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PEKUAH A CAPTIVE. (PAGE 76.)
PRINCE OF ABYSSINIA.
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.
WITH ILLUSTRA TIONS.
GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS,
LONDON: BROADWAY, LUDGATE HILL.
NEW YORK : 9 LAFAYETTE PLACE.
UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME,
PRICE, SIXTY CENTS EACH.
AESOP'S FABLES. With 50 Illustra-
tions by HARRISON WEIR.
THE PILGRIMS' PROGRESS. With
THE VICAR OF WA IKEFIELD.
Iith 8 Illustrations.
THE ChILD'S NA TURAL IIISTO-
RY IN WORDS OF FOUR LET-
TERS. Vith 1oo Illustrations by
the A author.
ONE HUNDRED PICTURE FA-
BLES WITII RIIHYMES.
RASSELAS.: Prince of Abyssinia. By
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D. Vilh 6
PAUL AND VIRGINIA. By BER-
NARDIN DE SAINT PIERRE. ]Vith 6
SONGS FOR CHILDREN. By ISAAC
WATTS, D.D. Ilith 64 Illustrations.
GEORGE ROUTLEDGE & SONS,
9 Lafaeytte Place, New York.
DESCRIPTION OF A PALACE IN A VALLEY............... 7
THE DISCONTENT OF RASSELAS IN TIIE HAPPY VALLEY... 9
THE WANTS OF hIIIM THAT WANTS NOTHING.............. II
THE PRINCE CONTINUES TO GRIEVE AND MUSE............ 13
THE PRINCE MEDITATES IIS ESCAPE ......... ........ 15
A DISSERTATION ON THE ART OF FLYING ................ I6
THE PRINCE FINDS A MAN OF LEARNING ................ 19
THE HISTORY OF IMLAC ............... .............. 20
THE HISTORY OF IMLAC CONTINUED..................... 23
IMLAC'S HISTORY CONTINUED. A DISSERTATION ON
POETRY ....................... ...................... 25
IMLAC'S NARRATIVE CONTINUED. A HINT ON PILGRIMAGE 27
THE STORY OF IMLAC CONTINUED.. ...................... 29
RASSELAS DISCOVERS TIE MEANS OF ESCAPE ........... 33
RASSELAS AND IMLAC RECEIVE AN UNEXPECTED VISIT.. 34
THE PRINCE AND PRINCESS LEAVE THE VALLEY, AND SEE
MANY WONDERS .................................. 35
THEY ENTER CAIRO, AND FIND EVERY MAN HAPPY ..... 37
THE PRINCE ASSOCIATES WITH YOUNG MEN OF SPIRIT
AND GAYETY ....................................... 39
THE PRINCE FINDS A WISE AND HAPPY MAN ........... 40
A GLIMPSE OF PASTORAL LIFE ........................ 42
THE DANGER OF PROSPERITY .......................... 43
THE HAPPINESS OF SOLITUDE. THE HERMIT'S HISTORY. 45
THE HAPPINESS OF A LIFEP LED ACCORDING TO NATURE. 47
THE PRINCE AND IIIS SISTER DIVIDE BETWEEN THEM THE
WORK OF OBSERVATION ..................... ............ 49
THE PRINCE EXAMINES THE HAPPINESS OF HIGII STATIONS 43
THE PRINCESS PURSUES HER INQUIRY WITH MORE DILI-
GENCE TIAN SUCCESS ............... .............. 50
THE PRINCESS CONTINUES IIER REMARKS UPON PRIVATE
LIFE ................................... ............ 52
DISQUISITION UPON GREATNESS ................ ......... 54
RASSELAS AND NEKEYAII CONTINUE TIEIR CONVERSATION 56
THE DEBATE OF MARRIAGE CONTINUED ................. 58
IMLAC ENTERS, AND CHANGES THE CONVERSATION ......... 60
THEY VISIT TIE PYRAMIDS .............................. 62
THEY ENTER TIE PYRAMID ............................. 64
THE PRINCESS MEETS WITH AN UNEXPECTED MISFORTUNE 65
THEY RETURN TO CAIRO WITHOUT PEKUAII ............... 66
THE PRINCESS LANGUISHES FOR WANT OF PEKUAII....... 68
PEKUAH IS STILL REMEMBERED. TIE PROGRESS OF SORROW 71
THE PRINCESS HEARS NEWS OF PEKUAII................. 72
THE ADVENTURES OF TIE LADY PEKUAII ........... .... 73
THE ADVENTURES OF PEKUAII CONTINUED .............. 76
THE HISTORY OF A MAN OF LEARNING ................ 80
THE ASTRONOMER DISCOVERS THE CAUSE OF IIIS UNEASI-
NESS....................... ..... ... ...... .... .... 8I
THE OPINION OF THE ASTRONOMER IS EXPLAINED AND
JUSTIFIED .................. ........... ............ 82
THE ASTRONOMER LEAVES IMLAC HIS DIRECTIONS ...... 83
THE DANGEROUS PREVALENCE OF IMAGINATION ........ 84
THEY DISCOURSE WITI AN OLD MAN .................. 86
THE PRINCESS AND PEKUAH VISIT TIE ASTRONOMER.... 88
THE PRINCE ENTERS, AND BRINGS A NEW TOPIC ......... 92
IMLAC DISCOURSES ON TIE NATURE OF THE SOUL. ... 95
THE CONCLUSION, IN WHICI NOTHING Is CONCLUDED ... 98
THE HISTORY OF RASSELAS,
Vrinrc of b-ssinia.
Description of a palace in a valley.
YE who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and
pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope ; who expect that
age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies
of the present day will be supplied by the morrow; attend to
the history of Rasselas, prince of Abyssinia.
Rasselas was the fourth son of the mighty emperor, in whose
dominions the Father of Waters begins his course; whose
bounty pours down the streams of plenty, and scatters over
half the world the harvests of Egypt.
According to the custom which has descended from age to
age among the monarchs of the torrid zone, Rasselas was con-
fined in a private palace, with the other sons and daughters
of Abyssinian royalty, till the order of succession should call
him to the throne.
The place, which the wisdom or policy of antiquity had des-
tined for the residence of the Abyssinian princes, was a
spacious valley in the kingdom of Amhara, surrounded on every
side by mountains, of which the summits overhang the middle
part. The only passage by which it could be entered was a
cavern that passed under a rock, of which it has long been dis-
puted whether it was the work of nature or of human industry.
The outlet of the cavern was concealed by a thick wood, and
the mouth which opened into the valley was closed with gates
of iron forged by the artificers of ancient days, so massy that
no man could without the help of engines open or shut them.
From the mountains on eveiy side, rivulets descended that
filled all the valley with verdure and fertility, and formed a lake
in the middle, inhabited by fish of every species, and frequented
by every fowl whom nature has taught to dip the wing in water.
This lake discharged its superfluities by a stream which en-
tered a dark cleft of the mountain on the northern side, and
fell with dreadful noise from precipice to precipice till it was
heard no more.
The sides of the mountains were covered with trees, the
banks of the brooks were diversified with flowers; every
blast shook spices from the rocks, and every month dropped
fruits upon the ground. All animals that bite the grass or
browse the shrub, whether wild or tame, wandered in this ex-
tensive circuit, secured from beasts of prey by the mountains
which confined them. On one part were flocks and herds feed-
ing in the pastures, on another all the beasts of chase frisking
in the lawns; the sprightly kid was bounding on rocks, the
subtle monkey frolicking in the trees, and the solemn elephant
reposing in the shade. All the diversities of the world were
brought together, the blessings of nature were collected, and
its evils extracted and excluded.
The valley, wide and fruitful, supplied its inhabitants with
the necessaries of life, and all delights and superfluities were
added at the annual visit which the emperor paid his children,
when the iron gate was opened to the sound of music; and
during eight days every one that resided in the valley was re-
quired to propose whatever might contribute to make seclusion
pleasant, to fill up the vacancies of attention, and lessen the
tediousness of time. Every desire was immediately granted.
All the artificers of pleasure were called to gladden the festivity;
the musicians exerted the power of harmony, and the dancers
showed their activity before the princes, in hope that they
should pass their lives in this blissful captivity; to which those
only were admitted whose performance was thought able to
add novelty to luxury. Such was the appearance of security
and delight, which this retirement afforded, that they, to whom
it was new, always desired that it might be perpetual; and as
those, on whom the iron gate had once closed, were never suf-
fered to return, the effect of longer experience could not be
known. Thus every year produced new schemes of delight,
and new competitors for imprisonment.
The palace stood on an eminence raised about thirty paces
above the surface of the lake. It was divided into many squares
or courts, built with greater or less magnificence, according to
the rank of those for whom they were designed. The roofs
were turned into arches of massy stone, joined by a cement
that grew harder by time, and the building stood from century
to century deriding the solstitial rains and equinoctial hurri-
canes, without need of reparation.
This house, which was so large as to be fully known to none
but some ancient officers who successively inherited the secrets
of the place, was built as if suspicion herself had dictated the
plan. To every room there was an open and secret passage,,
every square had a communication with the rest, either from
the upper stories by private galleries, or by subterranean pas-
sages from the lower apartments. Many of the columns had
unsuspected cavities, in which a long race of monarchs had
deposited their treasures. They then closed up the opening
with marble, which was never to be removed but in the utmost
exigences of the kingdom : and recorded their accumulations
in a book, which was itself concealed in a tower not entered
but by the emperor attended by the-prince who stood next in
The discontent of Rasselas in the happy valley.
HERE the sons and daughters of Abyssinia lived only to
know the soft vicissitudes of pleasure and repose, attended by
all that were skilful to delight, and gratified with whatever the
senses can enjoy. They wandered in gardens of fragrance, and
slept in the fortresses of security. Every art was practiced to
make them pleased with their own condition. The sages who
instructed them told them of nothing but the miseries of public
life, and described all beyond the mountains as regions of
calamity, where discord was always raging, and where man
preyed upon man.
To heighten their opinion of their own felicity, they were
daily entertained with songs, the subject of which was the
lha ny valley. Their appetites were excited by frequent enu-
merations of different enjoyments ; and revelry and merriment
was the business of every hour from the dawn of morning to
the close of even.
These methods were generally successful: few of the
princes had ever wished to enlarge their bounds, but passed
their lives in full conviction that they had all within their reach
that art or nature could bestow, and pitied those whom fate
had excluded from this seat of tranquillity, as the sport of
chance and the slaves of misery.
Thus they rose in the morning and lay down at night,
pleased with each other and with themselves; all but Rasselas,
who in the twenty-sixth year of his age began to withdraw him-
self from their pastimes and assemblies, and to delight in soli-
tary walks and silent meditation. He often sat before tables
covered with luxury, and forgot to taste the dainties that were
placed before him ; he rose abruptly in the midst of the song
and hastily retired beyond the sound of music. His attendants
observed the change and endeavored to renew his love of
pleasure ; he neglected their officiousness, and repulsed their
invitations, and spent day after day on the banks of rivulets
sheltered with trees, where he sometimes listened to the birds
in the branches, sometimes observed the fish playing in the
stream, and anon cast his eyes upon the pastures and moun-
tains filled with animals, of which some were biting the herbage,
and some sleeping among the bushes.
This singularity of his humor made him much observed.
One of the sages, in whose conversation he had formerly de-
lighted, followed him secretly, in hope of discovering the cause
of his disquiet. Rasselas, who knew not that any one was
near him, having for some time fixed his eyes upon the goats,
that were browsing among the rocks, began to compare their
condition with his own.
What," said he, makes the difference between man and
all the rest of the animal creation ? Every beast that strays
beside me has the same corporal necessities with myself ; he is
hungry and crops the grass, he is thirsty and drinks the stream,
his thirst and hunger are appeased, he is satisfied and sleeps;
he rises again and is hungry, he is again fed and is at rest. I
am hungry and thirsty like' him, but when thirst and hunger
cease I am not at rest; I am, like him, pained with want, but
am not, like him, satisfied with fulness. The intermediate
hours are tedious and gloomy ; I long again to be hungry, that I
may again quicken my attention. The birds pick the berries or
the corn, and fly away to the groves, where they sit in seeming
happiness on the branches, and waste their lives in tuning one
unvaried series of sounds. I likewise can call the lutanist and
the singer, but the sounds that pleased me yesterday weary me
to-day, and will grow yet more wearisome to-morrow. I can
discover within me no power of perception which is not glutted
with its proper pleasure, yet I do not feel myself delighted.
Man surely has some latent sense for which this place affords no
gratification; or he has some desires, distinct from sense,
which must be satisfied before he can be happy."
After this he lifted up his head, and, seeing the moon ris-
ing walked towards the palace. As he passed through the
fields, and saw the animals around him, Ye," said he, are
happy, and need not envy me that walk thus among you, bur-
dened with myself; nor do I, ye gentle beings, envy your feli-
city ; for it is not the felicity of man. I have many distresses
from which ye are free : I fear pain when I do not feel it ; I
sometimes shrink at evils recollected, and sometimes start at
evils anticipated. Surely the equity of Providence has balanced
peculiar sufferings with peculiar enjoyments."
With observations like these the prince amused himself as
he returned; uttering them with a plaintive voice, yet with a
look that discovered him to feel some complacence in his own
perspicacity, and to receive some solace of the miseries of life
from consciousness of the delicacy with which he felt, and the
eloquence with which he bcwailed them. He mingled cheer-
fully in the diversions of the evening, and all rejoiced to find
that his heart was lightened.
The wants of him that wants nothing.
ON the next day his old instructor, imagining that he had
now made himself acquainted with his disease of mind, was in
hope of curing it by counsel, and officiously sought an oppor-
tunity of conference ; which the prince having long considered
him as one whose intellects were exhausted, was not very will-
ing to afford: Why," said he, does this man thus intrude
upon me ; shall I be never suffered to forget those lectures
which pleased only while they were new,and to become new again
must be forgotten ? He then walked into the wood, and com-
posed himself to his usual meditations ; when,before his thoughts
had taken any settled form, he perceived his pursuer at his side,
and was at first prompted by his impatience to go hastily away ;
but being unwilling to offend a man whom he had once rever-
enced and still loved, he invited him to sit down with him on
The old man, thus encouraged, began to lament the change
which had been lately observed in the prince, and to inquire
why he so often retired from the pleasures of the palace, to
loneliness and silence? "I fly from pleasures," said the
prince, because pleasure has ceased to please; I am lonely
because I am miserable, and am unwilling to cloud with my
presence the happiness of others." You, sir," said the sage,
"are the first who has complained of misery in the / -. -i :. .
I hope to convince you that your complaints have no real
cause. You are here in full possession of all that the emperor
of Abyssinia can bestow ; here is neither labor to be endured
nor danger to be dreaded, yet here is all that labor or danger
can procure or purchase. Look round and tell me which of
your wants is without supply ; if you want nothing how are you
unhappy ? "
"That I want nothing," said the prince, nor that I know
not what I want, is the cause of my complaint. If I had any
known want, I should have a certain wish ; that wish would ex-
cite endeavor, and I should not then repine to see the sun
move so slowly towards the western mountain, or lament when
the day breaks, and sleep will no longer hide me from myself.
When I see the kids and the lambs chasing one another, I fancy
that I should be happy if I had something to pursue. But,
possessing all that I can want, I find one day and one hour ex-
actly like another, except that the latter is still more tedious
than the former. Let your experience inform me how the day
may now seem as short as in my childhood, while nature was
yet fresh, and every moment showed me what I never had ob-
served before. I have already enjoyed too much; give me
something to desire."
The old man was surprised at this new species of affliction,
and knew not what to reply, yet was unwilling to be silent.
Sir," said he, if you had seen the miseries of the world, you
would know how to value your present state." Now," said
the prince, "you have given me something to desire ; I shall
long to see the miseries of the world, since the sight of them ic
necessary to happiness."
The Prince continues to grieve and muse.
Ar this time the sound of music proclaimed the hour of repast,
and the conversation was concluded. The old man went away
sufficiently discontented, to find that his reasoning had pro-
duced the only conclusion which they were intended to pre-
vent. But in the decline of life shame and grief are of short
duration; whether it be that we bear easily what we have
borne long; or that, finding ourselves in age less regarded, we
less regard others ; or, that we look with slight regard upon
afflictions to which we know that the hand of death is about to
put an end.
The prince, whose views were extended to a wider space,
could not speedily quiet his emotions. He had been before
terrified at the length of life which nature promised him, be-
cause he considered that in a long time much must be endured;
he now rejoiced in his youth, because in many years much
might be done.
This first beam of hope, that had been ever darted into his
mind, rekindled youth in his cheeks, and doubled the lustre of
his eyes. He was fired with the desire of doing something,
though he knew not yet with distinctness either end or means.
He was now no longer gloomy and unsocial; but, consider-
ing himself as master of a secret stock of happiness, which he
could enjoy only by concealing it, he affected to be busy in all
schemes of diversion, and endeavored to make others pleased
with the state of which he himself was weary. But pleasures
never can be so multiplied or continued as not to leave much
of life unemployed ; there were many hours, both of the night
and day, which he could spend without suspicion in solitary
thought. The load of life was much lightened; he went ea-
gerly into the assemblies, because he supposed the frequency of
his presence necessary to the success of his purposes ; he re-
tired gladly to privacy, because he had now a subject of thought.
His chief amusement was to picture to himself that world
which he had never seen ; to place himself in various con-
ditions ; to be entangled in imaginary difficulties, and to be
engaged in wild adventures; but his benevolence always
terminated his projects in the relief of distress, the detection of
fraud, the defeat of oppression, and the diffusion of happiness.
Thus passed twenty months of the life of Rasselas. He
busied himself so intensely in visionary bustle that he forgot
his real solitude ; and, amidst hourly preparations for the var-
ious incidents of human affairs, neglected to consider by what
means he should mingle with mankind.
One day, as he was sitting on a bank, he feigned to himself
an orphan virgin robbed of her little portion by a treacherous
lover, and crying after him for restitution and redress. So
strongly was the image impressed upon his mind that he started
up in the maid's defence, and ran forward to seize the plun-
derer, with all the eagerness of real pursuit. Fear naturally
quickens the flight of guilt. Rasselas could not catch the fugi-
tive with his utmost efforts ; but, resolving to weary, by per-
severance, him whom he could not surpass in speed, he pressed
on till the foot of the mountain stopped his course.
Here he recollected himself, and smiled at his own useless
impetuosity. Then, raising his eyes to the mountain, This,"
said he, is the fatal obstacle that hinders at once the enjoy-
ment of pleasure, and the exercise of virtue. How long is it
that my hopes and wishes have flown beyond this boundary of
my life, which yet I never have attempted to surmount! "
Struck with this reflection, he sat down to muse; and re-
membered, that since he first resolved to escape from his con-
finement, the sun had passed twice over him in his annual
course. IIe now felt a degree of regret with which he had
never been before acquainted. He considered how much
might have been done in the time which had passed, and left
nothing real behind it. He compared twenty months with the
life of man. "In life," said he, is not to be counted the
ignorance of infancy, or imbecility of age. We are long before
we are able to think, and we soon cease from the power of act-
ing. The true period of human existence may be reasonably
estimated at forty years, of which I have mused away the four
and twentieth part. What I have lost was certain, for I have
certainly possessed it; but of twenty months to come who can
assure me ? "
The consciousness of his own folly pierced him deeply, and
he was long before he could be reconciled to himself. The
rest of my time," said he, has been lost by the crime or folly
of my ancestors and the absurd institutions of my country; I
remember it with disgust, yet without remorse : but the months
that have passed since new light darted into my soul, since I
formed a scheme of reasonable felicity, have been squandered
by my own fault. I have lost that which can never be restored ;
I have seen the sun rise and set for twenty months, an idle
gazer on the light of heaven : in this time the birds have left
the nest of their mother, and committed themselves to the
woods and to the skies : the kid has forsaken the teat, and
learned by degrees to climb the rocks in quest of independent
sustenance. I only have made no advances, but am still help-
less and ignorant. The moon, by more than twenty changes,
admonished me of the flux of life ; the stream that rolledbefore
my feet upbraided my inactivity. I sat feasting on intellectual
luxury, regardless alike of the examples of the earth, and of the
instructions of the planets. Twenty months are passed, who
shall restore them? "
These sorrowful meditations fastened upon his mind; he
passed four months in resolving to lose no more time in idle
resolves ; and was awakened to more vigorous exertion by
hearing a maid, who had broken a porcelain cup, remark, that
what cannot be repaired is not to be regretted.
