Link to Tarzan of the ApesAltrocchi, Rudolph. 1944. "Ancestors of Tarzan." p. 74-124. Sleuthing in the Stacks. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press. A retelling of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan by Ibn Tufail. Feral infant on island.
Anonymous. 1736. Autonous [...] London: Printed for J. Roberts, at the Oxford-Arms in Warwick-Lane.
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Of all the curiosities I met with, during my abode in the kingdom of Epinoia, the remembrance of nothing so much affect me as the story of Autonous a young nobleman of that nation. I became acquainted with that honourable person in my visit to the University of Eumathema. That place stands in a very pleasant and healthful situation, most convenient for the Muses, upon the banks of a large navigable river, which empties itself into the Western Ocean, about twenty leagues below. It was now the time of the year when all things appeared in their greatest gayety, and the season inviting, he complemented several European strangers to take a short voyage with him in his barge up the river, among whom I myself had the honour to make one.
The History of Autonous.
As we sailed, we were all along entertained with a pleasing scene of the works of Nature, which gave us infinitely more satisfaction than any of the most finished performances of Art. The river for many leagues ran winding through a delicious plain, and abounded with vast shoals of fishes, which every now and then leaped out of their element to catch the nimble flies, as they hovered over the stream. On each hand there lay extended a range of lofty mountains, well replenished with flocks and herds, from whose heights the brooks and rivulets in their descent formed many agreeable cascades. And to complete the delightfulness of the prospect, nothing was seen to encumber the surface of the ground but a perfect verdure intermixed with a beautiful variety of sweet smelling flowers, and here and there a grove of stately trees, which resounded with the cheerful melody of the winged quire, and wafted to us the most grateful odours.
The conversation which these delightful appearances suggested to us was concerning the wisdom of God manifested in the wonders of the creation; from whence our discourse turned to his no less surprising works of providence; for a particular instance of which, Autonous entertained us with the following wonderful narrative of his own life.
My father's name, says he, is Eugenius the chief of one of the most ancient houses in this kingdom, whose ancestors for several hundred years have born the title of Dukes of Orthotimia. At twenty-five years of age he was married to a young lady called Paramythia, of quality nothing inferior to himself. This couple lived together in all the felicity of a married state for seven full years, before they had any issue; at the end of which time, I was born to them. But, such is the uncertainty of all worldly happiness, my birth seemed to be the birth of their sorrows, and few joyful days befell them afterwards.
About the same time a rebellion was raised by certain discontented Lords, who lived in our neighbourhood, which, by the timely care of his present Majesty was suppressed, 'ere it got to any considerable height. Among those who were taken into custody, as the principal fomenters of this insurrection, to the great surprise of all who knew his loyalty, my father was one. This fell out through the underhand dealings of some ill designing persons, who could not brook the high esteem he was in with his Prince, but sought all occasions to work his overthrow. And so effectually did they bring their ends about, by the advantage which this opportunity gave them, that by a decree of the Senate, he was sentenced to banishment and had all his estates forfeited, against whatever the King himself could do to prevent it, who was fully persuaded of his innocence. Thus we see upon what slippery grounds all humane grandeur is fixed. They who obtain the most exalted stations are continually pushed at by them beneath, and the higher men are, still the greater danger in their fall. Whereas they who are more lowly set are secure from such mischances, being out of the reach of envy, and not so subject to the changes and caprices of fortune.
Upon this unjust sentence, my father accompanied with his beloved consort, who was resolved to live and die with him, was in a short time constrained to take shipping, and with heavy hearts bid adieu to their native country, being only attended with a servant-man and a maid. And this was the first taste of their approaching sufferings: A sad prelude to a much sadder conclusion. They carried along with them me their issue, who at that time had scarce reached twelve months old, and was nourished at my mother's breast; it being a reproach in our country for persons of the highest rank to neglect nursing their own children, unless upon occasions of the most apparent necessity.
We had not sailed long upon the inconstant deep, 'ere we were assaulted with a most furious storm, which lasting for three whole days drove us upon an unknown coast, where the ship beat with such vehemence upon the sand, that she was expected every moment to fall to pieces. In this extremity all that could, except my father and mother who concluded it safest to stay by the ship, got into the boat hoping to reach the land; but full dearly did they pay for their rashness, for every soul perished in the attempt, being swallowed up in the boiling waves. Whereas had they staid behind, they had without doubt been preserved with us. For the vessel being strongly built endured the violence of the tempest till the ebb left her dry upon the sand, and gave us an opportunity of arriving safe upon the shore.
But small was the comfort of this unfortunate couple from this deliverance: For the place on which they were cast proved to be an uninhabited island, so that they were for some time obliged to take up their lodgings with me under the open air; and we must all inevitably have perished with famine had it not been for the helps we received from the ship, which as Heaven ordered it, both satisfied our present hunger, and enabled us to provide for the future. For the ship continuing entire for some weeks after, gave my father an opportunity of getting many necessaries on shore, which contributed much to our future subsistence: And among other things I must not forget a little dog, which was afterwards a constant attendant to me, and became a means of my future preservation.
As soon as they became better acquainted with the island, it was discovered to abound with multitudes of goats and deer, and fowls of every kind; so that by the help of his bow my father was enabled to procure us plenty of provision: And as long as we had his assistance there seemed to be no danger of suffering by want. Neither had we any thing to fear from noxious animals. Here was no appearance of beasts or birds of prey, nor was any venomous creature to be found upon the place. The young fawn and the kid grazed without fear of the lion or the wolf, and the little birds chanted forth their notes without any molestation from the hawk or the kite: So that in this respect we seemed to inhabit the paradise of our first parents; an universal peace reigning among all the animal creation. The only necessary of life wanting to us was a cottage to preserve us from the inclemencies of the weather. And this my father effected in a short time in the midst of a pleasant grove of trees, within view of the sea, nigh where we were first put ashore; still hoping it would one time be our good hap to discover some ship passing that way, which might receive us on board, and at length deliver us out of this desolate place. But vain were these hopes, for we were transported far out of the way of every trading part of the world: So that we had nothing to expect but to end our days in this remote corner; the longest survivor being left to bury the rest, his own corps remaining without burial. And had it not been for a singular providence, this must certainly have proved the case, which would have deprived me the opportunity of thus telling my story.
In this manner lived this disconsolate pair. Their food chiefly consisted of herbs and roots, and their drink was limped water, with which they were supplied from a small brook running close by the door of the cottage. Their greatest satisfaction was in devotions and spiritual exercises, the usual resort of persons in affliction. They, who have been accustomed to nothing but an uninterrupted series of prosperity, are seldom sensible of their dependent state, or the obligations they lie under to the hand which sustains them. They receive all things without once seriously considering that they do receive them, or are at all liable of being bereft of them. They are lulled asleep with the false pleasures and allurements which surround them, and are only to be roused out of that lethargy by the smart of adversity. The loss of those blessings they once enjoyed is the only way to instruct them in their value, and make them truly thankful to the giver; and, like children, men are often to be driven to their duty by chastisements. Thus it happened with my parents; till now they had never truly experienced the vanity of this world and till now they had never been truly serious in the business of the other, for their direction in which they were happily supplied with a Bible found in the ship. That divine book they deservedly looked upon as the greatest blessing which Heaven had granted them in their solitude; and their frequent meditations therein helped to make their condition more easy. It showed them that true happiness was only to be had by placing their affections and desires upon such objects as were of the same duration with their immortal souls, and no such being to be found in this world, they were therefore to seek them in another. It convinced them that religion was to be preferred before every thing else in life, and when they reflected upon the wretched coldness they had formerly shown for the worship of God, while they had the happy opportunities thereby of regularly attending on those sacred rites, which were instituted by Christ as means of grace, they could not but highly condemn themselves, and look upon it as just with God to deprive them of those blessings, which they had heretofore so wantonly abused. But yet they hoped that the neglect of such duties, such as their present circumstances rendered impossible for them to perform, would not hereafter be imputed to them as sins, but the will be graciously accepted for the deed.
And the consequent of these reflections was a perfect reconciliation to their present condition. They now looked upon themselves to be as sufficiently supplied with all the real necessaries of life as ever, though not in so splendid a manner. Their homely fare went down with as good a relish, as when they were entertained with more costly dishes; and their sleep was as sweet upon their beds of moss, as what they formerly enjoyed upon those of down: The reason was because they now eat and slept only to satisfy Nature and not luxury. It is true they had not now the same advantages of society, but this was balanced to them, when they considered that they had so much left of vanity and impertinence. In fine, they began to look upon this change as so far from being an evil, that they blessed God for using such a means to bring them to a true knowledge of themselves, and were in the highest degree thankful for the many conveniences providence has furnished them with in this desolate place, the want of any one of which would have made their condition much worse.
Thus were they beginning to conceive a greater felicity that their former condition had ever afforded them: And to add to their satisfaction, I now also began to divert them with such innocent little actions, as are common to children of my age. But Heaven had yet in reserve a far more weighty affliction for my father than any he had hitherto felt. For within seven months after our shipwreck he was bereft of the better half of his soul, his dear Paramythia, who, not being able long to endure this change in the manner of living, took sickness and died, thereby leaving a new care upon his hands to provide for me, who till now had been wholly fed at her breasts. I want words to express the grief he conceived at this new calamity, which as far exceeded all other, as the weight of a mountain exceeds that of a mole-hill. He for some time made the senseless woods and hills resound to his piteous lamentations, and now thought all room for future comfort entirely taken from him. But at length after the first sallies of his passion were over reason and religion took place: And when he came to serious reflection, he carried himself with more moderation. The religious man has something within, to support him under every inconvenience which can befall him from without: And whenever an affliction happens in his life, he opposes it to the joys he has in prospect in the other; and by this means has a ballast to keep his mind steady through all the tempests of this lower world, which every other person wants. My father could not indeed but be deeply sensible of the greatness of the loss he sustained by this affliction, which lay the more heavy on him by reason of his present circumstances; but this was made more easy when he considered that hers was the gain, looking upon her as gone a little before to a place where he expected shortly after to follow, and again enjoy her fellowship infinitely more of both their satisfactions. Having partly calmed his mind with these reflections, he went about to reposite her corps in the ground with as much decency as he could; and so like the widowed turtle was left alone to look about for the main maintenance of his babe. And herein the hand of providence appeared very signally for his relief. For some time before this melancholy accident, having found a lame hind followed by her fawn, he brought both to his habitation; and killing the fawn made an enclosure round his cottage for the old one, which yielded us no little relief from its milk; but above all was serviceable to me after my mother's death. And as Nature has endowed me with more than common means of providing for my own sustenance, in prospect of what was afterwards to befall me; 'ere I could well run about, my father at his return from shooting would frequently find me either sucking at the dugs of this brute animal, or digging up certain roots with which the island abounded: The former I suppose I learned from the fawn, which I had seen kept two or three days with its mother; and the latter from my companion the dog, who fetched most of his living thus out of the ground. And it was not long 'ere I had need of all this provision for myself.
