. It is in the nature of man, that we should spend a part of
every day in the society of our fellows, either at public spectacles and places of concourse, or in the familiar interchange of conversation with one, two, or more persons with whom we can give ourselves up to unrestrained communication. All human life, as I have said, every day of our existence, consists of term and vacation ; and the perfection of practical wisdom is to interpose these one with another, so as to produce a perpetual change, a well-chosen relief, and a freshness and elastic tone which may bid defiance to weariness.
Taken then in this point of view, what an empire does the man of leisure possess in each single day of his life! He disposes of his hours much in the same manner, as the commander of a company of men whom it is his business to train in the discipline of war. This officer directs one party of his men to climb a mountain, and another to ford or swim a stream which rushes along the valley. He orders this set to rush forward with headlong course, and the other to wheel, and approach by circuitous progress perhaps to the very same point. He marches them to the right and the left. He then dismisses them from the scene of exercise, to furbish their arms, to attend to their accoutrements, or to partake of necessary refection. Not inferior to this is the authority of the man of leisure in disposing of the hours of one single day of his existence. And human life consists of many such days, there being three hundred and sixty-five in each year
that we live. How infinitely various may be the occupations of the life of man from puberty to old age! We may acquire languages; we may devote ourselves to arts; we may give ourselves up to the profoundness of science. Nor is any one of these objects incompatible with the others, nor is there any reason why the same man should not embrace
many. We may devote one portion of the travelling, and another to all the abstractions of study. I remember when I was a boy, looking forward with terror to the ample field of human life, and saying, When I have read through all the books that have been written, what shall I do afterwards ? And there is infinitely more sense in this, than in the ludicrous exclamations of men who complain of the want of time, and say that life affords them no space in which to act their imaginings.
On the contrary, when a man has got to the end of one art or course of study, he is compelled to consider what he shall do next. And, when we have gone through a cycle of as many acquisitions, as, from the limitation of human faculties, are not destructive of each other, we shall find ourselves frequently reduced to the beginning some of them over again. Nor is this the least agreeable occupation of human leisure. The book that I read when I was a boy, presents quite a new face to me as I advance in the vale of years. The same words and phrases suggest to me a new train of ideas. And it is no mean pleasure that I derive from the singular sensation of finding the same author and the same book, old and yet not old, presenting to me cherished and inestimable recollections, and at the same time communicating mines of wealth, the shaft of which was till now unexplored.
The result then of these various observations is to persuade the candid and ingenuous man, to con
sider life as an important and ample possession, to resolve that it shall be administered with as much judgment and deliberation as a person of true philanthropy and wisdom would administer a splendid income, and upon no occasion so much to think upon the point of in how short a time an interesting pursuit is to be accomplished, as by what means it shall be accomplished in a consummate and masterly style. Let us hear no more, from those who have to a considerable degree the command of their hours, the querulous and pitiful complaint that they have no time to do what they ought to do and would wish to do; but let them feel that they have a gigantic store of minutes and hours and days and months, abundantly sufficient to enable them to effect what it is especially worthy of a noble mind to perform!
OF HUMAN VEGETATION.
There is another point of view from which we may look at the subject of time as it is concerned with the business of human life, that will lead us to conclusions of a very different sort from those which are set down in the preceding Essay.
Man has two states of existence in a striking degree distinguished from each other: the state in which he is found during his waking hours; and the state in which he is during sleep.
The question has been agitated by Locke and other philosophers, “ whether the soul always thinks,” in other words, whether the mind, during those hours in which our limbs lie for the inost part in a state of inactivity, is or is not engaged by a perpetual succession of images and impressions. This is a point that can perhaps never be settled. When the empire of sleep ceases, or when we are roused from sleep, we are often conscious that we have been to that moment busily employed with that sort of conceptions and scenes which we call dreams. And at times when, on waking, we have no such consciousness, we can never perhaps be sure that the shock that waked us, had not the effect of driving away these fugitive and unsubstantial images. There are men who are accustomed