This was obvious ; and Rasselas reproached himself that
he had not discovered it, having not known or not considered
how many useful hints are obtained by chance, and how often
the mind, hurried by her own ardor to distant views, neglects
the truths that lie open before her. He, for a few hours, re-
gretted his regret, and from that time bent his whole mind
upon the means of escaping from the valley of happiness.
The I'ince Meditates his Escape.
HE now found that it would be very difficult to effect that
which it was very easy to suppose effected. When he looked
round about him, he saw himself confined by the bars of nature,
which had never yet been broken, and by the gate, through
which none that once had passed it were ever able to return.
He was now impatient as an eagle in the grate. He passed
week after week in clambering the mountains, to see if there
was any aperture which the bushes might conceal, but found all
the summits inaccessible by their prominence. The iron gate
he despaired to open ; for it was not only secured with all the
powers of art, but was always watched by successive sentinels,
and was by its position exposed to the perpetual observation of
all the inhabitants.
He then examined the cavern through which the waters of
the lake were discharged; and, looking down at a time when
the sun shone strongly upon its mouth, he discovered :: to be
full of broken rocks, which, though they permitted the stream
to flow through many narrow passages, would stop anybody of
solid bulk. He returned discouraged and dejected; but, hav-
ing now known the blessing of hope, resolved never to despair.
In these fruitless searches he spent ten months. The time,
however, passed cheerfully away: in the morning he rose with
new hope, in the evening applauded his own diligence, and in
the night slept sound after his fatigue. He met a thousand
amusements which beguiled his labor and diversified his
thoughts. He discerned the various instincts of animals and
properties of plants, and found the place replete with wonders,
of which he purposed to solace himself with the contemplation,
if he should never be able to accomplish his flight; rejoicing
that his endeavors, though yet unsuccessful, had supplied him
with a source of inexhaustible inquiry.
But his original curiosity was not yet abated ; he resolved
to obtain some knowledge of the ways of men. His wish still
continued, but his hope grew less. He ceased to survey any
longer the walls of his prison, and spared to search by new
toils for interstices which he knew cculd not be found, yet deter-
mined to keep his design always in view, and lay hold on any
expedient that time should offer.
A Dissertation on the Art of Flying.
AMONG the artists that had been allured into the happy
valley, to labor for the accommodation and pleasure of its in-
habitants, was a man eminent for his knowledge of the me-
chanic powers, who had contrived many engines both of use
and recreation. By a wheel which the stream turned he forced
the water into a tower, whence it was distributed to all the
apartments of the palace. He erected a pavilion in the garden,
around which he kept the air always cool by artificial showers.
One of the groves, appropriated to the ladies, was ventilated
by fans, to which the rivulet that ran through it gave a con-
stant motion ; the instruments of soft music were placed at
proper distances, of which some played by the impulse of the
wind, and some by the power of the stream.
This artist was sometimes visited by Rasselas, who was
pleased with every kind of knowledge, imagining that the time
would come when all his acquisitions should be of use to him
in the open world. He came one day to amuse himself in his
usual manner, and found the master busy in building a sailing
chariot: he saw that the design was practicable upon a level
surface, and with expressions of great esteem solicited its com-
pletion. The workman was pleased to find himself so much
regarded by the prince, and resolved to gain yet higher honors.
"Sir," said he, "you have seen but a small part of what the
mechanic sciences can perform. I have been long of opinion,
that, instead of the tardy conveyance of ships and chariots,
man might use the swifter migration of wings ; that the fields of
air are open to knowledge, and that only ignorance and idle-
ness need crawl upon the ground."
This hint rekindled the prince's desire of passing the moun-
tains : having seen what the mechanist had already performed,
he was willing to fancy that he could do more ; yet resolved to
inquire further, before he suffered hope to afflict him by disap-
pointment. I am afraid," said he to the artist. that your im-
agination prevails over your skill, and that you now tell me
rather what you wish than what you know. Every animal has
his element assigned him ; the birds have the air, and man and
beasts the earth." So," replied the mechanist, fishes have
the water, in which yet beasts can swim by nature, and men by
art. He that can swim needs not despair to fly; to swim is
to fly in a grosser fluid, and to fly is to swim in a subtler. We
are only to proportion our power of resistance to the different
density of matter through which we are to pass You will Ib
necessarily upborne by the air, if you can renew any impulse
"upon it faster than the air can recede from the pressure."
"But the exercise of swimming," said the prince, is "very
laborious; the strongest limbs are soon wearied ; I am afraid
the act of flying will be yet more violent ; and wings will be of
no great use unless we can fly further than we can swim."
"The labor of rising from the ground," said the artist,
"will be great, as we see it in the heavier domestic fowls, but
as we mount higher, the earth's attraction and the body's
gravity will be gradually diminished, till we shall arrive at a
region where the man will float in the air without any tendency
to fall ; no care will then be necessary but to move forwards,
which the gentlest impulse will effect. You, sir, whose curiosity
is so extensive, will easily conceive witn wnat pleasure a philoso-
pher, furnished with wings, and hovering in the sky, would see
the earth, and all its inhabitants, rolling beneath him, and pre-
senting to him successively, by its diurnal motion, all the coun-
tries within the same parallel. How must it amuse the pen-
dent spectator to see the moving scene of land and ocean,
cities and deserts To survey with equal serenity the marts
of trade and the fields of battle ; mountains infested by bar-
barians, and fruitful regions gladdened by plenty and lulled by
peace How easily shall we then trace the Nile through all
his passage ; pass over to distant regions, and examine the face
of nature from one extremity to the other "
All this," said the prince, "is much to be desired ; but I
am afraid that no man will be able to breathe in these regions
of speculation and tranquillity. I have been lold that respira-
tion is difficult upon lofty mountains, yet from these precipices,
though so high as to produce great tenuity of air, it is very
easy to fall: therefore I suspect, that, from any height where
life can be supported, there may be danger of too quick descent."
Nothing," replied the artist, will ever be attempted, if
all possible objections must be first overcome. If you will
favor my project, I will try the first flight at my own hazard. I
have considered the structure of all volant animals, and find
the folding continuity of the bat's wings most easily accommo-
dated to the human form. Upon this model I shall begin my
task to-morrow, and in a year expect to tower in the air beyond
the malice and pursuit of man. But I will work only on this
condition, that the art shall not be divulged, and that you
shall not require me to make wings for any but ourselves."
Why," said Rasselas, should you envy others so great
an '-1 1 LII ..1? All skill ought to be exerted for universal
good ; every man has owed much to others, and ought to repay
the kindness that he has received."
"If men were all virtuous," returned the artist, "I should
with great alacrity teach them all to fly. But what would be the
security of the good, if the bad could at pleasure invade them
from the sky? Against an army sailing through the clouds,
neither walls, nor mountains, nor seas could afford any security.
A flight of northern savages might hover in the wind, and light
at once with irresistible violence upon the capital of a fruitful
region that was rolling under them. Even this valley, the re-
treat of princes, the abode of happiness, might be violated by
the sudden descent of some of the naked nations that swarm
on the coast of the southern sea."
STH CLODS BOKd ON THE SOUNDING MOUNTAINS
"THE CLOUDS BRO~d ON THE SURROUNDING MOUNTAINS.
The prince promised secrecy, and waited for the perform-
ance, not wholly hopeless of success. He visited the work
from time to time, observed its progress, and remarked many
ingenious contrivances to facilitate motion, and unite levity
with strength. The artist was every day more certain that he
should leave vultures and eagles behind him, and the conta-
gion of his confidence seized upon the prince.
In a year the wings were finished ; and, on a morning ap-
pointed, the maker appeared furnished for flight on a little pro-
montory: he waved his pinions awhile to gather air, then
leaped from his stand, and in an instant dropped into the lake.
His wings, which were of no use in the air, sustained him in
the water, and the prince drew him to land, half dead with
terror and vexation.
The Prince finds a Man of Learning.
THE prince was not much afflicted by this disaster, having
suffered himself to hope for a happier event, only because
he had no other means of escape in view. He still persisted
in his design to leave the happy valley by the first oppor-
His imagination was now at a stand; he had no prospect
of entering into the world ; and, notwithstanding all his en-
deavors to support himself, discontent by degrees preyed upon
him, and he began again to lose his thoughts in sadness, when
the rainy season, which in these countries is periodical, made
it inconvenient to wander in the woods.
The rain continued longer and with more violence than had
ever been known ; the clouds broke on the surrounding moun-
tains, and the torrents streamed into the plain on every side,
till the cavern was too narrow to discharge the water. The lake
overflowed its banks, and all the level of the valley was covered
with the inundation. The eminence on which the palace was
built, and some other spots of rising ground, were all that the
eye could now discover. The herds and flocks left the pas-
tures, and both the wild beasts and the tame retreated to the
This inundation confined all the princes to domestic
amusements, and the attention of Rasselas was particularly
seized by a poem, which Imlac rehearsed upon the various
conditions of humanity. He commanded the poet to attend
him in his apartment, and recite his verses a second time;
then entering into familiar talk, he thought himself happy in
having found a man who knew the world so well, and could so
skilfully paint the scenes of life. He asked a thousand ques-
tions about things, to which, though common to all other mor-
tals, his confinement from childhood had kept him a stranger.
The poet pitied his ignorance and loved his curiosity, and en-
tertained him from day to day with novelty and instruction, so
that the prince regretted the necessity of sleep, and longed till
the morning should renew his pleasure.
As they were sitting together the prince commanded Imlac
to relate his history, and to tell by what accident he was forced,
or by what motive induced, to close his life in the happy val-
ley. As he was going to begin his narrative, Rasselas was
called to a concert, and obliged to restrain his curiosity till the
The History of Imlac.
THE close of the day is, in the regions of the torrid zone,
the only season of diversion and entertainment, and it was
therefore midnight before the music ceased, and the princes
retired. Rasselas then called for his companion and required
him to begin the story of his life.
Sir," said Imlac, my history will not be long: the life
that is devoted to knowledge passes silently away, and is very
little diversified by events. To talk in public, to think in soli-
tude, to read and to hear, to inquire and answer inquiries, is
the business of a scholar. HIe wanders about the world with-
out pomp or terror, and is neither known nor valued but by
men like himself.
I was born in the kingdom of Goiama, at no great dis-
tance from the fountain of the Nile. My father was a wealthy
merchant, who traded between the inland countries of Afric
and the ports of the Red Sea. He was honest, frugal, and
diligent, but of mean sentiments and narrow comprehension:
he desired only to be rich, and to conceal his riches, lest he
should be spoiled by the governors of the province."
Surely," said the prince, "my father must be negligent of
his charge, if any man in his dominions dares take that which
belongs to another. Does he not know that kings are ac-
countable for injustice permitted as well as done ? If I were
emperor, not the meanest of my subjects should be oppressed
with impunity. My blood boils when I am told that a mer-
chant durst not enjoy his honest gains for fear of losing them
by the rapacity of power. Name the governor who robbed the
people that I may declare his crimes to the emperor."
Sir," said Imlac, "your ardor is the natural effect of
virtue animated by youth : the time will come when you will
acquit your father, and perhaps hear with less impatience of
the governor. Oppression is, in the Abyssinian dominions,
neither frequent nor tolerated : but no form of government has
yet been discovered, by which cruelty can be wholly prevented.
Subordination supposes power on the one part, and subjection
on the other, and if power be in the hands of men, it will some-
times be abused. The vigilance of the supreme magistrate
may do much, but much will still remain undone. He can
never know all the crimes that are committed, and can seldom
punish all that he knows."
This," said the prince, I do not understand, but I had
rather hear thee than dispute. Continue thy narration."
"My father," proceeded Imlac, "originally intended that I
should have no other education than such as might qualify me
for commerce ; and, discovering in me great strength of mem-
ory and quickness of apprehension, often declared his hope
that I should be sometime the richest man in Abyssinia."
"Why," said the prince, did thy father desire the increase
of his wealth, when it was already greater than he durst dis-
cover or enjoy ? I am unwilling to doubt thy veracity, yet in-
consistencies cannot both be true."
Inconsistencies," answered Imlac, cannot both be right;
but, imputed to man, they may both be true. Yet diversity is
not inconsistency. My father might expect a time of greater
security. However, some desire is necessary to keep life in
motion; and he whose real wants are supplied must admit
those of fancy."
"This," said the prince, I can in some measure conceive.
I repent that I interrupted thee."
With this hope," proceeded Imlac, he sent me to school;
but when I had once found the delight of knowledge, and felt
the pleasure of intelligence and the pride of invention, I began
silently to despise riches, and determined to disappoint the
purpose of my father, whose grossness of conception raised my
pity. I was twenty years old before his tenderness would ex-
pose me to the fatigue of travel, in which time I had been in-
structed, by successive masters, in all the literature of my
native country. As every hour taught me something new, I
lived in a continual course of gratifications ; but as I advanced
towards manhood, I lost much of the reverence with which I
had been used to look on my instructors: because, when the
lesson was ended, I did not find them wiser or better than com-
"At length my father resolved to initiate me in commerce:
and, opening one of his subterranean treasuries, counted out
ten thousand pieces of gold. This, young man,' said he, 'is
the stock with which you-must negotiate. I began with less
than the fifth part, and you see how diligence and parsimony
have increased it. This is your own to waste or to improve.
If you squander it by negligence or caprice, you must wait for
death before you be rich; if, in four years, you double your
stock, we will thenceforward let subordination cease, and live
together as friends and partners ; for he shall be always equal
with me who is equally skilled in the art of growing rich."
"We laid our money upon camels, concealed in bales of
cheap goods, and travelled to the shore of the Red Sea. When
I cast my eye upon the expanse of waters, my heart bounded
like that of a prisoner escaped. I felt an unextinguishable
curiosity kindle in my mind, and resolved to snatch this oppor-
tunity of seeing the manners of other nations, and of learning
sciences unknown in Abyssinia.
"I remember that my father had obliged me to the improve-
ment of my stock, not by a promise which I ought not to
violate, but by a penalty which I was at liberty to incur ; and
therefore determined to gratify my predominant desire, and, by
drinking at the fountains of knowledge, to quench the thirst of
"As I was supposed to trade without connection with my
father, it was easy for me to become acquainted with the mas-
ter of a ship, and procure a passage to some other country. I
had no motives of choice to regulate my voyage : it was suffi-
cient for me that, wherever I wandered, I should see a coun-
try which I had not seen before. I therefore entered a ship
bound for Surat, having left a letter for my father declaring my
The History of Imlac continued.
"WHEN I first entered upon the world of waters, and lost
sight of land, I looked round about me with pleasing terror,
and, thinking my soul enlarged by the boundless prospect, im-
agined that I could gaze round without satiety: but, in a short
time, I grew weary of looking on barren uniformity, where I
could only see again what I had already seen. I then de-
scended into the ship, and doubted for awhile whether all my
future pleasures would not end like this, in disgust and disap-
pointment. Yet, surely, said I, the ocean and the land are
very different; the only variety of water is rest and motion,
but the earth has mountains and valleys, deserts and cities it
is inhabited by men of different customs and contrary opinions ;
and I may hope to find variety in life though I should miss it
With this thought I quieted my mind, and amused myself
during the voyage, sometimes by learning from the sailors the
art of navigation, which I have never practiced, and sometimes
by forming schemes for my conduct in different situations, in
not one of which I have been ever placed.
I was almost weary of my naval amusements when we
landed safely at Surat. I secured my money, and purchasing
some commodities for show, joined myself to a caravan that
was passing into the inland country. My companions, for
some reason or other, conjecturing that I was rich, and, by my
inquiries and admiration, finding that I was ignorant, considered
me as a novice whom they had a right to cheat, and who was to
learn at the usual expense the art of fraud. They exposed me
to the theft of servants and the exaction of officers, and saw me
plundered upon false pretences, without any advantage to them-
selves, but that of rejoicing in the superiority of their own
Stop a moment," said the prince. Is there such de-
pravity in man as that he should injure another without benefit
to himself ? I can easily conceive that all are pleased with
superiority ; but your ignorance was merely accidental, which,
being neither your crime nor your folly, could afford them no
reason to applaud themselves : and the knowledge which they
24 R ASSELAS.
had, and which you wanted, they might as effectually have
shown by warning as betraying you."
"Pride," said Imlac, "is seldom delicate, it will please it-
self with very mean advantages ; and envy feels not its own
happiness, but when it may be compared with the misery of
others. They were my enemies, because they grieved to think
me rich; and my oppressors, because they delighted to find me
"Proceed," said the prince; "I doubt not of the facts
which you relate, but imagine that you impute them to mistaken
In this company," said Imlac, I arrived at Agra, the
capital of Indostan, the city in which the Great Mogul com-
monly resides. I applied myself to the language of the coun-
try, and in a few months was able to converse with the learned
men ; some of whom I found morose and reserved, and others
easy and communicative ; some were unwilling to teach another
what they had with difficulty learned themselves; and some
showed that the end of their studies was to gain the dignity of
To the tutor of the young princes I recommended myself
so much that I was presented to the emperor as a man
of uncommon knowledge. The emperor asked me many ques-
tions concerning my country and my travels ; and though I
I cannot now recollect anything that he uttered above the
power of a common man, he dismissed me astonished at his
wisdom, and enamored of his goodness.
My credit was now so high that the merchants, with whom
I travelled, applied to me for recommendations to the ladies
of the court. I was surprised at their confidence of solicita-
tion, and gently reproached them with their practices on the
road. They heard me with cold indifference, and showed no
tokens of shame or sorrow.
They then urged their request with the offer of a bribe:
but what I would not do for kindness, I would not do for
money; and refused them, not because they had injured me,
but because I would not enable them to injure others; for I
knew they would have made use of my credit to cheat those
who should buy their wares.
Having resided at Agra till there was no more to be
learned, I travelled into Persia, where I saw many remains of
ancient magnificence, and observed many new accommodations
of life. The Persians are a nation eminently social, and their
assemblies afforded me daily opportunities of remarking char-
acters and manners, and of tracing human nature through all
From Persia I passed into Arabia, where I saw a nation
at once pastoral and warlike ; who live without any settled
habitation ; whose only wealth is their flocks and herds ; and
who have yet carried on, through all ages, an hereditary war
with all mankind, though they neither covet nor envy their pos-
Imlac's History continued. A Dissertation on Poetry.
WHEREVER I went, I found that poetry was considered as
the highest learning, and regarded with a veneration somewhat
approaching to that which man would pay to the Angelic Na-
ture. And yet it fills me with wonder, that, in almost all coun-
tries, the most ancient poets are considered as the best ; whether
it be that every other kind of knowledge is an acquisition grad
ually attained, and poetry is a gift conferred at once ; or that
the first poetry of every nation surprised them as a novelty,
and retained the credit by consent, which it received by acci-
dent at first : or whether, as the province of poetry is to de-
scribe nature and passion, which are always the same, the first
writers took possession of the most striking objects for descrip-
tion,and the most probable occurrences for fiction, and left noth-
ing to those that followed them. but transcription of the same
events, and new combinations of the same images. Whatever
be the reason, it is commonly observed that the early writers
are in possession of nature, and their followers of art ; that
the first excel in strength and invention, and the latter in ele-
gance and refinement,
I was desirous to add my name to this illustrious frater-
nity. I read all the poets of Persia and Arabia, and was able
to repeat by memory the volumes that are suspended in the
mosque of Mecca. But I soon found that no man was great by
imitation. My desire of excellence impelled me to transfer my
attention to nature and to life. Nature was to be my subject,
and men to be my auditors: I could never describe what I had
not seen : I could not hope to move those with delight or ter-
ror, whose interests and opinions I did not understand.