The loss of his beloved consort put a stop to my fathers growing felicity, and in spite of all his fortitude, for some time reduced him to a state more disconsolate than ever. The thoughts of her sweet fellowship came ever and anon into his mind, and as often as looked upon me, my innocent smilings, as ignorant of my own loss, drew showers of tears from his eyes. One day laden with these sad reflections, as he was looking out to sea, he imagined he discovered land not far off, which upon a stricter examination he found to be true. And so far was he now out of love with his solitude, that he studied how he might get himself transported thither with me, at all adventures, in hopes of finding some of his own species to converse with. While he was big with these thoughts, recollecting the ship's boat which lay still upon the beach, he went directly to her, to examine whether she was capable of carrying us such a voyage or no. And perceiving her still sound and entire, with a great deal of toil he got her launched into the flood mark, and watched the coming of the tide that he might draw her up into a creek hard by; being resolved to put his purpose into execution, as soon as he saw the weather begin to settle, which at that time was not very promising. Thus do we foolishly neglect the real enjoyment which are in our means in a continued pursuit after such supposed ones as are not in our power, and the desire of disengaging ourselves out of a lesser evil frequently throws us into a greater. For this unfortunate undertaking proved a further addition to our calamity, by causing our separation, and so bereaving us of those helps we might have received from one another by continuing together. No sooner had he got into the boat and thrust her a little from the shore by the assistance of one of her oars, but the ebb coming on he was insensibly sucked into a current, which hurried him into the main ocean in spite of all his attempts to the contrary. And before evening came on, the boat was stranded on another small island, about five leagues distant from the former, lying on the quite contrary side to the land he first discovered. This island was indeed plainly discernible from the island where I was left, but either through the fogginess of the air, or his neglect in observing towards that quarter, it had hitherto escaped his notice.
Any one may easily imagine what consternation my father was in at this accident, and the thoughts of his own perishing in the deep, that which he expected nothing less, was not half so afflicting to him as the concern he had for me. But when contrary to these expectations, he so soon got his foot once more upon firm land, he was not without hopes of returning to me again by the advantage of a contrary tide. To which purpose he made the boat fast to a tree, and the night coming on retired up the island, where finding a large hollow oak, it served him for a lodging place till the morrow. But no rest could he take for reflecting what would become of me in his absence. And his trouble was increased, when he perceived it about midnight to blow a violent tempest, which he saw, to his sorrow, would detain him from me till I should be in danger of perishing for want of relief.
But if this was so great a pain to him, what agonies might he be expected to be driven to on the morrow, when he beheld the boat, wherein lay all his hopes, washed away with the sea? At the sight of this, he stood for some time with his eyes and hands lift up to Heaven like a statue, and then recovering himself cried out in the most pitiful manner, O! my infant! my infant! wringing his hands and beating his breast; and, so far had he now forgot all bounds of moderation, even cursing the hour of his birth, which had brought him in such a world of misfortunes.
Then did he run along the shore in search after the boat, one while hoping he might find it somewhere thrown up by the tide; and when he perceived this in vain, he sat down to weep like a child and give vent to his grief; blaming himself much for this last foolish undertaking, which had thrown him into the lowest depth of misery. And thus was my father, after all his other calamities, wrested from the last resort of comfort he had remaining in the world, giving up his child now also for lost after the most miserable manner: By which he well saw that a man's afflictions can never be so great, but they are still capable of being greater.
For some days after this unhappy chance, he continued wandering about without either meat or sleep, till through grief and abstinence he found his strength so far decayed, that he thought it not possible for him long to survive: And the near prospect of death, which was now the only thing desirable to him, was the only abatement of his anguish.
In the height of this extremity, as he lay along the ground, he was overtaken at length with a profound sleep, when he thought he saw his beloved Paramythia looking at him with an air of the utmost tenderness, and speaking to him in these words: Is it thus, Eugenius, that you bear the momentary sufferings of this life. I thought you had arrived to greater proficiency in the school of affliction, and your faith by this time had been proof against any thing which could have befallen you in your present state: Consider the many thousand souls in the world, whose sufferings are vastly greater than yours, and whose crimes, it may be, are much less. It is true you are confined as well as they, but surely in a confinement much more tolerable. They lie chained at the oar, or perhaps are shut up in loathsome dungeons, whose stench is enough to stop the breath of their visitors, being quite debarred from the comfortable sight of the sun: You walk at liberty, having nothing from without to annoy you. They scarce obtain food sufficient to support Nature: You have of the best of the fruits of the Earth to taste at pleasure. They are as destitute as you of all hopes of future deliverance; and perhaps have this more to afflict them, that they are in daily expectation of finishing a wretched life by a shameful and painful death. If you say that your present grief arises not from your own misfortune, but from the misfortunes of another through your default, let this satisfy you, It was by the direction of Heaven that it should be so, who will bring all to a happy issue, when he sees fit. After she finished these words, she seemed to vanish, leaving my father alone to reflect upon what he has seen and heard.
When he awoke from this dream, he found himself very much refreshed; and looking upon me now as certainly dead, began to prepare for his residence in this place, which, as he had none else to take care for, was equal to him with the other. But herein I proved much better than he expected; for though I had not yet arrived to full two years old, I made a shift for myself, after the manner you have already heard.
The island, upon which my father was now cast, was much like the former, and abounded with the same sort of living creatures. But these could not be of the same advantage to him, since he was bereft of his bow and arrows, and all sorts of instruments to provide them: So that his food here consisted wholly of herbs and roots, without any more nourishing diet.
Only his Bible he carried still along with him, and by that means enjoyed one comfort, which he had otherwise wanted. And so much did he converse with this, especially in the psalms of David, and the books of the New Testament, that he could have repeated these mostly by heart; and so carried always along with him both the truest director, and most effectual comforter for any incident and trial, which might befall him.
In this condition lived my father and I for near nineteen years, he in one island, and I in the other. But in the end, Heaven found out a means for our deliverance, and my father saw himself put into a capacity of once more visiting his native country; and what was least of all expected, obtained another sight of me.
The accident fell out thus. One of his Majesty's ships of war in pursuit of the enemy came up with these islands, which were three in number. They first put ashore in the island where my father resided; and notwithstanding his ragged disguise, he was known to most of the officers, who could scarce tell how to express the joy they conceived at so unlooked for an accident, and that fortune had put it in their power to do service to one, for whom they had so great an esteem.
They had not staid many hours on this island, ere they returned with my father on board, and treated him according to his dignity. But before they pursued their voyage homewards, the captain in compliance to my father's request, accompanied him into the other island, that he might once more visit the remains of his beloved consort, and child, before he took his final adieu of the place.
Here my father to his surprise, found so great an alteration in and about his former cottage, that he could scarce discern it to be the place it was. A proof to him that it must since have been occupied by some later inhabitant; of which, they were all sufficiently convinced, when to their great astonishment they beheld a naked youth coming out of the woods, and mingling boldly among them, as one desirous of their acquaintance; but all the while silent. My father was presently sensible that this must be his son, who had by some extraordinary means been thus preserved; and my near resemblance to him bespoke no less to the whole company. And overcome with transport at this unexpected sight, he ran towards me, clasped me in his arms, and was for some time not able to speak for the overflowings of his joy: I in the mean time showing no less tokens of affection, after my mute and unpolished manner; as if secretly acquainted with the nearness of our relation. After these mutual endearments were over, my father taking his last farewell of my mother's tomb, beckoned to me to follow him with the rest of the company to the ship, which I readily and joyfully obeyed, like one unwilling by any means to be separated afterwards from him.
After all things were in readiness we hoisted sail for Epinoia, where in a short time we safely arrived, to the wonder of every one who saw us. The general notion had been, that we were cast away in our transportation to banishment, which was no small affliction to the king, and most of his subjects: My father's innocence of what he was maliciously accused being soon after made clear to the world.
The news of his return was therefore most joyfully received by his Majesty, who determined to make him all possible amends for his past sufferings; in consequence of which, all his estates, and the profits of them, ever since his banishment, were faithfully restored, and [in] the highest court preferments were offered him. But these last he modestly refused, as being quite out of love with a life of splendour and noise, and chose rather to pass the remainder of his days in privacy and retirement.
He retired to a country seat, not many miles hence, where he has ever since remained, so disposing his temporal estate, as he thinks may best secure his eternal one. His chief employment, beside his devotion to his creator, is in works of benefaction and charity to his fellow creatures; delighting most to imitate God in that most amiable attribute of his goodness. His house is a peaceable asylum for the distressed and miserable, and he is always a zealous defender of such as are wronged and oppressed. The principal thing which can recommend any man to his favour, is honesty and integrity; and where ever these are found he looks over smaller errors, and gives the most charitable allowance for greater. What time he sets apart for company, is spent with a few select friends; and his meals rather favour of frugality, than profuseness.
And thus after all his afflictions, he is often heard to apply that testimony concerning Job to himself, that his latter end is better than his beginning; since he is now free from all those trials and vexations, to which his former state of prosperity exposed him. Only the death of my mother, whose beloved idea can never be erased out of his mind, that he looks upon as a calamity never to be retrieved to him, so long as he remains on this side of the grave.
As for myself, at my first arrival, my father could not indeed but lament my ignorant condition, being as destitute of all language, as the brute beasts my companions; but the exceeding tractableness of my disposition gave him great hopes, that due care might retrieve the loss I had sustained in my education, which happened in the principal time of life for acquiring it.
And herein I much surpassed his expectation; for when I became capable of expressing my thoughts to my tutors; to their great amazement, they found me more like a philosopher than a savage; having attained as just a notion of many important truths, by my own reflections alone, as if I had learned them from the mouth of a Plato or Aristotle. I guessed the matter of my own original from that of other creatures, and from the works of the Creation I inferred the being of the Creator. The utter incapacity of thought in matter, as such, instructed me in the independence of these one upon another; and from hence I gathered the natural incorruptibility of the thinking principle. I learned a sort of arithmetic peculiar to myself, and my necessities taught me to perform several problems in geometry: In fine, within three years I was sent to this university, where I have now continued about twice that term, and am just about to make my return.
Thus you have heard a short relation of my father's troubles, together with the manner of my own preservation: An instance, perhaps, of as surprising a providence, as can any where be met with in history; which, among other uses, may serve to show us the kindness usually meant us by the chastisements of Heaven; and thereby excite our gratitude under every cross accident, which may befall us. The ways of providence are not to be fathomed by our finite comprehensions; and we usually look upon the evil of every disappointment of our hopes, or designs, without considering at all the immensely greater good, which it may possibly bring along with it to us; and that alone is what renders it an evil indeed. He who views my father's circumstances in their worst situation, as bereft of all humane comforts, and left in a desolate island to shift for himself, may perhaps be apt to judge his case very miserable, but he will not continue long to think so, if he attend to the issue: For the good he has thereby attained does infinitely surpass all the evils he suffered.
And with respect to myself, I look upon my banishment from humane society, as so far from being an evil, that I account it one of the greatest blessings which could have befallen me. It must indeed be confessed, I have by this means lost many valuable opportunities of improving my knowledge; yet when I compare this inconvenience with the advantage attending it, I cannot but look upon my gain, as much superior to my loss. For the mind, like a tender plant during its immature state, is capable of putting on any form, but much more susceptible of bad impressions than good; the affections being generally engaged, before the judgment is able to discern the consequence. But in me it was just the reverie. My first conversation with mankind had some resemblance to Adam's appearance in the world, immediately after his Creation; my mind being in the best capacity to examine what was offered it, before it gave its assent to either side of a question: So that in this respect, my ready compliance with the principal truths of revealed religion is a most strong argument against those stale cavils, which are brought by unbelievers from prejudice and education.
Here Autonous broke off his story, which had all the while been attentively listened to be the whole company. The hard fate of his father and mother drew tears of most of the hearers. They could not forbear relenting at so melancholy a tale, and showed the utmost tokens of a deep compassion. The unparalleled fortitude also of this afflicted pair, through the course of their misfortunes, was for some time the subject of our discourse: And we could not but admire with what resignation and constancy they bore the burden, which heaven had thought fit to lay upon them.
But the strangest part of this relation was what regarded Autonous himself. The manner of his preservation in the island, and his way of living during his solitude, was what every one had a desire to know: and the means, by which he acquired the knowledge he spoke of, did vastly raise the companies curiosity.
They therefore earnestly requested, since the time and opportunity permitted, that he would favour them with a history, which seemed to abound with such a series of wonders, and promised them so much satisfaction in the hearing. In compliance to which he courteously proceeded as follows.
