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but totally indifferent as to the rewards of conscience or of self-approbation ? Is there one of these who ever, during this career, lifts his thoughts to heaven, or thinks of conversing with his God? Is not the sole and absorbing topic (that which has the ascendant for the moment), whose dinner is best, how best to shine in a society of fashionables, how to keep a place, or how turn out the ministers ?
“ If you reproach them with this, far from disputing it, or even defending themselves from the attack, they will be indifferent to its truth, and coolly reply,
defendit numerus.' Not one of these can say with the Psalmist, “I pour out my heart by myself ;' not one communes with that heart in his chamber and is still."
I protested, what was true, my incapacity to judge of all this, but Mr. Manners saying it, I told him I would take it for granted, and suppose Hervey was right in what he said of the world.
“ Be assured then,” he continued, “ he is equally right in what he says of solitude as a contrast ;-and he read on :- Here safety dwells. Every meddling and intrusive avocation is secluded. Silence holds the door against the strife of tongues, and all the impertinences of idle conversation. The busy swarm of vain images and cajoling temptations, which beset us with a buzzing importunity amidst the gaieties of life, are chased by these thickening shades. Here I may, without disturbance, commune with my own heart, and learn the best of sciences, to know myself. Here the soul may rally her dissipated powers, and
grace recover its native energy. This is the opportunity to rectify every evil impression ; to expel the poison and guard against the contagion of corrupting examples. This is the place where I may with advantage apply myself to subdue the rebel within, and be master, not of a sceptre, but of myself. Throng then, ye ambitious, the levées of the powerful; I will be punctual in my assignation with solitude. To a mind intent upon its own improvement, solitude has charms incomparably more engaging than the entertainments of a theatre or the honours of a drawing-room. I said solitude ! But am I then alone?'
“A solemn question," observed Manners, “to which he gives a solemn and awful answer, for he says, and says truly, that God and his angels are always with him, in him, and about him. And this, in fact, is the real advantage of solitude, particularly in the country, that it every where prompts reflections as to nature and its author, which cannot find place in towns. Walton would never have been what he was, but for his country walks: they made every thing to look gladness and health, and beat all that the most costly art ever effected. He who can properly enjoy them, has really the
• Vita solutorum miserâ ambitione gravique.'”
I felt this to be equally true and affecting, particularly when my companion went on :
“Can any man, thinking thus of the world, and
his retreat from it, ever feel that retreat irksome or vacant? There are moments, indeed, worth a thousand pounds, when, free from bodily complaint, mental uneasiness, or mental fear, in love with God, and in charity with man, we feel an exuberant felicity which we cannot define, but which makes us pour out our souls in genuine thanksgiving.
6 Such moments, however,” continued he, “ belong not to the inhabitants of the club-room or the denizen of office; they come but to those who live in part, at least, a contemplative life, and much alone; and such is the sweetest charm, as well as the most valuable property, of the solitude we are discussing. For such a person, thus fitted for it, though he appear the idlest and most unoccupied of men, is in fact the most busy ; his body may seem a fixture, but his thoughts, his interests, are all in motion. He has a mute but observing eye, seemingly bent on vacancy, but no vacancy to him; for he will see, within the mere walls of his room, the whole perhaps of the peopled earth, from the beginning of time, passing in review before his intellect; he will meditate on the nature and history of man, and particularly on his own, in which he will discover a thousand minute traits which had escaped him in the world. If good, he will rejoice in them; if bad, he will amend them; and thus, though he stir not for hours from the fire in winter, or a garden bench in summer, yet is not his time misspent.”
My instructor said this with an unction that proved
his sincerity, and only made the picture more impressive. It is certain I felt my veneration for him increase at every word he spoke, and I was, however alive to the sound, sorry when a most deep-toned bell from the top of the house, and echoed from the woodland below, announced that dinner was on the table.
OF THE GOOD DINNER WHICH SOLITUDE MAY FUR
NISH TO THOSE WHO CAN AFFORD IT, AND THE
FURTHER HISTORY OF MR. MANNERS.
We have a trifling, foolish banquet toward.
SHAKSPEARE.- Romeo & Juliet. Our repast was simplex munditiis ; unless the beautiful Sevre in which the viands, and the fine old Dresden in which the dessert were served, might be said to savour a little more of magnificence than neatness.
Be that as it will, it is the property of elegance always to please, and as nothing forbade it here, I own I allowed myself to enjoy all that it is so calculated to add to the usual attraction of an excellent dinner. There was an exquisite soup; the promised chicken was most savoury, and done to a turn; and claret like a ruby, and foaming Saint Peray, which my host dealt out liberally from an embossed silver ice-pail, crowned the feast.
Much as I was occupied, I could not help contrasting the scene with that in the kitchen of the Jolly Angler, and at the Ordinary of the Royal Oak; and