« ПредишнаНапред »
of the heavy tax laid upon all worldly eminence.
The following advisory monition of an inspired prophet to his dear and familiar friend, contains a volume of instruction And seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not. Nothing is more certain than the vanity of human greatness, not only by reason of its being transitory and perishable, but, also, because it is often accompanied with much more than an ordinary share of trouble and vexation.
If we consider the first and greatest of all worldly distinctions, -I mean extraordinary gifts of nature, even these, for the most part, are heavily taxed by the impartial hand of the giver. The few geniuses, (few indeed in comparison to the number of those who lay claim to that high distinction,) so far from being the happiest, are often the most wretched of mortals. The irritableness and spleen of distinguished authors, and especially of poets, are proverbial. The same texture and tone of the system, which qualify them for soaring into the regions of fancy and painting nature in all her hues, do utterly disqualify them, at least in many instances, for enjoying, in an equal measure with the rest of mankind, the common comforts and blessings of life. Not to mention the bitterness of rivalry and the torments of jealousy, which they are fated to feel and endure. So that, as regards ease and comfort, plain common sense with controlled passions, is better by far than genius, when taxed, as it so often is, with morbid sensibility, and with passions violent and ungovernable.
The greatest Beauties, are seldom the most amiable, the most discreet and respectable, or the most happy: of women ; while, not rarely, their very beauty has been their ruin.
And indeed if we were to make a general survey of the extraordinary gifts of nature, and shonld weigh together, in an even balance, their advantages and disadvantages as respects the comfort of the possessors, we should find, that, in many instances, if not in most, the latter are fully equal to the former.
Neither are the gifts of Fortune exempt from heavy and grievous taxation. Vast wealth brings upon its possessor a load of incessant care, generates dispositions and feelings incompatible with quiet enjoyment, and often makes profligates of her children. Nay even Power, that idol of human ambition-even Power, for which riches themselves are chiefly coveted, is often aecompanied with more of vexation than of substantial enjoyment. Royalty itself has its disquietudes and dire vexations. Mary, Queen of England, and jointpartner in the throne, in a letter to her husband William the Third, then in Ireland, thus pathetically desscribes the troubles of her exalted station :- I must see company on set days. I must laugh and talk, though never so much against my will. I must grin when my heart is ready to break, and talk when my heart is so oppressed that I can scarce breathe. All my motions are watched, and all I do, so observed, that if I eat less, or speak less, or look more grave, all is lost in the opinion of the world.”—How unenviable is such a lot as this, and yet how envied !
While on a time I was reading in General Lee's Memoirs, how that Washington, when speaking on the subject of death, used often to declare that he would not repass his life were it in his option--while reading this extraordinary passage I was touched with a momentary surprize. What! methought, can it be so ? The man whose life was covered with glory beyond
that of almost any other mortal-could he be unwilling to travel over again the same brilliant path, and to enjoy anew the same high honours! Could he find such a life tedious and irksome!A few moments' reflection was sufficient, however, to convince me that the thing was neither incredible nor wonderful. In the seven years' war and the eight years of his administration, his solicitude and anxiety lest haply by some improper step he should commit the interests of his country, far outweighed, in all probability, every thing of real enjoyment that mere human power and greatness can bestow. Nor is it unreasonable to think, that during those fifteen anxious years, many a day labourer, nay, many a menial servant, enjoyed a greater portion of unalloyed worldly comfort than did the illustrious man whom the world held in such admiratior.
The object of the foregoing train of reflections is not at all to decry Genius, or Beauty, or Riches, or Power ; but rather to evince, that man or woman, in moderate circumstances, and ungifted with any uncommon endowments, may be quite as happy without these splendid distinctions, as those are who possess them. For the enjoyment of every essential comfort that this world can afford, there is need only of health and competence, together with a contented mind, a pure conscience and a thankful heart.
Between the periods of birth and burial how short the space! How very soon will come the time, when, with all the vast generation now treading this stage ol mortality, no distinctions but of the moral kind will remain !
Of the inestimable value of a pious, discreet, and faith
It has been often observed, that some of the most illustrious of human characters were early moulded to the model of excellence by the maternal hand. Of this, I might adduce, from the records of history a goodly number of instances ; but for the present shall mention only one.
Sir Philip Sidney-born about the middle of the sixteenth century-was the wonder of the age in which he lived; for though he died at a little more than thirty, his fame as a wise and profound statesman, was spread ever all Europe. Nor was he less distinguished for religious and moral virtues, and particularly for generosity and tenderness of nature. It has been remarked of him, that " the most beautiful event of his life, was his .death.” Receiving a mortal wound in a battle in Flanders, the moment after he was wounded, and thirsty with the excess of bleeding, he turned away the water from his own lips, to give it to a dying soldier with these words.--" Thy necessity is still greater than mine."
This extraordinary man was indebted, for the rudiments of his education, to his illustrious and excellent inother, the eldest daughter of the Duke of Northumberland, who, in a preceding reign had been beheaded. “ Her tender melancholy occasioned by the tragical events in her family, together with the mischance of sickness, that had impaired her beauty, inclined her te hide herself from the gay world, and to bestow her attentions almost exclusively upon the education of her children.” “ It was her delight,” says a biographer of Sir Philip, “ to form their early habits ; to instil into their tender minds the principles of religion and virtue ; to direct their passions to proper objects ; to superintend not only their serious occupations, but even their amusements."
Had not the loftiness of the house of Northumberland been fallen; hadłady Mary, the eldest daughter of that house, been a leader of fashion at the royal court_a distinction to which her rank would have fully entitled her ;-her Philip would, in no probability, have been the exalted character that he was.
To see a mother, herself highly accomplished, and capable of shining in the first circles of fashionable life ; to see her forego the pleasure of amusement and the ambition of show, for the sake of bestowing personal attentions upon her infantile brood ; to see her spend the best of her days in fashioning their minds and manners upon the purest models, guiding them with discretion, and alluring them to the love of excellence, alike by precept and example : to see this, is to be hold one of the most charming of spectacles any where furnished in this fallen world.
And what though it be not in the power of such a mother to make a Philip Sidney of her son ? What though nature has gifted her children with no uncommon strength or brightness of intellect? Yet, with the divine blessing, she may have such influence upon the moral frame of their young and tender minds, that they shall be disposed to improve their natural talents, whatever they be, and to employ them honorably. The benefits, in this respect, which highly capable mothers might confer on their children during a few of the first years of their earthly existence, are far beyond the power of calculation ; since these benefits would like. ly descend from one generation to another, down to distant posterity. “ Delightful task !"-In comparison with the pure and sublime enjoyment which the