Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 73

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These objections did not deter Mr Dennison, because they were chiefly founded on the supposition, that he would be obliged to lead a life of extravagance and dissipation, which he and his consort equally detested, despised, and determined to avoid — The objects he had in view, were health of body, peace of mind, and the private satisfaction of domestic quiet, unallayed by actual want, and uninterrupted by the fears of indigence — He was very moderate in his estimate of the necessaries, and even of the comforts of life — He required nothing but wholesome air, pure water, agreeable exercise, plain diet, convenient lodging, and decent apparel. He reflected, that if a peasant without education, or any great share of natural sagacity, could maintain a large family, and even become opulent upon a farm, for which he payed an annual rent of two or three hundred pounds to the landlord, surely he himself might hope for some success from his industry, having no rent to pay, but, on the contrary, three or four hundred pounds a year to receive. He considered, that the earth was an indulgent mother, that yielded her fruits to all her children without distinction. He had studied the theory of agriculture with a degree of eagerness and delight; and he could not conceive there was any mystery in the practice, but what he should be able to disclose by dint of care and application. With respect to houshold expence, he entered into a minute detail and investigation, by which he perceived the assertions of his friends were altogether erroneous — He found he should save sixty pounds a year in the single article of house-rent, and as much more in pocket-money and contingencies; that even butcher's-meat was twenty per cent cheaper in the country than in London; but that poultry, and almost every other circumstance of house-keeping, might be had for less than one-half of what they cost in town; besides, a considerable saving on the side of dress, in being delivered from the oppressive imposition of ridiculous modes, invented by ignorance, and adopted by folly.

As to the danger of vying with the rich in pomp and equipage, it never gave him the least disturbance. He was now turned of forty, and, having lived half that time in the busy scenes of life, was well skilled in the science of mankind. There cannot be in nature a more contemptible figure than that of a man, who, with five hundred a year, presumes to rival in expence a neighbour who possesses five times that income — His ostentation, far from concealing, serves only to discover his indigence, and render his vanity the more shocking; for it attracts the eyes of censure, and excites the spirit of inquiry. There is not a family in the county nor a servant in his own house, nor a farmer in the parish, but what knows the utmost farthing that his lands produce, and all these behold him with scorn or compassion. I am surprised that these reflections do not occur to persons in this unhappy dilemma, and produce a salutary effect; but the truth is, of all the passions incident to human nature, vanity is that which most effectually perverts the faculties of the understanding; nay, it sometimes becomes so incredibly depraved, as to aspire at infamy, and find pleasure in bearing the stigmas of reproach.

I have now given you a sketch of the character and situation of Mr Dennison, when he came down to take possession of this estate; but as the messenger, who carries the letters to the next town, is just setting off, I shall reserve what further I have to say on this subject, till the next post, when you shall certainly hear from

Yours always,
Oct. 8.