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Capricious Fortune ever joys;
To the Adventurer.
Fleet, June 6. To the account of such of my companions as are imprisoned without being miserable, or are miferable without any claim to compassion; I promised to add the histories of those, whose virtue has made them unhappy, or whose misfortunes are at least without a crime. That this catalogue should be very numerous, neither you nor your readers ought to expect; “rari quippe
. boni ;”
;" “ The good are few." Virtue is uncommon in all the classes of humanity;; and I suppose it will scarcely be imagined. more frequent in a prison than in other places.
Yet in these gloomy regions is to be found the tenderness, the generosity, the philanthropy of Serenus, who might have lived in competence and ease, if he could have looked without emotion on the miseries
of another. Serenus was one of those exalted minds, whom knowledge and fagacity could not make fufpici. ous; who poured out his soul in boundless iutimacy, and thought community of poffeffions the law of friendfhip. The friend of Serenus was arrested for debt, and after many endeavours to foften his creditor, fent his wife to solicit that assistance which never was refused. The tears and importunity of female distress were more than was necessary to move the heart of Serenus; he hafted immediately away, and conferring a long time with his friend, found him confident that if the present pressure was taken off, he should soon be able to re-establish his affairs. Serenus, accustomed to believe, and afraid to aggravate distress, did not attempt to detect the fallacies of hope, nor reflect that every man overwhelmed with calamity believes, that if that was removed, he fhall immedately be happy : he, therefore, with little hesitation offered himself as surety,
In the first raptures of escape all was joy, gratitude and confidence; the friend of Serenus displayed his prospects, and counted over the sums of which he should infallibly be master before the day of payment. Serenus in a short time began to find his danger, but could not prevail with himself to repent of beneficence; and therefore suffered himself still to be amused with projects which he durft not consider, for fear of finding them impracticable. The debtor, after he had tried every method of raising money which art or indigence could prompt, wanted either fidelity or resolution to surrender himself to prison, and left Serenus to take his place.
Serenus has often proposed to the creditor, to pay him whatever he shall appear to have lost by the flight
of his friend; but however reasonable this proposal may be thought, avarice and brutality have been hitherto inexorable, and Serenus still continues to languish in prison.
In this place, however, where want makes almost every man selfish, or desperation gloomy, it is the good fortune of Serenus not to live without a friend : he passes most of his hours in the conversation of Candidus, a man whom the same virtuous ductility has with some difference of circumstances made equally unhappy. Candidus, when he was young, helpless, and ignorant, found a patron that educated, protected, and supported him : his patron being more vigilant for others than himself, left at his dcath an only fon, destitute and friendless. Candidus was eager to repay the benefits he had received; and having maintained the youth for a few years at his own house, afterwards placed him with a merchant of eminence, and gave bonds to a great value as a security for his conduct.
The young man, removed too early from the only eye of which he dreaded the observation, and deprived of the only instruction which he heard with reverence, soon learned to consider virtue as restraint, and restraint as oppression; and to look with a longing eye at every expence to which he could not reach, and every pleasure which he could not partake : by degrees he deviated from his first regularity, and unhappily mingling among young men busy in dissipating the gains of their fathers industry, he forgot the precepts of Candidus, spent the evening in parties of pleasure, and the morning in expedients to support his riots. He was, however,
dextrous and a&ive in business; and his mafter, being secured against any consequences of dishonesty, was very little solicitous to inspect his manners, or to inquire how he passed those hours, which were not immediately devoted to the business of his profession : when he was informed of the young man's extravagance or debauchery, " Let his bondsman look to “ that,” said he ;." I have taken care of myself.”
Thus the unhappy spendthrift proceeded from folly. to folly, and from vice to vice, with the connivance if. not the encouragement of his master ; till in the heat. of a nocturnal revel he committed such violences in the street as drew upon him a criminal prosecution. Guilty ,
. . and unexperienced, he knew not what course to take ; to confess- his crime to Candidus, and folicit his interpofition, was little less dreadful than to stand before the frown of a court of juftice. Having, therefore, passed. the day, with anguish in his heart and distraction in his looks, he seised at night a very large sum of money in the compting-house, and setting out he knew not whither, was heard of no more.
The consequence of his flight was the ruin of Candidus: ruin furely undeserved and irreproachable, and such as the laws of a just government. ought either to prevent or repair : nothing is more inequitable than that one man should suffer for the crimes of: another, for crimes which he neither prompted nor permitted, which he could, neither foresee nor prevent,
When we consider the weakness of human resolutions and the inconsistency of human condue, it must appear. absurd that one man shall engage for another, that he will not change his opinions or alter his conduct.
It is, I think, worthy of confideration, whether, since no wager is binding without a possibility of lofs on each side, it is not equally reasonable, that no contract should be valid without reciprocal ftipulations: but in this case, and others of the fame kind; what is ftipulated: on his side to whom the bond is given ? he takes advantage of the security, neglects his affairs, omits his duty, suffers timorous wickedness to grow daring by degrees, permits appetite to call for new gratifications, and, perhaps, secretly longs for the time in which he shall have power to seize the forfeiture: and if virtue or gratitude fould prove too strong for temptation, and a young man persist in honesty, however inftigated by his paflions, what can fecure him at last against a false accufation? I for my part always shall fufpect, that he who can by such methods fecure his property; will go one step farther to increase it; nor can I think that man safely trusted with the means of mischief, who, by his desire to have them in his hands, gives an evident proof how much less he values his neighbours happiness than his own.
Another of our companions is Lentulus, a man whose dignity of birth was very ill supported by his fortune, As some of the first offices in the kingdom were filled by his relations, he was early invited to court, and encouraged by caresses and promises to attendance and folicitation : a constant appearance in fplendid company necessarily required magnificence of dress; and a frequent participation of fálkionable amusements forced him into expence : but these measures were requisite to his fuccefs; since every body knows, that to be lost to fight is to be lost to remembrance, and that he who desires to fill a vacancy, muit