S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
The happiest of mankind, overlooking those solid blessings which they already have, set their hearts upon somewhat which they want; some untried pleasure, which if they could but taste, they should then be completely blest.
The great error of our nature is, not to know where to stop, not to be satisfied with any reasonable acquirement; not to compound with our condition; but to lose all we have gained by an insatiable pursuit after more.
Men complain of not finding a place of repose. They are in the wrong: they have it for seeking. What they should indeed complain of is, that the heart is an enemy to that very repose they seek. To themselves alone should they impute their discontent. They seek within the short span of life to satisfy a thousand desires, each of which alone is insatiable. One month passes, and another comes on; the year ends and then begins; but man is still unchanged in folly, still blindly continuing in prejudice.
It has been remarked, perhaps, by every writer who has left behind him observations upon life, that no man is pleased with his present state, which proves equally unsatisfactory, says Horace, whether fallen upon by chance, or chosen with deliberation; we are always disgusted with some circumstance or other of our situation, and imagine the condition of others more abundant in blessings, or less exposed to calamities. This universal discontent has been generally mentioned with great severity of censure, as unreasonable in itself, since of two, equally envious of each other, both cannot have the larger share of happiness, and as tending to darken life with unnecessary gloom, by withdrawing our minds from the contemplation and enjoyment of that happiness which our state affords us, and fixing our attention upon foreign objects, which we only behold to depress ourselves, and increase our misery by injurious comparisons.
We are seldom at ease, and free enough from the solicitation of our natural or adopted desires; but a constant succession of uneasinesses (out of that stock which natural wants or acquired habits have heaped up) take the will in their turns.
There are several persons who have many pleasures and entertainments in their possession which they do not enjoy. It is therefore a kind and good office to acquaint them with their own happiness, and turn their attention to such instances of their good fortune as they are apt to overlook. Persons in the married state often want such a monitor; and pine away their days, by looking on the same condition in anguish and murmur, which carries with it in the opinion of others a complication of all the pleasures of life, and a retreat from its inquietudes.