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most absurdly over-praised. He rings the changes upon self-love with much ingenuity, and more ill-nature; but where he is correct, he is too often tedious; and where he attempts to be pointed, he is not always correct. Voltaire has gone so far as to declare, that the maxims of Rouchefoucault contributed mainly to form the taste of the whole French nation; and Swift is scarcely less complimentary in summing up his character. But this was naturally to have been expected from individuals whose breasts were always so ready to echo every sentiment that tended to lower and calumniate humanity. Johnson, in his Rasselas, has enumerated the qualifications for a true poet; but the requisites to be possessed are so multiform, and the difficulties to be overcome so insurmountable, that the question instantly and unavoidably intrudes itself, who, then, can be a poet? To enter into an enumeration of the requisites for a writer of apothegms, would be to excite a similar question. I may, however, suggest, that it is no very easy task to arrive at proficiency in this particular style of writing, since it would seem to require the wit of a Sheridan, engrafted on the profundity of a Locke. Deep erudition is indispensable; but a mere knowledge of books would only be a trap for splendid errors, if unaccompanied by a thorough knowledge of men. The power of abstraction, peculiar in some degree to the cloistered academic, should be combined with the practical knowledge of the diplomatist, and the comprehensive views of the philosopher; for a speculative theory of morals, would lead to conclusions often visionary, and sometimes false, if disunited from a keen insight into the actual practice of manners. Untainted alike by the obstinacy or the temerity of innovation, such a writer will cite the example of the dead, to amend or instruct the living, in the full merit of those attainments of which he has only made himself master by concealing the errors of the dead. Talents that are past, he will not pedantically exalt, at the expense of those which are present; neither will he flatter talents which are present into a belief that they will not be surpassed by those which are to come. The writer who approaches the nearest to this character is the author of Lacon; he has sought and obtained trophies of success in a field where every spot is replete with the triumphs of a Lucjan or a Theophrastus ; of a Bruyere or a Bacon; where he could not move either to the right or to the left, without encountering the barbed arrows of a Rouchefoucault, the sharp tiraillage of a Voltaire, or the imposing front of a Bolingbroke.
Fortunately, however, this is a department of literature which, although pre-occupied by the greatest names, and explored by the acutest investigators, is neither wholly conquered by the one, nor entirely exhausted by the other. Indeed, the apothegmatist may safely depend upon the inexhaustible nature of his subject; since the fears, the hopes, and the fashions and the follies of mankind, may be compared to a river ; those of yesterday are past, but those of to-morrow are to come. There is, however, a branch of this style of writing which, if less brilliant, is more generally useful than the ethics of such a writer as Mr. Colton, sparkling as they usually do with point and antithesis ; I allude to practical apothegms, which require worldly experience of a less subtle character than is indispensable in the higher walks of the art. Few persons pass through life without acquiring information which may be considered in some measure exclusive. These fruits of experience it requires no remarkable tact to apply to the advantage of one's neighbours; and a series of home-spun suggestions, on matters of even ordinary interest, are thus rendered highly useful to such as happen to be plodding along the path you may already have threaded; and who are thus furnished with a log-book of the voyage of life, with the aid of which they will readily recognise the shoals and quicksands which have proved fatal to so many of their predecessors. Without any wish to ape the attributes of such brilliant manufacturers of paradox as Mr. Colton, I wish to present the public with a few of those fruits of experience which have only been obtained at the price usually paid for such descriptions of knowledge; and if I should thus save either the pockets or the hearts of my readers a pang or a penny, I shall, probably, effect more than has often been accomplished by my precursors in this useful and attractive branch of literature. To do this, however, I must occasionally sacrifice point to perspicuity, and antithesis to common sense.
XIV. It is the common foible of our nature, to regard with comparative indifference applause to which we are conscious we are really entitled, whilst we endeavour to conciliate praise for those talents or acquirements of which we are not, but desire to be thought the possessors. H. is a painter of the first eminence; but not satisfied with the well-merited applause he has obtained by the productions of his pencil, he inundates the town with the most contemptible doggrel, for the purpose of proving that he is also a poet; and thus loses, by the gratuitous exhibition of his folly and ignorance in one capacity, much of that legitimate applause he has attracted another. Pay him a well-merited compliment on
he conception and execution of his last historical picture, and he listens to you with the utmost coldness and insoucience ; but, tell him how much you have been pleased with his verses in the last Morning Post; say a few words about the analogy between poetry and painting ; and add to the dose the expression of your admiration of the versatility of his genius; and he straightway becomes “all ear,” and sets you down in his red book, as one of the most sincere, intelligent, and agreeable fellows breathing. Nor is this species of imbecility confined to any particular profession or order of persons.
X. is a tolerable parson, a respectable dramatist, a vigorous writer of politics, an ingenious deviser of pantomimes, a first-rate poet, and an admirable fiddler ; but not content with his fame in these manifold and somewhat heterogeneous capacities, he wishes to found an ERA PERENNIUS, as a punster--and if you will but condescend to smile at his miserable attempts to be picquant, and his still more unfortunate mutilations of Joe Miller, you may rest assured of his forgiveness, even though you may have ridiculed his cloth, wept at his comedy, slept at his pantomime, cut up his poetry, and broken his Cremona. If you will only stretch your jaws and your complacency a little wider, and tell him that he has the vigorous humour of Curran, chastised by the classical elegance of Canning, he is your friend for ever, and will promise to make your
fortune when he has erected his own. But I might multiply examples of the sort of folly which has given occasion for these remarks
ad infinitum. The enumeration of a few well known instances, may not prove wholly unamusing : Lord Byron was vainer of his proficiency in the art of swimming, than of his perfection in the art of poetry; and poor Maturin of his quadrille dancing, than of his talent as a novelist ; Mr. Campbell is prouder of his crude plan for a London University, than of his “ twin immortal lyrics ;" Wilson, of his angling capabilities, and of his knowledge of the best trouting streams in the North of England, than of the versatility of his literary powers ; Mr. Hope, of his connoisseurship, than of the authorship of Anastasius ; Dr. Kitchener, of his humbug book on spectacles, and his kitchen jokes, than of his supremacy in culinary affairs ; and the Duke of Wellington, of his knowledge of chess, than of his proficiency in that nobler game which settled the destiny of Europe at Waterloo. He, therefore, who would make his way in the world, must address his flattery to the weaker side of human nature. He must seek for the hobby of the man he is ambitious to please, and canter into his favour upon its back. Instead of praising your acquaintance for talents or qualities of which no one denies them the possession, you must flatter them for those you perceive they wish to have credit for, whether they possess them or not. If you neglect this precaution, your civil speeches will (unless you are a person of paramount influence) all go for nothing. This is the philosopher's stone of the art of pleasing.
XV. Do not attempt to retrieve a broken fortune by marriage ; for women are so mercenary in affairs of the heart in general, that if they are induced to unite themselves to men of limited means, they are sure to spend them in the end a great deal more than they bring them. Let but Madam bring her husband a dowry, even though it should not exceed a few hundred pounds, and she will take especial care to convince him that she is fully sensible of her condescension in wedding a pauper, by lavishing that, and as much more as she can obtain, in the gratification of her own extravagant whims and caprices. The test, however, is not often applied ; for, for every woman of fortune who marries a man of merit and poverty, there are at least fifty men who take unto themselves wives with no other portions than their own virtues or attractions. These are not merely speculative opinions, they are facts which it is next to impossible to deny. We do sometimes hear of young ladies running off with their papas' footmen ; nay, a short time since we read, in the morning papers of an heiress, who had eloped with her father's groom. To persons destitute of all respect for the common decencies of life, however, it was never our intention to allude. But many women of unblemished respectability, and considerable amiableness of character, are extremely mercenary in affairs of the heart; and to this we are disposed to refer the vast numbers of rich old maids who encumber the earth at this present time of writing. Those they might have had, they disdained for their want of fortune; and those they wanted to marry, did not, it would seem, regard money and discretion a sufficient compensation for the absence of youth and personal charms. The system of education pursued in this country among the higher
classes of society, conduces perhaps in no small degree to bring about such results. Young ladies of fashion are almost invariably taught to consider all men of narrow means as swindlers, or at least adventurers, who, like Mr. Wakefield, are desirous of retiring from the business of fortune-hunting with some silly boarding-school girl, and a handsome competency. It never enters the head of a woman of the world, that
man can be worth a moment's consideration who does not drink “ hock and soda-water," and keep his box at the Opera. Whenever a swindler is possessed of enough capital and address to enable him to get introduced to good society, he is not easily foiled in his object. The ladies should institute a court of private inquiry into these matters, and relieve themselves, if they can, from the stigma of over-prudence, and even meanness, of which they stand accused in matters in which they ought to be directed by more generous impulses.
XVI. If you have a request to prefer, never communicate it by letter, when you can, by any possibility, ask it personally; for the chances of success are greatly in favour of your applying for what you want yourself. Your friend, or patron may, for ought you know to the contrary, be in an unusually bad humour at the moment your missive reaches him; and in this case a flat denial is almost sure to be the result of a written application. If, however, you can quell your hauteur so far as to wait upon
him yourself, you can, if you find it necessary, postpone the object of your visit until he is in a better temper, or, at least, word the favour you seek at his hands in terms suited to the barometer of his feelings; You will have, moreover, many opportunities of throwing in those little accessorial remarks, which are more convincing than any arguments, however elegant, which may be conveyed through the medium of a letter. In affairs of love, a missive is out of all question the most eligible mode of communication, for it spares the blushes of the lady, and saves the tyro of a lover a great deal of mauvaise honte. Beside, the ladies prefer that a proposal should reach them in black and white, as they have then an opportunity of exhibiting the proof positive of the power of their charms to all their female acquaintance !
XVII. A man may destroy the passions he may find it impossible to subdue ; upon much the same principle that one may shoot the horse that cannot be subjected to the rein.
XVIII. There are people who have not scrupled to declare that the well known proverb Iræ amantium intergratio est amoris, is not less applicable to friends than to lovers. Nothing, however, can be more fallacious than such a supposition. Whatever may be the effects of lovers' quarrels, the misunderstandings of friends are never as comfortably adjusted; or, to speak more correctly, are never adjusted at all. It is far more difficult to renew a friendship that has once been broken, than to conciliate a score of persons with whom you have never held any previous intercourse. I have somewhere seen, or heard it remarked of Love, that if you remove the bandage from his eyes, and deprive him of his darts and wings, you will find it difficult to distinguish him from Friendship. This may do very well for poetry, but it is not quite true enough for real life. There are other attributes of which Love must be deprived, before he can be assimilated to Friendship.
XIX. One hears a great deal about physiognomy, phrenology, and other ingenious theories, for discovering the characters and dispositions of men; but there is a test I have never seen alluded to, which I regard as infallible, as far as it goes; and that is the voice. Without entering into a tedious enumeration of the various circumstances which have confirmed me in my opinion upon this subject, I may instance at once the marked and characteristic distinction that exists between the voices of the sexes; for it is only when a woman is of a bold and masculine temperament, that this difference is not abundantly obvious. Who does not recognise the supple, but somewhat affected tones of the Italian; the scrannel pipe of the Frenchman; the phlegmatic growl of the German; the thick, husky grunt of the Dutchman ; and the deep, manly, but not unmusical voice of John Bull! The difference between the voices of these several persons, assisted as it sometimes is by gesture, is of marked, and, I would almost contend, of national peculiarity. Again, infinite as is the variety of the modulations of speech, we all recognise a friend, who may have been separated from us by years, by the first word he utters, even though his features may have escaped our recollection. If the voice has then this striking peculiarity, it is surely not extravagant to contend, that it may safely be referred to as a characteristic of the disposition. It is, in fact, the music of the heart; and whatever we may desire to appear, it will echo to its impulses, and be harsh or tender, in exact proportion to the brutality or suavity of the mind which must of necessity direct it. It is one of those attributes of humanity, which it is next to impossible to disguise. Even where it is softened and modulated by deceit, the insincerity of its tones may be detected, even more easily than the hollow smile of the sycophant or the traitor. By due attention to this very simple criterion, I have rarely been the object of a compliment, the sincerity of which I could not ascertain by the voice of the individual who offered it. I never yet encountered a man with a loud, harsh, grating voice, who was not selfish, dogmatical, and overbearing. Honesty of character is as observable in the voice as in the steady, clear, unshrinking glance of the eye. How essential is the difference between the tone and manner of speech of the young and the old ; the bold and careless voice of the soldier, and the smothered snuffle and whine of the would-be saint. I might pursue the illustration much farther, if I had either time or inclination; but I have said enough, I hope, to make some converts to my theory. Those who are setting out on the voyage of the world, will find my hints of use to them.