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of our ancestors in relation to the state of widowhood, as I find it recorded in Cowell's Interpreter. *
At East and West Enborne, in the county of Berks, if a customary tenant die, the widow shall have what the law calls her freebench in all his copyhold lands, dum sola et casla fuerit, that is, while she lives single and chaste; but if she commit incontinency she forfeits her estate; yet if she will come into the court riding backward upon a black ram, with his tail in her hand, and say the words following, the steward is bound by the custom to re-admit her to her freebench.
Here I am,
my land again.''
The like custom there is in the manor of Torre in Devonshire, and other parts of the West.
It is not impossible but I may in a little time present you with a register of Berkshire ladies, and other western dames, who rode publicly upon this occasion ; and I hope the town will be entertained with a cavalcade of widows.
* No record of this kind is to be found in the edition of Cowell's Interpreter of 1637, 4to.
N°615. WEDNESDAY, NOV. 3, 1714.
Hor. 400, ix. 47.
Who spend their treasure freely, as 'twas giv'n
Smile at the doubtful tide of fate,
Who poison less than falsehood fear,
Loth to purchase life so dear; But kindly for their friend embrace cold death, And seal their country's love with their departing breath.
STEPNEY. It must be owned that fear is a very powerful passion, since it is esteemed one of the greatest of virtues to subdue it. It being implanted in us for our preservation, it is no wonder that it sticks close to us as long as we have any thing we are willing to preserve. But as life, and all its enjoyments, would be scarce worth the keeping if we were under a perpetual dread of losing them, it is the business of religion and philosophy to free us from all unnecessary anxieties, and direct our fear to its
If we consider the painfulness of this passion, and the violent effects it produces, we shall see how dangerous it is to give way to it upon slight occasions. Some have frightened themselves into madness, others have given up their lives to these appre
hensions. The story of a man who grew grey in the space of one night's anxiety is very famous.
0! nox quam longa es, quæ facit una senem! • A tedious night indeed, that makes a young man old!
These apprehensions, if they proceed from a consciousness of guilt, are the sad warnings of reason; and may excite our pity, but admit of no remedy. When the hand of the Almighty is visibly lifted against the impious, the heart of mortal man cannot withstand him. We have this passion sublimely represented in the punishment of the Egyptians, tormented with the plague of darkness, in the apocryphal book of Wisdom, ascribed to Solomon.
• For when unrighteous men thought to oppress the holy nation; they being shut up in their houses, the prisoners of darkness, and fettered with the bonds of a long night, lay there exiled from the eternal Providence. For while they supposed to lie hid in their secret sins, they were scattered under a dark veil of forgetfulness, being horribly astonished and troubled with strange apparitions.--For wickedness, condemned by her own witness, is
timorous, and, being oppressed with conscience, always forecasteth grievous things. For fear is nothing else but a betraying of the succours which reason offereth.-For the whole world shined with clear light, and none were hindered in their labour. Over them only was spread a heavy night, an image of that darkness which should afterwards receive them; but yet were they unto themselves more grievous than the darkness.**
To fear so justly grounded no remedy can be proposed; but a man (who hath no great guilt hanging
*. Wisd. xvii. pussim.
upon his mind, who walks in the plain path of justice and integrity, and yet, either by natural complexion, or confirmed prejudices, or neglect of serious reflection, suffers himself to be moved by this abject and unmanly passion) would do well to consider that there is nothing which deserves his fear, but that beneficent Being who is his friend, his protector, his father. Were this one thought strongly fixed in the mind, what calamity would be dreadful? What load can infamy lay upon us when we are sure of the approbation of him who will repay the disgrace of a moment with the glory of eternity? What sharpness is there in pain and diseases, when they only hasten us on to the pleasures that will never fade? What sting is in death, when we are assured that it is only the beginning of life ?-A man who lives so as not to fear to die, is inconsistent with himself if he delivers himself up to any ncidental anxiety.
The intrepidity of a just good man is so nobly set forth by Horace, that it cannot be too often repeated:
The man resolv'd and steady to his trust,
Not the rough whirlwind, that deforms
The vanity of fear may be yet further illustrated if we reflect,
First, What we fear may not come to pass. No human scheme can be so accurately projected, but some little circumstance intervening may spoil it. He who directs the heart of man at his pleasure, and understands the thoughts long before, may, by ten thousand accidents, or an immediate change in the inclinations of men, disconcert the most subtle project, and turn it to the benefit of his own servants.
In the next place we should consider, though the evil we imagine should come to pass, it
may much more supportable than it appeared to be. As there is no prosperous state of life without its calamities, so there is no adversity without its benefits. Ask the great and powerful, if they do not feel the pangs of envy and ambition. Inquire of the poor and needy, if they have not tasted the sweets of quiet and contentment. Even under the pains of body, the infidelity of friends, or the misconstructions put upon our laudable actions; our minds, when for some time accustomed to these pressures, are sensible of secret flowings of comfort, the present reward of a pious resignation. The evils of this life appear like rocks and precipices, rugged and barren at a distance ; but at our nearer approach we find little fruitful spots, and refreshing springs, mixed with the harshness and deformities of nature.
In the last place we may comfort ourselves with this consideration, that, as the thing feared may not reach us, so we may not reach what we fear. Our lives may not extend to that dreadful point which we have in view: He who knows all our failings, and will not suffer us to be tempted beyond our strength, is often pleased, in his tender severity, to separate the soul from its body and miseries together.