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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Glimpse of His Country House near Newport

By George Berkeley (1685–1753)

[Born in Kilkenny, Ireland. Died at Oxford, England, 1753. Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher. 1732.]

AFTER dinner we took our walk to Crito’s, which lay through half a dozen pleasant fields planted round with plane-trees, that are very common in this part of the country. We walked under the delicious shade of these trees for about an hour before we came to Crito’s house, which stands in the middle of a small park, beautified with two fine groves of oak and walnut, and a winding stream of sweet and clear water. We met a servant at the door with a small basket of fruit which he was carrying into a grove, where he said his master was with the two strangers. We found them all three sitting under a shade. And, after the usual forms at first meeting, Euphranor and I sat down by them. Our conversation began upon the beauty of this rural scene, the fine season of the year, and some late improvements which had been made in the adjacent country by new methods of agriculture. Whence Alciphron took occasion to observe that the most valuable improvements came latest. I should have small temptation, said he, to live where men have neither polished manners, nor improved minds, though the face of the country were ever so well improved. But I have long observed that there is a gradual progress in human affairs. The first care of mankind is to supply the cravings of nature; in the next place they study the conveniences and comforts of life. But the subduing prejudices and acquiring true knowledge, that Herculean labor, is the last, being what demands the most perfect abilities, and to which all other advantages are preparative. Right, said Euphranor, Alciphron hath touched our true defect. It was always my opinion that, as soon as we had provided subsistence for the body, our next care should be to improve the mind. But the desire of wealth steps between and engrosseth men’s thoughts.