« EelmineJätka »
I am persuaded, that a disgust of life is frequently indulged out of a principle of mere vanity. It is esteemed as a mark of uncommon refinement, and as placing us above the ordinary level of our species, to seem superior to the vulgar feelings of happiness. True good sense, however, most certainly consists not in despising, but in managing, our stock of life to the best advantage; as a cheerful acquiescence in the measures of Providence is a strong symptom of a wellconstituted mind. Self-weariness ever attends folly; and to contemn our being is the greatest and indeed the peculiar infirmity of human nature. It is a noble sentiment which Tully puts into the mouth of Cato the Censor, in his treatise upon
“Non lubet mihi, (says the venerable Roman,) “ deplorare vitam, quod multi et i “ docti, sæpe fecerunt, neque me vixisse pænitet;
quoniam et vixi ut non frustra me natum exis“ timem *.”
It is in the power, indeed, of but a very small proportion of mankind, to act the same glorious
old age :
*“ I mean not in imitation of some very considerable philosophers, to represent the condition of human nature as a subject of just lamentation. On the contrary, I am far frum regretting that life was bestowed on me; as I have the satisfaction to think that I have employed it in such a manner as not to have been born in vain."
part that afforded such bigh satisfaction to this distinguished patriot : but the number is yet far more inconsiderable of those, who cannot, in any station, secure to themselves a sufficient fund of complacency to render life justly valuable.
Who is it that is placed out of the reach of the highest of all gratifications, those of the generous affections ? and who cannot provide for his own happiness by contributing to the welfare of others? As this disease of the wind generally breaks out with more violence in those who are supposed to be endowed with a greater delicacy of taste and reason, than is the usual allotment of their fellow creatures; may we not ask them, whether there is any satiety in the pursuits of useful knowledge ? or if we can ever be weary of benefiting mankind? Will not the fine arts convey a lasting peace to the mind? or can there be wanting a pleasurable employment so long as there remains one advantageous truth to be discovered or confirmed ?
To complain that life has no joys, while there is a single creature whom we can relieve by our bounty, assist by our counsels, or enliven by our presence, is to lament the loss of that which we possess, and is just as rational as to die of thirst with the cup in our hands. But the misfortune is, when a man is settled into a habit
of receiving all his pleasures from the mere selfish indulgences; he wears out of his mind the relish of every nobler enjoyment, at the same time that his powers of the sensual kind are growing more languid by each repetition. It is no wonder, therefore, that he should fill up the measure of his gratifications, long before he has completed the circle of his duration; and either wretchedly sit down the remainder of his days in discontent, or vainly throw them up in despair.
THE art of conversation is the art of pleasing or doing good to one another; and it is this habit which gives it all its value. And as man's being a social animal presupposes a natural desire or tendency this
it will follow, that we can fail in attaining this truly desirable end from ignorance only in the means; and how general this ignorance is may be with some probability inferred from our want of even a word to express this art. That which comes the nearest to it, and by which perhaps we would sometimes intend it, being so horribly and barbarously corrupted, that it contains at present scarce a simple ingredient of what it seems originally to have been designed to express.
The word I mean is Good Breeding; a word I apprehend, not at first confined to externals, much less to any particular dress or attitude of the body, nor were the qualifications expressed by it to be furnished by a milliner, a tailor, or a perriwig maker; no, nor even by a dancing master himself. According to the idea I myself conceive from this word, I should not have scrupled to call Socrates a well bred man, though I believe he was very little instructed by any of the persons I have before enumerated. In short, by good breeding, (notwithstanding the corrupt use of the word in a very different sense,) I mean the art of pleasing, or contributing as much as possible to the ease and happiness of those with whom we converse. I shall contend, therefore, no longer on this head; for while my reader closely conceives the sense in which I use this word, it will not be very material whether I am right or wrong in its original acceptation.
Good breeding, then, or the art of pleasing in conversation, is expressed two different ways, viz. in our actions and our words; and in our conduct in both may be reduced to that concise comprehensive rule in scripture, “Do unto all
men as you would they should do unto you."
As this good breeding is the art of pleasing, it will be first necessary, with the utmost caution, to avoid hurting or giving any offence to those with whom we converse.
And here we are