"Being now resolved to be a poet, I saw everything with a
new purpose ; my sphere of attention was suddenly magnified:
no kind of knowledge was to be overlooked. I ranged moun-
26 RASSEL AS.
tains and deserts for images and resemblances, and pictured
upon my mind every tree of the forest and flower of the valley.
I observed with equal care the crags of the rock and the pin-
nacles of the palace. Sometimes I wandered along the mazes of
the rivulet, and sometimes watched the changes of the summer
clouds. To a poet nothing can be useless. Whatever is beau-
tiful and whatever is dreadful must be familiar to his imagina-
tion : he must be conversant with all that is awfully vast or
elegantly little. The plants of the garden, the animals of the
wood, the minerals of the earth, and meteors of the sky, must
all concur to store his mind with inexhaustible variety : for
every idea is useful for the enforcement or decoration of moral
or religious truth; and he who knows most will have most
power of diversifying his scenes, and of gratifying his reader
with remote allusions and unexpected instruction.
All the appearances of nature I was therefore careful to
study; and every country which I have surveyed has contrib-
uted something to my poetical powers."
In so wide a survey," said the prince, "you must surely
have left much unobserved. I have lived, till now, within the
circuit of these mountains, and yet cannot walk abroad without
the sight of something which I had never beheld before or never
The business of a poet," said Imlac, is to examine, not
the individual, but the species ; to remark general properties
and large appearances ; he does not number the streaks of the
tulip, or describe the different shades ir. the verdure of the
forest. Hle is to exhibit in his portraits of nature such prom-
inent and striking features as recall the original to every mind;
and must neglect the minuter discrimination, which one may
have remarked, and another have neglected, for those charac-
teristics which are alike obvious to vigilance and carelessness.
"But the knowledge of nature is only half the task of a
poet he must be acquainted likewise with all the modes of life.
His character requires that he estimate the happiness and mis-
ery of every condition observe the power of all the passions
in all their combinations, and trace the changes of the human
mind as they are modified by various institutions and accidental
influences of climate or custom, from the sprightliness of in-
fancy to the despondence of decrepitude. He must divest him-
self of the prejudices of his age or country ; he must consider
right and wrong in their abstracted and invariable state ; he
must disregard present laws and opinions, and rise to general
and transcendental truths, which will always be the same he
must therefore content himself with the slow progress of his
name; contemn the applause of his own time, and commit his
claims to the justice of posterity. He must write as the inter-
preter of nature, and the legislator of mankind, and consider
himself as presiding over the thoughts and manners of future
generations ; as a being superior to time and place.
His labor is not yet at an end; he must know many
languages and many sciences: and, that his style may be
worthy of his thoughts, must, by incessant practice, familiarize
to himself every delicacy of speech and grace of harmony."
Imlac's Narrative continued. A Hint on I I., .
IMLAC now felt the enthusiastic fit, and was proceeding to
aggrandize his own profession, when the prince cried out,
Enough! thou hast convinced me, that no human being can
ever be a poet. Proceed with thy narration."
To be a poet," said Imlac, is indeed very difficult."
So difficult," returned the prince, that I will at present
hear no more of his labors. Tell me whither you went when
you had seen Persia."
From Persia," said the poet, I travelled through Syria,
and for three years resided in Palestine, where I conversed with
great numbers of the northern and western nations of Europe;
the nations which are now in possession of all power and all
knowledge: whose armies are irresistible, and whose fleet com-
mand the remotest parts of the globe. When I compared these
men with the natives of our own kingdom, and those that sur-
round us, they appeared almost another order of beings. In their
countries it is difficult to wish for anything that may not be
obtained : a thousand arts, of which we never heard, are con-
tinually laboring for their convenience and pleasure ; and
whatever their own climate has denied them is supplied by their
"By what means," said the prince, "are the Europeans
thus powerful; or why, since they can so easily visit Asia or
Africa for trade or conquest, cannot the Asiatics and Africans
invade their coasts, plant colonies in their ports, and give laws
to their natural princes ? The same wind that carries them
back would bring us thither."
"They are more powerful, sir, than we," answered Imlac,
"because they are wiser; knowledge will always predominate
over ignorance, as man governs the other animals. But why
their knowledge is more than ours, I know not what reason can
be given, but the unsearchable will of the Supreme Being."
"When," said the prince with a sigh, shall I be able to
visit Palestine, and mingle with this mighty confluence of
nations? Till that happy moment shall arrive, let me fill up
the time with such representations as thou canst give me. I
am not ignorant of the motive that assembles such numbers in
that place, and cannot but consider it as the centre of wisdom
and piety, to which the best and wisest of every land must be
There are some nations," said Imlac, that send few
visitants to Palestine ; for many numerous and learned sects in
Europe concur to censure pilgrimage as superstitious, or deride
it as ridiculous."
"You know," said the prince, "how little my life has made
me acquainted with diversity of opinions : it will be too long to
hear the arguments on both sides; you, that have considered
them, tell me the result."
Pilgrimage," said Imlac, like many other acts of piety,
may be reasonable or superstitious, according to the principles
upon which it is performed. Long journeys in search of truth
are not commanded. Truth, such as is necessary to the regula-
tion of life, is always found where it is honestly sought. Change
of place is no natural cause of the increase of piety, for it inevit-
ably produces dissipation of mind. Yet, since men go every
day to view the fields where great actions have been performed,
and return with stronger impressions of the event, curiosity of
the same kind may naturally dispose us to view that country
whence our religion had its beginning : and I believe no man
surveys those awful scenes without some confirmation of holy
resolutions. That the Supreme Being may be more easily propiti-
ated in one place than in another is the dream of idle super-
stition ; but that some places may operate upon our minds in
an uncommon manner is an opinion which hourly experience
will justify. He who supposes that his vices may be more
successfully combated in Palestine will, perhaps, find himself
mistaken ; yet he may go thither without folly : he who thinks
they will be more freely pardoned dishonors at once his reason
"These," said the prince, are European distinctions. I
will consider them another time. What have you found to be
the effect of knowledge ? Are those nations happier than we ?"
"There is so much infelicity," said the poet, "in the world,
that scarce any man has leisure from his own distresses to esti-
mate the comparative happiness of others. Knowledge, is
certainly one of the means of pleasure as is confessed by the
natural desire which every mind feels of increasing its ideas.
Ignorance is mere privation, by which nothing can be pro-
duced: it is a vacuity in which the soul sits motionless and
torpid for want of attraction; and, without knowing why, we
always rejoice when we learn, and grieve when we forget. I
am therefore inclined to conclude, that if nothing counteracts
the natural consequence of learning, we grow more happy as
our minds take a wider range.
In enumerating the particular comforts of life, we shall
find many advantages on the side of the Europeans. They
cure wounds and diseases with which we languish and perish.
We suffer inclemencies of weather which they can obviate.
They have engines for the despatch of many laborious works
which we must perform by manual industry. There is such
communication between distant places that one friend can
hardlybe said to be absent from another. Their policy removes
all public inconveniences, they have roads cut through their
mountains, and bridges laid upon their rivers. And, if we
descend to the privacies of life, their habitations are more com-
modious, and their possessions are more secure."
"They are surely happy," said the prince, who have all
these conveniences, of which I envy none so much as the
facility with which separated friends interchange their thoughts."
"The Europeans," answered Imlac, are less unhappy than
we, but they are not happy. Human life is everywhere state
in which much is to be endured, and little to be enjoyed."
The Story of Imlac continued.
I AM not yet willing," said the prince, to suppose that hap-
piness is so parsimoniously distributed to mortals ; nor can be-
lieve but that, if I had the choice of life, I should be able to
fill every day with pleasure. I would injure no man, and should
provoke no resentment: I would relieve every distress, and
should enjoy the benedictions of gratitude. I would choose
my friends among the wise and my wife among the virtuous;
and therefore should be in no danger from treachery or unkind-
ness. My children should, by my care, be learned had pious,
and would repay to my age what their childhood and received.
What would dare to molest him who might call on every side
to thousands enriched by his bounty, or assisted by his power ?
And why should not life glide quietly away in the soft recipro-
cation of protection and reverence ? All this may be done
without the help of European refinements, which appear by
their effects to be rather specious than useful. Let us leave
them, and pursue our journey."
From Palestine," said Imlac, I passed through many re-
gions of Asia, in the more civilized kingdoms as a trader, and
among the barbarians of the mountains as a pilgrim. At last
I began to long for my native country, that I might repose,
after my travels and fatigues, in the places where I had spent
my earliest years, and gladden my old companions with the re-
cital of my adventures. Often did I figure to myself those
with whom I had sported away the gay hours of dawning life,
sitting round me in its evening, wondering at my tales, and
listening to my counsels.
"When this thought had taken possession of my mind, I
considered every moment as wasted which did not bring me
nearer to Abyssinia. I hastened into Egypt, and notwithstand-
ing my impatience, was detained ten months in the contempla-
tion of its ancient magnificence, and in inquiries after the
remains of its ancient learning. I found in Cairo a mixture of
all nations; some brought thither by the love of knowledge,
some by the hope of gain, and many by the desire of living
after their own manner without observation, and of lying hid in
the obscurity of multitudes ; for in a city, populous as Cairo, it
is possible to obtain at the same time the gratifications of
society and the secrecy of solitude.
"From Cairo I travelled to Suez, and embarked on the
Red Sea, passing along the coast till I arrived at the port from
which I had departed twenty years before. Here I joined
myself to a caravan, and re-entered my native country.
I now expected the caresses of my kinsmen, and the con-
gratulations of my friends, and was not without hope that my
father, whatever value he had set upon riches, would own with"
gladness and pride a son who was able to add to the felicity and
honor of the nation. But I was soon convinced that my
thoughts were vain. My father had been dead fourteen years,
having divided his wealth among my brothers, who were re-
moved to some other provinces. Of my companions the greater
part was in the grave ; of the rest, some could with difficulty
remember me, and some considered me as one corrupted by
A man used to vicissitudes is not easily dejected. I for-
got, after a time, my disappointment, and endeavored to recom-
mend myself to the nobles of the kingdom ; they admitted me
to their tables, heard my story, and dismissed me. I opened a
school, and was prohibited to teach. I then resolved to sit
down in the quiet of domestic like, and addressed a lady that
was fond of my conversation, but rejected my suit because my
father was a merchant.
Wearied at last with solicitations and repulses, I resolved
to hide myself forever from the world, and depend no longer
on the opinion or caprice of others. I waited for the time
when the gate of the ha/fy 'valley should open, that I might bid
farewell to hope and fear: the day came ; my performance was
distinguished with favor, and I resigned myself with joy to per-
Hast thou here found happiness at last ? "Tell me
without reserve ; art thou content with thy condition ? or, dost
thou wish to be again wandering and inquiring? All the in-
habitants of this valley celebrate their lot, and at the annual
visit of the emperor invite others to partake of their felicity."
Greatprince," said Imlac, I shall speak the truth ; I know
not one of all your attendants who does not lament the hour
when he entered this retreat. I am less unhappy than the
rest, because I have a mind replete with images, which I can
vary and combine at pleasure. I can amuse my solitude by
the renovation of the knowledge which begins to fade from my
memory, and by recollections of the incidents of my past life.
Yet all this ends in the sorrowful consideration, that my ac-
quirements are now useless, and that none of my pleasures can
be again enjoyed. The rest, whose minds have no impression
but that of the present moment, are either corroded by
malignant passions or sit stupid in the gloom of perpetual
"What passions can infest those," said the prince, who
have no rivals? We are in a place where impotence precludes
malice, and where all envy is repressed by community of enjoy-
There may be community," said Imlac, of material pos-
sessions, but there can never be community of love or of
esteem. It must happen that one will please more than another:
he that knows himself despised will always be envious ; and
still more envious and malevolent, if he is condemned to live
in the presence of those who despise him. The invitations by
which they allure others to a state which they feel to be
wretched, proceed from the natural malignity of hopeless mis-
ery. They are weary of themselves and of each other, and
expect to find relief in new companions. They envy the liberty
which their folly has forfeited, and would gladly see all man-
kind imprisoned like themselves.
"From this crime, however, I am wholly free. No man
can say that he is wretched by my persuasion. I look with
pity on the crowds who are annually soliciting admission into
captivity, and wish that it were lawful for me to warn them of
My dear Imlac," said the prince, I will open to thee my
whole heart. I have long meditated an escape from the happy
valley. I have examined the mountains on every side, and find
myself insuperably barred: teach me the way to break my
prison : thou shalt be the companion of my flight, the guide of
my rambles, the partner of my fortune, and my sole director in
the choice of life."
"Sir," answered the poet, "your escape will be difficult;
and, perhaps, you may soon repent your curiosity. The world,
which you figure to yourself smooth and quiet as the lake in
the valley, you will find a sea foaming with tempests and boil-
ing with whirlpools: you will be sometimes overwhelmed with
the waves of violence, and sometimes dashed against the rocks
of treachery. Amidst wrongs and frauds, competitions and
anxieties, you will wish a thousand times for these seats of
quiet, and willingly quit hope to be free from fear."
"Do not seek to deter me from my purpose," said the
prince; "I am impatient to see what thou hast seen; and
since thou art thyself weary of the valley, it is evident that thy
former state was better than this. Whatever be the conse-
quence of my experiment, I am resolved to judge with mine
own eyes of the various conditions of men, and then to make
deliberately my choice of life."
"I am afraid," said Imlac, "you are hindered by stronger
restraints than my persuasions; yet, if your determination is
fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impos-
sible to diligence and skill."
Rasselas Discovers the Means of Escape.
THE prince now dismissed his favorite to rest, but the narra-
tive of wonders and novelties filled his mind with perturbation.
He revolved all that he had heard, and prepared innumerable
questions for the morning.
Much of his uneasiness was now removed. He had a friend
to whom he could impart his thoughts, and whose experience
could assist him in his designs. His heart was no longer con-
demned to swell in silent vexation. He thought that even the
happy valley might be endured with such a companion; and
that if they could range the world together, he should have
nothing further to desire.
In a few days the water was discharged, and the ground
dried. The prince and Imlac then walked out together to
converse without the notice of the rest. The prince, whose
thoughts were always on the wing, as he passed by the gate,
said, with a countenance of sorrow, Why art thou so strong,
and why is man so weak ?"
"Man is not weak," answered his companion; "knowledge
is more than equivalent to force. The master of mechanics
laughs at strength. I can burst the gate, but cannot do it
secretly. Some other expedient must be tried."
As they were walking on the side of the mountain, they ob-
served that the conies, which the rain had driven from their
burrows, had taken shelter among the bushes, and formed
holes behind them, tending upwards in an oblique line. "It
has been the opinion of antiquity,' said Imlac, that human
reason borrowed many arts from the instinct of animals; let us,
therefore, not think ourselves degraded by learning from the
cony. We may escape by piercing the mountain in the same
direction. We will begin where the summit hangs over the
middle part, and labor upward till we shall issue up beyond the
The eyes of the prince, when he heard this proposal,
sparkled with joy. The execution was easy, and the success
No time was, now lost. They hastened, early in the morn-
ing, to choose a place proper for their mind. They clambered
with great fatigue among crags and brambles, and returned
without having discovered any part that favored their design.
The second and third day were spent in the same manner, and
with the same frustration. But, on the fourth, they found a
small cavern, concealed by a thicket, where they resolved to
make their experiment.
Imlac procured instruments proper to hew stone and re-
move earth, and they fell to their work the next day with more
eagerness than vigor. They were presently exhausted by their
efforts, and sat down to pant upon the grass. The prince, for
a moment, appeared to be discouraged. Sir," said his com-
panion, practice will enable us to continue our labor for a
longer time; mark, however, how far we have advanced, and
you will find that our toil will some time have an end. Great
works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance;
yonder palace was raised by single stones, yet you see its
height and spaciousness. He that shall walk with vigor three
hours a day, will pass in seven years a space equal to the cir-
cumference of the globe."
They returned to their work day after day; and, in a short
time, found a fissure in the rock, which enabled them to pass
far with very little obstruction. This Rasselas considered as a
good omen. "Do not disturb your mind," said Imlac, "with
other hopes and fears than reason may suggest: if you are
pleased with prognostics of good, you will be terrified likewise
with tokens of evil, and your whole life will be a prey to super-
stition. Whatever facilitates our work is more than an omen,
it is a cause of success. This is one of those pleasing surprises
which often happen to active resolution. Many things difficult
to design prove easy to performance."
Rasselas and Imlac Receive an Unexpected Visit.
THEY had now wrought their way to the middle, and so-
laced their thoughts with the approach of liberty, when the
prince coming down to refresh himself with air, found his sister
Nekayah standing before the mouth of the cavity. Ile started
and stood confused, afraid to tell his design, and yet hopeless
to conceal it. A few moments determined him to repose on
her fidelity, and secure her secrecy by a declaration without
Do not imagine," said the princess, "that I came hither
as a spy: I had long observed from my window, that you
and Imlac directed your walk every day towards the same
point, but I did not suppose you had any better reason for the
preference than a cooler shade, or more fragrant bank; nor
followed you with any other design than to partake of your
conversation. Since, then, not suspicion but fondness has de-
tected you, let me not lose the advantage of my discovery I
am equally weary of confinement with yourself, and not less
desirous of knowing what is done or suffered in the world.
Permit me to fly with you from this tasteless tranquillity, which
will yet grow more loathsome when you have left me. You
may deny me to accompany you, but cannot hinder me from
The prince, who loved Nekayah above his other sisters,
had no inclination to refuse her request, and grieved that he
had lost an opportunity of showing his confidence by a volun-
tary communication. It was therefore agreed that she should
leave the valley with them and that, in the mean time, she
should watch lest any other straggler should, by chance or curi-
osity, follow them to the mountain.
At length their labor was at an end : they saw light beyond
the prominence, and, issuing to the lop of the mountain, beheld
the Nile, yet a narrow current, wandering beneath them.
The prince looked round with rapture, anticipated all the
pleasure of travel, and in thought was already transported be-
yond his father's dominions. Imlac, though very joyful at his
escape, had less expectation of pleasure in the world, whicl: he
had before tried, and of which he had been weary.
Rasselas was so much delighted with a wider horizon that
he could not soon be persuaded to return into the valley. He
informed his sister that the way was open, and that nothing now
remained but to prepare for their departure.
The Prince and Princess leave the Valley, and see many Wonders.
THE prince and princess had jewels sufficient to make them
*rich whenever they came into a place of commerce, which, by
Imlac's direction, they might hide in their clothes; and. on
the night of the next full moon, all left the valley. The prin-
cess was followed only by a single favorite, who did not know
whither she was going.
They clambered through the cavity, and began to go down
on the other 'side. The princess and her maid turned their eyes
towards every part, and, seeing nothing to bound their prospect,
considered themselves as in danger of being lost in a dreary
vacuity. They stopped and trembled. I am almost afraid,"
said the princess, to begin a journey of which I cannot per-
ceive an end, and to venture into this immense plain, where I
may be approached on every side by men whom I never saw."
The prince felt nearly the same emotions, though he thought it
more manly to conceal them.
Imlac smiled at their terrors, and encouraged them to pro-
ceed : but the princess continued irresolute till she had been
imperceptibly drawn forward too far to return.
In the morning they found some shepherds in the field, who
set milk and fruits before them. The princess wondered that
she did not see a palace ready for her reception, and a table
spread with delicacies; but, being faint and hungry, she drank
the milk and ate the fruits, and thought them of a higher fla-
vor than the products of the valley.
They travelled forward by easy journeys, being all unaccus-
fomed to toil or difficulty, and knowing that, though they might
be missed, they could not be pursued. In a few days they
came into a more populous region, where Imlac was diverted
with the admiration which his companions expressed at the di-
versity of manners, stations, and employment.
Their dress was such as might not bring upon them the sus-
picion of having anything to conceal ; yet the prince, wherever
he came, expected to be obeyed, and the princess was frighted
because those that came into her presence did not prostrate
themselves before her. Imlac was forced to observe them with
great vigilance, lest they should betray their rank by their un-
usual behavior, and detained them several weeks in the first
village, to accustom them to the sight of common mortals.
By degrees the royal wanderers were taught to understand
that they had for a time laid aside their dignity, and were to
expect only such regard as liberality and courtesy could pro-
cure. And Imlac, having, by many admonitions, prepared
them to endure the tumults of a port, and the ruggedness of the
Commercial race, brought them down to the sea-coast.
The prince and his sister, to whom everything was new,
were gratified equally at all places, and therefore remained for
some months at the port without any inclination to pass further.
\~itf\ \ ~~r
fi ~ RN A' TWN
Imlac was content with their stay, because he did not think it
safe to expose them, unpracticed in the world, to the hazards
of a foreign country.
At last he began to fear lest they should be discovered, and
proposed to fix a day for their departure. They had no preten-
sions to judge for themselves, and referred the whole scheme
to his direction. He therefore took passage in a ship to Suez ;
and, when the time came, with great difficulty prevailed on the
princess to enter the vessel. They had a quick and prosperous
voyage ; and from Suez travelled by land to Cairo.
They enter Cairo, and find every man happy.
As they approached the city, which filled the strangers with
astonishment, This," said Imlac to the prince, is the place
where travellers and merchants assemble from all the corners
of the earth. You will here find men of every character, and
every occupation. Commerce is here honorable : I will act as
a merchant who has no other end of travel than curiosity ; it
will soon be observed that we are rich ; our reputation will
procure us access to all whom we shall desire to know ; you
will see all the conditions of humanity, and enable yourself at
leisure to make your choice of lif."
They now entered the town, stunned by the noise and
offended by the crowds. Instruction had not yet so prevailed
over habit, but that they wondered to see themselves pass un-
distinguished along the street, and met by the lowest of the
people without reverence or notice. The princess could not at
first bear the thought of being levelled with the vulgar, and for
some days continued in her chamber, where she was served by
her favorite Pekuah as in the palace of the valley.
Imlac, who understood traffic, sold part of the jewels the
next day, and hired a house, which he adorned with such mag-
nificence, that he was immediately considered as a merchant of
great wealth. His politeness attracted many acquaintance, and
his generosity made him courted by many dependants. His
table was crowded by men of every nation, who all admired his
knowledge, and solicited his favor. His companions, not being
able to mix in the conversation, could make no discovery of
their ignorance or surprise, and were gradually initiated in the
world as they gained knowledge of the language.
The prince had, by frequent lectures, been taught the use
and nature of money; but the ladies could not for a long
time comprehend what the merchants did with small pieces of
gold and silver, or why things of so little use should be re-
ceived as equivalent to the necessaries of life.
They studied the language two years, while Imlac was pre-
paring to set before them the various ranks and conditions of
mankind. He grew acquainted with all who had anything
uncommon in their fortune or conduct. He frequented the
voluptuous and the frugal, the idle and the busy, the mer-
chants and the men of learning.
The prince being now able to converse with fluency, and
having learned the caution necessary to be observed in his in-
tercourse with strangers, began to accompany Imlac to places
of resort, and to enter into all assemblies, that he might make
his choice qf life.
For some time he thought choice needless, because all ap-
peared to him equally happy. Wherever he went he met
gayety and kindness, and heard the song of joy or the laughter
of carelessness. He began to believe that the world over-
flowed with universal plenty, and that nothing was withheld
either from want or merit ; that every hand showered liberality,
and every heart melted with benevolence; "and who then,"
says he, will be 1nI. i. .I to be wretched? "
Imlac permitted the pleasing delusion, and was unwilling
to crush the hope of inexperience, till one day, having sat
awhile silent, I know not," said the prince, what can be
the reason that I am more unhappy than any of our friends.
I see them perpetually and unalterably cheerful, but feel my
own mind restless and uneasy. I am unsatisfied with those
pleasures which I seem most to court. I live in the crowds of
jollity, not so much to enjoy company as to shun myself, and
am only loud and merry to conceal my sadness."
Every man," said Imlac, may by examining his own
mind guess what passes in the minds of others: when you
feel that your own gayety is counterfeit, it may justly lead you
to suspect that of your companions not to be sincere. Envy
is commonly reciprocal. We are long before we are convinced
that happiness is never to be found, and each believes it pos-
sessed by others to keep alive the hope of obtaining it for
himself. In the assembly where you passed the last night,
there appeared such sprightliness of air and volatility of fancy
as might have suited beings of a higher order, formed to in-
habit serener regions inaccessible to care or sorrow; yet be-
lieve me, prince, there was not one who did not dread the
moment when solitude should deliver him to the tyranny of
This," said the prince, may be true of others, since it is
true of me; yet whatever be the general infelicity of man, one
condition is more happy than another, and wisdom surely
directs us to take the least evil in the choice of life."
The causes of good and evil," answered Imlac, are so
various and uncertain, so often entangled with each other, so
diversified by various relations, and so much subject to acci-
dents which cannot be foreseen, that he who would fix his con-
dition upon incontestible reasons of preference must live and
die inquiring and deliberating."
"But, surely," said Rasselas, the wise men, to whom we
listen with reverence and wonder, chose that mode of life for
themselves which they thought most likely to make them
Very few," said the poet, live by choice. Every man is
placed i his present condition by causes which acted without
his foresight, and with which he did not always willingly co-
operate and therefore you will rarely meet one who does not
think the lot of his neighbor better than his own."
I am pleased to think," said the prince, that my birth
has given me at least one advantage over others, by enabling
me to determine for myself. I have here the world before me;
I will review it at leisure ; surely happiness is somewhere to be
The Prince associates with Young Men of Spirit and Gayety.
RASSELAS rose next day, and resolved to begin his experi-
ments upon life. "Youth," cried he, "is the time of glad-
ness : I will join myself to the young men, whose only busi-
ness is to gratify their desires, and whose time is all spent in
a succession of enjoyments."
To such societies he was readily admitted ; but a few days
brought him back weary and disgusted. Their mirth was
without images ; their laughter without motive ; their pleasures
were gross and sensual, in which the mind had no part; their
conduct was at once wild and mean ; they laughed at order
and law: but the frown of power dejected, and the eye of wis-
dom abashed them,
40 lAS, S'7LAS.
The prince soon concluded that he should never be happy
in a course of life of which le was ashamed. lie thought it
unsuitable to a reasonable being to act without a plan, and to
be sad or cheerful only by chance. Happiness," said he,
" must be something solid and permanent, without fear and
But his young companions had gained so much of his re-
gard by their frankness and courtesy that he could not leave
them without warning and remonstrance. "My friends," said
he, I have seriously considered our manners and our pros-
pects, and find that we have mistaken our own interest. The
first years of man must make provision for the last. He that
never thinks never can be wise. Perpetual levity must end in
ignorance ; and intemperance, though it may fire the spirits for
an hour, will make life short or miserable. Let us consider
that youth is of no long duration, and that in maturer age,
when the enchantments of fancy shall cease, and phantoms of
delight dance no more about us, we shall have no comforts but
the esteem of wise men, and the means of doing good. Let
us, therefore, stop while to stop is in our power : let us live as
men who are sometimes to grow old, and to whom it will be
the most dreadful of all evils not to count their past years by
follies, and to be reminded of their former luxuriance of health
only by the maladies which riot has produced."
They stared awhile in silence one upon another, and at
last drove him away by a general chorus of continued laughter.
The consciousness that his sentiments were just, and his
intentions kind, was scarcely sufficient to support him against
the horror of derision. But he recovered his tranquillity, and
pursued his search.
The Prince finds a Wise and Iappy Man.
As he was one day walking in the street, he saw a spacious
building, which all were, by the open doors, invited to enter;
he followed the stream of people and found it a hall or school
of declamation, in which professors read lectures to their audi-
tory. He fixed his eye upon a sage raised above the rest, who
discoursed with great energy on the government of the pas-
sions. His look was venerable, his action graceful, his pro-
nunciation clear, and his diction elegant. IHe showed, with
great strength of sentiment and variety of illustration, that
human nature is degraded and debased when the lower facul,
ties predominate over the higher; that when fancy, the parent
of passion, usurps the dominion of the mind, nothing ensues
but the natural effect of unlawful government, perturbation,
and confusion ; that she betrays the fortresses of the intellect
to rebels, and excites her children to sedition against reason,
their lawful sovereign. He compared reason to the sun, of
which the light is constant, uniform, and lasting ; and fancy to
a meteor, of bright but transitory lustre, irregular in its motion,
and delusive in its direction.
He then communicated the various precepts given from
time to time for the conquest of passion, and displayed the
happiness of those who had obtained the important victory,
after which man is no longer the slave of fear, nor the fool of
hope ; is no more emaciated by envy, inflamed by anger,
emasculated by tenderness, or depressed by grief; but walks
on calmly through the tumults or privacies of life, as the sun
pursues alike his course through the calm or the stormy sky.
He enumerated many examples of heroes immovable by
pain or pleasure, who looked with indifference on those modes
or accidents to which the vulgar give the names of good and
evil. He exhorted his hearers to lay aside their prejudices,
and arm themselves against the shafts of malice or misfortune,
by invulnerable patience ; concluding, that this state only was
happiness, and that this happiness was in everyone's power.
Rasselas listened to him with the veneration due to the in-
structions of a superior being; and, waiting for him at the
door, humbly implored the liberty of visiting so great a master
of true wisdom. The lecturer hesitated a moment, when Ras-
selas put a purse of gold into his hand, which he received with
a mixture of joy and wonder.
"I have found," said the prince, at his return to Imlac, a
man who can teach all that is necessary to be known, who,
from the unshaken throne of rational fortitude, looks down on
the scenes of life changing beneath him. He speaks, and at-
tention watches his lips. He reasons, and conviction closes
his periods. This man shall be my future guide: I will learn
his doctrines and imitate his life."
Be not too hasty," said Imlac, to trust, or to admire,
the teachers of morality; they discourse like angels, but they
live like men."
Rasselas, who could not conceive how any man could reason
so forcibly without feeling the cogency of his own arguments,
paid his visit in a few days, and was denied admission. He
had now learned the power of money, and made his way by a
piece of gold to the inner apartment, where he found the phi-
losopher in a room half darkened, with his eyes misty, and his
face pale. Sir," said he, you are come at a time when all
human friendship is useless ; what I suffer cannot be remedied,
what I have lost cannot be supplied. My daughter, my only
daughter, from whose tenderness I expected all the comforts
of my age, died last night of a fever. My views, my purposes,
my hopes are at an end: I am now a lonely being disunited
Sir," said the prince, mortality is an event by which a
wise man can never be surprised : we know that death is
always near, and it should therefore always be expected."
"Young man," answered the philosopher, "you speak like one
that has never felt the pangs of separation." Have you then
forgot the precepts," said Rasselas, which you so powerfully
enforced ? Has wisdom no strength to arm the heart against
calamity? Consider that external things are naturally vari-
able, but truth and reason are always the same." "What com-
fort," said the mourner, can truth and reason afford me ? of
what effect are they now, but to tell me, that my daughter will
not be restored ?"
The prince, whose humanity would not suffer him to insult
misery with reproof, went away convinced of the emptiness of
rhetorical sound, and the inefficacy of polished periods and
A Glimpse of Pastoral Life.
HE was still eager upon the same inquiry; and having
heard of a hermit that lived near the lowest cataract of the
Nile, and filled the whole country with the fame of his sanctity,
resolved to visit his retreat, and inquire whether that felicity,
which public life could not afford, was to be found in solitude ;
and whether a man whose age and virtue made him venerable,
could teach any peculiar art of shunning evils or enduring
Imlac and the princess agreed to accompany him ; and,
after the necessary preparations, they began their journey.
Their way lay through the fields, where shepherds tended their
flocks, and the lambs were playing upon the pasture. This,"
said the poet, is the life which has been often celebrated for
its innocence and quiet; let us pass the heat of the day among
the shepherds' tents, and know whether all our searches are
not to terminate in pastoral simplicity."
The proposal pleased them, and they induced the shep-
herds, by small presents, and familiar questions, to tell their
opinion of their own state ; they were so rude and ignorant, so
little able to compare the good with the evil of the occupation,
and so indistinct in their narratives and descriptions, that very
little could be learned from them. But it was evident that
their hearts were cankered with discontent; that they con-
sidered themselves as condemned to labor for the luxury of
the rich, and looked up with stupid malevolence toward those
that were placed above them.
The princess pronounced with vehemence, that she would
never suffer these envious savages to be her companions, and
that she should not soon be desirous of seeing any more speci-
mens of rustic happiness; but could not believe that all the
accounts of primeval pleasures were fabulous and was yet in
doubt, whether life had anything that could be justly preferred
to the placid gratifications of fields and woods. She hoped
that the time would come, when, with a few virtuous and ele-
gant companions, she should gather flowers planted by her own
hand, fondle the lambs of her own ewe, and listen, without care,
among brooks and breezes, to one of her maidens reading in
The Danger of Prosperity.
ON the next day they continued their journey, till the heat
compelled them to look round for shelter. At a small distance
they saw a thick wood, which they no sooner entered than they
perceived that they were approaching the habitations of men.
The shrubs were diligently cut away to open walks where the
shades were darkest: the boughs of opposite trees were artificially
interwoven ; seats of flowery turf were raised in vacant spaces:
and a rivulet that wantoned along the side of a winding path,
had its banks sometimes opened into small basins, and its
stream sometimes obstructed by little mounds of stone heaped
together to increase its murmurs.
They passed slowly through the wood, delighted with such
unexpected accommodations, and entertained each other with
conjecturing what, or who he could be, that, in those rude and
unfrequented regions, had leisure and art for such harmless
As they advanced, they heard the sound of music, and saw
youths and virgins dancing in the grove ; and, going still fur-
ther, beheld a stately palace built upon a hill surrounded with
woods. The laws of eastern hospitality allowed them to enter,
and the master welcomed them like a man liberal and wealthy.
He was skilful enough in appearances soon to discern that
they were no common guests, and spread his table with magni-
ficence. The eloquence of Imlac caught his attention, and the
lofty courtesy of the princess excited his respect. When they
offered to depart he entreated their stay, and was the next day
still more unwilling to dismiss them than before. They were
easily persuaded to stop, and civility grew up in time to freedom
The prince now saw all the domestics cheerful, and all the
face of nature smiling round the place, and could not forbear
to hope he should find here what he was seeking ; but when he
was congratulating the master upon his possessions, he an-"
swered with a sigh, My condition has indeed the appearance
of happiness, but appearances are delusive. My prosperity
puts my life in danger ; the Bassa of Egypt is my enemy, in-
censed only by my wealth and popularity. I have hitherto
been protected against him by the princes of the country ; but
as the favor of the great is uncertain, I know not how soon my
defenders may be persuaded to share the plunder with the
Bassa. I have sent my treasures into a distant country, and,
upon the first alarm, am prepared to follow them. Then will
my enemies riot in my mansion, and enjoy the gardens which I
They all joined in lamenting his danger, and deprecating
his exile; and the princess was so much disturbed with the
tumult of grief and indignation that she retired to her apart-
They continued with their kind inviter a few days longer,
and then went forward to find the hermit.
The Happiness of Solitude. The IIermit's Ilistory.
THEY came on the third day, by the direction of the peas-
ants, to the hermit's cell: it was a cavern in the side of a moun-
tain, overshadowed with pahn trees ; at such a distance from
the cataract that nothing more was heard than a gentle uniform
murmur, such as composed the mind to pensive meditation,
especially when it was assisted by the wind whistling among
the branches. The first rude essay of nature had been so much
improved by human labor that the cave contained several
apartments appropriated to dl!t-...,t uses, and often afforded
lodging to travellers, whom darkness or tempests happened to
The hermit sat on a bench at the door to enjoy the coolness
of the evening. On one side lay a book with pens and papers,
on the other, mechanical instruments of various kinds. As
they approached him unregarded, the princess observed that he
had not the countenance of a man that had found, or could
teach the way to happiness.
They saluted him with great respect, which he repaid like a
man not unaccustomed to the forms of courts. My children,"
said he, if you have lost your way, you shall be willingly sup-
plied with such conveniences for the night as this cavern will
afford. I have all that nature requires, and you will not ex-
pect delicacies in a hermit's cell."
They thanked him and, entering, were pleased with the
neatness and regularity of the place. The hermit set flesh and
wine before them, though he fed only upon fruits and water.
His discourse was cheerful without levity, and pious without
enthusiasm. He soon gained the esteem of his guests, and the
princess repented of her hasty censure.
At last Imlac began thus : I do not now wonder that your
reputation is so far extended: we have heard at Cairo of your
wisdom, and came hither to implore your direction for this
young man and maiden in the choice of 'fe."
To him that lives well," answered the hermit, every form
of life is good ; nor can I give any other rule for choice than
to remove from all apparent evil."
He will remove most certainly from evil," said the prince,
" who shall devote himself to that solitude which you have re-
commended by your example."
I have indeed lived fifteen years in solitude," said the
hermit, but have no desire that my example should gain any
imitators. In my youth I professed arms, and was raised by
degrees to the highest military rank. I have traversed wide
countries at the head of my troops, and seen many battles and
sieges. At last, being disgusted by the preferments of a
younger officer, and feeling that my vigor was beginning to de-
cay, I resolved to close my life in peace, having found the
world full of snares, discord, and misery. I had once escaped
from the pursuit of the enemy by the shelter of this cavern, and
therefore chose it for my final residence. I employed artificers
to form it into chambers, and stored it with all that I was likely
For some time after my retreat, I rejoiced like a tempest-
beaten sailor at his entrance into the harbor, being delighted
with the sudden change of the noise and hurry of war to still-
ness and repose. When the pleasures of novelty went away, I
employed my hours in examining the plants which grew in the
valley, and the minerals which I collected from the rocks. But
that inquiry is now grown tasteless and irksome. I have been
for some time unsettled and distracted: my mind is disturbed
with a thousand perplexities of doubt, and vanities of imagina-
tion, which hourly prevail upon me, because I have no oppor-
tunities of relaxation or diversion. I am sometimes ashamed
to think that I could not secure myself from vice, but by re-
tiring from the exercise of virtue, and begin to suspect that I
was rather impelled by resentment than led by devotion into
solitude. My fancy riots in scenes of folly, and I lament that
I have lost so much, and have gained so little. In solitude, if
I escape the example of bad men, I want likewise the counsel
and conversation of the good. I have been long comparing
the evils with the advantages of society, and resolve to return
into the world to-morrow. The life of a solitary man will be
certainly miserable, but not certainly devout."
They heard his resolution with surprise, but after a short
pause offered to conduct him to Cairo. He dug up a con-
siderable treasure which he had hid among the rocks, and
accompanied them to the city, on which, as he approached it,
he gazed with rapture.
The Happincss of a Life led according to Nature.
RASSELAS went often to an assembly of learned men, who
met at stated times to unbend their minds, and compare their
opinions. Their manners were somewhat coarse, but their
conversation was instructive, and their disputations acute,
though sometimes too violent, and often continued till neither
controvertist remembered upon what question they began.
Some faults were almost general among them : everyone was
desirous to dictate to the rest, and everyone was pleased to
hear the genius or knowledge of another depreciated.
In this assembly Rasselas was relating his interview with
the hermit, and the wonder with which he heard him censure a
course of life which he had so deliberately chosen, and so
laudably followed. The sentiments of the hearers were vari-
ous. Some were of opinion that the folly of his choice had
been justly punished by condemnation to perpetual persever-
ance. One of the youngest among them, with great vehemence,
pronounced him a hypocrite. Some talked of the right of so-
ciety to the labor of individuals, and considered retirement as
"a desertion from duty. Others readily allowed, that there was
"a time when the claims of the public were satisfied, and when
"a man might properly sequester himself, to review his life and
purify his heart.
One, who appeared more affected with the narrative than
the rest, thought it likely that the hermit would, in a few years,
go back to his retreat, and perhaps, if shame did not restrain,
or death intercept him, return once more from his retreat into
the world: For the hope of happiness," said he, is so
strongly impressed that the longest experience is not able to
efface it. Of the present state, whatever it be, we feel, and are
forced to confess, the misery ; yet, when the same state is again
at a distance, imagination paints it as desirable. But the time
will surely come, when desire will be no longer our tormentor,
and no man shall be wretched but by his own fault."
This," said a philosopher, who had heard him with tokens
of great impatience, is the present condition of a wise man.
The time is already come when none are wretched but by their
own fault. Nothing is more idle than to inquire after happi-
ness, which nature nas kindly placed within our reach. The
way to be happy is to live according to nature, in obedience to
that universal and unalterable law with which every heart is
originally impressed ; which is not written on it by precept, but
engraven by destiny, not instilled by education, but infused at
our nativity. He that lives according to nature will suffer
nothing from the delusions of hope, or importunities of desire:
he will receive and reject with equability of temper; and act
or suffer as the reason of things shall alternately prescribe.
Other men may amuse themselves with subtle definitions, or
intricate ratiocinations. Let them learn to be wise by easier
means : let them observe the hind of the forest, and the linnet
of the grove : let them consider the life of animals, whose mo-
tions are regulated by instinct : they obey their guide, and are
happy. Let us therefore, at length, cease to dispute, and learn
to live ; throw away the incumbrance of precepts, which they
who utter them with so much pride and pomp do not under-
stand, and carry with us this simple and intelligible maxim,
That deviation from nature is deviation from happiness."
When he had spoken, he looked round him with a placid
air, and enjoyed the consciousness of his own beneficence.
" Sir," said the prince, with great modesty, as I, like all the
rest of mankind, am desirous of felicity, my closest attention
has been fixed upon your discourse ; I doubt not the truth of
a position which a man so learned has so confidently advanced.
Let me only know what it is to live according to nature ? "
When I find young men so humble and so docile," said
the philosopher, I can deny them no information which my
studies have enabled me to afford. To live according to nature
is to act always with due regard to the fitness arising from the
relations and qualities of causes and effects : to concur with
the great and unchangeable scheme of universal felicity; to
co-operate with the general disposition and tendency of the
present system of things."
The prince soon found that this was one of the sages whom
he should understand less as he heard him longer. He there-
fore bowed and was silent; and the philosopher, supposing
him satisfied, and the rest vanquished, rose up, and departed
with the air of a man that had co-operated with the present
The Prince and his Sister divide between them the Work of Observation.
RASSELAS returned home full of reflections, doubtful how to
direct his future steps. Of the way to happiness he found the
learned and simple equally ignorant; but, as he was yet young,
he flattered himself that he had time remaining for more ex-
periments and further inquiries. He communicated to Imlac
his observations and his doubts, but was answered by him with
new doubts, and remarks that gave him no comfort. He there-
fore discoursed more frequently and freely with his sister, who
had yet the same hope with himself, and always assisted him
to give some reason why, though he had been hitherto frus-
trated, he might succeed at last.
"We have hitherto," said she, known but little of the
world: we have never yet been either great or mean. In our
own country, though we had royalty, we had no power; and in
this we have not yet seen the private recesses of domestic
peace. Imlac favors not our search, lest we should in time
find him mistaken. We will divide the task between us : you
shall try what is to be found in the splendor of courts, and I
will range the shades of humbler life. Perhaps command and
authority may be the supreme blessings, as they afford most
opportunities of doing good ; or, perhaps, what this world can
give may be found in the modest habitations of middle fortune;
too low for great designs, and too high for penury and distress."
The Prince Examines the Happiness of High Stations.
RASSELAS applauded the design, and appeared next day
with a splendid retinue at the court of the Bassa. He was soon
distinguished for his magnificence, and admitted, as a prince
whose curiosity had brought him from distant countries, to an
intimacy with the great officers, and frequent conversation with
the Bassa himself.
He was at first inclined to believe, that the man must be
pleased with his own condition whom all approached with rever-
The Prince and his Sister divide between them the Work of Observation.
RASSELAS returned home full of reflections, doubtful how to
direct his future steps. Of the way to happiness he found the
learned and simple equally ignorant; but, as he was yet young,
he flattered himself that he had time remaining for more ex-
periments and further inquiries. He communicated to Imlac
his observations and his doubts, but was answered by him with
new doubts, and remarks that gave him no comfort. He there-
fore discoursed more frequently and freely with his sister, who
had yet the same hope with himself, and always assisted him
to give some reason why, though he had been hitherto frus-
trated, he might succeed at last.
"We have hitherto," said she, known but little of the
world: we have never yet been either great or mean. In our
own country, though we had royalty, we had no power; and in
this we have not yet seen the private recesses of domestic
peace. Imlac favors not our search, lest we should in time
find him mistaken. We will divide the task between us : you
shall try what is to be found in the splendor of courts, and I
will range the shades of humbler life. Perhaps command and
authority may be the supreme blessings, as they afford most
opportunities of doing good ; or, perhaps, what this world can
give may be found in the modest habitations of middle fortune;
too low for great designs, and too high for penury and distress."
The Prince Examines the Happiness of High Stations.
RASSELAS applauded the design, and appeared next day
with a splendid retinue at the court of the Bassa. He was soon
distinguished for his magnificence, and admitted, as a prince
whose curiosity had brought him from distant countries, to an
intimacy with the great officers, and frequent conversation with
the Bassa himself.
He was at first inclined to believe, that the man must be
pleased with his own condition whom all approached with rever-
ence, and heard with obedience, and who had the power to ex-
tend his edicts to a whole kingdom. There can be no pleasure,"
said he, equal to that of feeling at once the joy of thousands
all made happy by wise administration. Yet, since by the law
of subordination this sublime delight can be in one nation but
the lot of one, it is surely reasonable to think that there is some
satisfaction more popular and accessible, and that millions can
hardly be subjected to the will of a single man, only to fill his
particular breast with incommunicable content."
These thoughts were often in his mind, and he found no
solution of the difficulty. But as presents and civilities gained
him more familiarity, he found that almost every man who stood
high in employment hated all the rest, and was hated by them,
and that their lives were a continual succession of plots and de-
tections, stratagems and escapes faction and treachery. Many
of those who surrounded the Bassa were sent only to watch and
report his conduct; every tongue was muttering censure, and
every eye was searching for a fault.
At last the letters of revocation arrived, the Bassa was car-
ried in chains to Constantinople, and his name was mentioned
"What are we now to think of the prerogatives of power? "
said Rasselas to his sister ; is it without any efficacy to good ?
or, is the subordinate degree only dangerous, and the supreme
safe and glorious? Is the Sultan the only happy man in his
dominions ? or, is the Sultan himself subject to the torments
of suspicion, and the dread of enemies? "
In a short time the second Bassa was deposed. The Sultan
that had advanced him was murdered by the Janizaries, and
his successor had other views and different favorites.
The Princess Pursues her Inquiry with more Diligence than Success.
THE princess, in the mean time, insinuated herself into
many families, for there are few doors through which liberality,
joined with good humor, cannot find its way. The daughters
of many houses were airy and cheerful ; but Nekayah had been
too long accustomed to the conversation of Imlac and her
brother, to be much pleased with childish levity, and prattle which
had no meaning. She found their thoughts narrow, their wishes
low, and their merriment often artificial. Their pleasures, poor as
"MANY OF THOSE WHO SURROUNDED THE BASSA WERE SENT ONLY TO WATCH AND REPORT HIS CONDUCT."
they were, could not be preserved pure, but were imbittered by
petty competitions and worthless emulation. They were always
jealous of the beauty of each other ; of a quality to which solici-
tude can add nothing, and from which detraction can take
nothing away. Many were in love with triflers like themselves,
and many fancied that they were in love when in truth they
were only idle. Their affection was not fixed on sense or virtue,
and therefore seldom ended but in vexation. Their grief, how-
ever, like their joy, was transient: everything floated in their
mind unconnected with the past or future, so that one desire
easily gave way to another, as a second stone cast into the
water effaces and confounds the circles of the first.
With these girls she played as with inoffensive animals, and
found them proud of her countenance, and weary of her com-
But her purpose was to examine more deeply, and her affa-
bility easily persuaded the hearts that were swelling with sorrow
to discharge their secrets in her ear : and those whom hope
flattered, or prosperity delighted, often courted her to partake
The princess and her brother commonly met in the evening
in a private summer-house on the bank of the Nile, and related
to each other the occurrences of the day. As they were sitting
together, the princess cast her eyes upon the river that flowed
before her. "Answer," said she, "great father of waters, thou
that rollest thy floods through eighty nations, to the invocations
of the daughter of thy native king. Tell me if thou waterest
through all thy course, a single habitation from which thou dost
not hear the murmurs of complaint "
You are then," said Rasselas, "not more successful in
private houses than I have been in courts." I have, since
the last partition of our provinces," said the princess, "enabled
myself to enter familiarly into many families, where there was
the fairest show of prosperity and peace, and know not one
house that is not haunted by some fury that destroys their
"I did not seek ease among the poor, because I concluded
that there it could not be found. But I saw many poor, whom
I had supposed to live in affluence. Poverty has, in large cities,
very different appearances: it is often concealed in splendor,
and often in extravagance. It is the care of a very great part
of mankind to conceal their indigence from the rest; they sup-
port themselves by temporary expedients, and every day is lost
in contriving for the morrow.
"This, however, was an evil which, though frequent, I saw
with less pain, because I could relieve it. Yet some have
refused my bounties ; more offended with my quickness to detect
their wants than pleased with my readiness to succor them, and
others, whose exigencies compelled them to admit my kinilness,
have never been able to forgive their benefactress. Many,
however, have been sincerely grateful, without the ostentation
of gratitude, or the hope of other favors."
The Princess Continues her Remarks upon Private Life.
7NEKAYAH, perceiving her brother's attention fixed, pro-
ceeded in her narrative.
"In families, where there is or is not poverty, there is
commonly discord : if a kingdom be, as Imlac tells us, a great
family, a family likewise is a little kingdom, torn with factions
and exposed to revolutions. An unpracticed observer expects
the love of parents and children to be constant and equal;
but this kindness seldom continues beyond the years of
infancy ; in a short time the children become rivals to their
parents. Benefits are allayed by reproaches, and gratitude
debased by envy.
"Parents and children seldom act in concert: each child
endeavors to appropriate the esteem or fondness of the
parents, and the parents, with yet less temptation, betray each
other to their children : thus some place their confidence in
the father, and some in the mother, and by degrees the house
is filled with artifices and feuds.
"The opinions of children and parents, of the young and
the old, are naturally opposite, by the contrary effects of hope
and despondence, of expectation and experience, without
crime or folly on either side. The colors of life in youth and
age appear different, as the face of nature in spring and
winter. And how can children credit the assertions of pa-
rents, which their own eyes show them to be false ?
Few parents act in such a manner as much to enforce
their maxims by the credit of their lives. The old man trusts
wholly to slow contrivance and gradual progression : the youth
expects to force his way by genius, vigor, and precipitance.
The old man pays regard to riches, and the youth reverences
virtue. The old man defies prudence : the youth commits
himself to magnanimity and chance. The young man, who
intends no ill, believes that none is intended, and therefore
acts with openness and candor; but his father, having suf-
fered the injuries of fraud, is impelled to suspect, and too
often allured to practice it. Age looks with anger on the
temerity of youth, and youth with contempt on the scrupulosity
of age. Thus parents and children, for the greatest part, live
on to love less ar.d less : and if those whom nature has thus
closely united are the torments of each other, where shall we
look for tenderness and consolation."
Surely," said the prince, "you must have been unfortunate
in your choice of acquaintance : I am unwilling to believe, that
the most tender of all relations is thus impeded in its effects
by natural necessity."
"Domestic discord," answered she, "is not inevitably and
fatally necessary; but yet it is not easy to avoid. We seldom
see that a whole family is virtuous ; the good and evil cannot
well agree ; and the evil can yet less agree with one another;
even the virtuous fall sometimes to variance, when their virtues
are of different kinds, and tending to extremes. In general,
those parents have most reverence that most deserve it: for he
that lives well cannot be despised.
Many other evils infest private life. Some are the slaves
of servants whom they have trusted with their affairs. Some
are kept in continual anxiety by the caprice of rich relations,
whom they cannot please and dare not offend. Some hus-
bands are imperious, and some wives perverse: and as it is
always more easy to do evil than good, though the wisdom or
virtue of one can very rarely make many happy, the folly or
vice of one may often make many miserable."
If such be the general effect of marriage," said the prince,
"I shall, for the future, think it dangerous to connect my
interest with that of another, lest I should be unhappy by my
"I have met," said the princess, "with many who live
single for that reason ; but I have never found that their pru-
dence ought to raise envy. They dream away their time with-
out friendship, without fondness, and are driven to rid them-
selves of the day, for which they have no use, by childish
amusements or vicious delights. They act as beings under the
constant sense of some known inferiority, that fills their minds
with rancor ; and their tongues with censure. They are
peevish at home, and malevolent abroad; and, as the outlaws
of human nature, make it their business and their pleasure to
disturb that society which debars them from its privileges.
To live without feeling or exciting sympathy, to be fortunate
without adding to the felicity of others, or afflicted without
tasting the balm of pity, is a state more gloomy than solitude;
it is not retreat, but exclusion from mankind. Marriage has
many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures."
"What, then, is to be done ?" said Rasselas; "the more
we inquire the less we can resolve. Surely he is most likely
to please himself that has no other inclination or regard."
Disquisition upon Greatness.
THE conversation had a short pause. The prince, having
considered his sister's observations, told her, that she had sur-
veyed life with prejudice, and supposed misery where she did
not find it. Your narrative," says he, "throws yet a darker
gloom upon the prospects of futurity ; the predictions of Imlac
were but faint sketches of the evils painted by Nekayah. I
have been lately convinced that quiet is not the daughter of
grandeur or of power: that her presence is not to be bought
by wealth, nor enforced by conquest. It is evident, that as
any man acts in a wider compass, he must be more exposed
to opposition from enmity, or miscarriage from chance ; who-
ever has many to please or to govern must use the ministry of
many agents, some of whom will be wicked, and some ignor-
ant; by some he will be misled, and by others betrayed. If
he gratifies one, he will offend another: those that are not
favored will think themselves injured : and, since favors can
be conferred but upon few, the greater number will be always
"The discontent," said the princess, "which is thus un-
reasonable, I hope that I shall always have spirit to despise,
and you power to repress."
"Discontent," answered Rasselas, "will not always be with-
out reason under the most just and vigilant administration of
public affairs. None, however attentive, can always discover
that merit which indulgence or faction may happen to obscure;
and none, however powerful, can always reward it. Yet he
that sees inferior desert advanced above him will naturally im-
pute that preference to partiality or caprice ; and, indeed, it can
scarcely be hoped that any man, however magnanimous by
nature, or exalted by condition, will be able to persist forever
in the fixed and inexorable justice of distribution ; he will some-
times indulge his own affections, and sometimes those of his
favorites; he will permit some to please him who can never
serve him ; he will discover, in those whom he loves, qualities
which in reality they do not possess ; and to those, from whom
he receives pleasure, he will in his turn endeavor to give it.
Thus will recommendations sometimes prevail which were pur-
chased by money, or by the more destructive bribery of flattery
He that has much to do will do something wrong, and of
that wrong must suffer the consequences; and if it were pos-
sible that he should always act rightly, yet when such numbers
are to judge of his conduct, the bad will censure and obstruct
him by malevolence, and the good sometimes by mistake.
"The highest stations cannot therefore hope to be abodes
of happiness, which I would willingly believe to have fled from
thrones and palaces to seats of humble )rivacy and placid ob-
scurity. For what can hinder the satisfaction, or intercept the
expectations, of him whose abilities are adequate to his employ-
ments, who sees with his own eyes the whole circuit of his influ-
ence, who chooses by his own knowledge all whom he trusts,
and whom none are tempted to deceive by hope or fear?
Surely he has nothing to do but to love and to be loved, to be
virtuous, and to be happy."
"Whether perfect happiness would be procured by perfect
goodness," said Nekayah, "this world will never afford an op-
portunity of deciding. But this, at least, may be maintained,
that we do not always find visible happiness in proportion to
visible virtue. All natural and almost all political evils are
incident alike to the bad and good: they are confounded in the
misery of a famine, and not much distinguished in the fury of
a faction; they sink together in a tempest, and are driven
together from their country by invaders. All that virtue can
afford is quietness of conscience, a steady prospect of a hap-
pier state ; this may enable us to endure calamity with patience;
but remember that patience must suppose pain."
Rasselas and Nekeyah Continue their Conversation.
"DEAR princess," said Rasselas, "you fall into the common
errors of exaggeratory declamation, by producing, in a familiar
,disquisition, examples of national calamities, and scenes of ex-
tensive misery, which are found in books rather than in the
world, and which, as they are horrid, are ordained to be rare.
Let us not imagine evils which we do not feel, nor injure life
by misrepresentations. I cannot bear that querulous eloquence
which threatens every city with a siege like that of Jerusalem,
that makes famine attend on every flight of locusts, and sus-
pends pestilence on the wing of every blast that issues from the
"On necessary and inevitable evils, which overwhelm king-
doms at once, all disputation is vain: when they happen, they
must be endured. But it is evident that these bursts of universal
distress are more dreaded than felt; thousands and ten thousands
flourish in youth and wither in age, without the knowledge of
any other than domestic evils, and share the same pleasures and
vexations, whether their kings are mild or cruel, whether the
armies of their country pursue their enemies or retreat before
them. While courts are disturbed with intestine competitions,
and ambassadors are negotiating in foreign countries, the smith
still plies his anvil, and the husbandman drives his plough for-
ward: the necessaries of life are required and obtained; and
the successive business of the seasons continues to make its
Let us cease to consider what, perhaps, may never happen,
and what, when it shall happen, will laugh at human specula-
tion. We will not endeavor to modify the motions of the ele-
ments, or to fix the destiny of kingdoms. It is our business to
consider what beings like us may perform; each laboring for
his own happiness by promoting within his circle, however nar-
row, the happiness of others.
Marriage is evidently the dictate of nature; men and women
are made to be companions of each other, and therefore I can-
not be persuaded but that marriage is one of the means of hap-
I know not," said the princess, "whether marriage be
more than one of the innumerable modes of human misery.
When I see and reckon the various forms o. connubial infelicity,
the unexpected causes of lasting discord, the diversities of
temper, the opposition of opinion, the rude collisions of contrary
desire where both are urged by violent impulses, the obstinate con-
tests of disagreeable virtues where both are supported by con-
sciousness of good intention, I am sometimes disposed to think,
with the severer casuists of most nations, that marriage is rather
permitted than approved, and that none, but by the instigation
of a passion too much indulged, entangle themselves with in-
"You seem to forget," replied Rasselas, "that you have,
even now, represented celibacy as less happy than marriage.
Both conditions may be bad, but they cannot both be worst.
Thus it happens when wrong opinions are entertained, that
they mutually destroy each other, and leave the mind open to
I did not expect," answered the princess, to hear that
imputed to falsehood which is the consequence only of frailty.
To the mind, as to the eye, it is difficult to compare with exact-
ness objects vast in their extent, and various in their parts.
Where we see or conceive the whole at once, we readily note
the discrimination, and decide the preference ; but of two sys-
tems, of which neither can be surveyed by any human being in
its full compass of magnitude and multiplicity of complication,
where is the wonder that, judging of the whole by parts, I am
alternately affected by one and the other, as either presses on
my memory or fancy ? We differ from ourselves just as we differ
from each other, when we see only parts of the question, as in
the multifarious relations of politics and morality; but when we
perceive the whole at once, as numerical computations, all agree
in one judgment, and none ever varies his opinion."
"Let us not add," said the prince, to the other evils of
life the bitterness of controversy, nor endeavor to vie with each
other in subtilties of argument. We are employed in a search,
of which both are equally to enjoy the success, or suffer by the
miscarriage. It is therefore fit that we assist each other. You
surely conclude too hastily from the infelicity of marriage
against its institution: will not the misery of life prove equally
that life cannot be the gift of Heaven? The world must be
peopled by marriage, or peopled without it."
"How the world is to be peopled," returned Nekayah, "is
not my care, and needs not be yours. I see no danger that the
present generation should omit to leave successors behind them:
we are not now inquiring for the world, but for ourselves."
The Debate of Marriage Continued.
"THE good of the whole," says Rasselas, "is the same
with the good of all its parts. If marriage be best for mnan-
kind, it must be evidently best for individuals, or a permanent
and necessary duty must be the cause of evil, and some must
be inevitably sacrificed to the convenience of others. In the
estimate which you have made of the two states, it appears that
the incommodities of a single life are, in a great measure,
necessary and certain, but those of the conjugal state accidental
I cannot forbear to flatter myself, that prudence and ben-
evolence will make marriage happy. The general folly of man-
kind is the cause of general complaint. What can be expected
but disappointment and repentance from a choice made in the
immaturity of youth, in the ardor of desire, without judgment,
without foresight, without inquiry after conformity of opinions,
similarity of manners, rectitude of judgment, or purity of senti-
"Such is the common process of marriage. A youth or
maiden meeting by chance, or brought together by artifice, ex-
change glances, reciprocate civilities, go home, and dream of
one another. Having little to divert attention, or diversify
thought, they find themselves uneasy when they are apart, and
therefore conclude that they shall be happy together. They
marry, and discover what nothing but voluntary blindness be-
fore had concealed; they wear out life in altercations, and
charge nature with cruelty.
From those early marriages proceeds likewise the rivalry
of parents and children ; the son is eager to enjoy the world
before the father is willing to forsake it, and there is hardly
room at once for two generations. The daughter begins to
bloom before the mother can be content to fade, and neither
can forbear to wish for the absence of the other.
Surely all these evils may be avoided by that deliberation
and delay which prudence prescribes to irrevocable choice. In
the variety and jollity of youthful pleasures life may be well
enough supported without the help of a partner. Longer time
will increase experience, and wider views will allow better
opportunities of inquiry and selection: one advantage, at least,
will be certain; the parents will be visibly older than their
"What reason cannot collect," said Nekayah, "and what
experiment has not yet taught, can be known only from the re-
port of others. I have been told that late marriages are not
eminently happy. This is a question too important to be
neglected, and I have often proposed it to those whose accu-
racy of remark and comprehensiveness of knowledge made
their suffrages worthy of regard. They have generally deter-
mined that it is dangerous for a man and woman to suspend
their fate upon each other, at a time when opinions are fixed,
and habits are established ; when friendships have been con-
tracted on both sides, when life has been planned into method,
and the mind has long enjoyed the contemplation of its own
"It is scarcely possible that two, travelling through the
world, under the conduct of chance, should have been both
directed to the same path, and it will not often happen that
either will quit the track which custom has made pleasing.
When the desultory levity of youth has settled into regularity,
it is soon succeeded by pride ashamed to yield, or obstinacy
delighting to contend. And even though mutual esteem pro-
duces mutual desire to please, time itself, as it modifies un-
changeably the external mien, determines likewise the direction
of the passions, and gives an inflexible rigidity to the manners.
Long customs are not easily broken : he that attempts to change
the course of his own life very often labors in vain: and how
shall we do that for others, which we are seldom able to do for
"But surely," interposed the prince, "you suppose the chief
motive of choice forgotten or neglected. Whenever I shall
seek a wife, it shall be my first question, whether she be willing
to be led by reason ?"
Thus it is," said Nekayah, that philosophers are de-
ceived. There are a thousand familiar disputes which reason
never can decide; questions that elude investigation, and
make logic ridiculous ; cases where something must be (lone,
and where little can be said. Consider the state of mankind,
and inquire how few can be supposed to act upon any occa-
sions, whether small or great, with all the reasons of action
present to their minds. Wretched would be the pair above all
names of wretchedness, who should be doomed to adjust by
reason, every morning, all the minute detail of a domestic day.
"Those who marry at an advanced age will probably escape
the encroachments of their children ; but, in diminution of this
advantage, they will be likely to leave them, ignorant and help-
less, to a guardian's mercy: or, if that should not happen, they
must at least go out of the world before they see those whom
they love best either wise or great.
"From their children, if they have less to fear, they
have less also to hope ; and they lose, without equivalent, the
joys of early love, and the convenience of uniting with manners
pliant, and minds susceptible of new impressions, which might
wear away their dissimilitudes by long cohabitation; as soft
bodies, by continual attrition, conform their surfaces to each
"I believe it will be found that those who marry late are
best pleased with their children, and those who marry early
with their partners."
"The union of these two affections," said Rasselas, would
produce all that could be wished. Perhaps there is a time
when marriage might unite them, a time neither too early for
the father, nor too late for the husband."
"Every hour," answered the princess, confirms my preju-
dice in favor of the position so often uttered by the mouth of
Imlac, That nature sets her gifts on the right hand and on the
left.' Those conditions, which flatter hope and attract desire,
are so constituted, that, as we approach one, we recede from
another. There are goods so opposed that we cannot seize
both, but, by too much prudence, may pass between them at
too great a distance to reach either. This is often the fate of
long consideration; he does nothing who endeavors to do
more than is allowed to humanity. Flatter not yourself with
contrarieties of pleasure. Of the blessings set before you make
your choice, and be content. No man can taste the fruits of
autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of
spring no man can, at the same time, fill his cup from the
source a:su from the mouth of the Nile."
Imlac enters, and changes the Conversation.
HERE Imlac entered and interrupted them. Imlac," said
Rasselas, I have been taking from the princess the dismal
history of private life, and am almost discouraged from further
"It seems to me," said Imlac, "that while you are making
the choice of life, you neglect to live. You wander about a
single city, which, however large and diversified, can now afford
few novelties, and forget that you are in a country famous
among the earliest monarchies for the power and wisdom of its
inhabitants; a country where the sciences first dawned that
illuminate the world, and beyond which the arts cannot be
traced of civil society or domestic life.
"The old Egyptians have left behind them monuments of
industry and power, before which all European magnificence is
confessed to fade away. The ruins of their architecture are
the schools of modern builders, and from the wonders which
time has spared, we may conjecture, though uncertainly, what
it has destroyed."
My curiosity," said Rasselas, does not very strongly lead
me to survey the piles of stone or mounds of earth ; my
business is with man. I came hither not to measure fragments
of temples, or trace choked aqueducts, but to look upon the
various scenes of the present world."
"The things that are now before us," said the princess,
" require attention and deserve it. What have I to do with the
heroes or the monuments of ancient times ? with times which
never can return, and heroes, whose form of life was different
from all that the present condition of man requires or allows ? "
"To know anything," returned the poet, "we must know
its effects; to see men we must sec their works, that we may
learn what reason has dictated, or passion has incited, and find
what are the most powerful motives of action. To judge rightly
of the present, we must oppose it to the past ; for all judgment
is comparative, and of the future nothing can be known. The
truth is, that no mind is much employed upon the present:
recollection and anticipation fill up almost all our moments.
Our passions are joy and grief, love and hatred, hope and fear.
Of joy and grief the past is the object, and the future of hope and
fear ; even love and hatred respect the past, for the cause must
have been before the effect.
"The present state of things is the consequence of the for-
mer, and it is natural to inquire what were the sources of the
good that we enjoy, or the evil that we suffer. If we act only
for ourselves, to neglect the study of history is not prudent: if
we are intrusted with the care of others, it is not just. Ignor-
ance, when it is voluntary, is criminal; and he may be properly
charged with evil who refused to learn how he might prevent it.
There is no part of history so generally useful as that which
relates the progress of the human mind, the gradual improve.
ment of reason, the successive advances of science, the vicissi.
tudes of learning and ignorance, which are the light and dark-
ness of thinking beings, the extinction and resuscitation of arts,
and the revolutions of the intellectual world. If accounts of
battles and invasions are peculiarly the business of princes,
the useful or elegant arts are not to be neglected; those who
have kingdoms to govern have understandings to cultivate.
Example is always more efficacious than precept. A sol-
dier is formed in war, and a painter must copy pictures. In
this, contemplative life has the advantage: great actions are
seldom seen, but the labors of art are always at hand for those
who desire to know what art has been able to perform.
"When the eye or the imagination is struck with an uncom-
mon work, the next transition of an active mind is to the means
by which it was performed. Here begins the true use of such
contemplation ; we enlarge our comprehension by new ideas,
and perhaps recover some art lost to mankind, or learn what
is less perfectly known in our own country. At least we com-
pare our own with former times, and either rejoice at our im-
provements, or, what is the first motion towards good, discover
I am willing," said the prince, to see all that can deserve
my search." And I," said the princess, shall rejoice to
learn something of the manners of antiquity."
The most pompous monument of Egyptian greatness, and
one of the most bulky works of manual industry," said Imlac,
" are the Pyramids ; fabrics raised before the time of history,
and of which the earliest narratives afford us only uncertain
traditions. Of these the greatest is still standing, very little
injured by time."
"Let us visit them to-morrow," said Nekayah. "I have
often heard of the Pyramids, and shall not rest until I have seen
them within and without with my own eyes."
They visit the Pyramids.
THE resolution being taken, they set out the next day.
They laid tents upon their camels, being resolved to stay among
the Pyramids till their curiosity was fully satisfied. They trav-
elled gently, turned aside to everything remarkable, stopped
from time to time and conversed with the inhabitants, and
observed the various appearances of towns ruined and inhabited,
of wild and cultivated nature.
When they came to the great Pyramid, they were astonished
at the extent of the base, and the height of the top. Imlac ex-
plained to them the principles upon which the pyramidal form
was chosen for a fabric intended to co-extend its duration with
that of the world: he showed that its gradual diminution gave
it such stability as defeated all the common attacks of the ele-
ments, and could scarcely be overthrown by earthquakes them-
selves, the least resistible of natural violence. A concussion
that should shatter the Pyramid would threaten the dissolution
of the continent.
They measured all its dimensions, and pitched their tents
at its foot. Next day they prepared to enter its interior apart-
ments ; and, having hired the common guides, climbed up to
the first passage, when the favorite of the princess, looking
into the cavity, stepped back and trembled. Pekuah," said
the princess, of what art thou afraid ? " Of the narrow en-
trance," answered the lady, and of the dreadful gloom. I
dare not enter a place which must surely be inhabited by un-
quiet souls. The original possessors of these dreadful vaults
will start up before us, and perhaps shut us in forever." She
spoke, and threw her arms round the neck of her mistress.
If all your fear be of apparitions," said the prince, I
will promise you safety ; there is no danger from the dead ; he
that is once buried will be seen no more."
"That the dead are seen no more," said Imlac, I will not
undertake to maintain, against the concurrent and unvaried
testimony of all ages and of all nations. There is no people,
rude or learned, among whom apparitions of the dead are not
related and believed. This opinion, which perhaps prevails as
far as human nature is diffused, could become universal only
by its truth; those that never heard of one another would not
have agreed in a tale which nothing but experience can make
credible. That it is doubted by single cavillers can very little
weaken the general evidence; and some who deny it with their
tongues confess it by their fears.
"Yet I do not mean to add new terrors to those which have
already seized upon Pekuah. There can be no reason why
spectres should haunt the Pyramid more than other places, or
why they should have power or will to hurt innocence and purity.
Our entrance is no violation of their privileges; we can take
nothing from them, how then can we offend them ? "
"My dear Pekuah," said the princess, I will always go
before you, and Imlac shall follow you. Remember that you
are the companion of the princess of Abyssinia."
"If the princess is pleased that her servant should die,"
returned the lady, "let her command some death less dreadful
than enclosure in this horrid cavern ; you know I dare not dis-
obey you ; I must go if you command me ; but, if I once enter,
I never shall come back."
The princess saw that her fear was too strong for expostu-
lation or reproof; and, embracing her, told her that she should
stay in the tent till their return. Pekuah was yet not satisfied,
but entreated the princess not to pursue so dreadful a purpose
as that of entering the recesses of the Pyramid. "Though I
cannot teach courage," said Nekayah, I must not learn
cowardice; nor leave at last undone what I came hither only
They enter the Pyramid.
PEKUAH descended to the tents, and the rest entered the
Pyramid: they passed through the galleries, surveyed the vaults
of marble, and examined the chest in which the body of the
founder is supposed to have been reposited. They then sat
down in one of the most spacious chambers to rest awhile be-
fore they attempted to return.
"We have now," said Imlac, "gratified our minds with an
exact view of the greatest work of man, except the wall of
Of the wall it is very easy to assign the motive. It
secured a wealthy and timorous nation from the incursions of
barbarians, whose unskilfulness in the arts made it easier for
them to supply their wants by rapine than by industry, and
who from time to time poured in upon the habitations of peace-
ful commerce, as vultures descend upon domestic fowl. Their
celerity and fierceness rendered the wall necessary, and their
ignorance made it efficacious.
But for the Pyramids no reason has ever been given ade-
quate to the cost and labor of the work. The narrowness of
the chambers proves that it could afford no retreat from ene-
mies, and treasures might have been reposited at far less ex-
pense with equal security. It seems to have been erected only
I~~ -t --- --
A ROP P RAS
in compliance with that hunger of imagination which preys in-
cessantly upon life, and must be always appeased by some em-
ployment. Those who have already all that they can enjoy
must enlarge their desires. He that has built for use, till use
is supplied, must begin to build for vanity, and extend his plan
to the utmost power of human performance, that he may not
be soon reduced to form another wish.
"I consider this mighty structure as a monument of the in-
sufficiency of human enjoyments. A king, whose power is un-
limited, and whose treasures surmount all real and imaginary
wants, is compelled to solace, by the erection of a Pyramid,
the satiety of dominion and tastelessness of pleasures, and to
amuse the tediousness of declining life, by seeing thousands
laboring without end, and one stone, for no purpose, laid upon
another. Whoever thou art that, not content with a mod-
erate condition, imaginest happiness in royal magnificence, and
dreamest that command or riches can feed the appetite of
novelty with perpetual gratifications, survey the Pyramids, and
confess thy folly."
The Princess meets with an unexpected Misfortune.
THEY rose up, and returned through the cavity at which
they had entered, and the princess prepared for her favorite a
long narrative of dark labyrinths and costly rooms, and of the
different impressions which the varieties of the way had made
upon her. But when they came to their train, they found every
one silent and dejected ; the men discovered shame and fear
in their countenances, and the women were weeping in the
What had happened they did not try to conjecture, but im-
mediately inquired. "You had scarcely entered into the
Pyramid," said one of the attendants, when a troop of Arabs
rushed upon us: we were too few to resist them, and too slow
to escape. They were about to search the tents, set us on our
camels, and drive us along before them, when the approach of
some Turkish horsemen put them to flight; but they seized
the lady Pekual with her two maids, and carried her away;
the Turks are now pursuing them by our instigation, but I fear
they will not be able to overtake them."
The princess was overpowered with surprise and grief.
Rasselas, in the first heat of his resentment, ordered his ser-
vants to follow him, and prepared to pursue the robbers with
his sabre in his hand. Sir," said Imlac, what can you hope
from violence or valor? the Arabs are mounted on horses
trained to battle and retreat; we have only beasts of burden.
By leaving our present station we may lose the princess, but
cannot hope to regain Pekuah."
In a short time the Turks returned, having not been able to
reach the enemy. The princess burst out into new lamenta-
tions, and Rasselas could scarcely forbear to reproach them with
cowardice ; but Imlac was of opinion that the escape of the
Arabs was no addition to their misfortune, for perhaps they
would have killed their captives rather than have resigned them.
They return to Cairo without Pekuah.
THERE was nothing to be hoped from longer stay. They
returned to Cairo, repenting of their curiosity, censuring the
negligence of the government, lamenting their own rashness,
which had neglected to procure a guard, imagining many expe-
dients by which the loss of Pekuah might have been prevented,
and resolving to do something for her recovery, though none
could find anything proper to be done.
Nekayah retired to her chamber, where her women at-
tempted to comfort her, by telling her that all had their trou-
bles, and that lady Pekuah had enjoyed much happiness in the
world for a long time, and might reasonably expect a change
of fortune. They hoped that some good would befall her
wheresoever she was, and that their mistress would find another
friend who might supply her place.
The princess made them no answer, and they continued the
form of condolence, not much grieved in their hearts that the
favorite was lost.
Next day the prince presented to the Bassa a memorial of
the wrong which he had suffered, and a petition for redres,.
The Bassa threatened to punish the robbers, but did not at
tempt to catch them, nor indeed could any account or descrip-
tion be given by which he might direct the pursuit.
It soon appeared that nothing would be done by authority.
Governors being accustomed to hear of more crimes than they
can punish, and more wrongs than they can redress, set them
selves at ease by indiscriminate negligence, and presently for-
get the request when they lose sight of the petitioner.
Imlac then endeavored to gain some intelligence by private
agents. He found many who pretended to an exact knowledge
of all the haunts of the Arabs, and to regular correspondence
with their chiefs, and who readily undertook the recovery of
Pekuah. Of these, some were furnished with money for their
journey and came back no more ; some were liberally paid for
accounts which a few days discovered to be false. But the
princess would not suffer any means, however improbable, to
be left untried. While she was doing something, she kept her
hope alive. As one expedient failed, another was suggested;
when one messenger returned unsuccessful, another was de-
spatched to a different quarter.
Two months had now passed, and of Pekuah nothing had
been heard ; the hopes which they had endeavored to raise in
each other grew more languid ; and the princess, when she saw
nothing more to be tried, sunk down inconsolable in hopeless
dejection. A thousand times she reproached herself with the
easy compliance by which she permitted her favorite to stay
behind her. Hlad not my fondness," said she, "lessened my
authority, Pekuah had not dared to talk of her terrors. She
ought to have feared me more than spectres. A severe look
would have overpowered her ; a peremptory command would
have compelled obedience. Why did foolish indulgence pre-
vail upon me ? Why did I not speak, and refuse to hear ? "
Great princess," said Imlac, do not reproach yourself
for your virtue, or consider that as blamable by which evil has
accidentally been caused. Your tenderness for the timidity of
Pekuah was generous and kind. When we act according to
our duty, we commit the event to Him by whose laws our ac-
tions are governed, and who will suffer none to be finally pun-
ished for obedience. When, in prospect of some good, whether
natural or moral, we break the rules prescribed us, we withdraw
from the direction of superior wisdom, and take all conse-
quences upon ourselves. Man cannot so far know the connec-
tion of causes and events, as that he may venture to do wrong
in order to do right. When we pursue our end by lawful
means, we may always console our miscarriage by the hope of
future recompense. When we consult only our own policy,
and attempt to find a nearer way to good, by overleaping the
settled boundaries of right and wrong, we cannot be happy
even by success, because we cannot escape the consciousness
of our fault: but, if we miscarry, the disappointment is irreme-
diably imbittered. How comfortless is the sorrow of him who
fuels at once the pangs of guilt, and the vexation of calamity
which guilt has brought upon him !
Consider, princess, what would have been your condition,
if the lady Pekuah had entreated to accompany you, and, being
compelled to stay in the tents, had been carried away ; or how
you would have borne the thought if you had forced her into
the Pyramid, and she had died before you in agonies of
Had either happened," said Nekayah, I could not have
endured life till now: I should have been tortured to madness
by the remembrance of such cruelty, or must have pined away
in abhorrence of myself."
This, at least," said Imlac, is the present reward of vir-
tuous conduct, that no unlucky consequence can oblige us to
The Princess languishes for want of Pekuah.
NEKAYAH, being thus reconciled to herself, found that no
evil is insupportable but that which is accompanied with con-
sciousness of wrong. She was from that time delivered from
the violence of tempestuous sorrow, and sunk into silent pen-
siveness and gloomy tranquillity. She sat from morning to even-
ing recollecting all that had been done or said by her Pekuah,
treasured up with care every trifle on which Pekuah had set an
accidental value, and which might recall to mind any little inci-
dent or careless conversation. The sentiments of her, whom
she now expected to see no more, were treasured in her mem-
ory as rules of life, and she deliberated to no other end than
to conjecture on any occasion what would have been the opin-
ion and counsel of Pekuah.
