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they had rather be inclined to company; but, indeed, they had better go home, and be tired with themselves, than force themselves upon others, to recover their good-humour. In all this, the case of communicating to a friend a sad thought or difficulty, in order to relieve a heavy heart, stands excepted; but what is here meant is, that a man should always go with inclination to the turn of the company he is going into, or not pretend to be of the party. It is certainly a very happy temper to be able to live with all kinds of dispositions, because it argues a mind that lies open to receive what is pleasing to others, and not obstinately bent on any particularity of its own.
This is it which makes me pleased with the character of my good acquaintance, Acasto. You meet him at the tables and conversations of the wise, the impertinent, the grave, the frolic, and the witty; and yet his own character has nothing in it that can make him particularly agreeable to any one sect of men; but Acasto has natural good sense, good-nature, and discretion, so that every man enjoys himself in his company; and though Acasto contributes nothing to the entertainment, he never was at a place where he was not welcome a second time. Without the subordinate good qualities of Acasto, a man of wit and learning would be painful to the generality of mankind, instead of being pleasing. Witty men are apt to imagine they are agreeable as such, and by that means grow the worst companions imaginable; they deride the absent, or rally the present, in a wrong manner, not knowing that if you pinch or tickle a man till he is uneasy in his seat, or ungracefully distinguished from the rest of the company, you equally hurt him.
I was going to say, the true art of being agreeable
in company, but there can be no such thing as art in it, is to appear well pleased with those you are engaged with, and rather to seem well entertained, than to bring entertainment to others. A man thus disposed is not indeed what we ordinarily call a good companion, but essentially is such, and in all the parts of his conversation, has something friendly in his behaviour, which conciliates men's minds more than the highest sallies of wit, or starts of humour, can possibly do. The feebleness of age in a man of this turn, has something which should be treated with respect, even in a man no otherwise venerable. The forwardness of youth, when it proceeds from alacrity, and not insolence, has also its allowances. The companion who is formed for such by nature, gives to every character of life its due regards, and is ready to account for their imperfections, and receive their accomplishments as if they were his own. It must appear that you receive law from, and not give it to your company, to make you agreeable.
I remember Tully, speaking, I think, of Antony, says, that, In eo facetiæ erant, quæ nullâ arte tradi possunt:He had a witty mirth, which could be acquired by no, art.' This quality must be of the kind of which I am now speaking; for all sorts of behaviour which depend upon observation and knowledge of life, is to be acquired; but that which no one can describe, and is apparently the act of nature, must be every where prevalent, because every thing it meets is a fit occasion to exert it; for he who follows nature, can never be improper or unseasonable.
How unaccountable, then, must their behaviour be, who, without any manner of consideration of what the company they have just now entered are upon, give themselves the air of a messenger, and make 2
as distinct relations of the occurrences they last met with, as if they had been despatched from those they talk to, to be punctually exact in a report of those circumstances! It is unpardonable to those who are met to enjoy one another, that a fresh man shall pop in, and give us only the last part of his own life, and put a stop to ours during the history. If such a man comes from 'Change, whether you will or not, you must hear how the stocks go; and, though you are never so intently employed on a graver subject, a young fellow of the other end of the town will take his place, and tell you, Mrs. Such-a-one is charmingly handsome, because he just now saw her. But I think I need not dwell on this subject, since I have acknowledged there can be no rules made for excelling this way; and precepts of this kind fare like rules for writing poetry, which, it is said, may have prevented ill poets, but never made good ones.
No. 387. SATURDAY, MAY 24, 1712.
Quid purè tranquillet.—
HOR. EPIST. i. 18. 102.
What calms the breast, and makes the mind serene.
In my last Saturday's paper I spoke of cheerfulness as it is a moral habit of the mind, and accordingly mentioned such moral motives as are apt to cherish and keep alive this happy temper in the soul of man: I shall now consider cheerfulness in its
natural state, and reflect on those motives to it which are indifferent either as to virtue or vice.
Cheerfulness is, in the first place, the best promoter of health. Repinings, and secret murmurs of heart, give imperceptible strokes to those delicate fibres of which the vital parts are composed, and wear out the machine insensibly; not to mention those violent ferments which they stir up in the blood, and those irregular disturbed motions which they raise in the animal spirits. I scarce remember, in my own observation, to have met with any old men, or with such, who, to use our English phrase, wear well, that had not at least a certain indolence in their humour, if not a more than ordinary gayety and cheerfulness of heart. The truth of it is, health and cheerfulness mutually beget each other; with this difference, that we seldom meet with a great degree of health which is not attended with a certain cheerfulness, but very often see cheerfulness where there is no great degree of health.
Cheerfulness bears the same friendly regard to the mind as to the body. It banishes all anxious care and discontent, soothes and composes the passions, and keeps the soul in a perpetual calm. But having already touched on this last consideration, I shall here take notice, that the world in which we are placed is filled with innumerable objects that are proper to raise and keep alive this happy temper of mind.
If we consider the world in its subserviency to man, one would think it was made for our use; but if we consider it in its natural beauty and harmony, one would be apt to conclude it was made for our pleasure. The sun, which is as the great soul of the universe, and produces all the necessaries of life, has a particular influence in cheering the mind of man, and making the heart glad.
Those several living creatures which are made for our service or sustenance, at the same time either fill the woods with their music, furnish us with game, or raise pleasing ideas in us by the delightfulness of their appearance. Fountains, lakes, and rivers, are as refreshing to the imagination as to the soil through which they pass.
There are writers of great distinction, who have made it an argument for Providence, that the whole earth is covered with green, rather than with any other colour, as being such a right mixture of light and shade, that it comforts and strengthens the eye, instead of weakening or grieving it. For this reason, several painters have a green cloth hanging near them, to ease the eye upon, after too great an application to their colouring. A famous modern philosopher accounts for it in the following manner. All colours that are more luminous, overpower and dissipate the animal spirits which are employed in sight; on the contrary, those that are more obscure, do not give the animal spirits a sufficient exercise; whereas the rays that produce in us the idea of green, fall upon the eye in such a due proportion, that they give animal spirits their proper play, and, by keeping up the struggles in a just balance, excite a very pleasing and agreeable sensation. Let the cause be what it will, the effect is certain; for which reason, the poets ascribe to this particular colour the epithet of cheerful.
To consider further this double end in the works of nature, and how they are at the same time both useful and entertaining, we find that the most important parts in the vegetable world are those which are the most beautiful. These are the seeds by which
*Sir Isaac Newton.