Thursday, May 8, 2008

perseverance is the point

Edward Young to Samuel Richardson

11 November 1746.

thank you for enabling me, at my time of day, to think with great pleasure of living another year. A summer bearing such fruits as you kindly give me cause to expect, may excuse me for wishing to see longer days than we at present enjoy. I consider Clarissa as my last amour; I am as tender of her welfare, as I am sensible of her charms. This amour differs from all others in one respect I should rejoice to have all the world my rivals in it.

The waters here are not new things; they were in great vogue fifty years ago; but an eminent physician of this place dying, by degrees they were forgot. We have a physician now near us who drinks them himself all the winter; and a lady comes seven miles every morning for the same purpose. They are the same as Tunbridge; and I myself have found from them just the same effect. . . .

I heartily rejoice that at length you find benefit from your tar-water. Tar by winter, and steel by summer, are the two champions sent forth by Providence to encounter, and subdue the spleen.

In long chronical cases, perseverance is the point; and so it is in the greatest point of all. No man is so profligate, but he is good for moments; perseverance only is wanting to make him a saint. As you persevere in the great point, persevere in this to a good heart, add a good constitution; and then you are (not only an angel) as happy as mortality can admit.

I bless God I am well: and I am composing, but it is in wood and stone; for I am building a steeple to my church; and as a wise man in everything, I expect from you, as an architect, a critique upon it. I had almost forgot to tell you, that an Irishman has run away with one of my neighbours, and that with such circumstances of intrigue and distress, than its truth alone hinders it from being an excellent romance; just as fiction alone hinders yours from being an excellent history.

You say, my dear friend, that I cannot but think. True! but to live as one ought, requires constant, if not intense, thinking. The shortness and uncertainty of life is so evident, that all take it for granted it wants no proof; and what follows? why this: because we cannot deny it, therefore we forget it; because it wants no proof, therefore we give it no attention; that is, we think not of it at all, for a very odd reason, viz., because we should think of nothing else. This is too strictly expressed, but very near the truth. Ask Cibber if he's of my opinion.
[Edward Young]

-from The Life and Letters of Edward Young by Henry C. Shelley (London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1914

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