Графични страници
PDF файл

prehension lest their children should lose their rank and be degraded to the level of common folks. This is no fable, nor fiction.


Of the Proper and Improper, as depending upon the

diverse circumstances and ages of life.

The love of propriety, along with an accurate perception of the difference between the proper and the improper, is an estimable quality in human beings; for though it is not virtue in its best and highest sense, it is virtue's shield and ornament. To woman in particu. lar, it is a pledge of honour and a diadem of beauty.

There are women who, without any extraordinary strength of intellect or advantages of education, discover a sort of intuitive or instinctive perception of propriety, on all occasions and under all circumstances—far surpassing, in that particular, most men of even talents and learning. Solomon, with a single stroke of his pencil, has given us the portraiture of such

She openeth her mouth with wisdom ; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. Here are blended two characteristic traits, of which, neither would show well by itself. Discretion unaccompanied with kindness-mere selfish cold-hearted discretion, whether found in man or woman, has very little claim to commendation. She is a woman but in name, that has no heart in her bosom. On the other hand, kindness is very liable to error, and even to fatal error, when it lacks the guidance of discretion. Whereas the union of these two qualities, crowned, withal, with that essential requisite, the fear of the Lord renders female character alike respectable and lovely. A woman of this description, though destitute of the advantages of beauty, or youth, or wealth, or wit, is an ornament to the human family; while, to her own family, she is one of the first of blessings.

a woman.

The laws of propriety not only comprize all the laws of morality-for nothing that is immoral can be proper but they reach to a vast variety of things that, in themselves, are indifferent :-their propriety or impropriety depending on time, place, age, circumstances or cases, without name or number.

Far from attempting to explore this boundless field, I shall but mention two articles culled from it. First, what may be quite proper for some persons,

, may be very improper for others. For instance, it is proper for the rich, if they choose it, to make the appearance of riches, in their buildings, their furniture, the elegances of their tables, the superior quality of their apparel, or in any lawful way else, which their circumstances can well afford. If a rich man make him great works--if he build him costly houses—if he plant him fine gardens furnished with pools of water, “ to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees,”-or if he array his househould in splendid apparel ;-there is no impropriety in all this, provided the clear income of his estate be fully sufficient to defray these expenses, over and above what is due to the calls of charity. It is much better than to let his gold and his silver lie and rust in moth-eaten bags; for, by giving employ, to so many artists and labourers, he encourages and rewards industry, and becoines the prop and support of the industrious poor that are about him.

But-mark the differencewhen a man that is not rich, affects the manner of the rich, the impropriety of


[ocr errors]

his conduct is manifest to all but himself; and he is only laughed at for his pains. Would it were an uncommon instance! So it is not. There are thousands of this sort ; thousands that are pawning the first and essential necessaries of life, and sinking themselves into debt and pitiless poverty; and all from an itch for mere show. What a mass of wretchedness and misery might be prevented by a timely cure of this single folly! No kind of fascination is more generally prevalent, and there is scarcely any one that draws after it more ruinous consequences.

Second, the other of the two points that I proposed to notice, is, that certain things which are proper at one time of life, are improper at another. In a qualified sense,

to every thing there is season." Child hood is the season for childish things, which, in the succeeding periods of life, must be put away. Youth, also, is the season for certain things which peculiarly belong to that age. It is the spring-time of life; and there is in it a certain undescribable hilarity of look, air and manner, that exactly befits it, but which ill suits the season of old age. A boyish old man, or a girlish old woman, is as unnatural a phenomenon, as the flowers of May in the month of December.

Few things are more difficult than to grow old with a good grace: and perhaps the burden of the difficulty lies, with a disproportioned weight, upon the female part of our species. To the vainer and more superficial sort, it is bitter as death to lose the youthful bloom, for which alone they had been admired, and for which they had so much admired themselves. And hence there are to be found many matrons, affecting, in dress and manner, the frivolity of girlish years in spite of obtrusive wrinkles an d silvery locks.


Of keeping children from the company of children.

He that formed man, and knew best, what was in him, and what he was made for, saw that it was not good that he should be alone. This single line, or sentence, confutes the volumes of glowing declamation in favour of solitude, or total abstraction from the world. To man, the social state is the natural state : it brightens his intellects, expands his heart, strengthens his weakness and multiplies his enjoyments; whereas habitual solitude tends to narrowness of heart and mustiness of temper. Not that it is good to be always in company. That opposite extreme, which so many have run into, is quite as bad as the other. The solitary being who shuns all company, and the empty flutterer who finds no enjoyment out of company, are alike wide of the true mark; which is a due mixture of intervals of well-spent solitude, with the business and duties and enjoyments of secial life.

As Zoologists tell us, “ It has long been observed that those races of animals which live in societies, and unite their efforts for the attainment of one common end, exhibit a great superiority of intellectual faculties over those which lead a life of solitude and seclusion : and the observation applies equally to the small as to the larger animals ; although among the insect tribes the distinction is most strongly marked.” It has also been noticed by careful observers, that the gregarious races of animals, in many instances, evidently learn of one another, and so become more sagacious, and more expert in their operations, by reason of their living in ą social state. Young singing birds, for example, are

[ocr errors]

known to improve in voice and skill, by listening to the notes of an old and experienced songster.

In human beings, the social affection seems to be nearly coeval with the first dawn of reason. An infant, not unfrequently has been seen to leap with joy in its mother's arms at the sight of another infant; reaching out its little hands to embrace the stranger. Emulation, also, is of the like early growth. Infants, that have small children constantly about them, if other things be equal, learn to walk and to speak, carlier than those that are confined altogether to the company of full

grown people. Equally true is it, that both small and large children enjoy themselves a great deal better for being much in the company of their equals. Moreover, it increases the growth and strength of their minds, improves the faculties of their bodies, and furnishes them with a sort of information highly necessary to their childish years.

How much children learn from children, is beyond account. It is true, in this way, they learn some things which they must be made to unlearn. But that is not so bad as to deaden their faculties and make mopes

of them, by debarring them altogether from the society of those of their own age. There is a mixture of good and evil, as in all other human affairs, so also in any system of education which human wisdom can devise; that being the most eligible one, in which the good most clearly preponderates : and, upon this principle, to suffer children to enjoy the company of children, and at the same time to keep a watchful eye upon them, is a much better way than wholly to immure them, as some parents have done, either from pride, or through fear of contamination.

No topics have been worn more thread-bare, than those relating to the comforts and benefits and blessings

« ПредишнаНапред »