Imágenes de páginas

composed with a design to favour the interests of morality. And among

those which are deemed to have on the whole a moral tendency, a very few perhaps might be selected,

which are not liable to the disgraceful charge of being oc· casionally contaminated by incidents and passages unfit to 'be presented to the reader. This charge, however, may so verị generally be alledged with justice, that even of the novels which possess high and established reputation, by far the greater number are totally improper, in consequence of such admixture, to be perused by the eye of delicacy.

To indulge in a practice of reading novels is, in several other particulars, liable to produce mischievous effects. Such compositions are, to most persons, extremely engaging, That story must be singularly barren, or wretchedly told, of which, after having heard the beginning, we desire not to know the end. To the pleasure of learning the ultimate fortunes of the heroes and heroines of the tale, the novel commonly adds, in a greater or in a less degree, that which arises from animated description, from lively dialogue, or from interesting sentiment. Hence the perusal of one pub. lication of this class leads, with much inore frequency than is the case with respect to works of other kinds (except perhaps of dramatic writings, to which most of the present remarks may be transferred) to the speedy perusal of another. Thus a habit is formed, at first of limited indulgence, but that is continually found more formidable and more eneroaching. The appetite becomes too keen to be denied; and in proportion as it is more urgent, grows less nice and select in its fare. What would formerly have given offence, now gives none. The palate is vitiated or made dull. The produce of the book-club, and the contents of the circulating library, are devoured with indiscriminate and insatiable avidity. Hence the mind is secretly corrupted. Let it be observed too, ihat in exact correspondence with the increase of a passion for reading novels, an aversion to reading of a more improving nature will gather strength. Even in the class of novels Jeast objectionable in point of delicacy, false sentiment unfitting the mind for sober life, applause apd censure distributed amiss, inorality estimated by an erroneous standard, and the capricious laws and empty sanctions of honour set up in the place of religion, are the lessons usually presented. There is yet another consequence too important to be overlooked.' The catastrophe and the incidents of these fictitious narratives componly turn on the vicissitudes and effects of a passion the most powerful of all those which agitate the human heart. Hence the study of them frequently creates a susceptibility of impression, and a premature warmth of tender emotions, which, not to speak of other possible effects, have been kvown to betray young women into a sudden attachment to persons unwor. thy of their affections, and thus to hurry them into marriages terminating in unhappiness.

In addition to the regular habit of useful reading, the custom of committing to the memory select and ample portions of poetic compositions, not for the purpose of ostentatiously quoting them in mixed company, but for the sake of private improvement, deserves, in consequence of it's beneficial tendency, to be mentioned with a very high degree of praise. The mind is thus stored with a lasting treasure of sentiments and ideas, combined by writers of iranscendent genius and vigorous imagination ; clothed in appropriate, nervous, and glowing language; and impressed by the powers of cadence and harmony. Let the poetry, how ever, be well chosen. Let it be such as elevates the heart with the ardour of devotion; adds energy and grace to the precepts of morality; kindles benevolence by pathetic parrative and reflection; enters with accurate and lively description into the varieties of character; or presents vivid pictures of the grand and beautiful features which characterise the scenery of nature. Such are, in general, the works of Milton, of Thomson, of Gray, of Mason, of Beattie, and of Cowper, It it thus that the beauty and grandeur of nature will be contemplated with new pleasure. It is thus that taste will be called forth, exercised, and corrected. It is thus that judgment will be strengthened, virtuous emotions cherished, picty animated and exalted. At all times, and under every circumstance, the heart, penetrated with - religion, will delight itself in the recollection of passages,

which display the perfections of that Being on whom it trasts, and the glorious hopes to the accomplishments of which it humbly looks forward. When affliction weighs down the spirits, or sickness the strength; it is then that the cheering influence of that recollection will be doubly telt. When old age, disabling the sufferer from the frequent use of books, obliges the mind to turn inward upon itself; the memory, long retentive, even in its decay, of the acquisitions which it had attained and valued in its early vigour, still suggests the lines which have again and agaió diffused rapture through the bosom of health, and are yet capable of overspreading the hours of decrepitude and the couch of pain with consolation. If these benefits, these comforts, flow from recollected compositions of man; how much greater may be expected from portions of the Word of God deeply imprinted on the mind!

But it is not from books alone that a considerate young woman is to seek her improvement and her gratifications. The discharge of relative duties, and the exercise of benevolence, form additional sources of activity and enjoyment. To give delight in the affectionate intercourse of domestic society; to relieve a parent in the superintendance of family affairs; to smooth the bed of sickness, and cheer the decline of age; to examine into the wants and distresses of the female inhabitants of the neighbourhood; to promote useful institutions for the comfort of mothers, and for the instruction of children; and to give to those institutions that degree of attention, which, without requiring either much time or much personal trouble, will facilitate their establishment and extend their usefulness ;-these are employments congenial to female sympathy; employments in the precise line of female duty; employments which, so far as the lot of human life allows, confer genuine and lasting kindnesses on those they are designed to benefit, and never fail, when pursued from conscientious motives, to meliorate the heart of her who is engaged in them.

