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relation of persons who have recovered from high fevers : and perhaps may be suspected from some (at least) of those who have seen apparitions on earth, or in the clouds. Nay, I have often heard it confessed by men, when asked what they saw at such a place and time, that they saw nothing. Admitting that there are two sights, viz. a first and second sight, according to the firm belief of some, nothing must be allowed to have a very large share of the first ; and as to the second, it has all entirely to itself.
“Secondly, nothing may be heard, of which the same proofs may be given as of the foregoing. A strong instance of this is, the Argive mentioned by Horace, who, sitting in an empty threatre, imagined that he witnessed the performance of a play, and heard the applauses of the audience.
Fuit haud ignobilis Argis,
“ That nothing may be tasted and smelt, is not only known to persons of delicate palates and nostrils. How commonly do we hear, that such a thing smells or tastes of nothing? The latter I have heard asserted of a dish compounded of five or six savoury ingredients. And as to the former, I remember an elderly gentlewoman who had a great antipathy to the smell of apples, and who, upon discovering that an idle boy had fastened a mellow apple to her train, contracted a habit of smelling them whenever the boy came within her sight, though there were none then within a mile of her. Lastly, feeling; and sure, if any sense seems more particularly the object of matter only, which must be allowed to something, this does. Nay, I have heard it asserted (and with a colour of truth) of several persons, that they can feel nothing but a cudgel. Notwithstanding which, some have felt very bitterly the misfortunes of their friends, without endeavouring to relieve them. Now these seem two plain instances that nothing is an object of this sense. Nay, I have heard a surgeon declare, while he was cutting off a patient's leg, that he was sure he felt nothing. Nothing
is as well the object of our passions as of our senses. Thus there are many who love nothing, some who hate nothing, and some who fear nothing. We have already mentioned three of the properties of a noun belonging to nothing; we shall find the fourth likewise to be as justly claimed by it; and that nothing is as often the object of the understanding as of the senses. Indeed some have imagined that knowledge, with the adjective human placed before it, is another word for nothing; and one of the wisest men in the world declared he knew nothing. But without carrying it so far, this I believe may be allowed, that it is at least possible for a man to know nothing. And whoever has read over many works of our ingenious moderns, with proper attention and emolument, will, I believe, confess that if he understands them right, he understands nothing. This is a secret not known to all readers, and the want of this knowledge has occasioned much puzzling; for when a book, or chapter, or paragraph, has seemed to the reader to contain nothing, his modesty has sometimes persuaded him that the true meaning of the author had escaped him, instead of concluding, as in reality the fact was, that the author in the said book did truly and bona fide mean nothing. I remember once, at the table of a person of great eminence, and one no less distinguished by superiority of wit than fortune, when a very dark passage was read out of a poet, famous for being so sublime, that he is often out of the sight of his reader; some persons present declared that they did not understand his meaning. The gentleman himself, casting his eyes over the performance, testified a surprise at the dúllness of the company ; seeing nothing could, he said, possibly be plainer than the meaning of the passage which they could not comprehend. This puzzled us all again to little purpose. We frankly owned that we could not find it out, and desired he would explain it. •Explain it !' said the gentleman, 'why he means nothing.' In fact this mistake arises from a too vulgar error among persons unacquainted with the mystery of writing, who imagine it impossible that any one should
sit down to write without any meaning at all; whereas, in reality, nothing is more common.
For not to in. stance in myself, who have contentedly sat down to write this essay with nothing in my head, or, which is much the same thing, to write about nothing, it may be incontestably proved ab effectu, that nothing is more common among the moderns. The inimitable author of a preface to the posthumous Eclogues of a late ingenious young gentleman, says, there are men who sit down to write what they think, and others to think what they shall write. But indeed there is a third and a much more numerous sort, who never think, either before they sit down, or afterwards ; and who, when they produce on paper what was before in their heads, are sure to produce nothing.
