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It is owing to vanity that we voluntarily endure unhappiness, to appear happy; that we rob ourselves of necessaries, to appear as if our circumstances were plentiful and affluent. Many a one is at more expense in maintaining Vanity's brood, than it would cost him to bring up, in a plain way, a family of children.
Vanity undervalues itself with a view to extort praise. “ When any one” (says Dr. Johnson) “ complains of the want of what he is known to possess in an eminent degree, he waits with impatience to be contradicted.”
Reproof is often given, not so much to mend the reproved, as to shew that the reprover is free from the faults himself.
Advice is often offered, rather to give the adviser the air of wisdom, than to benefit the advised.
Secrets, often times are divulged, more from the vanity of one's having been intrusted with them, than from any
other motive. As vanity-in different proportions, variously directed, mixed up with different elements, and displaying itself in different forms is a universal quality or principle in mankind, so it belongs to our species exclusively perhaps. For we have no reason to think that, either above or below us, in the whole universe of God, there is any other race or order of creatures fully like to man in this respect.
Nor man, nor woman, is there, who hath not so much as a little spice of vanity, either in external conduct, or in the secret folds of the mind and heart. In a moderate degree, this marvellous quality of our species is not inconsistent with real and great moral excellence ; but in the extreme, or when it is the master-principle, it is then, that plague of the heart, which taints all the springs of action. Neither is there any thing more carefully to be guarded against, and nipt in the bud, in
the course of early education. Because the extreme of vanity is of near kin to the extreme of avarice. The very vain person, like the very avaricious one, makes every thing centre in self, and will use as many low and vile tricks for applause, as does the other for wealth. Moreover vanity, like avarice, commonly increases with age, and, like that, the more plenteously it is fed, the more voracious groweth its appetite.
Of the importance of the Goose, to Man.
There is scarcely any thing that more often leads to incorrectness in point of truth, than an overweening fondness for pointed Antithesis, or the juggle of unnaturally contrasting words for the sake of their jingle, and of objects or things, to excite emotions of surprize. It is, moreover, a species of aberration to which the ambition for prettinesses of style is sadly prone, since antithesis has the effect of raising, in the bulk of mankind, a sort of admiration or wonder, which is so much the greater, by how much less is the real ground for the contrast, and greatest of all when there is not for it a shadow of ground.
It would cost no great labour and pains to illustrate these observations, by adducing various passages, or rather short sentences, both in verse and prose, from authors of celebrity. But a single example must suffice
While Man exclaims, " See all things for my use !"
" See Man for mine!” replies a pamper'd goose. There is nothing perhaps in all that celebrated poem of Pope, The Essay on Man, that has excited more pleasurable surprize, and in the minds of a greater number of readers, than this ingenious antithesis, or contrast of Man and Goose ; and yet nothing can be more egregiously absurd than the sentiment it conveys.
Man made for the use of geese! A fig for this philosophy of Pope :-it was of the spurious mintage of his friend Bolingbroke. The goose, so far from need. ing man, is the happiest in the wild state. Possessing the privilege of an ample and potent wing, she can choose her clime and her food over the whole earth, and would be much inore at her ease, if no human being existed. But Man, the liege lord of the lower creation, stands in urgent need of the goose. Nor is the designation of any inferior animal else, more clearly or more marvellously for his particular use and essential benefit. To say nothing of the luxury of her flesh, and of the superior luxury of her down, the Quill entitles the goose to rank amongst the very first of subsidaries to human weal.
An Indian Sachem, when one offered him to take his son and learn him to write, contemptuously replied, * What good will it do a boy to learn to play with a feather ?" Nor was that reply at all unreasonable in a savage, who preferred his own condition, and despised alike the employments and enjoyments of civilized life. But, in the bosom of civilization, and for the great purposes of promoting and extending civilization, a Feather is a potent instrument indeed.
Not even the mere mechanical art of using a feather adroitly, is to be despised. Many a deep-learnt scholar has regretted, too late, that he had not learned, when a boy, to write a fair hand with ease and despatch, how much soever it might have intrenched upon some of his scholastic exercises of a higher order.
Whether we contemplate the diffusion of moral light, by the recent translations of the sacred volume into so many different tongues; whether we consider the spread of science and the arts, the communication of new inventions, or new improvements in the old ones; whether we reflect upon the infinitely multifarious business of commerce, of banks, and of common deal in its innumerable branches, or whether we turn our attention to the multitude of tomes and tracts, in verse and prose,
that are calculated to make the world wiser and better :-these, and whatever there is else which relates to morals and government, to literature or science, to the pleasures of imagination, and to business of any and of every kind, proceed all from the goose quill. See this vast realm daily traversed by the mails, that Ay in every direction, fraught with thousands and tens fly of thousands of letters,—some of business, some of friendship, some of love ; see parent and child, husband and wife, lover and mistress, brothers and sisters, by means of the speaking paper, converse together freely, though hundreds of miles apart :-see all these proceeds of the quill, and believe, if you can, with the bard of Twickenham, that Man is no less made for the Goose, than the goose is for man.
And hark'e, gentlemen of the type : your press is not so independent quite, as ye fain would make the world believe. It is the quill, that feeds it, and gives it life and motion. Vain would be all your printing apparatus, without bountiful contributions from this wonder-working instrument. Not even Faust himself, a wizard though he was thought, could have been able to keep his press agoing without the pen.
Nay the letter-founder, the paper-maker, the bookseller, and all their dependants, draw their subsistence primarily from the quill of the grey goose ; which, in so
far as it is under the guidance of intelligence, and consecrated to the cause of virtue, is one of the first of blessings to mankind. But, alas! while human nature continues what it is, it will pervert its privileges, and turn its blessings to evils. The mischiefs resulting to individuals, and to society at large, from the moral abuse of the Quill, are neither few nor small. The pen of a ready, but unprincipled, writer, scatters abroad deadly poison withi much more facility and effect, than it can be done by the most unbridled and licentious tongue.
I will conclude this little essay, which perhaps is rather of too light a cast, with an advisory remark of some considerable importance to new beginners in life. What I would here recommend, to youths generally, and of both sexes, is Epistolary Writing. It improves the understanding, as well as enlivens the social affections.-Of two females, perfectly equal when leaving their school at the age of fifteen, if one should almost entirely neglect her pen, and the other should frequently employ hers in well-chosen correspondencies; the latter, at the age of thirty, other things being alike, would, from this single circumstance, have become considerably superior to the former, in point of understanding, and probably, too, in point of sensibility. Not to mention that very close friends, and very near relations, when long separated almost forget one another ; unless their friendship be kept in good plight by means of a frequent interchange of letters.--Nor should it be forgotten, that, to neglect to answer the letters of friends, is very little less uncivil, if any, than to neglect to answer them when they speak to you with their lips,