When I run over the transactions of my past life, as far as my utmost remembrance can carry me, my sight seems to terminate in the point, when I first, as it were, found myself in being, in or about my father's cottage: Beyond which I am entirely in the dark, as to my original; having not the least remembrance of any of my own species, before the arrival of the king's ship with my father. Nor do I remember any thing of the hind, by which I imagine I was for some time suckled; my whole living consisting of the before mentioned roots, with the fruits of the trees in their season, which I became acquainted with from the example of the fowls of the air. About this place was the former part of my life entirely spent; and I can well call to mind the branch of an adjacent tree, under which I could once walk upright, but immediately before my transportation hither would scarce reach the height of my navel. From hence would I often take my little journeys, and would sometimes wander so far, that I could not have found the way back, had it nor been for my companion the dog. Whenever he missed me, he would not fail to search through every grove and thicket, keeping a continual barking: And when he found me, he would show no little joy at our meeting.
The Relation of AUTONOUS concerning his own life in the island.
During this part of my life, my rational faculty laid, as it were, dormant within me. I never made the least reflection upon my condition, nor turned my thoughts to the contemplation of any thing about me. I would indeed often with pleasure view the beauty of the flowers of the field, and the shining colours of certain insects, which I found creeping among the grass: I would also gaze at the brightness of the sun, the moon, and the stars; but all this without the least consideration of their original or use. Every object, which came within the reach of my senses, could not but impress its idea upon my mind; but as these impressions came without any act of my own, so lay they neglected without further notice, till some accident renewed the impression.
And such I conceive is the thoughtless state of all persons, for the greatest part of their childhood, while the mind is furnishing itself with instruments to work with: During which time we are little better than brutes themselves; being wholly unacquainted with any thing but sensible objects, and with such no longer, than while the senses are affected by them.
And doubtless this state continued longer in me, by reason of the disadvantages I laboured under. For society is not only necessary for men's mutual help and comfort, but also for their mutual instruction: By this, their attention is roused and directed to many objects, which would otherwise escape their notice, and perhaps never be thought of by them at all. And were all men left to furnish their heads with notions from their own observations alone, their knowledge would certainly be very inconsiderable, in comparison with what they acquire from the helps of one another. For what knowledge can any person boast of, but what he is indebted to others for; and what a poor figure would he make, if spoiled of all his borrowed endowments?
Men discover themselves sufficiently sensible of this, in their readiness to own so much they are beholden to humane arts and sciences, for improving and polishing their minds; and he would be accounted most wildly unreasonable, who affirmed that a man might attain to equal accomplishments without these helps.
But such is the infatuation (or rather unaccountable perverseness and ingratitude) of infidelity, that it renders some insensible to the obligations they lie under to the divine instructions of Christianity: As if what was entirely owing to the advantage they had from the place of their nativity; because they sucked it in imperceptibly with their mother's milk and daily conversation, was therefore purely inbred to them, and would have been the same where-ever providence had been pleased to place them.
It is true there are always some particular persons in the wildest countries, who distinguish themselves above the rest of their companions, by a prevailing curiosity and application in the study of Nature. But as these are very rare, so is their progress in knowledge proportionally small, as they are unassisted by others. With such an inquisitive disposition was I naturally endowed; which (with other causes I shall mention hereafter) I conceive to have been the occasion of all the improvements I made. And had it not been for these, I had doubtless still continued as much an infant in knowledge, and been as little different from the brutes, my companions, as has been reported of others under the same circumstances.
The first time I can remember myself brought to serious reflection happened on this manner. One remarkably hot day I strayed something farther than on ordinary from my cottage; and going to a lake to quench my thirst, I was surprised with the appearance of a creature, as I thought, in the lake, of a shape very different from any thing I ever had seen; which, as I stooped to the water, seemed to leap upwards at me, as if in a design to pull me to it. Terrified at the supposed danger, I started back, and fled with all possible haste to a neighbouring wood for shelter; where I skulked for some time, before I durst look out again: Till at length my thirst returning, and perceiving no farther appearance of harm, I took courage to visit another part of the lake, hoping to drink with less disturbance. But no sooner did I stoop down to the water again, that I was scared back with a like spectacle as before. And this second disappointment made the place become so dreadful to me, that I thought the greatest safety was in being farthest distant from it.
It may perhaps be thought strange, that I should all this while be so afraid of nothing but my own shadow. For this was the first time I ever had beheld it in the water; all the other fountains and rivulets I had hitherto seen, though sufficiently clear and transparent, having been either too shallow or too rapid to cast a reflection distinct enough to fall under my notice. But not long after I grew better acquainted with such appearances.
I cannot though forget the deep impression which this affright left upon me, insomuch, that for several weeks after, I durst hardly look out of my cottage; and my sleep was frequently disturbed with fearful starts and dreams. But time wore this off, and the continual sight of no danger, emboldened me to walk about as usual: Only the lake was a long time frightening to me, whenever I came near it.
This accident as it were roused me out of my hitherto stupid condition into a sense of myself; which first broke out in such inward expostulations as these: What am I? How came I here? Upon which I would every now and then run over in my mind all the transactions, which occurred, of my past life to the present time. And so intent was I in these contemplations that I became heedless of every thing else; and as I walked along would often stumble and fall over whatever came in my way. But my mind was taken off from this thoughtfulness concerning herself, as her curiosity prevailed towards other things; which now began to drive me abroad more than usual to take notice of every object falling in my way. And this I conjecture might happen about the ninth or tenth year of my age.
In one of my perambulations towards the south part of the island, I chanced upon a delicious vale, surrounded on every side, in form of an oblong square, with hills of a considerable height, whose verdant ascents were here and there bestrewed with many delightful arbours; the whole affording one of the most entertaining prospects I had ever seen. This vale was watered with a crystal brook, which took its rise from the fore-mentioned lake, and forming many sportive meanders, was lost a few miles below in the sea.
Here, coming to a place where the water ran smooth and deep, I could not but with some astonishment observe another sky, as I thought at the bottom; or rather here seemed to be no bottom at all, but another world presented itself to view, with all things answering in an inverted order to this above. While I stood musing at this sight, which for some time filled me with a kind of pleasing horror, anon the dog's shadow also showed itself, as he coursed along the river's brink: and upon my nearer approach, the bottom appearing, discovered all to be nothing but the natural reflection of the water: An appearance which I had hitherto been altogether unacquainted with. Then immediately recalling to mind what had heretofore so much affrighted me, I concluded it to have been nothing else but mine own image and resemblance; and venturing nearer the water, though not without some diffidence, I was agreeably taken to find it so indeed.
This surprised me into a notion of other creatures of my own species, which now had never entered into my head; while I took notice of myself and the dog as to solitary animals different from all others, without any thing to be seen any where like us. Then recollecting what I had already seen concerning the general method by which all other living creatures propagate their likes, and withal observing the conformity between us and them in many respects, I concluded our coming into the world must have been after a like manner. I was certain, on my own part, I had not been here always, and I could not but make the same inference concerning the dog. The cause therefore of our being alone I conjectured as follows.
I had often had a fair view of the island, where my father all this while resided; and having experienced the appearance of objects to decrease as their distances increased, I supposed the main ocean to be nothing but a great lake, encompassed with land, of which that island was a part, the rest lying beyond the reach of my sight. That land I imagined was inhabited with multitudes of creatures of my own species, from whence I supposed myself and the dog, by some means, to have been transported from the rest of our fellows to the place we now were in; which I conceived to be the same in the middle of the sea with those hillocks or islands I had often taken notice of in the forementioned lake. Such were my first conjectures concerning my original: And what served to confirm me in this opinion, was the structure of the cottage where I slept, which, when I compared with the regular apartments of a kind of beavers inhabiting along the lake, I guessed must have been built by some of my own predecessors for a like use.
But the greatest proof to my being originally a foreigner to this place, was the several instruments and utensils found in my lodgings, together with the remains of the boat; which, as I before remarked, after my father's unfortunate voyage with it into the other island, had been driven back again by the storm, and left upon the beach. This last I suspected to be, as it really was, a vessel contrived on purpose for such transportations over the sea. And when I considered the difference of the materials in my cottage, not only in shape, but for the most part in consistence too, from every thing else in the island, so that they appeared as so many anomalies in Nature; I doubted not but it was the very same in which they had been conveyed, together with myself and the dog, into this desolate part of the world. And it being not impossible but the same, which happened to me, might also happen to others; this put me in expectation that one time or other I might probably see some other humane creature make a like voyage to the same place.
These were some of the first essays of reason in me: how just the conclusions were, must be referred to the judgments of others. My first notions of things seemed to be entirely casual, and the inferences I drew from thence proceeded no farther than my necessities prompted. The want of humane conversation was in some sort made up to me by associating with the brutes, and the instruction I received from their silent language, served instead of a politer education.
But what is the beginning of reason, but the beginning of sorrow, to creatures whose reason can only serve to discover their wants and imperfections to them? These reflections bereaved me of that undisturbed tranquillity, which I enjoyed during my thoughtless condition. While I knew no want, I had no uneasiness about any. But now my mind continually ran upon the thoughts of humane society. Without this I imagined there could be no happiness. I therefore envied the blessing in every other species of creatures. And had the boat been in sufficient repair, I cannot tell but this passionate desire might have engaged me in the same imprudent undertaking, which occasioned my father's separation from me. So strong an inclination has Nature implanted in us for the conversation of our fellow-creatures, in order to communicate our joys and griefs, and sympathize under one another's sufferings.
But I was effectually diverted from these ungrateful thoughts, when I came to apply more closely to the study of Nature, which every where presented me with fresh scenes of wonder; and the more I observed, still the more was my curiosity increased. The first thing which drew my attention was, how the ground brought forth its fruits, by which all living creatures were nourished, and seemed to receive their whole essence. I observed the manner how the trees, the grass, and the flowers did grow; each yielding its proper seed for new clothing to their Mother Earth on their decay. The beautiful contexture also which appeared in each individual, gave me no small delight. And in time I learned how these successive renewals of Nature exactly corresponded with the motions of the sun, at whose annual approach the woods and meadows put on a smiling green, and the flowers short forth their heads; and at his removal to the more southern climates all things seemed to fade and droop, as if they only lived in hopes of his return, which never failed at the constant time. I marked the agreement between the moon and tide, and the revolutions of the lesser heavenly luminaries were the subject of my nocturnal contemplations: And I employed some time in considering the figure, situation, and beautiful variety of colours in the rainbow. I discovered the necessity of rain and the solar heat, to ripen the fruits of the Earth; and the use of morning and evening dews, to supply the absence of the former, was likewise known to me. I considered the admirable structure of the bodies of every species of animals, within my observation; how appositely they were framed to serve purposes and ways of living, and what surprising art and foresight they showed for the preservation of themselves and their young. In fine, I beheld the marks of wisdom where-ever I cast my eyes. An universal harmony and dependence appeared through all the parts of the Creation, and the most neglected things, when duly examined were not without their manifest use; and I was every where surprised with an apparently wise design, where the least design was expected.
Thus from the works of Nature and Providence, I was naturally led to the knowledge of the first mover. For beauty and fitness are, as it were, the signatures of reason impressed upon matter; and where-ever these occur, we are as necessarily constrained to acknowledge them for the work of some intelligent agent, as from the sight of a shadow to conclude the substance whence it is projected. Nor are all the seeming defects in the structure and economy of the Universe, in any comparison, so strong an argument for ascribing it to the effect of a chance; as the least visible imperfection, in the most accomplished humane performance is to prove the same concerning it. Yet strange perverseness of men! there is no person who does not readily grant, nay would be ashamed not to grant, the strokes of the artist's hand in the latter; while some would pretend an utter insensibility of the infinitely more flagrant tokens of skill in the former. They think it a disparagement of their reason, not to perceive the workmanship of man; and yet affect it as an argument of the sublimest reason, to be blind to the finger of God.