“ Thus we have endeavoured to demonstrate the nature of nothing, by showing, first, definitively what it is not; and, secondly, by describing what it is. The next thing therefore proposed, is to show its various kinds. Now some imagine that these kinds differ in name only. But without endeavouring to refute so absurd an opinion, especially as these different kinds of nothing occur frequently in the best authors, I shall content myself with setting them down, and leave it to the determination of the distinguishing reader, whether it is probable, or indeed possible, that they all convey one and the same meaning. There are nothing per se nothing ; nothing at all ; nothing in the least ; nothing in nature; nothing in the world; nothing in the whole world ; nothing in the whole universal world ; and perhaps many others of which we say—nothing.”
HINTS TO THE CHARITABLE. “ When a man stretches out his hand in the street to ask alms, it is not enough to answer,
Go and work.' We ought to be able to say, “Come and work.' Unless there are establishments, where every necessitous individual may find, at all times, the offer of employ
ment, at wages adequate to his mere subsistence, almsgiving is not a weakness, but a virtue.”
What is the worst use to which a halfpenny so given is likely to be applied, suppose the receiver as idle, and as profligate, as imagination can figure? He will employ it, perhaps, as part of the purchase of a dram of gin. Even in this case, it will bestow ten or twenty minutes of imaginary health and luxurious excitement; the cares retreat, the hopes approach ; sorrow. has an interval of repose, and existence an interval of value. And if it is to be employed for purposes of real necessity, to defer the pawning of a blanket, or the hunger of a child—who would grudge—who would not volunteer' the petty gift?
Begging is not so objectionable on its own account, as on account of the inequality of recompense with which it is attended. A good situation, a miserable appearance, will earn a little fortune for bustling worthlessness; while modest principle starves unheeded in pining humility. It was wise therefore in the catholics, to consolidate the fortunes of mendicants; to institute begging orders, to convene in one community the superannuated, diseased, and crippled outcasts of industry, and to license certain delegates of the distressed, to collect for the wants of the whole tribe of the helpless. Why not build convents or hospitories, in which those might be fed and clad, who, after due examination, are declared incapable of earning a subsistence? Why not permit certain members of these fraternities, or sisterhoods, to offer themselves at convenient places to the charitable passenger, and to bring home for the use of the household the result of a patient unobtrusive request ? Begging has, in all ages and countries, so much abounded in thronged situations, that it may be considered as a necessary consequence of popular society, as a lesson of nature, as the appropriate form of providing for those whose labour has little or no exchangeable value. The eleemosynary rashness, which gives without enquiry, and without discrimination, is almost diffusive enough to maintain both the pretended and the real invalid. If the separation of these classes were intrusted to proper inspec
tors, no doubt enough might be collected to maintain all who ought to be tolerated as members of an order of mendicants. Piety has always delighted in the gra. titude of mendicity, and christianity has commanded us to deserve it: there is a sort of irreligion in attempting its extirpation.
It is much to be lamented that this species of irreligion is on the increase, and that many of the best feelings of the heart, and those sympathies which dispose the passer by to stretch out an helping hand to a brother in distress, are weakened, if not altogether destroyed, by the existing system of poor-laws. It is this system which has placed a power of tyrannising over the wretched outcasts of society, into hands, too often indifferent to any one's wants but their own; and always too ready to exercise their “ little brief authority," more according to the literal and exact construction of justice, than the mild and temperate interpretation of mercy and forbearance.
The unequal distribution of good, at least as far as respects that of an external worldly nature, forms part of the plans of the Creator of all, and is an admirable proof of his wisdom. Society, in no shape whatever, can exist without a gradation of ranks—this gradation gives scope to, nay is even the source from whence all the dispositions on the bright side of the human character arise; but the poor-laws prevent the exercise of these dispositions, they curb the emanations of benevolence, and in some degree counteract the designs of the author of nature. The eye that beholds not the distress which age and poverty create, will too often be accompanied by a heart unoccupied by any passion but self-love, and a hand shut close by the grasp of selfishness. The poor-laws withdraw objects really deserving of the exercise of benevolence from public view, and consequently tend to steel the heart, and debase the human character.