“Of Projectors” — Daniel Defoe

“Of Projectors” by Daniel Defoe

Man is the worst of all God’s creatures to shift for himself; no other animal is ever starved to death; nature without has provided them both food and clothes, and nature within has placed an instinct that never fails to direct them to proper means for a supply; but man must either work or starve, slave or die. He has indeed reason given him to direct him, and few who follow the dictates of that reason come to such unhappy exigences; but when by the errors of a man’s youth he has reduced himself to such a degree of distress as to be absolutely without three things—money, friends, and health— he dies in a ditch, or in some worse place, a hospital.

Ten thousand ways there are to bring a man to this, and but very few to bring him out again.

Death is the universal deliverer, and therefore some who want courage to bear what they see before them, hang themselves for fear; for certainly self-destruction is the effect of cowardice in the highest extreme.

Others break the bounds of laws to satisfy that general law of nature, and turn open thieves, house-breakers, highwaymen, clippers, coiners, &c., till they run the length of the gallows, and get a deliverance the nearest way at St. Tyburn.

Others, being masters of more cunning than their neighbours, turn their thoughts to private methods of trick and cheat, a modern way of thieving every jot as criminal, and in some degree worse than the other, by which honest men are gulled with fair pretences to part from their money, and then left to take their course with the author, who skulks behind the curtain of a protection, or in the Mint or Friars, and bids defiance as well to honesty as the law.

Others, yet urged by the same necessity, turn their thoughts to honest invention, founded upon the platform of ingenuity and integrity.

These two last sorts are those we call projectors; and as there was always more geese than swans, the number of the latter are very inconsiderable in comparison of the former; and as the greater number denominates the less, the just contempt we have of the former sort bespatters the other, who, like cuckolds, bear the reproach of other people’s crimes.

A mere projector, then, is a contemptible thing, driven by his own desperate fortune to such a strait that he must be delivered by a miracle, or starve; and when he has beat his brains for some such miracle in vain, he finds no remedy but to paint up some bauble or other, as players make puppets talk big, to show like a strange thing, and then cry it up for a new invention, gets a patent for it, divides it into shares, and they must be sold. Ways and means are not wanting to swell the new whim to a vast magnitude; thousands and hundreds of thousands are the least of his discourse, and sometimes millions, till the ambition of some honest coxcomb is wheedled to part with his money for it, and then (nascitur ridiculus mus) the adventurer is left to carry on the project, and the projector laughs at him. The diver shall walk at the bottom of the Thames, the saltpetre maker shall build Tom T-d’s pond into houses, the engineers build models and windmills to draw water, till funds are raised to carry it on by men who have more money than brains, and then good-night patent and invention; the projector has done his business and is gone.

But the honest projector is he who, having by fair and plain principles of sense, honesty, and ingenuity brought any contrivance to a suitable perfection, makes out what he pretends to, picks nobody’s pocket, puts his project in execution, and contents himself with the real produce as the profit of his invention.

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“Of Death” — Francis Bacon

“Of Death” — Francis Bacon

MEN fear death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children, is increased with tales, so is the other. Certainly, the contemplation of death, as the wages of sin, and passage to another world, is holy and religious; but the fear of it, as a tribute due unto nature, is weak. Yet in religious meditations, there is sometimes mixture of vanity, and of superstition. You shall read, in some of the friars’ books of mortification, that a man should think with himself, what the pain is, if he have but his finger’s end pressed, or tortured, and thereby imagine, what the pains of death are, when the whole body is corrupted, and dissolved; when many times death passeth, with less pain than the torture of a limb; for the most vital parts, are not the quickest of sense. And by him that spake only as a philosopher, and natural man, it was well said, Pompa mortis magis terret, quam mors ipsa. Groans, and convulsions, and a discolored face, and friends weeping, and blacks, and obsequies, and the like, show death terrible. It is worthy the observing, that there is no passion in the mind of man, so weak, but it mates, and masters, the fear of death; and therefore, death is no such terrible enemy, when a man hath so many attendants about him, that can win the combat of him. Revenge triumphs over death; love slights it; honor aspireth to it; grief flieth to it; fear preoccupateth it; nay, we read, after Otho the emperor had slain himself, pity (which is the tenderest of affections) provoked many to die, out of mere compassion to their sovereign, and as the truest sort of followers. Nay, Seneca adds niceness and satiety: Cogita quamdiu eadem feceris; mori velle, non tantum fortis aut miser, sed etiam fastidiosus potest. A man would die, though he were neither valiant, nor miserable, only upon a weariness to do the same thing so oft, over and over. It is no less worthy, to observe, how little alteration in good spirits, the approaches of death make; for they appear to be the same men, till the last instant. Augustus Caesar died in a compliment; Livia, conjugii nostri memor, vive et vale. Tiberius in dissimulation; as Tacitus saith of him, Jam Tiberium vires et corpus, non dissimulatio, deserebant. Vespasian in a jest, sitting upon the stool; Ut puto deus fio. Galba with a sentence; Feri, si ex re sit populi Romani; holding forth his neck. Septimius Severus in despatch; Adeste si quid mihi restat agendum. And the like. Certainly the Stoics bestowed too much cost upon death, and by their great preparations, made it appear more fearful. Better saith he, qui finem vitae extremum inter munera ponat naturae. It is as natural to die, as to be born; and to a little infant, perhaps, the one is as painful, as the other. He that dies in an earnest pursuit, is like one that is wounded in hot blood; who, for the time, scarce feels the hurt; and therefore a mind fixed, and bent upon somewhat that is good, doth avert the dolors of death. But, above all, believe it, the sweetest canticle is’, Nunc dimittis; when a man hath obtained worthy ends, and expectations. Death hath this also; that it openeth the gate to good fame, and extinguisheth envy.—Extinctus amabitur idem.

 

Henry Miller Riffs on Nietzsche and Dostoevsky (Film)

Walt Whitman’s Bathers

A strange and sensual riff from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself — 

Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.

She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.

Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth
bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.

The beards of the young men glisten’d with wet, it ran from their
long hair,
Little streams pass’d all over their bodies.

An unseen hand also pass’d over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.

The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the
sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending
arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.