Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

It is, however, not to be doubted, that the disposition to extravagance, in this respect, is a little in advance of the means of its honest gratification, and that the sacrifices, at which it is indulged, are not unfrequently ruinous to character as well as fortune. When honest means will not answer the purpose, more doubtful ones are attempted; so that, for the sake of looking well, some of our young people have been willing neither to do well nor to be well. How far those, who have the unquestionable means, might control the tide of fashion, and how far they might feel willing to attempt such a task, we do not venture to decide; but we cannot doubt, that a little selfrestraint, on their part, would be a valuable offering on the altar of their country. Women as well as men belong to the country, and have equal interest in its honor and prosperity. Their duties may be different, but equally imperative. They may not often be called to make bow-strings of their hair, or melt their gold and silver ornaments into coin. Like the women of the revolution, they may not be now called to make lint and prepare bandages for the wounded, or minister in hospitals to the suffering martyrs of freedom; but there is a daily beauty in their lives, which they are constantly bound to exhibit; a power over the taste and sentiment, the habits and manners, the inclinations, fashions, and mode of social intercourse, which they cannot better exert, than by the honorable example of diminished extravagance.

A servile imitation of the faded decorations and unseasonable fabrics of European invention, exhibits a national poverty of design, which is not to the credit of our genius. To import from the shops of London and Paris the pictures of a French opera dancer, or an English jockey, as models for our own ladies' and gentlemen's personal decorations; to exhibit here in August, what was there en règle in March; to display castoff finery as a novelty, by which the charms of our beautiful country women can be improved, is a folly so supremely ridiculous, that no quantity of impudence would have the audacity to propose it, if already it had not become familiar to us by inveterate usage.

If we follow our society into its associations of pleasure, we shall not, probably, be satisfied with its intellectual character. Some may be startled by a suggestion that literature and amusement could by possibility be connected. They go into company for relaxation, and not labor; they go to laugh, and

dance, and divert themselves, and not to study and recite. their lessons, as if it was another period of school discipline. This is exactly the feeling on which we would animadvert. It implies a separation between the employment of intellectual beings and the gratification of their intellectual faculties, and demonstrates that they have yet something to learn, before they can arrive at the highest enjoyment of which their nature is susceptible.

We do not propose to hand round a waiter of psalm-books to a collection of men and women mingling in the circles of social intercourse, nor to interrupt the hilarity of gay spirits and buoyant feelings by stopping amusement and calling the company to prayers. To every thing there is a season, and this is not the time or place for acts of public devotion. But we boast of being an educated people; and however pleasant or proper it may be to throw off the trammels of learning for occasional relaxation and amusement, regular appropriations of much time to listless vacuity of mind, to utter frivolity and folly, to useless, idle, unmeaning conversation, that has no merit while it is passing, and brings no gratification when it is past, is beneath the character of an educated community. With such modes of social entertainment as we are in the habit of sustaining, such a boast is a very unmeaning or a very extravagant gasconade. Of what consequence is it that we have schools of all kinds, from the infant school to the university, lectures and discourses in abundance, books every where, newspapers and pamphlets like leaves in Valombrosa, daily journals, weekly magazines, learned monthlys, and critical quarterlys, without end, if we find, nevertheless, that instruction is all labor, and learning hard work; if we get rid of it as a trouble, as speedily as we may; if we shake off our harness and delightedly roll on the green grass, like an over-worked animal, when he frees himself from the drudgery of his daily task? If the results of education do not enter into the constant occupations of pleasure as well as business; if they do not mix in with the affairs of common life, if they do not utterly unfit us for grossness and barbarity, and coarse and inelegant employment, if they are mere decorations, assumed as a sort of holiday dress, and put off and folded up the moment we get a chance to be free, they are not of the value they were supposed to be, and do little beyond serving as an excuse for the affectation of pretending to be pleased with them.

It is our opinion, that a cultivated intellectual society cannot find much gratification in reciprocating nonsense, and practising gourmanderie; and that where such occupations form the constituents of pleasure, the society, in which they are found, has little just pretension to intellectual distinction. We admit, that assembling in society is for amusement, and we not only concede, but maintain, that amusement is, in itself, as necessary to human virtue, as sleep is to human life; but amusement may be creditable or discreditable, elevated or low, intellectual or vulgar. Now, if it must be had, let it be had according to the taste and inclination of those who are to enjoy it; and do not let him, who finds and can find no pleasure in elegant conversation, seek to get amusement by trying to talk; if he finds all his sensibilities attracted to the supper-table, let him feast at it in moderation, and content himself with the refinements of oysters and champaign; but if this is the great cause of his entertainment, do not let him make any pretension to superiority of intellectual cultivation.

