Most people complain of fortune, few of nature; and the kinder they think the latter has been to them, the more they murmur at what they call the injustice of the former.
Why have not I the riches, the rank, the power, of such and such, is the common expostulation with fortune; but why have not I the merit, the talents, the wit, or the beauty, of such and such others, is a reproach rarely or never made to nature.
The truth is, that nature, seldom profuse, and seldom niggardly, has distributed her gifts more equally than she is generally supposed to have done. Education and situation make the great difference. Culture improves, and occasions elicit, natural talents I make no doubt but that there are potentially, if I may use that pedantic word, many Bacons, Lockes, Newtons, Caesars, Cromwells, and Marlboroughs at the ploughtail behind counters, and, perhaps, even among the nobility; but the soil must be cultivated, and the season favourable, for the fruit to have all its spirit and flavour.
If sometimes our common parent has been a little partial, and not kept the scales quite even; if one preponderates too much, we throw into the lighter a due counterpoise of vanity, which never fails to set all right. Hence it happens, that hardly any one man would, without reverse, and in every particular, change with any other.
Though all are thus satisfied with the dispensations of nature, how few listen to her voice! How to follow her as a guide! In vain she points out to us the plain and direct way to truth, vanity, fancy, affection, and fashion assume her shape and wind us through fairy-ground to folly and error.