Idleness is the badge of gentry, the bane of body and mind, the nurse of naughtiness, the stepmother of discipline, the chief author of all mischief, one of the seven deadly sins, the cushion upon which the devil chiefly reposes, and a great cause not only of melancholy, but of many other diseases: for the mind is naturally active; and if it be not occupied about some honest business, it rushes into mischief or sinks into melancholy.
Some one, in casting up his accounts, put down a very large sum per annum for his idleness. But there is another account more awful than that of our expenses, in which many will find that their idleness has mainly contributed to the balance against them. From its very inaction, idleness ultimately becomes the most active cause of evil; as a palsy is more to be dreaded than a fever. The Turks have a proverb which says that the devil tempts all other men, but that idle men tempt the devil.
In my opinion, idleness is no less the pest of society, than of solitude. Nothing contracts the mind, nothing engenders trifles, tales, backbiting, slander, and falsities, so much as being shut up in a room, opposite each other, and reduced to no other occupation than the necessity of continual chattering. When all are employed, they speak only when they have something to say; but if you are doing nothing, you must absolutely talk incessantly, which of all constraints is the most troublesome and the most dangerous. I dare go even further, and maintain, that to render a circle truly agreeable, every one must be not only doing something, but something which requires a little attention.
It is no more possible for an idle man to keep together a certain stock of knowledge, than it is possible to keep together a stock of ice exposed to the meridian sun. Every day destroys a fact, a relation, or an influence; and the only way of preserving the bulk and value of the pile is by constantly adding to it.
Nor is excess the only thing by which sin breaks men in their health, and the comfortable enjoyment of themselves; but many are also brought to a very ill and languishing habit of body by mere idleness; and idleness is both itself a great sin, and the cause of many more.