« ПредишнаНапред »
and a mere smatter, of what are called the fine arts, such as Embroidery, Drawing, Music, and so on. They have learned the discipline of the fingers and of the foot ; and for this reason alone, their education is held in admiration. As if mere accomplishments, which u. sually become obsolete soon after marriage, were suffi.cient to prepare women to be excellent wives, excellent mothers, and excellent housekeepers; as if a merely accomplished woman were fitted either to act her part respectably in society, or to take comfort in the solitude of retirement, or under the decays of age ; or as if the modesty and the refined manners of women spring from accomplishments, rather than from their being well taught in moral and religious duty. So far from all this, a married woman of mere occomplishments, and whose chief ambition is, to make a figure in the eye of the public-seldom fails of rendering her husband unhappy, and herself too.
In the school of Fashion, female accomplishments have long had the ascendant. Nor is it to my purpose to decry or despise them. Let those have them, if they please, whose rank in life requires it, and whose ampleness of fortune can well afford the expense. Yet, even by them, be it remembered, that they are but of trifling account in comparison of the solid and useful parts of education. If accomplishments be appended to these, they may serve for adorning the whole : but hapless will be the husband and the children of the woman, and quite as hapless the woman herself, who rests her character and conduct in life upon accomplishments alone.
As to families of the common sort, possessed neither of high rank nor of ample fortunes, the plain, useful, education, is the best for their daughters. This is all that can, ordinarily, do them any good ; and more than
do them much harm. A very ancient and a very respectable writer-whom we ought to read much oftener than we do—bath told us of a knowledge that puffeth up.* And perhaps there is no kind of knowledge more puffing, than the one I have now been mentioning. A female, of scanty information and weak intellects, so values herself for the circumstance of her being initiated in the practice of some of the fine arts, that she loses by it the use of her hands. She will vouchsafe indeed to employ her pretty fingers, now and then, in fancy-work for amusement ; but in nothing that is really useful ; in nothing that earns bread; in nothing that can turn to any valuable account. Peradventure she is in impoverished circumstances; peradventure her condition is such as imperiously calls for the useful labour of her hands. It makes no odds. She is not of the labouring class, but far above it. She ' do the common work of womankind, she, who had gone through all the grades of fashionable education ! The idea is too monstrous.
Thus, instead of being made by their education, the more capable of helping themselves in this world of 6 thorns and thistles,” of labour, toil, and hardship; there are some, and perhaps not a few, whose very education renders them but the more helpless.
* St. Paul.
Of the commen use of false weights and measures in
dealing out both Praise and Censure.
.“ 0, that men's ears should be To counsel deaf, but not to flattery !".
In the whole compass of human traffick there is
perhaps no commodity that is dealt out with less regard to weight and measure, than Praise ; if we only except its opposite, namely, dispraise or reproach.
In the bestowment of praise we are very apt to be guided by our feelings, or our interests, rather than our judgments. Freely, and in more than full measure, we bestow upon our friends what costs us nothing, and what we secretly hope they will repay us in the same way. To praise the Athenians is the way to be praised by the Athenians-was one of the proverbs of antiquity. Neither ought it to be regarded as a peculiarity of the Athenian character, but rather as a common feature in our general nature. There is no so ready a way to obtain flattery, as to bestow it plentifully. And hence men flatter, with the view of being flattered in return.
Indeed it is better of the two, to be too lavish of praise, than too prodigal of censure. But even the former is of evil tendency, because they who find it easy to obtain a greater quantity of praise than they deserve, will not only be the less careful to deserve it, but also the less likely to make a just estimate of their own characters ; self-love, naturally inclining us to think of ourselves, quite as well as we find others say of us. Moreover, extravagant encomium, besides violating truth, and infusing the poison of flattery, seldom
fails of injuring the subject of it, by occasioning a criti cal investigation of faults or defects, which, else, might have been less noticed or sooner forgotten. Nor would it be hazarding too much, to say, that undue encomium is even more likely to do us an essential injury than undue censure ; for the latter might possibly be the means of meliorating the qualities of our hearts, whereas the former directly tends to pervert and deprave them.
Whilst some praise almost nobody, others praise almost every body. These last are as nauseously sweet, as the others are crabbedly sour. Affecting the superlative of candor, they speak alike well of the generality of their species ; and so, as far as in them lies, they put upon one and the same level, Wisdom and Folly, Virtue and Vice, and pour the incense of their own foolishness
the whole mass. This indiscriminate praise is the meanest of all adulation ; and it tends to destroy, among men, all sense of distinction of character. One who is accustomed to speak in nearly the same favourable terms of all, is either too weak, or too insincere, to be deserving of the esteem of any.
Next to the mischievous folly of the aforementioned species of indiscriminate praise, is that of bestowing unqualified applause upon characters or works, which are commendable upon the whole, but censurable in some of their parts. Men, and the works of men, are always imperfect, however excellent in a general view, and it is the part of wisdom to distinguish between their excellencies and their imperfections ; noting the one sort for imitation, and the other for avoidance. But it is too much the custom, to laud whatever appertains to your friend, because he is your friend. This is yielding to friendship more than its due, and more than good conscience can admit of; as it partakes of
the dishonesty of using false weights and false meas
Not but that it is allowable, and even dutiful, in
many instances to conceal the fault we know ; for oftentimes circumstances require, that, in speaking of others, we make it a rule, “ rather to say nothing that is false, than all that is true.” Nevertheless, to eulogize the whole of characters, which are adorned with manifest excellencies and at the same time blemished with defects which are alike manifest, is to blend truth with falsehood, and to present to the view a fallacious, rather than a real likeness. As to speak well of every body is false candor, so to commend alike every thing in, or done by, one's friend, is false praise.
De mortuis nil nisi bonum—say nothing but good of the dead—is an old maxim, and, in a qualified sense, a very just one. But though humanity demands, that
6 tread lightly on the dust of the dead," and although decency forbids all unnecessary exposure of the failings and blemishes in their lives ; yet the sacred laws of truth, peremptorily prohibit exaggerated praise even of them. This is an error, to which the ardor (not to say the pride) of friendship, is exceedingly liable. Funeral panegyrics, epitaphs, and biographical memoirs, often, very often, portray the affectionate feelings of surviving friends, rather than the real picture of character. Not to mention, that over-praising the dead, is done, sometimes, for the sake of flattering the living
Eulogy, whether of the living or the dead, which evidently overleaps the bounds of truth, defeats its own purpose, and has even the effect of satire. So that we may do our friends as real injury by excessive praise, as by defamation.
As we are prone to over-praise those we have a warm affection for, we are still more prone, on the other