Friday, October 02, 2015


A Town and a Country Life Compared Together

Of Wisdom. Three Books. Written Originally in French, by the Sieur de Charron. With an Account of the Author. Made English by George Stanhope, 3rd ed., Vol. II (London: J. Walthoe, 1729), pp. 552-554 (I.lxvi = "A Town and a Country Life compared together," divided into shorter paragraphs by me):
This is a Comparison very easie for any Man who is a true Lover of Wisdom, to make; for almost all the Advantages lie on one side. The Pleasures and Conveniences both of Body and Mind, Liberty, Contemplation, Innocence, Health, and Delight. In the Country a Man's Mind is free and easie; discharg'd, and at his own Disposal: But in the City the Persons of Friends and Acquaintance, one's own and other People's Business, foolish Quarrels, ceremonious Visits, impertinent Discourse, and a Thousand other Fopperies and Diversions steal away the greatest part of our Time, and leave no Leisure for better and more necessary Employment.

What infinite Perplexities, Avocations, Distractions of the Mind, and, which is worst of all, what abominable Debaucheries, and Depravation of Manners does such a Life expose Men to? Great Towns are but a larger sort of Prisons to the Soul, like Cages to Birds, or Pounds to Beasts. This Celestial Fire within us will not endure to be shut up, it requires Air to brighten and make it burn clear; which made Columella say, that a Country Life is Cousin-German to Wisdom: for a Man's Thoughts cannot be idle; and when they are set loose from the World, they will range and expatiate freely in noble and profitable Meditations. But how shall a Man hope to command his Thoughts, or pretend to call them his Own, in the midst of all the Clutter, and Business, the Amusements, nay the Confusions of the Town?

A Country Life is infinitely more plain, and innocent, and disposed to Purity and Virtue. In Cities Vice assembles in Troops; the very Commonness of it makes it unobserv'd; it hardens and reconciles us to the Practice, Example, and Custom; and the meeting with it at every Turn, makes the thing familiar; and thus the Disease seizes us strongly and presently, and we are gone all on the sudden, by living in the midst of the Infection. Whereas in the Country, those Things are seen or heard with Abhorrence and Amazement, which the Town sees and does every Day without Remorse or Concern.

As for Pleasure and Health, the clear Air, the Warmth and Brightness of the Sun, not polluted with the Sultry Gleams, and loathsome Stenches of the Town; the Springs and Waters, the Flowers and Groves, and, in short, All Nature is free, and easie, and gay; The Earth unlocks her Treasures, refreshes us with her Fruits, feasts every Sense, and gives us such Entertainment, as Cities know nothing of, in the stifling press of Houses; so that to live there, is to shut one's self up, and be banish'd from the World. Besides all this, a Country Retirement is more active and fit for Exercise; and this creates an Appetite, preserves and restores Health and Vigour, hardens the Body, and makes it lusty and strong.

The greatest Commendation of the Town is, Convenience for Business and Profit. It is indeed the Seat of Trade and private Gain, and therefore fit to be the Darling of Merchants and Artificers: And it is the Place accommodated to Publick Administrations; but this latter but a very small part of Mankind are call'd to, or capable of. And History tells us, that heretofore excellent Persons were fetch'd out of the Country, to undertake Affairs of the greatest Importance; and as soon as they had finish'd these, they retir'd again with wonderful Delight, and made the Town not a Matter of Choice, but Necessity and Constraint: This was the short Scene of Labour and Business to them; but the Country was the Seat of their Pleasure, and more constant Residence.
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