And with the same reason, as these marks of wisdom in the operations of Nature inferred the intelligence of the primary cause, did the perfect dependence and connexion, which appeared through the whole performance, imply both that and his unity. For whenever the mind attends to this stupendous complication of movements, among which she cannot but look upon herself as a part of the whole, and observes the entire dependence each has upon another, she is necessarily cast upon one first mover, and traces all from the same power : Which power, when she reflects upon all the different powers perceived within herself, she must needs conclude to be the original fountain, from whence they also proceed; and consequently that this must be the centre of all possible perfection. And as I was certain there was a time, when myself in particular was not, so I inferred there must have been a time when this whole Creation in general was not, at least in the manner I now beheld it; and the first cause alone must exist prior to every thing caused.
It will be easy for you to guess, to how many perplexities I was driven in contemplating the nature of this infinite being. And it can hardly be expected, but I must in many respects shoot vastly wide of the mark, while left without any other direction than my own short-sighted reason.
The result was, I now began to view all things in a quite different light from what I had hitherto done. I did not now only look upon things as they respected one another, but as they also stood in relation to God. Whenever I cast my eyes upon beings inanimate, they served as a speculum, wherein I contemplated the admirable wisdom and power of that adorable being, who thus ordered and upheld them. And when I carried my meditations farther, and considered moreover how all those by his direction conspired to the well-being of the animal creation, and of myself in particular, my resentments were wholly turned upon that more moving attribute of his goodness. I now found something which did more than barely engage my admiration by also kindling my love, and exciting in me the deepest sense of gratitude. I could not but with pleasure reflect upon that inexhaustible stock of beneficence, which thus freely shed itself upon a world of intelligent beings, who had their whole dependence of happiness from thence.
Here I must note, that all along I took every living animal to have also the same consciousness and power over the actions which I had. I looked upon them as rational creatures, as well as myself, and accordingly was all my behaviour toward them. And whenever I attended to the harmonious chantings of the feathered tribes, or delighted myself with beholding the innocent sportings of the nimble footed deer, I esteemed all as the several ways of expressing their gratitude to the invisible author of their being: All things seeming to conspire together, in singing forth the praises of the great Creator of Heaven and Earth. But of all methods of expressing the resentments of my mind, I ever esteemed that of the voice as most natural, by which the animal seemed to pour out his thoughts with his breath. This therefore, I conceived, was likely to be the method used among men to communicate their minds in conversing one with another.
The first time I has these pleasing thoughts, I perceived a secret joy to dart into my soul, the impressions of which were so strong upon me, that the tears ran plentifully down my cheeks. Of such force are the tokens of the divine beneficence, from the mere light of Nature alone, to excite our adoration and gratitude. But how much stronger motives has every faithful Christian to provoke these acknowledgments, from the joint consideration of those surprising instances of kindness and condescension, whereby the second and third persons of the ever blessed Trinity have father engaged wretched men? And thus you have heard, how the first rudiments of religion began to appear in me from the consideration of the goodness of God to his creatures, by exciting me to those angelical returns of praise and thanksgiving.
To the best of my remembrance it was about this time of my life when, one evening, having been very much taken up with contemplating the beautiful colours of the rainbow; a while after the sun went down, I was also diverted with the sight of an ignis fatuus in a piece of low meadow ground, not far from my cottage. I observed how swiftly it flew from place to place, sometimes seeming as if quite extinguished, when anon it appeared more glaring than ever, dancing on the opposite side. This was the first time I had ever beheld any luminous body, besides those in the heavens. And supposing this to be something of the same nature with them, my curiosity was highly raised to have a nearer view of it; but I found myself very much disappointed in the attempt. In my return home, my eyes were also drawn aside with a spot of ground in my way, which seemed to be all bespangled with little stars. These being lights neither so large, nor of so unsteady and volatile a nature as the former, and wholly confined to one place, I secured one or two of them in a hole in the ground, which I covered warily with a stone, purposing the next morning to satisfy my curiosity with a more perfect view of them. And when the morning came, I found I had imprisoned a couple of worms, of which sort I discovered many creeping about the same place. But I could perceive none of them to have now anymore lustre than the grass, among which they crawled. I released my prisoners from their confinement, not without some self- condemnation for the injury I had done to creatures, which I supposed were endowed with the same resentments as myself. And spending the whole following day in and about the same place, as the darkness of the evening came on, I could perceive them all to recover their former brightness; though they emitted a much fainter light than what I had observed in the forementioned wandering flame.
I must here remark, that thunder and lightning from Heaven were things which rarely or never happened in this island, so that I could have no experience to rectify my notions from thence. But an accident afterwards fell out which gave me a more perfect knowledge of the nature of light, and fire, than I could have wished; though the order of my story requires that I relate other occurrences first.
One day as I was rambling along the banks of the sea- shore, the winds arose in so violent a manner, that presently the sea was all over froth, the waves going mountain high, and it was with the utmost difficulty I could stand upon my feet. In this extremity I made what haste I could home to my cottage, as the fittest place of shelter: But all the way was with the utmost danger of my life, from the fall of several large trees, which were blown up by the roots close by me, while I could do little else but crawl upon all four.
At length with a great deal of hardship I reached my habitation a while before sun-set, which being pretty well defended by its situation from the storm, I found all things in the same order, as I left them; only a little shelf close behind where the door had formerly hung, was blown down, with two small beautiful stone bottles upon it, one of which was broken. These had always stood here unobserved by me, containing a most delicious and heady sort of wine, which my father had, saved among other things, out the wreck; and belike put it by in this place, to have recourse to, upon occasion, as a cordial.
Being very much fatigued, I took no notice of any thing that evening, but went to my rest, where I was presently hushed asleep by the whistling of the wind among the trees, and continued so till morning. When I arose I beheld the sky perfectly clear and serene, without the least breeze of wind to be felt; and by the vast quantities of water, which I saw pouring down the hills at a distance, and filling the rivulets all around, I could perceive what a heavy weight of rain had fallen in the night. But I was a while at a stand to know whence the agreeable scent proceeded, which perfumed my cottage, till I traced it from the remains of the broken bottle.
This tempted me to taste some of the liquor, which still remained in one of the fragments; and being transported with the delightful relish of the bewitching juice, I found a way to open the other bottle, of which I quaffed so largely, that I perceived the effects of it in my brain, before I was aware. At first I wondered what should be the matter with me, being in such a condition as I had never before experienced myself. The ground on which I stood, seemed to rock from side to side, and every thing around appeared in a swimming motion, so that I could scarce stand upon my feet. And fearing that my cottage should over-set with me, I made what haste I could out of it, but could find no place more stable to fix my feet on, till I fell into a profound sleep by chance among some bushes of rosemary, into which I had thrust myself. I awoke no more till the next day, when I found myself in a most piteous condition. I was scarce able to bear the intolerable pains I felt in my head, and the nauseous relics of the wine, which every now and then kept belching up upon me, made me as much out of love with the liquor, as before had admired it: And to add to these torments my body was all over sore, and stiff with the several bruises I had got by my repeated falls. In short it was some weeks before I threw off the disorder this brought upon me. And out of vexation for the injuries I had received, I threw the remainder of this baneful liquor, bottle and all, into the sea.
During the time of this indisposition, I had a heaviness upon my spirits, which inclined me to sleep more than ordinary in the day, and by that means being driven from my accustomed rest in the night, I spent a great part of that time, in walking abroad; and viewing Nature, while every other animal lay hush and still without any thing to interrupt their sweet repose, but the unwelcome disturbances I sometimes gave them. In these nocturnal perambulations I often had the opportunity to see the seeming shooting of the stars from place to place; and sometimes they appeared as if falling to the ground, where I once or twice found a white jelly like matter among the grass, which I imagined to be distilled from them; and hence foolishly conjectured that the stars themselves must certainly consist of a like substance.
One of these nights the moon being in the full, and the sky serene and free from clouds, I had the first observation of that luminary in an eclipse. I was surprised to see it all on a sudden grow dark and dismal, at a time when I rather expected the light should increase by the addition of the twilight. And looking up into the sky, to my exceeding amazement, I beheld a great part of the moon turned red as blood, and presently her whole body was the same colour, with a little spot or dent in the middle which appeared perfectly black. I stood wondering a long time at this uncommon appearance, not knowing what to make of it; till anon I observed the redness by degrees to go off on the opposite side; and before the sun was up, I was pleased to behold the moon again resume her former splendour.
Not long after, I had also the sight of an eclipse of the sun, which I presently concluded to be occasioned by the interposition of the body of the moon. But this of the moon I could never assign any proper cause for, till I became acquainted with the derivation of light from the sun, and considered the necessary projection of the Earth's shadow into the boundless expanse of the heavens.
On another of these nights before my disorder left me, the moon having not yet lost much of her full brightness, I was startled with an appearance of a different nature; by which, whether I was more frightened or pleased, from my unexpected coming upon it, I cannot tell. As I was thoughtlessly turning about the corner of a hill, I beheld one in humane shape placed directly in my way a little distance before me. A sight which made my heart flutter within me, and immediately brought to mind all those pleasing notions I had formed to myself concerning the society of my fellows, which I now thought myself at length assured of; but wondered how this person came hither, or if he always resided in the island that I should never see him before. All the while I beheld the object continue in the same posture, without taking the least notice of my approach: But as I came nearer, I was not a little disappointed, to see all my hopes vanish, when I discovered it to be nothing else but the stock of a decayed tree, which, by its situation, to me, and the reflection of the moon, assisted with the strength of my own imagination, was thus represented. The time was not yet come for me to enjoy the conversation of humans, but I was still to content myself with the fellowship of my little dog, and such other brutes as were natives of the island; some of which afforded an excellent pattern of prudence and industry, for the imitation of men.
The beavers I before spoke of, were a creature with whom I always kept a particular familiarity, as being the most sociable of all animals. I remarked with what true policy every distinct community was governed under its peculiar monarch; in what amity these several little nations lived with one another; how prudently they dispersed themselves into new colonies, as their numbers increased above what could be conveniently managed under the same government; what wisdom they showed in choosing out an agreeable situation for their new settlements; and how exceeding skilful and dextrous they were in erecting houses and fortifications, when they had found a place suitable to their desires.
I would often visit these newly begun towns attended with the dog, and took a great deal of pleasure to view the laborious inhabitants carrying on their works. I observed their method in building and repairing their dams, and admired their singular industry and providence in laying fresh stocks of green wood for sustenance, while the proper season for that sort of labour continued. But what most delighted me was, their manner of gnawing down the bodies of huge trees with their teeth, and their surprising dexterity in carrying them down to the lake, and applying them to the uses for which they were designed. In all which works I particularly ingratiated myself into the favour of these creatures, by my readiness, upon every occasion, to lend them what assistance I was able.
From the example of these creatures and my dog, I learned in time to swim in the lake, which in the hot seasons was an agreeable recreation to me. And sometimes I ventured also into the sea: But it was not till a great while after, that I discovered a new species of creatures, whose proper element was the water; which afforded me fresh matter of wonder.
Now my mind began to turn from the survey of things about her to the contemplation of herself. I referred all sorts of being to two classes, viz. active and passive, or mind and matter. The former I looked upon, as the principle of all action, upon which depended every motion and variations of matter in general, in the works of Nature and providence, were constant admonitors of the one supreme invisible agent, on which they necessarily depended; so the seemingly free and voluntary motions of those portions of matter in particular, which constituted the body of every animal, were like tokens to me of as many inferior invisible agents, on which they had their dependence. Every one of these inferior agents, as I before took notice, from the resemblance of their effects, I concluded to be of the same intelligent nature with what I felt within myself. And as I perceived in the structure of my own body an innumerable variety of motions, all as independent of any power of my own, and as much above my comprehension, as the motions of the heavenly bodies, or any other most distant part of the Creation, so I supposed the same of all animals. The mind therefore, or that inward principle by which I thought and acted, I inferred was what could be only and properly myself; the body being no other to her, than as the house to the inhabitant, or rather as the present instrument, by which she conversed with the rest of the material world, and received all her intelligence of things without.
