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WILLIAM HOGARTH (1697—1764)
stances of a life which, till lately, past pretty much to my own satisfaction, and, I hope, in no respect injurious[ly] to any other man. This I can safely assert: I have invariably endeavoured to make those about me tolerably happy, and my greatest enemy cannot say I ever did an intentional injury; though, without ostentation, I could produce many instances of men that have been essentially benefited by me. What may follow, God knows.1
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (1706–1790)
I have raised myself to a state of affluence and degree of celebrity in the world. . . . Constant good fortune has accompanied me even to an advanced period of life. . . . This good fortune, when I reflect on it (which is frequently the case), has induced me sometimes to say, that if it were left to my
choice I should have no objection to go over the same life from its beginning to the end; requesting only the advantage authors have of correcting in a second edition the faults of the first. So would I also wish to change some incidents of it for others more favourable. Notwith
1 From Autobiographical Notes.
standing, if this condition was denied, I should still accept the offer of recommencing the same life.1
I never doubted ... the existence of a Deitythat he made the world and governed it by his providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crimes will be punished and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter.2
It may be well that my posterity should be informed that to this little artifice his scheme of moral perfection], with the blessing of God, their ancestor owed the constant felicity of his life, down to his seventyninth year, in which this is written. What reverses may attend the remainder is in the hands of Providence; but, if they arrive, the reflection on past happiness enjoyed ought to help his bearing them with more resignation. To Temperance he ascribes his long-continued health, and what is still left to him of a good constitution; to Industry and Frugality the early easiness of his circumstances and acquisition of his fortune, with all that knowledge that enabled him to be a useful citizen, and obtained for him some degree of reputation among the learned; to Sincerity and Justice the confidence of his country, and the honourable employs it conferred upon him; and to the joint influence of the whole mass of the virtues, even in the imperfect state he was able to acquire them, all that evenness of temper and that cheerfulness in conversation which makes his company still sought for, and agreeable even to his young acquaintance. I hope,
1 From his Autobiography.
therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.1
It is a great stupidity, or thoughtlessness, not to perceive that the happiness of rational natures is inseparably connected with immortality. Creatures only endowed with sensation may, in a low sense, be reported happy so long as their sensations are pleasing; and if those pleasing sensations are commensurate with the time of their existence, this measure of happiness is complete. But such beings as are endowed with thought and reflection cannot be made happy by any limited term of happiness, how great soever its duration may be. The more exquisite and more valuable their enjoyments are, the more painful must be the thought that they are to have an end; and this pain of expectation must be continually increasing the nearer the end approaches. And if these beings are themselves immortal, and yet insecure of the continuance of their happiness, the case is far worse, since an eternal void of delight, if not a state of misery, must succeed.2
Existing here is scarce to be called life; it is rather an embryo state, a preparative to living; a man is not completely born till he is dead. 3
Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the creator of the universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal,
1 From his Autobiography.
3 From the Beauties of Franklin.
and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion. . . . As to Jesus of Nazareth ... I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is like to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatise upon I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more respected and more observed; especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure. I shall only add respecting myself that, having experienced the goodness of that being in conducting me prosperously through a long life, I have no doubt of its continuance in the next, though without the smallest conceit of meriting such goodness.
DR. JOHNSON (1709-1784) BOSWELL: “But is not the fear of death natural
to man?” Johnson : “So much so, sir, that the whole of life is but keeping away the thoughts of it.
I know not whether I should wish to have a friend by me, or have it all between God and myself.” 2
“It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short 1 From letter to the Rev. President Stiles (March 9, 1790).
2 From the Life, by Boswell (1769).
a time. ... A man knows it must be so, and submits. It will do him no good to whine.” 1
We form many
I ventured to lead him to the subject of our situation in a future state, having much curiosity to know his notions on that point. Johnson : “Why, sir, the happiness of an unembodied spirit will consist in a consciousness of the favour of God, in the contemplation of truth, and in the possession of felicitating ideas.” Boswell : “One of the most pleasing thoughts is, that we shall see our friends again.” Johnson: “Yes, sir ; but you must consider that, when we are become purely rational, many of our friendships will be cut off. Many friendships are formed by a community of sensual pleasures: all these will be cut off. We form many friendships with bad men, because they have agreeable qualities, and they can be useful to us; but after death they can no longer be of use to us. friendships by mistake, imagining people to be different from what they really are. After death we shall see every one in a true light. Then, sir, they talk of our meeting our relations : but then all relationship is dissolved; and we shall have no regard for one person more than another, but for their real value. However, we shall either have the satisfaction of meeting our friends, or be satisfied without meeting them.” Boswell: “Yet, sir, we see in Scripture that Dives still retained an anxious concern about his brethren." Johnson : “Why, sir, we must either suppose that passage to be metaphorical, or hold with many divines, and all the Purgatorians, that departed souls do not all at once arrive at the utmost perfection of which they are
1 From the Life, by Boswell (1769).