Among the grievances of modern days, much complained of, but with little hope of redress, is the matter of receiving and paying visits, the number of which, it is generally agreed, has been increasing, is increased, and ought to be diminished. Nor is this complaint by any means peculiar to the times in which we have the honour to live. Cowley was out of all patience on the subject above a hundred years ago. If we engage, says he, in a large acquaintance, and various familiarities, we set open our gates to the invaders of most of our time; we expose our life to a quotidian ague of frigid impertinencies, which would make a wise man tremble to think of.
But as Cowley was apt to be a little out of humour between whiles, let us hear the honourable, pious, and sweet-tempered Mr. Boyle, who, among the troubles of life, enumerates as one the business of receiving senseless visits, whose continuance, if otherwise unavoidable, is capable, in my opinion, to justify the retiredness of a hermit.
Being of the number of those that have lately retired from the centre of business and pleasure, my uneasiness in the country where I am arises rather from the society than the solitude of it. To be obliged to receive and return visits from and to a circle of neighbours, who, through diversity of age or inclinations, can neither be entertaining nor serviceable to us, is a vile loss of time, and a slavery from which a man should deliver himself if possible: for why must I lose the remaining part of my life because they have thrown away the former part of theirs?