But when I came to take a more close view of the nature of the soul, a new scene presented itself to my meditation. I here discovered a world within, which seemed an exact transcript of the world without. I observed the astonishing nature and unlimited capacity of this store-house of the mind, which according to the degree of her attention upon any thing did always receive and retain a stronger or weaker impression from it; and yet had always room for the reception of as many more. I reflected upon the unlimited power with which I was endowed of calling or dismissing, augmenting or diminishing, compounding or dividing my ideas at pleasure, by means whereof I seemed to enjoy a sort of divinity within, and resembled the same in this imaginary world, which God himself is in the real. Here in my own person I could do all things without labour, and had every thing at my own disposal without resistance or limitation. I could in a moment vault from one corner of the heavens to another, and dart the greatest distance with the same facility and speed as the least. I could in the twinkling of an eye command a world of beings out of nothing, and in as little time remand them again into their primitive state. I also took notice of the perfect dependence and connexion which my ideas had one upon another, as well according to the order of their first admission into the mind, as their affinity or similitude one to another; so that by attending to any one idea, this usually presented to the memory many more along with it, which had either been received at the same time, or were in some sort related to it.
I likewise considered the soul, while the senses were locked up with sleep, and she seemed for a season as if banished from her seat of empire; in which I experienced a two-fold state: Either, first, when she was quite bereft, for the time, both of all sensation of things without, and likewise of any perception of their images impressed within: or secondly, when she was only deprived totally of her outward sensation, but still retained the inward perception of her ideas, among which she seemed to float at random; and this last was a state of dreaming.
While I was employed with these contemplations, I used frequently to visit the beavers: Among whom I observed a new colony very busy in gnawing down trees for their dam, after the manner already related. It was a pleasant diversion to me to behold these large bodies come tumbling of their own accord down from the ascent, where they grew, into the lake below. But this pastime concluded in one of the most melancholy disasters I had ever met with. As the dog was coursing up and down the hill, one of the trees in its descent unfortunately pitched upon him, and killed him upon the spot. Affrighted at the accident, I ran, without any regard to my own safety, and catching him up in my arms carried him a little distance off, and laid him upon the grass. Here examining what mischief he had received I could perceive no visible breach in his body, save a little skin rubbed from one of his knees; but I guessed at the greatness of his hurt, by supposing the like to have befallen myself.
After I had continued some time looking on, I grew impatient to see him rise again upon his feet and fawn upon me as usual. For I had never yet seen the dead body of any animal, no not to my remembrance of the smallest insect. And his motionless condition made me at first conclude him only asleep. But after I found all endeavours i vain to bring him to himself, my confusion increased, and I began to suspect that the body was not only bereft of sense and motion for the present, but was also rendered incapable of performing the functions of life ever after. For I considered, from my own experience, that every degree of violence impressed upon me was usually followed with a proportional degree of pain, which was an utter enemy of sleep. I reasoned moreover with myself, that a greater force with the same instrument, might have been capable to separate every member of the body from its fellow, or at least to have reduced it into a state as unlike from what it was, and as incapable of recovering its former condition, as I had seen a flower or blade of grass after I had bruised it between my fingers. And in the end I became thoroughly convinced that this must be the case of my companion, whom I was now to expect no more conversation with; but in a short time must behold his body mingling with the earth, like what I constantly saw happen to every thing, which received its growth from thence. But when I came to apply these melancholy reflections to myself, it is not in my power to make you sensible of the uncommon emotions which arose within my breast: And when I suspected that my ceasing to live might be no other than a ceasing for ever to exist, which seemed to be the case of the dog now before me, this struck me with such a horror and amazement, that for some time I seemed as if driven into the very condition I so much dreaded.
When I was partly recovered out of this consternation, the day drawing to an end, I left the carcase upon the grass, and retired to my cottage, with a mind sufficiently disordered: And the dreadful apprehensions always running in my head, of what was to befall me hereafter, would suffer me to take no rest the greatest part of the night.
I now considered the exceeding uncertainty of life, and the change I was assuredly to expect sooner or later to a different condition. I plainly perceived and wondered at my dullness in not perceiving it before, that such creatures as I were not framed for an endless continuance, but were every moment liable to be deprived of the life we enjoyed by innumerable casualties, from almost every thing about us. And should we by a singular providence be secured from all these, yet I was sensible we carried the seeds of death also within us; while I observed it to be the unalterable law of all living things, after they arrived to certain degrees of perfection, to fade and die away of their own accord. So which way ever I looked I saw a time must come, when the body I now carried about with me should cease from all its motions, and be reduced to the earth from whence it proceeded.
And this return of the body to its first principles suggested a like return of the soul, upon this dissolution, to God the fountain of all intelligence and power. The soul, as I before observed, I took to be only and properly myself: This therefore I conceived could no more lose its existence, than the body, which however dispersed and mingled with other matter must still in being, somewhere or other, though in a different form. But whatever change might happen to the soul, upon this separation, I conceived it could not be thus dissolved into parts, because I could not apprehend any integral parts of which it consisted. And to suppose it dispersed into more places than one, seemed to argue a capacity in me of being divided into more I's or Self's than one, or that I might exist at the same time in many places; which was a conclusion too shocking for me to admit.
I then began to look as far backwards as I could upon my original, to try if I could remember myself in any other condition, before I was confined to this bodily vehicle; supposing it very probable that I might again be reduced to the same condition, whenever I came to be separated from it. But here I presently perceived myself lost in eternal night, and left to grope out my way in the unfathomable abyss of supposed forgetfulness. And such a state appeared no way pleasing to me, because whatever existence I might then have, if I was at the same time not conscious of it, which I suspected might be the case, this I conceived was no better than annihilation itself. Then it occurred, that the not remembering my existence in another state could be no more an argument that therefore I had at that time no existence, or which is all one, no consciousness of it, than any former transaction of life, which had slipped out of my memory, could be an argument to prove the same concerning it. But whatever existence I might have, before I was confined to the body, since I perceived the soul to enjoy always the greatest freedom in being most free from sensual objects; I concluded that therefore her total release from all such, which could only happen by her separation from the body, must be a state of the most perfect liberty: And when I looked upon this, as her return again to God, I could not but judge it also a state of the completest felicity.
By these conclusions, the change which lately appeared so dreadful to me, began to look with a much milder aspect. I considered this dissolution of the body, when ever it came, as a welcome deliverance of the soul from all those burdens and miseries, to which I saw her continually exposed in her present condition; when I should entirely be abstracted from matter, become free as the air in which I moved, and, what was above all, be translated to the most intimate conversation with, and fruition of, my maker; by means whereof I should obtain the most perfect apprehension of many desirable truths, which now I had very little or no perception of. And my heart being thus eased of the load, which oppressed it, I fell into an agreeable slumber, which continued till morning.
The next day pretty early, I went again to visit the corpse of my companion. And when I came within sight of the place, I was surprised to see a whole herd of beavers gathered about him; and, as I drew near, I discovered these animals some of them busy in digging a hole in the ground, while others were preparing to put the dead body into it, which by this time was grown offensive to the smell. At first I did not well approve of this piece of kindness to my attendant; but after some deliberation, perceiving the necessity of it, and recollecting how I had heretofore seen something like it performed by those beavers to some of their own species, I conceived it must have been upon a like occasion,
As soon as the funeral was over, the company dispersing, every one to his proper employ, left me alone to ruminate upon what had passed. And for some time, notwithstanding all my philosophy, the object before me, and the reflection of the like befalling myself, made my flesh creep upon my back, and my hair stand upright; so abhorrent to humane nature are the thoughts of her dissolution.
Thus was I deprived of my most familiar companion, having no other animal now left to converse with, but either when I visited the works of my acquaintance the beavers, or was diverted with the more gamesome frolics of the young fawns and kids. And so sensible was I, of the loss, that for a long while after, I could not recover my former briskness and gaiety.
I amused myself now with a more close review of the furniture and utensils, which I found in my cottage. These as I before observed, were the most sensible convictions to me, that the place had been heretofore occupied by others of my own species, however I came to be left alone. I had here a daily prospect of the relicts of the workmanship of some unknown animal, which were not only different in form, but even in substance, from every thing else to be seen through the whole island. And as the admirable skill which appeared in most of these, argued them to be effects of a design much beyond the reach of any animal upon the island; so the ends and uses, which I afterwards discovered in some of them, were irrefragable evidences that that design was humane.
I had for a long time taken notice of two or three knives and forks, and a hatchet disposed upon a shelf, whose sharpness I found an use for from the like use, which I beheld the beavers make of their teeth. With these were laid a hammer and a bag of large nails, of the same sort with others, which I beheld here and there struck into the sides of the cottage, on which were hung several of my father's necessaries, now grown over with rust and filth; viz. a sword, a bow, a large copper skillet, and a silver tankard with some spoons in it of the same metal. But all these, except the hammer and nails, I never was so ingenious as to assign any proper use for. The matter also, of which they consisted, I was an entire stranger to; and e'er long the scabbard of the sword, the skillet, and one of the spoons were made sacrifices to my curiosity, to the great prejudice of my hatchet and one of the knives. By which experiments I thoroughly learned the colour and malleability of these several metals. And as by this means I spoiled them of the forms in which I found them, so I concluded they must by some like operation have been first brought into the same. But the sword being of the finest steel afforded another new appearance by its plentiful effusion of sparks upon every stroke it received, some of which darting against my face and hands gave me a different idea from what I had received from the ignis fatuus and glow worms before-mentioned. And I would afterwards divert myself with striking this weapon against the hatchet, or any stone which came in my way.
I examined also the contrivance of my sleeping apartment, which was situated in a corner least exposed to the door, and covered with a sail, all but a place cut out for my entrance, in form of a tent within my cottage. My bed consisted chiefly of the ragged remains of three or four pairs of sheets, a couple of quilts, and the same number of pillows, all raised a foot or two from the ground, with a heap of moss encompassed within four pieces of strong plank to prevent its spreading abroad. The linen had formerly been disposed in order, but during all the time of my remembrance it had laid mostly rolled up in a heap in a corner of the bed, and I slept bare upon the moss, as other creatures did upon the ground. When I came to view these rotten bed-clothes and the sail, I judged them from their contexture to consist of the fibres of some sort of wood or grass, thus artfully wove together, in imitation of a spider's web.
While I was thus taking survey of my household furniture, I cast my eye also upon a great chest and a couple of boxes, hitherto wholly neglected by me, which my father and mother had made the repositories of their apparel. These with little difficulty I found the way into, where I had still new objects to feed my curiosity. I pulled out apparel of all sorts for both sexes, which had been so well-disposed, as in all this time to receive little or no damage; but as it was then impossible for me to guess at their use, I returned them again into their places. But I was more fortunate in opening a till in the end of the chest, in which were deposited some books and white-paper, a few black-lead pencils, pens, and an ink stand, a pocket magnifying glass, a seaman's scale, a case of mathematical instruments, a curious fan, a small looking-glass, a golden watch, and a snuff-box of the same metal.
The first of these things, which drew my attention, were the transparent bodies, I mean the glasses and crystal of the watch. And I was truck with no small admiration to find my touch thus stubbornly resisted by bodies so nearly resembling unstable water, which I had ever experienced to be no more able to bear against the lightest pressure, than it was to stop the penetration of the rays of the sun. Though I concluded the mirror to be a different substance from the others, till ignorantly trying how it would bear the stroke of my hammer, I broke it into a hundred pieces; by which means, much to my dissatisfaction I discovered it to be the same sort of substance, only the bright consistence behind I perceived was the occasion of its reflection of shadow. And my too rough manner of handling the crystal of the watch brought it also to the same fate, which made me more careful for the future of trying experiments upon any thing else. And thus my magnifier escaped a like disaster, whose property of magnifying objects to the sight I presently observed, and could attribute that effect to nothing but the convexity of its sides; while the same things appeared without alteration, when beheld through the equally thick fragments of the other two.