A better tone of society would change all this; and what now strikes us as a laborious and hard task, that of maintaining an easy, playful, elegant, and instructive conversation, an interchange of thoughts worthy to be remembered, and a developement of sentiment and opinion that might be remembered with satisfaction, would then become easy and popular. Instead of the costly display of materials for eating and drinking, disgusting by their quantity, and dangerous to the habits and character of the young and aged, whom they tempt beyond moderation, a lighter refection would soon become quite as satisfactory, and be vastly less prejudicial to health and to the mind. Let the dance go on, let music increase its fascinations, let youth enjoy its halcyon days, with all that can render life gay, cheerful, and happy; but take care, that in the excess of your kindness, you do not ruin the animated and lovely beings, whom you draw to a bright and shining light, that may destroy them.

Put no obstacle in the way of the enjoyment of every thing that wealth and liberality can contribute to divert the spirits, and gratify the imagination, and elevate the heart; but let it be remembered, that over all these preparations, the spirit of intelligence and discretion should preside; and that there can be no permanent happiness where there is a departure from pro

priety. He is not the kindest friend, who pours forth the most liberally of his abundance, but he who so manages his contributions, that, while he promotes the innocent hilarity, he does not jeopardize the moral habits of the companions collected around him.

There is yet another circumstance in our state of society, which we have hardly left ourselves space to notice, and yet it cannot be passed over without at least a cursory remark. We mean the matter-of-fact calculation on which it is arranged. We are getting to be more dull, and grave, and phlegmatic, than is wise or prudent. The plan of our association is too strictly utilitarian. We prune off, and pare down, until the fruit, as well as foliage, is in danger of destruction. We are very little of an imaginative people. There is not much that seems to us expedient, unless its exact value is first mathematically ascertained. The may-pole and the liberty-pole are cut down; the sports and gambols of merry England, the jocund hilarity of beautiful France, the song, the dance, the improvisatore of romantic Italy, are out of season and out of climate; and our public days are too often days of disgraceful intemperance, because there are no national games, no lawful pleasurable pastimes, which may honestly be substituted for the daily labor of life. If a chaplet of flowers should be suspended over the grave of a departed friend, there would be no sympathy in the public mind to preserve them as the tribute of mourning affection; the first passer-by would wonder if it was thought the inanimate dust could be sensible of their perfume; they would be more likely to be stolen than to wither. Monuments of the dead can scarcely escape being mutilated in the mere wantonness of the folly or the ignorance of the gazers.

We have heard wonder expressed why our Chief Executive Magistrate marched in public procession with a military guard, when there was no danger of an enemy! In all the forms and ceremonies of civil and religious duty, a simplicity, almost on the Quaker plan, is encroaching on the rites and pageantry of former times.

A young couple went, not long since, into the study of a late Judge of our Supreme Court, who, by virtue of a commission as Justice of the Peace, was authorized to solemnize marriages, and desired him to marry them. Very well,' said his honor, whom they found writing, 'pass me your cer

VOL. XI. N. S. VOL. VI. NO. I.


[ocr errors]


tificate, and you may go.' The man handed a certificate that the banns were published, but remained. The Judge continued his employment, until the impatient bridegroom again announced the intention of his visit. Very well,' said the Judge, and again pursued his task. After some further delay, the neglected applicants once more reminded his honor of their desire to be married. Why, go home,' said the magistrate; you have been married this half hour.' And it was true. The law only requires an acknowledgment of present intention before a Justice of the Peace, and a recognition of that intention by the Justice in his official capacity. There is no form of words necessary to the purpose, nor any ceremony, other than a simple declaration, which the Judge did not permit, for a moment, to disturb his meditation. -But we doubt whether this simplicity may not be carried too far. There is an avenue to the mind through the heart. The imagination excites the affections. Ceremonies, and parade, and decorations, and a pageantry which it would be difficult to justify by any syllogistic argument, have ever been found necessary to influence the conduct of mankind. No doubt these are supplements to weakness. Men are stronger and firmer who can do without them; but they are not wiser, who affect to do without them, and fail for want of their assistance. No doubt they may be excessive. The mummeries that have been practised on the credulity of mankind in other countries, have brought the whole system into contempt; and here, too, many a man has passed for a wise man, rather from the size of his wig than the capacity of his brain. But we are not intellectual enough to dispense with all the machinery that moves the mind. The passions, the affections, the imagination, are to be consulted as well as the reason. They are all parts of that complicated contrivance, by which the human will is to be influenced; they are the gifts of a Providence that has bestowed nothing in vain; they are not to be eradicated as noxious, or neglected as useless, but directed, and controlled, and employed, as necessary instruments in the formation of character and the promotion of happiness.

A little more attention to the matter we are considering, might, we think, be advantageously given by our temperance societies; for, we much mistake, if more than one half the excesses, which so lamentably degrade us, do not begin rather from the want of lawful and innocent objects of amusement,

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »