S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Since thou hast an alarum in thy breast, which tells thee thou hast a living spirit in thee above two thousand times in an hour, dull not away thy days in slothful supinity and the tediousness of doing nothing. To strenuous minds there is an inquietude in overquietness, and no laboriousness in labour; and to tread a mile after the slow pace of a snail, or the heavy measures of the lazy of Brazilia, were a most tiring penance, and worse than a race of some furlongs at the Olympics. The rapid courses of the heavenly bodies are rather imitable by our thoughts, than our corporeal motions: yet the solemn motions of our lives amount unto a greater measure than is commonly apprehended. Some few men have surrounded the globe of the earth; yet many in the set locomotions and movements of their days have measured the circuit of it, and twenty thousand miles have been exceeded by them.
Providence has so ordered it, that a state of rest and inaction, however it may flatter our indolence, should be productive of many inconveniences; that it should generate such disorders as may force us to have recourse to some labour, as a thing absolutely requisite to make us pass our lives with tolerable satisfaction; for the nature of rest is to suffer all the parts of our bodies to fall into a relaxation, that not only disables the members from performing their functions, but takes away the vigorous tone of fibre which is requisite for carrying on the natural and necessary secretions. At the same time, that in this languid, inactive state, the nerves are more liable to the most horrid convulsions, than when they are sufficiently braced and strengthened. Melancholy, dejection, despair, and often self-murder, is the consequence of the gloomy view we take of things in this relaxed state of body.
It would seem impossible to a solitary speculatist, that a human being can want employment. To be born in ignorance with a capacity of knowledge, and to be placed in the midst of a world filled with variety perpetually pressing upon the senses and irritating curiosity, is surely a sufficient security against the languishment of inattention. Novelty is indeed necessary to preserve eagerness and alacrity; but art and nature have stores inexhaustible by human intellects; and every moment produces something new to him who has quickened his faculties by diligent observation.
Indolence is, methinks, an intermediate state between pleasure and pain; and very much unbecoming any part of our life after we are out of the nurses arms. Such an aversion to labour creates a constant weariness, and one would think should make existence itself a burden. The indolent man descends from the dignity of his nature, and makes that being which was rational merely vegetative. His life consists only in the mere increase and decay of a body, which, with relation to the rest of the world, might as well have been uninformed, as the habitation of a reasonable mind.
As there is a great truth wrapped up in diligence [to esteem highly], what a lie, on the other hand, lurks at the root of our present use of the word indolence! This is from in and doles, not to grieve; and indolence is thus a state in which we have no grief or pain: so that the word as we now employ it seems to affirm that indulgence in sloth and ease is that which would constitute for us the absence of all pain.
If you ask me which is the real hereditary sin of human nature, do you imagine I shall answer. Pride, or Luxury, or Ambition, or Egotism? No, I shall say, Indolence. Who conquers indolence will conquer all the rest. Indeed, all good principles must stagnate without mental activity.