Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
A Maxim Criticised
By Abraham Cowley (16181667)
From the Essay The Dangers of an Honest Man in much Company
LUCRETIUS, by his favour, though a good poet, was but an ill-natured man, when he said, it was delightful to see other men in a great storm. And no less ill-natured should I think Democritus, who laughs at all the world, but that he retired himself so much out of it, that we may perceive he took no great pleasure in that kind of mirth. I have been drawn twice or thrice by company to go to Bedlam, and have seen others very much delighted with the fantastical extravagancy of so many various madnesses, which upon me wrought so contrary an effect, that I always returned, not only melancholy, but even sick with the sight. My compassion there was perhaps too tender, for I meet a thousand madmen abroad, without any perturbation; though to weigh the matter justly, the total loss of reason is less deplorable than the total depravation of it. An exact judge of human blessings, of riches, honours, beauty, even of wit itself, should pity the abuse of them more than the want.