But above all I was delighted with the sight of the fan, which perhaps was one of the completest pieces of painting in miniature Epinoia could afford. This little machine might be said to bring the absent world to my presence, and in a great degree anticipated my coming into it. It is not in my power to make you sensible of the agreeable surprise with which I was seized when, as soon as I took it into my hand, it fell open and displayed the landscape of a delightful country abounding with many strange appearances and unknown creatures, such as I had never seen before. But I was most affected with the sight of several in my own shape, among which I had the fullest prospect of two, from their seeming nearer situation than the rest. This comely pair, whose minds seemed wholly taken up with the contemplation of each other, were seated under the umbrage of a spreading beech; and close by their feet a crystal fountain appeared to bubble out of the ground, which sent forth its streams into a neighbouring river. But both these like all the rest, I observed had their whole bodies, save their faces and hands, hid from the sight, under much the same sort of coverings, which I had before found in the chest and boxes. And not long after I was sufficiently curious in comparing them together, even going so far as to try them upon my own back, though I could never endure myself to wear them. One of these humans, by his rougher and more majestic mien, I guessed to be the male; and he seemed to have his habit suited to more robust and hardy exercises. The other, whom therefore I took for the female, appeared of a much delicater composition; her apparel, which was also most gay, reaching down to her feet, and a couple of babes were standing at her knee. I cannot omit taking notice, that the exquisite beauty and agreeable sweetness, which I observed in the countenance of this lovely female, made me gaze upon her with more than common delight, and I concluded that the sex to which she belonged must be a master-piece of Nature's workmanship. This part of the painter's device, which was the principal design of the piece, I since learned, was intended for a shepherd and shepherdess solacing themselves with their children a little distance from their cottage, which appeared in a grove of trees. And close by them were laid their crooks, with a dog stretched all along upon the grass; and their flocks were likewise grazing within view, upon a neighbouring hill. The whole prospect behind was a pleasant variety of verdant hills and dales interspersed with many enclosures of corn and shady woods; among which might be seen here and there a man or a woman walking mostly in pairs. Also several cows and horses were also feeding upon the heights, which with the sheep were three species of animals wholly unknown to me. All along the river, which ran winding through the middle of the country, I observed several kinds of water-fowl seeming to swim to and again, and wantonly flutter and duck into the water, as if eager to surfeit themselves in the grateful element. But here I had a more engaging object from the sight of a barge rowing up the stream. which immediately brought to mind the remains of my fathers boat still lying upon the beach, which I had ever considered as a vehicle built for the same purpose. And the rowers were disposed fairly to view. At a place more remote, I had likewise the prospect of a stately edifice near the river, surrounded with many pompous walks and gardens, which, when afterwards beheld through the magnifier, afforded a vast treasure for my speculation. For by that means, the minuter strokes of the pencil being sufficiently magnified, gave me a more distinct view of the whole, and every where unfolded new designs, which were hid from the naked eye.
All the while I first beheld this curious piece, my mind was so swallowed up with the contemplation of every object; that they seemed as really what they only represented; and my whole existence appeared to be translated into the picture I was viewing. And after I had satisfied myself enough with gazing, laying the fan out of my hand, I was like one newly risen out of a dream or a trance, and it was some time before I could persuade myself I was really awake. So much was I taken with these delightful appearances.
The only remaining things worth notice among my furniture, were the books, mathematical instruments, paper, and pencils, the uses of which I became also in some degree acquainted with; though this perhaps may be judged quite above my capacity. The books were three in number (all which I still carefully preserve) viz. a treatise of divinity, a piece of history, and a large system of the mathematics.
When I first opened these, it cannot be imagined that I should have any more knowledge for what use they were intended, than of what matter they were composed. I turned over the leaves, but it was all one which end of the book was to me, which from me, or whether I turned to the right hand, or to the left; and I could hardly satisfy myself whether the characters imprinted on the leaves were the effects of Nature or Art: And had it not been for the cuts interspersed here and there, especially in the history, and the geometrical schemes, which abounded in the mathematical book, I believe I should have for ever laid them aside without farther examination. But these, being more intelligible than the letters, convinced me of their design, and were afterwards a direction for me to hold the book. And the mathematical volume became of great use to instruct me in the principles of that science, though without the least knowledge of a letter contained in it.
This taught me the use of the ruler, compasses, and brass semi-circle, from their exact resemblances upon the paper, with several ocular applications of them: By which means I presently learned several manual operations, such as to measure a right line by equal parts, to describe a circle, to bisect a right line, erect and let fall a perpendicular, to inscribe a regular polygon of any proposed number of sides in a circle, and to measure the angles or openings of two intersecting right lines by the equal divisions of an arch.
I had also a frequent sight of the nine digits or figures, both in the book, and upon the instruments; and observing the same figures always to denote the same numbers, I became at length perfectly acquainted with their use; and likewise discovered how these alone with the character called a cipher were adapted to express all numbers imaginable, by the variation of their places: A contrivance the exceeding ingenuity of which did not a little please me.
But though I had this success with the figures, yet it was impossible for me to have the like with the letters of the alphabet, which were put to signify things I had not the least notion of: Yet I proceeded so far, as to attribute to them the same design of communicating the thoughts with the other, which was the utmost I could ever make of them. And I presently found out a way, by help of the black-lead pencils, to impress several marks of my skill in geometry upon the unwritten paper, in which I made continual improvements.
After these discoveries made in my household furniture, which I suppose might fall out about my fifteenth of sixteenth year, I began to make some alterations and amendments in my house. I repaired my roof, and filled every breach I could find in the walls with clay, levelling my floor with the same matter. I cleared out all the fulsome rags and moss I had heretofore slept upon, and supplied their place with such as was fresh and sweet; which I frequently renewed afterwards. I made me new shutters of wicker work for the door and window, by a pattern of that which had been formerly made by my father for the like purpose.
But my principal aim was to prepare a spot of ground about my cottage, in imitation of the gardens I beheld represented upon the fan. And in this my father's work had already prevented much of my labour, by the enclosure he formerly made for the hind. My habitation was seated in the centre of a little circular plain of about sixty paces diameter, surrounded with the bosom of a hill, all but an aperture of about thirty paces facing the sea to the southward, which was fronted by my door. This aperture was strongly paled in with materials taken out of the ship, leaving only a passage in the middle for egress, from whence I had an easy descent to the shore of the bay, where my father landed. And from each end of the pales, Nature had planted a delightful range of mulberry-trees around the top of the hill, the vacancies between every two of which being also paled in to complete my enclosure.
My first work was to repair all the breaches and decays, which length of time had made in my fence, hanging up a door of wicker-work at the entrance, to prevent as much as possible the encroachment of the beasts of the field. Then I proceeded to clear away all the bushes and shrubs, lopping off also the impending boughs of the larger trees, to facilitate my passage to and fro. And by this management the ground about my cottage began to appear with a much pleasanter aspect than heretofore. But what gave the greatest ornament to my situation was, three sloping ascents of the hill, which were by this means laid open to the sun. These arose regularly above one another all around, each nearly the height of my cottage, with so many walking spaces above of the same breadth, the highest being bounded with the range of mulberries: And at the foot of the lowest to the eastward, the fountain took its rise, which formed the rivulet by my door; whose banks were all along enamelled with variety of sweet smelling flowers, after the same manner, as the ascents of the hill. And the rich fragrance of these, together with the orange trees, abounding more here than in any other part of the island, invited multitudes of bees into my confines, which made their nests, some in the hollows of the trees, and others in the declivities of the hill; by which means I became perfectly acquainted with the wise economy of these winged insects.
Upon the highest part of the hill directly behind my cottage, a little mount reared up its head, in form of the lower frustrum of a cone, over-looking the whole country around, whose summit made a horizontal plain of not more than ten paces in circumferences. This I took the pains to cover with a smooth cap of clay, erecting a stile near the centre of about a yard in height, which was my contrivance to trace out the points of shadow according to the different times of the day and seasons of the year, that I might attain a more perfect knowledge of the motions of the sun. But here I had many experiments before I could answer my design, till at last I found out a way to make my stile out of a piece of the copper skillet, drilling a hole through the top to admit the rays of the sun; by which invention I both obtained a more certain perpendicular to my plain and a truer method of marking the points of shadow from a lucid point, without any perceptible penumbra.
This daily practice of marking out the points of shadow, presently suggested to me a meridian line from the foot of the stile, in which I saw every day's shortest (or mid-day) shadow constantly to fall. And I observed that all lines drawn from the same centre making equal angles on both sides the meridian, must every day coincide with the shadow of the stile, the same spaces of time before and after noon; and that the length of the mid-day shadow alone was sufficient to mark out the annual access and regress of the sun. I made me therefore a circle from the foot of the stile as a centre, to as great a circumference as my plain would admit; the northern limb of which I divided into five equal arches of twenty degrees a-piece on both sides the meridian, with lines drawn from the centre to each: And thus I had the angles of shadow marked out for a hundred degrees on each side the meridian. But I presently perceived the insufficiency of this to measure time, which was the end I aimed at by it, from the greater or lesser disproportion between these angles and the like arches of the sun's course, according as they were more or less distant from the meridian. And this I had no remedy for, till after much study I invented a time-teller out of one of my boxes.
I chose out the compacter of these, which, after I had emptied of what it contained into the chest, I endeavoured to make as tight as possible to contain water; and when I had brought it to my mind, I made a hole in the bottom, fitting it with a stopple. Afterwards I proceeded, with all the care and exactness I was master of, to make another horizontal plain close by the fountain, drawing a circle, and erecting a perpendicular stile in the centre, both of the same dimensions with that on the mount. And having found the meridian line, I placed my box in a right horizontal position across the out-let of the fountain, filling it with water. Then waiting till the sun came upon the meridian, I immediately let out the water, and as soon as the box was empty, marked down the shadow upon the circle, filling it again out of the fountain, and placing it in the same situation: All which was done, with such expedition, that the box was scarce empty before it was full again, and the orifice was kept continually running. This I kept repeating till the setting of the sun, still marking down the points of shadow, at the end of every box-full thus run out, and laying the same extent with my compasses upon the circle to the eastward, which the shadow made to the westward. And by that means I obtained a pretty exact dial within my enclosure for almost ninety degrees on both sides of the meridian, or from near six in the morning to six in the evening; which I afterwards increased at my leisure, as the days grew longer.
When I had brought this to as great perfection as I was able, I expunged all the lines of shadow, save the meridian, upon the mount, and laid down the same with these in their places; having there a more commodious situation for my intended observations of the heavenly bodies. Out of the lid of the water- box, I formed a quadrant of about two foot radius, graduated as I had seen in the book, which upon occasion, I applied perpendicularly along the meridian (with the limb toward the stile, and the centre upon the extremity of the lucid ray) to measure the different altitudes of the sun in its mid-day situation. The same also served me to take the meridian altitudes of the moon, which I performed by leaning along the side of the mount, where I made a place to fix my feet, and drawing the centre to my eye fixed against the north edge of the plain. And I was so intent upon these two great luminaries, that I seldom carried my observations of this sort to the stars, perceiving none of them, except four or five, but what always kept the same situation one to another; so that whenever I obtained the true altitude of one, I could refer all the rest to it in their order.
By this frequent practice I learned the gradual increase and decrease of day and night, according to the access and regress of the sun; as also the number of diurnal revolutions he took up in finishing his annual course. I determined the menstrual periods of the moon, and from the exact conformity I beheld between the changes in her face and her distances from the sun, I could at any time compute her age, by a circle contrived for that purpose. And from the frequent experience of eclipses both of the sun and moon, I also arrived to a true notion of their causes, being perfectly instructed in the borrowed light of the latter to the former. So far proceeded my astronomy.
