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life which are given in common to human beings, which no arts of refinement can considerably increase, and which excess never fails to embitter ; they lose the.
; good they have, by their perpetual hankerings after some unattainable state of earthly felicity. Pursuing pleasure with eagerness, and as an employment, they purchase pain ; and that, at the expense of fortune, health, character, and peace of mind. At this dear rate they purchase the most grievous of pain, to wit, that of satiety, which consists in loathing life and its enjoyments. He that is not nian enough to govern his appetites, cannot make himself brute enough to indulge and pamper them without remorse ; and therefore, in the very circumstance in which he places his chief good, he is far less happy than some of the irrational animals around him. But to return to the fabulous spectacles : it may
be taken for certain that, though invisible, they are actually worn by all persons belonging to any of the following classes.
They certainly wear them, who fondly hope to find happiness in a life devoted to idleness and an unrestrained indulgence of passion and appetite. With respect to their true good, as relates even to this life alone, they are under a deplorable mistake. For it is an axiom built upon irrefragable experience, that if mere corporeal gratification were intended to be the main object of our pursuits, yet, even then, with regard to real enjoyment, industry would be preferable to sloth, and temperance to excess.
They wear them, who incessantly moil and toil, are hard dealers, illiberal, uncharitable, incompassionate to the poor ; and all for the sake of hoarding up treas, ure for their children. Blind infatuation ! Often, very
often, it happens, that such hoards are squandered in a much shorter time than it took to gather them.
They wear them, who, though possessing a competence, fret their hearts and embitter their lives with covetings after riches. Were they to view things in a true light, they would be thankful, rather than discontented and querulous ; since their condition is precisely that which is best calculated to furnish the greatest amount of genuine earthly comfort.
They wear them, who sacrifice realities to appearances, substantial comforts to airy notions, who had rather feel misery than not seem happy, who impoverish and beggar themselves for the sake of appearing more prosperous and felicitous than those of the common sort. The folly of such people's calculations is seen by every body but themselves.
They wear them, who lay the scenes of their happiness abroad rather than at home. It is a certain truth, that one who lives on uneasy terms with himself can find very little enjoyment in extrinsic objects. So that the very first step in the road to solid happiness, is the acquirement of a contented mind; because without a disposition to contentment, any change of place, or of outward condition, is only the exchange of one sort of disquietude for another. And as the spring of happiness is found in our own minds, or no where ; so, “ wellordered Home” is the true centre of its enjoyment. Mothers, whose chief satisfaction lies in circles of fashion and scenes of amusement, have their vision woefully distorted by means of the magic spectacles. Else they would clearly see that the occupation of nursing, rearing, and instructing their infant progeny, is what furnishes the sweetest of pleasures, at the same time that it is one of the first of duties.
Of the misuse, and the proper use, of Reading
" Read not to contradict or confute, nor to believe and take for granted, but to weigh and consider."
The age we live in has been remarkably a reading age. Books are more numerous and of more easy access, than at any former period; and the number of readers has increased astonishingly since the middle of the last century. In a general view, this is of good omen, for reading is one of the principal keys of knowledge: it unlocks as it were a mine of intellectual wealth, and contributes to iis general diffusion. There is considerable reason to think, however, that the progress of real sound knowledge has not kept pace with the progress
of reading : for the slow pace of the former in comparison to that of the latter, there being the several causes which here follow.
By reason of the abundance and super-abundance of books, the best are commonly read but superficially, and, by many, not read at all; the attentions of the reading public being distracted with such a boundless variety. If there were only one book in the world, and its copies so multiplied that it were in every one's hands, almost every body would have it by heart. Or, if there were only a few books, and they accessible to all, those few would be pondered and studied till a considerable part of their contents were treasured up in the minds and memories of the generality of readers. But now that books are so numerous and innumerable, the readers skip from one to another without settling their attention upon any; so that many who are fairly entitled to the credit of great reading, are very little
improved in their intellectual faculties. They greedily devour books, but duly appropriate scarce any thing of their contents; like eaters that have a voracious appetite, but a bad digestion.
Besides this, with the bulk of the bookish tribe, reading is come to be an idle amusement, rather than a serious and laborious occupation. They read for pleasure, more than for profit. The acquirement of a fund of really useful knowledge scarcely comes within the scope of their object, which is mainly, to beguile the tedious hours by furnishing food for the imagination. And hence is it, that no books are so palatable, or so generally read, and with so much eagerness, as the lighter compositions which are fraught with amusement, but barren of sound instruction. A novel even of the lowest cast, finds more readers than a serious work of great merit.
Moreover, the perpetual influx of new books has occasioned a raging appetite for novelty of some kind or other, no matter what; so that the attention of most readers is directed rather to what is new, than to what is valuable and excellent. This kind of curiosity is insatiable ; for the more it is fed, the more it craves. Old authors are neglected, because they are old, and new ones engross the attention, because they are new. The standard-compositions of former ages are cast aside as lumber; while a new pretender, with less than a fourth part of their abilities, is sure to find a momentary welcome at least.
From these causes it happens, that a great deal of reading does by no means imply a great stock of valuable knowledge. On the contrary, it often leaves the mind empty of almost every thing but vanity; none being more vain, nor more intolerable, than those who having learnt by rote a multitude of maxims and facts,
deal them out by the gross, on all occasions, and in all companies. The food they have derived from reading lies in their minds undigested, and while it occasions a preternatural tumour there, it gives neither growth nor strength. Their reading has scarcely brought into excrcise any one of the intellectuals besides the memory, which has been loaded and kept in perpetual action, whilst their understandings and judgments remain dormant. They are proud that they have read so much, but have reason rather to be ashamed that they know so little.
One who would really profit hy reading must take heed what he reads, and how.
The use of reading, is to render one more wise and virtuous, rather than more learned ; and that point is to be gained not so much from the quantity, as the quality of the books we peruse. No single individual has leisure enough, nor is any life long enough, for a thorough perusal of even the tenth part of the books now extant in the English language. A selection is therefore necessary, and much depends upon making it judiciously. An inconsiderable number of well chosen and well studied books, will enable one to make far greater advances in real knowledge, than lightly skimming over hundreds of volumes taken up indiscrimately
In reading, attention is to be paid also to the How, as well as to the What. The proper object of reading is not merely to inform us of what others think, but also to furnish us with materials for thinking ourselves, or for the employ and exercise of our judgments and understandings, and of the whole of our intellectual and moral faculties. It is not enough that it supplies us with a multitude of facts ; for the knowledge of facts is valuable to us chiefly for the inferences that we ourselves may draw from them, or because they fur