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Even those who have never experienced severe calamities, will find, in the review of their years, a thousand instances of fallacious promises and disappointed hopes. The dream of childhood, and the project of youth, have vanished to give place to sensations of a very different kind. In the
peace and beauty of the rural scene which spring first unfolds to us, we are apt to recal the former state, with an exaggerated idea of its happiness, and to feel the present with increased dissatisfaction.
But the pencil of memory stops not with the representation of ourselves; it traces also the companions and friends of our early days, and marks the changes which they have undergone. It is a dizzy sort of recollection to think over the names of our school-fellows, and to consider how very few of them the maze of accidents, and the sweep of time, have left within our reach. This, however, is less pointed than the reflection on the fate of those whom affinity or friendship linked to our side, whom distance of place, premature death, or (sometimes not a less painful consideration) estrangement of affection, has disjoined from us for ever.
I am not sure if the disposition to reflections of this sort be altogether a safe or a proper one. aware, that, if too much indulged, or allowed to become habitual, it may disqualify the mind for the more active and bustling scenes of life, and unfit it for the enjoyments of ordinary society; but, in a certain degree, I am persuaded it may be found useful. We are all of us too little inclined to look into our own minds, all apt to put too high a value on the things of this life. But a man under the impressions I have described, will be led to look into himself, and will see the vanity of setting his heart upon ex, - ternal enjoyment. He will feel nothing of that un, social spirit which gloomy and ascetic severițies in,
spire ; but the gentle, and not unpleasing melancholy that will be diffused over his soul, will fill it with a calm and sweet benevolence, will elevate him much above any mean or selfish passion. It will teach him to look upon the rest of the world as his brethren, travelling the same road, and subject to the like calamities with himself; it will prompt his wish to al. leviate and assuage the bitterness of their sufferings, and extinguish in his heart every sentiment of malevolence or of envy;
Amidst the tide of pleasure which flows on a mind of little sensibility, there may be much social joy without any social affection ; but, in a heart of the mould I allude to above, though the joy may be less, there will, I believe, be more happiness and more virtue.
It is rarely from the precepts of the moralist, or the mere sense of duty, that we acquire the virtues of gentleness, disinterestedness, benevolence, and humanity. The feelings must be won, as well as the reason convinced, before men change their conduct. To them the world addresses itself, and is heard: it offers pleasure to the present hour ; and the promise of satisfaction in the future is too often preached in vain. But he who can feel that luxury of pen. sive tenderness of which I have given some faint sketches in this paper, will not easily be won from the pride of virtue, and the dignity of thought, to the inordinate gratifications of vice or the intemperate amusements of folly.
N° 17. TUESDAY, MARCH 23, 1779.
Insanit veteres statuas Damasippus emendo.
To the Editor of the MIRROR.
SIR, As I persuaded that you will not think it without the province of a work such as yours, to throw your eye sometimes upon the inferior ranks of life, where there is any error that calls loud for amend. ment, I will make no apology for sending you the following narrative.
I was married, about five years ago, to a young man in a good way of business as a grocer, whose character, for sobriety and diligence in his trade, was such as to give me the assurance of
very fortable establishment in the mean time, and, in case Providence should bless us with children, the prospect of making a tolerable provision for them. For three years after our marriage there never was a happier couple. Our shop was so well frequented, as to require the constant attendance of both of us; and, as it was my greatest pleasure to see the cheerful activity of my husband, and the obliging attention which he showed to every customer, he has often during that happy time, declared to me, that the sight of my face behind the counter (though indeed, Sir, my looks are but homely) made him think his humble condition far more blessed than that of the wealthiest of our neighbours, whose possessions deprived them of the high satisfaction of
purchasing, by their daily labour, the comfort and happiness of a beloved object.
In the evenings, after our small repast, which, if the day had been more than usually busy, we sometimes ventured to finish with a glass or two of punch; while my husband was constantly engaged with his books and accounts, it was my employment to sit by his side knitting, and, at the same time, to tend the cradle of our first child, a girl, who is now a fine prattling creature of four
and begins already to give me some little assistance in the of her younger brother and sister. Such was
the picture of our little family, in which we once enjoyed all the happiness that virtuous industry, and the most perfect affection, can bestow. But those pleasing days, Mr. Mirror, are now at an end. The sources of unhappiness in my
situation are very different from those of other unfortunate married
persons. It is not of my husband's idleness or extravagance, his ill-nature or his avarice, that I have to complain ; neither are we unhappy from
de crease of affection, or disagreement in our opinions. But I will not, Sir, keep you longer in suspence. In short, it is my misfortune that my husband is bea come a Man of Taste.
The first symptom of this malady, for it is now become a disease indeed, manifested itself, as I have said, about two years ago, when it s my
husband's ill-luck to receive one day from a customer, in payment of a pound of sugar, a crooked piece of silver, which he, at first, mistook for a shilling, but found, on examination, to have some strange characters upon it, which neither of us could make any thing of. An acquaintance coming in, who, it seems, had some knowledge of those matters, declared it at once to be a very curicus coin of Alexander the Third;
and, affirming that he knew a virtuoso who would be extremely glad to be possessed of it, bid him half a guinea for it upon the spot. My poor husband, who knew as little of Alexander the Third, as of Alexander the Great, or his other namesake, the Coppersmith, was nevertheless persuaded, from the extent of the offer, and the opinion he had of his friend's discernment, that he was possessed of a very valuable curiosity; and in this he was fully confirmed, when, on showing it to the virtuoso above mentioned, he .was immediately offered triple the former sum. This too was rejected, and the crooked coin was now judged to be inestimable. It would tire your patience, Mr. Mirror, to describe minutely the progress of my husband's delirium. The neighbours soon heard of our acquisition, and focked to be indulged with a sight of it. Others who had valuable curiosities of the same kind, but who were prudent enough not to reckon them quite beyond all price, were, by much entreaty, prevailed on by my husband to exchange them for guineas, half guineas, and crown pieces ; so that, in about a month's time, he could boast of being possessed of twenty pieces, all of inestimable value, which cost him only the trif. ling sum of 181. 125. 6d.
But the malady did not rest here; it is a dreadful thing, Mr. Mirror, to get a taste. It • heaven above, to the earth beneath, and to the
waters under the earth. Every production of nature, or of art, remarkable either for beauty or deformity, but particularly if either scarce or old, is now the object of my husband's avidity. The profits of our business, once considerable, but now daily diminishing, are expended, not only on coins, but on shells, lumps of different coloured stones, dried butterflies, old pictures, ragged books, and worm-eaten parchments.