In pointing out that which ought to be done, let justice be rendered to that which has been done. In the discbarge of the domestic offices of kindness, and in the exercise of charitable and friendly regard to the neighbouring poor, women in general are exemplary. In this latter branch of Christian virtue, an accession of energy has been witnessed within a few years. Many ladies have shewn, and still con-. tinue to shew, their earnest solicitude for the welfare of the wretched and the ignorant, by spontaneously establishing schools of industry and of religious instruction; and with a still more beneficial warmth of benevolence, have taken the regular inspection of them upon themselves. May they steadfastly persevere, and be imitated by numbers !

Among the employments of time, which, though regarded with due attention by many young women, are more or less neglected by a considerable proportion, moderate exercise in the open air claims to be noticed. Sedentary confinement in hot apartments on the one hand, and public diversions frequented on the other, in buildings still more crowded and stilling, are often permitted so to occupy the time, as by degrees even to wear away the relish for the freshness of a pure atmosphere, for the beauties and amusements of the garden, and for those “rural sights and rural sounds," which delight the mind unsubdued by idleness, folly, or vice. Enfeebled health, a capricious temper, low and irritable spirits, and the loss of many pure and continually recurring enjoyments, are among the consequences of such misconduct.

But though books obtain their reasonable portion of the day, though health has been consulted, though the immediate demands of duty bave been fulfilled, and the dictates of benevolence obeyed, there will be yet hours remaining unoccupied; hours for which no specific employment has yet been provided. For such hours it is not the intention of these pages to prescribe any specific employment. What if some space be assigned to the useful and elegant arts of female industry? A well regulated life will never know a vacuum sufficient to require a large share of amusements to be sought abroad to fill it,

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

The hand of the diligent maketh rich. Prov. x. 4. If it be true that God has given nothing to man but what requires labour and industry to get, doubtless it should be the effort of every one so to labour that they may obtain. Those who neglect their occupation, or refuse to labour, will lose the reward.

Of all the virtues which adorn and beautify the character of a man, none sets it off to a greater admiration, or ought to be more valued by as than industry. For it is that alone which makes the artificer and labourer as useful and valuable as any members in society.

As Providence hath allotted to men different stations and conditions of life, and assigned them different gifts and talents to profit with, and different occupations and employments for the good of the whole; to be diligent and industrious then, in the several provinces in which he hath placed us, is a duty we owe to ourselves, that we may become ser. viceable to mankind, and at the same time merit their es*teem.

The cares and anxieties of this world are often alleviated

by the hand of industry. For only let us suppose that we have in our view a cottage, where contentment and happiness take up their abode, and industry is its porter. Let us now take a survey of the family, and see what its members are employed in. The first object that presents itself to us is the aged father, (who by an industrious hand has brought up his family, now able to assist him) giving orders to his sons to go and cultivate bis few acres of ground; on the produce of which, perhaps, depends the whole maintenance of his fanily, while he, an eneiny to idleness, employs himself at home. The next in view is the mother, no less mindful of her duty than the father, who, after having set in order the house, now employs her daughters in their respectiye callings of the day, while she performs ber domestic concerns in providing for her family. But what a change shall we find when our attention is drawn aside to the neighbooring cottage, where nothing but discord and animosities are to be seen, and where no proper regulations are kept up, and no government or obedience to be found, but all 'libertines; in a word, industry is shut out, and idleness, anarchy, and confusion bear the sway!

The effects of idleness often prove fatal to inconsiderate youth, and those who appear lovers of it must doubtless be enemies to 'industry; but let the scene be changed, let us see youth spontaneously opening their inclivation to the embraces of it, and giving it the role over idleness.

When the seeds of industry are well sown in the mind, and the inclination well cultivated by attentive labourers, it is like a field, although barren, nevertheless by labour and perseverance, it will abundantly repay the industry of the husbandman. - Froin the admirable lesson which Æsop gives us in the fable ot' the Ants and Grasshopper, we may learn never to Jose any present opportunity of providing against the future evils and accidents of life. For as the summer is the season of the year in which the industrious husbandman gathers and lays up such fruits as may supply his necessities in winter; so youth and manhood are the times of life which we should employ and bestow, in Jaying in such a stock of all kinds of necessaries, as, may suffice for the craving demands of helpless old age.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »