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not shameful for a sensible Dutchman to sleep in a bed of damask ?"
“Go to Batavia," replied the Amsterdammer;
gain, as I have done, ten tons of gold; and then see if you have not some inclination to be well clothed, well fed, and well lodged.”
Since this conversation, twenty volumes have been written about luxury, and these books have neither increased nor diminished it.
Luxury has been declaimed against for the space of two thousand years, both in verse and prose ; and yet it has been always liked.
What has not been said of the Romans? When, in the early periods of their history, these banditti ravaged and carried off their neighbours' harvests; when, in order to augment their own wretched village, they destroyed the poor villages of the Volsci and Samnites, they were, we are told, men disinterested and virtuous. They could not as yet, be it remembered, carry away gold and silver, and jewels, because the towns which they sacked and plundered had none; nor did their woods and swamps produce partridges or pheasants; yet people, forsooth, extol their temperance !
When, by a succession of violences, they had pillaged and robbed every country from the recesses of the Adriatic to the Euphrates, and had sense enough to enjoy the fruit of their rapine; when they cultivated the arts, and tasted all the pleasures of life, and communicated them also to the nations which they conquered; then, we are told, they ceased to be wise and good.
All such declamations tend just to prove this—that a robber ought not to eat the dinner he has taken, nor wear the habit he has stolen, nor ornament his finger with the ring he has plundered from another. All this, it is said, should be thrown into the river, in order to live like good people; but how much better would it be to say, never rob—it is your duty not to rob? Condemn the brigands when they plun
der; but do not treat them as fools or madmen for enjoying their plunder. After a number of English sailors have obtained their prize money for the capture of Pondicherry, or the Havannah, can they be blamed for purchasing a little pleasure in London in return for the labour and pain they have undergone in the uncongenial climes of Asia or America ?
The declaimers we have mentioned, would wish men to bury the riches that might be accumulated by the fortune of war, or by agriculture, commerce, and industry in general. They cite Lacedemon; why do they not also cite the republic of San Marino ? What benefit did Sparta do to Greece? Had she ever a Demosthenes, a Sophocles, an Apelles, or a Phidias ? The luxury of Athens formed great men of every description. Sparta had certainly some great captains, but even these in a smaller nur th other cities. But allowing, that a small republic like Lacedemon may maintain its poverty,* men uniformly die, whether they are in want of everything, or enjoying the various means of rendering life agreeable. The savage of Canada subsists and attains old age, as well as the English citizen who has fifty thousand guineas a year. But who will ever compare the country of the Iroquois to England ?
Let the republic of Ragusa, and the canton of Zug, enact sumptuary laws; they are right in so doing. The
poor must not expend beyond their means; but I have somewhere read, that if partially injurious, luxury benefits a great nation upon the whole,
Sachez surtout que le luxe enrichit
Un grand etat, s'il en perd un petit.t Lacedemon avoided luxury only by keeping up the commu. nity or equality of goods, but she kept up each of these only through the cultivation of her lands by slaves. It was the legislation of the convent of St. Claude only, that the monks were not permitted to kill or injure their serfs, (mainmortables). The existence of equality or community of goods implies that of an enslaved people. The Spartans had virtue like highway-robbers, like inquisitors, like all classes of men familiarised by habit to crime so far as at length to commit it without remorse.
† Sumptuary laws are by their very nature a violation of the right of property, If in a small state there is no great inequality
If hy luxury you mean excess, we know that excess is universally pernicious, in abstinence as well as gluttony, in parsimony or profusion. I know not how it has happened, that in my own village, where the soil is poor and meagre, the imposts heavy, and the prohibition against a man's exporting the corn he has himself sown and reaped, intolerable, there is hardly a single cultivator who is not well clothed, and who has not an ample supply of warmth and food. Should this cultivator go to plough in his best clothes and with his hair dressed and powdered, there would in that case exist the greatest and most absurd luxury; but were a wealthy citizen of Paris or London to appear at the play in the dress of this peasant, he would exhibit the grossest and most ridiculous parsimony.
Est modus in rebus, sunt certi denique fines,
HORACE, book i. sat. i. v. 106.
