This brings me back to my first Observation, and gives me Occasion to say further, That as worthy Actions spring from worthy Thoughts, so worthy Thoughts are likewise the Consequence of worthy Actions: But the Wretch who has degraded himself below the Character of Immortality, is very willing to resign his Pretensions to it, and to substitute in its Room a dark negative Happiness in the Extinction of his Being.
The admirable Shakespear has given us a strong Image of the unsupported Condition of such a Person in his last Minutes, in the second Part of King Henry the Sixth, where Cardinal Beaufort, who had been concerned in the Murder of the good Duke Humphrey, is represented on his Death-bed. After some short confused Speeches which shew an Imagination disturbed with Guilt, just as he is expiring, King Henry standing by him full of Compassion, says,
Lord Cardinal! if thou
thinkst on Heavens Bliss,
Hold up thy Hand, make Signal of that Hope!
He dies, and makes no Sign!—
The Despair which is here shewn, without
a Word or Action on the Part
of the dying Person, is beyond what could be painted by the most
forcible Expressions whatever.
I shall not pursue this Thought further, but only add, That as Annihilation is not to be had with a Wish, so it is the most abject Thing in the World to wish it. What are Honour, Fame, Wealth, or Power when compared with the generous Expectation of a Being without End, and a Happiness adequate to that Being?
I shall trouble you no further; but with a certain Gravity which these Thoughts have given me, I reflect upon some Things People say of you, (as they will of Men who distinguish themselves) which I hope are not true; and wish you as good a Man as you are an Author.
I am, SIR, Your most obedient humble Servant, T. D.
Hills peep o’er Hills, and Alps on Alps arise.
Popes Essay on Criticism, then newly published.]
* * * * *
No. 211 Thursday, November 1, 1711. Addison.
Fictis meminerit nos jocari Fabulis.