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CHAPTER THE SEVENTH.
THE ADVANTAGES OF SOLITUDE IN OLD AGE;
THE BED OF DEATH.
THE decline of life, and particularly the con
dition of old age, derive from Solitude the purest sources of uninterrupted enjoyment. Old age, when considered as a period of comparative quietude and repose, as a serious and contemplative interval between a transitory existence and an approaching immortality, is, perhaps, the most agreeable condition of human life: a condition to which Solitude affords a secure harbour against those shattering tempests to which the frail bark of man is continually exposed in a short, but dangerous, voyage of the world; a harbour from whence he may securely view the rocks and quick. sands which threatened his destruction, and which he has so happily escaped.
Men are by nature disposed to investigate the various properties of distant objects before they think of contemplating their own characters; like modern travellers, who visit foreign countries before
they they are acquainted with their own. But prudence will exhort the young, and experience teach the aged, to conduct themselves on very different principles; and both the one and the other will find that Solitude and self-examination are the beginning and the end of true wisdom.
O! loft to Virtue, loft to manly thought,
The levity of youth, by this communion large and high, will be repressed, and the depression which sometimes accompanies old age entirely removed. An unceasing succession of gay hopes, fond desires, ardent wishes, high delights, and unfounded fancies, form the character of our early years; but those which follow are marked with melancholy and increasing forrows. A mind, however, that is invigorated by obfervation and experience, remains dauntless and unmoved amidst both the prosperities and adversities of life. He who is no longer forced to exert his powers, and who, at an early period of his life, has well studied the manners of men, will complain very little of the
ingratitude with which his favours and anxieties have been requited. All he asks is, that the world will let him alone; and having a thorough knowledge, not only of his own character, but of mankind, he is enabled to enjoy the comforts of repose.
It is finely remarked by a celebrated German, that there are political as well as religious Carthufians, and that both orders are sometimes composed of most excellent and pious characters. “ It is,” U 2
* Worldly hopes expire in old age ; and if he who has attained that period has not provided himself with another hope, a man of years and a man of misery mean the same thing. Therefore the same steps are to be taken, whether we would sweeten the remaining dregs of life, or provide a triumph for eternity. There is a noble absence from earth while we are yet on it. There is a noble intimacy with heaven while we are yet beneath it. And can it be hard for us to lay aside this world, since they that have fared best in it have only the fewest objections against it? The worldly wishes which an old man sends out are like Noah's doves; they cannot find whereon to light, and must return to his own heart again for rest. Out of pure decency to the dignity of human nature, of which the decays and imperfections should not be exposed, men in years should, by Retirement, fing a veil over them, and be, with respect to the world, at least a little buried before they are interred. An old man's too great familiarity with the public is an indignity to the buman and a neglect of the divine nature. His fancying himself to be still properly one of this world, and on a common footing with the rest of mankind, is as if a man getting drunk in the morning, after a long nap, lifting his drowsy eyelids at fun-set, should take it for break of day.
Dr. Young's Letters,
says this admirable writer, “ in the deepest and “ most sequeftered recesses of forests that we meet “ with the peaceful sage, the calm observer, the “ friend of truth, and the lover of his country, “ who renders himself beloved by his wisdom, re
yered for his knowledge, respected for his vera“ city, and adored for his benevolence; whose « confidence and friendship every one is anxious “to gain; and who excites admiration by the elo
quence of his conversation, and esteem by the « virtue of his actions, while he raises wonder by " the obscurity of his name, and the mode of his “ existence. The giddy multitude folicit him to “ relinquish his solitude, and seat himself on the “ throne; but they perceive inscribed on his fore“ head, beaming with sacred fire," Odi profanum “ vulgus et arceo; and, instead of being his sedu
cers, become his disciples.” But, alas ! this extraordinary character, whom I saw some years ago in Weteravia, who inspired me with filial reverence and affection, and whose animated
sy? Wt tenance announced the superior wisdom and happy tranquillity of his mind, is now no more. There did not perhaps at that time exist in any court a more profound statesman: he was intimately acquainted with all, and corresponded personally with fome of the most celebrated Sovereigns of Europe. I never met with an observer who penetrated with
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such quick and accurate fagacity into the minds and characters of men, who formed such true opinions of the world, or criticised with such discerning accuracy the actions of those who were playing important parts on its various theatres. There never was a mind more free, more enlarged, more powerful, or more engaging; or an eye more lively and inquisitive. He was the man, of all others, in whose company I could have lived with the highest pleasure, and died with the greatest comfort. The rural habitation in which he lived was simple in its structure, and modest in its attire; the furrounding grounds and gardens laid out in the 'happy simplicity, of nature; and his fare healthy and frugal. I never felt a charm more powerful than that which filled my bosom while I contemplated the happy Solitude of the venerable Baron de Schautenbach at Weteravia.
Rousseau, feeling his end approach, also passed the few remaining years of an uneasy life in Solitude. It was during old age that he composed the best and greater part of his admirable works; but, although he employed his time with judicious activity, his feelings had been too deeply wounded by the persecutions of the world, to enable him to find complete tranquillity in the bowers of retirement. Unhappily he continued ignorant of the danger of his situation, until the vexations of his