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superficial society in this country, it is the desire to ameliorate the condition of two classes—the rich and the poor. Perhaps the reader will discover some hints tending toward this vital subject, in
the volume before him. If so I am rewarded. What if I fail ?
Other minds, more comprehensive, will succeed.
Servile prejudices, political and conventional, are gaining ground in our larger cities. Young America does not promise to represent the noble estate purchased for him by the blood of the Revolution. Instead of that sense of independence which befits the spirit of his age and race; instead of cultivating what is manly and dignified ; instead of making himself familiar with letters and the arts; and the political history of this, the greatest of republics; he is daily becoming more emasculate ; less fitted to bear a part either as citizen, merchant, or legislator.
This is not said or meant unkindly; it is not a satire levelled at a particular class; the subject is too serious ; at once too high,
and too low for ridicule.
But is it not true?
Is there not
something better worth the attention of young men about town than acquiring a taste for petty bijouteries; extravagance, and the means of gratifying it; parading, like lackeys in the cast-off habits of men of fashion, gaining from the society of the gentler sex not even the forms of polite courtesy, and indulging in a vocabulary of slang phrases, which indicate any thing but the man of refinement, of education ; in fact, the gentleman?
As to the other class, for whom, happily here, the portals of universal education stand wide open, there is greater hope; thank Heaven, among these exists a spirit more national; loftier in its aspirations, than that which obtains among their denationalized cotemporaries. I will endeavour to illustrate with
A diamond fell among the grass, and when the morning came, behold ! around it innumerable dew-drops, sparkling with iridescent light. Then scornfully it spake, being touched with envy, and said, “ Vainly ye glitter and please the eye of the beholder, while I lie here unnoticed ; a brief hour, and ye will vanish from the earth, but
ages shall roll over me without diminishing my lustre.” Then a low voice arose from the starry multitude: “Unhappy one ! admired as thou art, wouldst thou still disparage the lowly and the unoffending? Dost thou not grace the crown of the monarch and stud the sceptre of empire ? Dost thou not encircle the white arms of queens, and repose upon the bosom of haughty loveliness? Yet, not content with thy lofty station, thou desirest to show thy contempt of those who have injured not thee. Know then, since thou hast sought it, the difference between us. Thou art brought forth with stripes and the unrequited labor of the slave ; we descend from heaven that the children of men may have respite and sustenance. Thou art the minister of crime, of cruel war, and oppression ; but prosperity and peace are the followers of our footsteps. Where thou art is pride, envy, and covetousness. Where we are, the voice of thankfulness arises from universal nature. Whether in the mine or in the casket thou art of the earth ; but we dwell in the glorious pavilion of the sun, and build the tinted arch of the rainbow.”
Then the breath of the morning came, and the dew-drops were exhaled to heaven, but the share of the peasant turned the clods upon the diamond, and he trod it under foot, and passed on.
So much for the pervading hue of prismatics; there are others less evident; some of which let me explain.
Americans are said to be the most thin-skinned people in the world : by way of a test, the articles on the habits of Irishmen and Scotchmen were written. I hope the motive will not be misunderstood; I could not afford to lose one of the many I claim as friends who represent either nation, by any ill-timed levity, that might be misinterpreted. But if by chance I do manage to excite a little of that feeling in others which is said to be peculiar to my own countrymen, I may, emboldened by success, publish a geography, with the habits of Englishmen, Frenchmen, etc., enriched
I was informed, some years after the story of the “ Last Picture had been published in the Knickerbocker Magazine, that it, or something like it, was to be found in “The Disowned,” by Bulwer, a novel I have never read. Still I concluded to republish it, as it was told me, by an old lady, when I was a boy. She came from Cumberland, in the north of England ; she had seen the picture and there is no doubt of the story being authentic.
I would be wanting in gratitude if I neglected to acknowledge my obligations to those artists, my friends, who have so beautifully illustrated this volume. It was a voluntary offer on their part;
but for their suggestions it might, perhaps, never have been printed.
In conclusion, I trust, these essays, which have afforded me so much enjoyment and employment in long winter evenings, when other duties were finished, will not be entirely disregarded ; not for my sake, but for the sake of all who feel, and all who need sympathy.
CHESTNUT COTTAGE, March 5, 1853.