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of which we read are realities ; they do not “come like shadows, so depart;" they loved and acted in sober earnest; they sometimes perpetrated crimes; but they sometimes also achieved illustrious deeds, which angels might look down from their exalted abodes and admire. We are not deluded with mockeries. The woman I love, and the man to whom I swear eternal friendship, are as much realities as myself. If I relieve the poor, and assist the progress of genius and virtuous designs struggling with fearful discouragements, I do something upon the success of which I may safely congratulate myself. If I devote my energies to enlighten my fellowcreatures, to detect the weak places in our social institutions, to plead the cause of liberty, and to invite others to engage in noble actions and unite in effecting the most solid and unquestionable improvements, I erect to my name an eternal monument; or I do something better than this,--secure inestimable advantage to the latest posterity, the benefit of which they shall enjoy, long after the very name of the author shall, with a thousand other things great and small, have been swallowed up in the gulph of insatiable oblivion.
OF HUMAN VIRTUE.
The life of inan is divided into many stages; and we shall not form a just estimate of our common nature, if we do not to a certain degree pass its successive periods in review, and observe it in its commencement, its progress, and its maturity.
It has been attempted to be established in an early part of the present volume“, that all men, idiots and extraordinary cases being put out of the question, are endowed with talents, which, if rightly directed, would shew them to be apt, adroit, intelligent and acute, in the walk for which their organisation especially fitted them. We are bound therefore, particularly in the morning of life, to consider every thing that presents itself to us in the human form, with deference and attention.
“God," saith the Preacher, “made man upright; but he hath sought out many inventions.” There is something loose and difficult of exposition in this statement; but we shall find an important truth hid beneath its obscurity. Junius Brutus, in the play, says to his son,
I like thy frame: the fingers of the Gods
See above, p. 25, 36.
Such is the true description of every well-formed and healthful infant that is born into the world.
He is placed on the threshold of existence ; and an eventful journey is open before him. For the first four or five years of life indeed he has little apprehension of the scenes that await him. But a child of quick apprehension early begins to have day-dreams, and to form imaginations of the various chances that may occur to him, and the things he shall have to do, when, according to the language of the story-books, he “goes out to seek his fortune.”
“God made man upright.” Every child that is born, has within him a concealed magazine of excellence. His heart beats for every thing that is lovely and good; and whatever is set before him of that sort in honest colours, rouses his emulation. By how many tokens does he prove himself worthy of our approbation and love—the unaffected and ingenuous sobriety with which he listens to what addresses itself to his attention, the sweetness of his smile, his hearty laugh, the clear, bell tones of his voice, his sudden and assured impulses, and his bounding step!
To his own heart he promises well of himself. Like Lear in the play, he says, “I will do such things !—What they are, yet I know not.” But he is assured, frank and light-spirited. He thinks of no disguise. He “wears his heart upon his sleeve.” He looks in the face of his seniors with the glistening eye of confidence, and expects to encounter sympathy and encouragement in return. Such is man, as he comes from the hands of his maker.
Thus prepared, he is turned into the great field of society. Here he meets with much that he had not anticipated, and with many rebuffs. He is taught that he must accommodate his temper and proceedings to the expectations and prejudices of those around him. He must be careful to give no offence. With how many lessons, not always the most salutary and ingenuous, is this maxim pregnant! It calls on the neophyte to bear a wary eye, and to watch the first indications of disapprobation and displeasure in those among whom his lot is cast. It teaches him to suppress the genuine emotions of his soul. It informs him that he is not always to yield to his own impulses, but that he must “stretch forth his hands to another, and be carried whither he would not.” It recommends to him falseness, and to be the thing in outward appearance that he is not in his heart.
Still however he goes on. He shuts up his thoughts in his bosom ; but they are not exterminated. On the contrary he broods over them with genial warmth; and the less they are exposed to the eye of day, the more perseveringly are they cherished. Perhaps he chooses some youthful confident of his imaginings: and the effect of this is, that he pours out his soul with uncontrolable copiousness, and with the fervour of a new and un
checked conceiving. It is received with answering warmth ; or, if there is any deficiency in the sympathy of his companion, his mind is so earnest and full, that he does not perceive it. By and by, it may be, he finds that the discovery he had made of a friend, a brother of his soul, is, like so many of the visions of this world, hollow and fallacious. He grasped, as he thought, a jewel of the first water; and it turns out to be a vulgar pebble. No matter: he has gained something by the communication. He has heard from his own lips the imaginings of his mind shaped into articulate air; they grew more definite and distinct as he uttered them; they came by the very act to have more of reality, to be more tangible. He shakes off the ill-assorted companion that only encumbered him, and springs away in his race, more light of heart, and with a step more assured, than ever.
By and by he becomes a young man. And, whatever checks he may have received before, it usually happens that all his hopes and projects return to him now with recruited strength. He has no longer a master. He no longer crouches to the yoke of subjection, and is directed this way and that at the judgment of another. Liberty is at all times dear to the free-souled and ingenuous; but never so much so, as when we wear it in its full gloss and newness. He never felt before, that he was sui juris, that he might go whithersoever he would, without asking leave, without consulting any other director