S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
There are indeed but very few who know how to be idle and innocent, or have a relish of any pleasures that are not criminal; every diversion they take is at the expense of some one virtue or another, and their very first step out of business is into vice or folly. A man should endeavour, therefore, to make the sphere of his innocent pleasures as wide as possible, that he may retire into them with safety, and find in them such a satisfaction as a wise man would not blush to take. Of this nature are those of the imagination, which do not require such a bent of thought as is necessary to our more serious employments, nor, at the same time, to sink into that negligence and remissness which are apt to accompany our more sensual delights, but, like a gentle exercise to the faculties, awaken them from sloth and idleness, without putting them upon labour or difficulty.
Though selfishness hath defiled the whole man, yet sensual pleasure is the chief part of its interest, and therefore by the senses it commonly works; and these are the doors and the windows by which iniquity entereth into the soul.
Punish not thyself with pleasure; glut not thy sense with palative delights, nor revenge the contempt of temperance by the penalty of satiety. Were there an age of delight, or any pleasure durable, who would not honour Voluptia? but the race of delight is short, and pleasures have mutable faces. The pleasures of one age are not pleasures in another, and their lives fall short of our own.
The pleasures which are agreeable to nature are within the reach of all, and therefore can form no distinction in favour of the rich. The pleasures which art forces up are seldom sincere, and never satisfying. What is worse, this constant application to pleasure takes away from the enjoyment, or rather turns it into the nature of a very burdensome and laborious business. It has consequences much more fatal. It produces a weak valetudinary state of body, attended by all those horrid disorders, and yet more horrid methods of cure, which are the result of luxury on the one hand, and the weak and ridiculous efforts of human art on the other.
At their first coming they are generally entertained by Pleasure and Dalliance, and have all the content that possibly may be given, so long as their money lasts; but when their means fail they are contemptibly thrust out at a back door headlong, and there left to Shame, Reproach, Despair.
Writers of every age have endeavoured to show that pleasure is in us, and not in the objects offered for our amusement. If the soul be happily disposed, everything becomes capable of affording entertainment, and distress will almost want a name. Every occurrence passes in review, like the figures of a procession: some may be awkward, others ill-dressed; but none but a fool is for this enraged with the master of the ceremonies.
This is the season of the year when Christmas-trees have to be furnished, when children are to be rewarded, when country cousins and all those hospitable houses where we go to shoot, or fish, have to receive some small token of our gratitude and sense of favours to come.
The slave of pleasure soon sinks into a kind of voluptuous dotage; intoxicated with present delights, and careless of everything else, his days and his nights glide away in luxury or vice, and he has no care but to keep thought away: for thought is troublesome to him who lives without his own approbation.
Let the philosophers all say what they will, the main thing at which we all aim, even in virtue itself, is pleasure. It pleases me to rattle in their ears this word which they so nauseate to hear; and if it signifie some supream pleasure and excessive delight, it is more due to the assistance of virtue than to any other assistance whatever.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. xix.
The habit of dissipating every serious thought by a succession of agreeable sensations is as fatal to happiness as to virtue; for when amusement is uniformly substituted for objects of moral and mental interest, we lose all that elevates our enjoyments above the scale of childish pleasures.
That pleasure is mans chiefest good, because indeed it is the perception of good that is properly pleasure, is an assertion most certainly true; though under the common acceptance of it, not only false, but odious: for, according to this, pleasure and sensuality pass for terms equivalent; and therefore he who takes it in this sense alters the subject of the discourse.
The sinner, at his highest pitch of enjoyment, is not pleased with it so much, but he is afflicted more; and as long as these inward rejolts and recoilings of the mind continue, the sinner will find his accounts of pleasure very poor.
The pleasure of the religious man is an easy and portable pleasure, such an one as he carries about in his bosom, without alarming either the eye or envy of the world: a man putting all his pleasures into this one is like a travellers putting all his goods into one jewel.
All pleasures that affect the body must needs weary, because they transport; and all transportation is a violence; and no violence can be lasting; but determines upon the falling of the spirits, which are not able to keep up that height of motion that the pleasure of the senses raises them to. And therefore how inevitably does an immoderate laughter end in a sigh, which is only natures recovering itself after a force done to it; but the religious pleasure of a well-disposed mind moves gently, and therefore constantly.
Pleasure seizes the whole man who addicts himself to it, and will not give him leisure for any good office in life which contradicts the gaiety of the present hour. You may indeed observe in people of pleasure a certain complacency and absence of all severity, which the habit of a loose unconcerned life gives them; but tell the man of pleasure your secret wants, cares, or sorrows, and you will find that he has given up the delicacy of his passions to the cravings of his appetites. He little knows the perfect joy he loses, for the disappointing gratifications which he pursues. He looks at Pleasure as she approaches, and comes to him with the recommendation of warm wishes, gay looks, and graceful motion; but he does not observe how she leaves his presence with disorder, impotence, downcast shame, and conscious imperfection. She makes our youth inglorious, our age shameful.
Pleasure, when it is a mans chief purpose, disappoints itself; and the constant application to it palls the faculty of enjoying it, though it leaves the sense of our inability for that we wish, with a disrelish of everything else. Thus the intermediate seasons of the man of pleasure are more heavy than one would impose upon the vilest criminal.
Look upon pleasures not upon that side that is next the sun, or where they look beauteously; that is as they come towards you to be enjoyed; for then they paint and smile, and dress themselves up in tinsel, and glass gems, and counterfeit imagery.
To what grand moral purposes Bishop Butler turns the word pastime, obliging [the world] to own that its amusements and pleasures do not really satisfy the mind, and fill it as with the sense of abiding and satisfying joy. They are only pastimes; they serve only, as this word confesses, to pass away the time, to prevent it from weighing an intolerable burden on mens hands.
He is one who, desirous of being more happy than any man can be, is less happy than most men are; one who seeks happiness everywhere but where it is to be found;one who outtoils the labourer, not only without his wages, but paying dearly for it. He is an immortal being that has but two marks of a man about himupright stature and the power of playing the foolwhich a monkey has not. He is an immortal being that triumphs in this single, deplorable, and yet false hope, that he shall be as happy as a monkey when he is dead, though he despairs of being so while yet alive. He is an immortal being that would lose none of his most darling delights if he were a brute in the mire, but would lose them all entirely if he were an angel in heaven. It is certain, therefore, that he desires not to be there: and if he not so much as desires it now, how can he ever hope it when his day of dissipation is over? And if no hope, what is our man of pleasure?A man of distraction and despair to-morrow.