« ZurückWeiter »
overcome by a panegyric on generosity, nor cruelty and oppression by the most eloquent display of the beauties of compassion and humanity. The moralist speaks to them a language they do not understand; it is not therefore surprising, that they should neither be convinced nor reclaimed. I would not be understood to mean, that the enormity of a vice should free it from censure : on the contrary, I hold all glaring deviations from rectitude the most proper objects for the severest lash of satire, and that they should frequently be held up to public view, that, if the guilty cannot be reclaimed, the wavering may be confirmed, and the innocent warned to avoid the danger.
But it is a no less useful, and a much more pleasing task, to endeavour to remove the veil that covers the lustre of virtue, and to point out, for the purpose of amending, those errors and imperfections which tarnish deserving characters, which render them useless, in some cases hurtful, to society.
An honest ambition for that fame which ought to follow superior talents employed in the exercise of virtue, is one of the best and most useful passions that can take root in the mind of man; and in the language of the Roman poet, · Terrarum dominos • evehit ad Deos ;'-_ Heroes lifts to gods. But when this laudable ambition happens to be joined with great delicacy of taste and sentiment, it is often the source of much misery and uneasiness. In the earlier periods of society, before mankind are corrupted by the excesses of luxury and refinement, the candidates for fame enter the lists upon equal terms, and with a reasonable degree of confidence, that the judgment of their fellow.citizens will give the preference where it is due. In such a contest, even the vanquished have no inconsiderable share of glory; and that virtue which they cultivate, forbid:
them to with-hold their respect and applause from the superiority by which they are overcome. Of this, the first ages of the Grecian and Roman republics are proper examples, when merit was the only road to fame, because fame was the only reward of merit.
Though it were unjust to accuse the present age of being totally regardless of merit, yet this will not be denied, that there are many other avenues which lead to distinction, many other qualities by which competitors carry away a prize, that, in less corrupted times, could have been attained only by a steady perseverance in the paths of virtue.
When a man of acknowledged honour and abilities, not unconscious of his worth, and
possessed of those delicate feelings I have mentioned, sees himself set aside, and obliged to give way to the worthless and contemptible, whose vices are sometimes the means of their promotion, he is too apt to yield to disgust or despair ; that sensibility which, with better fortune, and placed in a more favourable situation, would have afforded him the most elegant pleasures, made him the delight of his friends, and an honour to his country, is in danger of changing him into a morose and surly misanthrope, discontented with himself, the world, and all its enjoyments.
This weakness (and I think it a great one of quarrelling with the world, would never have been carried the length I have lamented in some of my friends, had they allowed themselves to reflect on the folly of supposing, that the opinions of the rest of mankind are to be governed by the standard which they have been pleased to erect, had they .considered what a state of languor and insipidity would be produced, if every individual should have marked out to him the rank he was to hold, and the line in which he was to move, without any danger of being jostled in his progress.
The Author of Nature has diversified the mind of man with different and contending passions, which are brought into action as change of circumstances direct, or as he is pleased to order in the wisdom of his providence, Our limited faculties, far from comprehending the universal scale of being, or taking in at one glance what is best and fittest for the purposes of creation, cannot even determine the best mode of governing the little spot that surrounds us,
I believe most men have, at times, wished to be creators, possessed of the power of moulding the world to their fancy; but they would act more wisely to mould their own prepossessions and prejudices to the standard of the world, which may be done, in every age and situation, without transgressing the bounds of the most rigid virtue. A distaste at mankind never fails to produce peevishness and discontent, the most unrelenting tyrants that ever swayed the human breast ; that cloud which they cast upon the soul shuts out every ray that should warm to manly exertion, and hides in the bosom of indolence and spleen, virtues formed to illumine the world.
I must, therefore, earnestly recommend to my readers to guard against the first approaches of misanthropy, by opposing reason to sentiment, and reHecting on the injury they do themselves and society, by tamely retreating from injustice. The passive virtues only are fit to be buried in a cloister ; the firm and active mind disdains to recede, and rises upon opposition.
The cultivation of cheerfulness and good-humour will be found another sovereign antidote to this mental disorder. They are the harbingers of virtue, and produce that serenity which disposes the mind to friendship, love, gratitude, and every other social
affection; they make us contented with ourselves, our friends and our situation, and expand the heart to all the interests of humanity.
N° 40. SATURDAY, JUNE 12, 1779,
To the Author of the MIRROR.
Sir, According to my promise, I send you the second division of my lecture on SIMULATION, as it respects the internal part of the science of polite
• Among barbarous nations, it has been observed, • the emotions of the mind are not more violently • felt than strongly expressed. Grief, anger, and
jealousy, not only tear the heart, but disfigure the • countenance; while love, joy, and mirth, have their
opposite effects on the soul, and are visible, by opposite appearances, in the aspect. Now, as a very
refined people are in a state exactly the reverse • of a very rude one, it follows that, instead of allow
ing the passions thus to lord it over their minds and ' faces, it behoves them to mitigate and restrain « those violent emotions, both in feeling and appear.
ance; the latter, at least, is within the power of art and education, and to regulate it is the duty of a well-bred person. On this truly philosophical principle is founded that ease, indifference, or non
chalanci, which is the great mark of a modern man r of fashion.
• That instance of politeness which I mentioned
(somewhat out of place indeed) in the first part of • this discourse, the conduct of a fine lady at a trage• dy, is to be carried into situations of real sorrow as ' much as possible. Indeed, though it may seem a • bold assertion, I believe the art of putting on in• difference about the real object, is not a whit more • difficult than that of assuming it about the theatri.
cal. I have known several ladies and gentlemen • who had acquired the first in perfection, without • being able to execute the latter, at least to execute • it in that masterly manner which marks the per. • formances of an adept.-One night, last winter, I • heard Bob Bustle talking from a front-box, to an
acquaintance in the pit, about the death of their • late friend Jack Riot.- Riot is dead, Tom; kick'd • this morning, egad.' 'Riot dead! poor Jack !
what did he die of?-One of your damnation apo• plectics killed him in the chucking of a bumper ;
you could scarce have heard him wheazle! . Damn'd bad that! Jack was an honest fellow !-- What becomes of his grey poney ?- The poney ! is mine.'— Yours !' - Why, yes; I staked my • white and liver-coloured bitch Phillis against the
grey poney, Jack's life to mine for the season.' – • At that instant, a lady entering the box (it was • about the middle of the fourth act) obliged Bob to • shift his place ; he sat out of ear-shot of his friend • in the pit, biting his nails, and looking towards the • stage, in a sort of nothing-to-doish way, just as the • last parting scene between Jaffier and Belvidera
was going on there. I observed (I confess, with regret, for he is one of my favourite pupils) the
progress of its victory over Bob's politeness. He • first grew attentive, then humm’d a tune, then