And these constant exercises in the description of lines, circles, and angles brought me likewise to an acquaintance with several truths in speculative geometry; for which purpose, after my paper was spent, I expunged the lines out of my dial by the fountain, and drew all my schemes upon that, inserting and blotting out at pleasure. I perceived the proportionality of the homologous sides of similar figures, and the equality of the angles in a triangle to a semicircle, and of any outward angle in the same to the two inward opposite ones. I found out the subduple proportion which any angle at the circumference of a circle bears to one at the centre standing upon the same basis. I discovered the equality of the areas of all parallelograms upon the same basis between the same parallels; which put me also upon studying the proportions between other dissimilar surfaces; and I likewise attained to the knowledge of Pythagoras's Theorem of the equality between the square of the longest side in a right-angled triangle, and the sum of the squares of two shortest. And as lines led me to consider the surfaces of which they were the limits, so did these surfaces bring me to an acquaintance with the solids bounded by them; for the right understanding of which, I found great helps from the actual formation of several bodies out of clay: Though the draughts themselves, which I found of these in the book, were adapted in the best manner to assist the imagination; as being delineated according to the exactest rules of perspective, and every where skilfully shaded. I observed the duplicate proportion, which similar surfaces, and the triplicate proportion, which similar solids had of their altitudes, or homologous sides: And as I naturally pitched upon the square for the mensuration of the former, so did I apply the cube for the standard of these latter. I learned the chief properties of the sphere, the cone, and the cylinder, and became intimately conversant with the five regular bodies. I formed an ellipsis from the oblique section of a cylinder and had some notion of the Appolonian curves, from the actual sections of a cone.
I made also some progress in the more abstract Theory of Numbers, as well as in the more sensible speculation of magnitude. I was necessarily led to that prime distinction of number, into integer and fracted, according as the quantities they were brought to express were discontinued, or continued; and I considered them likewise in respect of their composition as even or odd, prime and composite; and compared them together as commensurate and incommensurate. I deduced the principal truths, which belong to the doctrine of proportions, and arrived to some skill in progressions both arithmetical and geometrical. But yet I would have you take notice, that I attribute all those high acquirements in numbers as well as magnitudes, rather to the assistance of the book, than my own invention alone: For when I had attained to the knowledge of the numeral figures, as you have already heard, I seldom failed through the whole work to fish out the author's intentions by them, though I understood not the meaning of a word he wrote.
The next remarkable accident, which occurred to me, during my stay in the island, was that which gave me the experience of fire. One evening, as I was cutting down the relics of an old rotten tree within my enclosure, whose situation did not please me, accidentally missing my aim, I struck the hatchet against a stone, which occasioned sparks to fly forth in abundance. After I had removed this without my pales, in my return I beheld some of the chips lying close by the remaining stump, to send up a vapour something like what I had seen arise in the mornings from the dewy savannahs, but far more gross and dense, as well as more quick in its ascent: And as I approached nigher I perceived the flame, which immediately brought to mind the ignis fatuus, and glow-worms heretofore; but when I came to handle this, as I had done the worms, the pain it gave made me draw my fingers with a great deal more speed than I put them forth; and by and by the flame catching hold of the stump of the tree, began to burn with some vehemence. I stood wondering how this strange thing came here, which I took at first to be a living animal from its creeping along the ground, and seeming to catch at and consume every thing in its way. And I was well nigh confirmed in this belief, by the fall of some drops of rain, at every one of which, as at the receipt of so many blows, it appeared to recoil back and send forth its complaints, as if from a sense of the injury it received: But I changed this opinion, when I beheld the sparks flying from it, and observed the sudden increase made from the smallest of these, wherever it met with proper materials; which brought to mind the sparks struck from the hatchet, from whence I immediately concluded all this to proceed.
I spent some time in making experiments upon this wonderful phenomenon: I observed its emission of light and heat, like the sun and stars; from which resemblance of its effects, I concluded the resemblance of their natures. I took notice also how apt several sorts of mater were to be destroyed by it, while others it affected no otherwise, than as it heated them for the present, or discoloured them with its smoke; but water it seemed always to abhor. And I pleased myself one while with supplying it with fuel and anon quenching it again with water from the brook; till at last, by pouring on too much, I quite extinguished it.
My thoughts were mostly that night employed upon this new discovery; and on the morrow, I took the hatchet and sword to try farther experience upon the tree now lying without the south- west side of my enclosure: Where at the first trial with my instruments one against the other I got fire, which presently set the tree all in a blaze. I pleased myself a while with the sight, but this was soon over, and my heart began to quake, when I beheld it out of my power to extinguish: and catching hold of a large coppice of trees, which stretched along to the sea at north- west, it in a moment sent up such huge pillars of fire and smoke, that it threatened to lay the whole island in ashes: And doubtless the mischief would have been vastly more, had not the wind at that time chanced to blow from the land, and by that means preserved my enclosure and cottage; which must otherwise have inevitably fallen with the first in this dreadful ruin.
I was in the utmost consternation to see the devastation I had caused, my ears being quite deafened with the incessant roaring of the flames, and cracking of the large trees, mixed with the loud yells of the beasts and fowls, all endeavouring to escape as far as possible from a sight so terrible: And so great was the combustion, that it was fairly visible to my father in the other island: But when I came to think of the injuries this indiscreet piece of curiosity must bring upon my fellow creatures, and imagined I heard the cries of several helpless animals perishing in the flames; O Heavens! with what horror was I seized: I ran round the flames in the most distracted manner, without the least regard to my own safety; still pouring forth the most bitter lamentations, till at last through very anguish of spirit, I fell all long upon the ground, and could bear up no longer: my resentments being all the same, as if I had occasioned the destruction of so many humans.
The fire continued burning that whole day, and the greatest part of the night following; during all which time I could not keep my eyes from it, continually showing the utmost tokens of rage and despair, for having been the author of so much mischief. At length, when it had destroyed all before it to the shore for near a mile distance, it began to abate for want of proper matter to supply it; and a great quantity of rain falling next morning put it clean out.
But though the fire was extinguished so was not my trouble. This accident raised a tumult to my bosom, as much beyond my own power to appease, as it was beyond my power to quench the flames which occasioned it. For it gave me the first sad experience of the severe lashes of a self-condemning conscience: A trouble, to which all my other griefs were comparatively as nothing. I had hitherto experienced no afflictions, but such only as proceeded from things without; Things upon which the soul had no real, at least, no lasting dependence; so that whenever she obtained a better knowledge of her own state, it would not fail either to show her the vanity of them at present, or however give her the comfortable hopes (if not the assurance) of their removal hereafter. But this was a wound given to the soul herself, and consequently a more perfect knowledge of herself was the way to add to her misery, by making her more sensible of her loss of innocence, and (in consequence to that) of the favour of God. And whenever I reflected upon the wretched havoc, which by this fact I had made in the workmanship of God's hand, and considered the intolerable injuries I had done to so many of my fellow creatures, I could not but tremble to think how justly I had provoked our common Creator.
It is true I could not condemn myself in this fact for having the least intention of harm; yet this would not acquit me when I considered the sufficient warning I had from my former experience of the danger in what I was meddling with, which convicted me of the most imprudent rashness in making such an attempt, without first duly weighing its consequences. And the faultiness of this action put me also upon a careful review of whatever I had acted heretofore, which brought to my remembrance a multitude of other failures and irregularities, so that this stood no longer alone to accuse me.
Thus, while I only contemplated the workmanship of my maker, every thing conspired to yield me all the satisfaction I could wish; but now, when I began to turn my thoughts upon my own actions, nothing appeared but what struck me with an inward sense of guilt and shame, and served to abase me in my own esteem. I perceived how all those actions which regarded the government of myself, had been rather from the impulse of blind passion than the result of steady reason, and I could not but stand self- condemned for acting thus below my dignity, if there had been no other aggravation.
It may perhaps be objected as incredible, that one in my condition should entertain such bitter resentments from a conscience of any misdemeanour I could be capable of committing; since I had not the same opportunities, either of knowing or transgressing my duty, I am only speaking of such duties as were known to me by the bare light of Nature. And of these perhaps I had as quick though not so extensive, a sense as most. The resentments of conscience in the soul are perfectly analogous to the sense of feeling in the body; and as the feeling loses its first tenderness by frequent blows and bruises, so, after every succeeding commission of the same sin, the conscience becomes less and less afraid to repeat it, till in the end, the man grows hardened in wickedness: And the examples of others alone contribute not a little to abate these inward reluctances. As therefore I had not the same opportunity to wound the conscience, so I had not the same opportunity to render it hard and insensible; and consequently was more deeply affected with every divergence I suspected myself to have made out of the steady paths of right reason. But I return to my story.
My own comfort now was from a resolution to amend all past miscarriages by greater care hereafter, and so make my former experience my future cure. But alas! I soon found that I reckoned without my host, and the knowledge I had of other things only served to show how little I yet know of myself. I discovered to my sorrow the natural depravity and perverseness of my whole temper, in which, I felt not only a miserable slowness of understanding to know what was good for me, but even an opposition in my very will to do it, and a reluctance against receiving caution to shun an evil, though never so sensible of its fatal consequences: So that when I beheld how suitably every animal about me acted to its nature, I seemed to stand alone, as an exception to the whole Creation: And that superior gift of reason, with which I was endued, appeared only as a reproach to me, while I perceived myself upon all occasions so prone to contradict it.
But let it still be remembered, that I had not here the least prospect of that cruelty acted by one brute animal upon another in most, if not all, other places in the world; which must either be attributed to the peaceful nature of the creatures themselves, consisting chiefly of such as lived upon the fruits of the ground, or else to a particular providence in keeping me from the sight of their frays. Though I am rather inclined to believe the former: And doubtless had I been conversant among creatures more savage and ravenous, I should have participated more of the savageness of their nature; and consequently (as I before observed) would no more have been capable to make that progress in knowledge to which I arrived, than to have preserved that exceeding tenderness towards my fellow creatures, of which I am now speaking. And it was this extraordinary harmony and regularity in the behaviour of every dumb animal about me, according to the several stations in which their maker had disposed them, which made my own irregularities appear so superlatively odious and detestable to me; and I seemed to myself as a foil to the whole animal creation.
I then reflected from whence this great disorder of the soul should proceed; whether it might be particular to myself alone, or it extended to the whole species in general, from whence I received it by descent. But when I considered the deep root it had in my nature, feeling it interwoven in my very constitution, I no longer doubted the latter to be the case, and that it was the peculiar foible of the whole race. And this vastly abated that strong desire, which I had so long retained for the society of humans, making me now justly suspect whether I was not much more happy in my solitary state, that I should be in the company of a multitude of beings, whose irregular inclinations could promise so little regularity in their actions.
I considered the many disappointments and vexations, which their repeated follies and imprudences must necessarily bring upon them: and I concluded the frequent animosities and quarrels they must have one with another, from that readiness to do injuries, and impatience to suffer them, to which their inordinate self-love would naturally lead. Neither could I entertain any hope of a better performance of their duty to their Creator, from affections thus wholly bound up in the creatures; or that they should have any true relish of the pleasures of the mind, whose cares were so intent upon the gratification of their senses. In short I took the inhabited world to be nothing else but a black scene of all that wickedness and impiety, which might sadly be expected from beings so depraved: And I afterwards found the truth of this conjecture rather to be lamented than disputed.
But when I came to meditate upon the divine attributes, I was at a loss how to reconcile this seemingly severe dispensation with them. I thought it impossible that the infinitely good, wise and just God should ever create a multitude of reasonable beings, and leave them under a necessity of acting contrary to that reason, and consequently of being miserable. I could not therefore but conclude, he had provided some remedy for this disorder, which I was ignorant of.
