« AnteriorContinuar »
To hill or valley, fountain, or fresh shade,
It is not wonderful that men should be enthusiastic, for who can propose to himself an object worthy of his eager pursuit without ambition to attain it? The matter of surprise is, when a man of sound intellect and good principle can move through life without the apparent predominance of any one interest. There is such a wearisome dullness about ourselves when we cannot find any particular object upon which to exercise our various faculties,—there is such a revolting from the idea of being nothing in the world—the burden of thought on our minds, unrelieved by the active exertions of our bodies, does so heavily press upon the animal spirits, that we had a thousand times rather see our fellow creatures transformed into good humoured pedants, each supremely intent upon one thing, however insignificant, than be surrounded by a crowd of beings who have not the fewer eares because they are almost witbout pleasures. There may be a vast dif
ference in the comparative merits of their various undertakings.
The benevolent ardor of a Howard, the christian fervor of a missionary, may wonderfully overshadow less noble pursuits; but still the principle of exertion, to whatever object directed, is to be hailed as an omen of good-good to the individual himself, and, in general, eventually so to the community. Good humour, that sweetener of our real cares, that best preventive against imaginary ones, is at least fostered by this active turn of mind; and that is but short sighted officiousness which would rob the bustler of his joys, in order to shew him their unreasonableness. Any thing is better than the dull, melancholy, morose apathy of human creatures, who are born and educated, and live and die without desiring or shunning one thing more than another, without love or hatred, or fear or hope. When therefore we review the present age, we take heart and are comforted, amid the consciousness of finding much folly, in the belief that powerful feeling is abroad; that sluggishness is not the reigning evil of our times; but that we are on the whole, an active busy stirring nation. Our ladies too have caught the spirit of the age. We meet them not merely at balls, prettily equipped for the sprightly dance, nor in a morning weaving with indefatigable fingers their evening robe; but at our public meetings, at our committees, in our schools, and in our prisons, we find them occupying no subordinate station in the ranks of the busy labourers in the cause of humanity. Quiet dul,
ness often calls itself religious: but of conscience it has
It keeps under regulation the already sober passions; but as to rousing the active virtuous principle within us, towards this it does nothing.
Religious principle is of little value indeed, if it merely keeps us in the slavish fear of going notoriously wrong, without spurring us on to right action. It was not for an end so poor and circumscribed that the Divine Being created us, and stamped upon our minds his own image. It was not for this that he has called us to the hope of a better inheritance. It was to rouse us to act for him and with him ; to translate us from the dominion of fear to the empire of hope; from passive submission to active service; from awe to love; and from death to life : up to this beautiful idea we should always endeavour to lift our minds. We may faint and fall short; but our motives and principles are stronger than ourselves.
DIALOGUE CONCERNING ORATORY.
'In free governments, we see a constellation of orators. Hence Demosthenes displayed 'the powers of his amazing genius, and acquired immortal honor.He saw a quick and lively people, dissolved in luxury, open to the seductions of wealth, and ready to submit to a master; he saw a great and warlike monarch
threatening destruction to the liberties of his country; he saw that prince at the head of powerful armies, renowned for victory, possess'd of an opulent treasury, formidable in battle, and, by his secret arts, still more so in the cabinet; he saw that king, inflamed by ambition and the lust of dominion, determined to destroy the liberties of Greece. It was that alarming crisis that called forth the powers of Demosthenes. Armed with eloquence, and with eloquence only, he stood as a bulwark against a combination of enemies, foreign and domestic. He roused his countrymen from their lethargy; he kindled the holy flame of liberty; he counteracted the machinations of Philip, detected his clandestine frauds, and fired the men of Athens with indignation. To effect these generous purposes, what powers of mind were necessary! how vast, how copious, how sublime! He thundered and lightened in his discourse; he faced every danger with undaunted resolution. Difficulties served only to inspire him with new ardor. The love of his country glowed in his heart; liberty roused all his powers, and fame held forth her immortal wreath to reward his labors.--These were the fine incentives that roused his genius. He thought for his country; every sentiment was sublime; every expression grand and magnificent.
MADAME DE STAEL'S DESCRIPTION OF
I could not find words to reply to him, when he came to me to say that he had sought my father at Coppet, and that he regretted having passed into Switzerland without having seen him. But when I was a little recovered from the confusion of admiration, a strongly marked sentiment of fear succeeded. Bonaparte at that time had no power; he was believed to be not a little threatened by the captious suspicions of the Directory: so that the fear which he caused was inspired only by the singular effect of his person on all who approached him. I had seen men highly worthy of esteem; I had likewise seen monsters of ferocity: there was nothing in the effect which Bonaparte produced on me, that could bring back to my recollection either the one or the other.
I soon perceived in the different opportunities I had of meeting him during his stay at Paris, that his character was not to be defined by the words we commonly use; he was neither good, nor violent, nor gentle, nor cruel, after the manner of persons of whom we have any knowledge. Such a being had no fellow, and, therefore, could neither feel, nor excite sympathy; he was more or less than a man. His cast of character, his understanding, his language, were stamped with the impress of an unknown nature. I examined his figure with attention ; but whenever he