The women by whom she was attended knew nothing of
her real condition, and therefore she could not talk to them
but with caution and reserve. She began to remit her curiosity,
having no great desire to collect notions which she had not
convenience of uttering. Rasselas endeavored first to comfort,
and afterwards to divert her ; he hired musicians, to whom she
seemed to listen, but did not hear them; and procured masters
to instruct her in various arts, whose lectures, when they visited
her again, were again to be repeated. She had lost her taste
of pleasure and her ambition of excellence. And her mind,
though forced into short excursions, always recurred to the
image of her friend.
Imlac was every morning earnestly enjoined to renew his
inquiries, and was asked every night whether he had yet heard
of Pekuah, till, not being able to return the princess the answer
that she desired, he was less and less willing to come into her
presence. She observed his backwardness, and commanded
him to attend her. "You are not," said she, "to confound
impatience with resentment, or to suppose that I charge you
with negligence, because I repine at your unsuccessfulness. I
do not much wonder at your absence : I know that the unhappy
are never pleasing, and that all naturally avoid the contagion
of misery. To hear complaints is wearisome alike to the
wretched and the happy ; for who would cloud, by adventitious
grief, the short gleams of gayety which life allows us ? or who,
that is stI il1;_ under his own evils, will add to them the
miseries of another ?
"The time is at hand when none shall be disturbed any
longer by the sighs of Nekayah : my search after happiness is
now at an end. I am resolved to retire from the world with
all its flatteries and deceits, and will hide myself in solitude
without any other care than to compose my thoughts, and regu-
late my hours by a constant succession of innocent occupa-
tions, till, with a mind purified from all earthly desires, I shall
enter into that state to which all are hastening, and in which I
hope again to enjoy the friendship of Pckuah."
Do not entangle your mind," said Imlac. "by irrevocable
determinations, nor increase the burden of life by a voluntary
accumulation of misery: the weariness of retirement will con-
tinue or increase when the loss of Pekuah is forgotten. That
you have been deprived of one pleasure is no very good reason
for rejection of the rest."
Since Pekuah was taken from me," said the princess, I
have no pleasure to reject or to retain. She that has no one
to love or trust has little to hope. She wants the radical
principle of happiness. We may, perhaps, allow, that what
satisfaction this world can afford must arise from the conjunc-
tion of wealth, knowledge, and goodness: wealth is nothing
but as it is bestowed, and knowledge nothing but as it is com-
municated : they must therefore be imparted to others, and to
whom could I now delight to impart them? Goodness affords
the only comfort which can be enjoyed without a partner and
goodness may be practised in retirement."
How far solitude may admit goodness, or advance it, I
shall not," replied Imlac, dispute at present. Remember
the confession of the pious hermit. You will wish to return
into the world when the image of your companion has left your
thoughts."-" That time," said Nekayah, will never come.
The generous frankness, the modest obsequiousness, and the
faithful secrecy of my dear Pekuah will always be more missed
as I shall live longer to see vice and folly."
The state of a mind oppressed with a sudden calamity,"
said Imlac, is like that of the fabulous inhabitants of the
new-created earth, who, when the first night came upon them,
supposed that day would never return, When the clouds of
sorrow gather over us, we see nothing beyond them, nor can
imagine how they will be dispelled : yet a new day succeeded
to the night, and sorrow is never long without a dawn of ease.
But they who restrain themselves from receiving comfort do as
the savages would have done, had they put out their eyes when
it was dark. Our minds, like our bodies, are in continual flux;
something is hourly lost, and something acquired. To lose
much at once is inconvenient to either, but while the vital
powers remain uninjured nature will find the means of repara-
tion. Distance has the same effect on the mind as on the eye :
and while we glide along the stream of time, whatever we leave
behind us is always lessening, and that which we approach in-
creasing in magnitude. Do not suffer life to stagnate ; it will
grow muddy for want of motion: commit yourself again to the
current of the world ; Pekuah will vanish by degrees ; you will
meet in your way some other favorite, or learn to diffuse your-
self in general conversation."
"At least," said the prince, "do not despair before all
remedies have been tried; the inquiry after the unfortunate
lady is still continued, and shall be carried on with yet greater
diligence, on condition that you will promise to wait a year for
the event, without any unalterable resolution."
Nckayah thought this a reasonable demand, and made the
promise to her brother, who had been advised by Imlac to
require it. Imlac had, indeed, no great hope of regaining
Pekuah ; but he supposed, that if he could secure the interval
of a year, the princess would then be in no danger of a cloister.
Pekuah is still remembered. The progress of Sorrow.
NEKAYAH, seeing that nothing was omitted for the recovery
of her favorite, and having, by her promise, set her intention of
retirement at a distance, began imperceptibly to return to com-
mon cares and common pleasures. She rejoiced without her
own consent at the suspension of her sorrows, and sometimes
caught herself with indignation in the act of turning away her
mind from the remembrance of her, whom she yet resolved
never to forget.
She then appointed a certain hour of the day for medita-
tion on the merits and fondness of Pekuah, and for some weeks
retired constantly at the time fixed, and returned with her eyes
swollen and her countenance clouded. By degrees she grew
less scrupulous, and suffered any important and pressing
avocation to delay the tribute of daily tears. She then yielded
to less occasions ; sometimes forgot what she was indeed afraid
to remember, and at last wholly released herself from the duty
of periodical affliction.
Her real love of Pekuah was not yet diminished. A thou-
sand occurrences brought her back to memory, and a thousand
wants, which nothing but the confidence of friendship can sup-
ply, made her frequently regretted. She therefore solicited Im-
lac never to desist from inquiry, and to leave no art of intel-
ligence untried, that at least she might have the comfort of
knowing that she did not suffer by negligence or sluggishness.
"Yet what," said she, is to be expected from our pursuit of
happiness, when we find the state of life to be such, that hap-
piness itself is the cause of misery ? Why should we'endeavor
to attain that of which the possession cannot be secured. I
shall henceforward fear to yield my heart to excellence, how-
ever bright, or to fondness, however tender, lest I should lose
again what I have lost in Pekuah."
The Princess hears news cf Peknah.
IN seven months, one of the messengers, who had been
sent away upon the day when the promise was drawn from the
princess, returned, after many unsuccessful rambles, from the
borders of Nubia, with an account that Pekuah was in the hand
of an Arab chief, who possessed a castle or fortress on the ex-
tremity of Egypt. The Arab, whose revenue was plunder, was
willing to restore her with her two attendants, for two hundred
ounces of gold.
The price was no subject of debate. The princess was in
ecstasies when she heard that her favorite was alive, and might
so cheaply be ransomed. She could not think of delaying for
a moment Pekuah's happiness or her own, but entreated her
brother to send back the messenger with the sum required.
Imlac being consulted was not very confident of the veracity
of the relator, and was still more doubtful of the Arab's faith,
who might, if he were too liberally trusted, detain at once the
money and the captives. He thought it dangerous to put them-
selves in the power of the Arab, by going into his district, and
could not expect that the rover would so much expose himself
as to come into the lower country, where he might be seized by
the forces of the Bassa.
It is difficult to negotiate where neither will trust. But Im-
lac, after some deliberation, directed the messenger to propose
that Pekuah should be conducted by ten horsemen to the mon-
astery of St. Antony, which is situated in the deserts of Upper
Egypt, where she should be met by the same number, and her
ransom should be paid.
That no time might be lost, as they expected that the pro-
posal would not be refused, they immediately began their jour-
ney to the monastery and when they arrived, Imlac went for-
ward with the former messenger to the Arab's fortress. Ras-
selas was desirous to go with them ; but neither his sister nor
Imlac would consent. The Arab, according to the custom of
his nation, observed the laws of hospitality with great exactness
to those who put themselves into his power, and, in a few days
brought Pekuah with her maids, by easy journeys, to the place
appointed, where, receiving the stipulated price, he restored
her with great respect to liberty and her friends, and undertook
to conduct them back towards Cairo, beyond all danger of rob-
bery or violence.
The princess and her favorite embraced each other with
transport too violent to be expressed, and went out together to
pour the tears of tenderness in secret, and exchange professions
of kindness and gratitude. After a few hours they returned
into the refectory of the convent, where, in the presence of the
prior and his brethren, the prince required of Pekuah the his-
tory of her adventures.
The Adventures of the Lady Pekuah.
AT what time and in what manner I was forced away,"
said Pekuah, your servants have told you. The suddenness
of the event struck me with surprise, and I was at first rather
stupefied than agitated with any passion of either fear or sorrow.
My confusion was increased by the speed and tumult of our
flight, while we were followed by the Turks, who, as it seemed,
soon despaired to overtake us, or were afraid of those whom
they made a show of menacing.
"When the Arabs saw themselves out of danger they
slackened their course, and as I was less harassed by external
violence, I began to feel more uneasiness in my mind. After
some time we stopped near a spring, shaded with trees, in a
pleasant meadow, where we were set upon the ground, and
offered such refreshments as our masters were partaking. I
was suffered to sit with my maids apart from the rest, and none
attempted to comfort or insult us. Here I first began to feel
the full weight of my misery. The girls sat weeping in silence,
and from time to time looked on me for succor. I knew not to
what condition we were doomed, nor could conjecture where
would be the place of our captivity, or whence to draw any
hope of deliverance. I was in the hands of robbers and savages
and had no reason to suppose that their pity was more than
their justice, or that they would forbear the gratification of any
ardor of desire or caprice of cruelty. I, however, kissed my
maids, and endeavored to pacify them by remarking, that we
were yet treated with decency, and that, since we were now
carried beyond pursuit, there was no danger of violence to our
"When we were to be set again on horseback, my maids
clung round me, and refused to be parted, but I commanded
them not to irritate those who had us in their power. We
travelled the remaining part of the day through an unfrequented
and pathless country, and came by moonlight to the side of a
hill, where the rest of the troop was stationed. Their tents
were pitched and their fires kindled, and our chief was wel-
comed as a man much beloved by his dependants.
We were received into a large tent, where we found women
who had attended their husbands in the expedition. They set
before us the supper which they had provided, and I ate it
rather to encourage my maids than to comply with any appetite
of my own. When the meat was taken away they spread the
carpets for repose. I was weary, and hoped to find in sleep
that remission of distress which nature seldom denies. Order-
ing myself therefore to be undressed, I observed that the
women looked very earnestly upon me, not expecting, I suppose,
to see me so submissively attended. When my upper vest was
taken off, they were apparently struck with the splendor of my
clothes, and one of them timorously laid her hand upon the
embroidery. She then went out, and in a short time came back
with another woman, who seemed to be of higher rank and
greater authority. She did, at her entrance, the usual act of
reverence, and, taking me by the hand, placed me in a smaller
tent, spread with finer carpets, where I spent the night quietly
with my maids.
In the morning, as I was setting on the grass, the chief of
the troop came towards me. I rose up to receive him, and he
bowed with great respect. 'Illustrious lady,' said he, my
fortune is better than I had presumed to hope ; I am told by
my women, that I have a princess in my camp.'-' Sir,' an-
swered I, 'your women have deceived themselves and you ; I
am not a princess, but an unhappy stranger who intended soon
to have left this country, in which I am now to be imprisoned
forever.'-' Whoever, or whencesoever you are,' returned the
Arab, 'your dress, and that of your servants, show your rank
to be high, and your wealth to be great. Why should you, who
can so easily procure your ransom, think yourself in danger of
perpetual captivity ? The purpose of my incursions is to in-
crease my riches, or, more properly, to gather tribute. The
sons of Ishmael are the natural and hereditary lords of this
part of the continent, which is usurped by late invaders and
low-born tyrants, from whom we are compelled to take by the
sword what is denied to justice. The violence of war admits
no distinction ; the lance, that is lifted at guilt ana power, will
sometimes fall on innocence and gentleness.'
"'How little,' said I, 'did I expect that yesterday it should
have fallen upon me !'
Misfortunes,' answered the Arab, should always be ex-
pected. If the eye of hostility could learn reverence or pity,
excellence like yours had been exempt from injury. But the
angels of affliction spread their toils alike for the virtuous and
the wicked, for the mighty and the mean. Do not be discon-
solate: I am not one of the lawless and cruel rovers of the
desert; I know the rules of civil life : I will fix your ransom,
give a passport to your messenger, and perform my stipulation
with nice punctuality.'
You will easily believe that I was pleased with his cour-
tesy: and, finding that his predominant passion was desire of
money, I began now to think my danger less, for I knew that
no sum would be thought too great for the release of Pekuah.
I told him that he should have no reason to charge me with in-
gratitude, if I was used with kindness, and that any ramsom
which could be expected from a maid of common rank would
be paid, but that he must not persist to rate me as a princess.
He said he would consider what he should demand, and then,
smiling, bowed and retired.
Soon after the women came about me, each contending
to be more officious than the other, and my maids themselves
were served with reverence. We travelled onward by short
journeys. On the fourth day the chief told me, that my ran-
som must be two hundred ounces of gold ; which I not only
promised him, but told him that I would add fifty mere, if I
and my maids were honorably treated.
I never knew the power of gold before. From that time I
was the leader of the troop. The march of every day was
longer or shorter as I commanded, and the tents were pitched
where I chose to rest. We now had camels and other con-
veniences for travel, my own women were always at my side,
and I amused myself with observing the manners of the va-
grant nations, and with viewing remains of ancient edifices, with
which these deserted countries appear to have been, in some
distant age, lavishly embellished.
"The chief of the band was a man far from illiterate: he
was able to travel by the stars or the compass, and had marked,
in his erratic expeditions, such places as are most worthy the
notice of a passenger. He observed to me, that buildings are
always best preserved in places little frequented and difficult
of access ; for, when once a country declines from its primitive
splendor, the more inhabitants are left, the quicker ruin will be
made. Walls supply stones more easily than quarries, and
palaces and temples will be demolished, to make stables of
granite, and cottages of porphyry."
The Adventures of Pekuah continued.
"WE wandered about in this manner for some weeks,
whether, as our chief pretended, for my gratification, or, as I
rather suspected, for some convenience of his own. I endeav.
ored to appear contented where sullenness and resentment
would have been of no use, and that endeavor conduced much
to the calmness of my mind ; but my heart was always with
Nekayah, and the troubles of the night much overbalanced the
amusements of the day. My women, who threw all their cares
upon their mistress, set their minds at ease from the time when
they saw me treated with respect, and gave themselves up to
the incidental alleviations of our fatigue without solicitude or
sorrow. I was pleased with their pleasure, and animated with
their confidence. My condition had lost much of its terror,
since I found that the Arab ranged the country merely for
riches. Avarice is a uniform and tractable vice: other intel-
lectual distempers are different in different constitutions of
mind; that which soothes the pride of one will offend the
pride of another ; but to the favor of the covetous there is a
ready way : bring money, and nothing is denied.
At last we came to the dwelling of our chief, a strong
and spacious house built with stone in an island of the Nile,
which lies, as I was told, under the tropic. Lady,' said the
Arab, you shall rest after your journey a few weeks in this
place, where you are to consider yourself as sovereign. My
occupation is war: I have therefore chosen this obscure resi-
dence, from which I can issue unexpected, and to which I can
retire unpursued. You may now repose in security : here are
few pleasures, but here is no danger.' He then led me into
the inner apartments, and, seating me on the richest couch,
bowed to the ground. His women, who considered me as a
rival, looked on me with malignity; but being soon informed
that I was a great lady detained only for my ransom, thyy
began to vie with each other in obsequiousness and reverence.
"Bleing again comforted with new assurances of speedy
liberty, I was for some days diverted from impatience by the
novelty of the place. The turrets overlooked the country to a
great distance, and afforded a view of many winding of the
stream. In the day I wandered from one place to another, as
the course of the sun varied the splendor of the prospect, and
saw many things which I had never seen before. The croco-
diles and river-horses are common in this unpeopled region,
and I often looked upon them with terror, though I knew that
they could not hurt me. For some time I expected to see
mermaids and tritons, which, as Imlac has told me, the Eu-
ropean travellers have stationed in the Nile ; but no such
beings ever appeared, and the Arab, when I inquired after
them, laughed at my credulity.
"At night the Arab always attended me to a tower set
apart for celestial observations, where he endeavored to teach
me the names and courses of the stars. I had no great incli-
nation to this study, but an appearance of attention was neces-
sary to please my instructor, who valued himself for his skill ;
and, in a little while, I found some employment requisite to
beguile the tediousness of time, which was to be passed always
amidst the same objects. I was weary of looking in the morn-
ing on things from which I had turned away weary in the
evening; I therefore was at last willing to observe the stars
rather than do nothing, but could not always compose my
thoughts, and was very often thinking on Nekayah, when
,others imagined me contemplating the sky. Soon after the
Arab went upon another expedition, and then my only pleasure
was to talk with my maids about the accident by which we
"were carried away, and the happiness that we should all enjoy
x the end of our captivity."
There were women in your Arab's fortress," said the prin-
cess, why did you not make them your companions, enjoy
their conversation, and partake their diversions ? In a place
where they found business or amusement, why should you
alone sit corroded with idle melancholy ? or why could not
you bear for a few months that condition to which they were
condemned for life ?"
"The diversions of the women," answered Pekuah, were
only childish play, by which the mind, accustomed to stronger
operations, could not be kept busy. I could do all which they
delighted in doing by powers merely sensitive, while my intel-
lectual faculties were flown to Cairo. They ran from room to
room, as a bird hops from wire to wire in his cage. They
danced for the sake of motion, as lambs frisk in a meadow.
One sometimes pretended to be hurt, that the rest might be
alarmed ; or hid herself, that another might seek her. Part of
their time passed in watching the progress of light bodies that
floated on the river, and part in marking the various forms
into which clouds broke in the sky.
Their business was only needlework, in which I and my
maids sometimes helped them; but you know that the mind
will easily straggle from the fingers, nor will you suspect that
captivity and absence from Nekayah could receive solace from
Nor was much satisfaction to be hoped from their conver-
sation ; for of what could they be expected to talk ? They had
seen nothing : for they had lived from early youth in that nar-
row spot : of what they had not seen they could have no
knowledge, for they could not read. They had no ideas but of
the few things that were within their view, and had hardly
names for anything but their clothes and their food. As I
bore a superior character, I was often called to terminate their
quarrels, which I decided as equitably as I could. If it could
have amused me to hear the complaints of each against the
rest, I might have been often detained by long stories ; but
the motives of their animosity were so small that I could not
listen without interrupting the tale."
How," said Rasselas, can the Arab, whom you repre-
sented as a man of more than common accomplishments, take
any pleasure in his seraglio, when it is filled only with women
like these ? Are they exquisitely beautiful ? "
"They do not," said Pekuah, "want that unaffecting and
ignoble beauty which may subsist without sprightliness or sub-
limity, without energy of thought or dignity of virtue. But to
a man like the Arab such beauty was only a flower casually
plucked and carelessly thrown away. Whatever pleasures he
might find among them, they were not those of friendship or
society. When they were playing about him, he looked on
them with inattentive superiority; when they vied for his
regard, he sometimes turned away disgusted. As they had no
knowledge, their talk could take nothing from the tediousness
of life ; as they had no choice, their fondness, or appearance
of fondness, excited in him neither pride nor gratitude: he
was not exalted in his own esteem by the smiles of a woman
who saw no other man, nor was much obliged by that regard,
of which he could never know the sincerity, and which he
might often perceive to be exerted, not so much to delight him
as to pain a rival. That which he gave, and they received, as
love, was only a careless distribution of superfluous time, such
love as man can bestow upon that which he despises, such as
h.s neither hope nor fear, neither joy nor sorrow."
You have reason, lady, to think yourself happy," said
Imlac, that you have been thus easily dismissed. How could
a mind, hungry for knowledge, be willing, in an intellectual
famine, to lose such a banquet as Pekuah's conversation ?"