Then it occurred to me that since the whole of our duty both to God and ourselves is founded in the due sense of our sole dependence upon him for any thing, than as we are constantly reminded of the great inconveniences which must redound to us from the want of that thing; it was highly probable God had purposely left these wants in the most sensible part of us, to oblige us to have continual recourse to him for their supply, and so keep up in us the tenderest sense of our dependence upon him. In all which God could be said to deal no otherways with us, than as a wife and tender father does with his children, who at once studies both to preserve them in the constant practice of their duty towards him, and in the best condition for themselves; by keeping them in a continual dependence upon him for those good things, which if once committed to their own free disposal, he knew they would not only be afterwards apt to forget their obligations to him for, but would infallibly abuse to their own destruction. And when I considered how wretchedly prone we are upon all occasions to be forgetful of benefits received, and how ridiculously subject to value our selves upon every excellence, which we suppose our selves in the possession of, as if we had not received it; I could no longer doubt but God made use of some such method as this, to keep us in the constant remembrance of our infinite obligations to him, and make us truly sensible of our own vileness and unworthiness: So that the infinite goodness, wisdom and justice of God were most of all justified, in that very act, which seemed most of all to contradict them.
Hence I argued thus; since God for wise and good reasons, has left man by nature in an indigent and imperfect state, and since this appeared to me to be one of his reasons for so doing, That he might keep up in us a due sense of our dependence upon him, by obliging us always to have immediate recourse to him for the completion of our happiness; it followed, if this be the case, he must have condescended by some supernatural means to make it known to mankind to be his will, and have given them all necessary instructions about it; since otherwise they could not be supposed to have any comfort or advantage from it. And these supernatural revelations, I supposed had been made to men immediately after their first creation, and ever since been transmitted from father to son: Consequently I, who had been always thus separated from the conversation of man, must needs be altogether unacquainted with them. But in regard my own welfare was of as much value to me, as that of all the rest of mankind was to them; and since others might perhaps been in the same or little better circumstances than I was, I persuaded myself that the gracious God would make no man's misfortune his fault, but would take the same account of our best endeavours, as if we had enjoyed better advantages.
And this put me the first time upon that other act of religious worship, which is the consequent of our needy state: I mean that of prayer and supplication to the divine majesty for pardon of all past miscarriages, and his gracious assistance to do better; without which assistance I was highly sensible all my own endeavours would be vain and fruitless. And as an answer to my earnest and humble petitions, I felt my former comforts dart in upon me with more advantage than ever: And by thus frequently applying to the only fountain of calm delight, I found all that inward peace and satisfaction, which God has promised to such as make him their whole stay and refuge.
But alas! It never yet entered into my thoughts, that there were men in the world, to whom all those kindnesses of Heaven should be of no avail, to work upon their wretched ingratitude and perverseness. And I heartily wish for their sakes, that I had never yet had the conviction of so sad a truth. It is true, as I before observed, I was perfectly sensible of the proneness of humane nature to every thing which is evil, so that if men were left to themselves, I could easily judge the miserableness of the consequence. But when I considered the wise reasons of this dispensation, and the ample provisions God had made to prevent what might follow, if men were not wanting to themselves; I never suspected that any one could be so unaccountably blind, as wilfully to neglect (much less to despise and contemn) the means prescribed by his maker for his happiness. I supposed every man's sense of these things to be the same with my own, and that he had no occasion for other incentives to his duty, besides the happiness or misery, which must naturally accrue to him from the performance or neglect of it. But when afterwards I came to see how men really behaved, and perceived their inward corruptions by the force of custom and example, so much harder to admit of a cure, that I expected: I was soon convinced of the necessity of those divine promises and threatenings of future rewards and punishments, as well to engage men closer to their duty, as to rectify all the present irregularities in the world, which might proceed from the injurious behaviour of some towards others. And by so doing God has left all such incorrigible offenders without the least shadow of excuse.
About this time I had a very narrow escape from drowning in the lake, which had certainly been my fate, if the friendly beavers had not come fortunately to my relief. You must note that the lake, I have so often mentioned, which was the only one in the island, had in all likelihood been entirely formed by the industry of these creatures out of a few small rivulets descending from the hills above; after the same manner, as is frequently done by them in this country. And as a proof of this, there are still the remains of many dams or ramparts sunk under water; and generally the lake consists of a great number of ponds or pools, one emptying it self into another by a fall of about two feet in height; and the outside ramparts are in many places not less than twenty foot in depth: An evident token, that they have been erected successively, as the numbers of these little nations increased. Here in my diversion of swimming, I unluckily chanced to entangle one of my legs in the large branch of a tree, which the stream had for some time driven down upon one of those sunken ramparts; from whence with all my struggling I could no way disengage myself: And had I not got my body turned so as to support my head a while above water, by resting my hands alternately upon the rampart, I had without doubt perished at once. But by this means I preserved my life, till a company of beavers within view came up; who being made sensible to my distress, by waving one hand to them as well as I was able and shouting after my way, swam all with one accord to my assistance, and in a little time set me at liberty by biting asunder the twigs which involved my leg: Though I was well nigh spent with bearing so long upon my arms before they came up to me. After so singular a deliverance, I spent some time in returning my grateful acknowledgments to Heaven; and having rested a while upon the rampart, by and by I recovered strength to swim again to the shore. And though I ever had a much greater esteem for the beavers than for any other species of animals residing upon the island, yet this last good office I received from them kindled that esteem into a tender and affectionate love; especially to that particular cast or family, from whence I received it. And shortly after an uncommon accident furnished me with an opportunity of making them a grateful return.
The beavers of this island having no fear of annoyance from the land, have generally their huts or cabins built entirely out of the water, close upon the edge of the lake; contrary to what is for the most part, if not always, done by them elsewhere. Taking therefore another journey to the lake, which was my usual exercise in the hot seasons, for the benefit of bathing in the water; I wondered to see all the beavers belonging to that society gathered about their apartments in a seemingly great confusion. And as I drew near, I perceived the poor creatures in the utmost consternation at a fire, which by some accident had caught hold on their architecture now become exceedingly combustible, through a long season of dry weather. When I beheld my faithful friends in this distress, who seemed wholly ignorant to make the least opposition against the ruin, which this dreadful and unknown devourer was bringing upon them, I ran back with all speed to my cottage for one of my boxes, with which I returned in a few minutes, though the distance was some miles; and immediately plunging it into the water, I threw a load among the flames, and continuing so doing 'till the burning began sensibly to abate. And it was pleasant to see how the beavers as soon as they took the hint, ran unanimously to the water, and every one filling its mouth discharged in a manner all at once upon the fire, and by that means got it quickly extinguished; after it had damaged about six or seven of their apartments, which were speedily again repaired. But by what accident this fire happened, I could never learn. It is plain it was thing as much unknown to these creatures, as it had formerly been to myself. And had I not come to their assistance in the critical juncture, their whole fabric had doubtless been burnt to the ground, without the least notion in themselves to prevent it by any means in their own power. But this was a sufficient instruction to them how to ward off a like danger, should they at any time hereafter be threatened with it.
At length the time drew near when I was to be received into the conversation of my fellows; a happiness which I had all along panted after. But when it came to hand, setting aside the advantages I acquired from my Christianity, I can hardly tell whether it contributed more to my happiness or misery. So it is with all earthly enjoyments: They promise mountains in the expectation, but are only shadows in the possession, which should teach us that the soul can have no true happiness, but by placing her affections upon what is of the same duration with herself.
One day as I was reclined upon the bank of the fountain within my enclosure, I resolved for a moment to unbend my mind from all cares and pensive thoughts, and employ myself in contemplating the delights of the prospect which surrounded me. One while I diverted myself with viewing the sportive boundings of the young fawns and kids upon the opposite hills; whose dams grazing beneath, by their repeated calls and watchful looks, expressed the tenderest concern for their respective young. Anon I drew in my eyes to less distant objects, remarking the little journeyings of the painted insects among the grass, each blade of which methought appeared to them as so many lofty trees; and the curious structure of these minute animals to me was a notorious instance of the infinite wisdom of their great Creator. Then did I listen to the shrill music of the morning larks, to which the soft murmurs of the purling stream joined with the gentle hummings of the laborious bees made an agreeable bass. And this delightful melody by degrees lulled me into a profound sleep; when methought I saw myself in company with several humans, whose appearance and demeanour I exactly marked; but one I viewed with more attention than the rest. With these I thought I was carried into a distant country inhabited chiefly with humans. The place at first appeared no way desirable to me it being so full of frightful gulfs, and dangerous precipices, that it was with the utmost difficulty I sought out my way. But in the end these encumbrances were all removed, and I came into a region, where I had the prospect of nothing, but what was pleasant and agreeable. And all the while methought I was accompanied with the aged looking person I noted so much at first.
After I awoke out of this dream, I took a walk, as usual, up the hill behind my cottage, to observe how the day spent by my dial; and looking toward the sea, I was exceedingly surprised to see a huge body of a very odd form some distance from the land, which seemed like a hill floating upon the water. I went immediately towards the shore to have a more perfect view of this strange sight, yet with that caution to keep myself unseen by it, if it should prove a living animal, as at first I suspected it might.
When I came to the water-side, I laid down among some shrubs to observe the issue; where I was presently more surprised than ever, to see a smaller body moving from the first towards the land, of directly the same shape with the vessel, whose remains lay still upon the beach, and which I had seen painted upon the fan. And as it approached nearer I fairly beheld the passengers it carried, who were presently disembarked upon the shore, less than a stone's cast from where I lay.
You will easily guess to what transports I was driven at this agreeable sight, when I beheld myself at length brought so near the so much wished for enjoyment of the conversation of humans. They stood a while by the boat viewing the situation of the country, and holding a consultation together (I suppose) which way they should direct their course: During all which time, I contemplated their appearance and demeanour with the utmost attention and delight, myself continuing still unseen. And what gave me the greatest pleasure was the articulate sound of their voices alternately answering one another, which was a plain indication to me, that this was the manner of communicating their thoughts.
By and by observing the greatest part of them begin to march up the country directly the way which led to my cottage, and not doubting but they had it in view; I watched their motions as warily as possible, still skulking behind the trees to prevent my being discovered. Yet I had a resolution to make myself known to them, before they again left the island.
When they came up to my enclosure, they seemed for a while to stand surprised at what they saw; and then began to view all my rude contrivances with the utmost attention, but especially my dial upon the mount. And now having a fuller prospect of their faces and habits, I was not a little struck to behold them the very same for the most part, which I had just before seen in my dream; and he whom I had then marked above the rest proved to be my father.
I know how averse many are to take notice of dreams, because they are generally nothing else but the results of our waking thoughts. Yet certainly the perfect ideas of these persons can be no more supposed to have been then impressed upon my mind without design, that their exact pictures could be supposed to be so delineated upon paper. And whatever person has at any time had such visions of what he never saw, I presume he may rest assured they proceed from the impulse of some intelligence without him.
I shall add no more to what you have already heard concerning the manner of discovering myself to my father, and my transportation hither, having already tired your patiences sufficiently. Be pleased only to take notice that this happened towards the end of my twenty first year, after I had continued in the island from my first landing near nineteen years and ten months, and from the time of my father's separation from me about eighteen years and eleven months. And it is now between nine and ten year since.
As to the observations I made upon things, as I found them, at my first entrance into this new state, if any be so curious as to desire a farther account of these, I shall be equally ready to gratify you in this also upon another opportunity: And at the same time present you with my father's history of what occurred to him during his solitude, as wrote by his own hand; all which I presume will be no less acceptable than what you have already heard.
Here Autonous finished the relation of his life upon the island, for which he received the thanks of all the hearers. And the day drawing to an end, we put ashore at a gentleman's seat of his acquaintance, close by a creek of the river, where we agreeably spent the evening.
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