Francis. On the invention of scissars, which are certainly not of the very highest antiquity, what was not said of those who pared their nails and cut off some of their hair that was hanging down over their noses? They were undoubtedly considered as prodigals and coxcombs, who bought at an extravagant price an instrument just calculated to spoil the work the creator. What an enormous sin to pare the horn which God himself made to grow at our fingers' ends! It was absolutely an insult to the Divine Being himself. When shirts and socks were invented, it was far worse. It is well known with what wrath and indignation the old counsellors, who had never worn socks, exclaimed against the young magistrates who encouraged so dreadful and fatal a luxury of fortune, there will be no luxury; if there is such inequality, Juxury is the natural remedy for it. The sumptuary laws of Geneva have destroyed its liberty.
* If we are to understand by lúxury, all that is beyond absolute necessity, luxury is a natural consequence of the advance of the human species; and, to reason correctly and consistently, every
MADNESS. What is madness? To have erroneous perceptions, and to reason correctly from them? Let the wisest man, if he would understand madness, attend to the succession of his ideas while he dreams. If he be troubled with indigestion during the night, a thousand incoherent ideas torment him; it seems as if nature punished him for having taken too much food, or for having injudiciously selected it, by supplying involuntary conceptions ; for we think very little during sleep, except when annoyed by a bad digestion. Unquiet dreams are in reality a transient madness.
Madness is a malady which necessarily hinders a man from thinking and acting like other men. Not being able to manage property, the madman is withheld from it; incapable of ideas suitable to society, he is shut out from it; if he be dangerous, he is confined altogether; and if he be furious, they bind him. Sometimes he is cured by the baths, by bleeding, and by regimen.
This man is not however deprived of ideas; he frequently possesses them like other men, and often when he sleeps. We might inquire how the spiritual and immortal soul, lodged in his brain, receives all its ideas enemy to luxury ought to think, with Rousseau, that the true state of happiness and virtue is that, not of the savage, but of the ourang-outang. It would evidently be absurd to regard as an evil, conveniences which all men can enjoy; accordingly, the term luxury is in general applied merely to superfluities which can be enjoyed only by a small number of individuals. In this sense, luxury is a natural consequence of property, without which no society can subsist; and of a great inequality of fortunes, which is the cousequence, not of the right of property, but of bad laws. It is in these bad laws then that luxury originates, and good laws would destroy it. Moralists ought to address their discourses to legislators, not to private persons; because it is in the course of possibility, that a virtuous and enlightened man may have it in his power to make reasonable laws, but it is not in human nature that all the wealthy members of a community should, out of a principle of virtue, renounce the gratifications of pleasure and vanity which they can procure by their opulence.
correctly and distinctly, without the capacity of judgment. It perceives objects, as the souls of Aristotle, of Plato, of Locke, and of Newton, perceived them. It hears the same sounds, and possesses the same sense of feeling-how therefore, receiving impressions like the wisest, does the soul of the madman connect them extravagantly, and prove unable to disperse them?
If this simple and eternal substance enjoys the same properties as the souls which are lodged in the sagest brains, it ought to reason like them. Why does it not? If my madman sees a thing red, while the wise men see it blue; if when my sages hear music, my madman hears the braying of an ass; if when they attend a sermon, he imagines himself to be listening to a comedy; if when they understand yes, he understands no; then I conceive clearly that his soul ought to think contrary to their's. But my madman having the same perceptions as they have, there is no apparent reason why his soul, having received all the necessary materials, cannot make a proper use of them. It is pure, they say, and subject to no infirmity; behold it
pro: vided with all the necessary assistance; nothing which passes in the body can change its essence;-yet it is shut up in a close carriage, and conveyed to Charenton.
This reflection may lead us to suspect, that the faculty of thought, bestowed by God upon man, is subject to derangement like the other senses. A madman is an invalid whose brain is diseased, while the gouty man is one who suffers in his feet and hands. People think by means of the brain, and walk on their feet, without knowing anything of the source of either this incomprehensible power of walking, or the equally incomprehensible power of thinking; besides the gout may be in the head, instead of the feet. In short, after a thousand arguments, faith alone can convince us of the possibility of a simple and immaterial substance liable to diseas
The learned may say to the madman,-My friend, although deprived of common sense, thy soul is as