I am inclined to believe," answered Pekuah, that he
was for some time in suspense ; for notwithstanding his prom-
ise, whenever I proposed to despatch a messenger to Cairo, he
found some excuse for delay. While I was detained in his
house he made many excursions into the neighboring coun-
tries, and, perhaps, he would have refused to discharge me,
had his plunder been equal to his wishes. He returned always
courteous, related his adventures, delighted to hear my obser-
vations, and endeavored to advance my acquaintance with
the stars. When I importuned him to send away my letters,
he soothed me with professions of honor and sincerity : and,
when I could be no longer decently denied, put his troop again
in motion, and left me to govern in his absence. I was much
afflicted by this studied procrastination, and was sometimes
afraid that I should be forgotten ; that you would leave Cairo,
and I must end my days in an island of the Nile.
"I grew at last hopeless and dejected, and cared so little
to entertain him that he for a while more frequently talked
with my maids. That he should fall in love with them, or
with me, might have been equally fatal, and I was not much
pleased with the growing friendship. My anxiety was not
long; for, as I recovered some degree of cheerfulness, he
returned to me, and I could not forbear to despise my former
He still delayed to send for my ransom, and would, per-
haps, never have determined, had not your agent found his
way to him. The gold, which he would not fetch, h.e could
not reject when it was offered. IIe hastened to prepare for
our journey hither, like a man delivered from the pain of an
intestine conflict. I took leave of my companions in the
house, who dismissed me with cold indifference."
Nekayah, having heard her favorite's relation, rose and
embraced her; and Rasselas gave her a hundred ounces of
gold, which she presented to the Arab for the fifty that were
The I history of a Man of Learnm::i.
THEY returned to Cairo, and were so well pleased at find-
ing themselves together that none of them went much abroad.
The prince began to love learning, and one day declared to
Imlac, that he intended to devote himself to science, and pass
the rest of his days in literary solitude.
"Before you make your final choice," answered Imlac,
"you ought to examine its hazards, and converse with some of
those who are grown old in the company of themselves. I
have just left the observatory of one of the most learned astron-
omers in the world, who has spent forty years in unwearied
attention to the motions and appearances of the celestial
bodies, and has drawn out his soul in endless calculations. He
admits a few friends once a month to hear his deductions and
enjoy his discoveries. I was introduced as a man of knowl-
edge worthy of his notice. Men of various ideas and fluent
conversation are commonly welcome to those whose thoughts
have been long fixed upon a single point, and who find the
images of other things stealing away. I delighted him with
my remarks ; he smiled at the narrative of my travels ; and
was glad to forget the constellations, and descend for a moment
into the lower world.
"On the next day of vacation I renewed my visit, and was
so fortunate as to please him again. He relaxed from that
time the severity of his rule, and permitted me to enter at my
own choice. I found him always busy, and always glad to be
relieved. As each knew much which the other was desirous of
learning, we exchanged our notions with great delight. I per-
ceived that I had every day more of his confidence, and always
found new cause of admiration in the profundity of his mind.
His comprehension is vast, his memory capacious and retentive,
his discourse is methodical, and his expression clear.
"His integrity and benevolence are equal to his learning.
His deepest researches and most favorite studies are willingly
interrupted for an opportunity of doing good by his counsel or
his riches. To his closest retreat, at his most busy moments,
all are admitted that want his assistance : For, though I ex--
clude idleness and pleasure, I will never,' says he, bar my
doors against charity. To man is permitted the contemplation
of the skies, but the practice of virtue is commanded.' "
Surely," said the princess, this man is happy."
"I visited him," said Imlac, "with more and more fre-
quency, and was every time more enamored of his conversa-
tion ; he was sublime without haughtiness, courteous without
formality, and communicative without ostentation. I was at
first, great princess, of your opinion, thought him the happiest
of mankind, and often congratulated him on the blessing that
he enjoyed. He seemed to hear nothing with i.-i Ii-. .I but
the praises of his condition, to which he always returned a
general answer, and diverted the conversation to some other
"Amidst this '1i;.,. to be pleased and labor to please,
I had quickly reason to imagine that some painful sentiment
pressed upon his mind. He often looked up earnestly towards
the sun, and let his voice fall in the midst of his discourse.
He would sometimes, when we were alone, gaze upon me in
silence with the air of a man who longed to speak what he was
yet resolved to suppress. He would often send for me, with
vehement injunctions of haste, though, when I came to him, he
had nothing extraordinary to say. And sometimes, when I
was leaving him, he would call me back, uause a few moments,
and then dismiss me."
The Astronomer discovers the cause of his uneasiness.
AT last the time came when the secret burst his reserve.
We were sitting together last night in the turret of his house,
watching the emersion of a satellite of Jupiter. A sudden
tempest clouded the sky, and disappointed our observation.
We sat a while silent in the dark, and then he addressed him-
self to me in these words :-' Imlac, I have long considered thy
friendship as the greatest blessing of my life. Integrity with-
out knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without in-
tegrity is dangerous and dreadful. I have found in thee all the
qualities requisite for trust, benevolence, experience, and forti-
tude. I have long discharged an office which I must soon
quit at the call of nature, and shall rejoice, in the hour of im-
becility and pain, to devolve it upon thee.'
"I thought myself honored by this testimony, and protested,
that whatever would conduce to his happiness would add like-
wise to mine.
Hear, Imlac, what thou wilt not without difficulty credit.
I have possessed for five years the regulation of the weather
and the distribution of the seasons ; the sun has listened to my
dictates, and passed from tropic to tropic by my direction;
the clouds, at my call, have poured their waters, and the Nile
has overflowed at my command ; I have restrained the rage of
the dog-star, and mitigated the fervors of the crab. The winds
alone, of all the elemental powers, have hitherto refused my
authority, and multitudes have perished by equinoctial tempest,
which I have found myself unable to prohibit or restrain. I
have administered this great office with exact justice, and made
to the different nations of the earth an impartial dividend of
rain and sunshine. What must have been the misery of half
the globe if I had limited the clouds to particular regions, or
confined the sun to either side of the equator ?'"
The Opinion of the Astronomer is explained and justified.
"I SUPPOSE he discovered in me, through the obscurity of
the room, some tokens of amazement and doubt, for, after a
short pause, he proceeded thus:
Not to be easily credited will neither surprise nor offend
me; for I am, probably, the first of human beings to whom
this trust has been imparted. Nor do I know whether to deem
the distinction a reward or punishment; since I have possessed
it I have been far less happy than before, and nothing but the
consciousness of good intention could have enabled me to
support the weariness of unremitted vigilance.'
How long, sir,' said I, has this great office been in your
"' About ten years ago,' said he, 'my daily observations of
the changes of the sky led me to consider whether, if I had
the power of the seasons, I could confer greater plenty upon
the inhabitants of the earth. This contemplation fastened
upon my mind, and I sat days and nights in imaginary
dominion, pouring upon this country and that the showers of
fertility, and seconding every fail of rain with a due propor-
tion of sunshine. I had yet only the will to do good, and did
not imagine that I should ever have the power.
One day, as I was looking on the fields withering with
heat, I felt in my mind a sudden wish that I could send rain
on the southern mountains, and raise the Nile to an inunda-
tion. In the hurry of my imagination I commanded rain to
fall; and, by comparing the time of my command with that of
the inundation, I found that the clouds had listened to my
Might not some other cause,' said I, 'produce this con-
currence ? the Nile does not always rise on the same day.'
'Do not believe,' said he with impatience, 'that such ob-
jections could escape me: I reasoned long against my own
conviction, and labored against truth with the utmost obstinacy.
I sometimes suspected myself of madness, and should not
have dared to impart this secret but to a man like you, capable
of distinguishing the wonderful from the impossible, and the
incredible from the false.'
Why, sir,' said I, 'do you call that incredible which you
know, or think you know, to be true ?'
Because,' said he, 'I cannot prove it by any external
evidence; and I know too well the laws of demonstration to
think that my conviction ought to influence another, who can-
not, like me, be conscious of its force. I therefore shall not
attempt to gain credit by disputation. It is sufficient that I
feel this power, that I have long possessed, and every day ex-
erted it. But the life of man is short, the infirmities of age
increase upon me, and the time will soon come when the regu-
lator of the year must mingle with the dust. The care of ap-
pointing a successor has long disturbed me; the night and
the day have been spent in comparisons of all the characters
which have come to my knowledge, and I have yet found none
so worthy as thyself.' "
The Astronomer leaves Imlac his directions.
"' HEAR, therefore, what I shall impart with attention,
such as the welfare of a world requires. If the task of a king
be considered as difficult, who has the care only of a few mil-
lions, to whom he cannot do much good or harm, what must
be the anxiety of him, on whom depends the action of the
elements, and the great gifts of light and heat ?-Hear me
therefore with attention.
"'I have diligently considered the position of the earth
and sun, and formed innumerable schemes in which I changed
their situation. I have sometimes turned aside the axis of the
earth, and sometimes varied the ecliptic of the sun: but I
have found it impossible to make a disposition by which the
world may be advantaged; what one region gains another
loses by an imaginable alteration, even without considering the
distant parts of the solar system with which we are acquainted.
Do not, therefore, in thy administration of the year, indulge
thy pride by innovation; do not please thyself with thinking
that thou canst make thyself renowned to all future ages, by
disordering the seasons. The memory of mischief is no de-
sirable fame. Much less will it become thee to let kindness or
interest prevail. Never rob other countries of rain to pour it
on thine own. For us the Nile is sufficient.'
I promised, that when I possessed the power, I would
use it with inflexible integrity ; and he dismissed me, pressing
my hand. 'My heart,' said he, will be now at rest, and my
benevolence will no more destroy my quiet; I have found a
man of wisdom and virtue, to whom I can cheerfully bequeath
the inheritance of the sun.' "
The prince heard this narration with very serious regard;
but the princess smiled, and Pekuah convulsed herself with
laughter. "Ladies," said Imlac, "to mock the heaviest of
human afflictions is neither charitable nor wise. Few can
attain this man's knowledge and few practise his virtues ; but
all may suffer his calamity. Of the uncertainties of our
present state, the most dreadful and alarming is the uncertain
continuance of reason."
The princess was recollected, and the favorite was abashed.
Rasselas, more deeply affected, inquired of Imlac, whether he
thought such maladies of the mind frequent, and how they
were contracted ?
The dangerous prevalence of Imagination.
"DISORDERS of intellect," answered Imlac, "happen much
more often than superficial observers will easily believe Per-
haps, if we speak with rigorous exactness, no human mind is
in its right state. There is no man whose imagination does not
sometimes predominate over his reason, who can regulate his at-
mention wholly by his will, and whose ideas will come and go at
his command. No man will be found in whose mind airy no-
tions do not sometimes tyrannize, and force him to hope or
fear beyond the limits of sober probability. All power of
fancy over reason is a degree of insanity ; but while this power
is such as we can control and repress, it is not visible to others,
nor considered as any depravation of the mental faculties : It
is not pronounced madness but when it becomes ungovernable,
and apparently influences speech or action.
To indulge the power of fiction, and send imagination out
upon the wing, is often the sport of those who delight too much
in silent speculation. When we are alone we are not always
busy; the labor of excogitation is too violent to last long; the
ardor of inquiry will sometimes give way to idleness or satiety.
He who has nothing external that can divert him must find
pleasure in his own thoughts, and must conceive himself what
he is not for who is pleased with what he is ? He then ex-
patiates in boundless futurity, and culls from all imaginable
conditions that which for the present moment he should most
desire, amuses his desires with impossible enjoyments, and
confers upon his pride unattainable dominion. The mind
dances from scene to scene, unites all pleasures in all combina-
tions, and riots in delights which nature and fortune, with all
their bounty, cannot bestow.
In time some particular train of ideas fixes the attention;
all other intellectual gratifications are rejected; the mind, in
weariness or leisure, recurs constantly to the favorite concep-
tion, and feasts on the luscious falsehood whenever she is
offended with the bitterness of truth. By degrees the reign of
fancy is confirmed; she grows first imperious, and in time des-
potic. Then fictions begin to operate as realities, false opin-
ions fasten upon the mind, and life passes in dreams of rapture
or of anguish.
This, sir, is one of the dangers of solitude, which the her-
mit has confessed not always to promote goodness, and the
astronomer's misery has proved to be not always propitious to
"I will no more," said the favorite, "imagine myself the
queen of Abyssinia. I have often spent the hours, which the
princess gave to my own disposal, in adjusting ceremonies and
regulating the court; I have repressed the pride of the power-
ful, and granted the petitions of the poor; I have built new
palaces in more happy situations, planted groves upon the tops
-of mountains, and have exulted in the beneficence of royalty,
till, when the princess entered, I had almost forgotten to bow
down before her."
And I," said the princess, will not allow myself any
more to play the shepherdess in my waking dreams. I have
often soothed my thoughts with the quiet and innocence of
pastoral employment, till I have, in my chamber, heard the
winds whistle and the sheep bleat: sometimes freed the lamb
entangled in the thicket, and sometimes with my crook encoun-
tered the wolf. I have a dress like that of the village maids,
which I put on to help my imagination, and a pipe, on which I
play softly, and suppose myself followed by my flocks."
"I will confess," said the prince, "an indulgence of fantas-
tic delight more dangerous than yours. I have frequently en-
deavored to image the possibility of a perfect government, by
which all wrong should be restrained, all vice reformed, and all
the subjects preserved in tranquillity and innocence. This
thought produced innumerable schemes of reformation, and dic-
tated many useful regulations and salutary edicts. This has
been the sport, and sometimes the labor, of my solitude ; and
I start, when I think with how little anguish I once supposed
the death of my father and my brothers."
Such," says Imlac, are the effect of visionary schemes.
When we first form them we know them to be absurd, but fa-
miliarize them by degrees, and in time lose sight of their folly."
They Discourse with an Old Man.
THE evening was now far passed, and they rose to return
home. As they walked along the bank of the Nile, delighted
with the beams of the moon quivering on the water, they saw
at a small distance an old man, whom the prince had often
heard in the assembly of the sages. Yonder," said he, "is
one whose years have calmed his passions, but not clouded his
reason: let us close the disquisitions of the night by inquiring
what are his sentiments of his own state, that we may know
whether youth alone is to struggle with vexation, and whether
any better hope remains for the latter part of life."
Here the sage approached and saluted them. They in-
vited him to join their walk, and prattled a while, as acquaint-
ances that had unexpectedly met one another. The old man
was cheerful and talkative, and the way seemed short in his
company. He was pleased to find himself not disregarded,
accompanied them to their house, and, at the prince's request,
entered with them. They placed him in the seat of honor, and
set wine and conserves before him.
Sir," said the princess, an evening walk must give to a
man of learning, like you, pleasures which ignorance and youth
can hardly conceive. You know the qualities and the causes
of all that you behold, the laws by which the river flows, the
periods in which the planets perform their revolutions. Every-
thing must supply you with contemplation, and renew the con-
sciousness of your own dignity."
"Lady," answered he, let the gay and the vigorous expect
pleasure in their excursions ; it is enough that age can obtain
ease. To me the world has lost its novelty: I look round and
see what I remember to have seen in happier days. I rest
against a tree, and consider that in the same shade I once dis-
puted upon the annual overflow of the Nile with a friend who
is now silent in the grave. I cast my eyes upwards, fix them
on the changing moon, and think with pain on the vicissitudes
of life. I have ceased to take much delight in physical truth;
for what have I to do with those things which I am soon to
"You may at least recreate yourself," said Imlac, "with the
recollection of an honorable and useful life, and enjoy the
praise which all agree to give you."
"Praise," said the sage, with a sigh, "is to an old man an
empty sound. I have neither mother to be delighted with the
reputation of her son, nor wife to partake the honors of her
husband. I have outlived my friends and my rivals. Nothing
is now of much importance ; for I cannot extend my interest
beyond myself. Youth is delighted with applause, because it
is considered as the earnest of some future good, and because
the prospect of life is far extended: but to me, who am now
declining to decrepitude, there is little to be feared from the
malevolence of men, and yet less to be hoped from their affec-
tion or esteem. Something they may yet take away, but they
can give me nothing. Riches would now be useless, and high
employment would be pain. My retrospect of life recalls to
my view many opportunities of good neglected, much time
squandered upon trifles, and more lost in idleness and vacancy.
I leave many great designs unattempted, and many great at-
tempts unfinished. My mind is burdened with no heavy crime,
and therefore I compose myself to tranquillity: endeavor to
abstract my thoughts from hopes and cares, which, though rea-
son knows them to be vain, still try to keep their old possession
of the heart; expect, with serene humility, that hour which na-
ture cannot long delay: and hope to possess, in a better state,
that happiness which here I could not find, and that virtue
which here I have not attained."
He rose and went away, leaving his audience not much
elated with the hope of long life. The prince consoled him-
self with remarking, that it was not reasonable to be disap-
pointed by this account; for age had never been considered as
the season of felicity ; and if it was possible to be easy in de-
cline and weakness, it was likely that the days of vigor and
alacrity might be happy: that the noon of life could be bright
if the evening could be calm.
The princess suspected that age was querulous and malig-
nant, and delighted to repress the expectations of those who
had newly entered the world. She had seen the possessors of
estates look with envy on their heirs, and known many who
enjoyed pleasure no longer than they could confine it to them-
Pekuah conjectured that the man was older than he ap-
peared, and was willing to impute his complaints to delirious
dejection ; or else supposed that he had been unfortunate, and
was therefore discontented ; For nothing," said she, is more
common than to call our own condition the condition of life."
Imlac, who had no desire to see them depressed, smiled at
the comforts which they could so readily procure to themselves,
and remembered, that at the same age he was equally confident
of unmingled prosperity, and equally fertile of consolatory ex-
pedients. He forbore to force upon them unwelcome knowl-
edge, which time itself would too soon impress. The princess
and her lady retired ; the madness of the astronomer hung upon
their minds, and they desired Imlac to enter upon his office,
and delay next morning the rising of the sun.
The Princess and Pekuah visit the Astronomer.
THE princess and Pekuah, having talked in private of Imlac's
astronomer, thought his character at once so amiable and so
strange that they could not be satisfied without a nearer knowl-
edge ; and Imlac was requested to find the means of bringing
.~ ~~~ ~ ~ .
II~~~ ~~~~~~~ .___.__.__.__.__.__.__.__.__.__.__.__.___.__.........____
THE ATRONOER S ETR2A
This was somewhat difficult; the philosopher had never
received any visits from women, though le lived in a city that
had in it many Europeans, who followed the manners of their
own countries, and many from other parts of the world, that
lived there with European liberty. The ladies would not be
refused, and several schemes were proposed for the accom-
plishment of their design. It was proposed to introduce them
as strangers in distress, to whom the sage was always acces-
sible ; but, after srme deliberation, it appeared that by this
artifice no acquaintance could be formed, for their conversation
would be short, and they could not decently importune him
often. This," said Rasselas, "is true; but I have yet a
stronger objection against the misrepresentation of your state.
I have always considered it as treason against the great repub-
lic of human nature to make any man's virtues the means of
deceiving him, whether on great or little occasions. All im-
posture weakens confidence and chills benevolence. When the
sage finds that you are not what you seemed, he will feel the
resentment natural to a man who, conscious of great abilities,
discovers that he has been tricked by understandings meaner
than his own ; and, perhaps, the distrust, which he can never
afterwards wholly lay aside, may stop the voice of counsel and
close the hand of charity ; and where will you find the power
of restoring his benefactions to mankind or his peace to him-
To this no reply was attempted, and Imlac began to hope
that their curiosity would subside ; but, next day, Pekuah told
him, she had now found an honest pretence for a visit to the
astronomer, for she would solicit permission to continue under
him the studies in which she had been initiated by the Arab,
and the princess might go with her either as a fellow-student,
or because a woman could not decently come alone. I am
afraid," said Imlac, "that he will be soon weary of your com-
pany; men advanced far in knowledge do not love to repeat
the elements of their art, and I am not certain that even of the
elements,,as he will deliver them connected with inferences and
mingled with reflections, you are a very capable auditress."-
" That," said Pekuah, "must be my care ; I ask of you only
to take me thither. My knowledge is, perhaps, more than you
imagine it; and, by concurring always with his opinions, I shall
make him think it greater than it is."
The astronomer, in pursuance of this resolution, was told
that a foreign lady, travelling in search of knowledge, had
heard of his reputation, and was desirous to become his scholar.